When we see someone in flowing robes, a wild head-dress or wearing some kind of religious regalia, there is a sense that we are seeing someone who is different to us. Their lives are distinguished by their dedication to spiritual practice. Their dress also symbolizes a degree of social non-conformity. Perhaps there are higher rules that they abide by. Are there? Do they have greater ideals? Their robes/ headdress/ regalia may also tell us something about their history. Asian, Chinese, cultish, Indian, monk-like, Christian, Middle-Eastern. Dress, while the most superficial of coverings, indicates many things. It tells a story about the wearer.
White clothes in India have always been a sign of simplicity and purity. They are typically worn during times of fasting and mourning: Widows traditionally wear white saris. Simple, white khadi (cotton) was promoted by Gandhi as the true fabric of India that formed part of the greater social fabric of the Subcontinent. For a woman to wear a white sari symbolizes her respect for tradition, is an act of modesty and grace, and is a sign of her being a "good Indian woman". The feminine form holds great meaning in India. Shakti, the ultimate divine feminine power. The goddesses: Lakshmi, Durga, Santosh, Kali. The responsibility of upholding the sanctity of India, traditionally and historically rests largely with the feminine. And so in society, is held by the woman.
In the Brahma Kumaris, wearing a white sari is a symbol of purity, aligns the wearer with the loves and respected first generation, and with the greater history of virtue and tradition in old India. It is hallmark of being a teacher. After being a practicing Brahma Kumaris for over 15 years, I practiced wearing a sari more frequently in India. As an indication of respect more than anything else. I had to get up ten minutes earlier to wrap myself in 6 meters of cloth, count my pleats, check the length of my tail/ wing, pin through the starched cotton forcefully enough to penetrate multiple layers of starched cotton and gently enough to not stab myself. It was quite a bothersome task. Every morning I would ask myself why I was doing it. But every morning I did it anyway. After a few days of consistent wearing, an Indian brother with a super pleased smile on his face came up to me and said "Oh sister, it is so good! Now you have become FULL Brahma Kumari!"
In the BK teachings, there is no indication that one should wear any kind of clothing in particular. In today's teachings, it was written:
"Children, by all means, stay at home with your family. Who says that you have to change clothes etc? Wear whatever you want! You have to come into connection with many. There are no objections to your wearing coloured clothes. You can wear whatever clothes you want; that has nothing to do with it. The Father says: Renounce the consciousness of the body and all bodily relations. You can wear whatever you want. Simply consider yourself to be a soul and remember the Father."
Nevertheless, wearing a white sari is still a meaningful practice for many. And so the tradition continues.