Nothing really prepares you for Banaras. If you’ve not been to this city, then it’s a lot. It’s quite vehement in its presence, demanding your attention, taking over your senses. It doesn’t do things by half measures- Benaras, Banaras or Varanasi – the spelling is merely a question of semantics.
Tucked in the pockets of the tiny lanes are fastidious weavers at work. And meticulous they must be, for they are the custodians of the legacy of Banaras’ weaves. In another part of the city, the flames from pyres rise high into the sky, as family members gather around, taking solace in the fact that perhaps salvation awaits a loved one. These two worlds sit easily together in Banaras, contrasting as they are in their nature. And so this ancient city sits on the cusp of the old and the new, the beginning and the end.
Tilfi Banaras’ Weaves Stories
We are here with Tilfi Banaras, a luxurious handloom brand that sees a gentle reflection of the values of the city in its ethos. The brand aims to spotlight Banaras- their family is originally from here. The name is an homage to the brand’s ideals. Tilfi, their website says, is a Banarasi weaving technique where three coloured yarns run continuously without a break.
Tilfi Banaras is founded and helmed by three members of the same family- Aditi, Udit and Ujjwal. The brand is relatively young, started only in 2016. We get to meet Aditi and Ujjwal in Banaras, they are an enthusiastic, warm team, eager to introduce and chat with us about the weaves of Banaras. Aditi wears sarees that have everyone’s attention, each piece is detailed and delightful.
The conversation quickly turns to the saree that catapulted them to fame. Featuring a cross section of the skyline of Banaras woven on the border of a saree, the Tilfi Banaras piece was everything the fashion circles were talking about. It was bold and made quite the statement, a departure from the understated elegance of Banarasi sarees, the details of which are discussed in soft, reverent whispers. It was perhaps one of the reasons that the brand got a chance to create a piece commissioned for the Indian government as well.
While the various weaves of Banaras took centre stage, we also got a chance to experience Gulab Bari, a lesser-known festival, held post Holi. Gulab Bari involves a musical performance and the generous showering of fragrant rose petals. We were woken up in the wee hours of the morning and we boarded a boat, alive with the aroma of the Chaiti roses. The performance by renowned singer Sucharita Gupta had everyone mesmerised, and the team sprinkled the rose petals on everyone, making it a special experience. The festival has its roots in history, and there’s conflicting accounts of how it came to be, but what we know is that it has to be experienced and it’s one that’s decadent and memorable.
What’s In Store?
The Tilfi Banaras store is a stunning showcase of the brand’s offerings. The tissue sarees featuring rose motifs was a favourite for many of us. I specially liked that they had a little book in the store that explained the weaves of Banaras- phekwa, kadhwa, tanchoi, ektara- offering the buyer a sneak peek into the stories that abound about the weaves. Tools used in creation of the sarees make for stunning art at the store, so that coming here isn’t just about buying a piece of art, it’s an entire experience.
Banaras is at once celebratory, heady, intoxicating. And every fashion house hoping to translate its brilliance has quite the task at hand. Tilfi Banaras is taking the weaves to the world, while giving it the fitting context and making it accessible, telling the stories with reverence and that in itself is quite the accomplishment.