For centuries, sari – an unstitched length of textile as the sari was initially conceived, was used as ‘antariya’ – a lower wear covering mainly the body’s lower half. This form of sari, as it has been recorded in early sculptures, paintings and other visual representations, has the lehenga-like appearance. Around the sixteenth century there evolved a stitched costume looking like this ‘antariya’, subsequently identified as ‘lehenga’. This generic affinity of sari and lehenga has been brilliantly used in assimilating in this rare art-wear the forms of sari and lehenga.
Besides an elegantly worked blouse piece, with gorgeously and tastefully worked extra silk strips – green and golden, stitched over its back and sleeves-ends, the sari proper has three usual segments though most unusually conceived and designed. The part of the field or the sari’s expanse which, when worn, remains hidden is plain unadorned. It does not have even the border. The border covers, besides the saris visible part on both sides of the length also the breadth of palla, or pallu – end-part. The pallu has been designed using intricately laid ‘floral lahariyas’ – wavy courses of floral laces, and strewn all over the isolated flower-motifs comprising four petals and a tail-like projection transforming it into a flying object. All motifs : floral lahariyas and isolated flowers, consist of gold wire, plain and coiled, and spangles.
Border is always one of the most beautiful aspects of any sari. The ten centimeters wide this sari’s border, comprising three silk strips, one in the centre, green, while those flanking it, gold-like glistening yellow, not only reveals its own beauty but also provides frame to other ornate parts, pallu and pleated front. The golden strips have been adorned with courses of arabesques, intricately designed with floral, leaf and vine motifs, running from one end to the other, while the green strip in the centre has a course of uniform but independently embroidered flower motifs, red and golden alternating, with a pair of honeybees flanking each. Arabesques on the golden strips are rendered using gold-wire, plain and coiled, gold beads and gold spangles, while on the central strip for embroidering the red flowers and the abdomen-part of the honeybees scarlet silk thread has been used in addition. The seven petalled flowers, golden or red, comprise in their centre an ovary embroidered with a silver spangle, and stamen filled with pollen, with coiled gold wire.
The most ornate part of this wear comprises its front, the part which, when worn, is laid in multiple pleats with the result that on the waist its circumference is as narrow as is the waist’s, while on the bottom it has a many times larger peripheral breadth. It is from this aspect of sari that the sewn lehenga seeks its origin. Suman Kumar, the designer of this piece, has worked miracle in conceiving and designing this part. She has divided it into ten parts. A delicate fibre as the chiffon is, she could not subject it to heavy work whereas the richness of its base colour and the concept of her mind demanded it. She hence stitched over it upwards tapering ten gussets, pieces of green and golden yellow silks, velvet-like soft and shining, alternating each other. These gussets, wider on the bottom, and narrower, upwards, provide to this part the lehenga-like skirting breadth.
The gussets in golden yellow have been designed with a uniform ringing pattern covering with its repeat patterns the gusset’s entire breadth and length. Each ring comprises a number of circles rendered in gold wire – plain and coiled, containing in the centre a gold sequin. These gussets are exceptional in their glow and grace. Each of the other gussets, green velvet like soft and shining, has been adorned with six floral motifs embroidered in vertical rows. One on the bottom is the largest, and that on the top, the smallest. Besides that it is the largest, a far larger flower-motif comprising colourful Paisleys encircles this bottom flower motif. Varying in sizes all flowers are uniformly rendered. Besides using gold wires, plain and coiled, spangles, beads, and sequins these flowers and Paisley motifs have made use of silk-thread with which they have been embroidered.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.
Primary Color Pantone 19-1629 TPX (Ruby Wine)