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Sustainable And Ethical Practices In Banarasi Silk Saree Manufacturing

May 4, 2023

Who isn't mesmerised by the blissful beauty that Banarasi Saree exudes? From the paisley motifs to the vibrant colours, Banarasi Sarees have everything that makes them unique! 

You may never fall short of options regarding Banarasi Sarees, as the market is full of eclectic designs and fabrics worth every drape of these jaw-dropping sarees. 

Originating from the Mughal era in the 16th century, these sarees came a long way from Varanasi to worldwide. 

When you look back at the manufacturing methods and techniques of Banarasi sarees, you may find many practices still followed in crafting these gorgeous sarees. 

However, with the advent of technology, power looms have taken over crafting methods with their cost-effectiveness and production speed. But have you ever considered whether these methods were sustainable or ethical back then? 

Do the new methods follow the same sustainability practices? If you haven't yet, this blog will guide you towards the evolution of sustainable manufacturing methods of Banarasi silks saree from then to now! 

[Read About Reminiscent Journey Of Banarasi Fabric To A Saree]

Manufacturing process from the 16th century

Banarasi saree is a traditional Indian saree that originated in the city of Varanasi in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

The 16th century belonged to the Mughal era when these sarees were introduced for queens and high-class society women.

The weavers of Varanasi quickly learned the weaving technique and designed eclectic Banarasi sarees on demand. 

The manufacturing process of Banarasi sarees was wholly labour-intensive, including several intricate steps, which traditional weavers still follow in Varanasi, such as-

  • Designing: The first step in the manufacturing process of Banarasi sarees is designing. The designs are drawn on paper and then traced onto graph paper to create a pattern transferred onto the saree fabric.

  • Warping: The next step is warping, where the yarns are wound onto a warp beam. This is performed by weavers using hands and requires great skill and precision.

  • Weaving: The warp beam is later attached to a loom, and the weaving begins. The weavers use a shuttle to pass the weft thread through the warp threads, creating the fabric of the saree.

  • Embroidery: The saree is then embroidered with intricate designs using a needle and thread. The embroidery was either done by hand or by machinery.

  • Cutting and Stitching: Once the saree is embroidered, it is cut into the proper shape and size. The blouse and petticoat are also cut and stitched.

Sustainable Weaving Techniques used during the 16th to 20th century

When the Banarasi sarees shifted towards the 20th century, the handloom work on the Banarasi saree was made subtle. The comfort of the wearer was given more priority, and cost-effectiveness was also an element in consideration. 

However, there wasn't much change in the weaving techniques that were used since the beginning of time as the methods were in adherence to sustainability. Some of them are-


Meenakari is one of the classical weaving techniques that use more than one colour of Resham threads to weave the saree. Such sarees are also weaved with a mix of Resham threads and zari borders. 

This technique works wonders when it amalgamates with other classical weaving techniques, Cutwork and Kadhwa. 


The Cutwork weaving technique has been one of the most sought-after weaving techniques since then. In this method, the motifs on the sarees are woven all together.

This technique is quick and sustainable as it utilises all the threads by cutting and stitching them on other parts of the saree. This special technique has eclectic patterns and designs to imprint in the saree. 


Kadhwa or Kandhua is one of the most complex yet laborious weaving techniques out of other weaving methods. 

In this technique, every motif is woven separately as sarees of this technique hold eclectic designs, patterns, colours of motifs and more. The Kadhuwa technique is a time taking process, but it leaves no wastage in the process.


Tanchoi is an intricate weaving technique that involves a single or even double warp with more than two colours on the weft of the same shade. Sarees from Tanchoi weaving provide a satin finish to the sarees. The motifs used in these sarees are parrots, peacocks, flowers and more. 

Present-day manufacturing scene of Banarasi Sarees

The present-day manufacturing scene of the Banarasi sarees still makes use of the same old techniques that we have discussed above. However, there is one significant advent of the power loom in crafting these ever-gorgeous sarees. 

Power looms are the machines and tools used in manufacturing Banarasi sarees that replace the need for handloom weavers. These power looms are cost-effective and save abundant time for the sellers and wholesalers of Banarasi Sarees. 

We can say that the bulk availability of power looms in the manufacturing of Banarasi sarees has taken over handloom production. But emerging demand for handloom ones by the lovers of it makes handloom production operational on small scales. 

All in all, we can say that the present-day scenario of Banaras sarees is the harmonious amalgamation of handlooms and power looms. 

[Read About The Impact Of Looms On Traditional Banarasi Saree Weaving Practices]

Evolution of the Banarasi Saree on Sustainable and ethical fronts 

Analysing the manufacturing of Banarasi Saree on sustainable and ethical fronts requires considering many factors that contribute to the environment and people. 

The handloom manufacturing process from the 16th century was more sustainable when compared to modern-day manufacturing, as weaving was done without any wastage and the assistance of utilities. 

The pollution from warehouses of Banarasi saree does not create a sustainable environment for the people working in and around it.

However, when analysing the manufacturing process on the ethical front, we can say that the 16th-century crafting process did not adhere to ethical laws. 

Child labour and personal injury were common examples of unethical work environments in 16th-century manufacturing. Today, modern-day manufacturing strikes a balance between sustainability and ethical practices to keep up with the integrity of the iconic saree of India.

Summing up

Banarasi saree has been an integral epitome of culture and sophistication for several years now. The iconic beauty originated in Varanasi in the 16th century when the Mughal era was in the picture. These sarees were made more comfortable when they shifted towards the modern 20th and 21st centuries, keeping the modern wearers in mind.

According to Anvisha, the manufacturing process of Banarasi Saree from the 16th to 20th century gives evidence of their sustainability and ethical practices from time to time. However, today's process is quite flexible and balances the environment and people effectively!

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