Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Evolution of the Sari

Of the basic dress of our women, the multi-purpose sari, the Jamdani is basically the transited form of the world famous Dhaka Muslin. Jamdanis of today may not be fine enough to pass through a wedding ring, but it's almost certain that fashion has brought in jamdani to be a permanent feature of the Rajshahi silks of our country along with Banarasi. Vedic rituals presented occasions for the most exquisite silks. The nobility wore the Kashida which is silk made from cocoons grown on Tripa or Triparna leaves similar to mulberry leaves. Regal corpses were dressed in funeral shroud made from the finest Kashida. Contrary to what is visible at Ajanta, modesty of dress for women was given a lot of emphasis according to some historians. Hiuen Tsang in the 7th century AD says that the cloth in India was not cut or fashioned. They used to wear white garments and avoid bright colours.
Recent trends of modern sari owe much to the Tagore family. But the "pallav" they tried to popularise was extremely small and resembled foreign dresses to a certain extent. It was another Tagore woman Indira Devi who immortalised the present pattern of wearing saris.

As the society developed so did the variety of the sartorial elegance putting across an effective counter point to the demand made by the society. Never mind if was effectively disguised as the Capricious and corporate whim of the womenfolk. The basic dress of our women sari also has an interesting story behind it.                           

During the Buddhist epoch three items of garment namely “UHARASANGA”, “AHTARANASAKA” and “SAMGHATI” were worn. But Bhilchomari Pateokha an ancient writer has added another item in his sartorial litany. “KANCHUKA”, which probably was a primitive bodice. Motichandr, another writer, suggests that the latter was a part of clerical habits the nuns.                           
           
       From Chulavagy the commentator on the “Jatakas” (Buddhist scriptures) we learn that “Chaghara” mentioned in the Jakatas may’ve corresponded to the sari worn by queens and princesses.    
      
       Jamdani’s basically the transited form of the world famous Dhaka Muslin. According to their variety, fineness, knittings etc. The traditional Dhaka Muslins were divided into some specific groups. Among them AAB-E-ROUHAN, SHABNAM, SARBAND & JAMDANI MUSLIN were the most famous. Over the years the first three’ve vanished from history. The production, marketing and export of Jamdani’ve somehow maintained its continuity.                               

     The history of Dhaka-Muslin or Dhaka-Jamdani’s more ancient than the history of Dhaka. Dhaka has a history of only four hundred years from 1610 A.D. When Subadar Islam Khan Chrishti of the then Subah Bangla transferred his capital city from Rajmahal to Dhaka. But the history of the cotton clothes of the region holds a more ancient tradition. Although jamdani history’s lost in the mists of antiquity. It’s known that trade in the fabric was established at least 2000 years ago. In Chamakya’s Arthasastra one finds reference to the fine cottons of ‘Vanga’, historically the central southern region of East Bengal and Chanakya’s tome on economics was written in the 3rd century B.C.                                       


       Jamdanis of today aren’t fine enough to pass through wedding rings, but it’s almost certain that at one time they did. Imperial Rome was carried away with mul mul’s ephemeral quality and evocative names such as ‘vapour’, mists, intebula, ‘cloud’ and ‘fabric of woven winds’ became common place in Roman courts, and boudoirs. Women’ve swooned at its sight and men’ve signed at the sight of women clad in it.                                      

          Around 327 B.C, when Alexander invaded the sub-continent, the length of the sari underwent a gradual extension and its mode of wearing also changed. This’s apparent from the Gandhara sculptures of 200 B.C. In fact Macedonian influence on art and culture’s universally accepted and the sartorial sector wasn’t outside the sphere of so called Gandhara influence which amongst other things made looking beautiful a pragmatic word. It’s also assumed that the inhabitants of Harappa and Mohenjodaro probably wore an ancient form of the sari which was quite different from the contemporary version.                             


         The Ajanta cave paintings not only give us insight into the erotic mind of our ancestors but also tell us graphically hoe the sari evolved. In the new empire of Bacteria Gandhara influence was immense. Until then West Asians had worn the loin-cloth and a handkerchief wrapped round the head. The loin-cloth became in India the Lunguti particularly favoured by male mendicants.                


         The middleclass apparel comprised two rectangular pieces of fabric, the Paridhana (Dhoti) and a cloak or shawl worn over it. A skirt and a shalwar were also worn. The tunic could be worn inside or outside the draped skirt. The “Paridhata” common to both sexes was a rectangular pieces of cloth wrapped round the hips as a long straight skirt rather like the Malayan Sarong.                      

                                               
          One end of it was brought forward between the legs and tucked into the waistband paving way for the developed of the knee length Indian Dhoti or the Cambodian sampot which in a way resembles the baggy trousers. The affluent for their part had their raiment’s adorned by different craftsman with beads and tassels.                     


           But if we look into the period we get a different picture altogether. Vedic rituals presented occasions for the most exquisite silks. The nobility wore the Kashida which’s silk made from cocoons grown on Tripa or Triparna leaves similar to mulberry leaves. Regal corpses were dressed in funeral shroud made from the finest Kashida.                              

          Kasuma was another variety of silk used for rituals by the pre-Aryans in India.            
         
          The Mahabharata mentions silk fabrics among the gifts brought to Judhistira by the feudal princes from the Himalayan domains. The question whether it was manufactured in India or imported from China however, remains moot.  

         According to Valmiki the Trousseau of Sita consisted of woolen items, furs, precious stones, fine silk vestments of diverse colors and princely ornaments.               

         The vail, bodice and body clothes’re repeatedly mentioned in the Ramayana and Mahabharata and both in the Hindu and Buddhist codes of law and morality.         

         Contrary to what’s visible at Ajanta modesty of dress for women was given a lot of emphasis according to some historians. Hiuen Tsang in the 7th century A.D. says that the cloth in India was not cut or fashioned. They used to wear white garments and avoid bright colors.                 

          Men wore garments gathered round their armpits which fell across their body. But those of the women fell to the ground. Their shoulders were covered too.

         From this probably came the concept of sari. Some opine that the banks of the river with trees’ve inspired them to conjure the sari, unstitched and free like a flowing river moving across a bend along the bank.                                  
  
        Dyeing of textile was known since the Vedic days. The Arthasastra tells us that almost all the known colors were in use. Cloth paints were also not unfound the word CHITRATA in the APASTAMBA SRAUTA SUTRA.                 

       The Ramayana too refers to printed clothes. The ladies of Ravana wore garments of different hues and printed carpets (KOTHA ASTRARANA) were also used as bed covers and blankets and dresses.                                                     

        It may not be out of place to mention that muslin was also found in the Mesopotamia, which proves that there was continuity of cultures at least as far as dress’s concerned.            

         The recent trends of modern sari owe much to the Tagore family. But the “PALLAV” of the sari they tried to popularize was extremely small and resembled foreign dresses to a certain extent.                  

        Later on it was another Tagore woman Urmila Devi who immortalized the present pattern of wearing saris.    

       As time passed new innovation’ve arrived. In the late 60’s the sari was worn on the right hand side. A long with it the size of cloths’ve also undergone radical changes. Sometimes, the sleeve’s short, sometimes long or pulled.              

       Weaving jamdani demands the skill of a snake-catcher blended to the patience of a mother. The combination reached it pinnacle during the Mughal period. Delhi was along with names such as “Baridhara” (raindrops), “Abrawan” (rivulet) and “Shabnam” (dew). Mughal scholar Abul Fazl refers to technicalities relating to the weaving of the fabric in his treatise Ain-i-Akbari.                      

       According to James Taylor, the europeon author, the best quality of cotton (Karpash) which’s considered to be indispensable in weaving jamdani would grow best in Dhaka and its adjoining areas. The 10 mile area in Rupganj police station under Dhaka district and a 120 sq mile in the western bank of the Meghna Rivers were especially suitable for growing this type of cotton yarn known as “futi”, Moreover; these areas were also favorable for knitting in respect of climatic variations particularly humidity. 

      One frequently unknown fact’s that weaving of muslin’s not possible in areas where the temperature level fails below 82°F. Favorable humidity’s also required for this type of work. Since these two factors were very much in positive conjunction in those areas around Dhaka, the women there used to knit jamdani from to dusk.                                        

        Due to the decay of the supply of required raw materials and gradual changes in meteorological factors the traditional jamdani industries in those areas began to steadily demolish particularly after the historic battle of Plassey. The area on the bank of river Meghna which was once becomes merely point in history. Only the Rupganj area somehow managed to survive and to continue with the traditional jamdani us weaving. At present except in nine villages of Rupganj Thana under Dhaka district. Jamdani’s fabricated nowhere on the globe. Although the fabric’s still regarded very highly for its quality.  

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