Thousands of years of draping

Thousands of years of draping

Today, sarees are worn by women all over the world -  Australia, Canada, France, the US and UK - basically everywhere! 

But where did they first come from?

While an exact origin story is impossible to find, the earliest record of a garment similar to the saree can be traced back to the Indus Valley Civilisation (3300-1300 BCE), where farmers cultivated, wove and spun cotton. 

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Also known as the Harappan Civilisation, this was the earliest known urban culture in the Indian Sub-continent. Various statues appearing to be adorned with shawls are proof of a tradition of draping during this period.

Sarees are also referred to in ancient Hindu and Buddhist literature, dating back to 3000 BCE. The word “saree” is believed to have derived from the Sanskrit word “sattika”, meaning “strip of cloth”, eventually becoming “sati” and then “saree”.

old painting depicting women in sarees

Photo: Adi Mohini Mohan Kanjilal

As we know from early historical records, the tradition of draping cloth across our bodies was also common in other parts of the Ancient World, including Greece, Rome and Persia, and some historians believe this could have also influenced the saree.

Over the next few millenia, sarees would undergo more changes, developing various styles that would become typical of a certain region, race, religion or even caste. Today, the saree continues to evolve and we're always on alert for some fresh new looks. 

Read more: 

National Geographic: The Story of the Sari in India

Nine Facts You Might Not Know About the Saree

The Dawn of Sarees



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