Saturday, October 17, 2020

Mundum Neriyathum


Mundum Neriyathum

Mundum neriyathum  is the traditional clothing of women in Kerala, a state in southwestern India. It is the oldest remnant of the ancient form of the saree which covered only the lower part of the body. In the mundum neriyathum, the most basic traditional piece is the mundu or lower garment which is the ancient form of the saree denoted in Malayalam as 'Thuni' (meaning cloth), while the neriyathu forms the upper garment the mundu.The mundum neryathum consists of two pieces of cloth, and could be worn in either the traditional style with the neriyathu tucked inside the blouse, or in the modern style with the neriyathu worn over the left shoulder.


The mundum-neryathum is the extant form of the ancient saree referred to as "Sattika" in Buddhist and Jain literature.The mundu is the surviving form of lower garment of the ancient clothing referred to as antariya worn in a special way (lower garment). The neriyath is the modern adaptation of a thin scarf worn from the right shoulder to the left shoulder referred to in ancient Buddhist-Jain texts as the uttariya.

Some authors suggest narrow borders along the mundum neriyathum drape are probably an adaptation of the west Asiatic veiling called "Palla". In the palmyrene costume, the piece of cloth known as "palla" was a long piece of unstitched cloth with a coloured border and was worn over a long garment, pinned at the left shoulder.The Malabar coast had flourishing overseas trade with the Mediterranean world since antiquity.

Basic drape

The mundum neryathum is worn as everyday costume and also as distinct costume on festive occasions, in which case the Kara is ornamental in couture. During the Keralite festival of onam, women of all ages wear the mundum neryathum and take part in folk dance meant only for women called kaikottikalli. The mundum neryathum for festive occasion has golden coloured borders or a broad zari border known as Kasavu, lending the costume another name of "Kasavu Saree". The colour for the blouse of the mundum neryathum for this occasion is determined by the age and marital status of the woman. Young unmarried girls wear green coloured blouse, while married middle aged mothers wear red blouses.

The kasavu or the golden border is either pure golden layer, copper coated or artificial. The fabric of mundu-sari is cotton and is always woven by hand. Kara or simple line designs adorn the bottom of these saris, while at times small peacock or temple designs embellish the pallu. The mundum neriyathum is also known as Set mundu, Kasavu mundu, Mundu-sari, set-sari, or set veshti. The veshti is another version of the saree which consists of small upper clothing resembling a blouse-like garment worn without the pallu along with a mundu as lower garment.

Cultural symbolism

The mundum neriyathum is the cultural costume of women of the Malayali community.The grace and appeal of the golden borders contrasting with the otherwise plain white mundum neryathum of Keralite women has come to symbolize Malayali women. Both the traditional and modern styles of the mundum neryathum are depicted in the paintings of the Indian painter Raja Ravi Varma. The mundum neriyathum was modified in several paintings depicting Shakuntala from the Mahabharata to a style of draping now popularly known as the 'nivi saree' or 'national drape'. In one of his paintings the Indian subcontinent was shown as a mother wearing a flowing nivi saree.

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