Indian clothing is often the object of desire for many visitors to the country and a great souvenir with a wide variety of colours and fabrics to choose from.
Indian clothing has been conservative from the beginning. You will find women dressed in saris or salwar kameez, while men are comfortable in Kurta Pajamas or mundus (dhoti/ waishtis; pictured below). Modern influence has now made dressing in India very western like and you will see a number of people wearing western styles, although often with an Indian twist.
Adding to the plethora of choice, the clothing often has regional characteristics, especially the saris worn by women. Many travellers are fascinated by the vast choice and carry these back as souvenirs, not necessarily to use as clothing: saris often double up as drapes or wall hangings.
Amongst many Indian styles of clothing, the sari is most distinguishable and has an international appeal with its fabric varieties and colours. More so, it appeals to the women for its elegant draping. No matter which state you visit in India, you are bound to find a distinct style for the sari. Here are some of the few favourites types of sari for travellers:
1. Bandhani – This type of sari is found the western part of the country, namely, Gujarat and Rajasthan. It’s made of the hand dyed tie and dye and is available in cotton and silks. These saris are mostly multi coloured and festive looking. The light fabrics make it easy to drape and youthful to look at.
2. Chanderi – While the Bandhani saris are playful, the Chanderi has an air of sophistication to it. These are made in Madhya Pradesh in central India. A soft lightness and subtle colours are the main characteristic of these saris. Very muted colour contrasts and embroidery are the only embellishment that you will find on a Chanderi sari.
3. Benares Brocade – The Benares brocade is famous for its heavy weaves and opulent look. Mostly bought for grand occasions and weddings, these saris are rich in design and texture. They are woven for days on fine silk and also use heavy embellishments to make it look even more lavish.
4. Jamdani Handloom – The Jamdani work on saris is a wonder woven in thread. Near transparent cloth is jammed with thread on the weft while weaving. The designs are often symmetric and inspired from tribal prints. Peacocks, cursive vines and flowers are common themes. A lot of Jamdani work is done in West Bengal.
5. Kantha –Again a Bengali special, the Kantha work on saris is intricate and almost a form of story-telling. Elaborate tales unfold in the embroideries. Complex decorative motifs are used on cotton and silk. These saris look very rich and cultured.
Buying Saris Government run co-operatives and showrooms are always present in large cities. For example, in Delhi, the state emporiums near Connought Place have the traditional saris in store. Since each state has its own specific style of embroidery or weaving, this is one place you will be spoilt for choice. If you are visiting a specific destination, ask for guidance on the actual weaving centres from where you can buy directly. Large metros have a vast range if you have less time to go exploring locally.