The Beauty Of Banarasipana

By Anjali V. March 27, 2024

On the occasion of Republic Day, let's celebrate the beauty of Banarasi weaves that exude the cultural heritage of India.

There is never a dearth of occasions in India to flaunt your favourite traditional and Indian wear. Talk of Indian wear and it takes us closer to the finest heritage weaves-Banarasi, bandhani, leheriya, ikat, sanganer, etc.-that stand testimony to the weaving skills of artisans and serve as a repository of India's rich and diverse traditions.

This issue, let's put the spotlight on Banarasi weaves that bring to light the textile traditions, crafting techniques and artisanal skills being practised in India for centuries now. Originating from the city of Varanasi, Banarasi weaves are a symbol of timeless tradition and grandeur. Staying true to their roots, their rich and historical legacy continues to mesmerise us till date and the impeccable designs make a perfect sartorial statement.

Banarasi handloom art demands precision with each step contributing to a distinctive, handcrafted fabric. The romance of re-visiting the same indigenous weave with a fresh breath of air and weaving variations leads to vintage classical and modern elegance.

We speak to some of the keepers of Banarasi weaves on their offerings, and how they plan to revive the cultural heritage of Banarasi handloom and endorse the art to new generations.

Steeped in Banarasipana

Bespoke couture house of contemporary Banarasi heirlooms Warp 'n Weft's collections are a treasure trove of signature Banarasi weaves like shikargahs, guldavaris, rangkats and ektara. Sagrika Rai, Founder and Creative Director, talks of how their bespoke heirlooms are steeped in Banarasipana. "Inspired by our own treasure of archives, we innovate and adapt to high precision techniques to create puristic heirlooms distinguished with exclusivity and elegance."

Elaborating on the cultural heritage of Banarasipana, she states, "The tapestry of Banaras symbolises the rich blend of culture, art, and heritage and talks of a history older than civilisation. The intricate weaving traditions and craftsmanship, the patterns and imagery, the colours and textures pronounce a vibrant and diverse cultural landscape within its geography bound by the holy Ganga. art and architecture, ancient temple rituals to modern learning campuses, vedic institutions, all standing the test of time. The only thing that has sustained the spirit of Banaras is the attitude and that to us is Banarasipana."

The brand aims at reviving the heritage weaves with careful restoration techniques or recreating the same with meticulous craftsmanship, and a deep understanding of traditional textile methods. The steps involved vary from re-penning the khaakas or drawings and pursuing every step of a brand new development.

A handloom masterpiece

Talking Threads' signature Rangrez capsule embodies the iconic Banarasi rangkat weave. Incredibly difficult to weave and timeless in appeal, this rare handloom masterpiece is as much an ode to India's famed artisanship, as it is to the exuberance of colours that unite the spirit of India. Pearl Uppal, Creative Director and Designer, focuses on the cultural significance of the signature weaves. "Over centuries of its existence, Banarasi weaving has incorporated many classic patterns and design traditions from India's varied regions. The weavers drew inspirations from other weaving techniques and created their own interpretation of these classic patterns into versatile yet uniquely Banarasi weaves. The rangkat weaves are known for their sharp changes in colour, which make them stand out from other weaves. The rangkat handloom pattern is a crossover of yarns with colour blocking in stripes, the highest order of Kadiyal weaving. The warp and the weft, intricately woven with multiple continuous changes in the colours, create a multi-coloured pattern which is simply spectacular. The base is often embellished with floral or geometric buttas. The immortal weave requires intense focus and can only be woven 2-4 inches per day."

The collection aims to renew the interest of Gen Z in this immortal weave so they cherish Indian craft and heritage. Their range embodies the rangkat weave into contemporary silhouettes like long flared jackets paired with skirts and bustiers, peplum jackets with shararas, and cropped jackets with pants. Their special edition for brides and grooms are also a cultural treat to the eyes.

An inspiration of craftsmanship

Tilfi Banaras brings the finest woven stories from the busy handlooms and the bustling lanes of Banaras Chowk carrying the essence of this holy city, its nooks and crannies, its chaos, beauty and timelessness. A pioneering take on the Banarasi brocade, its new couture is inspired by the craftsmanship and artistic sensibilities of Banaras. An amalgamation of two heritage artistries and a play of silhouettes, it combines the delicate Rococo pastel palettes with the intricate Banarasi zari weaves and aari embroideries, bringing together different cultures and time periods. The collection is woven in pure satin silk and Katan silk, and challenges the perceptions of time, evoking a sense of a bygone era in the present.

The motifs comprise distinct sari designs and lehenga sets in a pastel palette of lavender, off-white, pink, peach, blue and green. The designs showcase Banarasi phekwa and vasket art that have been used to weave zari patterns reminiscent of Rococo's gilded architectural elements, and botanical motifs rendered in classic Kadhua and Meenakari weaves.

The synthesis of handloom

Accessories brand Tan & Loom believes that the liveliness of this centuries-old handloom tradition resonates with the celebration of festivals and wedding. Its new collection of handcrafted leather potlis called The Potli Project 2023 is all about elaborate and minimalist fabrics, modern and traditional silhouettes. The collection showcases stunning shades and features traditional shapes like betel leaf and floral motifs crafted with golden thread work. When searching for the right fabric for the collection, they wanted something that represented grace, royalty, and tradition. Founder and Lead Designer Rukmini Guha, concludes, "When it comes to regality, there's ultimately no better choice than the Banarasi brocade."

Let the beauty of Banarasipana wrap yourself in cultural pride.