A Metaphor for Harmony
From choosing the perfect attire to putting up a befitting persona, we are in an endless pursuit of fitting in. This desire to fit in also makes us split ourselves, sometimes between the family and the world, the personal and professional, the scientific and artistic endeavours, our various social appearances and so on.
Moreover, this disjunction has made its way into our very being, as the body, mind and spirit have become disconnected from each other. While the mind has reached the place of supreme importance, the body has become subsumed under it and the spirit has got restricted to mere philosophical musings.
But it is in these very philosophical aspects of being-in-the-world that the saree derives its essence from. Even in ancient Indian philosophies, an unstitched piece of fabric was considered to be the most pure form of clothing. As Stella Kramrisch writes,
"Textile symbolism in India is hallowed by tradition. In the Rig Veda and the Upanishads the universe is envisioned as a fabric woven by the gods. The cosmos, the ordered universe, is one continuous fabric with its warp and woof making a grid pattern."1
A saree is a continuous piece of fabric, unstitched and uncut. Yarns of diverse nature are woven using diverse techniques to create its fabric. One fabric, many yarns, many colours, many motifs, and yet as they are being woven into oneness; they are not homogenised.
The saree as a metaphor is especially relevant here since we live in an age of hyper-separation, mix ‘n match and fragmentations and we are constantly trying to keep up with our multifaceted identities in a world of sharply demarcated specialities.
A saree however, doesn’t need one to fit in. It embraces the natural form as a whole, as it drapes around it comfortably; as a soft addition to its contours and a graceful enhancement to its edges.
In this era of splits, a saree stands as a symbol for the lost continuity between the physical body and the spirit, individual and society, common life and universal experiences and eventually, the individual microcosm and the macrocosm of the universal soul.
1. Stella Kramrisch. Unknown India: Ritual Art in Tribe and Village, US, 1968
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