The Banarasi saree is one of the most ornate and beautiful garments from India, worn across the country for special occasions and weddings. This bridal favorite is much loved by all generations for its unmatched beauty and splendor. Banarasi sarees are produced exclusively in the ancient city of Varanasi and surrounding villages, utilizing special techniques and unique designs.
The distinctive look of these woven silk sarees is mainly due to the dual influence of Mughal and Hindu cultures in the textile and the designs. Banaras or Varanasi has always been a busy center of production of luxurious textiles for aristocrats and royalty, especially various fine varieties of silk and muslin.
In the Mughal period, these fine silk weaves were combined with gold thread work called ‘zari’, and the designs became even more intricate and gorgeous. The Banarasi silk sarees that we see today are directly descended from the erstwhile sarees of royalty.
Rich weaves, lustrous textures & that feeling of grandeur
Banarasi silk is distinguished by its tight weave, metallic sheen, gold work, fine feel and detailed designs of intertwining flowers, figures, jal or net and leaves. The finest materials are used to create the Banarasi sari, like soft woven silks from the south of India and good quality gold and silver threads.
Earlier, only Chinese silk and real gold and silver was used in the creation of Banarasi sarees and each saree was completely uniquely patterned. Such one-of-a-kind sarees can still be obtained and take up to a year to produce; however, to meet the demand of all consumers, most Banarasi sarees today utilize more affordable substitutes like gold plated bronze threads.
They are either made of brocade, also called organza, or kora (raw) silk, with gold or silver zari and silk designs. Depending on the designs and materials they are divided into sub-types such as Jangla, Tanchoi, cutwork, Tissue and butidar. However, pure Banarasi silk sarees are still the preferred garments of brides, not only because this is a traditional part of the bridal trousseau in north India, but also because these are the most luxurious looking options available.
A significant other for bridal trousseau
The bridal Banarasi saree usually comes in bridal colors like red and maroon, with a lot of heavy gold embroidery and woven designs of fertility symbols like flowers and fruits. It is the most ornate of all the different types of Banarasi sarees, and is typically very rich and opulent looking because of the additional embellishments.
Banarasi wedding sarees are also quite festive and colorful but less heavy than the bridal varieties. They come in a range of colors like blue, pink, purple, green and yellow, and may even be multi-colored. The pallu is quite important as this is where the most ornate designs are displayed.
However, in Banaras, sarees can also be made of materials besides silk. Jamdani sarees are made of woven cotton and silk and are amongst the finest varieties available, while Banarasi georgette sarees are elegant and trendy modern variations which come with a lot of beautiful embroidery and embellishments.
A Banarasi saree collection also usually has a few sarees with stone, sequins, cut dana and cut beads embellishments as well as the woven embroidery and designs on the fabric itself. These will typically be restricted to the border as the saree on the whole does not require any additional designs to enhance its’ beauty.
Style tips – Banarasi sarees
Banarasi sarees have become immensely popular today, and are one of those rare garments that are traditional while also being trendy. Many Bollywood actresses have worn Banarasi silk sarees on the red carpet, while fashion designers have also experimented with the traditional designs. Thus they have a great popular culture impact and can be seen everywhere, from fashion ramps to fashion magazines. Though women have been wearing Banarasi sarees for special occasions like weddings and festivals for many years, the emergence of this sari as a fashionable garment has inspired people to experiment with the style of wearing it.
The blouse is an essential saree accessory and an excellent way to accessorize as well. Traditionally, the sarees were matched with thick brocade blouses in the same color and pattern and this classic look is still very much in style. With the addition of some heavy gold jewelry and a pair of gold high heel sandals, a perfect wedding look can be achieved.
On the other hand, those who want to experiment can go in for the new Bollywood style of wearing a high collar, long sleeve silk blouse with rich and distinctive patterning with georgette Banarasi sarees with relatively simpler designs. The translucent georgette material will show off the blouse beneath which then becomes the centerpiece of the outfit.
In terms of jewelry, brides usually go in for traditional Kundan and Polki sets of necklace, earrings and bangles. For parties or festivals, Meenakari or gold filigree necklaces would be a great choice as well.