Benaras or Varanasi has the pride of being the one of the most famous Handloom centers in the entire world. In fact it is among the few centers in the world that has painstakingly preserved the ancient tradition of hand weaving. In fact, in spite of persistent assault by technology, globalization and market forces Benaras stuck to handloom and didn’t switch to Power loom as some other famous centers such as Malegaon, Bhiwandi and Murshidabad did. The main products in Varanasi are Zari and brocades.
Brocades are actually textiles woven with warp & weft threads of different colors and often of different materials. The brocades are woven in silk with profuse use of metal threads in ‘Pallars’ (end pieces) and the field of the Sarees. These Sarees have been named Banarasi Sarees and are the most popular and beautiful Saree in India.
Banarasi Saree holds a unique status in the world of fashion. It is an Indian woman’s coveted possession. An Indian woman, clad in a Banarasi silk saree, complete with her solah sringar (16 makeup items), is the dream girl of every Indian man. There is hardly any woman in India whose wardrobe does not include Banarsi sarees. Benarasi Sari offers such grace to a woman that can hardly be matched by any other dress.
HISTORY OF BANARASI SAREE
The tradition of making Varanasi or Banarasi sarees in Varanasi or Banaras is very ancient. But it has continued to be passed down from one generation to another and continues to flourish. One will find thousands of weavers making the Varanasi silk saree in this scared city even today.
Several first-millennium Buddhist texts mention Benaras fabrics, giving the indication that Benaras has been the center of fine textile weaving for at least two millennia. During the past few centuries, the weavers of Benaras have been overwhelmingly Muslims belonging to the Julaha community. Some of the weavers have been able to trace their lineage back to 990 AD. The Mughal era was the time when the fame and recognition of Banarsi silk sarees of India reached its pinnacle. Even the motifs underwent a change and the saree saw new designs, resulting from the combination of Indian and Persian patterns. Today, Indian craftsman are exporting Banarsi sarees, the specialty of Benaras/Varanasi, to the remotest corners of the world. Numerous weavers, in and around the city of Benaras, are engaged in this ever-expanding industry. The silk used in the making of Indian Benarasi silk sarees is being sourced from the southern parts of the country, mainly Bangalore.
TYPES OF BANARASI SAREE
Zari and barcode are main products
There are following four basic varieties of Banarasi silk saree:
- Pure Silk Saree (Katan)
- Organza Saree (Kora), with Zari And Silk
- Georgette Saree
- Shattir Saree
Brocade refer to those textiles where in patterns are created in weaving by transfixing or thrusting the pattern-thread between the warp. In regular weaving the weft thread passes over and under the warp thread regularly. But when brocade designs in gold, silver silk or cotton threads are to be woven, special threads are transfixed in between by skipping the passage of the regular weft over a certain number of warp threads (depending upon the pattern) and by regularising the skipping by means of pre-arranged heddles for each type of patterning. There may be several sets of heddles so arranged that on different occasions, they raise and depress irregular number of threads in turn, as required by the exigencies of the pattern.
The Banarasi Brocade based on the design and patterning and the type of material used can be divided into following:
- Opaque zari brocade
- Amni brocades
- Tanchoi brocades
- Banaras brocades
- Zari brocades
- Kincab brocades
Kincab Banarasi saris can be recognized as heavy gilt brocades. They make use of at most 50% or less zari in fabric surface. As a result more zari is visible than the silk these type of saris were quite famous in the 18tgh and 19th centuries especially amongst the royal members of the societies. The designs were also called as bafta or bafthana at that time. Kincab Banarasi saris have evolved over the years with changing fashion trends 1950s- Light weight opaque silks with heavy zari borders Early 1990s- More dense, heavy silks with thin bordersOpaque Banarasi saris come with different variations which is easily identifiable through the difference in supplementary weft zari used.
Tanchoi Brocade saris found their basis in China. They border on the lines of ‘figured silk’. This type of sari features a complex weave just like the lampas. You will find heavier, dense patterns in Tanchoi saris with absence of floats or reverse.
Amni Brocade Banarasi saris are counted amongst one of the most traditional Indian saris. These saris make use of silk and not zari in their supplementary weft patterns. Normally, one can revel in the beauty of theses saris available in both thick designs (untwisted thread) and more fine, dense pattern (twisted yarns).
Zari Brocade Banarasi saris are also known as amru. The sari is made up of transparent silk muslin or organza with fine colored silk and zari. Perhaps the light prints of this sari can be owed to the use of contrasting color supplementary weft patterning. These weft designs are done up in silk, zari, synthetic fibers and sometimes even wool.
OTHER STYLES OF BANARASI SILK SAREE
BANARAS SILK JAMDANI
- The silk Jamdani, a technical variety of brocade or the ‘figured muslin’ ,traditionally woven in Banaras may be considered to be one of the finest products to come out of the Banarasi loom. Here silk fabric is brocaded with cotton and rarely with zari threads. jamdani is woven by transfixing the pattern thread between a varying number of warp threads in proportion to the size of the designed then throwing the shuttle to pass the regular weft. By repeating this process, where in the size and placing of the cut-thread is in accordance with the character of the pattern, the Jamdani weaver produces arrange of intricate designs.
- Some of the traditional motifs of Jamdani included Chameli (Jas mine), panna hazar (Thousand emeralds) genda buti (marigold flower)pan buti (leaf form) tircha (diagonally striped) etc. The most attractive design feature of the Jamdani sari was konia or a corner-motif having a floral mango buta.
- It has own special character of (URTU) Binding in the figured disignes on ground fabrics using extra weft designs thread dampatch technique for the or namentation of the sharee. It is silk x silk base fabrics or-namented with extra looking and technique of weaving in karhuwan.
- Brocade weavers of Banares have often endeavoured to add a sense of gaiety and festivity by brocading patterns in colourful silk threads amidst the usual gold and silver motifs ;of the brocade convention. The present sari is an example in which muga silk motifs have been in laid. Jangala wildly scrolling and spreading vegetation motif is among the eldest in Banares brocades. This old rose sari is embellished with beautifully contrasted gold-creepers and silver flowers of the Jangala motif.The borders have brocaded running creepers in muga silk and gold and silver-Zari threds.The end panel is a combination of motifs of the borders and condensed Jangala of the field. Muga silk brocading in-hances the beauty of the sari while reducing the cost. All over Jal Jangla design to get the stylish work of the sarees and also used mena work for the decoration of the fabrics. The exclusive design saree has time taking skilled work, costly fabrics are widely accepted during the wedding occassion.
JAM WAR TANCHOI SARI
- Using a technique similar to that of brocade, weavers of Banaras weave saris using colorful extraweft silk yarn for patterning . This varietyis known as tanchoi. This maroon-coloured sari in satin weave is brocaded with elaborate motifs from the Jamawar shawl tradition from Kashmir, the characteristic feature of which was paisley motif, often elaborated into a maze which would look kateidos-copic in character. The field has a densely spread minute diaper of Jamawar style paisley. The end panel has large motifs of multiple paisley forms-one growing out of the other. The border, as well as the cross-borders of the end panel, have miniature paisley creepers. Tanchoi fabric has remarkable fame in the India as well as all over in the world widely acceptable to all kind of the people.
- The renowned Zari brocade weavers of Banaras has evolved a technique of weaving tissue material which looked like golden cloth. By running Zari in weft a combination of Zari and silk in extra-weft (pattern thread) and silk in warp, the weave of this sari has densely patterned with golden lotuses floating in a glimmering pond.The ‘drops of water’ are created by cut work technique. The borders and the end panel have a diaper of diamond patterns enclosed by a border of running paisley motifs. Tissue saris are most popular as wedding saris among the affluent. Tissue sari has glazed, shining character due to the use of real gold Zari/Silver Zari in weft on silk worp ground are ornamented with the particulars traditional design such as Jangla Butidar, Shikargah menadar etc.
- This type of saree prepared by cut work technique on plain ground texture after removing of the floated thread which are not design (Woven) during the weaving process which provide good transparent look.
- Cut work is the cheaper version of the Jamdani variety. In cut work the ;pattern is made to run from selvage to selvage letting it hang loosely between two motifs and the extra-thread is then cut manually, giving the effect of Jamdani.
- The most striking feature of this dark blue silken saree is that it is brocaded with pattern threads of gold, silver and silk. Due to darkar shade of gold and lighter of silver this variety of patterning in brocade is conventionally known as Ganga-Jamuna, indicating the confluence of these two river whose waters are believed to be dark and light receptively. The end panel has a row of arches, in each of which a bouquet of flowers is placed. A slightly smaller and variegated bouquet is diapered all over the field.
- The butidar saree is a rich kind of the Banaras Saree in high traditional pattern and motiff of the design locally popularised such as Angoor Bail, Gojar Bail, Luttar Bail, Khulta bail, Baluchar bail, Mehrab bail, Doller butti,Ashraffi Butti, Latiffa Butti, Reshem Butti Jhummar Butti,Jhari Butta, Kalma Butti,Patti Butti, Lichhi Butti, Latiffa Butta, Kairy Kalanga Thakka Anchal, Mehrab Anchal, Baluchar Butta with the use of real gold and silver Jari and Katan silk in the weft.
MAKING OF BANARASI SAREE
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. . An ideal Banarasi Sari comprises of somewhere around 5600 thread wires, all of them 45-inch wide. The Sari weavers weave the basic texture of the sari on the power loom.In case of weaving the warp, the craftsmen make the base, which is around 24 to 26 m long. 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 the time of bundling a new process of designing the motifs begins. For creating design boards, the first thing that is done by an artist comprises of sketching the design on a graph paper, along with color concepts. Before selecting the final design, punch cards are created. A single design of an Indian Benarasi saree requires hundreds of perforated cards for the implementation of the idea. Different threads and colors are used on the loom to knit the prepared perforated cards. The knit perforated cards are then paddled in a systematic manner. This is done to ensure that the main weaving picks up the right colors and pattern.
At this point, another important process begins. This is related to designing the motifs. 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.
Banarasi sarees are no doubt expensive due to its material, thread, design and meticulous labor involved but even then it is a must have possession for every Indian woman.