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RITU SAMHAR | Natural-dyed Benarasis

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RITU SAMHAR | Natural-dyed Benarasis
Chandra Jain, Founder, Kimkhab, Bangalore, presents a unique collection of Banarasi brocade saris, woven with natural dyed yarns, that are perfect for all seasons and occasions.

Banaras, one of India’s most sacred and oldest continually inhabited cities, is renowned for its beautiful hand-woven textiles. For centuries, the knowledge and skill of handloom weaving has been passed down from elders to the younger generation. The rhythmic beat of the handlooms has long filled the tightly woven lanes of the ancient city, as weavers create exquisite weaves of cotton, silk and zari yarns for ceremonial, ritual and everyday wear.

Inspired by the beauty of traditional Banarasi weaves, Chandra Jain, a pioneering textile revivalist, founded KIMKHAB, a textile design studio in Bangalore in 2006. Kimkhab means `woven dreams’, and as the name suggests, the collaboration yielded dreamlike weaves reminiscent of vintage Banarasi textiles graced with elegant motifs and patterns woven in graceful colour-combinations. Over the years, each collection, woven by the master weavers and their assistants, showcased varied facets of the technically brilliant Banarasi weaves.

Till the end of the 19th century natural dyes were used in Banaras. Unfortunately, with the advent of synthetic dyes that were easy and inexpensive to use, the tradition of natural dyes faded away. Convinced of the importance of natural dyes for their beautiful velvety colours and their sync with nature, and the detrimental effects that synthetic dyes can have on humans and the environment, Chandra was determined to revive the lost practice of natural dyes in Banaras. For this she organized a natural dyes workshop in Banaras specifically for the master weavers. As the weavers learnt to create dyes from natural sources like plants, barks, leaves, roots, seeds and flowers, they were most appreciative of their attributes, from the beauty of the colours to their being skin and eco-friendly.

The result of the initiative was that the weavers started creating natural dyes with indigo, pomegranate peels, onion skins and other natural elements and dyeing cotton and silk yarns with them. They collaborated with Chandra to create a unique collection of sarees inspired by Ritu-Samhara, a poem about the seasons by the legendary poet Kalidasa in the 4th-5th century A.D. 

The poem Ritu-Samhara has six cantos, each devoted to the mood and human emotions related to one of the six Indian seasons, namely grishma (summer), varsha (monsoons), sharad (autumn), hemanta (pre-winter), shishira (winter), and basant (spring). The word Ritu means season, and Samhara means coming together, and thus Ritu-Samhara means a group or more poetically a garland of seasons!

A collection of natural dyed Banaras sarees is being presented in Mumbai for the very first time by KIMKHAB. This is presented at the ARTISANS’ gallery in Kala Ghoda, known for launching many designers and artists and exclusive collections of textiles and art. The present Ritu Samhar collection presents sarees for spring and summer from the Ritu Samhar range of Banarasi sarees woven using natural dyes. These are sarees in soft colours, light in weight, and with subtle patterns woven with extra-weft yarns. Thus making them ideal for warm weather while keeping alive the richness of Banarasi weaves. 

The soothing colours of the natural dyed yarns and muted zari yarns, the softness of the sarees of fine 100% silk and silk-cotton yarns, and the beautiful patterns make each saree an ode to the sensuous poem, and the skill of master artisans as all the processes - from the dyeing of yarns to weaving - have been done by them. The collection truly celebrates the joy of creating beautiful textiles inspired by culture and poetry, and will surely delight lovers of Banarasi weaves.