A tell tale of Banarasi Sarees

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 Being a new member of the Shopatplaces team, my task at the closing of this year was to know the tale behind the making of Banaarasi Sarees. The time had come and this moment it was Varanasi. A crazy wanderer like me could have followed any course but I knew this city was austerely intriguing. Fantastically photogenic, I could witness the beauty in the mellow light that covered the bustling ghats. My ears resounded with Ganga Arti at sunset and I knew there was a lot to discover. Threading my way to the meandering streets, I witnessed pilgrims, sadhus, buffaloes, hawkers and entertainers. Varanasi is the liveliest and immensely colorful place one can come across. It was no less than looking through a kaleidoscope. This oldest and the very whimsical city slowly unfurled in front of my eyes. Mouths full of beetle pan) leaf, its locals were seen crowding various corners. Following the labyrinth, I walked past Chowk, Thateri bazaar, Lahurabir, Dashswamedh Gali and Golghar, among other places

 

 

Varanasi, also known as Banaras or Benaras, revealed itself as a haven for craftsmen and their handicrafts. I spotted knotted carpets, musical instruments, clay toys, gold jewelry and brassware. Amidst the entire rumble created by hustlers, rickshaw pullers and boat owners, I came across Temple Bazaar. Ethnic and the very beautiful, there they hung like priceless pieces of silken threads put together. At last my search had ended. I was not far from making myself aware of the phenomenal story behind the creation of exquisite Banaarasi Sarees. This was one reason that had beckoned me to this place.

 

 I barged inquisitively into this multi-hued Banaras emporium which dazzled my eyes. As I looked around I witnessed a myriad of Banaarasi Sarees characterizing vibrant colors, contrasting strips and wonderful lustrous combinations. They showcased the true blend of opulence with comfort. Someone shook me out of the dream. The expression on my face might have eluded him from his work. I was the centerpiece of attention and I fairly knew why. My love for Banaarasi Sarees had unknowingly come out in open and had led me here.   

 

The man might have been in his 70’s and his face had a lot of detailing, skin was frail and his back was hunched. He greeted me with a smile and asked me the reason behind my bewildered look. After giving a brief description I jumped onto the conclusion (climax). “I want to know the process behind the making of Banaarasi Sarees”, I said. “Oh! One more added to my list”, he chuckled. This was the beginning of the story behind the manufacturing of Banaarasi saari.

Old tradition

Banaras characterizes this old tradition of weaving Banaarasi Sarees that are prized the world over. This is one explicit art that the city is famed for. Expert weavers using the power loom and handlooms belong to the nearby locality. They probably have inherited this fine art of making Banaarasi Sarees from their ancestors. This art has been passed over generation after generation and have become a source of their livelihood.

The Making

 Material & design

The process begins with the craftsmen deciding upon the material used in making the saree.  This task is followed by figuring out the design that will be given to the saree. “Naksha navees” (architect of saari), as the name suggests are approached by the craftsmen with the purpose of chalking out a distinctive design for the saree. They are a group of artisans that are skilled in mapping out unique saree designs in the most viable manner. Once the design is laid by naksha navees, Yarn is purchased.

 

 

Handling the Yarn

Popularly known as “taani wale” or “kela wale”, this group masters the job of wholesaling yarn in large quantities. Craftsmen approach them in terms of purchasing the required amount of yarn. After purchasing the yarn craftsmen reach out to “anta- wale”. This set of people excels in handling the yarn that is reeled in smaller cones popularly known as “anta”. It takes around 1 whole day to reel in threads of 60 saaris. The making of Banaarsi Sarees involves the use of threads of varying colors that are extremely lengthy. “Taani KO taanana” is the process that is put to use in calculating the precise length of colored threads used in the creation of sarees.

Rolling Threads on Charkha (Turia ki lappet) 

Following the task of yarn handling, Turia ki lappet is another process that comes into being. In this process all threads are smoothened and rolled over a huge charkha. Amidst the smoothening and the rolling, cluster of these colorful threads get wrapped on Turia (Turia is hollow metal cylinder around 6 feet long). It takes 2 to 3 days in case of 60 saaris. While this process is being completed, the craftsmen sit with “naksha navees” (architect of saari) with the purpose of finalizing the design.

Finalizing the design

Before finalizing the design of the saree there are few, very important aspects that need to be taken into consideration. Namely, cost per saari, color, design, taste & preferences. Estimated cost per saari includes all material, labor and fixed costs. After covering the above mentioned facets, a design is made final. 

 

 

Engraved on cardboard or Patta kaatna

When the design is finalized the craftsmen gathers all the material and keeps it with him for 6-7 days. After which he takes the final graph to jacquard cutter popularly known as “patta kaatne wala”. The total length of a Banaarsi saari including blouse piece is 6.2 meters. The jacquard cutter engraves the whole 6.2 meter graph on cardboard popularly known as “patta”.  It takes 3 to 5 days to engrave holes in “patta” for one complete design.

 

 Cutting & Coding of Jacquard or Patta latkaana

Craftsmen now traces his way to a person who is apt in hanging the jacquard on machine. Popularly known as “Patta latkaane ka karigar, he cuts jacquard and give it codes. As jacquard is 3.75 ft. X 20.35 ft long, it is impossible to hang the whole jacquard at one go. After coding the jacquard, he also codes (“anta”) smaller cones so that he can place in correct color of threads in the holes of jacquard. Once the coding is done “karigar” very carefully hangs the jacquard blocks above the machine. He then inserts the threads of coded “anta” in jacquard. Now he ends up with one open end of thread and one end reeled-in the anta. Now, the open end is reeled in a power-loom needle popularly known as “dharki”. On one power-loom machine you can through only one “dharki” at a time. The whole process is so fast due to the presence of electricity that it outruns the handloom in terms of production.

Dharki, Taani & Baana

Dharki (power-loom needle) is one of the very interesting instruments. For understanding the work of dharki, one must have an idea of the formation of Banaarasi saari. Banaarasi Saree comprises of 2 kinds of threads, Taani which means vertical threads and Baanameans horizontal threads. Baana, is the horizontal thread which is static and they have no designs at all.  Baana serves as a strong platform on which design can be held, thus it is also called “saari ki jameen”.

 

 

On the other hand Taani is the exquisite thread that is used to produce intricate designs characterizing beautiful colors. Tanni is the authentic element in Banaarasi Sarees that make them extremely alluring and famous the world over. Taani is coupled with “zari” (golden or silver color threads) or “lachha” (different colors of threads) to make the Banaarasi saree more appealing. Thus when a Banaarasi sari is weaved it is called “Taani ke bal ki binaai”. The open end of taani is reeled in dharki which goes from right to left and left to right in the process of making. When the dharki strikes the loom, one can hear the famous sound of “krghe ki khatak”. This is how saari is produced.

 

 

 I was simply dazzled by the old man’s dynamism. How interestingly he weaved the entire picture of the manufacturing of Banaarasi saari. That man undoubtedly deserved a standing ovation. The dust had settled and the sun had set. At dusk Varanasi looked all the more quirky. My thoughts had reached the brim, all ready to spill. Not in my wildest of dreams, I had imagined that I will get to know the magic behind this extremely enchanting art. Varanasi is truly a home to countless artisans, the ones who are endowed with unmatchable abilities and the will to work. I stepped out onto the road, again like a wanderer. I knew there was more to this place. Making my way to the ghats, in my mind I revisited the Banaras Emporium. Old man’s smile still lingered. I slowly descended the steps that were kissed by the shimmering water time and time again.

 

 

My heart was content as I stepped in a boat that bit by bit wafted away. Mist covered the burning ghats of Banaras, yet the reminiscences of that day were still alive!!

 

 

 

Now you can scroll through Shopatplaces (www.shopatplaces.com)and place an order for distinctive and the most appealing Banaarasi Sarees.  The order will be delivered at your doorstep in the most hassle free manner. It is one of the ultimate paraphernalia that you can own for life. Shop Banarsi saree from Shopatplaces to possess this archaic art of Banaras in your closet.

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