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Stocking Up on Silk Saris

October 17, 2010

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been having trouble finding suitable wedding saris in Delhi.  They’re either too sparkly, too gaudy, too expensive, not the right color, and on, and on.

But, as luck would have it, I was in Varanasi last week – THE place to buy silk saris.  Oddly, I hadn’t even considered buying a sari in Varanasi, nonetheless a wedding sari, until I was listening to a textiles scholar’s lecture on Banarasi (the earlier name for Varanasi)  silks, in which he mentioned that an Indian bride was expected to have at least one silk sari from Banaras in her wedding trousseau.  I felt a little foolish that I hadn’t even considered buying a sari in Varanasi beforehand, but fortunately I still had time, and a great resource at my fingertips.  After the lecture, I explained to the textiles scholar that I was looking for a wedding sari, and he gave me the name and phone number of a master weaver in South Banaras.

Banarasi saris are known for their silver and gold brocade, their opulent embroidery, and the fine silks out of which they’re woven.  Saris can take anywhere from fifteen days to six months to be completed on a handloom!  Given this amount of time and labor to weave one sari, it makes sense that modern saris are now often powerloom woven and chemically, rather than naturally, dyed.  These changing trends in weaving practices and technologies, though, make handloom saris all the more valuable.  The master weaver whom I was going to visit only carried handloom saris, so I was prepared for them to be expensive, but well worth the cost.

On Saturday, I set out with a budget in mind, the master weaver’s name and phone number, and a few colleagues who were also in the market for silk saris.  I was expecting that we would end up in a typical sari shop with all of the saris on display and fancy lights to highlight the quality and detail of the fabric.  Instead, we ended up at the master weaver’s one-room workshop, where we were invited to sit with him on a white sheet on the floor while his young son was sent to fetch long, rectangular boxes containing stunning wedding saris.

We spent the next hour ooh-ing and aah-ing at beautiful handloom woven silks detailed with gold and silver threads and graceful floral motifs.  It turned out that the saris were extremely affordable – only one third of what I had expected the price to be (which just goes to show how high the mark-up is when you’re buying in Delhi rather than directly from the weaver.)  So, because I don’t make it to Banaras all that often, and because the price was too good to be true, I bought not one, but three saris, and still managed to stay under my budget!  Now I have three saris from which to choose for the wedding, and I’ve made a good dent in building up my formal Indian wardrobe.

The weaver still had to finish the saris, which would take a few days more – longer than I planned to stay in Varanasi – so he had to courier them to Delhi.  It was such a pleasure, though, to receive and open up the package yesterday, and to be able to show the saris off to Amrit and my mother-in-law!

Here’s a sneak peek of the detail of each of the three saris.  I won’t reveal the full saris, though, until wedding time!

Master Weaver Contact Information:

Haji Munna Creation

Address: D 44/30-31 Reori Talab, Opp. Haji Abbas Tani Wale, Varanasi

Email: haji.munna@hotmail.com

Mob: 9889707675

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. Your Mother permalink
    October 17, 2010 11:19 pm

    I am so pleased for you!

  2. Elizabeth permalink
    October 18, 2010 1:02 am

    Those are beautiful. I have never seen the naturally dyed sarees before. My mil bought me a fushia banarasi saree with gold/silver embroidered flowers and vines. I’m wearing it for our wedding here in the US.

    • October 18, 2010 9:50 am

      Your sari sounds beautiful as well! I’ve always liked the combination of the fuschia, silver and gold.

  3. April Morris permalink
    October 18, 2010 1:39 am

    I have never seen such beautiful fabric! I think the blue one is the most beautiful. How will you decide which one to wear on each day?

    • October 18, 2010 9:52 am

      Aren’t they stunning, though?

      I’m leaning toward the blue one for the evening cocktail, because I think it’s the most elegant, and then I’ll save the other two for daytime events. I’ll check with Amrit and his family, too, to see which they think are the most appropriate for each event.

  4. October 18, 2010 1:04 pm

    Whenever you travel down to South India, please try Kancheepuram Silk sarees. Kancheepuram is in Tamil Nadu, but the sarees are so popular that you will find it in all South Indian states. But its easy to get cheated as far as the authenticity is concerned.

    A kancheepuram silk saree is to a South Indian bride what a Benarasi silk saree is to a North Indian bride.

    You may be able to catch a glimpse of the sarees at ‘Nalli Silks’, a showroom at South Extension.

    • October 20, 2010 12:41 pm

      Thanks for the tip! I may actually be traveling to Tamil Nadu in the spring. If so, I’ll definitely look into buying one!

  5. April Morris permalink
    October 19, 2010 5:44 am

    I have to ask…..how much does a hand loomed sari cost? Can you buy other clothing form the same weaver?

    • October 20, 2010 12:45 pm

      The cost varies depending on the quality of the material, the complexity of the pattern, etc. The ones I saw, though, ranged from about Rs. 2500 – Rs. 5000 ($50 – $100).

      The weaver did sell other items besides saris, including silk dupattas, or scarves, and material for salwar-kameez, a traditional Indian three-piece suit.

  6. October 29, 2010 4:28 am

    Wow. These are really beautiful options for all your wedding events. Even though I had heard that buying silk fabric in Varanasi was a must do if one goes there, I never thought about buying a wedding sari there. What a great thought! Glad you got some for reasonable prices that you will undoubtedly feel absolutely beautiful in.

    • October 29, 2010 11:08 am

      Thank you! I actually checked with a few masis and didis, and, while they said that the saris were beautiful, they apparently don’t have enough flash for the main wedding events. So, I’ll have to wear these Varanasi saris for wedding days when family and friends come visiting, and will have to find a sari with a little more sparkle for the nighttime events. 🙂

  7. Rea permalink
    October 29, 2010 12:08 pm

    Thanks much for posting weavers information. I have been looking to buy a banarasi one for myself, but I leave in States, and since I all my family live in South India, I don’t have family who could buy me an authentic one at a reasonable price. I will see if I can contact the weaver and have it posted to my parents place in south. But how would they accept payment? Hope they have their own websites.

    Anyways, your sarees look beautiful. Also handloomed kanchipuram sarees (mostly gold brocarde, very opulant looking) are amazing too, and are a must have for south indian brides. I would suggest you to have that as part of your collection too.

    • October 29, 2010 6:44 pm

      I’m so glad I could help! I don’t know anything about the weaver having a website. Contact him, though, to try to work out payment.

      I’ve heard that kanchipuram saris are beautiful. I hope to pick one up next time I’m in south India!

  8. Pallavi permalink
    January 5, 2011 4:44 pm

    Beautiful Saris!
    Also check out saris at Chandni Chowk in Delhi. Typically, you can get saris at a fraction of the cost than if you go to a showroom in South Extension or Lajpat Nagar or the like. I have personally picked up original banarasi silk saris from Chandni Chowk for 1500-4000 Rs. Good luck for the wedding 🙂

    • January 9, 2011 5:30 pm

      Thank you for the tip. I’ve been to Chandni Chowk a handful of times, but never for sari-shopping. I’ll have to check that out next time I’m there!

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