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Updated: July 5, 2013 16:40 IST

Sari Benarasi wallah

Pankaja Srinivasan
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WEARING TRADITION: Taj staffers in their Benarasis Photo: Paul Noronha
WEARING TRADITION: Taj staffers in their Benarasis Photo: Paul Noronha

Benarasi weavers need patronage as otherwise they will cease to exist. Taj Khazana’s Trunk Show offers some exquisite saris woven on the ancient looms of Varanasi

The next time you are at a Taj Hotel, take a closer look at the saris worn by the front office staff. Chances are that they are wearing a handcrafted Benarsi sari straight off the ancient looms, woven specially for them.

It was not just the beauty of the silk that initiated Taj Hotels to procure them for their staff, it was something that went far deeper. It was a documentary on the weavers of Benaras that triggered off a desire to do something, says Sarita Hegde Roy, chief operating officer of Taj Khazana that is a chain of life style stores in Taj Hotels across India and abroad that showcases work of Indian artisans.

A big part of its role is that of a custodian of Indian art and craft and it has involved itself closely with the revival and patronage of traditional craftsmanship. Dark, dingy and desperate best described the lives of the weavers, says Hegde. The film showed them selling their looms as firewood so that they would not starve. Malnutrition was rife and hygiene, literacy and income almost non-existent.

Taj commissioned the craftsmen to weave saris for their staff. But it became apparent that a lot more needed to be done. The villages had no water, no electricity, no sanitation and no recourse to health services. Taj provided health care through regular camps across the villages.

“There were old weavers who could barely weave because of poor eyesight, a result of hours of work in ill-lit hovels. Solar powered lighting was installed. Well known designers were roped in to provide design ideas. We also begged people to share heirloom Benarasis, even if they were just a scrap of fabric, so that we could revive some of the old patterns.”

What is most gratifying, says Hegde is that young weavers who were moving away to find work as plumbers and masons, now returned to the fold. “We ensure there are no middlemen involved. We commission the work and as soon as the weavers deliver they are paid by cheque into a bank account created specially for them. They are given the dyed silk yarns, the looms and a clean and comfortable environment to work in.”

Even the children are showing an interest in weaving and weaving is part of the syllabus in the schools that they attend.

Taj Khazana brings a trunk show to Coimbatore with beautiful fabrics and saris from the looms of Benaras. You could also place orders on the saris. They will be on display at Vivanta By Taj-Surya, Race Course.

Venue: Rhythm Lounge

Date: July 6 and 7

Timing: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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