A Banarasi sarees is a sari silk made in Varanasi, an ancient city which is also called Benares (Banaras). The saris are among the finest saris in India and are known for their gold and silver brocade or zari, fine silk and opulent embroidery. The saris are made of finely woven silk and are decorated with intricate design, and, because of these engravings, are relatively heavy.
Their special characteristics intricate intertwining floral and foliate motifs, kalga and bel, a string of upright leaves called jhallar at the outer, edge of border is a characteristic of these saris. Other features are gold work, compact weaving, figures with small details, metallic visual effects, pallus, jal (a net like pattern), and mina work.
The saris are often part of an Indian bride’s trousseau.
Depending on the intricacy of its designs and patterns, a sari can take from 15 days to a month and sometimes up to six months to complete. Banarasi saris are mostly worn by Indian women on important occasions such as when attending a wedding and are expected to be complemented by the woman’s best jewelry.
There are four main varieties of Banarasi sari, which includes pure silk (Katan), Organza (Kora) with Zari and silk; Georgette, and Shattir, and according to design process, they are divided into categories like, Jangla, Tanchoi, Vaskat, Cutwork, Tissue and Butidar
Over the years, the Banarasi silk handloom industry has been incurring huge losses because of competition from mechanised units producing the Varanasi silk saris at a faster rate and at cheaper cost, another source of competition has been saris made of cheaper synthetic alternatives to silk.
In 2009, after two years of wait, weaver associations in Uttar Pradesh, secured Geographical Indication (GI) rights for the ‘Banaras Brocades and saris’. GI is an intellectual property right, which identifies a good as originating in a certain region where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the product is essentially attributable to its geographical origin.
As per the GI certificate, Banarasi products fall under four classes (23–26), namely silk brocades, textile goods, silk sari, dress material and silk embroidery. Most importantly this means that no sari or brocade made outside the six identified districts of Uttar Pradesh, that is Varanasi, Mirzapur, Chandauli, Bhadohi, Jaunpur and Azamgarh districts, can be legally sold under the name of Banaras sari and brocade. Prior to this, in July 2007, nine organisations, Banaras Bunkar Samiti, Human Welfare Association (HWA), joint director industries (eastern zone), director of handlooms and textiles Uttar Pradesh Handloom Fabrics Marketing Cooperative Federation, Eastern UP Exporters Association (EUPEA), Banarasi Vastra Udyog Sangh, Banaras Hath Kargha Vikas Samiti and Adarsh Silk Bunkar Sahkari Samiti, had applied to the Chennai-based Geographical Indication Registry of Government of India, in a move that was supported by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)