Banarasi saris – five yards of exquisite brocade and luxurious silk – made of silk weft and silk wrap are famous all over the world. Royal and rich, in jewel colors and dazzling motifs, these saris find a coveted position in women’s wardrobes and trousseaus in India. The major varieties of saris available include pure silk, shatter, organza and fire kora with zari and georgette.
The era gone by: Banarasi saris became more popular during the Mughal era when the sari weaving art reached its zenith. The Persian motifs and Indian designs on silk texture studded with gold and silver remained the favourite of Mughals. Today, sari weaving is a cottage industry for people in Varanasi, Gorakhpur and Azamgarh.
Making of the sari: 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.
Generally three people are engaged in making the sari – while one weaves, the others work at the revolving ring to create bundles. The intricate motifs on the sari are first created on design boards – the artist sketches the pattern on graph paper with color concepts and then the final design is created on punch cards.
For a single design, one requires hundreds of perforated cards to execute the idea. The 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 design of your dreams: Intricate weave and fascinating zari work with gold and silver thread, that’s a Banarasi sari for you in a nutshell. But a nutshell description of what these saris are all about is not enough for saris woven with dreams. Here’s something more about them.
The bodies of the saris often depict scenes from village life, fairs, flowers and clouds, as well as temple and mosque designs. The dazzling gold brocades are woven with Mughal patterns such as intertwining floral and foliate motifs, kalga and bel.
A distinct feature found along the inner, and sometimes outer, edge of borders in this sari is a narrow fringe like pattern that often looks like a string of upright leaves called jhallr. The pallus of these sarees have elaborate pure gold and silver designs densely woven with gold and multicolor thread which lend the sari its elegance.
Dancing colors and spun sunshine – that’s what these saris are all about.
by Chandana Banerjee