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Varanasi’s treasure trove of skill

Varanasi is not only one of the oldest cities of India, but also home to Benarasi silk—every woman’s weakness. However, it is the handloom variety of the Benarasi saris that are most sought-after. Not many know that hand-woven Benarasi saris are being endangered by powerlooms, forcing weavers to look for other work.

brunch Updated: Sep 07, 2013 09:56 IST
Usmeet Kaur

Varanasi is not only one of the oldest cities of India, but also home to Benarasi silk—every woman’s weakness. However, it is the handloom variety of the Benarasi saris that are most sought-after. Not many know that hand-woven Benarasi saris are being endangered by powerlooms, forcing weavers to look for other work.



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A collection of Varanasi weaves is brought to the city in an exclusive trunk show by Taj Khazana, Taj hotel’s in-house lifestyle store. HT Photo



Coming to their rescue is the Taj group of hotels, with a unique venture called Taj Benares, under which a village called Serai Mohana in Varanasi has been adopted and its workers employed to weave their skill onto silks and other fabrics. At Taj Chandigarh on Friday, Sarita Hedge Roy, chief operating officer of Taj Khazana, the hotel’s in-house store, informed, “Taj Benares is a six-year-old project.

It all started almost seven years ago when our former vice chairman’s wife saw a documentary on TV showing the miserable plight of weavers in Varanasi. That is when the Taj group adopted this village, where almost 75 per cent of the people are weavers since many generations.” Roy said these workers were being forced to look for jobs as rickshaw pullers since their basic needs were not being fulfilled owing to little money. “Almost 300 people even left their villages. But, the Taj project has been able to provide them with water and electricity and even opened a small training centre for their children. Powerlooms have also been set for them. Our first project was called Taj Uniform, wherein we got hand-woven saris made for all the house-keeping and front office team of our luxury hotels,” added Roy.

The hotel’s designated team also travels to their adopted village with specific designs to get samples made. After the final selection, the weaver make the pieces. “This project has revived almost 300 classic designs of saris,” informs Roy. Many of these classic revivals are being showcased in a special trunk show at Taj Chandigarh, Sector 17, on till today. The fabrics include silks, georgettes, brocades and even cottons. There are Benarasi designer’s stalls where materials for dupattas, dresses and blouses are available, making it a must-try for young girls too.

While the cotton Benarsi saris start at R4,000 and go up till R25,000; the silks start at R10,000 and go up till R85,000. Chiffons and georgettes are priced between R10,000 and R30,000, while Benarasi stoles and dupattas are priced between R1,875 and R5,000. Taj Khazana stores are at Taj hotels in Delhi, Mumbai, engluru, Kolkata, Chennai, Goa, Coorg and Hyderabad.

Varied designs on display

Shikaargah: Hunting and riding themes work well for royalty. The motifs used for this design are a blend of birds, animals, flora and fauna. Shikaargah takes almost 14-16 weeks to make.

Jamawar: Each Jamawar sari is a shimmering tapestry of intricate design in varied colours. A minimum of four months go into the creation of each Jamawar sari.

Jaal Jaangla: As the word implies, it borrows motifs from the rich foliage of a jungle. Several other motifs or ‘bootis’ such as Bagh Boota (bunch of flowers), Pankha Booti (fans), Kairee booti, Phool booti and Jaal booti can be seen at the show.