Style trends come and go, but the sari is forever. Still in excellent health well into the 21st century, and beloved of international celebrities as well as Indian stars, this nine-yard wonder lends itself to a variety of drapes and can be made out of just about any fabric.
Some of the best saris come from the handloom tradition of India and Bangladesh, and many new brands are working to support the craftsmanship and sustainability associated with handloom.
National Handloom Day in India is celebrated on August 7, and this year the handloom sari will get its day under the London sun, as a “sari walkathon” has been planned in central London, starting from the iconic Trafalgar Square.
Spearheaded by a women’s organisation based in the United Kingdom, the sari walkathon is going to be a first-of-its-kind celebration of Indian weaves. However, this London event is planned on August 6, because that is a Sunday and the walkathon can proceed without causing any commuter inconvenience.
From Trafalgar Square, the sari walkathon will move towards Parliament Square. Participants will include around 500 women representing different states of India. Draped in colourful weaves, they are expected to walk past some of the UK capital’s most famous landmarks.
“The modern Indian woman of today believes in traversing the world beyond her cocoon and she does all that and more in a sari, while redefining the codes of power dressing,” said Dr Dipti Jain of the British Women in Sarees group, which is organising the walkathon with the backing of Inspiring Indian Women, in a statement to the Press Trust of India. “Saree” is the alternative spelling of sari.
“The British Women in Sarees is a group of empowered women who take pride in flaunting handloom saris and representing the unique cultural melting pot that is India. It is a not-for-profit organisation which likes to organise events to promote our national heritage and make everyone around the world aware of the toil, handwork, and artistry which goes behind weaving each of these masterpieces,” she told PTI.
The group organised a colourful sari event for Ladies Day at the Royal Ascot horse races in Berkshire, England, in June last year, when hundreds of women from the Indian subcontinent combined their colourful saris with the traditional English headgear associated with the event.
“The Ascot is a symbol of fine British pageantry and elegance. As residents of the UK, we felt elated and proud of the inclusivity that the stage provided us to pay homage to our roots, India,” added Jain.
A team from Kerala is being co-ordinated by Dr Deepa Hegde, Dr Hema Santhosh, and Shirley Gibson, alongside 30 other members. They plan to showcase the traditional handloom Settu Mundu and saris bought directly from the state’s weavers.
They also plan to perform a traditional dance from Kerala at Parliament Square, where the walkathon will conclude with a tribute to the statue of Mahatma Gandhi.
National Handloom Day takes place annually as a tribute to the handloom-weaving community of India and highlights the contribution of this sector to the socio-economic development of the country.
The date of August 7 connects with the Independence struggle when Mahatma Gandhi launched the Swadeshi Movement in 1905 to encourage indigenous industries and in particular handloom weavers.
—With inputs from the Press Trust of India