The brocades of Banaras are well known for its richly patterned fabrics characterized by the use of gold or silver thread. The highly ornamental silk brocades with gold or silver work in Benares were referred to as Kimkhwab. During the Mughal period (1556-107 CE), the kimkhwabs became popular in Mughal royal workshops called “karkhanas”.
Originally the brocades were woven on a drawloom known as "jalla" and the entire supplementary design on the silk was done by hand, with heddles called "naksh". During the 19th century, jalla drawlooms were replaced with a jacquard mechanism, which was simpler to operate.
The famous motifs in kimkhwabs were the floral meanders and sprays, rosettes, stylized poppy flowers, and the shikargah designs which were woven as a supplementary weave on a base of silk.
A prince wears a jama, or a coat, woven with shikargah motifs, in this Mughal miniature painting.
The shikargah motifs have inspired various arts and crafts of India. On the woven fabric, the flora, fauna and animals came alive. The brocade fabrics were commissioned by the royals for Court use, and they worked closely with their in-house designers and weavers.
Amongst the most popular designs of kimkhwabs, shikargah was the finest and most popular. It was not a weave, but a term indicating the design of a hunting scene on a piece of fabric. On a benarasi saree, this pattern is evenly distributed all over the body woven either in metallics or thread.
A great level of artistry and expertise is required both in the designing and weaving. Nothing beats the beauty of shikargah brocade sari that every bride cherishes.
This primary source of shikargah design has been an inspiration to create the “vanasingaram’’ motif Kanchipuram silks. “Vanasingaram” literally translates in to ‘glory of the forest’ shows how a variety of forms and figures including trees, creepers, flowers, birds, animals are incorporated into a single pattern. It is a part of The Wedding Collective too!