4 days ago

Timeless elegance woven in six yards

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Just as these verses by Poet Chandidash portray, innumerable hearts have been sold to the timeless elegance and grace of shari over the centuries. Beyond its role as a clothing staple for tasteful women, shari has found itself at the end of an artist's pen as a recurring subject of romanticism and admiration. All the components of Bengali folk culture (music, poems, Chhondo, fairy tales and stories), as practised by the people of this soil, mention shari as a long-held dear, inseparable from everyday life and culture. Shari symbolises so many tales of love, nostalgia, dignity and respect that it's impossible to capture all its dynamics in words, no matter how deep a poem is composed or how long an article is written.

"My grandmother had a grey-coloured shari. She had given the shari to me. I remember someone telling her at that time that the particular shari wouldn't look good on me because of my skin colour. My grandmother instantly rebuked her saying that 'shari looks beautiful on everyone; judgement based on colour is completely irrelevant.' Coming from a women of who mostly held traditional thoughts and opinions, it was surprising and heartwarming. I remember this incident to this day", shares Nowshin Salsabil from Chattogram.

This practice of sharing and passing down love from mother to daughter, grandmothers to daughter-in-law, and friends to friends in the form of shari is almost as old as civilisation in this subcontinent. The resemblance of shari is found in the Indus Civilisation sculptures and arts, dating back to 2800-1800 B.C.E. In Charyapada, garments similar to shari are mentioned. Shari is the clothing staple in innumerable cultures across different South Asian countries, including Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, and it is draped in its own style. At present, there are at least 108 different ways of draping the shari, the Nivi draping style being the most popular among contemporary women.

"Draping Ammu's Orna as a shari is one of my fondest childhood memories. I think trying to make a shari of our mother's Orna is a shared childhood experience among all the women of our culture. It was as if a natural instinct," shares Ayesha Shiddika, a student at the University of Dhaka.

"I feel at my most beautiful and confident when I am wearing a shari. Maybe this idea of shari and Kajol got to my head due to reading too much Humayun Ahmed", she adds.

"Shari holds a phenomenal appeal that is absent in other attires. Seeing your favourite person in shari is always spellbinding", Imran Hosen, an FBS student at the University of Dhaka, tells the Financial Express. "We have always seen our mothers, grandmothers and elders in shari. As a Bengali, shari holds a significant sentiment to us", he adds.

Other than the innate romanticism, shari is just as rich in variation and functionality. It is among the few dresses that adorn people of all age groups, children, youngsters, and the old, with equal beauty. The cotton fabrics of Bangladesh are especially suitable for our climate. Silk, Benaroshi, Schiffon, Kataan, Muslin, Organza, etc., are generally reserved for special occasions. Jamdani, a versatile fabric from Bangladesh, is celebrated worldwide, arguably having no second to it. Taant and Muslin fabric have also brought Bangladesh immense praise and a worldwide reputation.

Ornaments paired with shari, like bangles, necklaces, earrings, and reshmi churis, are no less alluring and joyous themselves. Sharing shari and ornaments with friends and searching for occasions to wear shari together is a shared feminine experience.

At present, shari is a well-recognised and popular garment all over the world, having become an inseparable part of International art festivals and fashion shows, frequently worn by celebrities and popular figures.

Shari embodies our rich heritage and culture. It tells us the proud history of our once-booming garment industry. The fabrics from Bengal were so qualified that they remained incomparable for multiple centuries until the British rule. Each kind of shari has its distinguished motif and theme. Our Taantis weave it with their own designs and sense of beauty, passing down the art from generation to generation.

As for why shari is as graceful as it is, why women love wearing shari as much as they do, why it finds itself at the end of a poet's pen repetitively, well, perhaps, these speculations have no definite answer except for the versatility of shari, and the love we have for it. Shari is inseparable from our life and livelihood. As poet Jibanananda Das writes about Bangla,

Adorned in a shari of Kalka Paar, where the corpse of a woman

Grace the pyre - On a mango branch, the bird Shuk forgets chirping

There is the highest beauty, the deepest despair.

(Translated from Bengali)

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