ll   VARANASI  ... the handicrafts ll

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Silks and cotton products of Varanasi were known as Kasikuttama, Kaseyyaka, Varanaseyaka, Kashika Vakham at different times since the third century B. C. They were reputed for fineness, softness, smoothness of texture and polish. The production of gold and silver thread work which was later came to be known as Zari was another industry that developed simultaneously with the silk and brocade.


Carpet production at Bhadohi near Varanasi was started in the eighteenth century. Today, about 90 per cent of the products are exported to foreign countries. There are about twenty-eight thousand looms and seventy-five thousand weavers in the area producing about ninety-five per cent of carpets made in India.

Varanasi is also famous for its smiths. They have been making wares of brass, copper, and bell metal for various purposes from time immemorial. They cater to the taste and needs of the devotees and pilgrims, forging brass and copper idols in various sizes and poses, as well as bells for rituals and temples, kamandal for use at worship, bowls, pots, plates, and glasses of different shapes and utensils for household use. Filigree and inlay work are often done to beautify these articles.

Another Varanasi specialty is toys made of clay, wood or brass. They are simple and yet attractive and famous for their fine workmanship, presentation and fast colouring.

The Surti and zarda industry preparing perfumed tobacco leaves for chewing has developed in Varanasi and commands a good market all over India. A by-product of this industry is snuff.

Folk art in the form of wall paintings in Varanasi is still alive. Based on mythology or reflecting the surrounding nature in the form of elephants, parrots, storks, camels, horses and fishes, they can be seen on doors, inner and outer walls and on big earthen vessels. The style of these paintings, now, a part of commercial art, is said to have been derived from a mixture of the Rajput and Moghul styles. The East India Company opened a school of art in the eighteenth century. The art of painting on ivory was taught by the Europeans to Indian artists. The Indians brought to bear their experience of miniatures on the European technique and evolved a new style known as the Company School Art. Varanasi became the centre of this style and reputed artists flourished here in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Varanasi has become a rich treasure house of antiques and ancient art and craft. Sarnath archaeological museum has a vast collection of sculptures and artifacts, some dating as far back as three thousand years. The Bharat Kala Bhavan established in 1920 has a huge collection not only of paintings from the twelfth century to modern times, representing the different schools, styles and regions, but also fabrics, tapestries and sculptures from different ages.