The Marketplace for Varanasi’s Brocades

A look at the various sales channels available for the weavers.

Dastkari Haat Samiti

Dastkari Haat Samiti

Banarasi Weaving: Surroundings (2018-02)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Master Weavers Who Are Seasoned Sellers

There is no marketplace for textiles, small or big, in India, that does not boast of the famous weaves of Varanasi.

Varanasi brocades are sold from the smallest spaces in shops, not larger than a cupboard, to

large high-end showrooms belonging to well-established entrepreneurs in the city.

Banarasi Weaving: Karigar's showroom (2018-02)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The tradition has been for the Muslim community to weave and the Hindu community to do the shop keeping and trading, although, in time, these lines have blurred.

This integrated system has enabled harmonious production and marketing for the Varanasi handloom world.

Banarasi Weaving: History of Banarasi saree (2018-02-06)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Weavers of the elder generation, who are educated and sophisticated, travel abroad and attend trade fairs, visiting museums that have collections from earlier centuries, and establish contacts with importers and art textile collectors.

Banarasi Weaving: History of Banarasi saree (2018-02-06)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Designers choose colours and layouts to dress film stars for weddings and even films.

Weavers flaunt their names when customers arrive, often enticing them to make copies for themselves, yet they guard their skills so carefully as they can tell the difference between those who are genuine customers and others who just want to photograph their special textiles to imitate or publicise on social media platforms.

Banarasi Weaving: Exhibition (2015-10) by Shahid JunaidDastkari Haat Samiti

Many weavers who now get opportunities to travel abroad to demonstrate their weaving techniques fabricate miniature frame looms for convenience.

This enables them to show the customer the extent of skill required to value. The reality of hand weaving comes alive in contrast to factory production.

Banarasi Weaving: Artisan at his store (2018-02)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Women are the ultimate wearers of saris and fabrics from Varanasi. They will open at least 20 saris before they select one. Wedding shopping is another matter altogether.

An entire group of ladies from a family will take a trip to Varanasi to sit with the gaddidar for hours if not days, buying saris to be gifted to each of the important women in the family.

Banarasi Weaving: Karigar's showroom (2018-02) by Haseen Mohd.Dastkari Haat Samiti

A master weaver explains the special designs and features of the gyaser cloth, woven by them for centuries, largely for Buddhist clients.

Banarasi Weaving: Karigar's showroom (2018-02) by Haseen Mohd.Dastkari Haat Samiti

Every master weaver is also an effective salesperson who explains the differences between weaves to impress a customer about their diverse weaving techniques.

Banarasi Weaving: Innovation in Banarasi weaving (2018-02-07)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Master weaver Haseen Mohammad talks about the innovations he has initiated for all the weavers in Banaras.

Banarasi Weaving: Surroundings (2018-02)Dastkari Haat Samiti

A wedding sari is almost mandatory in the trousseau of the Indian bride. It is usually flaming red, which is considered the most auspicious, followed by orange and fuchsia pink.

Other auspicious colours are yellow and maroon.

Banarasi Weaving: Surroundings (2018-02)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Even a small sari store in Varanasi has much to offer a customer in terms of designs and colours.

Banarasi Weaving: Exhibition (2017-11)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Travelling to Fairs, and Haats

 Other weavers train their sons in salesmanship and send them to engage with the urban Indian population in different cities, at craft bazaars and exhibitions organized by different agencies. They use such opportunities to attest tastes and trends that can be interpreted on their looms at home. Young men from weaver families take their fabrics to temporary markets and bazaars all over India, testing customer preferences in each city and discovering market savvy ways of displaying their saris.

Banarasi Weaving: Exhibition (2017-11) by Maqbool AlamDastkari Haat Samiti

Even weavers from conservative families do not hesitate to travel to different cities in India, displaying pro-active qualities of salesmanship. Bearded young men enjoy posing like fashion models to display their saris more effectively.

Banarasi Weaving: Exhibition (2017-11)Dastkari Haat Samiti

It doesn’t take long for a young weaver-salesman to assess the tastes of a customer and bring out a range of what she may like.

Red and gold is a perennial favourite among Varanasi saris.

Banarasi Weaving: Exhibition (2017-11) by Mohd. ArifDastkari Haat Samiti

This young salesman-weaver is not embarrassed about posing like a female fashion model to display this sari to good effect.

Banarasi Weaving: Exhibition (2017-11)Dastkari Haat Samiti

As a salesperson from a weaver’s family displays his stock at a temporary exhibition, he will recite the name of the weaving technique and designs, and even whether it won a national or state award.

Banarasi Weaving: Surroundings (2018-02)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Local Markets in Varanasi

The crowded streets and tiny lanes of Varanasi belie what can be found inside in the form of textile treasures. Some local showrooms in Varanasi boast of four floors of shelves full of saris, where customers sit in air-conditioned comfort for hours, while salesmen demonstrate how beautiful a sari looks when draped on them. 

Banarasi Weaving: Surroundings (2018-02)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Streets in Varanasi are lined with sari shops displaying the special presence of the age-old practice of handloom weaving, sometimes even when their saris are not made on a handloom!

Banarasi Weaving: Exhibition (2018-01)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Varanasi weavers are able to make fabrics of any lengths for fashion wear, upholstery and table linen, apart from saris and stoles.

Banarasi Weaving: Surroundings (2018-02)Dastkari Haat Samiti

While window dressing is not the forte of shopkeepers in Varanasi, the prominent ones make an effort to present themselves well.

Banarasi Weaving: Ekaya store (2018-04)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Cosmopolitan markets

In cosmopolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, the show windows with tasteful displays, advertisements and collaborations with fashion designers from India and abroad, make them the ambassadors of Varanasi handlooms.

Banarasi Weaving: Ekaya store (2018-04)Dastkari Haat Samiti

In a big city like Delhi, stores that deal exclusively in the very best weaves of Varanasi, pay special attention to window displays to show their fabrics to their best effect.

This window uses props that show how saris are traditionally stored, rolled onto the beam as portions of it are woven, before unrolling it and folding it to be stacked on a shelf or hung on a hanger.

Banarasi Weaving: Ekaya store (2018-04)Dastkari Haat Samiti

A highly sophisticated display in a Delhi store shows how their specially developed Varanasi weaves have been used by international fashion designers with excellent results

Banarasi Weaving: Ekaya store (2018-04)Dastkari Haat Samiti

A store in Delhi proudly displays a large range of brocades woven with their guidance on looms in Varanasi.

Banarasi Weaving: Ekaya store (2018-04)Dastkari Haat Samiti

A display of the range of designer bridal lehengas.

Banarasi Weaving: Ekaya store (2018-04)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Tailored wedding garments made of Varanasi silks and brocades have become a popular alternative to saris.

Here a male store assistant holds up a long skirt, lehnga, and a veil, dupatta, that are paired together as a wedding outfit.

Banarasi Weaving: Ekaya store (2018-04)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Apart from window dressing, this large store in the capital city of Delhi provides a luxurious ambience in which to shop for Varanasi’s best silk textiles.

Banarasi Weaving: Ekaya store (2018-04)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Fabrics last longer when rolled rather than folded along the same lines. A sales assistant folds a silk sari with an embossed design.

Banarasi Weaving: Ekaya store (2018-04)Dastkari Haat Samiti

One of the new developments in motifs is the use of the lion, embedded within diagonal lines of the traditional Varanasi pattern of creeping foliage.

Banarasi Weaving: Ekaya store (2018-04)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Even while salesmen model saris and skirts for good effect, the Delhi store adds decorative features like images of models wearing Varanasi fabrics, shot by professional fashion photographers.

Banarasi Weaving: Ekaya store (2018-04)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The promoters and developers of this establishment claim they have more than 10,000 varieties of silk textiles from Varanasi.

Banarasi Sari weaving (2018)Dastkari Haat Samiti

This video gives a glimpse of the craft of Banarasi weaving.

Banarasi Weaving: Banarasi weaver (2018-02) by Abdul MajeedDastkari Haat Samiti

Credits: Story

Text: Jaya Jaitly and Charu Verma
Photography: Sunil Kumar and Charu Verma
Artisans: Maqbool Hasan, Haseen Mohd., Sribhas Chandra Supakar, and Ram Lal Morya
Ground Facilitator: Charu Verma
Video Documentation: Sunil Kumar and Charu Verma
Curation: Ruchira Verma

Cinematic Video:
- Director: Jyoti Neggi
- Production: Studio Gola

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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