History of Saree
The 6 yard long cloth which you still drape around your body has a history. You might wonder who was the first woman to wear a sari. Although none of us can answer that question, but we do have details of how the sari originated.
Sari, this word is derived from the sanskrit word 'sati'. Sati, as you know, means a strip of cloth. This sound first evolved into 'sadi' and then into 'sari'.
There are some indications which suggest that the sari originated in the Indus valley civilization in 2800 to 1800 BC. That is a long time back. Just imagine the women then draping themselves in a sari. Sari has certainly come of age.
In some states of southern India, the nine-yard long saree is worn. A saree, as you must be knowing, can be draped in numerous styles. The blouse, which covers the upper part of the body can be long or short depending on where you are wearing it.
In a sari the midriff is left bare. This is because according to Hindus, the navel is considered the source of life and creativity (maybe because through it the foetus is fed).
Dhoti, Indian men's traditional attire, is believed to be the forerunner of saree. Historians say that until the 14th century, dhoti was being worn by both men and women. Dhotis are still being worn in rural India.
It is believed that apart from dhoti, men and women also wore lungi (sarong) in their daily life. To cover the upper part of their bodies, women wore breast bands. Another unstitched cloth was used to cover the shoulders and head.
What we call the Odissi Fishtail wrap, where the saree is draped around the legs and the pallu hangs at the centre lengthwise, has been dated back to 1-6th century. There are sculptures in which gods and goddesses are wearing the Odissi Fishtail style of draping a saree. It is believed that both men and women used the same style of draping.
Many old sculptures show a variety of different sari draping styles worn by men and women.
The origin of the blouse and the petticoat is still doubtful. As it was a tradition in India to use only one unstitched cloth to cover the body, it is believed that ancient women did not wear blouses and left the upper part of their bodies uncovered. Some other say that they did wear breastbands to cover thier upper body. It is still unknown how blouses and petticoat originated, although it is largely believed that it was only after the arrival of the British that Indian women started wearing blouse and petticoat.
Also, stitched clothes were considered impure by Hindus. It was only after the arrival of Muslims that tailored clothes became popular in India.
In India, a beautiful figure is judged by a slim waist, and large busts and hips. A saree which exposes the waist and highlights the upper part of the body due to saree pleats is considered a perfect dress for Indian women.