'Older than history, older than tradition’ – that is how philosopher Mark Twain described Varanasi. That is almost true for the various textiles that originate from this place. Resting on the banks of the river Ganges Varanasi, deriving its name from the river’s two tributaries Varuna and Asi, is almost synonymous with the finest of fabrics from historical times. It is said that the expensive silk clothes that Siddhartha (later Gautam Budha) renounced were woven by the weavers of Varanasi. The place flourished as a textile centre when it was the capital of Kasi kingdom of which Siddhartha was the prince.
Zari and Brocade textiles are unique to the city. There was mention of these regal fabrics in the 19th century Indian literature. The name Brocade originates from the Italian word ‘broccato’ which means embossed cloth. Brocade is a class of richly ornamental fabric which is mainly done with silver and gold threads. Originating during the Vedic period Brocade reached its peak during the Mughal period. Brocade became a characteristic weave of Varanasi where a pattern is created by thrusting the Zari thread between warp at regular intervals. A type of loom called ‘Jalla’ was used to weave a brocade fabric. With the advent of modern day technology Brocade are now woven in jacquard looms. These are almost automated looms where the entire design is fed into a machine or computer and the whole process is completed mechanically. Also in place of threads derived from original metals, electroplated metallic threads are currently used. Because of their metallic origin most Brocades give a scratch feeling. Some of the Brocade themes which are popular are – Tasvir which gives a pictorial theme; Phulwar which uses designs with a floral theme; pure Geometrical theme; and Shikargarh which uses designs with hunting scenes.
Jamdani is another Varanasi innovation. The silk Jamdani, which can be considered a technical variety of Brocade, is one the finest creations of Varanasi. The other popular varieties of creations from Varanasi are – Jangla, Tanchoi, Vaskat, Cutwork, Tissue and Butidar. Jangla style adds a sense of gaiety and festivity with the usage of colorful silk threads among the traditional silk and gold threads. Jangla style is quite time consuming and uses expensive fabrics making it a favorite in wedding occasions. In Tanchoi, Varanasi weavers use a technique similar to Brocade. Here patterning is done by weavers using colorful extra weft silk yarn. Vaskat is another popular form of Varanasi embroidery using the characteristic work of the Varanasi weavers. Cutwork is considered to be a cheaper version of the Jamdani variety. A pattern is created in between selvages and the extra thread which is not woven is cut manually giving it a Jamdani look. A Tissue style generally uses real metallic Zari. The weaving of a Tissue material is so intricate that it looks like a golden cloth. It is a combination of Zari in weft, Zari and silk in extra weft, and silk in warp thus creating a densely patterned piece of fabric. Tissue is the most favored by the nobility during the wedding season. In Butidar fabric the most striking feature is the patterned thread of gold, silver, and silk. This style is also known as Ganga-Jamuna due to the confluence of brighter gold and lighter silver. This is a rich creation where the traditional and contemporary blend effortlessly.
Enjoy the Evening watching the Prayers on the banks of Ganges