The sari is the most representative apparel of India that has intrigued men and tempted women
all over the world. Worn in a variety of ways, the sari is a fabric-length of varying
densities in its body, borders and end pieces often woven by colours and patterns that are
constantly evolving. Saris is an exhaustive overview of this fascinating unstitched garment
and a cutting-edge documentation of design and all that supports it socially, culturally and
Travelling district by district, village by village, the book explores an entire spectrum of
traditional weaver and printer settlements in fourteen sari-producing states of India. Thus
emerges the first comprehensive compilation of the whole range and scale of the sari: the
structures, designs, colours, the format and technology that make up the lingua of the sari;
the inspiration, living experience and sensibilities of the weaving and printing communities;
their economic viability and market system; and their predicament in an age of transition.
For the first time, this book offers a step-by-step guide for atleast 108 ways of draping the
sari, through a series of line drawings and colour photographs, after revealing the rationale
of the varying lengths and widths of the sari in the distinctive wearing styles of every
region. Produced after twenty years of research, Saris illustrates the vibrancy and splendour
of this age-old garment through extensive documentation and stunning photographs. A vivid
account of how saris come into being for the lay reader and the specialist- be they
textilists, designers, scholars or developers who will find this book equally engaging.
Martand Singhis the Chairman of Intach U.K. trust (Indian National Trust for Art and
Cultural Heritage). He was the Director of Calico Museum of textiles, and initiator and
curator of the Vishvakarma series of exhibitions. He has inspired a generation of scholars,
textile artists, designers, craftspersons and students to develop their latent talents to
create the finest in design, technique and aesthetics in the contemporary context. His evolved
understanding and worldwide exposure have compelled him to strive for excellence in numerous
projects he has undertaken.
He has worked extensively in the field of handlooms in India for which he has been awarded the
Rta Kapur Chishti is the co-author and editor of previously published Saris of India
volumes on the Madhya Pradesh; Bihar and West Bengal as well as Handcrafted Indian textiles-
Tradition and Beyond. She has been a contributing author to several other publications.
As a writer and translator she has written about the life and work of craftspersons and
scripted for films and exhibitions. She has been consistently involved with research and
development of handspun-handloom textiles.
She is founder of the 'Sari School' which produces saris and organizes workshops and private
classes for those who wish to learn the wonders of this unstitched garment and make it more
relevant to their lives today.
Renuka Kelkar began her career as a management executive with the Taj group. She went
on to develop an understanding and a business in handloom textiles by the name of Indigo. She
trained as a photographer in New York and New Delhi with a special interest in textiles.
It has been quite a journey, the unwinding of the story of the sari, and it has taken us more
than twenty five years to put it together for publication. For many years we had imagined that
the sari was of one kind as worn in urban India. Only while doing research in Bengal was it
discovered that this wearing style was invented in 1872-1862 by Rani Gyanodanandini Tagore.
Like everything else, the wearing style of the sari had changed and is now changing more
rapidly than we can imagine. And so, the search for documentation began.
The unstitched cloth is a truly Indian phenomenon. It gives to us a visual identity and the
sari in particular, is celebrated everywhere as Indian. It is when you travel in Indian that
you begin to understand that the sari is a hugely variable garment. The lady from the fishing
community wears is it differently from say, the rice planting agriculturist. An urban woman
from Gujarat wears it differently from the women of Tamil Nadu. And so, this volume brings
together sari types, the how and where of their making, and their wearing styles. There may be
more out there, but they are certainly no less than those presented here. Equally, twenty five
years ago something else was happening to the wearing style of the ladies of the sub
continent. The emergence of the Punjabi suit an acceptable style of clothing in all of urban
Indian had its own effect on the sari.
There are many persons to thank- actually there are so many that we salute them silently. But
principally the government of India, and its various agencies including the Development
commissioner (Handlooms), the weavers service centres, the directorates of handlooms and state
textile corporations in the various states, the HHEC of India Ltd for their unhesitating
support, Roli Books for their belief in this project and most of all to Rta Kapur Chishti- for
her unwavering zeal an enthusiasm over these many years. We hope that when future generations
of Indians notice this volume on some library shelf, they will open it and wonder at the
genius of the creative process of this great land.
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