The song from the movie Raanjhana rings in my head everytime I think of Banaras.
And every time I think of Banaras/ Benares, the only thing that comes to my mind is the banarasi saree. I love classic sarees, and my ever growing love (since many years now) for sarees has finally led me to this new project of mine called #SareeStoriesWithRitu wherein we’ll be talking about saress from the length & breadth of India. For starters, let’s talk about my favorite banarasi saree today.
A Banarasi saree is classically woven by a hand-loom in Banaras (now Varanasi), India. The hand-woven nature makes these fabrics exclusive and expensive. These are amongst the finest sarees in India, and a favorite with brides who prefer classy over trendy. The sarees known for their silver or golden zari and brocades embody Mughal-inspired design elements like butis (coin shaped design), bel (floral twines), jhalar (lace), border etc. and have a very regal touch and feel thanks to fibres mostly of silk and cotton. At least one Banarasi saree is a must in every bridal trousseau. You are sure to feel like a Queen wearing one! And sure to pass this on as a heirloom piece to the next generation!
How is a banarasi saree made? This type of sarees typically are made of zari (flattened gold threads) and dyed fabric. A hand-loom is used by an expert weaver to create the pattern of the saree string by string. It takes anywhere between 15 days to a few weeks to create a single saree, depending on the design intricacy.
When to wear a Banarasi silk saree? I say, whenever you like, but mostly fitted to the occassion. These are heavy, glossy sarees and have a slightly stiff fabric, so are best suited for events where you need to dazzle around.
How to care for and store a Banarasi saree: It is best to store these in muslin cloths so that the fabric can ‘breathe’. I like to air my sarees every 6 months and change folds so that the fabric does not get damaged.
For this feature, I picked up this bright pink Shikargah saree from Shoonya (check out my previous feature- Dupatta love). Shikargah basically means ‘hunting place’, and this type of pattern has symbols from a hunting spree in a jungle such as animal motifs, vines, etc. The fabric, a Dupion Banarasi Silk is a plain weave, crisp type of silk fabric using a combination of a fine thread and an uneven thread for weaving. This creates a highly lustrous surface as the unevenness tends to reflect more light. You can see for yourself how lustrous the fabric is, without looking over the top. This is the mark of a good banarasi where the fabric remains lustrous yet does not look gawdy. I am totally in awe of the weave here, and a proud owner of a shikargah banarasi. Just love it!