Of all the Indian weaves, the Garad stands as a symbol of purity not only because of its physical appearance but also by its very nature. ”Garad” means white - the colour of purity in Indian mythology since time immemorial. Garad saris are made of mulberry silk where the yarns are not dyed but bear the natural white or off-white colour, thereby retaining the purity of the fabric.
Owing to this symbolic characteristic, Garad saris have been given a sacred importance since people can remember. In ancient times, kings and zamindars are said to have draped themselves in these saris while performing religious customs and rituals. Even today, a white Garad sari with a red border holds a place of significance in the wardrobes of women from the Bengali community. In order to preserve its sacred nature, they even avoid stitching a fall onto the sari. During the community’s most auspicious festival, Durga Puja, women are seen adorned in this sari while offering prayers to the Goddess.
Garad saris are most often woven in the Murshidabad district of West Bengal, an area that has a distinct style of weaving the yarns so closely together, that it imparts a particular texture and structure to the fabric. They are made of pure mulberry or Tussar silk threads that are in their natural, undyed form. With a light-weight body and an elegant stiffness, they are easy to drape and hold great shape.
The distinctive feature of a Garad sari is its border that is off-set in either red or maroon with a simple pattern to it. The pallu is striped while across the length of the sari you will see small floral or paisley motifs scattered throughout that make it feminine and graceful.
A more elaborate, ornamental version of the simple Garad is the Garad-Korial sari. The word ”kora” means plain or spotless. These saris look just like the Garad but with subtle differences such as the fact that the off-white silk base is glossier from the complexity of its weave. Another factor is that the border and pallu are more ornamental with more elaborate and intricate motifs. All in all, the Garad-Korial is an opulent cousin of the Garad and is the one that is preferred in the Sindoor-Khela of the Durga Puja. Owing to its richness, the Garad-Korial is also a perfect piece for weddings as the bride’s accompaniment.
The last few decades have seen the popularisation of the Garad and the Garad-Korial with celebrities adorning them at auspicious ceremonies, especially Durga Puja. Many top designers such as Neeta Lulla have introduced more creative versions of the Garad on the fashion runway. It is also becoming a huge trend to now have the classic Garad with borders bearing colours besides red and maroon. This has made this style of sari appeal to the younger generation and is a definite factor in ensuring its longevity!