Moitreyee Chowdhury & Jaya Mehta & Alpana Aras-King













The Indian Saree



For generations, Saree has been the dress, costume, identity, livelihood, all thing woman in India.


Over the course of history, Saree has changed, so had the wearer and the society with it.





But somehow, the world seems to still think that the wearer, the Indian woman in a Saree as a powerless, submissive woman. Hidden in these folds are the images of resilience, beauty, seduction, history, courage, hard work, perseverance. The lyrical essence of this fabric is not to be associated with anything other than who the wearer is.


Moitreyee Chowdhury





Jaya Mehta


Saree and me


Silly saree days


they wrap me up


in giddying fabric


and giggly borders.





Tracing my contours


the borders travel


across the length and breadth of me


a journey to the center of my earth.





A Frangipani heart


white and yellow Inside


wrapped in forever spring


in an abundant lingering fragrance.





My saree is upto tricks


it chats with my bindi


together with my bangles


I know not what they plan.





As colours melt into sound


a tinkle becomes a line


patterns whirl around


to drown the depths of me.





Is it the festive season


is it the festive heart


or just the tuberose’s fragrance


that wraps me up


in these silly saree days.





Poem recitation





Moitreyee Chowdhury


Saree. Woman. Femininity

January, 2017


The relationship between an Indian woman and saree is that of a sibling in a family. Sisters, brothers, filled with love and unrest, stress and comfort, that play hide and seek throughout the lifespan of either. On days, like a confidant, the saree uplifts and holds the wearer; on other days, it creates a tension that is as old as history. Then why do we wear the saree? Why do we wrap this six yards of fabric along our body on days when pants would suffice? Do I do this because I am a woman, and I have been told clothes shape my identity? What is being a woman? What is an integral part of being a woman? What is this femininity that I am told, I must celebrate? Is it hidden in the folds of the saree that my mother decided to wear as her only garment of choice when she was sixteen, when her mother told her, “You are a woman now”? Is it in the woman who darkens her eyes with kohl, wraps her saree tightly and beckons the man with a shy smile? Is it tied to the mother holding her baby close to her heart while hiding her milk-filled breasts with the saree as a cover, even as she waits longingly for the baby to suck the life source out of them? Is it the grandmother who sits quietly in the winter sun in her white cotton saree, knitting, and looking out at the opening of the narrow lane for her grandson to appear? What was going through my Dida, my grandmother’s mind, when she picked up the white saree to wear forever, as she wiped out all color from her image, with the passing away of my grandfather? Did she stop feeling like a woman that day as she turned a widow? Did the world saw my Amma as feminine as she tucked her torn saree for the hundredth time, while she mopped the dirty floors of the neighborhood houses, even as she kept all her life’s treasures in a hidden ‘potli’ at the end of the saree, tied in a knot? Did the Mason woman in a dirty rag of a saree feel feminine when she climbed the half-built rickety stairs of a building, bricks perched on her head? Did she feel like my mother, when she rocked the baby sleeping inside the swing she made out of her only other piece of saree, as she sang an old, forgotten lullaby? Did Jhansi ki Rani felt feminine as she wrapped the endless folds of saree around her waist and climbed onto her horse to fight the battle of her life? Did you think Mamata was feminine when she pointed her finger to the world in her cotton, white saree wrapped around her shoulders? Did Sonia feel more womanly as she took up wearing the 6 yards of fabric after she took rounds around the fire and married this new country? Did the woman in the saree, in the crowded bus, feel feminine when she tried to hide her Saree clad body from the molesting eyes of the men? Did the Hijra I met on the road, in her beautiful red saree, feel a little bit more of a woman when she wore this endless, beautiful piece of fabric. Does the saree hold this power within? Infinite saree, infinite woman. Femininity, not organized in small, medium or large, but fluid, ever-changing. The woman lives in the continuum. From one end of the tucked fabric to its loose, sweeping end.














26 years ago, Moitreyee Chowdhury stood on the roof of her third floor apartment in Delhi.  If only she could capture that busy, frantic, wonderful city on her drawing paper. The wall on her room was her first canvas, and so were the pages between the chapters of her history book. She grew up in India, drawing, painting, singing loudly, and laughing loudly. After getting a BFA from the College of Arts in Delhi, Moitreyee learned German and did an Internship with the Theater Das Tat in Frankfurt, Germany. All that she had seen on the roof, came to life in the the three months of the German Theater. Circumstances brought her to California, where mentors and artists Paddy Moran and Katie Frank led her to the few years of intensely exploring more materials and thoughts that shaped her creative thinking process.  For her art, Moitreyee derives inspiration from her surroundings and the people in it.  She is motivated by the kindness and compassion of human beings that she sees around the world, and hopes to spread the same with her work.  She can be reached at


Homepage :







Jaya Mehta is an Odissi dancer with a rich background in Indian art and History. She has a BFA in Painting from College of Arts, New Delhi; a short course on Indian art from the National Museum , and a Masters in ancient Indian history from JNU.

A dancer with a difference, Jaya Mehta, beautifully connects the entire spectrum of Indian arts, by creating a rich fabric of recitals, demonstrations, workshops and written articles on Indian dance and culture for the lovers of Indian culture worldwide.

Jaya Mehta is a disciple of Guru Pratibha Jena Singh, in the Odissi tradition of Guru Surendra Nath Jena. She has presented Odissi at prestigious international venues: the Gandhi Centre in Hague, Netherlands, the Centre Mandapa in Paris, the ARMA museum in Bali, the Indian Culture centre in Istanbul, Barcelona, and the International Odissi festivals in Bhubhaneshwar and New Delhi.  She has recieved the ‘Odissi Jyoti’ award at the International Odissi festival in Bhubhaneshwar.

Her articles on Indian art and culture have been published in leading Indian newspapers like the Times of India, the Hindustan Times and PULSE, UK’s leading magazine on South Asian dance. She has created stories about Indian Classical dance for children and pioneering Indian culture workshops for children like the ‘Mum, ME and Odissi’, (an Odissi workshop for families), and  the ‘Discover INDIA’ series’ (about Indian festivals and ‘Ritus’, the seasons in India).









Based in San Francisco, Alpana Aras is an award-winning lifestyle and portrait photographer originally from Mumbai, India. Her formal art-school and advertising agency background go hand in hand with her ability to see the big picture. In her work she strives to find the story in life’s everyday moments.


Artist Statement

Over the course of the past few weeks in India, I photographed several Indian women in a sari, a word derived from Sanskrit that means « strip of cloth' ». Over time, this unstitched fabric that drapes women’s bodies has become an unmistakable part of the Indian national identity. The women I encountered were young and old, and also from various socio-economic backgrounds. Some were introduced to wearing a sari as child-brides without much of a choice and have now grown to accept it as second skin. Others have chosen to wear saris on their own accord for celebrations or a connection to their past.

Her work can be seen at


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