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13 Sep

Everything you need to know about the kasavu sari of Kerala

The kasavu sari is for Kerala what bandhani is for Gujarat, tant is for West Bengal and Kota silk is for Rajasthan. Every state has its signature textile—one that speaks of its heritage and culture. And the bridal sari is the perfect embodiment of all this and more

The mundum neriyathum otherwise known as the kasavu sari is a handwoven cream coloured sari with a gold border, worn by Malayali women as their traditional clothing. The mundum neryathum finds its origins way back to the Buddhist era that once flourished in South India especially in Kerala. The kasavu sari is said to have drawn its inspiration from the Greco-Roman attire called the palmyrene, which consists of a long unstitched piece of cloth with a coloured border pinned onto the left shoulder. The Malabar Coast had flourishing trade relations with the Mediterranean world then which led to this confluence of culture.

Photos: Crystalline Studio, Tuesday Lights


The time-honoured kasavusari exudes a traditional appeal like none other. The sari is normally adorned during special auspicious occasions, especially by Kerala brides on their wedding day. “Kasavu adds a traditional touch to weddings. And as my husband and I wanted a traditional wedding ceremony, I chose to wear a kanjeevaram sari with a gold kasavu border on it,” says Jubitha Jose, a college professor who recently got married. The basic attire of Kerala Kasavu can be divided into two basic garments; first is the kara, which represents the coloured bit of a design that is imprinted in the border and the second is the mundu—the lower portion of the garment. The upper portion of the garment is known as the neriyathum.

Photo: Moonwedlock


At present, variants of kasavu saris are trending with mythical and floral prints and thicker borders. “Earlier, kasavu saris were off white with borders of different widths, but now colourful prints have been introduced that looks different and gives the wearer a stylish edge. Kasavu saris with kalamkari prints are the latest trend,” says Ankita Nambiar, a fashion designer in Kochi. The trend is much loved not just by locals, but people from other states too. The simplicity of the kasavu sari allows the wearer to mix and match the sari blouse with different cuts, designs and fabrics. “Brides now have started pairing kasavu saris with chequered and striped sari blouses on their wedding day,” adds Nambiar. The golden borders of kasavu are now also designed as a part of gowns, kurtis and anarkalis, adding its own traditional touch to the contemporary silhouette. Nambiar adds “Kasavu borders add a touch of elegance to any attire. They can be used at the bottom hemline for anarkalis as well as across the borders of your sleeve.” The versatility of kasavu is such that the garment is also used to make pavadas(skirts) and lehengas. “Other than the usual salwar kameez and churidar, young girls today are teaming kasavu pavadas with crop tops for a youthful appeal,” says Nambiar, who adds, “Be sure to layer the skirts as the fabric is translucent.” The kasavu while preserving its traditional identity is also in sync with the fashionable tastes of today’s brides.

Lead Photo: A. Geeri Pai Gold and Diamonds

Sherlin Rajan / [email protected]
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