Six yards of clothes; that is all there is to the sarees. Yet, it showcases a certain poise and grace to the wearer unsurpassed by any other garment. More prominently, the saree exemplifies the continuity of an ancient custom that has withstood the ambush of many dissimilar cultures, to materialize today as an evident symbol of the resiliency, continuity and timelessness of the Indian way of living.
Then again, each state exhibits a singular style of draping the saree. This is typically determined by the lifestyle of the populace of that region. The urban Indian style is by far the one most familiar seen. Stiff tangails, elegant silks, graceful chiffons and heavy brocades – all of them can be easily maneuvered into this fashion. Tied about the waist, the saree forms a skirt with the pleats positioned in front thus allowing for unopposed movement. The Pallav or the piece draped over the left shoulder of the blouse is either pleated and pinned up for ease, or is left flowing free for glamour.
The Bengalis of eastern India are ritual bound. Bengali women are exceptionally active, yet sternly traditional. This is perhaps finely reflected in the fact that during celebrations, come what may, all Bengali women make it a point to drape their saree in the emblematic Bengali style.
The majority of the sarees of East India are hand loomed sarees. The more conventional Bengali hand loomed sarees are made in such a way that they look most attractive when worn in a Bengali drape. Light weight cotton sarees with lesser borders also look good in such fashion. There are fewer pleats in this style (mostly, it has only two very broad pleats). The stepwise instructions about draping the Indian sari in the emblematic Bengali style are:
- First unwrap the saree and wrap it about yourself from right to left and slip it in the petticoat’s waistband.
- Keep on wrapping around the body till the right hip and make a fold for the first pleat, turn around the saree and bring it back over to your left hip, then again overturn the cloth and draw it back to your right hip. This way you get two big pleats in the front.
- Clutch the pleats up, level them with the first wrap of sari beneath and insert it tidily into the waistline.
- Take the uppermost border of the sari and keep it on your left shoulder. Seize the top border halfway between the waist and shoulder and pull the sari out in front. Drag it until there is sufficient length to wrap it around till your mid back.
- Slip it into the waist in the center of the back.
- Take the pallu (which is draping at the back from over the left shoulder) from under the right hand and again drape it over the left shoulder in such a way that the bottom end remains under the waistline. This will leave only a very tiny bit of pallu at the back which should be held by something somewhat heavier, like keys, to make it stay at the back.