Kerala Saree/Kasavu Saree – Traditional Wear of Kerala!
Sarita’s post on her Saree collection is the inspiration behind me writing this article, and in that hope you remember seeing Rani Mukherjee wearing a white saree with golden border- yes that is nothing other than the traditional wear of Kerala- Kasavu Saree/Kerala Saree!!Kerala Sarees are symbolic of Kerala culture and tradition and is not seen anywhere else in India. The elegant Kerala Sarees, which are off -white in color with golden border is unique for their natural colour, texture and golden border. Every Malayali woman possesses at least one Kerala saree in her wardrobe and it is a must have for women especially during festivals like Onam which is celebrated by all irrespective of Religion.
Traditionally women in Kerala used to wear a two piece cloth named ‘settu mundu’, also known as ‘mundum neriyathum’ with natural body color and golden or numerous other shades in border, which when worn, exactly look like a saree (upper left pic). The modified version is the Kerala Saree which comes in a large variety of designs, embellished with thread work, stones or sequins, fabric painting and golden with contrasting colors as borders… The typical Kerala saree is hand woven and is 100 % unbleached cotton. It is known for its fineness of count in weaving. The traditional design of a Kerala saree had a 1 inch to 6-7 inch pallu while the body remained plain. But now the pallu goes up to one meter and the border and pallu is decorated with variety of designs including that of peacock, flowers, and many more. The Kasavu or the golden border is either pure golden layer, copper coated or artificial.The price of an original Kerala saree is very much based on the quality of this “Kasavu” (Zari) Border and starts from around Rs 1000 and goes up depending on the Zari and designs. Men in Kerala wear Kasavu mundu or dhothies during festive occasions. In all places of worship, especially in temples, the most preferred dress is the dhoti. This light pure cotton handlooms edged with golden thread is some times touched with contrasting bright colors.
Here are few Kasavu sarees: some with motifs of peacock, flower, window design, Deer, Katahakali, and also Mural hand-painted:
The Handloom fabrics of Kerala follow a tradition about 150 years old. Initially such fabrics were woven by specialized weavers exclusively for the members of Royal Family. Gradually, the tradition spread from them to the local weavers all across Kerala. Now, different locations in Kerala have mastered its own specialized technique of weaving and are famous for their uniqueness in quality and design; the fabrics are known by special names based on the location in which they are manufactured.
The history of export trading practice of handloom fabric in Kerala can be traced back to the15th century when handloom cloths of excellent qualities were exported to Asian and European countries. In Kerala, almost 2 lakh weavers are earning their livelihood from the handloom industry, 75% of them in the co-operative line.
Kerala Saree as Festival Attire
Though Kerala Saree/Settu Mundu is worn by many as an everyday costume, it is during the festivals, especially Onam and Vishu, that one can see the typical Kerala dressing when the women in ‘Kasavu sarees and blouse matching the saree border color could be seen with men, who prefer white dhoti with ‘kasavu’ borders for such occasions. It is a real feast to the eyes when ladies dress up in this elegant attire and dance to the beats of traditional music, an art-form called “Kaikottikkali” performed during Onam celebration. Even in corporate world such celebrations are not complete without this attire, and mostly competitions are conducted to choose the ‘Best Traditionally Dressed’ which stresses the importance of this textile masterpiece.
Nowadays many bollywood actresses are seen sporting this elegant look in Kerala Saree:
Undoubtedly, this traditional attire of God’s own country is getting lots of publicity all across India especially when our most wanted actresses like Sonam Kapoor(in Aisha), Aishwarya, Sonakshi, Vidya Balan and many more have already made style-statements using this!