May 22, 2020
Sunsets are different everywhere. In Mumbai, an October evening splinters the sky in five kinds of colors, whereas a pink summer sky isn’t unusual in Havana. But for many sari lovers in India, the sunset looks like a glossy orange Kanjeevaram sari.
Named after the color of the setting sun, government buildings, actresses, and even bright green soap, Kanjeevaram silk saris are a much-loved heritage loom from South India. These expensive saris (usually starting at $86 or ₹6,500) are associated with celebration for most South Indians: a staple at weddings, kutcheris (concerts), and Bharatanatyam dance performances. They represent an important moment in the lives of most women, from graduation ceremonies to weddings.
“My father bought me an araku (maroon) color for my wedding,” said Shyamala Padmanabhan, 61, a homemaker from Bangalore. “But when I moved to cities, some of my saris were damaged during the monsoons. I was devastated, but I managed to save my wedding sari by darning it. I can’t wear it anymore — it’s too delicate — but I keep it as a memory.”