History & Culture

Varanasi-based Stuti Weaves is reviving some age-old Benarasi weaves

In 2014, when Anandana Singh was walking through the lanes of Varanasi with her mother-in-law Vandana Singh when they realised the challenges faced by the weavers. Many were moving away from a centuries-old weaving tradition to look for greener pastures.

Meeting the weavers gave them a new purpose to support a rich tradition. However, it took a while for Anandana to take the leap of faith. Finally in 2019, she along with her husband quit their active corporate careers and moved to their hometown Varanasi to start Stuti Weaves.

From reviving 200-year-old sarees and motifs, bringing about a blend of textiles, to supporting over 300 artisans and weavers of Varanasi, Stuti Weaves has brought new light into the lives of Benarasi weavers. “We started with one loom and now have more than 80 looms. Our weavers are our heroes; we do a lot of weaver interactions to encourage the younger generation of our weavers to continue with this art,” says Anandana. Stuti Weaves also organises walks for tourists to spread awareness on the Banarasi weaves.

One of their major works includes reviving century-old motifs. “One of these is a fish motif saree inspired from an age-old dupatta. The saree adorns 7,000 pure silver zari fish motifs and is woven by the kadhua weaving technique. The saree has kuniya (floral and paisley) motifs on its pallu with small meena work. We retained every element of the design to make it look exactly like the original one. The original piece was owned by our family and a similar piece is on display at Kala Bhawan, Banaras Hindu University, in Varanasi,” explains Anandana.

The motifs are woven using the kadhua technique, a loom embroidery. The fabric is very soft, glossy and comfortable because it is woven by another technique called ektara where the weaver uses one thread to weave the body of the saree. “This weaving technique was used in the ancient era to keep the fabric very comfortable. The saree doesn’t crush or crumple and has the highest comfort value,” adds Anandana.

Weavers have also been blending threads like katan silk by tussar silk, katan silk by munga silk, tissue with tussar and tussar with cotton to make the texture softer and wearable.

“We are trying to bring back weaves like gathua and badla (using metal threads),” Anandana says.

The handloom venture works with 10 master weavers and over 40 weavers under whom there are other 300 artisans. “We encourage women to weave. The girls of the family help in making tassels of the saree and roll weft thread on bobbins. The weave is a complex process that can only be performed by learning these age-old techniques from a very early age,” says Anandana. The artisans involved in this trade and the weaving process are trained by the previous generation of weavers.

While many designers have brought the spotlight on Benarasi weaves, Anandana feels the biggest challenge is the rampant use of synthetic blends with powerloom sarees which are affordable and durable. The Benarasi weavers have also been suffering due to an increase in the price of silk and other raw material like zari. There are no formal education methods to teach the weaving. Respect for the art and artisan is another big challenge that we see,” says Anandana.

“We have to accept that a real handloom will be expensive and almost impossible to scale up due to the laborious process involved in its making. We believe that in every textile, an artist is seen,” she adds.

Stuti Weaves will be exhibiting its collection at the two-day handloom expo organised by Crafts Council of Andhra Pradesh at Hotel Green Park on December 1 and 2

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2022 12:18:53 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/varanasi-based-stuti-weaves-is-reviving-some-age-old-benarasi-weaves/article37702531.ece

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