Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Happy Birthday, Gandhiji

Happy Gandhi’s Birthday!  Here it’s a government holiday, so I took the day off. What better day to explain the special beauty of the Keralan gold and cream material and the very fun, very unique-to-southern-India smurt (man skirt).
Mundu two ways
Why appropriate for today?  Because the special clothing is always made of khadi, or homespun. Homespun is something Gandhi decided to revive in response to an unfair tax that was imposed on clothing coming from Britain.  Gandhi encouraged people to shun that clothing and make their own homespun (khadi) as a show of independence.  That’s why you see many photos of Gandhi at the spinning wheel, wearing only one piece of clothing, which is homespun. Gandhi used the spinning wheel and khadi for both metaphoric and political purpose, as heard in this quote:
It is my claim that as soon as we have completed the boycott of foreign cloth we shall have evolved so far that we shall necessarily give up the present absurdities and remodel national life in keeping with the ideal of simplicity and domesticity implanted in the bosom of the masses. We will not then be dragged into an imperialism which is built upon exploitation of the weaker races of the earth, and the acceptance of a giddy materialistic civilization protected by naval and air forces that have made peaceful living almost impossible. On the contrary we shall then refine that imperialism into a commonwealth of nations which will combine, if they do, for the purpose of giving their best to the world and of protecting, not by brute force but by self -suffering, the weaker nations or races of he earth. Non-cooperation aims at nothing less than this revolution in the thought world. Such a transformation can come only after the complete success of the spinning wheel. India can become fit for delivering such a message, when she has become proof against temptation and therefore attacks from outside, by becoming self-contained regarding two of her chief needs-food and clothing.
 (Young India, 29-6-1921)

First, the ladies. As you can see in the photo, there is a color scheme of cream and gold for these saris. Material that is home spun AND in those colors is called mundu. Mundu is worn by men and women, but only in the state of Kerala, which is rather cool if you think about it. Sometimes there are other accompanying minor colors in the borders, but it’s always cream colored and there is always zari, or gold thread, in the cloth.  It’s worn for all official functions. Take a closer look at these 4 and you will see a variety of treatments of said cloth.  The dress and tights are easy to spot as different, but within the 3 ladies wearing long skirts, only 2 are wearing saris and the 3rd is wearing what is called a “half-sari”, or a two-piece.  I couldn’t tell which was which, so don’t be disappointed if it all looks the same to you, too.  The difference is that while the sari is one long piece, the 2-piece is just that, 2 pieces.  The woman second from the left is wearing the two-piece, I THINK!
Onam Float featuring KHADI-clad
If you’re a man and lucky enough to live in Kerala, there is a fun, multiple-wear long wrap-around skirt known as mundu as well.  Sometimes it’s worn long, and sometimes it’s flipped up and worn tucked in at the waist, and much of the time, the men are busy flipping it up (see picture of flipper in action) or untucking it and letting it fall to the ground.  I’m not sure when they do the flipping, more research is required.  If I were wearing one, I’d be flipping it up to stay cool, or to keep it out of the mud puddles, but that’s just me.  Now if this smurt is cream and gold khadi, it’s called mundu, but if they are wearing a colored skirt, it’s called a lungi.  The mundu is considered more standard wear, more formal, while the colored lungi is the casual, lesser quality cotton alternative. They are a handy self-ventilation system that also serves as a fashion statement. I thought of trying to take a photo of the many ways men wear them, but there is a lot of motion in the flipping, so for now, these photos are the best I could get. 

1 comment:

  1. i could get used to cream colored cloth with gold threads. Just the right touch to impart a regal look!