One of the most sensuous of attire - the sari, adorns a woman to become modest and attractive in it.

Six yards of cloth. That is all there is to the saree. Yet, this dress worn by millions of Indian women is the most elegant. It is not cumbersome but a great antique that suits to any occasion. The great Indian women in different spheres of life, the rich and the poor admire and appreciate the style and strength of the sari. Though one of the oldest apparels, there is something mystical about the way one wraps, folds, tucks and drapes a seamless piece of cloth: creating a form from the formless.

Saree is an ornament, lending both grace and glamour to the wearer. It emerges today as a visible symbol of the resiliency, continuity and timelessness of the Indian way of life. The saree speaks for itself of so many things. Every rustle of this unique garment has a story to tell ± stories both of happiness and of sorrow. For the saree has seen it all. It has shared, with the wearer, every nuance of human experience ± the joy and happiness of marriage, as well as the sorrow of parting, the pleasures and satisfaction of motherhood, the happy times when the life dealt kindly, the trying times when adversity was met with typical Indian stoicism. The mood, the occasion, the event can all be conveyed through the saree. The colour reflects the occasion. The way it is draped signals the community. Brocades speak of happy times, an event of celebration ± the birth of a baby, the marriage of a dear one. Festivals life Diwali or Durga Puja , are occasion to bring out colourful dreams in gold woven in-between vibrant rainbow-hued skeins of silk. Solemn white speaks of death, of the parting of a loved one. For those in the immediate family it indicates a state of mourning and for those who come to offer condolences it is a sign of their empathy with the bereaved. For the bride it is always, in almost all communities, a bright red. So interwoven is the saree with the life and traditions of the people that each region of the country has developed a weave of its own. The sari both conceals and reveals, depending on the wearer's whim and conditioning.

The essential simplicity of the sari-an untailored length of cloth measuring between four and nine meters long by approximately one meter wide-is set against a wonderful variety of fabrics, colors, patterns, and draping styles. It displays the rich diverse regional traditions of color, pattern, and weave. The origin of the word sari is from the Sanskrit word 'sati', which means strip of cloth. This evolved into the Prakrit 'sadi' and was later anglicised into sari. Women of those days wore a short cloth round the loins and a single long white cloth (tuni) tucked round the waist and hanging down to the ground. When going out they usually wore a small cloth (torttumundu) thrown over the breasts and under the arms. This was gradually developed as one piece ornament with the term saree.

The versatile sari has its variety fashion in adorning in this multicultural society of India. The Style, texture varies from south to north and east to west in India. The latest trend in sari-blouses

has become a style of added value to the wearer with a magnetic grace and attraction. The Sari resembles as a canvas to the weaver, the block printer, the textile designer or the mill hand. A hand woven sari is the most organic attire one can wear. When you wear that hand-woven sari, you are paying your tribute to our craft persons who have stubbornly struck to the skills and traditions thousands of years old. It is too easy to look to modernity and risk losing one's poetry. Thus sari is not just attire but it embodies the warp and weft of life itself.

Each is a unique expression of the skills of the weavers and dyers, which have been handed down the generations. The exquisite patola weave, and the bandhini style of dyeing comes from the west. Weaving silks in vibrant colours, some weighing as much as 10 kilograms is a speciality of south India. Silk sarees embroidered with the kantha stitch, a speciality of the Bengal region in the east, is a typical example of the perseverence of the Indian craftsman. He puts in as much as six months of labour to create a single saree. The paithani silk saree from Maharashtra and the brocades from Benaras are equally representative of the continuation of the age-old crafts.

Then again, each region displays a different style of draping the saree. This is shaped by the lifestyle and the religious inclination. The urban Indian style is by far the one most common seen. Stiff tangails, flowing silks, elegant chiffons and heavy brocades ± all of them can be easily manoeuvred into this style. Tied around the waist, the saree forms a skirt with the pleats positioned in front thus allowing for free movement. The pallav or the part draped over the left shoulder is either pleated and pinned up the convenience, or is left flowing loose for glamour. Tucked away in the mountains, in the south is Coorg, undoubtedly one of the most beautiful spots in India. The women here wear the saree in a style so unique, that its very elegance is intriguing. The pleats of the saree are not in front but at the back forming a fan. The pallav covering the chest is brought over the right shoulder. This is held in place with a broach or a pin. And as they walk, the pleats behind gently swing giving the impression of the long train, lending grace and elegance to the already exceedingly beautiful women of this land. The Bengalis of eastern India are tradition bound. Their lifestyle is simple, their intellect volatile yet deeply rooted in their culture. Every facet of their way of life reflects a seasoned refinement. This state boasts of, among other things, very independent women. They are exceedingly active, yet fiercely traditional. This is perhaps best reflected in the fact that at festival time, come what may, all Bengali women make it a point to drape their saree in the Bengali way. Here there are no pleats. The saree is wrapped around the waist and tucked in at the left. This is then brought back to the right side and draped over the left shoulder. The portion left over is brought up under the right arm and draped once again over the left shoulder.

Deep in the south is the style of Tamil Nadu, a repository of India¶s ancient fine arts, dance and music. Here, it was the extra long saree that was worn. This measured nine yards instead of the ordinary six yards. The draping of the saree in this style is rather complicated. After the first

wrapping around the waist, the saree is brought back and pleated with the pleats positioned along the left leg. The rest of the saree is draped over the left shoulder, wrapped once again round the waist and tucked on the left side. However the lyer style includes a few pleats at the back which is not there in the lyengar style. The enterprising clothiers have now introduced ready-to-wear nine yard sarees, all complete with hooks and buttons, offering a welcome alternative to trendy young girls! In maharashtra, in the west, one finds a somewhat similar style. Here again the traditional saree nine long. It is worn in a similar fashion as found in Tamil Nadu. Tied around the waist it forms a loose trouser giving greater freedom of movement. The pleats are in front with the pallav falling over the right shoulder, giving full scope to exhibit the beautifully woven borders of the traditional Maharasthra saree.

Gujrat women used saree in a style quite similar to the urban Indian one. The only difference is that the pallav is brought over the right shoulder and tucked across in front on the left side. Bihar in the east is the home of the Santhal tribals, perhaps best known for their inherent sense of music. The saree as worn by these tribal women is quite different. Tied around the waist, the saree reaches upto the kness. The pallav is draped in the normal way around the left shoulder and then tucked in at the waist making for easy movement through the forests.

This seemingly cumbersome garment is in reality an extremely versatile, meaningful and adaptable one. It suits every possible occasion, every possible activity. It never goes out of fashion. At the most there may be phases when women prefer particular colours or when narrow borders are more in vogue than broad ones. The saree is universal. Grandmother and grand daughter can both carry off the same saree with equal grace. It moulds itself easily to every circumstance. It is the pride of Indian costumes and will remain as the pride in the years to come.

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