Banarasi Sarees are fine and comfortable fabrics embroidered exquisitely.Varanasi is famous for brocade sarees and dress material. These sarees have a history of over thousand years and are in great demand all over world.It also finds mention in Kautilya’sArthshastra and in account of many foreign scripts. Heavy embroidery blended with fine gold and silver brocades makes these sarees a thing of wonder and it is also a representation of aristocratic lifestyle because of its high cost.
Banarasi Saree is an Indian woman's coveted possession. For a long time Banarasi Saree has been an important part of the Indian bride wardrobe and rarely fails to flatter a woman, making her feel delicate and feminine. The Banarasi sari speaks volumes of the genius of the traditional weaver.
Sarees are generally woven on handloom or power-loom in nearby villages of Varanasi with the help of weavers of Varanasi. Its heavy embroidery blended with fine gold and silver brocades makes these sarees a distinction.
Origin of Banarasi Sarees
In ancient times Benaras was famous for its cotton sarees but silk weaving was started in 14th century during Mughal Period. Historians claim that it was after Gujarat famine in 1603 when Gujarati silk weavers shifted to Varanasi and silk weaving gained prominence. Colourful silk threads are used along with the golden/silver threads in designs.
Banarasi Sarees in Varanasi : The Long History
Benaras became a weaving hub during Mughal times, when craftsmen migrated here from Persia. It saw rich traditions like kimkhwab(lit¬tle dream) emerge, in which silk can be hardly seen for the zari. The famous Banaras bro¬cade became a synonymous of Euro¬pean- luxury during Colonial Period. Banarasi sarees are given to almost all North Indian brides in their weddings. Designs on the border and pallu are especially elaborate.Brocaderefers to those textiles in which patterns are created by thrusting the pattern thread between the warp. Nowadays, the originality of Benarasi weave is losing feet because of use of exotic materials like plastics.
In reality no connoisseur goes to Banaras to buy a genuine Banarasi over the counter from a retail shop. Nearly all showrooms in the city are a nightmare of red and bling. The real work is done by the gaddidars, the wholesale operators who have emerged from a family tradition of weav¬ing. The gaddidars constitute an experience of generations in their work. They explain the quality of each type of Banarasi saree with miniature differences from other varieties. Silk, organza, net, cotton…, jaamdani, tassar, rangkaadh, shikargah, kadhua… silver work,zari… heavy and light, delicate and ‘fancy’, vibrant and comfortable.. The whole range what Banaras offersmesmerizes one.
Banarasi sarees force you to think upon your idea of luxury. Though these sarees are available in various range, Banarasi-specialist traders in theChowk area have higher-end sarees which they sell, at wholesale prices of Rs.75,000 and in retail these costs more than lakhs. Fine pieces are exported to high income countries.
How one Banarasi saree in made –
Sari weaving is kind of a cottage industry for millions of people around Varanasi. Most of the silk for the Banarasi saris comes from south India, mainly Bangalore. The Sari weavers weave the basic texture of the sari on the power loom. In weaving the warp, the weavers create the base, which runs into 24 to 26 meters. In an ideal Banarasi Sari there are around 5600 thread wires with 45-inch width.
The weaving of Banarasi sari involves teamwork. Ideally three people are engaged in making the Sari. One weaves, the other works at the revolving ring to create bundles. At this point, another important process begins. This is related to designing the motifs. There are several traditional artists in Varanasi who, create wonderful designs for Saris. To create design boards, the artist first sketches on graph paper with color concepts. Selection of the final design follows creation of punch cards.
For one design of Banarasi sari, one requires hundreds of perforated cards to execute the idea. The prepared perforated cards are knitted with different threads and colors on the loom and then they are paddled in a systematic manner so that the main weaving picks up the right colors and pattern. The normal Banarasi Sari takes around 15 days to one month and sometimes more time to finish. However, this is not a hard and fast rule as all depends on the complexity of designs and patterns to be produced on the sari.
Type of Banarasi Sarees - Banarasi sarees are especially of four types
- Pure silk or Katan
- Organza or kora
Designs on sarees have several techniques which are-
- Tanchoi- Technique said to have originated in China, uses satin base and an extra weft to create the pattern.
- Jangla- A design in which widely scrolling and spreading vegetation motifs are used.
- Bafta- It is a pure silk brocade with a touch of gold.
- Amru-Finely woven brocade of variegated silk.
- Other important varieties are-Tissue, Butidar, Vaskat, Cutwork.
A reality behind Banarasi luxury in modern times–
The colorful and intricate Banarasi sarees are mostly worn during weddings, functions and auspicious occasions. Light and comfortable modern sarees are finding great demand. Inspite of its glamour the weavers who are real persons behind its delicacy are the sufferers. They are the least paid in lack of regulations of payments and forced to suffer long working hours, stress of working on handlooms and harm of synthetic dyes. In 2009 weavers associations secured GI tag. Uttar Pradesh Handloom Fabrics Marketing Cooperative Federation, Varanasi Vastra Udyog Sangha, Banaras HasthKargha Samiti are working for the welfare of weavers yet the problem needs to be addressed in field of market reforms and weavers welfare.
Few Selling Centers of Banarasi sarees -
- Mehta International Silk-Weaving Centre S 20/51, 3B, Varuna Bridge, Cantt Varanasi
- Silk Khajana, Chukaghat, Varanasi
- Muslin Silk house, Lallapura, Varanasi
- Breslar Silk House, MaqboolAalamRaod,Varanasi
- Taj Estate, RS Gauriganj, Bhelupura, Varanasi
Besides these, there are several emerging markets in Sonarpura and Godaulia and Silk and handloom centers operated by government.
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Generally Banarasi sarees are weaved in bulk by weavers of neighboring villages and given on embroidary centers located at Sarai Mohana, Sonarpura, Godaulia, Lallapura, Danyalpur, Saraiya, Bagwanala, Lohta, Bazardiha and Badi Bazar. Besides Varanasi, this sari is also produced in six districts of Uttar Pradesh that is Azamgarh, Mirzapur, Bhadohi(SantRavidas Nagar), Chandauli and Jaunpur.
Fraud in Banarasi Saree or can say Fake Banarasi Saree-
The promise of GI protection haven’t been able to check duplication of cheap Banarasi. Machine-based cheap product imitations are increasingly sold. Cheap raw materials like plastic threads in the name of Banarasisarees are abundant in market. Threads of Banana tree resin which are polished to give the look of a silver or gold thread are used widely.
Chinese imitation sarees, cheaper in price and quality both are in plenty in market. As commercialisation is going on, fake and cheap materials with fake GI tags are becoming a trend of market to meet the increasing domestic demand when best of quality product is sold in posh foreign markets. The only way to buy an original Banarasi is to buy from government owned and established shops from several years.