Whether you are a bride who is on the lookout for an opulent attire to include in your wedding trousseau or to wear it on your big day or if you are someone who simply fancies a luxurious and classic outfit, then you can never go wrong with a rich Benarasi saree or lehenga. These age old beauties are extremely gorgeous and are one among the exquisite fabrics in India. There is something magical about a culturally rich and finely woven Benarasi saree, that even the top designers in India like Sabyasachi Mukherjee and Anita Dongre prefer to work with it, adding their unique personal touch to these classic beauties. Benarasi sarees are known for their elegance and sophistication and you can never go wrong with them.

Classic Benarasi Brocade Saree

History & Origin

Benarasi silk also known as Banarasi silk is a superior variant of silk which derived its name from the city in which it was originally crafted. It has its origin from Varnasi (also known as Benaras) in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India. The silk industry in Varnasi can be dated back to over 2,500 years. It is the world’s most ancient cottage industry. The most spectacular silk sarees have been woven in Varnasi for over centuries. The saree making is a cottage industry for about 1.2 million people associated directly or indirectly with the hand loom silk industry of the region around Varnasi including Gorakhpur, Chandauli, Jaunupur, Bhadohi, and Azamgarh districts.

Varnasi also known as Benaras

Benarasi fabrics have been mentioned in the Buddhist texts dating back to 500-800 CE. It is mentioned that Buddha had sanctioned the use of these Benarasi silk shawls to the buddhist monks. Though the use of silk fabrics have been mentioned in the Buddhist texts, it was mainly the cotton industry that flourished during the ancient times. Silk gained importance during the Mughal era, during the time of the Mughal Emperor Akbar(1556-1605CE). At this time weaving was predominantly done within the household and most of the weavers belonged to the Momin Ansari Muslim communtiy. One can see Mughal inspired motifs and designs on a Benarasi silk saree like intricate intertwining floral and foliage motifs, kalga and bel and a string of upright leaves known as jhallar.

Mughal inspired foliage patterns on Benarasi silk saree

With the migration of brocade weavers from the Gujarat in the 17th Century CE, Benarasi silk sarees were further enriched with the designs and techniques used by these skilled artisans and hence these designs got incorporated into the Benarasi silk sarees. The influx from Persia and central Asia led to the evolution of workmanship that incorporated the use of ‘zari’ made out of gold and silver and also certain silk materials were sourced from China and Central Asia. During the 19th Century, these Banrasi silk sarees became very popular.

Weaving of Benarasi Saree

Depending upon the intricacy and complexity of the designs, a Benarasi saree may take anywhere from 15 to 30 days for completion. The weaving process is usually a team work and around a minimum of three people may be required in the creation of a single saree. One person weaves the saree, the second one takes care of the revolving ring in making the bundles and the last person aids in the border designing. Typically, a Benarasi saree consists of 5600 thread wires and are all 45 inches wide. A base of 24 to 26 inches long is made by the craftsmen.

Weaving process

The motif designing must be made at the bundling stage. Design boards are made by sketching the designs on a graph paper, incorporating the color concepts to be added on the Benarasi fabric. In order to make a single design numerous punch cards are made. Hundreds of punch cards are used to create a single design. The perforated cards are knit to the loom using different colour threads. The cards are paddled in a systematic manner to make sure that the main weave picks up the correct colours and patterns.


There are four fabric varieties of a Benarasi saree. Pure silk (katan), Organza (kora) with gold or silver zari and silk, Shattir and Georgette.

Pure silk(katan) is a plain fabric with pure silk threads that are twisted and woven into the pure silk saree. In the olden days katan silk sarees were woven using traditonal hand loom methods. Nowadays, power looms and rapid looms have replaced the handloom method of weaving.

Pure katan silk saree

Organza(kora) This fabric uses gold and silver zari to create beautiful brocade designs that are woven into the saree to give a luxurious look and feel. The warp and weft method of weaving is adopted here.

Organza saree

Shattir is the sole fabric used to make voguish and exquisite designs in a Benarasi saree.

Georgette is a very lightweight fabric featuring a simple weave. It has gained a lot of popularity in the recent times. It is made out of crepe yarns.

Georgette Benarasi featuring bandhani designs

Design categories

Benarasi sarees are not only categorized on the basis of fabric varieties but also on the basis of designs.

Jangla is one of the most ancient designs among the Benarasi brocades. The name is drawn from the elegant jangla designs featured across the length of the saree. It is made using the most opulent muga silk from Assam and is a favorite choice for wedding ceremonies.

Tanchoi is a very complex and technical weaving method which used one or two warp and upto five weft colors. Tanchois are a very fine weave Benarasi sarees that use and extra weft thread to create intricate patterns. They are very light and easy to drape. Tanchoi sarees are often woven with beautiful paisley designs on the pallu and criss-cross patterns adorning the border.

Cutwork Benarasi is accentuated with cutworks and floral motifs like jasmines, marigolds and foliage patterns. They are a less expensive version of a jamdani saree. It is crafted using cut work technique on a plain texture using some cotton mixed with silk. They aren’t as expensive as the above ones.

Tissue sarees flaunt the most elegant and delicate look. The golden zari beautifies the entire saree giving it a sheen. The commonly used designs on a tissue saree are woven lotus motifs and water drops. Self woven paisley patterns adorn the pallu.

Butidar The striking feature of a butidar saree is the richly woven brocade with gold and silver zari and silk. This type of brocade designing is referred to as Ganga-Jamuna by the weavers of Benaras as the gold threads are darker in shade when compared to the silver threads. The motifs on this saree are commonly known as resham butti, jhummar butti, baluchar butta, patti butti, jhari butta, angoor bail, ashraffi butti and latiffa butti.

Designers work on Benarasi

Top fashion designers in India like Sabyasachi Mukherjee and Anita Dongre swear by these classic Benarasi fabrics for their bridal creations. These top notch designers blend the beauty of tradition with contemporary styles and work to bring out the most exotic and extravagant outfits that every women would desire.

Sabyasachi’s stunning benarasi bridal collection.

Celebrity in Benarasi silk

The gorgeous diva of bollywood, Anushka Sharma, gracefully carried a red Sabyasachi Benarasi saree on her wedding reception and made the enitire B town rave about its beauty.

Bollywood actress in Benarasi saree

Interesting facts

The Benarasi brocades have been the most showcased of the Benarasi saris internationally and were, in fact, on display at the Great Exhibition at London in 1851 CE.

The reigning Indian Prime Minister Narendrabhai Modi (knowing Michelle Obama’s preference for the magnificent weave) had famously gifted a bespoke, hand-made Kadhua* Banarasi silk sari to the erstwhile first lady (of the US), on her visit to India.


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