Where's the pavada?
The pavada has almost vanished from the Malayali girl's wardrobe. This traditional pleated dress has been replaced by jeans, trousers and salwar kurtas.
IF THE songs, `Pavada prayathil' and `Pavadai davaniyil', were to be written today, the lyrics would not be the same.
For, the pavada has almost vanished from the Malayali girl's wardrobe.
This pleated traditional dress has been replaced by jeans, trousers, salwar kurtas, midis and skirts.
In Kerala, only the `bold' wore the salwar kurta two decades ago. And then came the invasion of the electronic media and salwar kurtas found their way into the hearts of Malayali girls.
If you want to see Malayali girls in pattu pavada-blouse sets today, then you have to be invited to a wedding. Or you should visit a temple or wait for November 1 (Kerala Piravi Day).
The pavada has its western counterpart: the skirt. What had flowed down over the ankles during the Victorian era has, over the years, transformed itself to the midi, the mini and the micro skirts, all of progressively decreasing length. Micros and minis may be the rage in Indian metros, but Thiruvananthapuram is yet to catch up with this trend.
Traditionalists, however, need not worry. A few still prefer the pavada. "I wear jeans, skirts and salwar kurtas to college," says Saumya, a student of Engineering "But I do wear pavada and half-sari (davani) occasionally. I recently got a pavada stitched. But it's unrealistic to think that pavada will be worn as it used to be 15 to 20 years ago. But things have improved from the way it was five years ago, when the pavada or the half sari was hardly seen."
On a whim, Saumya's mother bought her a Kancheevaram pavada recently.
"Wearing pavada and blouse to college is very uncomfortable and inconvenient. Getting on and off buses, in heavy pavada, is very difficult. It is a decorative outfit, and not a functional one. Hence, it is best to wear it on select occasions. I buy it only once a year, during Onam, and that's the only time I wear it; that is, if there are no marriages to attend," says Siddhi Devi, a B.Com student .
She prefers jeans and salwar kurta, as they are "very convenient to wear". But she is quick to add, "This does not mean I dislike pavada and blouse."
Even mothers don't want to force the pavada on their daughters. Says Usha, mother of 14-year-old Sharada, who studies in Holy Angels Convent, "Of course, the pavada is very beautiful and traditional, but I don't compel my daughter to wear it. And it is not like she never wears the pavada. We get her one for Onam, weddings or other occasions. At times, she herself demands that she wants to wear it to some function."
Cisy Vinod too does not force her daughters to wear the pavada. "These days, girls have strong views about anything under the sun. Try telling them what they should wear, and you will know," she says.
Sharada disgarees with the view that the pavada is "uncomfortable". "I find the dress very convenient. It's a change from the regular clothes such as jeans, skirts and salwars we wear. But it is definitely not a good idea to wear it on all days of a month."
Mothers, however, would love to see their daughters wear the pavada-blouse frequently. "It gives a certain dignified look to the teenager. I love the dress. But there is no way I can get my daughter to wear it often. Just as the sari has displaced the mundum neriaythum, salwar kurtas have replaced the pavada - blouse," says Lekha Nair, mother of a 20-year-old who hates the pavada-blouse.
Pavada often means the pattu pavada, stitched in shiny Kancheevaram. "I can't think of the pavada in any other material. The gaudiness is part of the fashion statement it makes," says Divya Gopakumar, a Class X student .
But not everyone agrees. "Pavadas in printed georgette or other synthetic fabrics, which made good formal as well as casual wear, were popular a decade ago," says Lakshmi, a housewife.
Some girls dislike the pavada because it is "revealing". "With salwar kurta, I can wear a dupatta. But what do I do with a pavada-blouse set? Even a half sari is revealing," argues Smitha, a degree student at Government Women's College.
"I beg to differ," Divya says. "By the way you wear it, you can make even the most decent dress look revealing. It is a question of taste and choice. Take the case of saree. Different generations have worn it in different styles. Does Urmila Matdonkar wear the saree the way Nutan did?"
Some girls say that the pavada-blouse attracts unwanted attention. "In a sea of college-going girls in salwar kurtas, you are a speck. But in pavada and blouse, you are the cynosure of all eyes. I like the dress, but not the attention of the local Romeos," says R. Shirin of the College of Engineering.
As far as dressing is concerned, Hindi films and TV channels are the textbooks for youngsters. "If the Raveena Tandons, Shilpa Shettys and Rani Mukherjees do not wear the pavada (they may not have even heard of this dress!), will our girls do?" asks Revathy, a housewife. "Even Malayalam films have few heroines clad in pavada."
At some point, the pavada did become the garb of the not-so-modern heroine, the village belle. But even in this case, it was a different version of the pavada -- a cross between the north Indian ghagra/lehenga and our traditional pavada.
"But for song sequences, the pavada will not even figure in the set of costumes for Malayalam films," Revathy says. "What prevents our costume designers from using this outfit creatively? Our actresses, of course, look good in the pavada."
Aishwarya Rai and Sreedevi wore it in `Kandukonden Kandukonden' and `Devaragam' respectively. "And they looked gorgeous," Revathy adds.
Many teenaged anchors on Malayalam TV channels wear the pavada-blouse. Rimi Tomy, anchor and singer, often dons the combo.
Designer Sheela James is realistic when she says, "We cannot expect the pavada to make a comeback. To the modern girl, it is a formal dress."
One aspect that works to the advantage of the pavada is that it can be adapted and improvised to suit the wearer's taste. "This encourages young women to check it out," says James.
"The girls are keen on adding modern elements to the traditional design. That is, they want the half sari to be embroidered or the blouse to be embellished," says Indu Radhakrishnan .
Both the designers acknowledge that the pavada has become a costume, almost a `uniform' for specific occasions.
Going in for salwar kurtas makes sound economic sense. They cost less than the traditional pavada-blouse. With the demand for salwar kurtas going up, the difference in prices is bound to grow.
But for girls like Kanchana of University College, Kariavattom, the pavada would disappear entirely from our campus. "I am so fond of the dress that I never miss an opportunity to wear it. There's something traditional and beautiful about the dress. It seems to carry the spirit of our culture."
Giving Kanchana company are five-year-old Shruti and seven-year-old Nivedita. The kids love pavadayum blousum, kuppi vala (glass bangles) and mulla poovu (jasmine). So, take heart, traditionalists. All is not lost.
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