Why Hiranya ?

Ethos - Banaras Pure Silk Saree is the pride of Varanasi & Indian Woman, an integral part of the lives of Vanarasi people, especially the Weaver (Bunkar).

Hirnaya, the cloth of Gold, is an initiative of Bunkar Dastakar Adhikaar Manch (a Varanasi based outfit, founded in 2004, that lobbies for the weaver community), PVCHR (People’s Vigilance Committee for Human Rights, an initiative Of Jan Mitra Nyas (JMN)) & Dialogue 21, Inc.

Mission Statement - Hiranya, is an initiative to provide global online access to the world market for the weavers’ products by cutting off intermediaries exploiting these highly skilled artisans. The skilled hardworking weavers will get direct accessibility to promote their beautifully handcrafted Banaras Pure Silk Sarees woven on their handlooms directly to the Wearer (buyer).

Objective - The initiative, ‘Hiranya’ provides weaver products direct access to the GLOBAL MARKET and is founded on the concept of FAIR PRICE STORE where the price of each best quality Pure Silk handloom woven Saree is 25% to 30% lesser than other market traders
& retailers, respectively.

Why Costing Less? – As the Sarees come directly from the Weaver to you, the Wearer. Currently these weavers have no access to the global market and are exploited by the middlemen right from the traders, wholesalers, distributors & retailers who pay inadequate wages for each Saree while keeping maximum margins for them. Hence, Hiranya, The Cloth of Gold, an initiative to give these weavers, grass root artisans, EQUAL RIGHTS in the Banaras Sarees Market, enhanced returns for their weaved Saree and hence better lifestyle in the near future.

History of Banaras Silk Sarees

Varanasi is one of the oldest cities of the world and is known for its religious importance & socio-economic ties with the world. An important brocade weaving centre of the world with roots in the Vedic period and achieving its peak during the Mogul Empire.

Hiranya, means cloth of gold, which is heard right from the age of Rig Vedic times. Prince Siddhartha (Gautam Buddha) of Kasi Kingdom (Varanasi) when decided to renounce the worldly things, he took off his pure silk clothes to wear simplest of clothes. (Reference – Buddha Sutras).When Gautam Buddha was alive, Kasi Kingdom was the most important centre for pure silk fabrics (Reference – Jataka Puran). The Mogul period saw the most flourishing time for Banaras Silk fabrics during the reign of Emperor Akbar. The zari and brocades flourished all over the world through British traders for the British Army uniform embroidery as well as British Queen Gowns making it known eventually as the world famous, “Cloth of Gold”.

Weavers Story

Banarasi Silk Saree weaving tradition is 8 centuries old and at a particular point was at the top of India’s silk weaving industry. Highly skilled weavers who inherit the Skill sets are exponents of the art to make these sarees on handlooms. The designs are a mix of Hindu & Muslim cultures which are an integral part of Varanasi city.

As on date, the same industry of fabrics & hand-woven Pure Banarasi Silk saree is at its lowest level. Since 1990s, the demand for these sarees are on a decline due to cheaper alternatives available in the market, machine saree manufacturing is on the rise i.e. power looms replacing the handlooms, import export policies on silk fabrics adversely affected raw material procurement, change in fashion tastes, going for lower silk replacements increased competition and quick changeover gaining importance over the ethnic class and grandeur of handwoven pure banaras silk saree , which has hit the Banarasi Silk Sarees grassroot weaver adversely.

The handloom weaver today faces lack of orders, poor wages for each saree. The traders who govern the market sell each saree for a much higher price while no benefit is given to the grassroot weaver. It is assumed if a handloom saree is purchased the poor weaver is benefited but its not true. The real weaver, the skilled artisan is left with only poor wages for each saree which amounts to INR 300-600 (US$ 8-10) - (Source PVCHR). He takes 10-15 days to create one saree in which his entire family is involved; sometimes a month for higher woven saree yet the wages remain the same. The women and children workers of his family have negligible wages amounting to INR 10-15 per day i.e. US $0.25 (Source: PVCHR).. And many a times there wages are not considered by the trader on the pretext of giving a better price for the saree. (This needs to change and bringing FAIR TRADE the only effective option.

Today these skilled artisans face health issues due to poor working conditions.  Tuberculosis, respiratory issues are on the rise due to the fabric dust and detoriating work conditions. Due to lack of orders and poor wages, these artisans are unable to fend their familes. They have sold their lands, belongings, switched occupation to ensure two meals for their families. Since 2002, about 175 weavers have committed suicide as they cannot take care of their families (Source: PVCHR). Children & wives of these weavers are dying malnutrition deaths. 50% of the weavers children are malnourished (Source: PVCHR)

PVCHR has got these weavers together forming Bunkar Dastakar Adhikaar Manch (BDAM) to make continuous efforts for the rights of the weavers: The RIGHT TO HEALTH, The RIGHT TO FOOD, and now. The RIGHT TO REVIVAL OF THE HANDLOOM INDUSTRY.

Hiranya - Fair Trade Initiative

Hiranya, is an initiative to have global access to the world market for the weavers handwoven exclusive sarees; Cutting off intermediaries exploiting these highly skilled artisans. The main effort is to bring direct sale to the global buyer at lesser (FAIR PRICE MODEL). The margins that get build up due to marketing the channels shall be passed on to the WEAVER directly when a buyer (WEARER) buys online through HIRANYA.org thus facilitating FAIR TRADE for all parties and so a WIN-WIN situation.

This model first will give 25% of sale proceeds directly to the Weaver and also will build a corpus over a time. Later, the humble weaver can get credit to buy his own pure silk yarn and weave his own saree on a buy back from Hiranya thus ensuring his sale as well as Real Price value to the weaver thus better returns and better emancipation under FAIR TRADE POLICY.

The entire model is worked on tripartite agreement with PVCHR the renowned grass root, Human rights NGO and BDAM keeping the skilled artisans together towards their growth to ‘Make a Difference'.