THE SARI RAJ
The first real threat to the sari, as a preferred garment of Indian women, came perhaps in the 1880s when the Vicereines visiting India were compelled to participate in the constant subjugation process of the Indian populace by the British Raj. In an endeavour to outshine the native swish set of women – who could instigate a nervous tick in any royalty anywhere in the world with their nonchalant manner of wearing humongous gems, precious stones set with finest craftsmanship and gold threaded handwoven garments – the newly appointed Viceroy’s wife spent her retirement fund in acquiring morning gowns, tea gowns and ceremonial splendours tailored in exclusive Paris ateliers. Jewels, lace, pearls etc. available among the family and friends, were borrowed in an attempt to survive and with the (dismal) hope for a little one-upmanship in the fashion face-off with the Indian women.
Indian women, in the meanwhile, were undeterred by the much touted ‘superior’ European fashion. They took to the concept of lace, pearls, tea, hairdos with great aplomb. What they did not give up, however, was the sari. Various draping styles were quickly experimented with to emulate the structure of the gown and accessorized with British touches to create a look so stunning that it raised a great demand among the Vicereines for luxurious Indian textiles.
This story is an ode to the enduring relationship of an Indian woman and her sari.