Banarasi Saree

In the world of fashion, ‘Banarasi Saree’ remains the Indian ‘Sun’ and has been a subject of great inspiration and appreciation for world-wide costume connoisseurs. These proposed episodes would try to fathom its historical continuance, record its traditions which goes from generation to generation and unveil the intricacies which goes towards making this Banarasi Saree an art and aesthetics. In short it would enter the subject from the raw materials and show the process to the final product and packaging.

It was in the Mughal era that Baranasi saree came into popularity and got fashion currency. Today these sarees are being exported world-wide. Around 125 km of Varanasi this art of making Banarai saree survives since olden days. It was during the mughal times when all arts be it persian, rajasthani or other indian schools got amalgamated to create a fusion of aesthetics. Same goes for costume as well. The persian motifs and Indian designs on silk texture studded with gold and silver remained the cue of Mughal patronage. Elaborate pure gold and silver designs are today rare still the zari has rightfully taken its position as an apt replacement.

Today there are mainly four varieties of Banarasi saree available. Those are Pure Silk (Katan); Shattir, Organza which is fine kora with zari and silk works and finally the Georgette . If you go to varanasi you would find some 10,000 shops selling Banarai Saree which is more a cottage industry for several million people around Varanasi which includes Gorakpur and Azamgarh as well. Around 60 percent of artisans are Muslim for whom weaving this art is their tradition. Ramzan Ali,an old traditional weaver said ‘After the partition of India people tried to take up this art ‘Banarasi Saree’ in distant land but could not produce an equivocal quality….there is something in this earth which makes the creation of Varanasi Saree possible’.

During mughal era the raw material i.e. silk used to come from China and today those are replaced with Bangalore silks where sericulture is an unique industry. The fineness of silk is gauged Daeonir and quality varies from 16-18 Daning to 20-22 Daning. Still today silk from Chinese powerloom is in great demand which comes via Nepal. Resham cotton and zari also come from Surat which remains the cotton belt for over several centuries.

The process of making Banarasi saree with the colourful dying of the Silk. Those silks are then sold by weight. And powerloom people take them to weave the basic texture of the saree. In the weaving warp they create the base which runs into 24 to 26 mts. And there are around 56 00 thread wires with 45 inch width. Two person tie a rope in their waist to hold the form and other is grounded. In an elaborate process every inch, which contains 120 silk wires, is created. Its art to be seen only.

At the weaving loom three people work one weaves,one dye and other work at the Revolving to create lacchis. At this juncture another important process is initiated. This is designing the motifs. There are several traditional artistis available in Varanasi who might not be educated but can create wonder designs for Saree.

To create ‘Naksha Patta’ the artist first draw on the graph paper with colour concepts. Now those designs are of varying kind .But most universal kinds are Caixg(Kalka), Buti and flower and foliage. There scene of village, fairs ,cloud ,dancing-monkey design. And even one can see temple and mosque design. However, it was matter of experience that in one Bride saree there were designs of ‘Grave-yard’ as well. This became the functional aspect of art which is not far off from the people life cycle. In modern days one can see geometrical designs have come in, but it lacks appreciation. As traditional folk design remains the base appeal for Banarasi Saree.

Once design is selected then small punch cards are created those are guides for particular which colour thread has to pass through which card at what stage. One Haquim Ali says for one small design one requires to create hundreds of perforated cards to implement the concept. Once those perforated cards are prepared those are knitted with different threads and colours on the loom and according to design those are paddled in a systematic manner that the main weaving picks up right colour and pattern to create the design and weave as well.

In yesteryears Banarasi Sarees used used to have designs with original gold and silver thread and one manufacturer used to take even an year to create one saree. Yet, those saress could fetch several lakhs for the weaver. However it all depended on the intricacy of designs and pattern A normal saree takes around 15 days to 1 month and the time limit stretches even unto 6 months.

Once the saree is created those come to Gol Garj and Kunj Gali where Banarasi sarees are sold in wholesale rates. There several hundred shops where every morning people from different villages come to deliver ‘created’ sarees to the market. There are some 10 shops whose turn over they say even cross 80 crores in toto.

Thus we see for creation of Banarasi Saree one requires different experts right from the gauging the quality of Resham until marketing. All these goes towards creation of the unique saree which is envied by saree weavers from all over. Its no simple weaving rather those are functional art of India which is going on for centuries within a great fabric of Indian traditional weavers.

– Dr Gautam Chatterjee