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The Art of Real Zari

Zari, Kalabattu, Kasab – the many names of the palatial real silver wire woven in the make of opulent textiles synonymous with Banaras. The origin of Zari, derived from Zar or gold is widely believed to have come from Persia centuries ago. Like several other crafts, its splendour reached greatest heights during the Mughal Period. Historically produced in Surat and Varanasi, zari is also believed to have been imported from France in the late 19th century.


Silk and real gold zari, woven in supplementary weft technique Varanasi.

V&A Museum Collection


A lineage dating back to the Rig Veda as the attire of the gods, royal patronage and favouritism amongst the elite, zari woven textiles hold a position of supremacy. Tales of emperor Zahiruddin Babur gifting gold zari woven ‘robes of honour’ to allies as a symbolic gesture to an elaborate 22 days, 60-person process to make 400 km of length – such is the grandeur of real zari.

Making Process of Real Zari

The making of real zari involves an extensive and meticulous process. Pure molten silver is poured in a mould to take the shape of a long rod. Stripes of silver are subsequently drawn in varied thickness spanning from 8 to 30 gauges. Each strip is carefully skinned to make the finest zari – as fine as 25 microns. The flattened silver wire is now ready to be wound on silk threads – white for silver zari and yellow for gold zari. To achieve the luxurious sheen gold zari is known for, the wound yarn undergoes an extensive electroplating process. Once washed and reeled, the zari is divided in multiple hanks for weaving.


While the woven interplay of silk and zari has always been raved and lusted over, the evolution of cotton Jamdani, where thread patterning was overtime replaced by zari, cannot be overlooked. A vision in itself, the intricacy and elusive craftsmanship makes the blend both remarkable and treasured.

Beyond visual aesthetic, zari is known to lend a structural quality – a certain level of fluidity by balancing the weight of textiles when worn and draped.

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