What is the first thought that comes to your mind when you hear Banaras? It must be ‘Banarasi saris’! These saris are not just famous in India alone, they have gained overseas fan following as well! (thanks to the rising NRI community and Bollywood Movies).
Banarasi saris are a must have every Indian womans’ wardrobe! In fact an Indian bride’s wedding collection is incomplete without these royal drapes of silk! If you want present a woven a timeless gift, you have no better options that a beautiful Banarasi Sari done up in gold and silk!
These saris owe their popularity to the Mughal era which saw some very talented Muslim craftsmen bringing this intricate art of weaving and designing to India. This was the time when sari weaving art was on a rise and Persian motifs were being used with the Indian traditional attire.
There is a whole cottage industry around Banaras also known as Varanasi for sari weaving. One can find many traditional motif artists and design experts who are into this family business since many generations. The silk for Banarasi saree unlike china silk is quite expensive and comes especially from South India, mostly Bangalore.
Reeling: The process of tying the yarn into a bundle is called Reeling. The silk threads are mounted on a reeling machine and the warp (taana) is rolled on a shuttle (dharki) and the weft is first mounted on a charkha and then rolled on a bobbin.
Dyeing: After the reeling process is over, the silk yarns are dyed in the desired colour using hand dyeing.
Designing and graphing: The design of a banarasi saree is make by experienced sketch artists who first conceptualise and draw the design. The design is then translated on to a large graph paper by the graphing artist or the nakshaband. Designs cards for the jacquard loom are then made according to the design on the graph. They are made by making small holes in cardboard through which the yarn will eventually be adjusted on the loom.
Weaving and finishing: Once the cards are ready, they are arranged on the handloom. This is a complicated procedure and must be done with a lot of care. The handloom is now ready and the talented weavers on Banarasi now weave their magic on fabric. Once the saree has been woven loose threads are cut and the saree is finished. If it is a cutwork Banarasi saree then fine cutwork may be required by highly skilled people – who are normally the women in the weaving families.
A normal Benarasi saree involves 5600 thread wires with 45 inch width. It can take any where between 1 week to 1 year for a Banarasi sari to get completed depending upon the design and pattern!