Where have all the cholis gone?

It is reliably learnt that United Nations is going to declare one day in a year as World Choli day. On that day, there will be seminars, exhibitions, discussions, documentaries and other media focus on a versatile item which is on the fast-disappearing list. What was an indispensable object in every Indian lady’s wardrobe is suffering a slow exit due to utter indifference of the younger generation.

What is this ‘choli? And where have they all gone? To answer this question one has to delve into the history of the article in question. Choli is a tailored upper garment used as an indispensable accessory to a sari. This is of any material-cotton, silk, velvet, synthetic yarn and it is cut and stitched according to the wearer’s whims and fancies or to the fashion’s current trend.
It is well known that diaphanous cholis have always been used by Indian women from the days of yore as is evident from sculptures, paintings and literature_ going by the Sanskrit name ‘Kanchuka’. It used to expose and embellish much more than it used to conceal.
When British took over India, swamping the country with their Victorian norms and taboos, the artistic choli underwent a drastic change. It became a dowdy item called blouse/jacket with long sleeves, high necks and low hems. Even Raja Ravi Verma painted all his Goddesses in the politically correct blouses.
Once India gained independence, the necklines became gradually deeper, cleavages were hinted at and the hemlines went higher exposing a delectable strip of flesh at the mid riff. As for the sleeves, they would go higher, lower, get puffed or sometimes altogether disappear depending on the dictates of Bombay Film Industry.
Once the women’s liberation became an accepted fact and glass ceilings were broken through, the effect was more noticeable in blouses, by then called ‘cholis’, the name connoting a form fitting garment. They appeared in all forms, front open, back open, with hooks, with buttons, with knots or with laces, with backs, without backs, with bodice, without bodice, lined, padded, ventilated, windowed, with borders, without borders, noodle strapped et al. The rigmarole of finding a suitable match for the sari was done with when the innovative weavers started weaving the blouse piece along with the saree. There were plain ones, checked ones, embroidered ones, appliquéd ones, multipieced ones.A raunchy song about ‘choli’ picturised on Madhuri Dixit, Neena Gupta and group created such a furore that the matter went right up to that august forum, the Parliament. As expected, the protests were most vociferous from those who had not seen the movie nor heard the song. However, with the wrong publicity the popularity of the song shot to dizzy heights leaving the producers laughing all the way to the bank.
But now with the younger generation preferring the Salwaar Kameez , Jeans and Kurtis, the demand for sarees has come down. When such is the case with the main dress, what to say about the accessory, the poor‘choli’?!
No wonder United Nations wants to honor this vestige- of –Indian- culture-on-the-verge-of-extinction by allotting a day for it.

(Inspired by World Sparrow day)


18 thoughts on “Where have all the cholis gone?

  1. Hi Vimala,
    I thoroughly enjoyed your blog, and your capacity to make others smile is highly appreciated. It is a rare gift, only few like you are the lucky ones blessed with this gift.
    Keep writing…….!

  2. Irene says:

    The poor choli indeed! I wear sarees so less now that each time I try on a choli, it is no longer my size! So my cupboard is full of once worn cholis!

  3. Mira Pawar says:

    Good one Vimala! Even before i could finish the reading the complete article, the lyrics of the song ‘choli ke……….kya hai’ came instatntly to my mind. Lovely read.

  4. Seetharam says:

    Choli to Indian women was the fan to the Japanese women. It was not only a part of the dress but was used to express one’s moods. Alas, like all good things this too has gone. These are days when very little is left to imagination.
    Well written Vimala.

    • vimala ramu says:

      Thank you Seetharam for reading my blog and appreciating it. I thought menfolk may not be interested in the topic.

  5. Sneha says:

    What an interesting article, Vimala. Your recovery from the stomach infection has sure spurred some exceptionally bright ideas in your mind. Personally, I love cholies. I love the embroidered ones…I feel they have an aura of themselves. Beautiful blog.

  6. For many weeks now, I’ve been searching and watching how to make choli in YT, was not able to buy the materials needed because of the flooding caused by non-stop spring shower/ rain….

    [ I lost track of my thoughts or what I intended to write here, I was involved in a serious discussion about current events , sorry]

    Your shared story made me more driven to learn how to make one…I know it is easy to order on-line, but I’d rather make it. There’s more pleasure/ satisfaction and pride when you do something by yourself.

  7. vimala ramu says:

    I am so happy Isabel to see your interest in making a choli than order one. All the best to you. Thanks for reading the great international topic.

  8. Nuggehalli Pankaja says:

    Since i am busy with some trivial assignments, I have not been able to come to your blog. Today I hope to finish the other one also.
    Idea-buildup is super! And the comments, as usual entertaining!

    • vimala ramu says:

      Thank you, Pankaja. I know that I have also been crowding you guys a little. Next blog or two later I plan to take a break as I seem to be running short of topics or is it that the world has stopped being comical?!!!

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