The Elegance & Legacy of Banarasi Silk Sarees: Tips for Informed Shopping
by Manoj Prabhakar on Oct 22, 2023
Transcending centuries of traditions, diversity and the continuous growth of society, sarees in India remain a crowd favourite for everyday wear, occasions and festivals, even to date. A saree, which is more than just a piece of fabric, holds within itself the very essence of womanhood, grace and elegance. The unbiased garment is worn by all in India, for it can shape itself around any body type without judgment.
The versatile garment has always been an open canvas for creativity and intricate craftsmanship, ultimately giving birth to the numerous styles and fabrics we see today. From cotton to silk, a saree is made of several materials, each having its own uniqueness. One such saree that has been a pan-India favourite is the Banarasi silk saree.
From lightweight Banarasi silk saree to statement bridal collections, this masterpiece, hailing from the ancient city of Varanasi, is one of the most worn among Indian women for festivals, occasions and celebrations. A testament to India's centuries-old weaving traditions and artistic finesse, the Banarasi silk saree holds a cherished place in the rich tapestry of the country's textiles.
The allure of classic Banarasi silk sarees lies in the intricately woven motifs. Traditional elements such as peacocks, nakshi, floral patterns, buttas, and temple motifs are among the adornments that grace these timeless lightweight Banarasi silk sarees. These timeless weaves have been considered an epitome of grace and sophistication, especially among brides in India, for their grandeur and depiction of Indian mythology, flora and fauna, giving the bride a sense of heritage in every piece on her big day.
Types of Classic Banarasi Silk Sarees
Available in exquisite varieties, the heritage weave of Varanasi comes in collaboration with an array of materials, adding uniqueness to the collection. Take a look at the different types of classic lightweight Banarasi silk sarees that are available online.
- Katan Silk Banarasi Sarees: Katan silk is known for its smooth texture and fine weaving. These sarees are often characterized by intricate Banarasi zari work and are considered among the most luxurious. They are worn on special occasions like weddings and festivals, signifying opulence and tradition.
- Organza Banarasi Silk Sarees: Organza Banarasi sarees are lightweight and translucent, making them perfect for summer weddings and formal events. They are adorned with delicate motifs and are prized for their elegance. The cost of Organza Banarasi silk sarees ranges between Rs. 15,000 to Rs. 30,000 or more.
- Georgette Silk Sarees: The classic Georgette Banarasi silk sarees are known for their drape and comfort. They are often chosen for events that require long hours of wear, representing a blend of style and ease. They are one the most common weaves chosen by women across the country for their comfort and flow.
- Tissue Silk Sarees: Tissue sarees have a translucent sheen and are woven with a mix of silk and zari threads. They are favoured for their subtle yet captivating aesthetics, making them suitable for both traditional and contemporary occasions. A touch of the Banarasi essence on tissue sarees adds more grandeur and elegance, making it the perfect choice for festivities.
- Banarasi Tussar Silk Sarees: Tussar silk, also known as "wild silk," is used to create Banarasi sarees with a unique texture. They are valued for their earthy and rustic charm, reflecting a connection to nature and tradition. The cost of these Banarasi Tussar silk sarees starts from as low as Rs. 5,000, making them one of the most affordable choices.
Numerous classic varieties of lightweight Banarasi silk sarees are embraced throughout India, rendering this attire one of the most versatile and adaptable weaves in the country. Cherished by diverse cultures spanning the entire nation, it continually evolves and rejuvenates, inspiring fresh expressions and designs with each passing season.
Consider these essential factors before buying a Banarasi Silk Saree.
As the classic Banarasi silk sarees gained widespread popularity in Indian markets, counterfeit products emerged, saturating the industry with imitation sarees that deceive buyers. Consequently, when contemplating the purchase of either a traditional or a lightweight Banarasi silk saree, it is essential to take into account the various critical factors outlined below.
- Inspect Quality of Silk: Pure Banarasi silk is made from high-quality silk threads. Rub the fabric between your fingers to ensure it feels smooth and soft, not rough or synthetic. Look for irregularities in the silk threads, as real silk will have some irregularities, unlike the smooth finish of synthetic silk.
- Check for Quality of Zari Work: Authentic Classic Banarasi silk sarees feature intricate zari work made from real gold or silver threads. Genuine zari will tarnish over time, giving it an antique look, whereas imitation zari typically retains its shine. To test the zari of the saree you wish to purchase, gently rub it with a cotton ball soaked in a mild acid-like lemon juice. If it tarnishes, it's likely genuine.
- Carefully Examine the Saree Weave & Design: Classic Banarasi silk sarees are known for their complex and detailed weaving patterns. Authentic ones will have finely woven, intricate designs, often depicting traditional motifs like paisleys, florals, or peacocks. Counterfeit sarees may have less intricate designs or visible irregularities in the weave.
- Examine the Texture and Check the Weight of the Saree: Pure and classic Banarasi silk sarees tend to be heavier than their synthetic counterparts due to the density of silk fibres. If a saree feels unusually light, it may be a fake. Pure silk has a unique texture that can be described as soft and luxurious. Synthetic silk, on the other hand, may feel smoother or slippery. While purchasing and checking for the cost of a Banarasi silk saree, feel it with your hands and asses its texture and weight before you purchase.
- Beware of Unrealistic Prices: Pure and classic Banarasi silk sarees are made of high-quality silk and require skilled craftsmanship, which ultimately results in the cost of the saree. If a pure, lightweight Banarasi silk saree is being sold at an unbelievably low price, it's likely too good to be true. On average, the cost of Banarasi Silk Saree starts from Rs. 10,000 and can go up to Rs. 1 lakh and more.
- Conduct a Burn Test: This is a risky method but can be effective if done cautiously. Take a small piece of the saree's border or edge and burn it with a flame. Genuine silk will curl away from the flame, producing a smell like burning hair and leaving brittle ash behind. Synthetic materials will melt and produce a plastic-like smell.
- Get an Expert Opinion: If you are unsure of the quality of a Banarasi Silk Saree due to its lightweight or cost, seek the advice of an experienced textile expert or a trusted family member or friend who is knowledgeable about textiles.
Identifying pure and classic Banarasi silk sarees from fake ones requires a combination of careful inspection, knowledge of the fabric, and a discerning eye. While there are telltale signs, the best way to ensure authenticity is to purchase from reputable sources and brands known for their genuine Banarasi silk products.
Difference between Classic Banarasi Silk Sarees and Kanchipuram Silk Sarees
Coming from two different parts of the country and two different and diverse cultures, the bridal and lightweight Banarasi silk sarees and classic Kanchipuram silk sarees are two of the most renowned and luxurious types of silk sarees in India. They possess unique characteristics and exude elegance and charm in their own ways. Both versatile weaves are loved across generations, making them one of the most loved, especially for festivals and family occasions. Both classic Banarasi silk sarees and Kanchipuram Silk Sarees are adorned by brides on their best day. Take a look at some key differences.
Banarasi Sarees: These sarees originate from the city of Varanasi (formerly known as Banaras) in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. They are deeply rooted in the culture and traditions of North India.
Kanchipuram Silk Sarees: Kanchipuram sarees come from the town of Kanchipuram in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. They are an integral part of South Indian weddings and cultural events.
- Silk Quality:
Banarasi Sarees: Banarasi sarees are typically made from fine silk threads. The silk used is soft and renowned for its sheen and smooth texture.
Kanchipuram Silk Sarees: Kanchipuram sarees are known for their heavyweight silk, which is sturdy and durable. The silk used is more textured and has a matte finish compared to Banarasi silk.
- Weaving Technique:
Banarasi Sarees: These sarees are woven using the brocade technique, making them lightweight Banarasi silk sarees. They often feature intricate patterns, floral motifs, and Mughal-inspired designs. The pallu (decorative end) of a Banarasi saree is particularly ornate.
Kanchipuram Silk Sarees: Kanchipuram sarees are woven using the "korvai" technique, where the border and body of the saree are woven separately and then interlocked. They are known for their bold and contrasting borders with traditional South Indian motifs.
- Motifs and Designs:
Banarasi Sarees: Banarasi saree silk sarees often feature motifs like paisleys, floral patterns, and intricate geometric designs. They may also include motifs inspired by Indian mythology.
Kanchipuram Silk Sarees: Kanchipuram sarees predominantly showcase temple motifs, checks, stripes, and traditional South Indian designs. They are known for their bold and vibrant colours.
- Occasion and Usage:
Banarasi Sarees: Banarasi saree silk sarees are popular choices for weddings and special occasions in North India. They are often worn by brides and are considered a symbol of grandeur and tradition.
Kanchipuram Silk Sarees: Kanchipuram sarees are a staple in South Indian weddings and festivities. They are favoured for their durability and are believed to bring good luck to the bride.
Banarasi Sarees: The cost of Banarasi silk sarees is often priced on the higher side due to the fine silk and intricate craftsmanship.
Kanchipuram Silk Sarees: Kanchipuram sarees are also relatively expensive because of their heavy silk and traditional weaving techniques.
In summary, while both classic Banarasi silk sarees and Kanchipuram silk sarees are cherished for their beauty and craftsmanship, they have distinct characteristics in terms of origin, silk quality, weaving techniques, motifs, and cultural significance. Each holds a special place in the hearts of Indians and is a testament to the rich textile heritage of their respective regions.