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India Anonymous,
Maroon Sari, 19th c.
50 in. x 142 in. (127 cm x 360.68 cm)

Object Type: Textile
Technique: Woven
Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. Henrietta Brewer
Accession Number: T105

The sari is a typical sari, named after the town of Paithan in Maharashtra where this style emerged. saris are among the most prized produced in Maharashtra, or indeed, all of India. Perennially, the most defining feature of these saris is their heavy brocade . Though saris of the last two hundred years tend to include Mughal motifs, the tradition precedes the Mughal Empire, and is documented to be at least two thousand years old.

Made from sumptuous quantities of gold and silk, and requiring months of painstaking labor, these saris were customarily worn by the elite. They made up a traditional part of a Maharathi woman’s trousseau, and were passed down as heirlooms. In the years following independence, the declined drastically as weavers struggled to secure the patronage needed to buy silk and gold zari thread. While today’s market is flooded with cheap reproductions, recent decades have seen a renewed interest in preserving the masterful handiwork of true . Indeed, the Indian government is now sponsoring several handicraft initiatives to keep this craft from disappearing.

Reference: Kapur, Rta. Roli Books Private Ltd, 2010.

(Tara Contractor, Academic Year Wilson Intern 2010-2011)

Maroon Sari (T105) from the Scripps College Collection is a fine example of a mid19th-century Indian sari. The long rectangular sheet of fabric is made of one complete hand-woven piece of silk covered with intricate brocade designs using zari, gold wrapped threads. The sari has one plain red end, two gold embroidered red borders, and a rich gold, green, and purple brocaded pallu, rectangular end piece.1 The exquisite design, technique, and materials of Maroon Sari suggest that it was worn for an important ceremony or festival.
The sari can be traced back thousands of years. The first documentation of the sari dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization (2800-1800 BC) as demonstrated by an ancient sculpture of an Indus River Valley priest wearing a garment similar to the sari. Later on, women described the drapery clothing in Ancient Tamil poetry and there are sculptures from 1-6th century AD depicting goddesses adorned in sari. The word “sari” originates from the Sanskriti word for “strip of cloth.”2 Both men and women originally wore the sari, but today women traditionally wear the garment.
The versatility of color, style, prints, embroidery, and design of sari have attracted people from all over the world for generations. South Indian woman are considered the traditional wearers of saris, but the sari pervaded across the region. Although fashion and textiles vary across location, religion, and generation, the popular garment has endured throughout India. Today, people wear saris as everyday attire, but more commonly as ceremonial garb.
Saris can be worn a multitude of ways, but most commonly the sari is wrapped around the waist with the loose end draped over the shoulder, baring the midriff. The most elaborately decorative end, the pallu, is draped over the shoulder with the plain end tucked away into the waist. Saris are worn over a petticoat called a pavada and are worn with a fitted upper blouse called a choli.3
Maroon Sari is made of hand-woven raw silk. Silk saris are considered to be the most elegant, indicating that this sari was worn for an important occasion. The elaborate and fine zari brocade work suggests that a woman of affluent means wore Maroon Sari. The gold brocaded pallu is bordered with bluish green, red, and purple floral motifs and with a single row of boteh woven into the maroon above.
The boteh motif was popularized during the Moghul Empire because of Emperor Babur’s lavish royal gardens and with them an increased fascination in flowers and gardens. During the 19th century, boteh motifs became more abstracted and elongated.4 Eventually boteh became the infamous cone-shaped floral design like that on Maroon Sari. The boteh depicted here refer to a long tradition of abstracted floral motifs spanning across India and the surrounding regions.
The sari in the Scripps Collection closely resembles a mid-19th century sari from the Victoria and Albert (V&A) museum in London (Figure 2). The V&A sari is red with gold zari brocade work and a large ornate pallu almost identical to the on Maroon Sari.5 The bodies of both saris are covered in geometric abstracted zari designs and both have borders of gold geometric motifs motifs on a red background. The distinctive tapestry weave of the V&A sari is representative of Central Indian manufacture.6 Although Maroon Sari is brocade and not tapestry, the likeness in design suggest that it may be from the same region as the V&A sari. Additionally, the brilliant red color strongly indicates that the V&A sari was worn by a bride, while the purple/maroon color of the Scripps sari is rather ambiguous. While definitely not the same, the V&A sari and the Scripps sari share many similarities.
Maroon Sari is in great condition and is a beautiful example of a fancy occasion Indian sari from the mid-19th century.

1 "Maroon Sari: India Anonymous.” Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery. (April 7, 2015).
2 "HISTORY OF INDIAN SARI." Sarita Textorium, 2015. (April 8, 2015).
3 Gosh, D. "The Traditional Indian Saris." Fibre2fashion. Fibre2Fashion Pvt. Ltd., 24 July 2010. Web. 08 Apr. 2015.
4 Mary Dusenberry, “South Asia: India, Pakistan, Kashmir,” in Flowers, Dragons and Pine Trees: Asian Textiles in the Collection of the Spencer Museum of Art. (New York?: Hudson Hills Press, 2004), 12-77.
5 "Sari. Victoria and Albert Museum. (April 8, 2015).
6 Ibid.

Works Cited
Dusenberry, Mary. “South Asia: India, Pakistan, Kashmir.” Flowers, Dragons and Pine Trees: Asian Textiles in the Collection of the Spencer Museum of Art. (New York?: Hudson Hills Press, 2004), 12-77.
"HISTORY OF INDIAN SARI." Sarita Textorium, 2015. Accessed April 8, 2015.
Gosh, D. "The Traditional Indian Saris." Fibre2fashion. Fibre2Fashion Pvt. Ltd., 24 July 2010. Web. 08 Apr. 2015.
"Maroon Sari: India Anonymous.” Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery. (April 7, 2015).
"Sari. Victoria and Albert Museum. Accessed April 8, 2015.

Kaela Nurmi, Scripps 2015

Plain weave silk with gold thread brocading weft.

Object Description
Hand-woven, raw silk sari with a vibrant maroon body, red borders, and accents in green and violet. Rich zari work throughout, especially in the wide, solid brocade pallu, or end pieces, which are interlock-patterned with geometric flowers. Above the pallu, Mughal inspired motifs such as floral vines and butahs, or paisleys. Thick zari borders in a fine geometric pattern. Body worked in zari coin pattern, and interspersed with large roundels.
(Tara Contractor SC'13)

For more examples of saris, please see: T106, T593

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