Sometime ago, a columnist stirred up a hornet's nest by writing that our ladies have abandoned saris that have been the nation's grace "over millennia". I say that is ridiculous: saris in the modern sense simply did not exist more than two centuries ago. In fact, "for millennia", Indian women went about bare from the waist upwards. The evidence is in thousands of our heritage sculptures and paintings. From the earliest times to the 12 th century, women wore no garments to cover their breasts. Whether villagers or queens, housewives, townswomen or milkmaids, all women are always shown with a bare upper body. At Ajanta caves, there are pilgrims, ladies in waiting, dancing women, nurses tending the sick, idle townswomen looking out of their windows, all wearing no upper garment. Would painters and sculptors of those times lie for over 2,000 years? Depicting women as they were not? There is a fine sculpture of King Mahendravarman (6th century) with his two queens bare from waist upwards. Would the royal sculptor dare depict them that way if they did have upper garments? A 13th century Chola bronze image is of a queen with a finely worked lower garment and jewels, but she is wearing nothing waist up. Would the artists be allowed to get away with untrue depiction? The sculptural extravaganza of the Hoysala dynasty at Belur and Halebid is replete with friezes of bare-breasted women. At Sravana- belgola, Bahubali stands tall (57 ft) since 1028. A legend of those times is of an old woman called Gullekayi Ajji, who poured from a 'baingan' (brinjal) vast quantities of milk to bathe the monolith. Her statue there, worshipped to this day, is bare waist up. Closer to our times, Tipu Sultan's hunting lodge at Sriranga-patna has wall paintings (1799), with none of the hundreds of ladies in saris. What they wear is a stole, tucked into the waistband or hung freely in front, sometimes covering the breasts sometimes not. But ah, you ask, what about the sari of Draupadi, in the 'Mahabharata'? Charles Fabri, writing in a magazine in 1955, observed that sari then was a small piece of cloth, wrapped around the waist only and there was no upper garment. He observes that today's sari came into existence around 1780, just 200 years ago. Watch a period movie closely next time. If the story is more than 200 years old, the lady artistes wear saris only in order to get past the censors.