Kerala sari

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Women dressed in Kerala sari

Kerala sari (Set-sari) (Malayalam: കേരള സാരി) is a clothing of women in the Indian state of Kerala.

Mundum Neriyathum[edit]

Women dressed in two-piece sari, scene from Kerala Mural, 1730 CE.

It is worn as a garment that closely resembles the mundum neriyathum though it is not considered a true mundum neriyathum by classic definition. Traditional mundum neriyathum consists of a two-piece cloth, while Kerala sari is worn in a way to resemble navi drape using two-piece mundum neiyathum. Otherwise, the Kerala sari closely resembles the mundum neriyathum and is often worn by Malayali women as a quasi mundum neriyathum.

Surviving medieval Kerala mural paintings depict existence of three-styles of clothing worn by women, these include one-piece mundum, single-piece sari with over-lapping pleats resembling nivi-drape worn today by Mohiniyattam dancers and two-piece mundam-neryathum attire which evolved into Kerala sari.[1][2][3]

Kuthampully Sari[edit]

In September 2011, the Kuthampully sari was given geographical indication status by the Indian government. The Kuthampully weavers belong to the Devanga caste who were brought from Karnataka to make garments for the Maharaja of Kochi.[4]

Cultural costume[edit]

Thiruvathirakali dancers dressed in Kerala sari.

Kerala sari is regarded as the cultural costume of women of the Malayali community.[2] The grace and appeal of the golden borders contrasting with the otherwise plain white mundum neryathum of Keralite women has come to symbolize Malayali women. The sari is a hot favorite during the time of Onam, not just in Kerala but in other parts of India as well. [5]

In popular culture[edit]

Both the traditional and modern styles of the mundum neryathum are depicted in the paintings of the Indian painter Raja Ravi Varma. The mundum neriyathum was modified in several paintings depicting shakuntala from the mahabharatha to a style of draping now popularly known as the 'nivi saree' or 'national drape'. In one of his paintings, the Indian subcontinent was shown as a mother wearing a flowing nivi saree.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wall paintings in North Kerala, India: 1000 years of temple art, Albrecht Frenz, Ke. Ke Mārār, page 93
  2. ^ a b Boulanger 1997, Ghurye 1951
  3. ^ Miller, Daniel & Banerjee, Mukulika; (2004) "The Sari", Lustre press / Roli books
  4. ^ George, Anubha (6 October 2018). "For 500 years, a Kannadiga community of weavers has produced Kerala's iconic white and gold saree". Archived from the original on 1 July 2021. Retrieved 1 July 2021.
  5. ^ "Say it in gold and off-white". The Hindu. Kochi, India. 14 September 2016.
  6. ^ Miller & Banerjee 2004

References and bibliography[edit]

  • Boulanger, C (1997) Saris: An Illustrated Guide to the Indian Art of Draping, Shakti Press International, New York. ISBN 0-9661496-1-0
  • Mohapatra, R. P. (1992) Fashion styles of ancient India, B. R. Publishing corporation, ISBN 81-7018-723-0
  • Alkazi, Roshan (1983) "Ancient Indian costume", Art Heritage
  • Mahaparinibbanasutta (ancient Buddhist text)
  • Miller, Daniel & Banerjee, Mukulika; (2004) The Sari, Lustre press / Roli books
  • Bjorn Landstrom (1964) The Quest for India, Doubleday English edition, Stockholm.
  • T.K Velu Pillai, (1940) "The Travancore State Manual"; 4 volumes; Trivandrum
  • Miller, J. Innes. (1969). The Spice Trade of The Roman Empire: 29 B.C. to A.D. 641. Oxford University Press. Special edition for Sandpiper Books. 1998. ISBN 0-19-814264-1.
  • K.V. Krishna Iyer (1971) "Kerala’s Relations with the Outside World," pp. 70, 71 in The Cochin Synagogue Quatercentenary Celebrations Commemoration Volume, Kerala History Association, Cochin.
  • Periplus Maris Erythraei, The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, (trans). Wilfred Schoff (1912), reprinted South Asia Books 1995 ISBN 81-215-0699-9