When you think of the most elegant and sought-after types of Indian dress, you think of silk sarees. India is home to so many kinds of pure silk sarees, each regional variation with its own charms and appeal. These range from the simple and light Tussar silks, to the silky smoothness of a Mysore silk, to the earthy appeal of the Paithani silk from western India. While each and every kind of silk saree has its own merits and unique features, the must-have silken weaves in a fashionable Indian woman’s wardrobe are the Banarasi silk saree and the Kanjivaram silk saree. It is widely acknowledged by saree lovers across the country and even the globe that these fine, centuries-old weaving traditions are of the highest quality and prestige.
These two weaving traditions developed at almost two different ends of the subcontinent; the Kanjivaram originated in the villages of northern Tamil Nadu while the Banarasi silk comes from Varanasi, a city in the heart of the northern plains of India. Now, thanks to the fast paced modernized world, the reach and demand for these sarees is felt across the country and you see motifs and designs from different regions incorporated into these classic silk sarees. Pashudh also pays tribute to the amalgamation of these traditions with unique creative designs in our Kanjivaram silk sarees.
Despite the geographical, linguistic, and even cultural divide, the Banarasi and Kanjivaram silk sarees have some significant similarities and some unique qualities that make each of them a one of a kind tradition.
Both the Kanjivaram and Banarasi traditions are known for their most valued element – the gorgeous golden zari borders and work that line the precious silks. The fine skills that these creations require is something the craftspeople behind both Kanjivaram and Banarasi Silk Sarees will attest to. The amount of time it takes to craft a silk saree is anywhere from a few days to a few months, depending on the level of time, effort, and pure skill that is necessary to create the perfect Banarasi or Kanjivaram silk. Usually, these weaves feature golden threads in the zari work, but silk threads are also frequently used and lend a unique glitter to the silk.
This Pink and Lavender Pure Zari Kanjivaram Silk Saree from Pashudh is a fine representation of the kind of intricately detailed zari work that complements the hues of the Kanjivaram saree perfectly. The pink body adorned with peacock and rudraksh motifs in silver and gold zari. The lavender thin border with floral patterns and traditional zari pallu gives this beautiful saree a truly attractive look.
Another contemporary Pashudh take on silver zari work is the Yellow & Turquoise Kanjivaram Silk Saree that features a beautiful yellow shimmer body with diagonal checks, contrasting turquoise border with peacocks, paisleys and floral jaals woven with silver zari along with a complementing border. There’s no better way to flaunt the finest silver and gold zari work than to opt for a Pashudh creation
The Quintessential Bridal Choice
The Kanjivaram and the Banarasi silk are the number one priority for any bride looking to feel her best at the wedding. A bridal wear trousseau in either south or north India is incomplete without at least one immaculate and elegant Banarasi or Kanjivaram saree, depending on the state.
This vivid and auspicious Red Bridal Vanasingaram Pure Zari Kanjivaram Silk Saree. The red color signifies prosperity, strength, and fertility, where the body with stunningly intricate weaving features floral jaals and traditional vanasingaram animal motifs are carefully woven in silver zari, making it an eye-catching piece. This stunning saree is further enhanced with a gold zari traditional border and a rich zari pallu with chevron stripe patterns. To complete the bridal saree look is a matching blouse with a matching border.
The production of the famed Kanjivaram silk has been recorded since around the Cholas’ times in the early medieval ages, while the Banarasi saree was first crafted in the 14th century. The Banarasi silk saree was developed around the Mughal’s rule, when weaving communities from Gujarat moved to the Mughal capital to practise their craft in workshops. They received the patronage of the Mughal emperor Akbar, who highly valued the fine silks. Artisans began using their skills to incorporate complex, heavy brocades using shining golden and silver threads. They attained popularity around the eighteenth to nineteenth centuries, especially among the royals and the elites who wanted to incorporate the Banarasi weave into their sophisticated wardrobes.
Inspiration for motifs
The timeless Kanjivaram silk sarees have designs inspired by the many sacred sites that dot the small town of Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu. Temples and their intricate sculptures, and the various mythological tales they depict are the main source of inspiration for Kanjivaram weavers. These include the ‘temple borders’ , the mango, elephant, and animal motifs you’re likely to spot on a Kanjivaram. Each motif has a deep meaning of its own, from the lotus representing wealth, to the royal aesthetic of the two-headed eagle or the peacock or mayil pattern, signifying fertility and protection.
The Chocolate Brown and Flamingo Pink Pure Zari Kanjivaram Silk Saree from Pashudh shows off the understated elegance that a simple temple border in golden zari can do to a beautiful saree. This saree is a contemporary take on the classics in that way, featuring one bright and bold color, but combined with jaali work and a temple border done in zari work. The chocolate brown body woven with silver zari parrots in jaals, a flamingo pink temple border with pale orange selvedge with silver zari patterns, this saree is truly a work of art. The rich silver zari pallu features an array of classic kanjivaram motifs, designs and patterns.
The Banarasi silks borrow and adapt from Mughal designs, which draw largely from nature. This is obvious when we observe the use of intertwining florals, the kalga, bel, and jaal motifs lining the saree. The jaal represents fertility, love, and success, while the creeper vine motif or bel comes from Persia, and was adapted for Indian tastes during the Mughal era. The reason why the predominant motifs in Banarasi sarees come from nature is because of the rule in Islam where creating human and animal designs was not encouraged.
While symbolism is inherent in both these weaves, it is especially apparent in the Kanjivaram silks inspired by temples; it’s no wonder then, why they are the most sought after amongst wedding silks.
The centuries-old marvel of craftsmanship and experience that is the Kanjivaram silk saree is rarely mixed with other kinds of fabrics so as to preserve the pristine nature of the weave passed on through generations of weavers. There are lighter tissue silk varieties of Kanjivaram silks, but it is still widely held that nothing comes close to the real thing; pure mulberry silk is the proper material with which heirloom Kanjivaram silks are created. This also means that an authentic Kanjivaram will be tad more expensive than the Banarasi, because of the high, unmixed quality of the fabric. Kanjivaram silks can also be woven using extremely fine zari threads to create tissue silk sarees. These sarees contain minuscule amounts of gold and silver threaded through the weave, and improves the core quality of the material.
Pashudh features a few of these highly luxurious and opulent tissue silk weaves as well. The Mint Green Pure Zari Kanjivaram Silk Saree is a handwoven masterpiece featuring beige floral jaals, and gold zari border with floral, paisley and stripes on the pallu. Another instance of Pashudh’s creative amalgamations, the floral jaal pattern is inspired by the designs of Meenakari detailing which originates from Persia.
The Banarasi silk saree, on the other hand, has lent itself to adaptation and fusion over the years. There are several options available, including various materials like a light, gauzy organza with zari and silk. Other varieties of Banarasi silk include Banarasi silks combined with georgette, chiffon, or tissue, all lighter than the usually heavy pure silk saree. Nowadays, when more comfortable materials like cotton, tussar, and linen are in vogue, when it comes down to it, pure silk Banarasi sarees continue to be unmatched in terms of quality and the value they hold for grand occasions like weddings and festivals.
While the weaving traditions, designs, and colors may vary, the beauty and skill of the craft that goes into creating the masterpieces that are Kanjivaram and Banarasi silk sarees is unquestionable. One style can borrow from the other to create even richer and intriguing representations of India’s unique sartorial culture.