Saree – One of World’s oldest Women’s wear

Saree – One of World’s oldest Women’s wear


Saree is one of World’s oldest traditional dresses for women. It is an Indian ethnic wear with more than 5000 years of existence. At present it is the national dress of India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. Sari is a Sanskrit word that means, a strip of cloth, and is exactly what this traditional female garment is. It is a long strip of unstitched cloth, 4.5 metres to 8 metres in length and 60 cm to 1.20 m in breadth. Women all over the Indian subcontinent wear this traditional garment in various ways. However, females generally wear it by wrapping it around the waist with one end then draped over the shoulder baring the midriff. A very interesting fact, saree is one of the oldest and possibly the only remaining unstitched garment.

History of Saree

Mostly it is maintained that Saree, one of World’s oldest traditional dresses for women originated in India. Historians believe that people from Mesopotamia brought cotton and the art of weaving to India. So, the existence and origin of saree can be found right from the time of Indus Valley Civilization. During this period, people used to wear long lengths of clothes in the form of kacchha. They draped it around the waist, the wearer passed one end of the cloth or the centre pleat between the legs and tucked it up behind to enable smooth movement of the lower body. The unstitched single piece of cloth evolved due to ancient Hindu belief that stitching cloth made it impure. Saree has its mention even in the Hindu tales and epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata. During several Hindu festivals, such as the Durga Puja, all the Goddess idols could be seen wearing Sarees.

Saree: One of World's Oldest Women's Wear originated in India
Assam Silk Saree

How to wear Saree?

Saree is among those traditional dresses that has a wide variety. A Saree can be draped in more than 80 possible ways. Some of the most prominent and followed ways are listed in the following:

  • Bengali or Oriya: The Bengali or Oriya style does not have pleats. Women wrap the saree in an anticlockwise direction around the waist, followed by wrapping from the opposite direction. The loose end is comparatively a lot longer and goes over the left shoulder, covering the front of the torso. Here is a video showing how to wear a Wedding Saree in Bengali style, Source:

  • Nivi: This drape consists of one end of the sari tucked into the waistband of the petticoat, usually a plain skirt. The cloth is wrapped around the lower body once, then hand-gathered into even pleats below the navel. The pleats are tucked into the waistband of the petticoat. After one more turn around the waist, the loose end is draped over the shoulder.
  • Kodagu: This style of drape has its origin from the Kodagu district in Karnataka. It is a pleated style, where the pleats are at the rear end. Interestingly, in this style the saree is drapped back-to-front over  the right shoulder, and pinned to the res of the saree.
  • Assamese: The Assamese saree is actually a three piece garment, better known as Mekhela Chador. The bottom portion drapped around the waist is called Mekhela. The veil is called Chador (sheet of cloth). The third part is the upper part which is a long sleeve choli or blouse.
  • Manipuri: This saree is similar to the Assamese style, being a three set garment.
  • Gujarati/Rajasthani: It is another pleated style where the loose end is taken from the back, draped across the right shoulder, and pulled across to be secured in the back.
  • Malayali: It is a two piece saree. The material is mostly unbleached cotton with golden or coloured stripes and borders.
  • Tribal: India is home to many tribal communities like Santhals, Bhils, Mundas, etc. Most of their Saree wearing ways are similar. Sarees are tied them firmly across the chest, covering the breasts.

Famous Sarees from various regions:

Since Saree is India’s national wear, it is not a matter of surprise that different states from every region of the country (North, South, East and West) have various types of Sarees. Here are some of the famous forms of saree made of different materials and belonging to different states:

  • Uttar Pradesh: Banarasi, Shalu, Tanchoi.
  • West Bengal: Tant, Tashore Silk, Baluchari, Murshidabad Silk, Bishnupur Silk, Gorode, Shantipur Cotton, Phulia Cotton, Begampur cotton, Batik printed
  • Orissa:  Sambalpur silk, Ikkat Silk, Bomkai, Kotki.
  • Assam: Mooga silk, Mekhela cotton
  • Manipur: Manipuri Tant, Moirang Phi, Patt Silk
  • Gujarat: Bandhani, Patola, Gharchola
  • Rajasthan: Kota Doria Bagru
  • Karnataka: Mysore silk, Llkal silk, Molakalmuru
  • Andhra Pradesh: Uppada Silk, Mangalagiri Silk, Venkatagiri, Bandar, Kuppadam
  • Tamil Nadu: Chettinad, Kumbakonam, Thirubuvanam, Coimbatore cotton, Salem silk, Rasipuram silk
  • Kerala: Mayilati silk, Kannur cotton, Kalpathi silk, Maradaka silk, Kasargod
  • Telangana: Pochampally, Gadwai, Narayanpet
  • Madhya Pradesh: Chanderi silk, Maheshwari, Dhokra silk

International presence and acceptance of Saree

Being one of world’s oldest traditional dresses and as the Saree originated during the Indus Valley Civilization, its presence can be found throughout the Indian subcontinent. The following  countries from the Indian subcontinent have Saree as a popular women dress material:

  • Bangladesh: Saree is pronounced as Shari in Bengali and is the national female dress of Bangladesh. Bangladesh is the home to the world famous Dhakai Jamdani Shari. Also, Rajshahi silk, TangailTant saree, Tassar silk are some of the other famous tyoes of Saree from our eastern neighbours.
  • Pakistan: Salwar Kameez is the national dress of Pakistan but the saree has its own place of importance there. Women could be seen wearing Sarees during occasions and functions. In some areas, such as the Sindh Province, Sarees are looked at as an exotic, expensive dress material for women, which is a status symbol. Sarees like Bandhani, Patola, Gharchola, Kota Doria Bagru from the Western Indian states of Gujarat and Rajasthan are also popular in Pakistan.
  • Sri Lanka:  Another coutry with Saree as its national dress. Mainly two saree drapes are used in Sri Lanka: the Indian Nivi style and the Kandyan (Osaria in Sinhalese) style. The Kandyan style derives its name from the place Kandy and is popular in the hilly regions around Kandy.
  • Nepal: Saree is the most common clothing for the women in Nepal, and rightly it is their national dress as well. Women in this country, traditionally wear a shawl covering the upper half of the saree.

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