Bengalis and Banarasi - A Match Made in Heaven

Varanasi, the most ancient surviving city in the world is the spiritual capital of our nation and home to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. It is not just an age-old city situated on the banks of Ganga but is a utopia in itself. For our nation this city is a hub of rich literature and culture, religious experience and trading. 

Varanasi is a world famous center of handloom woven and embroidered textiles since time immemorial. Bustling of cloth trade is evident from the timeless Jataka and Pali text. Emperor Akbar so loved the silk work of this city that apart from clothing he used carpets and wall hangings made of Banarasi silk.

The development of Banarasi silk was initiated in the 17th century and today it's a major cottage industry with the support of 1.2 million people. This heavenly city has gifted our nation with a production of a finely woven silk cloth of 6 yard made up of 5600 thread wires each 45 inches wide which is decorated with intricate designs known as "Banarasi Silk Saree".

It is interesting how a piece of cloth that originated in the holy land of Varanasi has managed to intertwine with the age old Bengali tradition like it was one of its own. Not only do they resonate with the warm, comforting aura of a Bengali bride but also goes high up in the status quo. You’ll often find ladies draped in exquisite Banarasi sarees taking part in extravagant social gatherings.

Banarasi sarees in Bengal are more than just a piece of beautiful cloth that has been irrigated by the sweat of weavers and craftsmen. There’s more to the picture. Sometimes, it may go unnoticed, the flick of spark that ignited the eyes of the person wearing a Banarasi but we, at Keya Seth have kept that little photon of life safe with us. 

Our Benarasis go beyond the phenotypic standards of beauty formed by the society. When you doll up in a Keya Seth apparel, we want to see that spark of joy, of enthusiasm, of life within you. That is what we strive for, that is what we aim for. 

West Bengal is the 3rd highest purchaser of Sarees after Bihar and Odisha with 93.8% purchase. Amongst all, Benarashi has received the highest level of appreciation by the Bengalis of West Bengal. The capital city of West Bengal, Kolkata, has the highest availability of Benarashi and is accepted as the most popular and traditional clothing among Bengalis. After all have you ever heard of a Bengali wedding without a Benarasi?

We all know how culturally rich Banarasi is and how it makes one feel. But have you ever thought of peeking into the process through which it goes in order to make it what it is at the end?  

Let’s give you a brief sneak peek.

It all starts with gleaming threads of silk and a cottage. Using age old techniques the weavers and craftsmen weave the threads to make it bigger and better. It takes them anything from a few weeks to straight up six months to come up with with a complete Benarasi. The weavers and craftsmen involved got the skill from their forefathers who in turn got it from theirs.

Chronologically, the origin of Benarasis traces back to the Vedic times. But what makes it standalone even today is that the nurturing process remains the same. Zari threads are drawn from gold alloys and are then woven around silk yarns. The different symbols and motifs are crafted out of this zari thread while the body remains of silk. 

Depending upon the type of thread used and pattern of cut work or texture there are five categories of Banarasi Sarees:

  • Tissue Saree: Now as silly as this may sound, Tissue Sarees are woven with golden Zari brocade which are extremely fine thread, they lend an appearance and texture of a tissue paper.
  • Butidar Saree: It woven with brocade threads of silver, silk, and gold. The darker shade of gold and lighter shade of silver patterns it as Ganga Jamuna.
  • Cut Work Saree: Featuring the pattern of Leaves, jasmine, creepers, and marigold flowers, we have the floral cut work saree.
  • Using the colorful extra-weft silk yarn to form the outline "Tanchoi Sarees" are made. They have large motifs of paisleys and the border has criss-cross patterns.
  • Showing the nature and heaviness of festivity "Jangla Sarees" are made with colorful silk thread. They are intricately designed with Jangla motifs as well.

The city of joy is also known as the city of intellectuals. Here, intellectualism is not used in context with the typical paradigm of education but rather the intellectualism refers to the sheer curiosity of knowing their roots, their culture, embracing and preserving what we have had and nurturing our successors with the same. Bengal knows how to hold on to their values even when the wave of westernisation has almost withered the delicate memoirs of our tradition. Kolkata has shown the right way to co-exist and we want to do our share of work in this. 

With the same spirit we came up with the Banarasi Carnival that started on 20th of November and will continue till the 20th of December. Every year this carnival brings to you a huge collection of Banarasis and it’s the same this year as well. We know how a Banarasi can inflict confidence in a person and we want everyone to feel the same. But at the same time, we want our people to embrace this glorious piece of pure hard work and sincerity. 

With more than forty thousand Banarasis of sixty different types on display, you’ll get a plethora of options to choose from. 

This carnival brought to you by Keya Seth Exclusive is one step in the right direction. Come join us in the festival as we take you through the crests and troughs of Benarasis - the initiation, the evolution and the present.