Attiring in graceful shari is no more a daily habit

Dhaka,  Tue,  22 August 2017
Published : 19 May 2017, 21:11:45

Attiring in graceful shari is no more a daily habit

Attiring in graceful shari is no more a daily habit
Nilratan Halder
Gharete elona se / Mone tar nitta asa jaoa/ Parone Dhakai sari/ kapale sindur (she hasn’t made it home of mine/ but frequents to my mind very often/ wearing a Dhakai shari/ with a vermillion tip on her forehead).

This is how Dhakai Shari has been immortalised by Rabindranath Thakur.

Another immortal creation is a song sung by Shymal Mitra, Tomar oi dhupchhaya rong sharer pare/ chora katai bidhiey dilem mon (Into the border of your dusky coloured shari, I weave my dream with needle grass).

Dhakai Shari and Sharis in general have thus been unreservedly appreciated by poets and singers. Quite a few writers may have presented their heroines in Tangail Shari but unfortunately this famous brand –even more popular than those of Dhaka origin –have failed to be iconic like the above two.

Attraction to this graceful attire for foreigners is unmistakable. Even women foreign diplomats heading their missions in Dhaka or wives of men with similar assignments staying in the Bangladesh capital or other cities wear sharis when they make a courtesy call or appear at state functions or parties they throw. The famous jamadani shari has received the geographical indication (GI) right. But the most famous muslin cloth is not known as mere shari, it went into making all kinds of beautiful dress for the highly aristocrats. Its revival is not so easy.

The days of waxing lyrical over shari, however, seems to be numbered. A number of shari traders who participated in a shari exhibition-cum-fair in the capital recently lamented that girls and women hardly ever wear sharis these days. Today, the preference is for slawar kameej. No denying that it is unimaginable that a Bangalee bride will not be dressed in a shari during the marriage ceremony. Only in the rarest cases, lehanga or Western gowns has encroached upon this traditional attire in wedding ceremonies in this country. Bangalee women still express their love for sharis on occasions like Pahela Falgoon (first day of Spring season) and Pahela Baishakh (Bangla New Year’s Day). It still is party dress for them.

But increasingly, salwar and kameej, tops and jeans, maxi etc; are taking over from shari. The older generation cannot think of switching over to those types of attire but members of the young generation, particularly working women whether it is at the upper level or at the lower level rarely opt for shari as a dress. It is not easy to manage a full flowing shari. Getting on board a public transport is not easy either if one is in a shari. On the other hand, women who do manual jobs in factories or give labour in fields side by side with men also find salwar-kameej an easier option for the attire’s convenience. Shari and blouse also leave different parts of the body exposed. So a lot of women and girls wears burkha (veil). Cheaper, salwar-kameej has an advantage over shari in term of cost too.

So, the indication for artisans of handlooms is certainly not rosy. If the demand for their product dwindles day by day, it will be impossible for them to stick to their ancestors’ occupation. Already a fall in demand for sharis in the market has negatively impacted the handloom industry. If the demand shrinks further, the industry will face an uncertain future soon. Either the artisans will have to go for diversity of their products or make a choice for switching over to occupation so far unknown to them.

Not that Sharis will disappear once for all. But shrinkage of demand means that the country’s handloom will receive a major jolt so much so that it will render many of the weavers without a livelihood.    

Muslin disappeared once. So did many other types of attire. However romantic a mind may be, rejoicing or pining away for the possibility never becoming a reality of life on the thought of a special one dressed in Dhakai Shari with a vermillion tip right in the middle of the forehead, shari is falling wayside for practical reasons. One may rue over its gradually missing importance in everyday life but as long as the Bangalees will survive as a nation, they will need shari to show to the world their magnificence of attire.
Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
Published by the Editor for International Publications Limited from Tropicana Tower (4th floor), 45, Topkhana Road, GPO Box : 2526 Dhaka- 1000 and printed by him from City Publishing House Ltd., 1 RK Mission Road, Dhaka-1000.
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