It was the last day of college, and my excitement of doing an MBA was eclipsed by the fact I was to wear a sari to the college function that day. Most American girls will relate this to their prom event.
Three weeks before my college valedictory function, I met with my besties, and we started the eventful journey of choosing and buying our very first sari. This act itself was an event of adulthood, of being grown up enough and more to navigate the world on our own steam.
The very first sari (also spelled as saree) I ever wore was a gorgeous black georgette one with gold thread-work running through its entire length. The free end (called pallu in Hindi, Kanhi in Odia, Palla in some dialects) of the sari had a rich flower patterned embroidery offset with a golden border.
My parents had given me the money, and my mother wasn’t too happy I had bought a black coloured sari as my first one. But, nothing or no one could have diluted the glow on my face, as I arrived at the college that day.
I remember very little about that event, except all of the girls were busy admiring each other’s saris while the boys were kind of taken aback on seeing their gal pals suddenly looking I dare say, incredibly gorgeous !
The beauty and wonder of sari is it takes the form or body shape of its wearer. No matter your body type, a sari mysteriously knows how to cover your flaws and enhance your best features; it’s a little wonder then, why Indian woman from celebrities to everyday Moms love flaunting their six yard wonder garment.
There are many ways of draping a sari. Some are indeed region specific. While most Indians prefer the free end going over the left shoulder and left loose (pinned or otherwise), Gujaratis (native of Gujarat state) prefer their pallu coming on the front.
Maharashtrians (from Maharashtra) wear their saris in a trouser style/ dhoti pant type. Bengalis (from West Bengal) prefer to tie a bunch of keys to their free pallu, for its weight keeps the pallu/free end in place.
Much like draping styles, one can find different varieties of saris, native to various states in India. Odisha is famous for its elegant Sambalpuri saris. Its colors are mostly earth tones, and a triangle pattern adorns the border. Silk is the elite in Sambalpuri saris.
Bengal is famous for its Batik print saris, the Kantha stich, and the Tangail saris and Dhakai silks.
In South India, the heavy Kanjeevaram saris rule, and often, real gold thread work is done on them. West of India (Gujarat and Maharashtra), you will see gorgeous Nauvariand Patola saris in vibrant shades of green, yellow, hot pinks, and sunset reds.
Typical to Kerala (southern Indian state) is the white sari with gold border. Today it is synonymous worldwide with the Malayalee (natives of Kerala) community.
Of course, which Indian women will forget her crepe saris and that more precious than gold Banarasi sari? Benaras (a town in North India) has a cult like following for the incredibly gorgeous, frightfully expensive, yet ‘worth-owing-one’ Benarasi sari.
The Benarasi silk sari is enhanced with real gold and/or silver thread work, delicate, intricate, either geometric of flower patterned, and mostly preferred in shades of red. Every Indian bride worth her salt has secretly dreamt of wearing a rich Benarasi on her wedding day, just in case every other option fails.
For my mother though, she was determined to adorn one when she got married over three decades ago. Her wedding sari is preserved like an heirloom, draped in mulmul cloth, taken out and aired every 3 months, caressed lovingly and returned to its case with a quiet pride, nostalgia, and lots of love.
As for me, I am the proud owner of over a hundred saris… some handpicked, some gifted, but all cherished equally! But, I must tell you about my pink Benarasi sari; it is rose pink in color with silver embroidery in an Ambi (paisley pattern).
It did cost me over INR 10,000, but when I see myself wearing it and looking like a million bucks, the guilt of having sweet-talked and blackmailed my parents into buying me the sari, takes a backseat. After all, a girl dreams of saris; a woman owns them – by hook or by crook!
An Economics graduate, MBA (Marketing) and a newbie to meditation, Matuli Madhusmita Swain is a lover of life and all the amazing things it has to offer. She loves the cultural diversity of her country India, and she writes to connect readers around the world to an alternate perspective of how her country is undergoing a socio-economic shift, amidst deep-rooted culture and customs. She currently heads the Communications vertical for a reputed CSR organization. Contact – LinkedIn
Photo Credit – RS Wedding Bells