“Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older than even legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together.” –Mark Twain
Varanasi is a city in which culture, religion and fashion have evolved over centuries. It is a city where religion is fashion and fashion is religion. Earlier known as Benaras, the city is now known as Varanasi. The Marathas, Mughals and the various other empires that ruled the city have left their imprints on the culture of the city. Known as the spiritual capital of India, it is the holiest of the seven sacred cities in Hinduism and Jainism. Guru Nanak Dev visited Varanasi during Shivratri in 1507, a trip that played a large role in the founding of Sikhism. Emperor Akbar even built temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu during his reign.
No other city has had the privilege of having such a diverse range of influences and that is what makes Varanasi truly unique. Legend has it that Varanasi was the site of a great argument between Brahma and Vishnu. They referred to the Vedas to decide who is greater and discover to their dismay that it was Shiva, the destroyer who was supreme. One thing which even the gods would have definitely agreed upon is that the “Banarasi sari” holds a special place in the hearts and wardrobes of an Indian woman.
A favourite for Indian brides, the Banarasi sari is truly a piece of art. It comes from different varieties like pure silk(katan), organza(kora), zari and silk, georgette, shattir, net, cotton, silver work, jaamdanietc. The patterns woven on the saris have a striking resemblance to Mughal designs as the craftsmen migrated to Varanasi from Persia during Mughal times. Just like every masterpiece, a lot of effort is required to produce a single piece of Banarasi sari making it worthy of being worn by a mighty woman. Luxurious and elegant, the Banarasi sari makes a woman feel not only feminine but also like a queen.
Just like all good things in life, China has succeeded in making cheaper versions of the Banarasi sari. An experienced person may be able to differentiate just by the feel of the cloth. If you are not one, you could just pull its other side up and check for floats between the grids of warps and wefts on the sari. Only a hand woven Banarasi sari boasts of such brilliant technique. So go out there, look for your original Banarasi sari and feel like a queen!