Stocking Up on Silk Saris
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