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The tradition lives on

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By Samar Quddus
Tue, 07, 19

Women in the sub-continent keep the tradition alive by draping themselves in the wonderful sari...

world in focus

Women in the sub-continent keep the tradition alive by draping themselves in the wonderful sari...

As a living tradition, sari continues to be the most popular dress and still attracts Indian and Bangladeshi women. Be it a religious ceremony, festival, wedding, workplace, party or everyday wear, the sari is the most sought-after attire for women in these countries. From prime minister of Bangladesh to a business executive to a daily labourer working in the fields, women in all walks of life have their unique way of draping saris because Indian and Bangladeshi women generally follow their cultural norms in their attire.

Handloom saris in attractive designs embellished with delicate embroidery and in vibrant colours are high in demand not only in sub-continent but also all over the world. Globalisation has replaced cultural values and traditions and brought in new trends in food, fashion and lifestyle. Fashion being the fastest growing industry in the world, young generation is more influenced by the western culture. Therefore, there is an increasing demand of western wear such as jeans and top, formal suits, skirts, etc. but demand for the saris stays constant at weddings, cultural events and on religious occasions.

As a part of their culture, women in India and Bangladesh are very particular about wearing saris on special events. For instance, brides choose to drape a Lal Banarsi sari on their wedding day. Brides wear yellow colour sari when celebrating Gaye Holud (applying turmeric on bride’s body) and the guests too wear yellow, orange, red or green colour saris. These iconic saris with alluring colour combination and attractive patterns that symbolises culture of sub-continent is rich looking and a complete festive affair to go for.

Clothing is influenced by religious beliefs and traditions. Muslim women have modified the way they carry their saris. Dhakai Sari has much greater length so that it covers the head and body properly. Some Muslim girls also drape sari with scarves to cover their heads and wear blouses with full sleeves. The dress is also a symbol of class status and social stratification in the community. Men wearing white pajamas (loose pants) and long shirts (kurta) signify their high social status. Similarly, the type of sari a woman wears is a symbol of her status in the society. Women wearing sari made of fine quality fabric (such as muslin) with elaborate designs and intricate motifs represent her high status while rough cotton saris indicate the lower economic condition of the woman.

The handloom industry in India and Bangladesh has made its mark for using a wide variety of fine quality fabric in weaving these timeless beautiful saris. High quality muslin is the most acclaimed product in this industry around the world. Kings, queens, and aristocrats in the past have all preferred to wear clothes made from muslin. Among many cheerful types of saris, Daccai Jamdani is one of the oldest, most expensive and delicate muslin drape made from fine Egyptian cotton with beautiful floral and geometric designs. Its popularity can be traced back to Mughal period. The fabric is made from pure cotton yarn. It is light in weight and usually has beige background. It consumes substantial time and labour and its intensive form of hand-weaving on traditional loom brocade is inspired by Mughal art which is rich in motifs. Depending on latest fashion and demands, Jamdani is available in affordable prices since it is now made from woven, mixed cotton and silk which is not so delicate. It is commonly known as Tangail Jamdani style sari.

Some other popular styles of saris include Tant sari, Rajshahi silk, Dhakai Banarsi sari, Tassar silk, Mulberry silk, Baluchari sari, Murshidabad sari and cotton sari. Over the years, a lot has changed and new trends have cluttered the traditional attires in terms of exotic hues and new graphic designs as demanded by the fashion-conscious women. Though technology and western influences has taken away the classical and aesthetic attire, the handloom industry has still managed to protect its uniqueness and individuality.

The writer is a freelance contributor and can be reached at [email protected]

- Article originally published in South Asia Magazine