Why you will not see this art on Banarasi silk any more

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The demand for kadua and other high value woven products has declined considerably due to lack of support and patronage.

In Kadua, the weaver creates the design on a warp of threads without having to cut it at the end of each pattern. -Milan Sharma

It is no secret that Varanasi is known for its exquisite Banarasi silk and brocade. But the weaver’s town is losing its sheen. The traditional art of hand-stitched designs on pure silk yarn – Kadua, is slowing fading away from the historic city of Varanasi.

This form of weaving is also known as interlocked weaving, where designs or motifs (patterns) were stitched by intertwining silk threads into intricate patterns on the Banarasi silk fabric. Only a handful of families have kept the art alive today. Only two such families in the Ansari community in Varanasi are known to have continued to make authentic kadua sarees, dupattas and stoles.

The reasons are multi-fold. “It is a painstaking technique that requires skill and effort. The major reasons for this art dying a slow death is lack of young weavers learning the craft, high price because of small quantity being produced and the time taken to create one piece,” said K Radharaman, CEO and design head of The House of Angadi, a Bengaluru-based design house with a legacy of over 600 years in the textile trade.

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Even though machines have reduced the time taken by a weaver to less than one fifth, but they still haven’t been able to replace the quality and the intricacy of handwork.

In Kadua, the weaver creates the design on a warp of threads without having to cut it at the end of each pattern. Some designs are more intricate than simple bootis. “A dupatta with authentic kadua work will take at least 3 months to make and will cost you Rs. 12,000 onwards in Varanasi,” said Ram Kumar Pandey, who works in Silk Khazana, a trade house that is still designing few pieces of kadua work on fabrics. Today, kadua work is only done if the customer orders for it.

“In the past two decades, (barring the last 2-3 years) the demand for such high skill and high value woven products had declined considerably since this craft did not receive the support and patronage needed to keep it going strong,” added Mr Radharaman. Many designers and retail outlets are equally responsible for this decline since they sell machine made products to consumers at high premiums and lead the demand in the wrong direction. “Retailers and Designers selling machine made fabrics as handloom products must be stopped from doing so,” he says.

Modern forms of weaving such as on the shuttle hand-loom can make a 6-metre saree in 15 days. This technique is easier to learn, unlike the traditional kadua that requires skill and dexterity. “Unlike farming, which can be learnt at any age by anyone, be done by machines to a large extent without it impacting the quality of the produce; weaving needs to be learnt over the years while the weaver is still young,” says the CEO of The House of Angadi. This also points to the high rate of child labour in Varanasi as traditional weavers insist that the next of kin learn the art while they are young as it gets difficult to master the complicated technique at a later age.

Today, Jacquard looms allow for pre-planning of the design that is attached to the mechanical handloom. Even though machines have reduced the time taken by a weaver to less than one fifth, but they still haven’t been able to replace the quality and the intricacy of handwork. “There are many things that cannot be done by machines even if we wanted. Unfortunately, lack of awareness in consumers has led to consumers buying machine-made rather than the one produced on handlooms since most cannot distinguish between the two and go only by the price,” he shares.

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Jacquard looms allow for pre-planning of the design that is attached to the mechanical handloom. A weaver is designs the brackets of patterns which is attached to the handloom.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s also launched Upgrading Skills and Training in Traditional Arts/Crafts for Development (USTAD) to revive the lost charm of weaves in Varanasi, which is also his parliamentary constituency. The scheme USTAD will provide skill development and better marketing strategies to weavers and artisans of traditional crafts. The town is home to the largest number of weavers in India, nearly 37,000 families, and mostly Muslims who have kept the dying art of weaving alive. But, to what extent can they sustain it?

In July 2014, the union textile ministry was to rope in Actor Priyanka Chopra as the brand ambassador of the Banarasi silk weave. “We hope dearly that the sudden interest in handlooms shown by designers, government and media is not just a fad but is a continuing trend for many more years to come. Without support, the only place we would see these products would be in a museum,” Radharaman opines.

By Milan Sharma
Read the original article here : Dna India

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