Bold yet Beautiful, Vibrant yet Elegant - that’s the true essence of a Banarasi saree, and exactly why women love adorning it in its full glory. Banarasi sarees are traditional sarees originating from the city of Banaras, now known as Varanasi - located in Uttar Pradesh towards the North of India. These sarees are known and widely loved for their intricate designs, fine silk fabric and gold or silver thread embroidery. With its fine craftsmanship Banarasi sarees, or theBanarasi fabric is considered to be one of the finest known fabrics out there! Each piece, from a Banarasi Silk Lehenga, a dupatta to a suit set, is made using a variety of techniques and often worn on the most special occasions like weddings, religious ceremonies or events. Let’s take you through the better known art of the Banarasi sarees, a complete guide for beginners -
The city of Banaras - The WHERE
"Banaras", now known as Varanasi is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world and the first major urban settlement in the middle of the holy river of Ganga. While Varanasi became an important city for Vedic religion and philosophy, subsequently it is also came to be known as an industrial center of significance. Famous for its muslin, silk fabrics, perfumes, sculptures and a budding center of religious, educational and artistic activities. Extending 5 km along the western bank of Ganges (as claimed by Xuanzang, a Chinese Buddhist pilgrim), till now, Varanasi has one of the finest river frontages in India stretching across several miles. With around 84 ghats, an array of shrines, temples, old and abandoned palaces, it is still renowned for its production of silks, brocades with gold and silver threadwork, people flying from all over the world to own a piece.
The history behind a Banarasi Saree - The WHEN
The origin of Banarasi sarees can be traced back to the Mughal period when the city of Varanasi was an important center of production of fine silk textiles. It was introduced by the Mughal dynasty between 1000-3000 BC with its intricate craftsmanship along with zari and gold threadwork on fabric. A Banarasi saree is a cultural heritage for the city of Varanasi where the weavers, since years, have been using the handwoven technique to craft each piece. Such a masterpiece!
An interesting fact: Banarasi sarees were originally decorated with real gold and silver made exclusively for the royal families and emperors. They were beautifully adorned by the women of royal houses, considered a valuable symbol of status and wealth. Gladly, over time, these pure gold and silver elements were substituted with gold and silver threads making them affordable and accessible for everyone. Today, a Banarasi saree has a global recognition, what a wonder!
Types of Banarasi sarees - The WHAT
Banarasi sarees are one of the finest sarees out there - what’s special? It’s the lustrous sheen and a royal look it brings along with it. A Banarasi saree comes in a variety of styles, fabrics, and designs - the most popular fabric being Pure Silk. Motifs you will notice on these fabrics are usually inspired from nature, animals, human figures, and lately weavers are experimenting with abstract patterns and unique Persian motifs. Fabulously appealing to the eyes! Fabrics most commonly used to weave a Banarasi saree is Pure Katan Silk - The classic one that is comparatively heavy to carry. Other light-weight fabrics range from Georgette, Chiffon to Organza or Crepe. These are fabricated with intricate designs, in gold, silver threads or brocade work. Various techniques also come into play while fabricating a Banarasi design giving each piece a unique look like the Jacquard, Tanchoi, Brocade.
The making - The HOW
One piece of a 9-yard Banarasi saree takes at least 3 to 30 days to be fully weaved, the number of days largely varying on the intricacy and demand of the pattern work. The whole process of weaving requires immense coordination and it takes around 3 weavers to ready a piece - one weaves the saree, the second spins the ring to form bundles and the third assists with the border design.
If you are wondering what goes into it? Made up of 5600 threads, each 45 inches long, the weaver builds a base for the saree at least 24 to 26 inches long. For the design theme, that is decided on the bundling stage - the artist creates sketches of the design and colour concepts using a graph paper. Once the final pattern is chosen, hundreds of perforated cards are made to accommodate a single saree design, different colour shades and threads used to knit these cards and then stroked systematically making sure the weavers pick up the correct patterns and textures. Phew, that’s how a masterpiece is made!
Check out these pieces from our latest collection that will bring out the stunner in you -
Banarasi Silk Saree in Old Rose
A wonderful Banarasi saree in Pure Katan Silk with beautiful hues of rose and handcrafted work of zari jaal.
Banarasi Silk Saree in Rani Pink
A Pure Katan Silk saree handwoven with elephant motifs in gold and silver zari. The perfect pink for a striking look!
Banarasi Silk Saree in Royal Blue
Handcrafted in a ravishing shade of blue, this Banarasi saree in Pure Katan Silk is a timeless piece to adorn. Embellished with meenakari jal work, this one makes for a flawless radiant look for every occasion.
A lustrous Silk Tissue Organza Saree in a shimmering gold is nothing but surreal! With Kadhwa Asharfi Boota and an intricate design on the borders this ultimate piece is best for a glamorous look on special occasions.
Handloom Pure Katan Silk Saree on Brocade Banarasi is a quintessential piece in classic black color. The exquisite Shikargah motifs completes the look making it a head turner.
While you now know a fair bit about these stunners, here sharing with you things to keep in mind: Weaver’s Story tips caring for and wearing Banarasi sarees
- It's a must that you store your saree properly to maintain its condition and retain its charm. Avoid folding it or storing it in a plastic bag as that can cause creases and damage the fabric - a better alternative will be to hang the saree on a wide hanger or gently place it in a fabric bag.
- Washing the saree frequently can strip the fabric of its colour and damage the embroidery. A dry clean or hand wash in cold water with mild detergent is always a good choice! Let is dry naturally
- Always iron your saree on the reverse side using a low to medium heat. Ironing on the embroidery or gold/silver embellishments can damage it.
- Draping a saree is an art and to do so with your Banarasi saree is even more important to show its intricate designs and patterns. The traditional way will definitely make heads turn and keep you in the spotlight - tuck the end of the saree into the waistband of the petticoat, then drape the saree over the shoulder and across the body. The royal way!
- Banarasi sarees are elegant and the way you carry them will be a make or break. Pair your saree with classic jewellery - gold or silver bangles, earrings, a pendant, accessorizing it with something simple yet tasteful. Let the saree take the center stage here!
Author - Aarushi Sharma