Banaras textile tourism fast catching up

YarnsandFibers News Bureau 2016-01-09 12:00:00 – Varanasi

At last year’s several fashion weeks, with fashion designers presenting the traditional weave in its modern avatar, Banarasi silk has turned out to be a show stopper. With the textile so talked about, tourists visiting the holy city are keen to visit areas housing the weavers to have a glimpse of the creation of the world famous Banarasi saris. This in turn is leading to textile tourism or weavers trail becoming popular in the city.

Textile tourism is a popular concept in the West but lately it is fast catching up in India also. Varanasi figures prominently as a textile tourism destination. Earlier, those coming to the city had merely the ghats and the Ganga arti on their mind. Coming across a showroom on the way to buy a sari was just an incidental stopover but now people are making it a point to visit areas of the city which are involved in the creation of Banarasi saris and related products, said Hemang Agarwal, a textile businessman and co-convenor of a fashion fraternity meet held in Banaras last year, under the aegis of Banarasi Vastra Udhyog Association.

Ajeet Kapoor, a Banarasi textile businessman in the Dashshwamedha ghat area agrees to this fact said that nearly 20-25 tourists walk in at their gaddi on a daily basis, not only to buy Banarasi textile but they are also keen to know how it is made. Though they have a weaving unit on the outskirts of Varanasi, but for the convenience of the tourists, they have now put up a khaddi or loom at their gaddi so that they are able to see how the saris and other fabrics are weaved. A lot of tourists, including foreigners, are just fascinated to see how this handicraft is created.

According to Shilpi Singh, who runs a homestay accommodation in the city, nearly 50 percent of the visitors staying with them urge for visit to the areas where the looms are situated. Shopping for them is not just confined to buying a sari from a showroom. They are eager to know about the art and the effort that goes in the weaving of a Banarasi sari.

Vidya Deshpande, the founding director of a travel group, who recently organised an all-woman tour to Varanasi said that to know about the technicalities involved in the creation of a handicraft certainly gives an edge to the buyer.

A majority of women travellers are keen on a weaver's trail in the city. Visiting the weavers colony to see the process of weaving is part of their itinerary. Even when it comes to buying Banarsi saris or cloth, they prefer visiting a gaddi, which are normally run by people across generations and they have interesting information to share about the Banarasi textile.

It was quite fascinating to see that how the traditions of weaving are maintained. The tradition motifs which are the hallmark of Banarasi textile are still intact at the same time are quite in tune with changing times. Banarasi fabric is no longer confined to wedding attire as it has become light weight and can be used as a glamorous evening wear.

Kuldeep Kumar, who conducts guided tours in the city said that a lot of educated and affluent businessmen and corporate heads, along with their families, have started visiting the city. Among them the NRIs form a major chunk who are keen to visit destinations which are the epicentre of Indian culture. Varanasi being one such centre is gaining popularity. These NRIs want to connect with everything indigenous including the craft. So they visit areas to have a glimpse of Banarasi silk weaving. Apart from the NRIs a lot of travellers from metro cities have also started coming to Varanasi.

The State Tourism Department, keeping in view the interest of the tourists in the weavers trail, A Heritage Walk is being planned which will also incorporate a visit to weavers colonies in Ramnagar and Madanpura Area. The heritage walk is designed in such a manner that the travellers are able to see how the Banarasi fabrics are weaved.

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