Banarasi saris are saris made in Varanasi, a city which is also called "Benares." These saris are historically considered to be among the finest saris in India and are known for their gold and silver brocade or zari, fine silk and opulent embroidery, and being highly sought after. These saris are made of finely woven silk and are decorated with intricate design, and because of these engravings, these saris are relatively heavy. Their special characteristics are Mughal inspired designs such as intricate intertwining floral and foliate motifs, kalga and bel, a string of upright leaves called jhallar at the outer, edge of border is a characteristic of these sarees. Other distinctive features are heavy gold work, compact weaving, figures with small details, metallic visual effects, pallus, jal (a net like pattern), and mina work. These saris are an inevitable part of any Indian bride's trousseau.
Depending upon the intricacy of designs and patterns, a sari can take anywhere from 15 days to a one month and sometimes up to six months to complete. Banarasi saris are mostly worn by Indian women on important occasions such as when attending a wedding and are expected to be complemented by the woman's best jewelry.
Ralph Fitch (1583–91) describes Banaras as a thriving sector of the cotton textile industry. The earliest mention of the brocade and Zari textiles of Banaras is found in the 19th century. With the migration of silk weavers from Gujarat during the famine of 1603, it is likely that silk brocade weaving started in Banaras in the seventeenth century and developed in excellence during the 18th and 19th century. During the Mughal period, around 14th century, weaving of brocades with intricate designs using gold and silver threads became the specialty of Banaras.
The sari making is more of a cottage industry for about 12 lakh people associated directly or indirectly with the handloom silk industry of the region around Varanasi encompassing Gorakhpur, Chandauli, Bhadohi, Jaunpur and Azamgarh districts.
Geographical indication rights
Over the years, the Banarasi Silk handloom industry has been incurring huge losses because of the unfair competition from mechanised units producing the 'Baranasi silk sarees' at a much faster rate and at much cheaper cost, another source of competition has been sarees made of cheaper synthetic alternatives to silk.
In 2009, after two years of wait, weaver associations in Uttar Pradesh, secured Geographical Indication (GI) rights for the ‘Banaras Brocades and Sarees’. GI is an intellectual property right, which identifies a good as originating in a certain region where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the product is essentially attributable to its geographical origin.
As per the GI certificate, Banarasi products fall under four classes (23-26), namely silk brocades, textile goods, silk saree, dress material and silk embroidery. Most importantly this means that no sari or brocade made outside the six identified districts of Uttar Pradesh, that is Varanasi, Mirzapur, Chandauli, Bhadohi, Jaunpur and Azamgarh districts, can be legally sold under the name of Banaras sari and brocade. Prior to this, in July 2007, nine organisations, Banaras Bunkar Samiti, Human Welfare Association (HWA), joint director industries (eastern zone), director of handlooms and textiles Uttar Pradesh Handloom Fabrics Marketing Cooperative Federation, Eastern UP Exporters Association (EUPEA), Banarasi Vastra Udyog Sangh, Banaras Hath Kargha Vikas Samiti and Adarsh Silk Bunkar Sahkari Samiti, had applied to the Chennai-based Geographical Indication Registry of Government of India, in a move that was supported by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) 
Today there are four main varieties of Banarasi sari, which includes pure silk (Katan), Organza (Kora) with Zari and silk; Georgette, and Shattir, and according to design process, they are divided into categories like, Jangla, Tanchoi, Vaskat, Cutwork, Tissue and Butidar
Since a large number silk dyeing units in the trade, use chemical dyes, which cause pollution in the Ganges River, a move is on to shift to natural dyes. Research team from the Indian Institute of Technology, Banaras Hindu University (IIT-BHU) used the technique of solvent extraction and enzymatic extraction to developed natural colours from plants, flowers and fruits including accaccia, butia (palash), madder, marigold and pomegranate (anar) 
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In advent of Embroidery from Surat and development of Machines which can produce intricate design and pattern, Banarasi Silk Sarees have got substantial set back. More over ever increasing prices of Silk Raw Material , empathy towards Weavers by Government Agencies and very low or negligible investment in Research and Development of design and material has led to a stagnant situation in the Industry. However in last three - four years Silk in general and Banarasi Silk Sarees in particular seen a great revival and contemporary well known Fashion Designers have taken a serious interest in promoting Banarasi Fabrics and Sarees in their offerings. There is in general a revival being seen and more and more young population is using Banarasi Sarees at times with twist in Wearing/ draping style or with ultra designed Blouses. However in modern days there is an urgent need to create affordable trendy Sarees and to create awareness amongst the users regarding Artificial Silk which is being sold as SILK. May be Government should make minimum quality standard for Using the word Silk. Production from Surat was always classified as Art Silk but unscrupulous Traders are not hesitating in using Silk for any material which has look of Silk irrespective of Yarn being used. Furnishing in another area where Banarasi Silk has come up very well.
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- Banarasi Sari
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- Banarasi silk sarees get copyright cover The Times of India, Binay Singh, TNN 18 September 2009.
- Varanasi weavers, prisoners of faith Times of India, MAHESH DAGA, TNN 8 February 2002.
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- UNCTAD to support geographical indication registration of Banarasi silk The Economic Times, 19 Aug 2008.
- Now, Benarasi sarees will be made of natural colours Indian Express, Anuraag-Singh, Nov 19, 2007.
- Banaras brocades, by Anand Krishna, Vijay Krishna, All India Handicrafts Board. Ed. Ajit Mookerjee. Crafts Museum, 1966.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Saris.|
- Timeless Grace of Banarsi Sarees
- Banarasi Sari and Brocades at Varanasi Official website.
- Banarasi Saree