Saree might be a fashionable garment now, but it started from being a humble drape used by women thousands of years ago. The origin of the drape or a garment similar to the saree can be traced back to the Indus Valley Civilization, which came into being during 2800–1800 BC in north west India.
THE BEGINNING - The journey of saree began with cotton, which was first cultivated in the Indian subcontinent around 5th millennium BC. The cultivation was followed by weaving of cotton which became big during the era, as weavers started using prevalent dyes like indigo, lac, red madder and turmeric to produce the drape used by women to hide their modesty.
THE NAME - The garment evolved from a popular word 'sattika' which means women's attire, finds its mention in early Jain and Buddhist scripts. Sattika was a three-piece ensemble comprising the Antriya - the lower garment, the Uttariya - a veil worn over the shoulder or the head and the Stanapatta which is a chest band. This ensemble can be traced to Sanskrit literature and Buddhist Pali literature during the 6th century BC. The three piece set was known as Poshak, the Hindi term for costume.
Antriya resembled the dhoti or the fishtail style of tying a sari. It further evolved into Bhairnivasani skirt, which went onto be known as ghagra or lehenga. Uttariya evolved into dupatta and Stanapatta evolved into the choli.
Women traditionally wore various types of regional handloom saris made of silk, cotton, ikkat, block-print, embroidery and tie-dye textiles. Most sought after brocade silk sarees are Banarasi Sarees, Kanchipuram Sarees, Gadwal, Paithani Sarees, Mysore Silk sarees, Uppada Sarees, Bhagalpuri sarees, Balchuri sarees, Maheshwari Silk sarees, Chanderi silk sarees, Mekhela, Ghicha silk sarees, Narayan pet and Eri etc.
EVOLUTION - Years later with the advent of foreigners, the rich Indian women started asking the artisans to use expensive stones, gold threads to make exclusive sarees for the strata, which could make them stand out, clearly. But saree did remain unbiased as a garment and was adapted by each strata, in their own way. That was the beauty of the garment, that still remains.
With industrialization entering India, with the Britishers, synthetic dyes made their official entry. Local traders started importing chemical dyes from other countries and along came the unknown techniques of dyeing and printing, which gave Indian sarees a new unimaginable variety.
The development of textiles in India started reflecting in the designs of the sarees - they started including figures, motifs, flowers. With increasing foreign influence, saree became the first Indian international garment.
What started as India's first seamless garment, went onto become the symbol of Indian femininity.
Popularity of Silk fabrics for making Sarees in India
A notable reason for the popularity of silk is its versatility. Silk is a natural protein fabric, and there are many variants of silk – so there is no dearth of texture variation.
Sarees are flat fabrics i.e. they are worn unstitched. One cannot bring in novelty with any kind of stitching/cut. The design, hues, fabric and texture variations are, thus, extremely important. Silk is one such yarn that takes on all these aspects most aesthetically. Weaving fabric and intricate designs from silk yarn leads to creation of stunning sarees. No other fiber can match up with the effect or weaving patterns created by silk.
The natural tensile strength of silk(protein) despite its smoothness and lustrous finish, is absolutely one of a kind, and so is the depth of its texture, its absorbency and flexibility. It is not slippery or flimsy like synthetic materials, and is commercially extracted in a white or off-white yarn.
Silk gets effortlessly blended with other fibres, and can also be dyed using a variety of procedures. Many sarees are created with cotton-silk blends. Saree staples Zari and brocade are created by blending silk with metallic yarn. The extraordinary effects and hues of silk sarees are, thus, seldom possible in any other fiber.
Some of the most popular pure handloom sarees online are -
- Paithani Sarees
- Banarasi Sarees
- Kanjivaram Sarees / Kanchipuram Sarees