Know your Banarasi Saree – A brief introduction


Intelligentsia world over still debating the time period when a small hamlet slowly started to grow up alongside a gigantic and formidable river Ganga in the northern India, which acquired the name mentioned in ancient Hindu scriptures and became world famous as Kashi – The City of Light while Ganga acquired the status of the liquefied Divine Mother. At later period, Kashi was named and renamed various times by various victors & rulers as Benares/ Banaras. The world today knows it as Varanasi which is, now, an important tourist destination for its abundant monuments reminding its glorious heritage in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India.

At a time when rest of the world started learning to crawl as civilised society, Varanasi was already famous as the centre of excellence. Thus the city became a confluence of Academicians, Spiritualists, Artists’, Artisans from different part of the globe giving Varanasi an exclusive character and flavour.

Not surprisingly so, the city influenced human lives in more ways than one. It provided food for thought, for Seekers of Truth as well to those indulged in commercial activities. Varanasi become a hub to refine the primitive form of religion, at the same time, became renowned centre of exclusive and most intricate weaving of textiles since millennium apart from various types of handcrafted materials, from Cooking Vessels to polishing of raw Diamonds. Weaving variety of Sarees become the synonymous with Varanasi. It all started using Cotton as the raw material, subsequently added Silk as the main raw material. Overpowering Spirituality played its own part and influenced the weavers to design elaborately their understanding of supreme creator to enhance the beauty and richness of the textile. Weavers succeeded in present the intricate and difficult path to know theSupreme Creator in the textile designs as the city grows in its lanes and bye-lanes. Incidentally, the weaving technique of Varanasi Silk still avoids usage of any automated mechanical support to extend the warmth of their love and affection to the user. One can easily see for him/herself the affection & love oozing while they weave, during walk through the lanes inhabited by the artisans.

The Textile woven in various traditional and intricate patterns are predominantly female centric and are popularly called Banarasi. Yet, still being Banarasi with same base material, they are different from each other in weaving, design, motifs & colour combinations. BanarasiTextiles have, differently, been categorised on the basis of Yarn it used, the design has been created.

The Banarasi Sarees are finely and compactly woven using, pre-dyed in various combination colours, pure Silk Yarns and adorned with exclusive designs & motifs using Zari – a specific cotton thread twined with fine copper wire electroplated with gold of silver. Extensive use of Zari is the main characteristic of Banarasi Textiles. Often use of the quality of zari increases the weight and cost of the Saree as come connoisseurs prefer zari made from real gold or silver.

Since Twentieth Century, the Zari has partially been replaced by Silk Yarn, even more eco-friendly materials like Jute, to create the designs & motifs to make the sarees regular wear, less expensive, light weight and easy to maintain. Present day users’ demand has made weavers & designers much more flexible without compromising with the tradition. The Motifs and Designs used in Banarasi Textiles are of Indo-Persian origin as the Master Designers were brought from Persia (today’s Iran) by Mugal Rulers. Mugal inspired designs provide extra-ordinary visual effects throughout the Saree. Another typical visual extravaganza on every Banarasi Saree is its ‘Pallu’ & Border exclusively embroidered with intricate designs. One such intricately woven with elaborately designed Saree takes about 3 to 6 months to complete.

These luxurious Banarasi Sarees travel from the weaver’s loom to add unmatched beauty in the trousseau of actual users via Whole Sale Saree Shops and Retailers. There are few who get sarees made on their own design, material & colour combinations and have their own Saree Shops at prominent saree markets in Varanasi. Jagadish Das & Company (JDS) is one among largest saree manufacturers and well-known saree sellers. JDS had pioneering contribution to Banarasi Textiles. Valkalam is a gift from Mr. Jagadish Shah – the owner of JDS, to Banaras Textiles.

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