Papular Banaras Brocade Fabrics And Sarees

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Banaras or Varanasi (Kashi) is a city on the bank of Holly Ganga in the state of Uttar Pradesh of India. It is a religious center and also famous for its muslin and silk fabrics, ivory works and sculpture artwork. Silk weaving is a major industry in Banaras. Muslim community nearly half of the million are engaged in weaving, dyeing, and marketing.

The brocade weaving centers developed in and around the capitals of the kingdoms because of demand from royal families and temples. Due to expensive nature, it was worn and patronized by royal members.  The ancient centers developed for brocade were Banaras, Gujarat, Delhi, Agra, and Murshidabad. India witnessed many foreign invasions because of this the influence of foreign designs and tests can be seen in the Indian brocades. Many designs, patterns, and techniques are borrowed from Persia, Turkey, and Central Asia.

Why Banaras sari is so famous?

Banaras brocade is one of the most famous varieties of fabrics in North India. Banaras brocade is hand woven textile since ancient times. It is also known as Kin-Khab. Kin-Khab means a cloth of gold. They are well known for their intricate designs, motifs, and patterns and are finest saris with silver and gold brocade. It is not famous only in India but admired all over the world. The exquisite designs are developed by weaving with warps and weft threads of bright colors and material composition. The brocade is used to make a different type of garments for both men and women. It is being used by people of India in different social, cultural and religious gatherings. 

What is the difference between ancient and modern Banaras brocade?

From ancient texts, we know that gold and silver wires were drawn to such fineness that they could be woven into fabrics of pure gold and silver. Later, silk was added to give color and body to the fabric. The purity of gold and silver was such that it never damaged and retained its shine for hundreds of years.

In the modern days, gold and silver wires are used as special weft used in silk fabrics. The fabrics are woven in silk but design work is carried out in gold and silver.

How old Banaras fabric is?   

Banaras has been an important cultural center of ancient times. Banaras is known for its cultural and historical development. Way back in 4th-century b.c., Banaras city was a very rich center for trade, art, architecture, literature, philosophy and textile development. The early Vedic text, Rig Veda has mention of a cloth named Hiranya which was the earliest fabric equivalent to kin-Khabs. Many Buddhist pieces of literature mentioned the importance of beautiful and easy to wear Banaras fabrics. When Buddha attained mahaparinirvana his mortal remains were wrapped in the Banaras clothes. There are many designs in the Ajanta caves having floral, animal motifs and various geometrical figures which were similar to motifs used in the Banaras fabrics.

How Banaras brocade received patronage from different Kingdoms?

It is believed that during the 14th century many weavers from Gujarat migrated towards North Indian cities like Agra, Delhi, Ajmer, and Banaras. Muhammad Bin Tughlaq patronized gold brocades by keeping hundreds of weavers in Delhi. Sultan of Kashmir Zin-Ul-Abidin had immense love for brocades and took many initiatives with foreign kingdoms to promote the brocade designs. Today, Jamawar shawls of Kashmir and Banaras brocades have many commonalities in designs and patterns.

What are the problems faced by Banaras fabrics?

The biggest threat to this handloom embroidery comes from the mass production and export of the garments from power looms. The Chinese power loom products account nearly 82% of global silk export. In 2001 India lifted the ban on import of silk since then the cheap Chinese silk was dumped in Banaras. With this opening of the sector, the power loom silk sector holds 85% share of the Banaras textile industry.

 

Since the power loom product exactly looks like handmade products and are much cheaper, the market for hand-woven Banarasi products is distorted. Many traditional handloom workers too are shifting towards power loom by seeing its advantage.

 

Sometimes availability of raw materials on time, the high cost of materials and lack of finance become headaches for weavers. The lack of marketing skills, low productivity, poor techniques and getting adequate price for their products are major concerns for handloom workers. Middlemen who control the market exploit the weavers.

How much does a Banarasi Saree cost?

The cost of handwoven Banaras sari starts from 3000Rs and goes up to many thousands of rupees depending upon the designs, patterns, and materials used. The original hand-woven Banaras tissue sari can cost high up to 100000(1lakh) rupees. While the exact copy produced from power loom can cost just 600 rupees. It is very important to identify the authentic hand-woven sari. To safeguard the original handloom, Banaras sari was awarded the Geographical Indicator (GI) tag in 2009.

What are different varieties of Banaras brocade?

Based on the designs, patterns and raw materials used Banaras saree are divided into various types. They are named after the motifs and designs used. Each one of them is unique in its kind with super look and quality.

Brocade Saree

This has extra weft zari figures. Floral motifs are used. The body of the sari has all over pattern while border and pallu have scroll designs. High-quality mulberry silk of Bangalore/Mysore is used in both warp and weft. Around 650-gram zari and 650-gram silk are used which give it more weight. The motifs used are:-

 

Body: flowers, leaves, animals (Phulwar,Jhardar,Patridar)

Border:floral,animals,bels(adibel,phuldarbel,dauribel)

Pallu: floral and animals

Chiffon Jamdani

It is woven from highly twisted Chinese silk yarns. The saree has all over buti patterns. It looks crepe and wavy.

 

Body: plain,turanj,kalghi,asrafi

Border:bel,mothra,fardi

Pallu: bels ,kalghi

Jamdani

It is woven without zari but extra weft figures are produced with silk. A superior quality of Bangalore silk is used. They have colorful paisley designs.

Body: buti,butta,kalgha

Border:floral and kalgha

Pallu: phulwar,kalgha

Jangla saree

It is a rich wedding sari. All over jungla and jal designs are used. Meenakari work is also done on this. Bangalore silk is used. This saree has both zari and silk.

 

Body: kamraki jal,sona buti,lehariya jal

Border:mothra,fita,tamni

Pallu: mothra,tamni

Kora cutwork

The warp and weft are made of pure raw silk and for extra weft designs cotton is used.

Body: buti,butta,doriya,salaidar,geometrical,khanjari

Border:charkhana,floral

Pallu: floral jal,salaidar

Satin border saree

It has a plain body. The entire body of the sari is woven in plain while border and pallu in satin.

Body: plain

Border:floral,animals like parrot,deer,elephant

Pallu: animal and shikargah designs

Tanchoi

They don’t have zari and the motifs are woven in satin. It is woven in Bangalore silk. Commonly it has a plain body but sometimes different motifs can be used in the body.

Body: Plain, sometimes floral motifs

Border:bels,kalgha

Pallu: kalgha and floral

What are different types of clothes made from Banaras brocade?

Clothes of Banaras brocade fabrics are world famous. The dress products like Men’s coat, sherwanis, trouser, caps, turbans, veils, saris,odhini, patkas, wedding dresses, safas, angochas and jackets are made. The upholsteries and furnishing materials like curtains, pankhas, pillow covers, wall hangings, table covers, carpets etc. are made. Different types of beautiful saris are woven for festivals, wedding occasions, casual and parties.

 What are the raw materials used in Banaras brocade?

Silk yarn and zari are two basic raw materials for Banaras brocade fabrics. These saris are woven by two types of silks Bangalore and China silk. The cost of Bangalore silk(Mulberry) lies between 1800-2000 Rs/kg while China silk costs 1400-1600Rs/Kg. The silk is purchased from Bangalore, Malda, and China.

 

The gold and silver zari is used to create glittering embossed extra weft pattern to give a classic touch. The Pure, Tested, Powder and Plastic zari are four types of zari used in Banaras sari. The zari is designed in Banaras and but most of the times it is purchased from Surat.The cost of pure zari lies between 10,000-13,000Rs/kg,Power zari(2000Rs/Kg) and plastic zari(350-500Rs/Kg).Although silk and zari are used mainly but in the case of Kora cut work cotton is used to create extra weft patterns.

What types of patterns and motifs are used in Banarasi sari?

The environment of the earth is closely related to the life of Indian people. Many designs and patterns on brocades take inspiration from natural phenomena. Various types of butis are used for decorative purpose and attractive looking. The butis are made of single flower, animal, leaf, figure, bird or symbol which are smaller in the size. The common butis used are Badam, Kairi, Chaand, Asharfi, Paan, Pankha and Turanj. The geometrical figures and dots, human figures, vegetables, trees and many more beautiful designs from nature are used as motifs.

 

The popular motifs used are hunting scenes, river, poppy, swan, bulbul, rose, jasmine, deer, tiger and elephant, scenes and symbols from mythology (God Krishna), flame (Kalka) and other natural themes. Banarasi brocades are also known different poetic names. For example, Dhup-Chaun(Sunshine and shade), Mazchar (Ripples of a river), Murgala(Peacock’s neck) etc.

 

The Jaal or net pattern was borrowed from Turkish brocades. In the Jaal type of pattern, motifs like flowers, birds or any animals are enclosed within arc, rectangle, square or other geometrical figures.

Another type of buti used is latifa which was adopted from Persia. It was named after the designer Latif Milan. It is nothing but a design of flowering plants which look like that they are swaying with the wind.

What is the meaning of different colors used in Banaras brocade?

The colors have a very important role in the brocades. They represent different moods, emotions, and expressions. For example, red is color of love, Nila(blue) is used to represent clouds, yellow for the spring season (Basant ) etc.​

Earlier vegetable dyes were largely used which had a long life and were beautiful. But nowadays due to low cost and large varieties of chemical dyes are used. Popular chemical colors used are Bukni(aniline),Kasni, Asmani, Zard, Gulabi etc. 

What is the role of nakhsaband?

They are special master craftsmen. Before weaving, a naksha(map) is designed by these experts. The main role of naqshaband is drawing the pattern on paper and create a design on a small wooden frame on which cotton threads form a grid of the warp and weft. These nakshbands play a very important role in designing and weaving. These nakshabands prepare designs on the graph paper(point paper) and then transfer it to the punch cards(like jacquard ). The map is strictly followed by the workers.  

How many days are required to weave a sari?

The time required to make a saree depends on designs, patterns and the work. It generally takes 15 days to complete a sari but sometimes may take 6 months or maybe one year to complete one saree.

The Banaras fabrics have an incredible place in the arts and crafts of India. In the centuries-old Banaras fabrics, weaver designed many items according to the need and test of the contemporary people. The various hand-woven products are exported to Europe, America, and other nations. The booming e-commerce sector further brings many opportunities to increase production and market share. Many modern and contemporary designers are trying to revive these traditional designs with the latest demand and fashion trend.Various fashinable items are designed from this beautiful fabric.