Saris have been a part of Indian culture for over 5,000 years. The long, unstitched garment is a well-established traditional attire worn by women. The garment is conventionally draped around the lower body forming pleats and then secured at the shoulder.
Saris, however, are no longer seen as just traditional attire. They are also worn on red carpets, at fashion shows, and have now sealed their spot as work attire too. In short, there are no limitations on how and where one wants to wear a sari.
India’s diversity does not only extend to physical features, languages, and food. Different states from India have unique weaves and draping styles. Here is a quick look at some of these unique styles.
1. Kodagu style ( Karnataka): Also referred to as the Coorgi saree, the Kodava women of Coorg tuck the front pallu over their shoulders and push back the saree pleats. The unique style of draping is to ensure easy movement and convenience for them to work in the hilly areas. Traditionally, the sari was made out of cotton but upon the arrival of the British, many varieties of materials such as satin and silk were used by the Kodavas. The saree is often accompanied by a jacket or a blouse and a veil called the ‘musuk’. Kodava brides wear a red Kodagu style sari paired with a red blouse and a red head scarf known as ‘vastara’.
2. Nauvari sari (Maharashtra): The sari is called Nauvari due to its nine-yard length instead of the conventional six-yard long sarees. It is traditionally worn by Maharashtrian Brahmin women and is draped to form a trouser-like appearance and the pallu is put over the left shoulder. This style of draping was invented by women who would assist the men during times of war and ensured that the draping would provide them comfort during the physical movements. The sari, originally cotton, is now available in many other materials such as silk, which gives the attire a royal appearance.
3. Mundum Neriyathum (Kerala) : The oldest style of sari draping in Kerala, this is sometimes referred to as the Namboothiri style. Unlike other saris, this style does not involve a pallu. The ‘Mundum Neriyathum’ is a two-piece which comprises of a bigger piece, the mundu, which is draped around the lower body while the smaller piece, also called as neriyathu, is draped around the upper body and is tucked into the blouse. While this traditional style of draping is no longer common within the state, a lot of folk dancers drape their saris in this style.
4. Mekhela Chador (Assam): This type of sari also consists of two pieces—the ‘mekhela’ or the bottom garment and the ‘chador’, the upper garment. The mekhela is draped around the waist after being folded into pleats and one end of the chador is tucked into the upper portion of the mekhela while the other end is draped around the upper body. Unlike the more common draping styles where the pleats are folded to the left, the pleats of the traditional Assamese draping are folded to the right side.
5. Seedha Pallu drape (Gujarat): While the name itself suggests how the sari is draped, it is also referred to as the ‘maharani style’ drape. The pallu, which usually falls behind the shoulder, comes from behind the right shoulder and is pinned diagonally, on the waist near the left arm. Upon tracing the origins of this drape, it is known that it was traditionally worn by the upper class, specifically the women hailing from royal families. This style of draping is also found in neighbouring states of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and other princely states.