When grace and elegance shook hands, saree was born. Whoever said it defined what a saree is. This six-yard long cloth unites women in South Asia across class, caste, age and religion.
Despite the popularity of western wear, saree has a place in any South Asian woman’s wardrobe. Ask her about saree, she will recall how she loved borrowing her mum’s sarees all her life. How mom gracefully draped her sarees and how elegant is her choice of weave. Mom may be the gold standard on saree for most women. Men may also have similar saree stories about their moms, sisters and wives. Sensuous, gorgeous, versatile, beautiful... adjectives are never in short supply when it comes to saree.
Saree is now gaining more global followers thanks to its endorsement by celebrities like Julia Roberts, Halle Berry, Eva Mendez, Britney Spears and Lady Gaga. Bollywood actor Vidya Balan says, “I enjoy sareees. It shows you the right amount, it covers the right amount, it’s extremely versatile, it suits every body type, it suits every face.” In India saree has invaded the corporate boardrooms with many women chief executives preferring it as a power wear.
Saree Sakhis is a Facebook group formed by six women in Muscat in August 2018 to promote sarees. It took inspiration from Saree Speak is a closed group on Facebook with almost 30,000 members from all over the world. It was founded by Vini Tandon Keni from Goa, India in 2016. The purpose of the group is to revive the love of sarees across all ages especially the authentic handloom weaves of India.
Saree Sakhis now boasts of more than 850 members and followers on Facebook. They met offline recently to bond and share their love of sarees. There were games, food and lots of fun. Though the first meet did not have a theme, it managed to bring together Indian women from different parts of Oman. The members wore Kanjeevaram silk, Maheshwari, Sambalpuri, Chanderi, Kosa, Khadi and sarees with embellishments, batik and bagh prints.
The meet also included poetry recitals, fun games and dances by the members. The organising committe comprised Smita Abrol Kapur, Dr Julie Sathian, Dr Madhurani Sudhir Sawant, Sushma Shrihari Bhat, Roopa Jog, Roopa Dongare, Rashmi Junnarkar, Pooja Padhye Barve, Rohini Sonavane and Preeti Tanksale.
Each state in India has its own traditional style of saree either in cotton or silk, or even both and every saree is the outcome of fine craftsmanship and techniques. So when women post their pictures of sarees in the group, they are encouraged to reveal details like fabric, weave, state of origin etc. This will help members to know about the tales and traditions, and bond with each other.
Saree Sakhis plan to organise more get togethers maybe twice a year. Next meet will have a theme based on different draping styles along with a talent quest. Most women know only about the traditional draping style called ‘Nivi’. There are actually more than 80 different ways to drape a saree. The group is planning to have a demonstration of all styles.
Photos by Sneha Karkaria