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Karnataka J. Agric. Sci.

, 22(2) :(408-411) 2009

Status of Banaras weavers: A profile*

AMRITA SINGH AND SHAILAJA D. NAIK Department of Textiles and Apparel Designing, College of Rural Home Science University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad-580 005, Karnataka, India. (Received : August, 2008)
Abstract: Today the Banarasi silk saree has acquired international fame, hailed as the "Indian sun" in the world of fashion. Though the Banarasi silk products are enjoying a ready market both at home and abroad, there are grey areas demanding immediate attention to sustain and further improve this traditional craft and to help the Banarasi weavers to achieve new heights. In the present study, an effort has been made to trace the weavers' socio-economic condition, marketing practices and problems faced by them. A survey was conducted in Banaras district of Uttar Pradesh state during the year 2007 to find the present status of silk weavers. The study results revealed that the situation of weavers was pathetic; they were feeble due to illiteracy, financial constraints, marketing bottleneck and Government support. Key words: Banarasi silk, handloom weavers, marketing, weavers' problem

Introduction India has a rich cultural heritage of handloom industry and handicraft. Indians are world famous for their magnificent workmanship and produced the most beautiful and exquisite handspun and hand-woven textiles. The artistic skills of the traditional handloom weavers are second to none. In fact, the processing and manufacturing of textiles was the second largest occupation of India after agriculture. This handloom industry survived mainly on its aesthetics, uniqueness and craftsmanship. Fascinating motifs and super design of the fabric assigned special importance to the sector. Despite strong competition from mill made textiles, the handmade fabrics are still in demand to a great extent, thus fetch a premium price in the modern industrialized market. 'The hand-woven fabric' is symbolic of man's endeavour to bring beauty and grace into life.The word handloom represents a philosophy, a way of life. The philosophy is simple faith of Indian folk artisan,the handloom weavers, the man behind the loom. Though the methods employed in making handloom fabric are simple, the result is extraordinary. This industry of India is caste based, labour intensive, tradition oriented, having a legacy of unrivalled craftsmanship with a decentralized set-up, that has spread throughout the length and breadth of the country. As per the handloom census there is total of 38, 90, 576 handlooms in India. However, in Banaras there are only 1, 2,4, 832 families who are engaged in handloom weaving.

and further improve this traditional craft. There is lack of adequate information available for silk weavers in Banaras. To fill such gap, the present investigation was taken up to study the present status of Banaras weavers. Material and methods The study was conducted in Banaras district of Uttar Pradesh in the year 2007. The sample comprised 100 weavers from Banaras city and three villages' viz. Lohta, Cholapur and Phulpur. Fifteen weavers from each village and fifty five from city were randomly selected. A self-structured schedule was administered to elicit the information by personal interview method. The data was tabulated and appropriate statistical methods were adopted. Results and discussion Table 1 records the demographic or socio-personal information of the weavers. Traditionally the throw-shuttle pit looms are used in Banaras for saree weaving. These looms required lots of energy or power and intricate designs of the saree needed creativity, skill and patience. During data collection it was found that most of the Banaras weavers belonged to middle age group of 36-55 years, because the productivity is relatively more at this age due to their physical capabilities. Younger generation in the weavers' community preferred to take employment in the cities other than handloom weaving after their higher education.Therefore their involvement is very minimal in weaving. On the other hand involvement of older people was less conspicuous because of their physical health, strength and visual problems.

Banaras (now Varanasi), the temple town of Uttar Pradesh is known for world famous brocades and sarees. Ethnic Banarasi brocades ar e the finest example of superb The weavers' communities have realized the importance craftsmanship of Indian artisans. Though the Banarasi silk of education and the children now-a-days are aware about products are enjoying a ready market both at home and abroad, there are grey areas demanding immediate attention to sustain education and develop their career by higher education. Nearly *Part of the M.H.Sc. thesis submitted by the senior author to the University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad-580 005, India.

Karnataka J. Agric. Sci., 22(2) : 2009

Table 1. Demographic information Sl.No. 1 2 3 1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 Demographic variables Younger (<36) Middle age (36-55) Old age (>55) Illiterate (unable to read and write) Primary (I-IV standard) Middle school (V-VII standard) Secondary (VIII-X standard) Senior secondary (XI-XII standard) Degree and above Muslim Hindu Urban Rural Nuclear Joint Small (upto 3) Medium (4-6) Large (more than 6) Low income (<21,400) Middle income (21,400-44,652) High income (>44,652) Inherited Job opportunity Interest Migration Training Independent weaver Master weaver Working with master weaver Working in co-operative societies (a) Age (years) 11 82 7 21 11 18 21 16 13 73 27 76 24 42 58 11 74 15 35 52 13 81 14 3 2 21 3 45 31 n=100 Percentage of respondents

(b) Educational level

helped the migrant Muslim weavers to establish their craft. The woven products made by the Muslim weavers were marketed by the Hindus. Thus weaving was completely monopolized by the Muslims, while the Hindus became traders. Therefore, at a present mainly Muslims (73%) are involved in hand weaving which is inherited in the religion compared to Hindus. The similar results are also recorded by the Zahir (1996) and Ahiwasi (1975) who stated that Muslims were involved in Banaras silk saree weaving. During data collection, it was found that resource availability, market and transportation facilities forced the weavers to reside in the city. The similar report is also made in Ministry of Textiles (2005) who indicated that about 70 per cent of the weavers in Banaras districts are living in city areas (Table 1). Family size and system are important features that contributed to the family income. It is found that the joint family still prevails in the weavers' community with 4-6 members. The weaving occupation is one such profession which involves all family members from children to elderly, who contribute their valuable service in pre-loom, loom and post-loom processes. Handloom fabrics are always having tremendous competition with power loom fabrics. Many times there is set back for handloom silk sarees because relative price flow of variety of power loom inexpensive sarees in the market, lack of demand and fashion that in turn affected the socio-economic condition of the weavers. Approximately half the weavers' population in Banaras belonged to middle income group and others to lower income group. Banaras is predominated with wage weavers. In other words weavers either are working for master weavers or in co-operative societies. Very few are independent weavers and master weavers. Therefore the annual income of the family is very low (Table 1). As mentioned earlier, weaving requires whole family cooperation. The family members, irrespective of their age, stretch their helping hand to improve the family living. Weaver's children do work hard along with their parents. The children do not receive any particular weaving training. Maximum weavers in Banaras, who inherited weaving from their forefathers, insisted to continue the family profession. This mind set and nature of weavers all over India is found to be same and it focused the respect, regard and honour for the profession, indeed whether profitable or not. Their wish to continue traditional weaving was mainly to preserve and protect the inherited tradition alive.
Table 2. Procurement of raw materials by the weavers Sl.No. Raw material details Silk a. Source of procurement 1 Master weavers 28 2 Local dealers 46 3 Co-operative societies 26 b. Mode of payment 1 Cash 15 2 Credit 50 3 Both cash & credit 35 n=100 Zari 28 46 26 15 50 35

(c) Religion

(d) Dwelling area/locality

(e) Family type

(f) Family size (members)

(g) Annual income (Rs.)

(h) Preferences

(i) Category

one fifth of the weavers were educated up to secondary level, some up to middle school because all weavers could not afford to go in for higher education, due to family constraints, ignorance and encouragement from the family members. Such children had to discontinue their studies owing to financial problem (Table 1). In general, saree weaving involved all communities but share of Muslims were high. In early days weaving was monopolized by the Hindus (Khatri Hindus, a sub-caste), who


Status of banaras................... Raw material plays a vital role in the production of any product. It is found that nearly half of the Banaras weavers purchased raw material i.e. silk and zari on credits from local dealers (Table 2). Purchasing raw material from local dealer is convenient for the weavers in terms of time, energy, and money saving and reduced the risk of stock accumulation. On the other hand thirty five per cent of the weavers purchased raw materials on both cash and credit bases and very few purchased on cash payment. Factors like the socio-economic status of the weavers might have influenced the mode of payment. Designs are the backbone of the silk weaving industry as the consumer generally views the designs and then care for other features of the saree. Market demand, fashion trends and
Table 3. Modifications and variations in traditional sarees Sl.No. 1 2 3 4 5 Changes made Motifs Zari Yarn type Saree length Reed count 100 63 54 48 14 n=100 Table 4. Marketing practices for Banaras silk sarees n=100 Sl. No. Marketing practices Percentage of respondents (a) Selling market 1 Local market 74 2 Showrooms 68 3 Outside state 40 4 Export 11 (b) Frequency of selling 1 Monthly 63 2 As and when necessary 52 3 Weekly 6 (c) Marketing channels 1 Master weavers 66 2 Co-operative societies 30 3 Direct selling 25 4 Wholesalers 15 Note: Multiple responses possible

Percentage of respondents

compelled to sell their produce directly on retail basis (25%) or to wholesalers (15%), (Table 4). The most common problems faced by the weavers community were inadequate and interrupted supply of electricity (96%), and promotion of silk saree (94%) (Table5). In addition, problems related to production were shortage of raw materials, hike in price of raw material, price instability and transportation.While data collection the resear chers
Table 5. Distribution of the weavers based on the problems n=100 Sl.No. Problems Percentage of weavers 1 Electricity 96 2 Marketing 94 3 Production 82 4 Low wages 76 5 Health 30 6 Incentives from government 19 Note: Multiple responses possible

Note: Multiple responses possible

consumer choice forced the weavers to change the traditional motifs into stylized forms. More than half of the weavers used different types of zari (63%) and yarn (54%) to reduce the cost of silk saree. Nearly half of them modified saree length (48%) i.e. 6.5 m into 6.25 and/or 6.00 m and very few (14%) made variation in reed count according to saree type. With the passage of time weavers modified the traditional saree to reduce the cost of silk saree in order to make them available for the low and medium income groups (Table 3). Today Banarasi silk products are enjoying a ready market both at home and abroad but, main market of Banarasi silk saree is domestic. The data depicted that majority of the weavers sold their produce in local markets (74%) and showrooms (68%). Other states have their own traditional textiles, therefore the demands of Banaras silk sarees in other states were less. On the other hand there are very few Indians in other countries who preferred these sarees. Hence, the export constitutes only 11 per cent (Table 4). The same table indicated that lack of storage facilities forced the weaver to sell their produce monthly. Banaras silk sarees are always considered as bridal made-up; being rich and gorgeous thus is adorned during auspicious occasions. During marriages and festivals, the weavers could sell more than fifty per cent of their goods because of seasonal demand. Further it is learnt from this table that, most of them worked for master weaver as wage workers (66%) and rest in co-operative societies (30%) who on completion returned back the sarres to their respective owners. Sometimes because of want and need, the independent weavers as well

encountered other problem related to low remuneration (76%) and community wellbeing (30). Lack of incentives from Government is other constrain as stated by few weavers (19%). Conclusion: From the present study it is concluded that the Handloom weavers in Banaras, who have inherited this occupation, are in pitiable condition owing to the poor socioeconomic conditions. Majority of them are wage weavers who earn minimal wages in spite of working for more than ten hours a day. It is interesting to note that the literacy rate among the weavers community is quite encouraging. The two religions predominantly engaged in weaving are Muslim and Hindu; who lived in urban locality. Almost fifty per cent of the community belonged to middle income group; who were engaged with Master Weavers or in the Co-operative Societies. The basic raw material required for the production of silk sarees were silk and


Karnataka J. Agric. Sci., 22(2), 2009 zari purchased largely from the local market but sometimes from Master Weavers or Co-operative Societies, on credit. A number of modifications and adaptations in the motifs, type of zari, yarn type, saree length and reed count were made in the age old traditional Banaras sarees to meet the demand of the consumers drawn from various socio-economic position. Provision for raw materials at reasonable price, special training to improve existing weaving technology, knowledge about scientific and low cost techniques of weaving, dyeing and finishing, financial assistance and other necessary inputs is the need of the day as expressed by the weavers. Banaras silk sarees have market value not only in host country but other overseas countries too. Hence, to
References Ahivasi, D., 1973, Uttar Bhartiya Vastra. Ph.D. Thesis, Banaras Hindu Univ., Banaras (India). Anonymous, 2005, Diagnostic study of handloom silk cluster Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh). Ministry of Textiles, Govt. of India, New Delhi. Zahir, M. A., 1966, Handloom industry of Varanasi. Ph.D. Thesis, Banaras Hindu Univ., Banaras (India).

open a new panorama for these delicate and wonderful silk made ups the prevailing handloom weaving sector need to be centralized to enhance consistency, regularity and uniformity in the production so that an appropriate channel for marketing of silk sarees as well other diversified silk goods can be opened. The Banarasi silk goods have a ready market both at National and International levels; however this industry needs immediate attention by the State Government to improve the socioeconomic status of local Banarasi weavers. Further there is a necessity to publicize and expose Banaras silk sarees through advertisement, exhibition, displays and trade fairs, to showcase the variegated sarees in co-operatives, allied institutions and showrooms.