“Studying ancient Textiles has been a passion for me since long and the Indepth study and research into Benaras Brocade textiles was done by me in the early 90,s when we did not have the facility of search engines and internet information. All these information was painfully researched and collected from books and by speaking to various weavers from Benaras. Calico Museum in Ahmedabad and the National Institute of Design Library were 2 places which was the key source of Information.
By publishing this article i wanted to share my knowledge to all the textile designers so they could utilize for their professional endeavours.”
Benaras & its brocade woven textiles.
History & Origin of brocades in Benares-
Benaras is situated on the Calcutta- Delhi rail route, 678Kms from Calcutta.
Although Benaras has always been a big textile centre, there has been no direct mention of the Brocades of Benaras in early literature. The earliest mention of zari or jari (metallic thread) textiles of Benaras is found in 19th Century. With the migration of silk weavers from Gujarat during the famine of 1603, its likely that silk brocade weaving started in Benaras in the 17th Century and developed in excellence during the 18th &19th century.
Benaras is now a world famous centre of hand made textiles. Other centers in India also produced and continued to produce the zari brocade types of textiles. But the ancient tradition of weaving is more preserved in Benaras than anywhere else.
Classification of Brocades-
- The word can be interpreted as Kim in Chinese means golden and Khwab- dream. “Golden Dream”.
- It’s also interpreted as Kamkhab. Something so beautiful that one can rarely dream of it – “A rare dream”.
The various Kimkhwabs are-
- The pure cloth of gold and silver.
- Fabrics in which gold and silver plays a predominant role and colored silks interwoven at places to emphasize the design.
- Since this kind of fabric is too heavy for apparel it is generally used as panels in Temples.
Bafta or Pot Than:
- They are closely woven colored silks with selected parts of the design in gold & silver threads.
- Predominantly they are silk fabrics with very little metallic thread or a border sewn to it.
- All the above fabrics come under Kimkhwabs, the only difference being the varying degree of gold.
- These are described as a specialty of Benaras and were produced for the people whose pockets could not afford the Kimkhwabs.
- Amru’s is a pure silk fabric without any zari work.
They are cotton and silk mixed fabrics very popular among the Muslims. Their characteristics are Khanjari (wavy line effect) which is produced by tie dyeing the warp. Muslims consider silk very unholy because silk being an animal fiber is obtained by killing the silk worm. Though mashru is a silk fabric it is still acceptable to them because it’s intriguing construction. The warp is of silk and weft is of cotton. The weave being a warp faced one brings out the silk to the surface while the back gets a predominance of cotton which is worn against the skin.
- A fabric in which the wavy line is produced not by the tie- dying effect but by a process of weaving in which the different wefts are employed.
- The warp is generally of two colors one of each kind being used together hence Sangi (san together).
Chalta or Sattinete-
- Cotton and silk mixed fabric calendared in a way that the fabric gets a sheen.
- The design used are Kanjiri, Doriya, Charkana etc.
Abe – Rawans
- Plain fabrics with spots or specks produced by the dyeing.
- One can get very confused with the various terms used in the trade. The terms used for various types of fabrics are given below under Trade Name.
Main Characteristics of Benaras Brocade Fabric:
- Heavy gold work
- Compact weaving
- Figures have small details
- Metallic visual effect.
- Pallavs- A wide middle portion with the decorative motifs all over, with one cross border on the top and another at the bottom.
- Border usually with a decorative Jhalar ( inside edge)
- Old madanpura weaving has a delicate texture.Chatai (Mat)*, Khajuria ( Kalgha)*, Conia (kalgha placed in the each corner of a rectangular layout of the pallav) are common.
- Old Alaipura weaving has a heavy texture, large designs, more karwan* and Mina work*. Small coins are sometimes used in the pallav. Kimkhabs especially for Nepal and Tibetan markets are woven.
Dye Stuffs For Dying of the yarn-
- Vegetable dyes Kusum (Safflower, Cartha Mus Tinctorium) were used for yellow yellow- red, light buff and orange.
- Kamila– (Mallotus philipinensis) and Akalbar (Datiscuscannabin) used as with Indigo to fix yellow.
- Katha – ( Catechu – For black colour)
- Indigo with yellow dye – for dark green.
- Haldi (Turmeric) – To produce various shades of yellow.
- Khaki ( grey) – From Hara ( Myro balans and Kasis).
- Lac – Various shadeds of red.
With the availability of synthetic dye the practice of using vegetable dyes practically disappeared, as the use of synthetic dyes was easier, cheaper and less time consuming.
Types of Yarns used –
- Silk Yarn, Raw silk, Tanduri, Banaks, Mukta, Sandal, Ghungaru, Waste silk, Tussar silk, Kala Butta.
- Kalabuta is the gold and silver thread. Its not a wire of gold but a specially prepared thread of silk with metallic mounting of silver and gilded.
Equipments’ & Tools
- Benaras Naksha or Jala Loom- A Throw shuttle pit loom having naksha or Jala for lifting warp threads for weaving patterns. Heald shafts are used for ground weaving patterns. The Pagia tie up is placed behind heald shafts.
- Benaras Jacquard loom- A pit loom the level of which is slightly raised having a jacquard machine mounted on a frame or hung from a frame fixed to the ceiling.
- Natawa – The thread from the reel is transferred to a Natawa which is a bamboo frame with a central axis.
- Pareta- It consist of a central bar, made of slender bamboo sticks, supports by spokes which sloping down wards assembles together and forms a cone.
- Khali – This instrument is useful for intermediate steps between the processes. Twisting silk threads while it’s transferred from the reel of Charka on to a Khali or retransferring from Khali to Pareta.
- Tagh – The silk in the passage from the Pareta to the Charkha only gives a slight twist. Further twist is applied to the warp threads by means of Tagh.
Techniques and Processes
Weaving – The process of weaving silk Brocades and the looms and equipments used are not generally very different from those employed in weaving other fabrics.
The pre weaving process involves sizing and warping. The usual practice is the single thread or ball sizing. When dry, this is warped by pale warping process. The size (Kalaf) is generally fine white flour (Nishasta). Drying of the sized yarn is done in open air by spreading the sized yarn.
Ground weft is as usually wound on pirns for shuttles, and the extra weft on small bamboo spools called Tillies, sirkies ect. Dor pattern weaving, where extra weft runs along the entire or almost entire width of fabric the weft is wound on pirns for shuttles. These are throw shuttles.
The loom used in weaving is a pit loom. The warp is not wound on a beam but on a bar called Bhanjni. It’s secured in the middle with a rope which is taken round a peg, or to another Bhanjni. Its secured in the middle with a rope which is taken round a peg, or to another Bhanjni and then round a peg fixed within reach of the weaver, where he weaves the cloth.
While weaving, water is sprinkled on the warp for moisture with a small broom like implement called an agbur. To keep the warp threads clean and straight in position the warp is brushed sley by a brush (Kuncha) which is also used while warping.
Brocade loom is a draw loom in which healds are substituted by pagia (Horizontal harness) operated by Naksha. The naksha is mounted on the loom, tied to the bamboo bars hanging from the ceiling. Naksha is also called the jala in same places.
Finishing – Finishing of cloth consisted of washing, smoothening and calendaring. The cloth with metallic thread was washed in water to which soap nut powder (Aritha) & ½ Kg sugar is also added. This brings brilliance to the metallic and fast colored threads. After a wash, the cloth is spread over on a block of wood (Kunda) with a level and smooth surface and is rubbed with a flat blade (Pitni). Smoothening down are the designs standing out of the surface of the fabric. The cloth is then folded & the top most folds is well pressed, smoothed and glazed by a round polished and flat bottom implement called ‘Mohra’ pressing by heat iron rods is also practical for flattening the yarn. (Calendaring) in the fabric & enhancing the fullness (covers) of the cloth.
Satin Buti Saree ( Silk) Benaras:
Ground- The Face is with in a satin weave.
Broder– The border is 8cms wide including a selvedge of 1 cm. Consist of two stripes on either side of decorative Jari- painted twill.
The centre panel has Kalghas in gold Jari & red and mari gold motifs in white Jari and red enriched by small floral motives & a decorative silver jari figure. They both alternate.
Body: It’s an all over pattern of decorative pendant motif within an oblong pointed at both ends; the pendent motif is in silver jari & red outline. The ground is white in a satin weave.
Pallav: It consist of a cross border of 7 cms, followed by a satin plane white ground. The cross border is of the same as the lateral border.
Silk Tanchoi Saree, Benaras 1973.
Ground– The face is white in a warp satin weave. The back is pink in weft satin.
Border– Border is 6.5 cm wide including 5 cm of selvedge. The Border has a central decorative panel flanked by two narrow stripes. The central panel is in green & pink. While the narrow stripes are in light green.
Body– It has an all over design with floral sprays and pairs of small decorative ‘Kalghas’, all in light green and pink.
Pallav– the cross border is of a similar pattern to that of the border, but slightly narrower. It is 5 cm wide, the decorative stripes projecting outward, followed by a white sating ground, 18cm in width.
Baluchar Badshah Saree (silk) Benaras 1973.
Ground– The ground is deep mauve in plain weave.
Border– The border has a central panel repeats of two blocks of figures and a Kalgha. One block has figure if a badshah (king) with flowers in his hands & the other has a female probably representing a queen. The entire border is woven in extra weft technique, gold jari in the Kardhwaan techniques.
Body– Buties of diamonds, small mangoes and leaves and floral motifs are placed in plain order weft way. The buties woven in extra weft jari is Kardhwan technique, decorated by Mina work on green, turquoise-blue, orange, violet brown. Pallav– Cross border followed by fabric with simple jari line. The extra panel is woven in gold jari, decorated by Mina work in orange, violet turquoise blue, brown and green.
Jangla saree(silk), Benaras 1973
Ground– The face and back are satin weave.
Border– it consist of a central panel flanked by stripes of a plane line, parallelogram blocks, one line, decorative panel, one line, parallelogram blocks and two lines in order on either side, on a mauve background. An extra stripe of a leaf & dot pattern projects towards the body. The central panel has a pair of leaves and a flower repeating. One of the leaf and inner petals of flowers are in extra weft silver jari worked by the Kardhwan technique and the rest in extra weft gold jari woven by Fekwa technique. The extra weft weaves are in twill, satin and floats.
Body– The pattern has similar motifs of pairs of leaves and a flower as in the border but larger in size, repeating all over the white satin ground in a Jangla pattern.
Pallav– The cross border is in the same pattern as the border, except for the extra stripe of leaf and dot on a mauve satin ground. It is followed by a mauve satin portion with gold jari liners alternately in a sequence of two and one.
Minadar Saree (silk) Benaras 1973
Ground– The ground is pinkish mauve in a plain weave.
Border– Border consist of a central panel flanked by online, dots, two lines, parallelogram blocks and a line in order, on either side, on a mauve ground. The central panel has repeating decorative large circular motifs in gold Jari and mina work. The mina work is in orange and turquoise blue.
Body– It is an all over design where large decorative, circular motifs are laid in rows, the interspaces being filled in with small, decorative motifs of leaves and flowers. The inner area is decorated with mina work in small floral motifs in Turquoise blue and orange with a central floral motif in Jari.
The inner area circumscribes of three circles one of gold jari, one of gold jari & mina work in orange and turquoise blue. The gold jari weave is extra weft which is also woven plain.
Pallav: It’s a simple pallav having gold Jari lines.
Kimkhab Dress Material Benaras 1973
Ground Weave– It’s an 8 end warp satin. It’s a fine Kimkhab dress material, with a block satin ground. Kalgha motifs are in different sizes and shapes and small decorative motifs are worked on in gold zari and mina work in red and turquoise blue, fill almost the entire fabric, with a black ground showing up for contrast in the interspaces. The design is in extra weft in small floats of jari and mina which also weaves with the ground black warp threads in a satin order.
Satan Tanchoi saree Benaras 1973
Ground– The face is blue in a satin weave.
Border– Consist of a central panel flanked by one fine line, a line of rectangular spots in order, on either side. The central panel as well as the stripes on either side has decorative flowers, leaves. The flowers are pink with blue dots, yellow star shaped centers and yellow outlines while the leaves and buds are in green with a yellow outline. In between two repeats of such motifs in the central panel are two parrots sitting on a small flower symmetrically opposite each other. The parrots are in green and pink with a yellow out line. The rectangular spots are in pink & yellow. The fine lines are in yellow. The ground is blue.
Body: It has sprays with pink flowers, green leaves and two parrots opposite each other are laid in half drop, plain order weft way on a blue satin ground. The colors remain the same as that of border.
Pallav: It has across border of the same pattern as the border, followed by a plain blue satin portion.
Emboss Tanchoi Saree( silk) Benaras 1973
Ground– The ground is violet blue in plain weave.
Border– The border consist of a central plane flanked by two lines, a stripe of a arrows, two lines, one decorative stripe of arrows on either side. The central part is decorative with repeats of a floral motif. All floral motifs are in Jari with a pink out line and a leaf. Other motifs are in pink with a gold jari outline. The background is violet blue. The stripes on either side of panel are also similar. The arrows in the stripe alternate in gold jari and pink.
Body– The ornamentation of the body is in the same pattern as that in the border all over the blue body.
Pallav- The cross border is in the same pattern as that of the followed by a plane blue portion with double gold line.
Evolution of Benaras Brocade:
Silk Brocade started in Benaras in the 17th century. Benaras is a world famous centre for hand made textiles in which the ancient tradition of weaving is preserved.The two main localities of Benaras were the manufacture of Brocades are concentration are Madanpura and Alaipura. Dosipura is another locality were some old weavers and Naksa makers lived and their descendants are carrying on the traditional work.
Some of the main characteristics of Benaras Brocades are its heavy gold work, the metallic visual effect, the figured motifs having small details and compact weaving.The Pallavs of the sarees are the most heavily brocaded part with awide middle portion of decorated motif allover with one cross border on the top and another at the bottom.
The brocaded fabrics are classified according to the structure, design, weight , motif and the process of manufacture of the fabric. Some of the names are KimKhwabs, Mashru, Amru, Aberawans, Minadar, Tanchoi, Satan Jari Tanchoi, Satan Kardhawan Jangla ect.
The Invention of Jacaurd machines have made a developmental advance in the technique of Brocade weaving. However Jacaurd machines ahev their limitaions, for weaving very fine textured fabricsthe Nakhsa is more suitable.
End Use of Brocades:
The Brocade fabrics produced are used for various Products
- Sata Buti Saree
- Silk Tanchoi Saree
- Baluchar Badshah Saree
- Jangla Saree
- Minadar Saree
- Silver Buti Saree
- Emboss Tanchoi Saree
- Ada Organza Saree
- Murti Satin Saree
- Satin Jari Tanchoi Saree
- Butidar Minakari Saree
- Kardhwan Brocade saree
- Ajanta Satin Saree
- Kimkhab Dress Material Fekwa Design
- Cushion Covers
- Table Cloths
- Bed Covers
Brocade fabric Trade names: One can get very confused with the various terms used in the trade. The terms used for various types of fabrics are given below under Trade Name.
1. Tanchoi: Plain weave body with one color extra weft, one color body weft and one color warp.
2. Satan Tanchoi: Satin weave (4 ends & 8 Picks or 5 ends and 5 picks) with the warp in one color and the weft in one or more colors. The extra weft of the design also may be used as body weft.
3. Satan Jari Tanchoi: Satan Tanchoi with weft in the order of one silk and one gold thread. Jari or two silk thread (double) and one gold thread.
4. Satan Jari Katrawan Tanchoi: Satan jari Tanchoi in which the floating extra weft gold at the back is cut and removed.
5. Satan Kardhawan: Satan or satin jari Tanchoi in which the extra weft is laid by spots (tillies) for figure work.
6. Wascut: Plain woven body, with designs by small floats made by the weft used for body weaves.
7. Satin Badla Chunri: 5 end satin woven body with kathan (twisted silk) and gold thread. The extra weft is flattened silver thread (badla) which makes small spot figures and also inters weaves in the body.
8. Katan Butidar : Fabric with ‘Kata’ warp and weft butties of gold thread or resham ( Untwisted Silk)
9. Minadar: Figures in metallic thread having portions woven in coloured thread of cotton or silk.
10. Tahiriri Mina: Figures with only outlines in mina.
11. Guddi Mina: Figures with mina inside.
12. Tahiriri: Figures with outlines in gold or silver thread.
13. Jari Ganga Jamuni: Figures with both gold and silver threads. The following is the typical example in which the ground colour is brick red colours. The upper figure part is of gold where as the lower part has the silver thread. At the upper part 2 leaves are of silver and central portion of the upper part has the violet silk thread. It is a dress material design.
14. Katan Butidar Mina: Katan butidar with mina work in butties.
15. Silk butidar Mina: Silk butidar with mina work I butties.
16. Katan Buttidar pagia saree: Saree with cotton warp, resham work. Small buties all over body closely spaced wide border and wide pattern.
17. Katan Brocade: Fabric with Katan warp and katan weft with figures in gold thread with or without mina in Katrawan Kardhawan and fekwa styles.
18. Emboss Brocade- katan brocade with all over pattern with figures very close to each other, leaving little ground cloth.
19. Georgette Saree: Saree with highly twisted silk yarn usually 3 ply.
20. Tissue saree or Tar bana: Sarees with unbleached single silk warp (28/32 denier) and single gold weft with or without design in extra gold weft.
21. Jangla: Plain fabric of Katan warp and katan weft with all over floral designs in extra weft.
22. Katan Katrawan Mina: katan in Katrawan style with mina.
23. Jaal: A fabric with a design as a net pattern.
24. Kimkhab: Fabric with a heavy texture appearing in layers, satin weave with katan in layers, satin weave with ‘katan warp’ and ‘Katan weft’ and all over design in gold or silk.
25. Gyasar: Silk fabric with Kimkhab,s structure with ground in which gold thread is profusely used and with Tibetan designs. Made especially for Tibetans for dress as well as decorative hangings, players mats.
26. Gyanta: Silk fabric with Kimkhab structure with satin body with or without gold thread. Tibetan designs made especially for Tibetans. These sometimes have Tantric designs (Tchingo) of human heads with 3 eyes in gold and silver thread on a block satin ground.
27. Jangla: Plain fabrics of silk warp and weft with all over floral designs in extra weft.
Terminologies of Patterns used in Brocade:
1. Doriya- Pattern in Longitudinal stripes.
2. Salaidar- Pattern in transverse stripes (width of fabric).
3. Ada Doriya- Pattern in diagonal stripes.
4. Khanjari or Leharia- Pattern in wavy or angular lines.
5. Charkhana- Pattern in circles.
6. Ilayecha- Pattern in Lozenges shape figures.
7. Bulbulchasm- Pattern with lozenges shapes with dots in the centre.
8. Mothra- Pattern in double lines.
9. Pulwar- Running patterns of leaves and flowers.
10. Jhardar- patterns of sprays.
11. Patridar- Pattern of leaves.
12. Waskat- Phulwar design but raised above ground.
13. Tamami- Stripes of double gold threads 7 red silk threads.
14. Buti- A sma;; single flower.
15. Buta- Large single flower.
16. Bel- A running floral pattern.
17. Adi Bel– Scroll running diagonally or obliquely.
18. Chanda– A circular figure with floral or geometric designs.
19. Turanj– Decorated mango shaped butti.
20. Kalghi– Turanj buti with the pointed end turned around and further decorated.
21. Kalgha or Kalanga– A turanj but larger in size.
22. Pan Buti– A buti of heart or betel.
23. Fardi Buti– A buti made of points or dots.
24. Teen Pankha– Buti with three leaves.
25. Sat Pankha– Buti with seven leaves.
26. Tara Buti– Buti resembling a star.
27. Jamewar Buti– Buti resembling bushes in landscape.
28. Ashrafi Buti– Gold Buti circular shape.
29. Tambakhu Buti– Buti of foliage of Tobacco plant.
30. Jharad Buti– Buti of spring branch.
31. Gulab Jhar– Buti of Rose flower.
32. Champak Buti– A buti of Champa flower.
33. Minatashi Buti– Any buti decorated with coloured silk.
34. Chameli Buti– Buti resembling Jasmines.
35. Guldaudi– Buti resembling chrysanthemum.
36. Masuri– Buti comprising of Lentil shaped circles.
37. Genda– Buti resembling Marigold.
38. Gende ki bel– Creeper with butis of Marigold.
39. Chameli ka bel– Creeper with butis of jasmine.
40. Jal– Design with net like geometric all over patterns Jaldar.
41. Jangla– Natural motifs all over designs.
42. Shikar Gait– Hunting scene or forest scene.
43. Tanchoi– Plain body with one colour extra weft.
44. Satin Tanchoi– Satin weave 4 ends & 8 picks or 5 ends & 5 picks with warp in one colur & weft in other.
45. Jari Tanchoi– With weft in the order of one silk and one golden thread.
46. Satan Jari Katrawan Tanchoi-Floating extra weft gold threads at the back is cut & removed.
47. Satan or satan Jari Tanchoi– Extra weft laid by spools ( Tillies for figure work)
48. Wascut– Plain body with small floats of design.
49. Satin Badla Chunri– 5 end satin woven body with katan ( Twisted silk) and gold thread. Extra weft flattened with silver thread (badla) which makes small spot figures.
50. Katan Butidar– Fabric with Katon warp and weft with butis in gold thread.
51. Minadar– Figures in metallic thread.
52. Tahiri Mina– Figure with the outline of Mina
53. Guddi Mina– Figures with mina inside.
54. Jari Ganga Jamuna– Figures with both gold and silver thead.
55. Katan Butidar Mina– With Mina work in Butees.
56. Katan Butidar in Paga saree– Saree with Katan warp, Resham weft and small buties.
57. Katan Brocade– Fabrics with katan warp and weft with gold thread figure with or without minakari, Katrawan, Kardhwan and Phekwa styles.
58. Emboss Brocade– Katan brocade with all over pattern.
59. Georgette Saree– Saree with highly twisted silk yarn.
60. Tissue sarees or Tana Bana– Unbleaches simple silk warp and single gold weft.
61. Jangla– Plain fabric with katan warp & weft.
62. Katan Katrawan Mina– Fabric in Katrawan style with Mina.
63. Kimkhab– Fabric heavily textured appears in layers. Satin weave – katan warp & Katan weft.
64. Gyasar– Silk fabric with Kimkhab structure made of Tibetans.
65. Gyanta– Silk fabrics with Kinkhab structures with satan body for Tibetans.