Saree Run comes to Doylestown: 'It liberates me to do anything that my mind chooses'

Aparna Nair has a closet brimming with sarees — fabrics weaved from silk, cotton, chiffon, crepe, georgette and linen — a bright collection of colors spanning an entire rainbow. On Sunday, she’ll drape herself in one of these elegant fabrics, lace up her sneakers and head out for a run with more than a hundred others who have signed up for the Saree Run.

The event, organized by Desis of Doylestown and Arva Yoga, will be the first of its kind in Doylestown Township. It takes place Sunday at Central Park from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

“I have not run in a saree before,” said Nair, one of the event organizers and Desis of Doylestown board member. “I think if I can do it, anyone can.”

Desis of Doylestown members wear their sarees. Pictured from left to right: Radhika Ramamurthi, board president Silvi Haldipur, Santosh Yadav, Darshana Patel, Paree Pasi, Sheela Rai and Aparna Nair.

Nair said the event aims to build awareness and appreciation around cultural differences, while breaking stereotypes associated with sarees.

“It’s about getting the community connected to their whole authentic self, while fostering a sense of belonging, and celebrating our differences and commonalities together. And it’s also about creating awareness of our culture and what it is,” she said.

Nair, who came to the U.S. from India in 1998, hopes to see sarees worn more often in everyday life, from school and work to grocery shopping and sports.

“For people like us who are here, would wearing a saree to work be considered normal? How do we normalize what we wear and also say what we wear doesn’t define us?”

According to Nair, the idea to put on a saree run, originated from Vaibhavi Haridas, another Desis board member and owner of Arva Yoga.

Inspired by her grandmother, Haridas, wanted to put on an event that invoked the saree as a symbol to honor strong women throughout history, while raising funds to help organizations with missions to further the education of young women and girls.

“There was a lot of hardship in her life. And although all her grandkids are well educated, it was surprising to learn that one of her regrets was that she was married off too soon and as such, was not able to complete her high school education,” said Haridas.

“Could we use the same "power of a saree"— a very traditional desi women's garment to raise funds so that one more girl does not say "I wish I had the means to complete my education," she added.

Proceeds from the run will go to three organizations:

  • Go Laadli: an Ohio-based nonprofit which empowers young women to become problem solvers, leaders and change makers by investing in their education, providing leadership opportunities and by catalyzing change in social attitudes.

  • Shiksha Nidhi Merit Scholarship: offered by Shiksha Nidhi Education for Girls, a nonprofit based in Jamison, Pennsylvania. The scholarship goes towards underprivileged girls in Uttar Pradesh, India, who aspire to change their futures and become powerful leaders of tomorrow.

  • Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project: a nonprofit based in Baliganapalli, India, working to break the cycle of poverty in India. Sponsorship gifts help to cover children’s education, room and board and health/medical care for one year.

Haridas says the Saree Run is an opportunity to celebrate women and diversity by helping to bring awareness to the community about Desi women and the traditions they embrace.

“This event would help educate the community about a garment that is worn by all Desi women. There is so much diversity in the many ways to drape the same rectangular 6 feet long fabric,” said Haridas. “Saree represents the essence of womanhood. Saree drapes showcase diversity. Saree reminds me of my Desi cultural identity. Saree does not limit, but on the other hand, it liberates me to do anything that my mind chooses.”

The Saree Run is open to all ages, genders, races, identities and abilities. Participants are welcome to walk, run, or join us with strollers and wheelchairs. Register for free online:

This article originally appeared on Bucks County Courier Times: Saree Run in Doylestown will celebrate women and Desi culture