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saree, sari - an introduction
A sari (also spelled saree) is the traditional garment worn by many women in the Indian subcontinent. The garment is known by different names in various Indian languages; in Hindi, Gujarati and Marathi, it is known as Saadi; in Kannada as Seere; in Telugu as Cheera and in Tamil as Podavai.

The sari is long strip of unstitched cloth, ranging from five to nine yards in length, which can be draped in various styles. The most common style is for the sari to be wrapped around the waist, with one end then draped over the shoulder. The sari is usually worn over a petticoat (called lehenga/Ghagra in northern India and Pavada/Pavadai in the south) and a low-cut, short-sleeved, midriff-baring blouse known in north India as a choli.

The sari is known not only by different names in various parts of the country, but it is also conceived differently in form and structure, in usage and custom. It is a stretch of fabric that becomes long or short, wide or narrow according to who wears it and the way in which it is worn. There is infact no one type of sari.
saris, sarees - how to wear - sari draping
North Indian Style of saree draping The personal pleasure of draping this unstitched fluid garment over and around the body, adjusting it with little tucks and pulls to suit one's own particular form, is sensuous. It creates a picture of flowing grace that conceals as much as it reveals. Though the sari is simply a rectangular piece of fabric, it nevertheless divided into parts conceived as a form when it is finally shaped around the body. Each of the divisions has a defined purpose, distinct but completely integral to the whole.


   < < < North Indian Style                                                                                                                                                      South Indian Style > > >
South Indian Style of sari draping
sarees, saris - Origin and Histories
Most indian sarees are five to six yards long. Saris are woven with one plain end (the end that is concealed inside the wrap), two long decorative borders running the length of the sari, and a one to three foot section at the other end which continues and elaborates the length-wise decoration. This end is called the pallu; it is the part thrown over the shoulder in the Nivi style of draping. It is one of the most visible sections of the sari and is woven and decorated "for show".

More expensive saris had elaborate geometric, floral, or figurative ornament created on the loom, as part of the fabric. Sometimes warp and weft threads were tie-dyed and then woven, creating gorgeous bridal baluchari patterns. Sometimes threads of different colors were woven into the base fabric in patterns \96 an ornamented border, an elaborate pallu, and often, small repeated accents in the cloth itself on various qualities of silk, cotton, georgette, chiffon etc. These accents are called buttis or bhutties (spellings vary). For fancy saris, these patterns could be woven with gold or silver thread, which is called zari work. Modern zari work is usually executed with glittering synthetic fibers rather than real gold or silver thread (made by wrapping gold or silver around a base thread).

Sometimes the saris were further decorated, after weaving, with various sorts of embroidered works. Resham, zari or zardousi work is embroidery done with colored silk, golden, copper or silver thread for gorgeous bridal or wedding sarees ordulhan saris. Zardozi embroidery uses gold and silver thread and sometimes pearls and non-precious stones. Cheap modern versions of zardozi use synthetic metallic thread and imitation stones, such as fake pearls, sequin beads and Swarovski crystals.

The word 'sari' is believed to derive from the Sanskrit word 'sati', which means strip of cloth. This evolved into the Prakrit 'sadi' and the sound later decayed into 'sari'.

Some versions of the history of Indian clothing trace the sari back to the Indus valley civilization, which flourished in 2800-1800 BCE. One ancient statue shows a man in a draped robe which some sari researchers believe to be a precursor of the sari.

Ancient Tamil poetry, such as the Silappadhikaram and theKadambari by Banabhatta, describes women in exquisite drapery. This drapery is believed to be a sari. In the Natya Shastra (an ancient Indian treatise describing ancient dance and costumes), the navel of the Supreme Being is considered to be the source of life and creativity. Hence the stomach of the dancer is to be left unconcealed, which some take to indicate the wearing of a sari.

Odissi dancer wearing a fishtail wrap.Some costume historians believe that the men's dhoti, which is the oldest Indian draped garment, is the forerunner of the sari. They say that until the 14th century, the dhoti was worn by both men and women.

Sculptures from the Gandhara, Mathura and Gupta schools (1st-6th century CE) show goddesses and dancers wearing what appears to be a dhoti wrap, in the "fishtail" version which covers the legs loosely and then flows into a long, decorative drape in front of the legs [1]. No bodices are shown.

Other sources say that everyday costume consisted of a dhoti or lungi (sarong), combined with a breast band and a veil or wrap that could be used to cover the upper body or head. Some argue that the two-piece Kerala mundum neryathum (mundu in malayalam is the same as dhoti or sarong and neryath means a cloth to cover the upper body similar to a shawl) is a survival of ancient Indian clothing styles, and that the one-piece sari is a modern innovation, created by combining the two pieces of the mundum neryathum.

It is generally accepted that wrapped sari-like garments, shawls, and veils have been worn by Indian women for a long time, and that they have been worn in their current form for hundreds of years.

One point of particular controversy is the history of the choli, or sari blouse, and the petticoat. Some researchers state that these were unknown before the British arrived in India, and that they were introduced to satisfy British ideas of modesty. Previously, women only wore the one, draped cloth and casually exposed the upper body and breasts. Other historians point to much textual and artistic evidence for various forms of breastband and upper-body shawl.

It is possible that the researchers arguing for a recent origin for the choli and the petticoat are extrapolating from South India, where it is indeed documented that in some areas, women wore only the sari and exposed the upper part of the body. Poetic references from works like Shilappadikaram indicate that during the sangam period in ancient South India, a single piece of clothing served as both lower garment and head covering, leaving the bosom and midriff completely uncovered. In Kerala there are many references to women being topless, including many pitcures by Raja Ravi Varma. Even today, women in some rural areas do not wear cholis.

Indian sari, saree - Some More details
The sari is a length of cloth measuring from about 4 to 8 meters by about 120 centimeters (13 to 26 feet by about 4 feet), which is draped around the entire body. Most of this fabric is pleated at the waist and then wound round to make a skirt or pair of trousers, with the remaining few yards swept across the upper half of the body, covering at least one shoulder and sometimes veiling the head.

An open Sari...PUNCHRA (TAIL):
The fringe edges referred to as PUNCHRA are never stitched down, They remain either free, as thread ends or they are knotted in bunches though sometimes they are braided, knotted or beaded which are called GUNTHA PUNCHRA then.

CHIR (Parting)
The chir is the inch or so which is left without any weft threads, for it is part of the finish given to the two ends of the sari. It is a technical device for stretching and adjusting, the warp and acts as a measure of the 'complete' sari.

KANIHAI PATTI (Waist-band)
The inner end-piece or kanihai patti is the most essential part of the sari with which the winding starts. It is the first anchor on the body, tild either with a knot around the waist as was the original manner or tucked into the underskirt as is common now.

AANCHRA / ANCHAR / JHELA / AANCHI / PALLO / PALLAV / PATTA / MUNH:
There is the outer end-piece known as the Pallav or Aanchra on which the drape ends in sequential winding, which is used to great advantage by the lengthening or shortening of it. The Pallav is a woman's veil of modesty or flirtation as need be.

KINAR:
The kinar or borders delineate the outer edges and are thereby crucial to the design, drape and function of the Sari. The borders mark the contours a Sari's river-like flow, over and around the body, through the pleats and along the curves, till it climbs the shoulder and falls beyond.

PETA / DEH / ZAMIN: (Midriff / Body / Ground)

The Deh or body of the sari is the mass that sculpts itself into a definite form without breaking the link between one voluminous space and the next, according to the local wearing style.

DHADI (Fold):
The Dhadi is the measure of the fold by which the sari is most efficiently packed and stored. As the first fold comes most, often at the end of the outer end-piece, the sari's length can easily be measured by the counting of the folds without unfolding it.

A Sari's Dimensions...
The actual length and width of the sari varies by region and by quality. Traditional sari dimensions are also influenced by regional and community draping styles.

History of the Sari...
The Sari's origins are obscure, in part because there are so few historical records in India compared to most other major civilizations.

Some evidences....
One of the earliest depictions of a Sari-like drape covering the entire body dates back to about 100 B.C. A north Indian terracota (Shunga period 200 - 50 B.C.) depicts a woman wearing a sari wound tightly around her entire body in the kachcha style.

Sari's draping the entire body may have also been worn by various regional and ethnic groups at the turn of the first millennium ( ) A.D. Many sculptures of the Graeco - Indian Gandharan civilization (50 B.C. - A.D. 300) show a variety of different sari draping styles.

Among the many gods, demi-gods and mortals depicted in the murals of the Ajanta caves (late Fifth century A.D.) in western Maharastra are two representations of women wearing saris covering the entire body.

"Dhanpala describes in 927 A.D., the dress of a lady of some position as a silk sari obtained from the heavenly tree, kalpapdu pausuk."

A Portuguese traveller in the early 1500's! The women wear white garments of very thin cotton or silk of bright colour, fire yards long, one part of which is girt round their below and the other part on their shoulder across their breasts in such a way that the arm and shoulder remains uncovered.

It is commonly believed in India that today's obiquitous petticoat, worn under the sari, came with the Muslims in the form of the ghaghra, and the tailored choli with the British, despite the fact that blouses were often mentioned in classical Sanskrit poetry.

The sari is woven in three to four standard sizes in a given area, wherever a traditional market still survives. These lengths and widths are woven for specific age groups of girls and women.

The shortest sari has a width of 18 inches (45.72 cm) and a length of 72 inches (1.83 mts.). The longest sari has a width of 54 inches (1.37 mts) and a length of 288-360 inches (7.31 mts - 9.14 mts)

GADWAL SAREES:
Gadwal Sarees show strong design links to the silk border - Cotton body Sarees of the eastern Central Deccan. Gadwal, a small town; around 150 k.m. away from Hyderabad, the capital of Andhra Pradesh makes many saree's for the main stream south Indian market. Gadwal Sarees were traditionally woven in the interlocked-weft technique (called Kupadam or tippadamu here), often with kumbam (also called kotakomma) in the borders, and were known as a kupadam or kumbam sari. The silk border was either tassar or mulberry, and the body was often of unbleached cotton, although it may have also contained coloured cotton or silk checks. A pure silk version of this sari also existed, usually woven in bright contrasting colours such as canary yellow or lime green. Most Gadwal Sarees are woven with interlocked - weft borders of contrasting colours. It is believed that the brocading abilities of many of the weavers in Gadwal originate from Banaras, where a local Maharaja sent their ancestors to learn brocade weaving skills. The designs, however, do not show any Banaras influences but are strongly south-east Indian in structure and aesthetic quality. They are often regarded as 'Puja ' Sarees by local women who wear them for religious and festive occassions. The recent development in Gadwal Sarees has brought some interesting and new designs. The Sico Sari (50% cotton and 50 % silk) is of recent origin which is of great demand these days. For the Gadwal weavers, source of silk and cotton is Bangalore and they depend on Surat for pure zari.

KANCHIPURAM SAREES:
Kanchipuram a famous historical and mythological village 60 km from Madras, the capital of Tamilnadu is well-known for it's rich and traditional cotton and silk sarees.Kanchipuram has only been weaving Silk sarees for the past 150 years and specialises in a heavy silk sari woven with tightly twisted three-ply, high-denier threads using thick zari threads for supplementary - wrap and -- weft patterning. Interlocked-weft borders are common. Along with silk sarees, Kanchipuram also specialises in cotton and silk-polyster blended sarees with the demand of the current market. Many of today's established Kanchipuram Silk weavers trained in the cultural centre of "Kalakshetra" during the 1970's producing sarees with designs that are some what 'heavy' in both style and fabric weight, with very wide bordes. Traditional motifs such as, mango, elephant, peacock, diamond, lotus, pot, creeper, flower, parrot, hen, and depiction of stories from mythology are very common in Kanchipuram sarees. Cotton sarees are ornamented with threads and some silk sarees are also woven with thread instead of pure zari. Silk and cotton is sourced from Bangalore and Surat is the only place where zari is brought. The recent development in the designing field shows the introduction of computerised Jacquard borders in Kanchipuram silk sarees. Though the techniques and the materials are changing with the market demand; the motifs are still conventional and traditional in order to hold the custom and tradition of a Kanchipuram saree. Kanchipuram sarees are very heavy and gorgeous sarees and are used specially for weddings in South Indian region as their traditional wedding saree.

POCHAMPALLY SAREES:
There are at least 40 village's within a 70 k.m. radius of Hyderabad, the capital of Andhra Pradesh, including Pochampalli, Koyalagudam, Puttapakka, Elanki and Chautupal where ikat textiles are woven. Here ikat weaving has become a way of life -- from child to grandparent, every family member is involved at one stage or another. The term ikat stems from the Malay - Indonesian expression 'Mangikat' meaning to bind, knot or wind around. In principle, ikat or resist dyeing, involves the sequence of tying(or wrapping) and dyeing sections of bundled yarn to a predetermined colour schme prior to weaving. Thus the dye penetrates into the exposes section, while the tied section remain undyed. The patterns formed by this process on the yarn are then woven into fabric. The three basic forms being single ikat, where either wrap or weft threads are tied and dyed prior to weaving is combined ikat, where wrap and weft ikat may co-exist in different parts of a fabric occassionally overlapping and double ikat which is by far the most complex form. Here both wrap and weft threads are tied and dyed with such precision, that when woven threads form both axis, mesh exactly at certain points to form a complete motif or pattern. No written document is available to as certain the origin or evolution of the ikat technique in this region. It is widely believed to have developed around the turn of this century. The oldest centre 'Chirala', situated on the rail route between Vijayawada and Madras, was once known to produce the famous cotton 'Telia Rumals' or 'Chowkas' woven in pairs admeasuring 55 to 75 c.ms. square. Characterised by their bold, geometrical motifs, in red, black and white, offset by wide single coloured borders, they were used in Indian by Fisher Folk and cowherds as loincloths, lungis or turbans. In the 1930's they were exported in large numbers to Burma, the middle east and East Africa where they were known as Asia Rumals. In the 60's the all India handicrafts board assisted the weavers of Pochampalli to start weaving sarees. Silk weaving was also introduced by training two weavers in Banaras. Pochampalli, a small village, slowly captured the market for, ikat sarees and today the whole of Nalgonda district works on ikat weavers which can compare with the very best in single ikat wrap weaving. Silk is brought from Bangalore and Surat is the place from where pure zari is sourced. In pochampalli most of the weavers work for the Pochampalli co-operative society and the materials are provided to them through the society itself. Pochampalli weavers are experimenting these days with Jacquard and dobby techniques to combine it with ikat with the help of the weavers service centre, Hyderabad. Along with the traditional parrot, elephant, diamond and flower motifs, the ikat saree designers these days are developing new and modern designs to go with the current trends of the market.
 

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