I was part of the North Indian wedding procession which was being led by the groom on a ghodi (horse) while the rest of the marriage retinue followed him on foot. The face of the groom was not visible being totally covered with strings of flowers hanging from his turban to his chin. I followed the party to the marriage mandap to be be received by the bride's side with mangal arthi. The bride stood with the jay mala in her hand resplendent in a Banarasi saree waiting to garland the groom. I quite missed the rest of the ceremony as I gazed at the bride. My gaze turned from her bedecked face to her bridal attire. In shimmering red, the Banarasi saree she was wearing was extremely beautiful and without a doubt - exquisite.
Among Indians, Banarasi sarees are synonymous with weddings or celebrations. These sarees are considered auspicious and sacred. For centuries they have been an inevitable part of an Indian bride’s trousseau.
As the city of Varanasi which is also known as Benaras, is noted for the production of these sarees, these sarees take the name from its origins. Historically Banarasi sarees have been present in India since the Mughal era. A lot of Mughal influence is visible in the motifs used on the sarees. Weaving of brocades with intricate designs using gold and silver threads is the speciality of Banarasi sarees.
Traditional Banarasi silk brocade sarees are subtle and pale in colour, while later ones produced were bright and radiant. For occasions such as weddings and important events, the bright varieties are usually the preferred choice among women. Woven with a contrasting border with intricate embroidery in gold and silver, these sarees provide a metallic visual effect.
There are a variety of Banarasi saris available like zari brocades, tanchoi brocades, tissue brocades, jamavar, etc. Among the invitees there were many women in traditional Banarasi sarees in stunning hues. Each saree has its own special design in gold or silver, be it tanchoi brocade or a jamawar.
Wedding ceremony over, I left the mandap, filled with images of the bride in her bridal finery and of course her lovely saree. Surely, Banarasi sarees are one among the Indian sarees that have retained their charm for centuries.