In multifaceted diversity of Indian society, sari embraced different castes, communities and cultures together in its folds ascommon form of apparel. One of the most ancient garments of the subcontinent, it enhances and gracefully blends with the dusky complexion of Indian women. From the traditional ceremonies to everyday wear, the sari is the most popular attire for almost any occasion. The Sanskrit literature and epic , also the documentation work done during the Mughal periods bear evidence to such developments. The traditions have their own distinct palette of colours, motifs, weaves and layouts – each convey different meanings.
The evolution of sari and its regional styles narrate the story of how aesthetic sensibilities of the masses were nurtured over time, how codification and standardization of design aesthetics resulted in socio – cultural progress.
The origin of Indian textiles are hidden in early history. However, how old the textiles is exactly still remains a question. The traditional saris are however recognized by the way they are designed and woven. The handloom saris are woven in cotton as well as silk. One must not forget Eric Hobsbawm’s conclusion about cotton when he said “whoever says Industrial Revolution says cotton”. The time however goes back to the Indus Valley Civilisation, that 3rd millenium B.C. when cotton spinning and weaving has already reached its pinnacle. We know this based on a few archeological excavations.
Hence, Cotton has long been one of the greatest fibre when it comes to consumption and trade of the textile. It holds its position as it produces different kinds of garments that can comfortably worn in wide variety of climates. Cotton is comfortable garment in the heat and humidity of the tropics. However, the colourful cotton clothing defines our fashionability and gives us warmth during the winters. The appeal of cotton lay in fashionablity, since fashionability is often associated with the exotic and hard to find item mostly form far of regions. And with it sheer variety of cloths, cotton not only satisfies the fashion desires of its consumers. But also plays a mojor role in creating statement everyday. Cotton produced muslins that gave good competition to silk at a time. It gave rise to elaborately painted and printed calicoes of exclusive designs and colour. Sometimes cotton is dyed in deep blue or it can also produce complex and stripes after having woven variety of dyed yarns.
Traditionally, the processing, and manufacture of silk and cotton textiles was the second largest occupation after agriculture. Thousand of families form the banks of Ganges in the north to Kanya Kuamri in the south, from Gujarat in the west to Bengal in the east, were engaged in spinning and weaving, dying, painting and embroidery. This range encompassed the finest of cotton and silk produce not only for the Kings and their courts, but also for the everyday use . Among them Bengal alone was itself the center of huge number of silk and cotton exports.
That cotton and silk were pre – eminent fabrics of the subcontinent, can agreed with without any doubt. Silk was also deemed a “pure ” fabric, aprropriate for religious, ritual and ceremnoinal occasions. Finely woven silk was offered to temple deities, which probably gave rise to silk weaving towns like Benaras and Kanchpuram. Tussar, Eri , Muga and mulberry were also used for exclusive purposes.
Cotton may be the most dominant fibre since the history of Indian textiles. Sari weaving with imported mulberry silk as a major practice , was adopted by weavers at Ahmadabad, Surat ,Varanasi & Kanchipuram. And today, handloom weavers use all kinds of available silks for weaving various weaving exquisite quality of silk saris
The silk variety was patronised by the royalty and the elite. However, with the rise in economic status , and because of the latest designs, people have become more inclined to silk.