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Updated: September 10, 2009 19:17 IST

The woven wonder called sari

A. Shrikumar
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COLOURFUL Sari through the ages Photo: G. Krishnaswamy
COLOURFUL Sari through the ages Photo: G. Krishnaswamy

Coutre clothes may come and go but sari will and remains the numero uno, writes A.Shrikumar

Waddling your way through the lanes in ‘Amman Sannadhi’, the textile heart of the city, you are surrounded by numerous small shops tucked into the street-side. Some of them more than a Century old, specialise in different varieties of saris.

With rustic woven mats spread on the floor, white cushions complimenting their sepia tint and walls fully stacked with colourful saris, these shops render a bucolic ambience and deliver a very traditional shopping experience.

During festivals like ‘Diwali’ and ‘Navaratri’ one can find this street bursting at its seams. Women throng here in huge numbers; spend hours sitting cross-legged, selecting saris and bargaining.

Indian colours

These stores stock in some of the time-honoured designs in typical Indian colours like dark maroon, peacock blue, parrot green, mango yellow and vermillion red. One feels a gush of pride, as piece by piece unfurls, revealing detailed ornate craftsmanship. Big and small ‘bootis’ in gold and silver dispersed against the dark backdrop shine like stars on a night sky.

Bearing timeless beauty, these antique pieces invoke the mystic poet in you and the whole store blends into an age-old lore. “We have been doing this business for three generations now. Our stuff mainly consists of ‘Chettinadu’ karaikudi cotton saris and ‘Chinnalapatti’ koraipattu silk saris. The trademark design element of these saris is the earthy colours and check patterns. These are very old textile crafts and follow a unique way of weaving, in which the body and the pallu are woven separately and joined. They are also recognized by geographical indication as traditional craft forms by the Indian government,” says, Chandramouli, who owns a 74-year-old shop, started in 1935.

“The best attire a woman can dress in and look the most gorgeous, is the ‘sari’. Nothing else defines a woman more sensuously… there are citations in praise of the ‘sari’ in many Tamil literary works” says, Ramya, a student of RVS.

Unstitched marvels

“When I was a kid, I used to nudge my mom to wear this kanchina silk sari very often” says, Chitra, a homemaker, pointing to the sari she is wearing… a hybrid of Kanchipuram and China silk, with a shimmering body in mauve and a pink temple border… the 30 year old masterpiece stills you going ‘wow’ in awe. Bought for various occasions and preserved for generations, these unstitched marvels are more than a piece of cloth to get clad in. The emotional connect a woman develops with her sari makes it a rich legacy lauded and nurtured through years. There is something undeniably charming about the South Indian woman, whose whims for the six-yard sari and gold jewellery never seem to fade. Whether it is silk or chiffon, the sari still succeeds in fascinating her. When, amongst many other options, she knuckles down to the ‘Classic piece of cloth’, gets dutifully draped and flaunts around… it is a moment held in true luxury.

Though traditional heavy saris are now restricted as ‘occasion’ or ‘festival’ wears, the fancy ones are making a lead with even young working women opting for them. The Indian sensibility of ‘Richness’ has become ‘Satin’ and ‘Sateen’ from ‘Silk’. “Nowadays, people prefer light weight saris and bright colours. These saris are sourced from various cities in the northern part of the country, especially Delhi. Blended fabric is in demand more than pure authentic silk, as it imparts a trendy look and the maintenance also is easier,” says, Kapil, a dealer on Amman sannadhi.

With designer saris flooding the market, embroidery, mirror works and tie-and-dye have become quiet prevalent among the city women even as salwar-sets remain the preferred ones for work. Printed georgettes, crease free tissue saris, plain elegant chiffons are considered perfect as evening wears. The revival of the ‘sari’ has helped in lending a contemporary side to the ubiquitous garment and made young women identify themselves with it. Today, the Indian sari has crossed boundaries as a fashionable outfit by undergoing many changes, imbibing a tinge of modernity and glam. With many Indian and foreigner designers working on the ‘sari’, it has trailed a success path from the rural households to the ramp shows.

Traditional and trendy, sensuous and modest, solid and subtle, ethnic and chic… Be it for the office or a party, the sari serves you right. In spite of the western jeans breaching into its lair, the sari has sustained through hundreds of years and remains untouched in its ‘Classic’ throne. Yes, it is here to stay, spell its charm and sate the growing demand.

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