Tuesday 25 April 2023

UK-based Khandua Saree-clad Marathon-runner Odia Lady

Yes, one can run the full distance of the Marathon wearing a Saree!

A UK-based marathon-enthusiast woman, Ms Madhusmita Jena Das, proved this when she ran the Manchester Marathon dressed in a traditional Khandua Saree last Sunday i.e. on 16th April 2023.

This week, we first got to see this smiling Person of Indian Origin (PIO) Odia lady participating in a Marathon and conquering hearts.

Madhusmita Jena Das’s marathon participation images and videos are now viral.

Who is Madhumita Jena Das and why is she in the news?

Madhusmita Jena Das is a 43-years old school teacher, born and brought-up in the UK. She is presently based at Stockport, UK. She has completed 38 marathons.

She captured everyone’s attention being dressed in a beautiful traditional Khandua silk Saree while participating in her latest marathon- the Manchester Marathon last week.

Indeed a "good blend of heritage and sports" as tweeted by her friend and Twitter user, Rasmi K Nanda, who first shared her images that are now viral.

Most of us are elated and are lauding her achievement of completing the entire marathon of 42.195 kms dressed in a saree and upholding and promoting our Indian culture.

Yes, she completed the entire Marathon of 42.195 kilometres dressed in her saree!

“The marathon is a long-distance foot race with a distance of 42.195 km (26 mi 385 yd), usually run as a road race”

And in ALL the viral images and videos, she is seen smiling.

Despite wearing a saree and running the entire distance, she has clocked impressive statistics-

She covered the distance in 4 hours 50 minutes and 27 seconds, earning an overall position of 14585 out of 18577 participants.

Source: Twitter- @rknanda- https://twitter.com/rknanda/status/1647893107248119810

Reminds me of the famous scene and dialogue of Sholay Hindi movie- adapting it to present situation:

Gabbar Singh: Kitney aadmi they marathon mein? (How many participants were there in the marathon?)

Follower: 18577, Sardar! 

Gabbar Singh: Kitno ne saree pahna tha? (How many had worn saree?) 

Follower: EK, Sardar! (One, Sardar!)

Yes, Ms Madhusmita Jena Das happened to be the ONLY ONE out of 18577 to have worn a saree for that marathon.

Source: Twitter- @rknanda- https://twitter.com/rknanda/status/1647893107248119810

Her Saree's Name

The name of her saree has been shared by most as “Sambalpuri”, a type of "Ikat" and Geographical Indication (GI) handloom of Odisha, India.

However, Madhusmita Jena Das’s saree is not a Sambalpuri Saree.

Rather, it is a Khandua Saree, another type of "Ikat" and GI handloom of Odisha, India.

(More about the Saree at the end of this post)

What inspired her to start running 

"I started running after the birth of my first son. I felt I had to go out of the home and have some time for myself. Then, I started participating in marathons."  

What prompted her to wear a Saree for the Marathon

Ms Jena Das had run 37 marathons dressed in different track suits and had even worn shorts. 

But, she chose one of her favourite sarees for her 38th marathon. 

“Many believe women cannot run wearing sarees, but I proved them wrong by completing the marathon draped in a Khandua silk saree.”

The saree actually belongs to her mother, who used to wear it after her marriage forty-five years ago.

"I specifically like the saree's colour and its traditional look. I had last worn the same saree three years ago, just before Covid, while attending an event at the Odia society of UK in which I had choreographed a semi-Odissi dance."

Madhusmita considered to wear the saree for marathon for three reasons-

"1. I thought it would be a nice challenge. 2. I could showcase Indian culture. 3. I wanted to prove that one can run and complete the marathon in any attire they chose."

Earlier, when she was in Cairo, Egypt, she had spoken with her friends there, who had been inspired by her, and had expressed their willingness to run. They had mentioned their inability to run by wearing Hijab or other dresses and with restrictions. Madhusmita had encouraged them that they should go for what they wish to do. 

"In England, it is cold. I wear sarees occasionally for events. On the morning of the marathon, I thought let me wear the saree and enjoy. I would get nice photos! It was a nice feeling while running. Some tapped on my shoulder and said it was 'cute'. Co-participants greatly encouraged me."  

Is Madhusmita Jena Das the first saree runner?

Others have run before by wearing saree viz- 

Usha Soman, Milind Soman's 75 years old mother, in 2017- https://twitter.com/KunalBauvaa/status/924218569205751808?s=20

SareeRunnerGirls @SareeRunners- https://twitter.com/SareeRunners/status/1576826914383466496?s=20 ,

Saree Run for breast cancer awareness in Bangalore in 2018- https://twitter.com/brexahealth/status/962997282282049538?s=20

Jayanagar Jaguars @jjsrunning Saree Run in Bangalore starting 2014 onwards- https://twitter.com/jjsrunning/status/1009267028832604160

Titan Taneira and Pinkathon Saree Run- https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/pictures-why-over-hundred-bengaluru-women-ran-marathon-sarees-76356

and some more.

But, there is no doubt that Ms Madhusmita Jena Das has captured hearts and attention by her simplicity, style and smile.

Some lessons from Ms Jena Das's remarkable feat:

  • Marathon can be completed in a saree.
  • Full marathon can also be completed by also sporting a dazzling smile all the while!
  • Traditional weave earns much love.
  • Like diamonds, sarees are forever and a girl's best friend.
  • Wherever we stay, we can showcase our culture with pride and delight.
  • Hearty thought and gesture touches hearts and earns genuine acclaim.
  • Love knows no language and borders.
  • Just do what you want to do making the most of what you have.
  • Just Keep Running and inspiring (Like Finding Nemo's "Just Keep Swimming")
  • Misinformation, misreporting, and misrepresentation exists.
  • Many are unaware about the names of handlooms and our heritage.

Many, including Madhusmita Jena Das, had not heard of Khandua or GI Tag before.

Most of us are unaware of our local products and rich heritage and culture. There are so many products in our state & country! We will get to know and learn, when knowledge is shared and we are informed and made aware. 

Correct information & representation is a must. But, it is very challenging- just like competing and completing a marathon is very challenging. 

7-     Thanks to Madhusmita Das Jena, now more people know the names of our sarees, and may they be inspired by her.

Appreciate that this cool teacher is now educating all about the correct saree name via her recent interviews.

All must buy, wear, use and gift our local products like handlooms, and share and promote.

More Info about Saree-

Both Sambalpuri and Khandua are types of "Odisha Ikat" i.e. tie-and-dye handloom called "Bandha Kala" in Odia. 

Both “Sambalpuri Bandha Saree & Fabrics” and “Khandua Saree & Fabrics” have the Geographical Indication (GI) Tag and they are GIs of Odisha, India.

You can read more here-

Sambalpuri Bandha GI- http://www.anitaexplorer.com/2020/04/sambalpuri-bandha-saree-and-fabrics.html

Khandua GI- http://www.anitaexplorer.com/2020/04/jagannath-jayadeva-and-khandua-sarees.html

Both Khandua and Sambalpuri Bandha are amongst the nine handlooms of Odisha that have earned the GI tag.

Odisha GI Sarees and Fabrics- http://www.anitaexplorer.com/2020/04/fabrics-and-sarees-of-odisha-with.html

Many people wrongly believe that all Odisha Sarees are called Sambalpuri.

However, ALL Odisha Sarees are NOT Sambalpuri. There are many varieties.

More info in this Twitter thread- 


More about this topic in this post- Khandua or Sambalpuri? Sab Chalta Hai?

April 26th is observed as- World Intellectual Property Day i.e. World IP Day. 

Geographical Indication- GI is a type of IP.

Requesting all who published incorrect news about Sambalpuri to update with correct info- Khandua.

Had you seen Ms Madhusmita Jena Das's images and news before? What did you feel? 

Please share in the comments below.


  1. Sambalpuri has shot to fame..... and so is the person whoo wore it.

    1. Sambalpuri sure is famous and has earned more fame, and @OdiaRunner has captured hearts.
      However, the saree that Ms Jena Das wore is- Khandua Saree and not Sambalpuri.
      Khandua Saree too is now being mentioned and many are aware now.


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