History of sarees – Importance of saree in Indian culture

Saree, also called as Sari, is the most famous  Indian attire worn by women not only in India but all over the world. It is because of its sensuality that it has grabbed attention since time immemorial. A saree makes a woman look elegant, gorgeous and stylish.

Usually 3.5 to 9 yards in length, saree can be worn in different ways that define its versatility and beauty. It is an outfit that can be worn on almost all occasions. 

The way it is draped in the West is different from the way it is worn in the East or the North. Available in different colors, designs and fabrics; sarees are a must in the wardrobe of an Indian woman.

“Sarees have received international acclaim in the present times due to their unparalleled charm.”

History and Importance of Sarees

All the traditional forms and styles are being universally adopted and new designs are being constantly invented to captivate the style-loving women all over the world.

Sarees have made deep inroads into fashion today with people exploring new fashion statements about this Indian garment.

There are various exciting options for saree lovers now, thanks to the tremendous craftsmanship and artistic finesse displayed by skilled professionals working ceaselessly to make saree better than ever before.

Usually worn with a blouse covering the upper part of the body, the saree has the petticoat for the lower part which helps to tuck in the pleats of the saree to hold it in place.

Sarees have come under international influence in the present times due to their demand all across the globe.

It is perfect attire for those who want to add style and grace to their lifestyle.

History of Sarees

The history of Indian sarees dates back to ancient times as its use has been mentioned in the sacred Indian epics like the Mahabharat and the Ramayana.

The history of sarees has been traced back to the ancient civilizations like the Indus Valley civilization which flourished during 2800–1800 BC around the western part of the Indian subcontinent.

“Evidence has been put forward to substantiate that women in the Indus Valley civilization used to wrap themselves with a long piece of cloth.”

This ancient garment had a striking resemblance to the saree in that it was a cloth draped around the body but the fabric and silhouette were quite different from what is seen at present.

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How was the word “Sari” or “Saree” derived?

“The word ‘sari’ has been derived from the Prakrit word ‘sattika’, which finds mention in the early Buddhist literature.”

The word was further called sati, which evolved into sari with the passage of time. The Indian garment has actually come under the influence of so many cultures and traditions.

With the advent of the Aryans to the establishment of empires like the Mauyras, the Guptas, and later on to the consolidation of the Mughal empire, every major dynasty in India contributed to the evolution of the Indian saree. 

It is widely believed that the saree, as it is today, comprising a blouse and a petticoat with a six to nine yard long cloth draped around the waist, across the torso and over the shoulder was only developed in the post-Mughal period.

The use of rich fabrics, embellishments and beautiful motifs were combined by the master weavers to make this ethnic garment. It is true that it has undergone a drastic transformation with the lapse of time.

A number of fabulous varieties were developed to enhance the traditional, cultural and aesthetic value of sarees.

“The art of stitching introduced in India by the Greeks has witnessed a great transformation with the passage of time.”

Every region of India has evolved its own peculiar syle of stitching. Moreover, various methods have been developed for weaving, dyeing and printing of the fabric.

The highly prized  Indian Sarees are the product of unmatched skill combined with the highly developed artistic finesse.

Importance of Saree in Indian Culture

India is a country of numerous dialects, innumerable traditions, a myriad of attires and diverse forms of worshipping God.

“Despite having different conventions and distinct traditions, India has kept its identity intact.”

Though there is a great deal of variation in beliefs, languages, attires and customs, there is an underlying connecting link binding the whole of India together as a complete whole.

The greatness of India consists in accepting the best from foreign influences and incorporating it into its already rich cultural heritage. This aspect of Indian cultural set-up can be perceived in the growth of the Indian traditional attire called ‘saree’ or ‘sari’.

Sarees have always been indispensable and integral to Indian culture. It has been a source of inspiration and appreciation for costume lovers all across the world. 

The traditional Indian saree has earned a lot of name and fame worldwide. Be it East or West, North or South; Sarees are loved by young as well as old women.

Its popularity in India can be gauged from the fact that it is worn on almost all occasions, be it a wedding, a party or day-to-day work. 

When we talk of traditional Indian attire, saree is the most popular outfit and is a must-have garment in an Indian lady’s wardrobe.

“There was a time when women used to wear nine-yard sarees only. But nowadays, women have got more options and they can choose from 4 yard long saree to a 9 yard long one.”

Today women in villages and cities usually wear nine-yard sarees during worship and religious occasions.

The pallu of the saree is also draped differently in different regions of India. In some regions, it is draped on the left and in others on the right shoulder.

As per the family tradition, some women either cover their head with the pallu out of reverence for elderly people or drape it over their shoulder while doing day-to-day chores.

Though western lifestyle and dresses have made deep inroads into Indian culture, still the popularity of saree is a well established fact.

There is no substitute of saree during important ceremonies such as a wedding, religious ceremonies and parties. When it comes to the most famous bridal wear in India, the saree is the incontestable outfit. 

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Adoption of Saree by all Religions

India being a country of a great cultural diversity, many of the Indian Christian brides prefer to wear a modest looking white saree with a white blouse instead of their traditional Christian Wedding Gown. The head is covered either by the end of the saree or a scarf, generally of the same saree material.

A South Indian Christian bride generally wears coloured, usually red or green or yellow.

Popular silk wedding sarees are from Benaras, and Bangalore (Mysore Silk). Similarly, popular cotton Handloom Sarees are from Calcutta (Valkalam) and South (crepe).

Swiss cotton/ spun sarees are another area well accepted in the market. Notable Art Silk Sarees, from Surat in particular, as wedding Sarees are called Poonam, Micro Madhushree, Chiffon and Georgette.

Meaning associated to saree design, fabric and color

“There is a significant meaning attached to the traditional saree in the form of a fabric with different colors and distinctive designs. The numerous designs and patterns engraved on the saree symbolize beliefs, conventions and customs of people belonging to different parts of India.”

The Paisley and Fish represented fertility and the abundance of food and children. These patterns were mostly imprinted on the sarees worn by the people living in the coastal regions.

Designs in the form of an Elephant symbolized water, fertility, wealth and good luck.  It also exemplifies Lord Ganesha who is the remover of obstacles.

The peacock depicted on the fabric represented physical and emotional power of a person.

The Conch was also a symbol of the Gods and represented the bugle used in war. 

Importance of color of a Saree

The use of colors in the sarees also means a lot. Different colors of sarees symbolize different virtues, qualities and themes. Usually, a saree is chosen according to the color suitable for the day.

For example, on Tuesday people love to wear red colored sarees, green for Wednesday, yellow for Thursday, black for Saturday. Indians attach a lot of importance to numerology and astrology.

Based on the astrological calculations, women choose the color of the saree.

Red colored sarees are draped on special occasions such as weddings, parties and other special moments. As red symbolizes dominance and passion, women prefer to wear them on various occasions.

Blue colored sarees stand for peace, calm and serenity. It is suitable for when a lady wants to stand out in the crowd. Orange stands for freshness and brightness and orange-colored sarees are normally worn when it is bright and sunny outside.

Yellow represents optimism, light and warmth. Perfect for functions and ceremonies taking place during the daytime, yellow sarees make you look cheerful and intelligent.

Green color denotes fertility and is associated with nature and greenery. A green color saree represents prosperity and is ideal for parties and outdoor fun. Black represents elegance and power. It is suitable for all occasions.

A black color saree is appropriate for formal meetings and evening parties.

Pink is associated with romance and femininity. It is an appropriate choice for the date because of its close association with romance.

“When women wear pink, they appear amicable and capable of loving others. Pink saree gives a cute feel and is ideal for daywear.”

White color represents peace, purity, solace and spirituality. White color sarees are most suitable for festivals, functions and day events.

Explore the unlimited colors of the Sarees: