In this month’s blog of Sari speak, we focus on the traditional kasavu sari drape from the land of ‘God’s own country’, Kerala.
Traditionally, there was no concept of a sari at all in Kerala. Instead, there was the mundu. Everyone wore a mundu from the waist downwards, and there was no upper garment for men or women. The men wear the mundus in the form of a dhoti, and the women, later, wore two pieces called the settu-mundu, which is also called Mundum Neriyathum. The single-piece sari, called as pudava, evolved much later.
The Settu mundu is a two-piece drape, a dhoti at the waist with an upper garment tucked into the dhoti. The preferred garment for marriages and other formal occasions is still predominantly the white settu-mundu.
So what’s a Kasavu sari?
The term kasavu refers to the zari used in the border of a Kerala Sari, and so the zari brocade sari is called kasavu mundu.
The hand-woven cream coloured saree with a gold border is one of the finest traditional sarees. The Kerala sari and mundus are known for their minimalistic design, with just a plain unbleached white weave on the body. The only design element these garments have is a gold border, which is woven along the warp. The pallu has a simple cross line zari matching the border.
Called as the “rib” weave, this adds a solid look of gold to the plain white weave. Sometimes the zari border is replaced with a coloured iteration, called as kara. It is this very simplicity which makes the Kerala saris so special!
This simplicity of design is the distinguishing feature of Kerala, for it reflects not only harmony between climate and comfort but also a reality that was prevalent all over India before the advent of chemical dyes. The unbleached white drape was considered pure and auspicious.
The Travancore royals played a key role in patronising weavers who wove the superfine fabric with real gold or silver borders, as mundus for the royals.
The drape of a saree across myriad villages in India is a visual language in itself. The women considered it essentially as a functional garment. The tribal women wore it tied high up to their knees so that it would be easy while working in the fields; the coastal fisherwomen wore it like a "kacham" which allowed them easy movement in the water.
Each draping style is a way of self-expression. So are you ready to define your essence of beauty soaked in a drape of white and gold kasavu or mundu?
The drape of a saree across myriad villages in India is a visual language in itself. The drapes are functional and worn by women while working in the agricultural fields or fishing.
Define your essence of beauty soaked in a drape of white and gold kasavu!