The graceful ‘Kaikottakali’ presented by girls dressed in the off-white and yellow ‘kasavu’ sari is a sight to behold. Onam, Vishu and Thiruvathira are the other times when they choose to wear this traditional attire.
“People from Kerala wear the ‘kasavu’ sari across the world. There is ‘kasavu pattu’ dress for children as well. Today people from other States too prefer the sari,” says Sharada Pillai, a resident of A.S. Rao Nagar.
The original ‘kasavu’ saris come in ‘kodi’ colour — the hue of sandalwood paste — with a zari border. Peacock and Radha Krishna motifs, coloured borders and patchwork can be seen on the new fancy saris, popular as party wear. “The two-piece ‘mundu veshti’ is worn for festivals. Wearing a ‘mundu veshti’ needs practice. Today most women in Hyderabad prefer the one-piece ‘kasavu’ sari that measures 6.25 metres,” says Jalaja Anand, proprietor Achoo’s, Picket.
Kerala shops in city are gearing up with the ‘kasavu’ saris sourced from various weaving hubs such as Kuthampully, Chendamangalam, Palghat and Balarampuram.
“Over 500 years ago, the Devanga community members, who weave ‘kasavu’ saris, were brought from Mysore by the Cochin Royal Family,” says Jalaja. And a few centuries later Raja Ravi Varma paid an ode to the ‘pattu kasavu’, worn by his muses across a series of works.
Today ‘kasavu’ saris made in Tamil Nadu are also retailed. “Saris from Tamil Nadu are made on power looms. These are a lot cheaper when compared to the handloom saris of Kerala,” says Sely Benny of Kerala Handlooms and Superstores, R.K. Puram.
Unfortunately, the handloom sector in Kerala is facing tough times. “The younger generation is moving away from the vocation and taking up odd jobs instead. Each weaver takes three-four days to make a ‘kasavu’ sari and gets paid Rs.120 per day that does not cover the high cost of input. There is no support from the government for the handloom weavers’ cooperative societies,” says Joseph Benny.