Banarasi sarees are produced in Varanasi, the holy city is also called Banaras. Banaras has been described by the East India Company as a thriving sector of the cotton industry. But the earliest mention of the brocade and zari textiles of Banaras is found in the 19th century. Silk weavers from Gujarat, during the famine of 1603, migrated here, and most probably silk brocade weaving began in Banaras in the seventeenth century, it reached its peak, during the 18th and 19th centuries. The Mughal period (14th century) gave rise to the weaving of brocades with intricate designs using gold and silver threads. And it became the Banaras stamp of distinctiveness.
Banarasi saree making is a cottage industry for about 12 lakh people associated with the handloom silk industry of the region around Varanasi, encompassing Gorakhpur, Chandauli, Bhadohi, Jaunpur and Azamgarh districts.
Rated to be the amongst the finest weave in India, these sarees are famed for their gold and silver brocade or zari, fine silk and sumptuous embroidery. Made of finely woven silk, they sport intricate designs.
Mughal-inspired designs such as intricate intertwining floral and foliate motifs are their special characteristics – kalga and bel, a string of upright leaves called jhallar at the outer edge of the border is a unique characteristic. Other features: Gold work, compact weaving, small details, metallic visual effects, pallus, jal (net-like patterns), and meena work.
These bedazzling sarees are generally part of an Indian bride’s trousseau. Based on their intricacy of design, each sari can take up to a month (and often up to six months) to create. Banaras is are predominantly worn by Indian women on auspicious occasions like weddings, and are usually accessoried by the finest jewellery. Once a Banarasi saree lover – always a Banarasi saree lover!
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