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History of Saree in Hinduism!


History of Saree in Hinduism!

Saree, a traditional Indian attire, a timeless garment that graces the wardrobes of millions, holds a rich history deeply rooted in Hinduism. Its evolution is not just a tale of fabric and fashion but reflects the cultural diversity and religious significance. In this blog, we will unravel the intricate threads that weave the history of saree in the context of Hindu traditions.


Ancient Beginnings

The history and origin of the saree can be traced back to the establishment of civilization, with evidence suggesting its presence in the Vedic and Indus Valley civilizations. Women during this era covered themselves with a long piece of cloth draped in a manner resembling trousers.

'sari' originates in the Prakrit word 'sattika,' mentioned in early Buddhist literature. Derived from 'sattika,' it evolved into 'sati' during the Vedic period. Around 2800-1800 BCE, women wrapped themselves in a simple cloth called 'sati.'

The Rigveda, an ancient script, provides glimpses of early attire styles with women donning 'Antariya' and 'Stanapatta.' Antariya covered the lower body, akin to today's saree, while Stanapatta covered the bosom.

Statues recovered from the Indus Valley Civilization depict female priests draped in a sari-like cloth. The sari was ingeniously draped to divide the legs, forming a trouser-like attire, aiding temple dancers in their movements while maintaining modesty. The foundation of the saree can be linked to the 'dhoti,' the oldest Indian garment worn by both men and women until the 14th century.

Early statues of Goddesses reveal a sensual draping style resembling a 'fishtail,' tied at the waist and covering the legs decoratively. The upper body was either partially covered or left bare. In Kerala, the traditional saree, a two-piece garment consisting of a lungi and a shawl, is still worn. The arrival of Muslims introduced the ghagra or dress, and clothes started being stitched, as Hindus previously believed piercing clothes with needles were impure.

The saree, a garment that has gracefully adorned the curves of Indian women since ancient times, stands as a timeless symbol of cultural heritage.


Epics and Puranas

The saree symbolizes grace and virtue in the great Hindu epics and Puranas. Characters like Sita from the Ramayana and Draupadi from the Mahabharata adorn themselves with the timeless elegance of the saree.

Sita, the epitome of nobility, is often portrayed draping herself in a saree, showcasing the modesty and dignity of this traditional attire.

Draupadi, a key figure in the Mahabharata, uses her saree as a powerful emblem of her honor during a critical moment in the epic.

These narratives emphasize the saree's cultural significance and highlight its role as a storyteller, weaving tales of strength, virtue, and resilience. The mention of sarees in these ancient texts adds depth to the historical fabric of Hinduism, showcasing how this six-yard wonder has been an integral part of India's cultural history since time immemorial.


Regional Diversity

In India, regional diversity is not just a geographical phenomenon but a vibrant mosaic reflected in the diversity of sarees. Let's explore the distinct styles and techniques that define the sarees from the four general regions of India.


North India

Chikan (Lucknow):

Lucknow, in Uttar Pradesh, boasts the Chikan embroidery specialty. Developed during the Mughal period, Chikan's work is characterized by delicate and intricate embroidery, adding a touch of sophistication to the sarees.


Bandhni (Rajasthan, Gujarat):

Originating from Rajasthan and Gujarat, Bandhni sarees showcase the ancient tie-dye technique. Fabric is tied in intricate patterns before being dipped in dye, resulting in vibrant and mesmerizing designs. These sarees are adorned during festivals and rituals, featuring specific patterns and colors, often complemented with mirrors and beadwork.


Kota Doria (Rajasthan):

Named after the district of Kota in Rajasthan, these sarees feature a fine woven fabric with a checked pattern. Known for their delicacy, lightweight feel, and porous texture, Kota Doria sarees provide a perfect canvas for various surface ornamentation techniques like tie-dye, hand-block printing, embroidery, and appliqué work.


Banarasi (Benaras):

A staple for brides, Banarasi sarees originated during the Mughal era. The signature design, called Jhalar, with a narrow fringe-like pattern along the borders, defines the classic allure of Banarasi sarees.



East India

Taant (Bengal):

Hailing from Bengal, Taant sarees, also known as Bengal Cotton sarees, are a traditional choice for Bengali women. The name itself, meaning "Made on the Loom," emphasizes the handwoven nature of these sarees, making them a must-have for cotton enthusiasts.


Baluchari (West Bengal):

About 200 years old, Baluchari sarees from West Bengal are made of silk and woven on looms. The borders of these sarees depict captivating stories from Indian epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana, making them a visual narrative.


Kantha (West Bengal):

Known for delicate embroidery, Kantha sarees feature decorative motifs with a running stitch. Practiced as a hobby by rural women in West Bengal, each Kantha saree reflects hard work and dedication.


South India

Kanchipuram (Tamilnadu):

Originating from the town of Kanchipuram in Tamilnadu, these sarees are characterized by gold-dipped silver thread woven into premium quality silk. Known for maintaining traditional weaving styles and techniques, Kanchipuram sarees are the epitome of elegance and durability.


Madisar (Tamilnadu):

Exclusive to the Brahmin community in Tamilnadu, Madisar sarees are a significant part of cultural rituals. Distinctive for their length of 9 yards instead of the common 6, these sarees are worn on various occasions, from marriages to important poojas and death ceremonies.


West India

Bandhej (Gujarat):

Gujarati Bandhej sarees showcase tie-dye techniques involving multiple shades. The quality is often determined by the size of the dots, with finer Bandhej featuring smaller and closer dots.


Patola (Gujarat):

Patola sarees from Patan, Gujarat, are known for their intricate five-color designs resist-dyed into both warp and weft threads before weaving. Highly elaborate and time-consuming, these sarees are a symbol of luxury and craftsmanship.


Chanderi (Madhya Pradesh):

Light and perfect for Indian summers, Chanderi sarees from Madhya Pradesh are crafted in silk or fine cotton. Known for their simplicity and comfort, Chanderi sarees are a popular choice in the region.


In the vibrant landscape of India, the regional diversity of sarees not only reflects the rich cultural heritage but also serves as a testament to the craftsmanship and artistry passed down through generations.



Medieval Influences

During the medieval period, around the 6th to the 15th century, the Mughal influence greatly shaped the evolution of sarees. The royal courts of Mughal emperors witnessed a fusion of Persian aesthetics with Indian craftsmanship, giving rise to distinctive styles.

This influence is notably seen in the Banarasi saree, known for opulence and intricate designs. These sarees became a symbol of cultural amalgamation and sophistication. Additionally, the Mughal era saw the emergence of fine fabrics, detailed embroidery, and luxurious patterns that continue to define the essence of traditional sarees. The rich cultural exchange during this period left an indelible mark on the history of the saree, contributing to its enduring allure.


The British Era

During the British Era in India, which lasted for nearly two centuries, the British colonial rulers influenced various aspects of Indian life, including clothing. The traditional attire, including the saree, faced changes due to Western influences. While the British brought new fabrics and styles, they also impacted the socio-economic structure.

Despite these changes, the saree remained a symbol of tradition and resistance. The freedom movement saw women embracing khadi sarees, emphasizing self-reliance and nationalism. The struggle for independence, coupled with the enduring spirit of Indian culture, helped preserve the significance of the saree as more than just a garment, but a symbol of resilience and cultural identity.


Post-Independence Revival

After gaining independence, India witnessed a resurgence of traditional crafts and weaving techniques in the saree fashion. Designers and artisans joined hands to breathe new life into age-old practices, sparking a revival of cultural heritage.

The six yards of elegance transcended its traditional boundaries and found a place on international runways, showcasing its timeless appeal. This revival was not just about clothing; it became a cultural statement, celebrating the beauty of handwoven fabrics and intricate designs.

In the post-independence era, the saree emerged as a symbol of pride, blending the essence of tradition with a renewed sense of creativity and innovation. The revival not only preserved the legacy of Indian textiles but also positioned the saree as a global fashion icon, echoing the resilience and adaptability of India's rich cultural diversity.


Contemporary Trends

In the 21st century, the saree continues to evolve, embracing a chic transformation while staying true to its traditional roots. Modern saree trends reflect a fusion of innovation and timeless elegance. Designers experiment with fabrics, introducing lightweight materials like georgette and chiffon for a more comfortable and versatile drape.

The traditional nine-yard saree has evolved into pre-stitched versions, such as the pre-pleated and concept sarees, making it easier for women to don this graceful attire.

Blouses have taken center stage with experimental cuts, stylish necklines, and intricate detailing, offering a perfect blend of tradition and modernity.

Prints and patterns have become bolder, ranging from contemporary geometric designs to abstract motifs. Sarees now feature embellishments like sequins, beads, and threadwork, adding a touch of glamour. The color palette has expanded to include trendy shades, alongside the timeless classics.

Celebrated on international platforms, the saree has become a global fashion statement, with celebrities and fashion enthusiasts showcasing creative draping styles. As the saree gracefully adapts to the contemporary wardrobe, it continues to symbolize the enduring beauty of Indian tradition in the ever-evolving world of fashion.


Religious Significance

In Hinduism, the saree is not merely a piece of clothing but a symbol of purity, modesty, and cultural identity. The act of draping a saree is considered a ritual, reflecting the spiritual and divine essence associated with this garment.

The color of the saree holds significance in Hindu traditions. White sarees are often worn during religious ceremonies and mourning, symbolizing purity and humility. Red sarees are favored during weddings, representing auspiciousness and fertility. Many Hindu goddesses are depicted draped in sarees, emphasizing the divine connection with this traditional attire.


Pallu: Sacred ‘Aanchal’

The pallu, or the loose end of the saree, is often used to cover the head as a mark of respect in religious settings. The Pallu, colloquially known as the “Aanchal” of a Hindu mother’s Saree, seems to protect her child from external hurts and attacks. So it’s considered to be a safe place for children.


Conclusion

In the gentle folds of the saree, we find more than just fabric – we find a history, a culture, and a connection that spans centuries. From the ancient threads of Vedic times to the contemporary fashion ramps, the saree has embraced the diversity of India.

As we drape ourselves in its elegance, let's remember that each pleat carries the stories of our ancestors and the essence of our identity. The saree is not just a garment; it's an emotional embrace of our heritage, a timeless symphony that resonates with the heartbeats of generations.


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