Sarees are an integral part of the culture of the Indian subcontinent. The beauty of sarees is nonpareil, and the way they beautify the Indian women is why all of us admire sarees. If we formally define a saree, it can be referred to as a female garment worn by the women of the Indian subcontinent, that has a drape that is wrapped over the waist and one of its ends draped around the shoulder. Saree is the identity of the Indian women. It is something which defines them, sets them apart, and gives them their own recognition inside the crowd. Most foreigners upon seeing a woman wearing a saree would instantly recognize that the woman belongs to the Indian subcontinent.
History of Sarees
The origin of the sarees can be found in the Indus Valley Civilization, or the Harappan Culture, which flourished in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent during 2800 BC – 1800 BC. A statue of a priest from Indus Valley was found in the remains of the Indus Valley Civilization, which was, interestingly, shown wearing a drape, looking much similar to a saree. This can be called as one of the earliest depictions of sarees. Then, sarees evolved so much that their description can be found in the religious works of various religions like Hinduism and Jainism. Description of sarees, or garments closely resembling sarees can be found in various works of Sanskrit too. Then, sarees commenced becoming popular. The most renowned occasion where women started wearing sarees was weddings. Red started to become the most preferred color for sarees worn by women, especially the bride at her weddings. Nowadays, sarees are worn at parties, weddings, official meetings, funerals, etc., and there are different saree designs for different occasions.
Sarees and Religion
The types and the importance of sarees on different occasions vary with the religion of the woman wearing it. For instance, in Hinduism, women wear sarees, which are usually in red, during weddings and celebrations. They wear it when there is a puja, or some offering is being made to the God. Also, it is very common in Hindu women to wear sarees even at home. Similarly, women who belong to the Muslim faith wear sarees too. These sarees are mostly influenced by the color of Hijab worn by them. For example, the colors and patterns of the saree are matched or contrasted with that of the Hijab so that the overall clothing gives an elegant impression to the eye. Most of the Muslim women in rural as well as urban areas prefer saree over any other garment. Many a times in their culture, it is also considered obscene if a married woman is seen not wearing a saree. Even though most Muslim women are seen wearing Burqas, but they do wear sarees beneath them.
But, Kashmiri Muslim women do not wear sarees. They have their own attire which is very elegant too. Similarly, sarees are also very popular in Christianity. Many nuns in the Indian Catholic Churches can be seen wearing sarees. Also, many times, a Christian bride can be seen wearing a while colored saree (or a similar garment) too during her wedding.
Significance of Sarees – Then and Now
Sarees, obviously, are big pieces of cloth. So, wearing them is not an easy task. It shows the management skills of a woman, as if she can manage to wear such a big piece of cloth, then she can definitely manage her family and take good care of her spouse and children. Women look the most beautiful and refined when they are wearing sarees. But nowadays, sarees are more skin revealing than skin covering. Earlier, sarees were worn to hide the waist but now they are designed in such a way that they reveal the waist. A woman is considered more gorgeous and beautiful if she wears such sarees. Hence, sarees have evolved keeping in mind the current fashion trends and the changing mindsets/perspectives of the women wearing it.
Sarees and Seasons
Sarees also vary with changing seasons. For example, cotton sarees are the most comfortable and worn by most of the women during the scorching heat of the summers. Similarly, sarees made of silk or usually, some warm fabric is worn during winters to keep warm. Style Caret has a very good collection of sarees for different seasons.
Social and Cultural Aspects of Sarees
When it comes to choosing the right clothes for weddings and celebrations, something which no one can deny getting attracted to is sarees. Sarees are culturally important because they are the identity of Indian women and represent the Indian culture and traditions and the rich Indian heritage. Sarees are worn differently in different parts of India. For instance, Gujaratis wear them differently, Punjabis wear them differently, Maharashtrians wear them differently, and so on. So, there are different types of sarees which are peculiar to different states. For instance, Kota Sarees are peculiar to Rajasthan, as they originated in Kota city. Likewise, Bomkai sarees are famous in Bomkai, Odisha; Talent and Kaantha sarees originated in Bengal; Dhokra, Chanderi and Maheshwari sarees are famous in Madhya Pradesh and so on. Many such sarees are available on Stylecaret which you can check out.
Sarees and the West
Nowadays, countries in the west are getting influenced by eastern clothing traditions due to the bliss of sarees. Bollywood actresses like Priyanka Chopra and Aishwarya Rai are these days making a lot of tours to the west and are establishing very good relations with the Americans, like Priyanka Chopra recently made her debut in the Ellen Show. This also exposes the western audience to Indian actresses representing the Indian culture and the sarees become the cynosure of all eyes.
Hence, the whole article can be summarized by saying that there is no garment, but sarees which have given the people of Indian subcontinent such a worldwide recognition and developed them socially and culturally. Sarees have indeed exalted the standard of the Indian women to a higher level.