The most common style is for the sari to be wrapped around the Waist, with the loose end of the drape worn over the shoulder, baring the stomach. However, the sari can be draped in several different styles, though some styles do require a sari of a particular length or form. The French cultural Anthropologist and Sari researcher, Chantal Boulanger, categorizes sari drapes in the following families:

  • Nivi – styles originally worn in Andra Pradesh; besides the modern nivi, there is also the kaccha nivi, where the pleats are passed through the legs and tucked into the waist at the back. This allows free movement while covering the legs.
  • Bengali and Oriya Style.
  • Gujarati – this style differs from the nivi only in the manner that the loose end is handled: in this style, the loose end is draped over the right shoulder rather than the left, and is also draped back-to-front rather than the other way around.
  • Mharashtrian/kashta; This drape front and back is very similar to that of the male Maharashtrian Dhooti (dhoti). The center of the sari (held lengthwise) is placed at the center back, the ends are brought forward and tied securely, then the two ends are wrapped around the legs. When worn as a sari, an extra-long cloth is used and the ends are then passed up over the shoulders and the upper body. They are primarily worn by "Brahmin women" of Maharastra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
  • Dravidian – sari drapes worn in Tamil Nadu; many feature a pinkosu, or pleated rosette, at the waist.
  • Madisaara style – This drape is typical of Brahmin ladies from Tamil Nadu and Kerala
  • Kodagu style – This drape is confined to ladies hailing from the Kodagu district of Karnatka. In this style, the pleats are created in the rear, instead of the front. The loose end of the sari is draped back-to-front over the right shoulder, and is pinned to the rest of the sari.
  • Gond – sari styles found in many parts of Central India. The cloth is first draped over the left shoulder, then arranged to cover the body.
  • the two-piece sari, or mundum neryathum, worn in Kerala. Usually made of unbleached cotton and decorated with gold or colored stripes and/or borders.
  • tribal styles – often secured by tying them firmly across the chest, covering the breasts.

The nivi style is today's most popular sari style. (Dongerkerry K. S. 1959).

The nivi drape starts with one end of the sari tucked into the waistband of the petticoat. The cloth is wrapped around the lower body once, then hand-gathered into even pleats just below the navel. The pleats are also tucked into the waistband of the petticoat. They create a graceful, decorative effect which poets have likened to the petals of a flower.
After one more turn around the waist, the loose end is draped over the shoulder. The loose end is called the pallu or pallav. It is draped diagonally in front of the torso. It is worn across the right hip to over the left shoulder, partly baring the midriff. The navel can be revealed or concealed by the wearer by adjusting the pallu, depending on the social setting in which the sari is being worn. The long end of the pallu hanging from the back of the shoulder is often intricately decorated. The pallav may either be left hanging freely,tucked in at the waist, used to cover the head, or just used to cover the neck, by draping it across the right shoulder as well. Some nivi styles are worn with the pallu draped from the back towards the front.

The Nivi saree was popularised through the paintings of Raja Ravi Varma. By modifying the South Indian saree called Mundum Neriyathum. In one of his painting the Indian subcontinent was shown as a mother wearing a flowing nivi saree.

In Bangladesh

The Sari is worn by women throughout Bangladesh. There are many regional variations of Saris in both silk and cotton. But the Jamdani, Tanta/Taant Cotton, Dhakai Benarosi, Rajshahi silk, Tangail Tanter Sari– and Katan Sari as the most popular in Bangladesh.Popular actresses Aishwarya Rai and Madhuri Dixit wore the Dhakaiya Benaroshi Sari in the song"Dola re Dola" of the film "devdas".

In Pakistan

In Pakistan, the wearing of saris is less common than the more traditional shalwar kameez which is worn throughout the country. The sari does however remain a popular dress for formal functions such as weddings. The sari is sometimes worn as daily-wear, mostly in Karachi, by those elderly women who were used to wearing it in Pre-Partition India and by some of the new generation who have re-introduced the interest in saris. The reason why the sari lost popularity in Pakistan, was due to it being viewed as a Hindu dress. Although she was seen wearing them, Fatima Jinnah, the "Mother of the Nation", called the sari "unpatriotic" and the wife of former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf stated that she never wears the garment.


In Sri Lanka


Sri Lankan women wear saris in many styles. However, two ways of draping the sari are popular and tend to dominate; the Indian style (classic nivi drape) and the Kandyan style (or 'osaria' in Sinhalese). The Kandyan style is generally more popular in the hill country region of Kandy from which the style gets its name. Though local preferences play a role, most women decide on style depending on personal preference or what is perceived to be most flattering for their figure.

The traditional Kandyan (Osaria) style consists of a full blouse which covers the midriff completely, and is partially tucked in at the front as is seen in this 19th century portrait. However, modern intermingling of styles has led to most wearers baring the midriff. The final tail of the sari is neatly pleated rather than free-flowing. This is rather similar to the pleated rosette used in the 'Dravidian' style noted earlier in the article.

Kandyan style is considered as the national dress of Sinhalese women. It is the Uniform of air hostesses of Sri Lankan Airlines.

In Nepal

In Nepal, a special style of draping is used in a sari called Haku patasi. The sari is draped around the waist and a shawl is worn covering upper half of sari which is used in place of "pallu".

Types of saris

While an international image of the 'modern style' sari may have been popularised by airline stewardesses, each region in the Indian Subcontinent has developed, over the centuries, its own unique sari style. Following are the well known varieties, distinct on the basis of fabric, weaving style, or motif, in South Asia:

  • Tanchoi
  • Shalu

Northern styles

  • Banarasi - Uttar Pradesh


Western styles

  • Paithani - Maharashtra
  • Bandhani - Gujarat and Rajasthan
  • Kota doria Rajasthan
  • Lugade - Maharashtra

Central styles

  • Chanderi - Madhya Pradesh
  • Maheswari - Madhya Pradesh
  • Kosa Silk - Chattisgarh

Southern styles

  • Kanchipuram (locally called Kanjivaram) – Tamil Nadu
  • Coimbatore - Tamil Nadu
  • Chinnalapatti - Tamil Nadu
  • Chettinad - Tamil Nadu
  • Madurai - Tamil Nadu
  • Arani - Tamil Nadu
  • Pochampally - Andhra Pradesh
  • Venkatagiri - Andra Pradesh
  • Gadwal - Andhra Pradesh
  • Guntur - Andhra Pradesh
  • Narayanpet - Andhra Pradesh
  • Mangalagiri - Orissa
  • Balarampuram - Kerala
  • Mysore Silk - Karnataka


Eastern styles


  • Tangali Cotton - Bangladesh
  • Jamdani - Bangladesh
  • Dhakai Benarosi - Bangladesh
  • Dhaniakhali cotton - West Bengal
  • Murshidabad Silk - West Bengal
  • Baluchari cotton – West Bengal
  • Sambalpuri Silk - Orissa
  • Kotki (from Cuttack) – Orissa