Posted by Stephen Louw on 02-26-2004 04:47 AM:

The history of the Sari

Dear Jaina

Thanks for a lovely essay. I wonder if you could shed additional light on the history of the sari, when it first came into use as a popular dress, how this varied regionally (North-South in particular), and how this has changed over time.

You have hinted at this already but I think we would benefit from a more systematic exposition thereof.

From my limited reading, I understand that there is some dispute as to whether early pictures of women draped in cloth for example, those on the walls of the Adjanta caves are indeed evidence of a 5000 history of the sari. Clearly, the women were draped in loose cloth, but at what point did the distinct sari style emerge.

Also, I understand that styles changed considerably in the North after the Mogul invasion, as new conceptions of modesty (or control over women) began to hold sway. This helped popularise the Sari blouse, but did it change other aspects of the Sari? (Length, design format, etc.) And what happened in the South?

Similarly, how did the Sari evolve during the British period? I have been told that this too led to new conceptions of public modesty, as Indian women were increasingly drawn into the public sphere. Did this affect either the design or the draping of the Sari?

Once again, a lovely essay


Stephen Louw

Posted by Mishra Jaina on 02-28-2004 07:43 AM:

Hello Stephen,

I do not have much information or intuitive knowledge on the history of the saree and the influence of the various rules. Currently what I would be able to tell you would be based on observations of movies - which reflect society well - over the past 35 years but that will probably not yield much.

But I will see what I can find over the week.