Benares. Varanasi. Kashi.
Call it by whatever name you may but they all refer to a city where Ma Ganga flows in all its magnificence, where the temples teleport you to an age long gone by, a mystique of spirituality permeates the air, the stone walls and the stairs; and to the city of the Banarasi Saree.
If you are planning to visit the city for some saree shopping, we have put together some useful advice for you.
While looking to buy a genuine Handwoven-Pure Silk-Banarasi, you need to carefully dissect and inspect all the three elements that go into determining the exclusivity, quality and price of the product.
- Whether it is Handwoven
- Whether is is pure silk
- Whether it is Banarasi
Whether it is Handwoven:
Weaving technology has come a long way. Many patterns which so far could only be woven on a handloom are being mass produced on modern machines at a fraction of the cost. While techniques such as kadhuan and kadiyal can still only be made on a handloom, the design-possibilities with modern looms are continuously on the rise.
Whether it is pure silk:
Today, the art-silk or imitation-silk sarees woven using good quality polyester yarns are becoming increasingly diffifult to tell from a pure silk one for an undiscerning consumer. Such sarees using polyester yarns are almost always woven on power looms which again reduces the cost further.
Whether it is a Banarasi:
Besides the price you pay for the pure silk and the intricacies of design, there is also a price associated with the fact that a saree is woven in Benaras. There are many handloom clusters around Varanasi and elsewhere in the country which produce relatively inexpensive version of a Banarasi. For instance a handloom saree woven in the nearby cluster of Mubarakpur at a much lower cost are masquerading as Banarasis. An appropriate analogy would be to compare an original masterpiece by an illustrious painter to a knock-off. Like in paintings, you have to be careful that you are not buying a knock-off while paying the price of an original.
While the use of good-quality polyester and modern production techniques do enable to you to get sarees of reasonably good quality and design at a fraction of the cost, they are a double-edged sword. Because these sarees look and feel so close to pure silk handwoven Banarasi, many unscrupulous vendors may sell these as a pure silk Banarasi. If the copy is of a reasonably good quality and priced right, you may still choose to buy it. But you must know beforehand. You must not be short-changed.
Let us now try to split the buying process into two important components:
A. Selecting a Vendor
The Banarasi saree industry is a mature one and you can find many genuine vendors who are doing incredible work and offer you genuine products at genuine prices. But Benares has also earned a place in history books as a city of thugs.
Here are some tips on how to find the right vendor.
Do some due diligence before visiting. Take references from friends who have visited Varanasi recently or use google or social media. Your selection of the vendor will arguably be the biggest factor in deciding whether the feeling you take back home is a happy one or otherwise.
- Use reviews. But use your judgement as well. Not all positive reviews may be genuine. And not all negative reviews online may be a deal-breaker. In either case, if you do rely on reviews, please also ensure to write one on your purchase experience. There are a many potential buyers like you who make a purchase decision based on reviews and your feedback can really help them.
- Trust your taxi driver with your life, but not with your saree. Often you may find your taxi-driver or tour-guide to be unnaturally keen to take you to the so-called best-shop or a saree factory. Please take such recommendations with a pinch of salt. Barring exceptions, the nexus between hotels, travel-agents, taxi-drivers and vendors, and the inherent vested interests make it unlikely that you will receive a genuine advice from this community of professionals.
- Beware of the so-called factories. A genuine handwoven Banarasi saree is not, and cannot be made in factories. This relatively recent terminology has crept in only to tap into tourist psychology.
A fixed price shop where products are price-tagged is likely to save you money. Base your decision on the product quality and the net price you are paying for it, not the amount of discounts the store doles out. Even if you are an old connoisseur of sarees, you would find it relatively difficult to judge the genuine price of a saree. So the only yardstick you base your buying decision on is the amount of discount offered. Often you will find the products not being price-tagged leaving you with no means to judge if the discount you received is a genuine one. Even if the prices are tagged, it is likely that such discounts are already built into the prices. So use your judgement.
B. Selecting Sarees
- Build a conversation. With the sales executive, and the saree. A genuine handwoven Banarasi is not a commodity. It is a true labor of love with a saree taking anywhere between 10-90 days to weave a single piece. So try to appreciate it as a piece of art rather that a commodity. A friendly chat with the sales guy can make him more keen to show, at least what is according to him, the best designs. You may not fall in love with all that is displayed to you. But instead of saying, “I don’t like it at all”, try: “It is really nice but I am not looking for this kind.” Building a positive conversation will make your shopping experience more enjoyable and help you get the best out of the collection.
- First the color, then the design. In a stand-off where you are torn between a saree with a beautiful design and another with a lovely color, go with the latter.
- The best saree- does not exist. The endeavour to go back home with the best may let you ignore some rare gems. With genuine hand-woven sarees, we strongly recommend that when you feel sure about a design, you grab it right away. You may want to check more options at other stores, and that is fine. But remember. Many handloom sarees are one-offs. Make sure that your pursuit of finding something better doesn’t bereft you of the one you loved completely.
- Shop with an open mind. Do not try to find something you had seen before worn by some celebrity, finding an exact color, or an exact buta. This can lead you to overlook some precious designs that come your way, and leave empty-handed. By the time you decide to change your approach, it may be already too late.
- Buying in a group? Focus on the saree that is being showcased to you instead of the one to your friend sitting beside you. Trust us. This will help getting a better pick than your neighbour.
- If available, get the fall and edging applied by the vendor itself. This will negate the need for you to give the saree to a tailor and mitigate the risk of damage in the process.
- Consider getting them couriered. Most vendors will be glad to assist you with shipping the products at a nominal cost so that you don’t have to carry the extra luggage.
Besides anything that your eyes can see, Benares boasts of a fourth dimension, a dimension of mystique and charm that needs to be felt, not seen. Be sure to not miss out on exploring this while in town.
We wish you an awesome time in Benares.
HolyWeaves is a part of The Surekha Group, Benares- manufacturers, wholesalers and exporters of genuine handloom textiles for over four decades.
If you would like to visit our store for buying authentic handwoven sarees, dupattas, dress materials and souvenirs at most genuine prices, you can call or whatsapp us on +917347734773. For any other assistance, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Google location: https://goo.gl/maps/4XR5rE75tgH2
Store Timings: 10 am- 8 pm
Complimentary pick-and-drop available from select hotels.
You can also buy our products from our online store with a complete assurance of genuine quality and prices. Click here to visit our online store.
(If you find this post useful or have suggestions to make it more helpful, please leave your comments and suggestions in the comments section below.)