Indian Clothing – Langa Voni (Pattu Pavadai Daavani inTamil)
A Langa Voni is a traditional dress worn mainly in South India by young girls between puberty and marriage. It is also known as the two-piece saree or half saree. Young girls between puberty and marriage wear this dress. Girls younger than this may wear it on special occasions.
It comprises a Langa or Paavadai, a skirt which is tied around the waist using string, and a Voni, Oni, or Davani, which is a cloth usually 2 to 2.5 metres in length. The voni is draped diagonally over a choli (a tight fitting blouse, same as worn for saree). Usually, the garment is woven with cotton or silk. A variant of this is the Gagra choli of North India (the difference between the two being the direction of draping the voni or dupatta).
The half saree facilitates the transition from the childhood paavadai (skirt) sattai (blouse) to the saree, the more complicated drape worn by adult women. Usually the paavadai and oni are brightly colored and contrasting to each other. At a glance, the half saree outfit can look similar to southern styles of saree because the drape travels in the same direction: tucked into the front of the skirt, then wrapped around the waist, and then draped over the opposite shoulder. However, the voni is shorter, and the wearer is not required to manually pleat the cloth, as is done when draping the saree. In addition, the voni is less restrictive, allowing the wearer to move her legs freely.
The influence of western culture and the perception of the dress as inconvenient has led to the decline of the half saree as daily wear, in favor of the Shalwar kameez or western clothes.
In recent years, however, the langa oni is gaining popularity among girls and young women as occasional wear due to attention in media and fashion. Once very simple, they can now be seen with extravagant embroidery, mirror or zari work, and bold colors like black and grey which were once considered inauspicious. There is also a greater diversity of fabrics being used in addition to the usual silk or cotton, including chiffon, georgette, crepe and nylon. Full sarees are sometimes woven so that the fabric, when worn, changes color or pattern at the hip, in order to give the visual effect of a langa voni.
Significance in Coming of age ceremony
In South India Coming of age ceremony or rites of passage is celebrated when a girl reaches puberty. She wears a Langa Voni given by her maternal grandparents, which is worn during the first part of the ceremony and then she is given her first Sari by her paternal grandparents, which she wears during the second half of the ceremony. This marks her transition into womanhood.
The tradition of presenting Langa Vonis from the maternal grandparents in some communities begins with the girl’s first naming ceremony Namakaran and her first rice feeding ceremony called Annaprashana. She receives her last one at her coming of age ceremony.