The difference between the Indian Saree and Kandyan Osari




In an era of globalisation, our generation looks to commercial, “western” view of fashion.  Traditional outfits are seen as obscure and meant for the past. Sometimes local clothing is synonymous for “tacky” clothing.


However it does not have to be.  Different cultures have different types of clothing that should be celebrated and admired not merely shoved into the pages of yesteryear. One thing I have realised after living in Sri Lanka is that many people believe that the saree is synonymous with the Indian style of draping the saree. That’s just sad considering that Sri Lanka has its very own way of draping the  saree… the osaree!


Do you know the difference between an osaree and the Indian saree? More importantly do you care?


The osaree / osari also known as the Kandyan Saree originated in Sri Lanka. Many people think that only Kandyan’s can wear this osari. Even worse many Sri Lankan think that this saree is not as fashionable as the Indian saree. My father always used to say “There are over one million people to wear the Indian Saree… how many Sri Lankans are there to wear the osari?” I’m not trying to promote a nationalist agenda but I do think that as Sri Lankans we should take more pride in the Kandyan saree.



At the very least we should know the difference between the Kandyan saree and the Indian saree. By the end of this blog… you will know the difference!

I will break it down for you in one sentence. There are two main differences between the osari and the Indian saree ; the “neriya” and the “pota”. You will have to keep reading to know what these two words mean. For the purposes of clarity I will refer to the osari as the” Kandyan osari and the saree as the Indian saree.


“The Neriya”

The neriya is found of the Kandyan osari and not on the Indian saree. It is best described as a short piece of cloth which wraps around your midriff. It is meant to be pleated although there is no set pleats. Some Kandyan osarees are “made up” meaning the neriya is separately made and pre-pleated. But in the original Kandyan saree the neriya is not a separate piece but part of the 6-7 metres of the unstitched saree material.

IMG-20160226-WA0005When specifically looking at the “made up osaree” there is a cord inside the top of the neriya similar to curtain cord  you can pull to adjust the pleats when you are tightening the saree. You tie the cord like a belt below your midrift and tuck it into your saree in order to hold the neriya in place like a jacket belt.     I usually wear these types of Kandyan osarees because it is much easier.

However traditionally you have to fold  your own pleats which is not only tedious but must be done accurately (otherwise the osari is going to look unneat) I have tried to find out exactly why the neriya was included but haven’t found a set anwer. The best and most practical reason I could find was that the neriya rest below the naval region in order to hide pot bellies and make that region look more pleasant.

“Saree Pota” (also known as Pallu)

IMG_2462                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Both Kandyan and Indian saree the saree wraps around the waist at least twice. However the pota or pallu is very different in the way it is draped. In Indian saree the stomach is covered largely by the saree and the pallu is often draped across one’s entire arm. It can be worn in different ways e.g the Gujarati style. However, here I am strictly talking about the nivi drape . In the Indian saree the pallu is a seamless extension from the rest of the saree

However in the osari the “pota” part of the saree  starts from below the neriya (meaning the beginning is covered by the neriya which goes on top. It also covers the midriff partially however this section of the saree is pleated with upto 3-4 pleats (although now the style is to have one or two small pleats as demonstrated below).


The next part of the saree is pinned up to one shoulder with a pin or broach. The rest of the pleated pota is placed behind one shoulder. This is done by pinning the saree pota to one shoulder with a pin or broach. Therefore the pota in the osaree does not cover the whole or any of the arm like the Indian saree but safely falls behind your arm.


Personally I enjoy the Kandyan saree more. Not only does it represent my heritage but the osari allows your arms to be much more free. Furthermore the pleats make the saree look more neater . I also like the fact that entire midriff is not exposed with Kandyan but instead the neriya makes that area look dainty. What do you guys think?




7 Comments Add yours

  1. Medhavi says:

    Really enjoyed your post about the osariya. Im someone who adore osari. I think we all srilankan women should do! Its nice to see even indian women try to drape it nowadays. I personally think there’s nothing more elegant than the kqndyan saree for srilankan women!


    1. theliyareina says:

      Thank you so much. Could not have put it better myself


  2. Lis says:

    I am going to a wedding in Colombo next February, 2019. Will it be easy to buy a ready made 4 piece Osaria while there? We will be traveling to Kandy before the wedding.


    1. theliyareina says:

      You can buy a batik one ready made but it does take a bit of time to make the saree jacket


  3. Sammy says:

    In India they don’t use the term “Indian Saree” but just “saree”. In India itself there are various ways of wearing the saree. The Osari is just another way of wearing the saree. The original version of the osari is similar to the style worn in Kerala & is supposedly originated from there. Of course today the osari is a modernized version of the original one.


    1. theliyareina says:

      Hi Sammy, thank you for your comment. I used the term Indian Saree because I am from Kandy and colloquially saree would mean osari so I called it Indian Saree. I don’t think any of the Saree styles can be called just “saree” which implies an original style. Yes, true not one style can be called an “Indian Saree” but as this is the most popular/ well known style worn it is what I used. I would disagree that the osari is derivative from kerala as there is plenty of evidence of the Kandyan saree being worn prior to colonialization and “influence ” from India on our clothing and the osari is not a modernized version of any indian saree … but thank you for your interest in my blog post! I appreciate your comment.


  4. satish says:

    both are gorgeous…most importantly our ladies must b proud of our heritage and wear our sari with pride…its d costume that we south asians gave to south east asia, with time the saris there have gotten their own identities….proudly brown🤗


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