Nine Fascinating Yards by Bhavya

Blog post by Bhavya Venkatesh

Being TamBrahm means many things – some complex, some interesting, others quirky. My personal TamBrahm story is one of fascination for the tradition that has been handed down through generations, and still lives on strongly today – the Madisar, draping TamBrahm women in style since the invention of TamBrahms!

Everyone has a Madisar memory, I have many. My earliest is of my great-grandmother effortlessly draping her Chungidi madisars around her tiny frame. I do not remember ever seeing her in anything else. Growing up, the saree transformed into an indicator of the routine morning poojai time at home, with my madisar-clad grandmother being madi et al, and the others being groggy, sleepy et al. The madi outfit for the next morning would be diligently washed and hung the previous day, and as a bystander I would be amazed at the sheer length of the saree. My mother’s madisars, apart from serving the purpose of being whipped out at special occasions, also became objects that my sister and I eyed longingly.

At functions where maamis invariably became madisar maamis, I would marvel at the ease with which the women carried themselves, the fact that the same length of cloth fit every woman differently, and at how it gloriously added to the festive atmosphere. My musings always culminated at the point where I would fantasize about wearing my own.

Quite understandably, when the time came for me to finally drape my own nine yards of fabric, my excitement exceeded the length of the saree by far. While saree shopping for my wedding extended into hours of mulling, choosing and exchanging, the choice of the koorai podavai was instantaneous. There it was, buried under piles of sarees in Sundari Silks, the beautifully traditional checked arakku (maroon) that caught my eye and my fancy. Unmatched by any of the more flamboyant, contemporary colours around it, it became mine – the saree I would wear in my transition from ‘single’ to ‘married’.

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After a lifetime of silently waiting for it, my madisar moment arrived during my unmistakably big fat TamBrahm wedding. I was overwhelmed – mostly by the enormity of the moment that awaited, partly by the swiftness with which the saree was expertly draped around a dazed me, and, ever so gently, by the wonderful feeling of finally, finally living the madisar fantasy.

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8 thoughts on “Nine Fascinating Yards by Bhavya

  1. Oh Paati had a knack of wearing it soo beautifully that there is no need of a pleat or pin, it just stays where it is.. I guess i will never get it. still its an awesome costume, and gives a festive feel.

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  2. I used to find the madissari funny as if not knowing what to do with the extra three yards compared to normal sari i.e. Folding and tucking in some part of it back and forth. But yes it definitely is a symbol associated with Tambrahm religious functions!

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  3. I loved your post. Even though i am a guy ive always admired the ombadu gajam podavai. Its designed in such a smart way!
    The kudthu vangara technique of iyengar madissar creating a belt and making sure the kacham stay is such a brilliant idea. The kosham of the Iyer drape acting as extra cloth to help the saree expand between the legs and hence give mobility to the legs is such a smart move ! Smart indeed were our forefathers!
    So I have a doubt regarding the madissar. Iyengars and iyers drape it differently. And amongst iyengars vadagalai iyengars wear it differently from thengalai iyengars. The question is , do thengalai iyengars wear it like iyers? If so why is it this way? Does it mean they are ex-iyers ?
    Yes saree has a lot of cultural anthropology to it!

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  4. short and sweet. never really admired the madisaar much as I always assumed that it is a tedious process to drape it. but when we had to do my mamanaar’s thavasam every month( maasiyam and sodakumbam), I realised it’s so easy to wear it, unlike how it is made to appear. but madissar-a madi-a unathardu (putting it to dry) definitely requires some skill😊

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  5. Wonderful post 😊 I always used to admire the ease with which paati draped her madisar in seconds and would be running here and there like a kid, getting ready for neivedhyam. I remember asking her during one summer ‘Paati… Unakku verkala?’ With an innocent tone she replied ‘Adhu onnum illa di ma… Chinna vayasilendhu katrenono… Pazhagidhuthu…ippo 9dhu gajam katla na dhan kashtama irukkum’

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  6. Another fascinating aspect of madissar is they way it’s hung up on clothesline for drying with the help of kuchi and the clothesline itself is tied up on the ceiling so that nobody will accidently also not touch the saree and next day my granny can wear the saree aajaramma 🙂

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  7. Wonderful post and a beautiful madisar photograph to accompany it! 🙂 I think I was fascinated with sarees too but never the madisar because it looked too tedious a process to drape it! When I wore my first saree, several people said I looked great in it and sure, my excitement was at its peak too. But within minutes, all I could ever think about was how hot I was feeling inside!!!! 😀

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