Sari is the topmost choice in the fashion of Bengali women. It is considered as the oldest form of garments. With the passage of time, the concept of Sari has been evaluated in respect of various perspectives. According to the curator of Indian Heritage Center, Nalina Gopal, “Sari is one of the oldest surviving traditional costume which travelled with the Diaspora across the world.” Through a long journey, now it has taken an irreplaceable position in the fashion of women.
It is assumed that the word ‘Sari’ came from Sanskrit word ‘Sati’ which was ‘Sadi’ in Prakrit. The word ‘Sati’ means wearable garment. The history of Sari is ambiguous. From the Indus Valley Civilization ( 2800-1800 BC), evidences of draped garment like Sari was found. There was written evidences of the existence of garments like Sari even the post Vedic period. In Sanskrit literature the word ‘Sattika’ means women’s attire. ‘Sattika’ was unstitched garment. Because according to the belief of ancient Hinduism, stitched garments were impure and inauspicious. There were three parts in ‘Sattika’ called the Antariya (lower garment), the Uttariya (upper garment) and the Kurpsika ( chest band). That’s why, ‘Sattika’ is thought to be the ancestor of Sari . Terracotta figures and sculptures of different period carried the proof of garment like Sari. The historical Ajanta painting of Gupta period was one of them. Kalidasa, a famous poet of that period, mentioned about Sari in his famous play. It is guessed that the Antariya and the Uttariya co-joined near about 2nd c.BC to 1st c.CE and took the present prevalent form of Sari. The Mughal rule brought a great change in clothing in this Sub-continent. The usage of stitched garment was started at that time. The Mughal started to add dazzling embroidery to bring varieties in design which became popular among the users. The Terracotta of Paharpur and Moynamati proves the existence of sari in Bengal. The historian Niharranjan Ray indicated the presence of Sari in his famous book “History of the Bengali People”. He mentioned Sari as a common costume of women. During the British rule their fashion influenced Bengali fashion a lot. In Bengali style, Sari was worn without pleat. That was called ‘Aatpoure Style’. But that style was very awkward to the British. Observing the fashion of British women, the local Bengali women also thought their native style as odd looking. Jnanadanandini Devi, daughter-in-law of famous Tagore family, brought a new change in women’s fashion. Foremost, she learnt the Persian style of wearing Sari. In Persian style pleats were used and Anchal was draped over right shoulder. But with some modification she created a new style of herself in which the Anchal was draped over the left shoulder with pleat. At first the style was not accepted by common women for being untraditional. But that style became popular among the women of “Brahmo Somaj” and so it was called ‘Brahmika Sari’ Suniti Devi, daughter of famous Keshob Chandra Sen, started to stuck the pleated Anchal with a broach near shoulder. By the time, that style got popularity and unveiled a new horizon in women’s fashion. But our traditional ‘Aatpoure style’ is not yet extinct. It is still alive with some modifications. In rural areas, aged women are wearing Sari in this style.
Demand of era has added new dimension to Sari fashion. Just as the old ‘Aatpoure’ style has not been abolished, so has innovation been added with ‘Brahmika Sari’. Nowadays, readymade saris are also used to keep pace with the modern world. Thus, with the combination of tradition and modernity, Sari fashion is moving forward at its own pace. A famous quote of Coco Chanel is “ In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.” Sari has also occupied that unchanging place progressing through different diversity. And hopefully in the future, Sari will hold this unique place with its own entity.
Information & Image Source: Internet
Sumita Bhattacharja Joly
Department of Textile Fashion and Design, Bangladesh University of Textiles,