Saris: Tradition and Beyond

Item Code: IHF094
Author: Martand SinghRta Kapur Chishti
Publisher: Roli Books
Edition: 2010
ISBN: 9788174363749
Pages: 273 (Illustrated Throughout In B/W & Color)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 12.5" X 12.5"
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Book Description
From the Jacket

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 economically.

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 Padma Bhushan.

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.


The Sari: An Introduction12
Goa 60
Madhya Pradesh116
Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand142
West Bengal180
Andhra Pradesh218
Tamil Nadu242
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