Why both Hindu and Muslim women wear Saree?


In the Indian subcontinent, which includes India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan, women in both Religions Hindu and Muslim wear Sarees. I am surprised to see 2 different religions wearing the same dress and this is what I have learned when I have researched the internet

Saree is not specific to Hindu or Muslim women, but common to women in India except in Kashmir, and Punjab. Saree has a pallu (free end of a saree). As per the family tradition, some women either cover their heads with the pallu out of reverence for elderly people or drape it over their shoulders while doing day-to-day chores. For an infant, Mother’s pallu is like the supreme god. When the child grows up, it holds its mother’s pallu and learns to walk. The child uses its mother’s pallu to wipe his mouth. There is also this Hindu tradition of offering saree to the goddess.  Sarees have always been integral to Indian culture.

Brief History and Draping Styles

A saree is the women’s native costume for most regions in India. Saree is wrapped around the waist, with one end draped over the shoulder. It is worn with a bodice choli (blouse) and a petticoat. 
The saree was worn without a blouse and petticoat before the British Rule. The British  Rule promoted the wearing of blouses and petticoats with saree. 
There are various styles of draping a saree. The most common draping style is the “Nivi” drape. The Nivi has a long line of 7 to 9 pleats folded at the front waist. Saree can be practical working attire or an elegant ceremonial gown, depending on the type of fabric used and the style of draping. It is considered a cultural icon in India.  There is evidence of women wearing saree in the Indus Valley Civilization too.

The manufacturing saree is also very easy.  It requires no pattern making, no silhouetting, and little stitching. It is not only worn in India, but also in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal. The clothing is worn by women in other countries like Myanmar, Malaysia, the Philippines, Cambodia, and Thailand resemble it, where a long rectangular piece of cloth is draped around the body. Though saree is the symbol of Indian culture and tradition, many people still think it is worn by the Hindus only.

Types of Sarees in India

As the style of draping varies in every state of India, these are some traditional styles of saree draping from different parts of India:

Maharastra Saree Style

Nauvari/Kasta saree from Maharashtra
It is tucked at the back. It is usually worn by using a single nine-yard cloth. It is distinguished by how it is worn around the legs like a dhoti. It permits easy movement of the legs.
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Coorg Saree Style

Coorgi/Kodagu Style from Karnataka
Its front pallu is tucked over the shoulders and saree pleats pushed backward. Along with this Saree, the women of Coorg also wear a piece of cloth on their head, called Vastra.
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Kunbi drape from Goa
Kunbi is a basic style that involved wrapping the saree around the waist and knotting it over the right shoulder, it facilitated working in the fields. This saree was tied a little above the ankles. Traditionally, it is a cotton chequered saree in red and white. Buy this saree in Amazon

Koshavam/Madisar Drape Style

Madisar/Koshavam from Tamil Nadu
It is a typical way of wearing a saree by Tamil Brahmin women. It was worn by women, traditionally after marriage. Today, however, this saree drape is sported on special occasions and festivities. It is one of the toughest styles to drape, if worn properly, it does not require the use of a blouse or a petticoat.
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Seedhapallu from Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, and Gujarat
It resembles lehenga choli where the veil is used in place of dupatta. It is worn by folk women on an everyday basis. It allows freehand movements. Buy this saree in Amazon

Surguja from Chattisgarh
This drape, worn for dance, creates a pair of ‘wings’ which enhance the dancer’s movement and circular motion. A 5.3-yard saree is used. The loose ends are tucked in the front and the back as it permits immense freedom of movement to the dancers.
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Namboothiri from Kerala
It is worn by the women of the Namboothiri community in Kerala. It is a two-piece style like the mundumneriyathum. Mundum means the lower garment while neriyathum means the upper garment. It is the traditional attire of the Namboothiri or Brahmin community in Kerala. Buy this saree in Amazon

In India, overall, eight out of every 10 households, be it Hindu’s, Muslim’s or Christian’s reported purchasing at least one saree. The share of households purchasing sarees is higher in rural India. Among Sikhs, the share of households that bought sarees is very low. But that seems to have more to do with geography than with religion. Most Sikhs are from Punjab, where the overall share of households purchasing sarees is very small. There are several reasons why saree is worn almost by everyone in some states while by a very few in others. These reasons include:  

  • Regional Divide
    In this case, the region triumphs over religion. There is a very high level of correlation between the share of Hindu households and the share of Muslim households that purchased a saree in the year preceding the last NSSO (National Sample Survey Office) survey. The sarees are almost equally popular in the southern and eastern India, with an overwhelming majority of households reporting purchasing at least one Sarees. It is far less popular in the north-western states, where the majority did not report the purchase of even one Sarees. The share of Muslim households reporting purchases of sarees is high in states where the figure for Hindu households is high and low in states where the figure for Hindu households is low.
  • The Class Difference
    The poor spent proportionately more on the saree than the rich. The saree also nearly manages to breach the class divide in the country. The share of households belonging to the upper-class which reported purchasing a saree at (77%) was only slightly higher than the comparative figure for the lower-class (72%). 
  • Tribal and Northern States Purchase Other Clothing More Than Saree
    Tribal states such as Odisha, Chattisgarh, Tripura, and Nagaland tend to purchase more skirts than sarees while people of northern states like Jammu & Kashmir, and Punjab tend to purchase more salwar-kameez than sarees.
  • How Saree Came into Existence?
    The saree traces back its origin to the Indus Valley Civilization, which flourished during 2800-1800 BC around the northwestern part of the Indian Subcontinent. The earliest depiction of the saree in the Indian Subcontinent is the statue of an Indus Valley priest wearing a drape. A few historians go on to say that cotton and the art of weaving it into fabric came in India from the Mesopotamian Civilization. The men and women of the contemporary Indus Valley Civilization were therefore familiar with cotton fabrics and wore a long piece of cloth.
  • Benefits of Wearing A Saree
    When a saree is draped in the right manner and is pinned up in the required places, not only is it elegant, it is easy to handle. One can adjust one’s style of draping a saree according to one’s body structure. A Saree just happens to be one of those things that bring out the personality of a woman. It also adds poise and grace to one’s look.

Sarees do take a little extra time and effort to be draped but it has a matchless comparison when it comes to beauty. It is not religion specific. Hence, the sarees the symbol and identity of our Indian culture.

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