A sari is traditional Indian dress that dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization as far back as 2800-1800 BC. Hindu culture believes that any cloth pierced by a needle was impure, so saris were woven of pure cotton. Over time, silk and other threads were woven together on hand looms to make intricate designs and patterns.
Saris varied in length and were traditionally worn wrapped about the waist and draped over the shoulder leaving the midriff bare. Ancient culture believed that the source of life and creativity was the navel, so it was custom to keep this area bare. Since small waists, large hips and breasts were admired, Saris emphasized a women’s body.
One reason that Saris were thought to have been worn was for temple dancers. To allow fluidity in movement, a Sari provided a women’s limbs to be able to move freely, yet still cover the body modestly. Saris also accommodated the hot climates of the region.
Saris are a reflection of cultural diversity. Different patterns and colors have specific meaning and implications.
White is considered pure and is worn during rituals and for mourning.
Red saris represent valor. Many brides don red saris because of the emotional, sexual and fertility related implications of this color.
Originally, green saris were worn by merchant classes. Today green is popular amongst many Muslim groups. Muslim brides will sometimes wear this color.
Blue saris are associated with working class. Since the fermentation process for creating this color was considered impure, high caste Hindus would avoid this color. Farmers, weavers, and artisans commonly wear this color.
Black saris were a reflection of sorrow and bad omens. This color is usually avoided.
Yellow saris are regarded as the color of religion. New mothers will wear a yellow sari for seven days after the birth of their child. Brides and grooms are usually covered in a yellow paste on the first day of their wedding.
Paisley saris are a symbol of fertility.
Elephant saris represent water, fertility and royalty.
Parrot saris are a symbol of courtship and passion.
Fish saris represent fertility and an abundance of food and wealth. Not surprisingly, many people don these saris in coastal regions.
Conch saris symbolize warriors. Conchs are a symbol of God in sound. During wartime, each warrior had his own specific conch.
Through the ages, with British influence, saris came to included petticoats and blouses. Although more modernized, many Hindu still use saris in rituals and special occasions. Emblazoned with a variety of patterns, fabrics and designs, saris now are worn more as a beautiful fashion.