Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Wedding and whatnots: a walk through cultural traditional attire

This weekend I attended one of my very first weddings which made my Saturday quite an event. I've never really been to a wedding before, whether it be Hindu or Catholic or any other, so you could imagine just how excited I was. Growing up in a predominantly western society, I've always grown up watching English movies, and stories that revolved around the huge white wedding dress, bridesmaids and the "I do's".  Never being the one to watch Tamil or Hindi movies all that much also contributed to the factor that I didn't have much of an idea about traditional Hindu weddings. I had an idea, just not much of one. I knew all about the beautiful sarees, the flowers, the food throwing(part of the rituals), the weird hat wearing, the music and the dancing. But I was completely clueless about certain other things.

For example, what on earth is one supposed to wear? Isn't it just so damn annoying that there is such a fine line between aspects of social norms? I find it so hard to differentiate formal, semi formal and semi casual attire and what event to associate with which. And of course, social convention is always made just that much harder when you have to deal with tonnes of sequined material, pleats, shawls and head jewelry.

As a 15 year old Sri Lanka, I am in possession of a number of half-sarees (full saree's are meant to be worn by those who are slightly older), but they weren't "grand" enough. So amma and I went hunting through our suitcases for an appropriate traditional outfit and under a pile of amma's old sari blouses we found the one and only lehenga choli in my possession.

Trust me, before that day, I had no idea what a lehenga choli was! But I found out soon enough. It was heavy, obtrusive and took a whole hour to wear. But I must admit that sarees, cholies and other traditional garments all seem to have a sort of charm about them. You forget all about your abhorrence towards them as soon as you take a good look in the mirror. Maybe the sari maker wove in some sense and sensibility into your skirt, alongside silver threads and golden beads, or maybe it's the way that I am forced to hold myself in an entirely different manner. One must walk a little taller, a little slower and hold one's head a little higher when wearing a ton of sequined, sparkly material. (Women are restricted and forced to behave in particular ways through so many different methods, including the garments that they wear!). Sorry, I'm getting side tracked. The thing is, I have always felt a heightened maturity and such a strong sense of pride and cultural identity when I step out of the house in a saree, or choli or any other traditional garment. In the most comfortable shoes might I add, because let be honest, no one can see your shoes when your wearing such a long skirt.  In fact, the bride was wearing flip flops under her sari and all I say to that is, well done woman, well done!

I recently asked a few people what the first thing that comes into their minds when they think of Hindu festivals was. And would you believe it, they all said sarees! So let me tell you a little bit about what I know. 

 A half saree, like the one above, is worn by young teenage girls who are around 10-18 years old. Unlike a full sari which usually comes with just a single long piece of material that is to be wrapped all the way around the body, a half sari  comes with a skirt. The wrapping material, (called a dhavani), is shorter that the material used for a full sari because it doesn't need to be wrapped all the way around the waist and pleated. For a haf saree, the material is just tucked into the front of the skirt, taken around the back and brought around the chest and over the shoulders.  Young girls wear half sarees to Indian, Sri Lankan music concerts, dance programs, formal birthday parties and other such cultural events. 

This is a full sari. It consists of one long piece of draping material, an underskirt (not to be seen from the outside), and a blouse. The material is to be pleated at the front, and tucked into the underskirt just below your belly button, then wrapped all the way around your body, across your chest, and over your shoulders. You can either pin the material at your shoulders or leave it hanging down and draped across your arm, like the woman in the image above. Women usually wear sarees to almost all traditional or cultural gathering. For a traditional formal events such as weddings,wear a sari with more sequins and glitter. If it sparkles enough, you are all good. Try going for Twilight vampires in the sun. If you are slightly older, wear a nice silk saree, also known as a Puttu saree. For less formal events, wear something a bit less glittery and slightly more fun. Try going for Twilight vampires, half in the sun.
Puttu Sari

This is a lehenga choli. Now, I had no idea what this was until very recently due to the fact that Sri Lankan Hindus don't usually wear Lehenga Cholies. When we do, we wear them to weddings and receptions. They are almost like a half saree, except the shawl can be worn in any way. It can be draped across the front, left to dangle over a single shoulder, or draped around both shoulders and held in
each arm. Below are the different Choli styles.

Well that's all I know. That's all I'll tell. That's all you'll hear. I hope you found some of that interesting and useful. Even if it wasn't, well at least you learnt something new today :) 

1 comment:

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