It’s no surprise that Mr Khan, a Varanasi resident, reinvented reversible Spanish Satin weave for the 21st century. The sacred city by the Ganges has a rich weaving heritage, dating back centuries, including luxurious silk brocade. Traditionally, Indian brides had their wedding saris woven here.
Pilgrims flock to Varanasi - it’s the holiest of seven sacred cities in India. It’s also one of oldest cities in the world. By the Ganges in early morning, it’s an extraordinary sight. Hindu’s call Varanasi Kashi (literally luminous) – City of Light, a place of religion, culture and learning.
That’s why we named Saraswati silk scarves after the goddess of knowledge and the arts. Wearing a white sari, Saraswati is often depicted sitting on a lotus beside a river, the flowing waters echoing freely flowing learning.
Today Varanasi remains a vital cultural powerhouse and magnetic draw for Indians and visitors alike. It’s also a centre for weaving although Varanasi weavers have experienced difficult times in recent years. Mr Khan admits that the pressure from cheap power-loomed fabrics from China and rising costs in India are a major challenge.
However commitment to Varanasi’s ancient handloom tradition remains strong among cooperatives, philanthropists and small entrepreneurs.
Major companies, such as India’s Tata Group, are also involved in protecting and reviving Varanasi weavers’ craft by creating new niche markets. As I learnt at a conference about Asia’s endangered textiles, Tata worked with a weaving community in a poor neighbourhood to commission magnificent saris for staff at the opulent Taj hotels, whose gift shops also stock the handwoven fabrics.
Mr Khan’s modest enterprise also works with skilled Varanasi weavers, some of them farmers, who weave in their spare time to create Saraswati silks. Naturally, Silk Chassis is delighted to support such innovative and high quality enterprise.