I just love sarees. Be it the soft feel of my grandmother’s well-worn Cottons and Muls as she held me close to her while narrating stories. Or the floral jaal and pastels of the Doria Kotas that my mother wore every day. And that rare glimpse of printed silks worn by Jaya and Raakhee in the movies – bold colours, keri motifs and retro patterns. The saree held in its folds and pleats all the beauty and grace that I could comprehend in my early years.
The clincher however was when I wore one. As a part of the coming-of-age ceremony, a Parsi girl is gifted and allowed to wear her first saree. A dull grey Chiffon was chosen to be my first saree. As it was draped around my gawky 5 feet 7 inch frame, the ethereal flowiness of the chiffon forgave and even embraced unconditionally all the barriers nature put in its way. I felt and looked like a princess. So this is why women wear sarees – it dawned on me then at that very moment. And that belief has not left me since.
Over the years I continued to enjoy looking at and loving sarees worn by other princesses around me. The staple Cottons and Muls, Calico voiles, floral printed pure silks, embroidered Nylons and plain Georgettes, heavy Banarasis, the righteous and sturdy Khaadi, the elegant Kanjeevarams, the bright Bandhanis, the gaudy, loud faux Gaji silks, slinky Chiffons…all were loved by me. Heck I even loved the once-bright but now faded Puneri worn by the vegetable seller lady.
Fat, thin, tall, short, dark, wheatish, fair, short hair, long hair – nothing mattered to a saree. It would, in flash of a wrap, transfer all of its beauty to you – taking nothing in return. The saree could lend you height, slenderness, grace, dignity, all of it in a go. Why an Ilkal saree could even lend you character in an instant if you needed it. How could anyone not love such a garment?
As I grew older I discovered an entire world of sarees unbeknown to me. Bhalucheris, Paithanis, Ikats, Tangails, Patolas…gasp. O okay I thought. One saree for every state in India. That made sense. But I was so wrong. The sarees had nothing to do with states per se. What would be a good way to organize and get a list of the types of sarees? Would the list be based on the weave? Or maybe the fabric? Or the embroidery, or the region or… god what else? See I needed to have a list. I needed to know because I wanted to own each type. And more I looked for a definite list the more I got tangled in its warp and weft.
Somewhere along the way my active search for the list became passive, very passive in fact, as I decided to become someone more important than a princess. There was no time for a saree. Sorry saree. And besides, I just could not keep track – there were so many types. I could not possibly know them all or even have them all.
In my years of being important, I never stopped loving sarees and continued learning and reading about them – through books, knowledgeable friends and my masi, my biggest source of information. Through the weaves of this garment I discovered my country’s history, traditions and culture. I understood how saree craft was at one time tightly woven to the economics of a region. And my love for the garment continued to grow.
Today I still have not found my list of sarees and I firmly believe that there can never really be one. Though I no longer care to own each type, I definitely do not want to stop discovering more of them. I believe there are sarees out there that I do not know of yet. And I doubt that my enthusiasm will be any less than what it has been in the past.
Through this blog I wish to celebrate the infiniteness of that list. I wish to take time off from being important to share the beauty, grace and character of a saree with you. I hope to bring you all this beauty in an alphabetical listing that defies types and categories of fabric, embroidery or weave. We begin with A – A for Assamese Gheecha. That’s for next week.
Source: Sectors near and around 1110AmH290a of my own long term memory.