4 Amazing Facts About Indian Sari

Indian Sari History and Use in Home Decor

Close-Up of Sari on Bed at Home
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  • 01 of 06

    4 Amazing Facts About Sari

    Kurti and Saris Stacked for Sale
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    India is home to one of the world's oldest and most beautiful cultures (1). For millennia, the various dynasties and civilizations of India have produced works of religion, philosophy, and art that have influenced much of the rest of the world. As the home of many Silk Road sites, India contributed significantly to the commerce and culture of the world. A paragon of religious and philosophical thought, India is responsible for many great works including the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita, part of the Mahabharata, the longest poem ever written (2). Nearly everyone knows about sari, the beautiful traditional garments worn by women in India. Over the past few decades, sari has become a common sight in homes around the world both as fashion accessories and as home decor. Whether woven into pillows, draped across a sofa, or hung as wall art, saris are a global decor trend that you probably know on sight. But here are a few things about saris that you probably didn't know. 

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  • 02 of 06

    They Were Not Originally Called Sari

    Colorful Saris in Shelves for Sale at Store
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    "The word “Saree” is anglicized from “Sadi,” which existed in Prakrit language as “Sadia” and originated from Sanskrit “Sati,” meaning a strip of cloth (3)." Though the garment consists of a single piece of fabric, there is a large amount of variety to the quality of fabric and how the fabric can be worn. Traditionally, many of these details depend largely on the social status of the wearer as well as the region from which she hails. In one common method of tying the sari: "One end is passed twice round the waist, the upper border tied in a strong knot and allowed to fall in graceful folds to ankle, thus, forming a sort of petticoat or skirt (ibid.)." Should sufficient material remain once draped over the lower limbs and torso, the hanging part of the sari, called "Pallay," is traditionally drawn over the head."Overall, an Indian woman's marital status, area of origin and specific circumstances, if any, could be easily understood by the traditional community in which she lives from the saree she wore (ibid.)."

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  • 03 of 06

    They Are Centuries Old

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    It's hard to tell exactly how old sari are. There are not many historical records from India that predate the appearance of the sari as an everyday garment (4). The methods of growing and weaving cotton into finished fabrics were known in India as many as five-thousand years ago. It has been suggested that some form of sari may have been worn as far back as that period (5). Before the advent of tailoring in Indian culture, unsewn cloths, likely made of cotton were worn wrapped around the body. 

    The first statues to depict sari-wearing women date back to 100 BC (6). Numerous other 2nd century statues showing women wearing saris in a variety of styles remain from Gandharan civilization in modern-day Pakistan (7). A conquest of Alexander the Great in 330 BC, the art and culture of Gandhara, as well as its politics, had been introduced to significant Greek and Macedonian influence (8). By the 2nd century, Gandhara had declared Buddhism as it's state religion, creating several important cities for trade and religious studies (9). Gandharan art, marked by its tendency to capture subjects in realistic detail,  produced pieces of exceptional quality, which are highly prized today in museums around the world.

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  • 04 of 06

    Every Color Has Meaning

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    • White: White is a spiritually significant color often found in garments worn at religious ceremonies. Fabric dyeing of any sort is traditionally regarded as being spiritually impure. Priests are therefore often associated with this color. White is also a color of mourning, and white sari is common garments for widows. 
    • Green: The meaning of this color has changed significantly over time. Originally associated with the merchant class, green, as the official color of Islam, has become very popular in garments worn by Muslims, including saris. In some regions of India green is also a popular color for saris worn by brides. 
    • Black: A color thought to represent sadness and bad fortune. Understandably black is not used as a dominant color in a large number of saris.
    • Red: Unlike black, red has some positive connotations, making it a trendy color. Commonly worn by brides of all castes, red was traditionally associated with the warrior class — also, the being symbolic of sex and fertility. 
    • Yellow: Representing religion and the ascetic practices followed by dedicated spiritual seekers, yellow (along with orange) is the color of the saints. Yellow saris are worn by Indian women for seven days following the birth of a child. 
    • Blue: Blue was a color associated with those members of society who worked with their hands. As such, it was eschewed by those of the higher classes and reserved for artists, farmers, and weavers (10).
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  • 05 of 06

    Saris Include a Number of Symbolic Motifs

    Tree Seeds Shiva
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    Here are just a few:

    • Parrot: A romantic element, the parrot was considered a symbol of passion and courting. 
    • Elephant: A crucial element directly associated with the Hindu god Ganesh, the elephant motif represents "water, fertility, royalty and regal power."
    • Fish: The fish is a common motif in the coastal areas of India. A symbol of plenty, it represents wealth and food in abundance as well as fertility. 
    • Conch: In ancient India, conch shells were used as bugles in war. Each one had a unique sound, and the sound of their distinctive horns identified famous warriors. On a sari, the conch represents the gods as sound. 
    • Rudraksha: One of the more popular sari motifs, the rudraksha symbolizes the eye of Shiva. The name of the symbol derives from a large, evergreen tree that grows in the Himalayas, and specifically the large seeds that fall from it. The seeds are used as prayer beads by Hindus, often strung together in a manner very similar to Catholic rosaries (11).
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  • 06 of 06

    How to Use Sari at Home

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    Today, sari exists on the world stage as an iconic symbol of Indian history and culture. In home decor, using sari in your space is an excellent way to pay homage to an Indian heritage or to express appreciation for this remarkable culture. Best of all, there are some beautiful and stylish ways to incorporate this ancient fabric style into your home decor. Some of the best places to find sari-inspired pieces for your home are Vishal Handicrafts, Ribbons and Silk, and Indifab on Etsy.