Varanasi or Banaras is the iconic spiritual city along the banks of the Ganges that has been an enigma and a fountainhead for those in quest of salvation or simply a sabbatical from well-structured, urban lives. It challenges the senses with its sights, sounds, chaos and timeless order. The flowing Holy Ganga, the devoted folk that tread the stones steps descending into its silent, deep waters, the maze of narrow streets pulsating with the rhythm of daily life as the locals go about their affairs, the aromas of street-foods in every nook and corner, the Halwai with Desi Mithai, Temple Bells and Calls for Prayer for the Faithful..and yes, the one and only timeless elegance of the Banarasi Saree.
The Benarasi Saree is decadently divine and a favourite with Indian Brides. Its rustling silk is rich, the weaves are mesmerizing, the motifs symbolic and auspicious, the threads in gold and silver deliver create the celebrated Benarasi Brocade or Zari. The motifs are the bhel and kalga, the jhallar at the border or Pallu. The Mughal influences are seen in the use of Meenakari in the weaves. Each piece is hand-woven over 15 days to a few months and simply gorgeous. The hallmark is the intricacy of the weave and the use of silver or gold thread in the weaving process to create rich, heavy, lustrous sarees that are instant classic and heirlooms. These come in a variety of designs called the Tanchoi, Vaskat, Butidaar, Tissue, Jangla and are woven in Silk, Georgette, Organza.
Just like Scotch must be made in Scotland, Tequila produced only in Mexico, well, the Benarasi Saree also can be a Benarasi Saree if and only if, it is woven in the designated six districts of Varanasi, Chandauli, Bhadohi, Mirzapur, Jaunpur and Azamgarh, in Uttar Pradesh. Only then do we get a Benarasi Saree or Silk or Brocade.
The rest is simply poor imitation and devoid of the heritage of the exclusive, iconic Benarasi Saree. The favoured range of all things Benarasi that are sought after passionately by collectors, designers and connoissuers are the Sarees, Brocade Blouses or Cholis, Brocade Petticoat-Skirts; Brocade Sherwanis and Brocade Designer Kurtas or Kameezes.
Courtesy CraftsBazaar a few photos are included of products that are sourced directly from the weavers of Varanasi and made available online, globally.