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Delhi: The Smoothest Silk

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There’s silk and then there’s Benares silk. The fabric of Indian aristocracy for hundreds of years, the textile originated in the city of Varanasi and is distinguished by the workmanship, artistry, and complexity of its woven designs. Almost always embroidered, it ranges from simple cloth with elaborately stitched borders to heavy brocades used mainly as upholstery to the more detailed and rare kinkhawbs, in which the silk itself is barely visible through the dense gold- or silver-threaded patterns. The silks are increasingly difficult to find, but master weaver Girja Shankar has brought together a group of artisans to create pieces of his own design, selling them at his shop, Nilambari Sarees. Shankar and his son, Nikhil, have been instrumental in reviving old Moghul motifs (lotus blossoms, flowering mangoes, trellises), and many of the city’s top fashion designers, like Ritu Kumar and Tarun Tahiliani, commission pieces here. Most stunning is the shikargarh, or hunting-scene sari—scarlet silk embroidered with parrots, elephants, rabbits, lions, tigers, and spear-toting hunters. It takes two weavers 120 days or more to complete the six yards of fabric. From $375 for a sari and from $100 per meter for upholstery brocades. At Square One Mall, Saket District Centre.

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