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     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 sheera and in Tamil as podavai. It is a rectangular piece of unstitched fabric which is draped in a very fascinating manner. The sari, ranges from five to nine yards in length, which can be draped in various styles. This is a one piece of clothing which fits all either fat or thin, short or tall. Based on how you drape the sari, you can ingeniously conceal the extra flab or fat. 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. There are sarees to match every mood and every occasion to suit every budget. This garment is in style for over 5000 years for the simple reason of its simplicity and practical usage. The traditional 6 yard sari which allows for generous pleating and draping around the body and over the shoulders, gives much comfort that you can even run a marathon in this without any problem.

Origin and History of Sarees

     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 the Kadambari 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.

     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, a dhoti or sarong, neryath, a shawl, in Malayalam) 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 pictures by Raja Ravi Varma. Even today, women in some rural areas do not wear cholis.

     Saree is the most popular women's wear in India since early days. It's a long fabric measuring 115 cm x 420 cm. around 6 yards that is used to cover the entire body of a woman from foot to neck along with other accessories like blouse and slips etc. Saree is made of fabrics like cotton, silk, or synthetic fibers. There are a large variety of sarees found in India which differs in their motif design, texture, substance and in many other aspects. Saree is nothing but a long drape dyed and painted with fascinating colors and pigments to attract the viewers. However it is the essence of women's fashion in India which gives perfect beauty and looks to each and every pretty women.

     part it entirely from her body. However, one could imagine how old the history of Indian drapes or saree is. Since it has been recorded that spinning yarns and weaving fabrics was known to the ancient people of Sindhu civilization who had discovered cotton and also learned to grow and spin and weave silk from the Chinese people. A single drape was worn by both the man and women in those days but in course of time the drapes for men became comparatively shorter and they used to cover only their lower parts from waist at work and home as well. On the other hand, drapes for the women became longer as they have to cover their body from foot to neck all the times. By passage of time painting and dyeing fabrics with many colors and pigments derived from the vegetable and other sources were put in use by the weaver which was intensely liked by the womenfolk.

Sarees and its Designery Works

     In India, one and all states have their own traditional sort of sarees. The sarees have some common features even if they differ entirely in design motif and other aspects. The shared texture is meant to guard against the evil eye, misfortune, infertility, marital dispute and others.

     Sarees are available in all varieties such as cotton, silk and synthetic. These can also be classified into many categories according to the work done i.e. embroidery, zari etc. and purpose of the saree i.e. daily wear, party wear, bridal wear and so on Starting from the northern India we can say that it is the center of saree export from India . Varanasi is well known as the giant saree production center of India . Khinchabs and Amru brocades are made here. The Zari in the Khinchabs almost overshadow the original silk. The Amru brocades are woven in silk, not in zari thread where typical Amru brocade is the Tanchoi. These are woven in all shades of red, orange and yellow. Similarly, south India has Kanjeevaram sarees are hand-woven silks, with unique practice in Tamil Nadu. Kornad sarees are also famous here. Karnataka is known for llkul Sarees which is made in e earth colors of rust, mustard, green and ochre, and woven with zari besides this Mysore crepe, Mysore silk or the Chamundi silk are also known far and wide. Muslin sarees made in Kerala for bridal wear are also very chic.

     Eastern India has very famous sarees like Baluchari sarees of Murshidabad, the dhoop- chhaon sarees of Bishnupur West Bengal and other wedding sarees. Baavanbuti sarees of Bihar with 52 motifs and Vichitrapuri sarees of Orissa is a wedding saree with Ikkat; works are renowned. Pasapalli or the Saktapar are the other sarees from Orissa. Equally the western India has sarees like Paithani or shallu with gold zari work and Astapuri saree of Maharashtra is well known. The Gharchola and Bhandhini viz. tie-and-dye motifs of Gujarat and Rajasthan are the finest sarees of India. Panetar Saree is also made in the region with gold zari work.

Types of Sarees

     Though each region in the Indian subcontinent has developed over the centuries its own unique sari style, the following are the well known varieties, distinct on the basis of fabric

Weaving Style or Motifs

Bangladeshi Saris

Indian Saris Northern Styles

Bandhani - Gujarat and Rajasthan
Chikan - Lucknow
Kota doria - Rajasthan
Banarasi - Benares
Kantha- West Bengal
Baluchari- West Bengal

Central Styles

Chanderi - Madhya Pradesh
Paithani - Maharashtra
Lugade - Maharashtra
Ikat - Orissa

Southern Styles

Pochampalli - Andhra Pradesh
Venkatagiri - Andhra Pradesh
Gadwal - Andhra Pradesh
Guntur - Andhra Pradesh
Narayanpet - Andhra Pradesh
Mangalagiri - Andhra Pradesh
Balarampuram - Kerala
Coimbatore - Tamil Nadu
Kanjivaram or Kanchipuram - Tamil Nadu
Chettinad - Tamil Nadu
Mysore Silk – Karnataka

Pakistani Saris

     In Pakistan, the wearing of saris has almost completely been replaced by the Salwar kameez for everyday wear. According to many observers, the sari has lost favour in Pakistan since it is seen as being associated with India. However, the sari is often worn by the elderly, and to formal events.

Sri Lankan Saris

     Sri Lankan women wear saris in many styles. However, two ways of draping the sari are popular and tend to dominate; the Indian style (classic nivi drape) and the Kandyan style (or 'osaria' in Sinhalese). The Kandyan style is generally more popular in the hill country region of Kandy from which the style gets its name. Though local preferences play a role, most women decide on style depending on personal preference or what is perceived to be most flattering for their body.

     Contrast this example of a Kandyan style sari draping with what Sri Lankans refer to as the ' Indian style'. The Indian style generally consists of an uninterruped flow of sari fabric over the stomach and shoulders. The traditional Kandyan (Osaria) style consists of a full jacket, covers the midriff completely, and is partially tucked in at the front as is seen in this 19th century portrait. However, modern intermingling of styles has led to most wearers baring more of the midriff. The final tail of the sari is neatly pleated rather than free-flowing. This is rather similar to the pleated rosette used in the 'Darivian' style noted earier in the article. Here is another example of a Sri Lankan style of draping the sari.