Indian women have a tradition of wearing four to nine yards of seamless woven fabric draped over the shoulder and wrapped around the body in various styles. The length of cloth is commonly known as a sari or saree, and is called a pudavai in Tamil.
The madisar pudavai is a long sari wrapped around the body and legs in a trouser style. This style is worn as part of their culture by the women of the Gurukkal, Iyer, and Iyyengar Brahmin communities of Tamil Nadu. In former days, a married Brahmin woman always wore the madisar pudavai. Today, the women of Tamil Nadu are likely to wear modern clothing to be stylish as well as for the sake of comfort. However, the sari is still worn for festivals and weddings. A Brahmin woman wears the madisar pudavai on important occasions such as her marriage, Seemandham (a function for pregnant women), poojas, and death ceremonies.
PLACE OF ORIGIN
The word sari is derived from the Sanskrit word, Saadi. The exact origin of the sari is unknown; however, the age of the sari is equal to the age of the civilization of India. Historians have found records of saris dating back thousands of years. The records show that both Indian men and women made a practice of wearing seamless lengths of cloth draped around their bodies.
There is a description of the sari in Silappatikaram, one of Tamil Nadu’s epic pieces of literature from the 5th or 6th century CE. There are also references to hand weaving in the ancient inscriptions of the city of Gangaikonda Cholapuram, the Chola capital built in the Tanjavur district of Tamil Nadu in the early 11th century. This suggests that the culture of wearing saris has continued across the centuries.
A ancient terracotta work has been found in North India, in which a statue of a woman portrays her draped with a length of cloth in a trouser style. This way of wrapping the sari, which is similar to madisar style, was common among dancers in ancient days. The trouser style provided comfort and freedom of movement to the dancers while maintaining modesty.
There are many sculptures in temples and at other sites that display various styles of draping saris. Today’s style of wearing saris over other garments is an adopted one, since women in ancient days used the length of cloth alone to cover their bodies. It is believed that tailored clothes arrived in India with the invasion of the Muslims. Toya women started wearing the ghagra (skirt) and choli (blouse) with the arrival of the British. In the early 20th century, Indian women adopted the style of wearing fitted cropped blouses and slim petticoats under their saris.
There are three Brahmin communities in Tamil Nadu: Gurukkals, Iyer, and Iyyengar. They all wear the traditional madisar pudavai, but in slightly different styles. Gurukkals and Iyer women drape the pallu (the part of sari that comes over the shoulder) over the right shoulder, whereas the Iyyengar women drape the pallu on the left side.
The madisar pudavai requires extra length in order to be wrapped trouser style. It is nine yards long, rather than the six yards of most saris. It is available in various materials, such as silk, cotton, a cotton/silk blend, and a cotton/polyester blend.
PROCEDURES FOR WEARING MADISAR
There are several steps in wrapping a madisar pudavai. They are as follows:
1. Begin with a nine-yard-long sari.
2. Wear a choli (fitted cropped blouse), but skip the petticoat, as the sari will be tied in trouser style.
3. Take the non-pallu end of the sari and make 8-10 small pleats. The number of pleats may vary depending on the body type of the individual.
4. Take the pleats to the left side of the back at waist height and hold them firmly in place with your left hand.
5. Spin the sari around your body and bring it to the left and make a knot there. Please be careful not to disturb the pleats.
6. Bring the sari to the right and tuck it there. Then, bring it to the center and tuck it once again.
7. Now gather the flowing material and bring it between your legs from front to back. Tuck the sari in around your waist line in the back. Then, tuck the sari to the right and then bring it to your left side.
8. Bring the sari around your body and pass it around to your right side over your right shoulder and arrange the border.
9. Guide the border to the front and tuck it in.