These rolls and rolls of gorgeous Banaras brocade at Rithihi steal every eye searching for special fabrics at our store. They really are the perfect envoys of the mystique of their home—the historic Banaras city with streets lined by workshops of brocade weavers whose artisanal lineages often go as far back as the sixteenth century. The glimmers of silver or gold zari in these brocades still echo the wonderfully musical symphony of click-clacks coming from hundreds of looms producing yard after yard of gilded wearable magic. We’re taking a moment to appreciate this remarkable craft as the looms in Banaras remain silenced by the pandemic.
Even in Banaras—the city with a textile legacy that only a few places on the planet can even come close to being compared—handwoven brocades have a special place. The brocade effect of a raised texture over the base fabric is a result of a secondary pattern of supplementary weft woven over a standard setup. In the past, handweaving brocade fabric was a painstakingly laborious task using a drawloom that had many tools. Today, most artisans make brocades using jacquard looms with dotted templates created by master weavers as guidelines—a machine and a process that has increased the efficiency of the brocade craft by several fold in the last century.
Eyeing the details of these beautifully handwoven Banarasi brocades at Rithihi, we’re in awe of their makers, and their journeys; We marvel at the artisanal lineages that shape and transfer specialty crafts like brocade, from parent to child, master to apprentice, lifetime over lifetime. These crafts have survived the times over wars, famines, the influx of cheap machine-made imitations, and much more. How will they survive what’s happening now? The beautiful brocades and the way they move us even in this distressed world, give an answer; it might not be the final answer, but it’s enough for the moment. This is that the world will make and break itself again and again; But, as long as the human spirit is moved by the wisdom in beauty, and the humble act of making something with our hands in pursuit of it, the arts and crafts will always find a way.