Zari is what makes silk sari liqueur. The golden or silver ornament adds weight and splendor to the naturally shimmering felt. In the good old days, he created using pure precious metals – gold for the shades of gold and silver for the whitish shades. So, the sari even when worn out, still held within them the value of gold and silver. In places like Kanchiforam, you can still find shops that buy back the old Saris for the gold and silver they have.
Over time, as metals became more expensive, pure zari became unreasonable for most people. Innovations have been made to maintain the look and feel of gold and silver designs by using less expensive metals. This included plating the copper wire with silver and then gold, or wrapping a thin film-like layer of silver on cotton wire. A foreign imitation of course exists and has its own market.
Let me take you to a real Zari workshop and show you how these delicate hair-like silver threads are created to weave into a delicate silk fabric.
Suna-rupa or gold and silver wreaths
Traditionally, in the language of weaving, Zari gold is called sunnah and silver is one rupee. In fact, rupee is the word for money in many Indian languages. From this word we get the word ‘doctors’ for our currency. Zari comes from the Persian word ‘zar’ and means gold. In India, it is traditionally called Kalabattu, although now this name is rarely used.
Money remains the main component for both money and the golden zari. The latter is actually the silver wire that has undergone a gold plating.
In the good old days it was customary to put the silver zari in warm turmeric water to allow it to absorb the natural yellow color. After a while, it made an impression of golden. It’Holdi ZariAlthough natural, was not stable. The color will fade after a while.
Slowly the coating techniques, developed in the middle of the last century, made their way into the paths of traditional silk clusters like Varanasi. Today it is a default technique for making gold zari. Due to the high gold prices, the use of this pure color has dropped drastically. Currently, gold wreaths are created using a halachic technique that uses chemicals to give the effect of gold. It looks like gold but it’s not really gold. Chemicals are also used to introduce different shades of gold – from bright gloss to a dull matte finish.
Different types of zari
In the purest form of Zari there is only money and it of course costs accordingly.
The second type has a copper wire with a thin layer of silver on it. So what you see and what your skin feels is money, but what is inside is not really money.
The third type is cotton yarn with a layer of foil (called Baadla) on it.
Finally, there is a Zari imitation that is produced using chemicals, resins or plastics.
The cost difference between the Pure Zari and the other versions is about double the 10-12. The cost of a real Zari is of course directly proportional to the cost of pure metal.
Read more – Silk sari at the intersection of art, architecture and heritage
How many people use Zari in Sari?
Silk sari can consume anywhere from a few grams to more than a kilogram of zari. For the heavy sari jal filled with silver or gilt samples, you can use an amount of 1200 g of bouquet. No wonder the traditional name of these sari saris was ‘Bahari Sari’ or heavy sari.
Pure zari is mainly used for hand loom saris. Power looms tend to use Phekhua A technique that ends up wasting a lot of evening material. So, pure Zari is not usually used on power looms.
With the advent of cheap plastic imitation varieties, the number of Zari manufacturers in clusters like Varanasi has dropped drastically. Currently, there are only a handful of Zari manufacturers in silk clusters like Kashi and Kanchipuram. Zari imitation is mostly provided from Sort.
Due to the huge cost difference, the pure versions and imitations will continue to exist in parallel. Not everyone can afford the real Zari, at least not all the time. At the same time, there are connoisseurs who will continue to patronize it and create demand.
Read more – Different types of silk in India
If we look at the Zari manufacturing process, it all starts with the solid pure silver lump that manufacturers purchase from the metal market. It undergoes various processes to reduce to a thickness of about 0.3 mm. The process is simple but involves many steps.
In the first stage, the lump of solid silver, locally called ‘Chandi ki Batia ‘ Melted and converted into long rods, rectangular in shape. A little copper is added at this point because money is inherently processable. This long silver rod is stretched even further and passed through fire pits repeatedly until it reaches a thickness of about 30 mm. At this point, it is called ‘Passa‘. As the thickness decreases, it can be rolled into colors called ‘Gucci ‘, Just like yarns of raw yarn or wool.
Passa Passes up to 20 levels of traction, by repeatedly passing through the small round metal holes in decreasing thickness. This color is called ‘USA‘And marked with a number indicating its thickness. At each stage, the thickness of the silver thread continues to decrease until it reaches the desired level compared to the width of silk threads or human hair. Now it’s ready to be woven like silk to create the patterns we like to flaunt on our sari. ‘TrakashiThis is the name given to this thread when it resembles a very fine thread.
Then flatten the final thin wire and call ‘In Adela‘. It is wrapped in a base material that can be cotton yarn or copper yarn. It can also be used directly for ornaments or embroidery. Money does undergo a number of chemical treatments before it can be used as a zari.
I saw the 32mm silver thread go through different colors and the final delicate Zari 0.3mm thick. The whole process seems simple and is more or less completely mechanized now. This can be done with basic human supervision.
Zari Makers of Varanasi
Wimelsh Maurya G, who in my workshop I visited in Varanasi, explained that in the good old days all the work had to be done manually. Craftsmen used to beat the metal by hand and then cut it into fine strips to make zari. Slowly mechanization happened but the machines still had to be operated by hand. Now, of course, most of them run on electricity.
Bouquet production remains a cottage industry run by families who have traditionally engaged in this business. High-rise ropes serve as a home, office and workshop for manufacturers. In the weavers’ quarters you can hear the sounds of looms, but in the background are wreath makers. Only their product proudly rises on the main stage on the sari.
Their supply chain works like clockwork, since it is mainly a B2B (business to business) factory. Varanasi as a silk weaving group, which also has a focus on zari weaving is a natural center for zari manufacturers. In the past, they have also supplied to other silk clusters in India like Kanchipuram and Dharmavaram. He tells us how much trade routes were established across India, and how well connected the business communities were.
Get to know your Zari
To test the purity of the zari, the best way is to take a small wire and burn it. If the residue is whitish ash, then the bouquet is pure, otherwise not. Imitation wreaths will leave black residue. If it’s plastic, then it’s going to burn like plastic with a flame shining backwards.
Another test is to take a wire and rub it on a stone. The color of the shine on the stone will tell you the base metal, a reddish hue will indicate copper and whitish silver. One imitation will leave nothing.
Read more – The Silk Road of Bangalore
Calvato – our heritage
Culturally in India, gold and silver are also associated with purity. Therefore, putting them on your clothes adds a layer of purity to them as well, especially when they need to be part of important Sanskrit or milestones in your life. Look at these shimmering silks adorned with pure silver, who would not envy our upscale dish!
When buying pure silk sari, if the clavato and silk are authentic, do not hesitate to pay the price. Worth investing in.
The production and weaving of Zari or Kalabattu is a living heritage of India, let’s go on like this!
This post was written in collaboration with India Silk Signs Organization.