India’s culture is among the world’s oldest, and the sari, or saree, is among the oldest known forms of dress. It dates back more than 5,000 years, and actually appears to trace back to the Indus Valley Civilization, 2800–1800 BC, around the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent.  The first mention of the sari was in Rig Veda, the world’s oldest surviving literature dating back to about 3000 BC, making it likely the longest continually worn dress in the history of mankind.

Cotton was first cultivated and woven in the Indian subcontinent around the fifth millennium BC. Interestingly, the dyes used during this period are still in use today – indigo, lac, red madder and turmeric. Silk entered the picture around 2450 and 2000 BC.

There are more than 80 recorded ways to wear a sari. The most common style is for the sari to be wrapped around the waist, with the loose end of the drape to be worn over the shoulder, baring the midriff. This unstitched rectangular piece of fabric can vary in length from 5 yards to 9 yards, and is about 40 inches wide. Every sari has a theme woven into its design, and often a story.

Several regions in India are famed for their saris, including Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Bengal, and Tamilnadu. Among the most elaborate and sought after are the Patola saris of Gujarat, noted painted peacocks and intricate five-color designs. These saris are among the most time consuming to produce and less than 30 of these saris are created in a year and range in price from $2,000 to $20,000.

There is a folk tale that says that the first sari was cast from the loom of a fanciful weaver, who dreamed of Woman, and began to weave. “The drape of her tumbling hair. The colors of her many moods. The shimmer of stars. The softness of her touch. All these he wove together. He couldn’t stop. He wove many yards. When he was done, he sat back and smiled and smiled and smiled.”

To explore India’s rich traditions, check out our India – Gujarat & Karnataka.

Big Five

From: Big Five Travel

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