Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Patiala shahi salwar retains its popularity


It is common knowledge through the length and the breadth of the state that the erstwhile principality of Patiala has come to symbolise three things — the Patiala peg, the Patiala pugri and the Patiala shahi salwar. While the Patiala peg has been virtually immortalised by the lovers of Bacchus the nation over , the Patiala pugri has seen a drastic decline in its popularity. And the `Patiala shahi` salwar ? No doubt it has retained its popularity but somewhere along the line it has also earned the distinction of being one attire that has been written about more than it has been worn.


What is the fascination with this kind of salwar? Well , apart from the fact that it is a beautiful ensemble the other factor is that over the years it has earned a ‘royal’ reputation for itself, worn as it was in the yesteryears by members of the royal family alone. The reason being the large amount of cloth required to make the heavily pleated salwar . In the olden times only noblewomen could afford to buy the seven metres of cloth needed to make a suit sporting a Patiala salwar. Hence the ‘shahi’ tag to the garb.


The tradition has continued somewhat with the salwar being the firm favourite of the ‘Sardari Grahak’ which encompasses a wide circle of `old` landed Jat Sikh families of the state. However, the salwar is very popular among the general masses, too, who have not shunned it in favour of various other types of salwars popular nowadays. In these times of fast changing fashion trends this ‘shahi’ salwar has managed to hold its own. To get an idea of the popularity the Patialashahi salwar enjoys among the fair species, a visit to the ‘Darjiya Wali gali’ in the old city is enough.
The tailors of this gali specialise in stitching this kind of salwar and owing to the heavy rush of work the usual time period for the delivery of a suit is a week. However, such is their skill that customers are willing to wait for the stipulated time instead of going elsewhere to get their suits stitched. Most of these tailors have been `darjis` for generations and their forefathers used to sit and stitch cloths in these very alleys in the times gone by.

The most sought after shop here is Daleep Tailors where a celebrated tailor of the city the late Master Daleep Singh, once used to work. He had the honour of draping the Rajmata of the Phulkian dynasty, Maharani Mohinder Kaur, in the late fifties, besides President Giani Zail Singh`s better half, Bibi Pradhan Kaur. Though his son Gurinder Pal Singh can no longer boast of any ‘royal’ client, his customers include many from the rich and famous list of the region. He also keeps readymade moderately priced Patiala salwars of all hues for the general public \have proved to be a big hit with the young girls of the city.


What sets this salwar apart from the regular salwar is the style of cutting essential to it. Whereas the normal salwar is cut after the cloth length is folded into half , the Patiala salwar is cut after spreading open the whole ‘arz’ or ‘panna’ of the cloth. This salwar uses nearly 4.5 to 5 metres of cloth in contrast to the mere 2.5 metres required for the regular salwar.

The resultant salwar has fold upon fold of cloth in neat layers going right upto the upper thighs.
The salwar continues to be cut in the old style albeit with one major difference, its enormous ‘Ghera’ (circumference) has been replaced by the smaller ‘belt’ which holds the pleats together at the top. The Patialashahi, though beautiful to behold, carried an enormous amount of weight with it owing to the accumulation of numerous folds around the waist when tied. Many a royal waistline had ached with the burden before being relieved by the new ‘avataar’ of the salwar in the late fifties. The popularity of the salwar increased manifold after the ‘creator’ of the modern Patialashahi salwar, Master Santokh Singh, introduced the `belt` at the top and even a drastically changed fashion scene has failed to dent its popularity.


- Written by Gurvinder Kaur

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