Prof. (Dr.) R.D. GuptaBanaras now known as Varanasi, the very name of this sacred and holy city in Uttar Pradesh, India reminds one of the rich heritage of the place. It is because Lord Shiva dwells here in the form of Vishwanath Lingam. This Shiv lingam is also called Vishvaeshwar Shiv Lingam. Varanasi is also the place from where the Lord Buddha started his preachings and where the winding narrow lanes unveil the mysteries of creation. One such mystery of Varanasi is the betel leaf (Paan) which always softens in the mouth. Another such mystery is exquisite Benarasi saree which is woven from silk ornate design.This art of weaving magic on silk has prevailed in the region for more than 500 years. Such avocation of weaving an exquisite silks gained impetus during the Mughal period when its emperors patronised this art and rendered it popular throughout India. Banaras, infact, has remained a centre of production of silky sarees popularly known as ‘Banarasi sarees’ made of finally and woven silk, and with intricate design of ‘Zari’ or ‘golden thread’. This boom that the Benarasi sarees enjoyed continued for a long time and Indian wedding could not be considered complete without this drape even half a century ago. But this craze has changed with time. Presently, brides find the Banarasi sarees were heavy and difficult to don. They prefer alternatives that are much lighter and easier to drape.Benarasi sarees are characterised by their intricate weave and heavy gold and silver brocade work. The women are responsible for filling ‘zari’ into the design ensuring that embroidery is taut and also sniping off extra thread from finished product – all seemingly mental but critical strenuous and repetitive chores.Since the Banarasi silk industry is not much flourishing so the weavers are working in pathetic conditions and living a life of abject poverty. There are about 11,000 weavers in Varanasi, of which 43 per cent are women. On an average, the monthly earnings of a weaver are anywhere between Rs 500 to Rs 1500, out of which their females counterparts received a paltry sum of money, i.e., Rs 200 to Rs 400 a month. Not only this, in the Banarasi saree sector, it is the women who bear the brunt of cost cutting. This implies that had the women been given a fair remuneration for their jobs, the cost of production and of the subsequent finished product would have risen. lronically, since the women are not recognised in the sector they are even deprived of benefits such as health care. As such they suffer from back problems, poor eye sight and a number of other problems. They have to shell out money for treatment as they do not fall under any (health) schemes and neither there is any specific government setup for them. Their first need is to be recognised as weavers or part of saree weaving sector and only then can ask for some thing.
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