“Older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend—and looks twice as old as all of them put together.”- Mark Twain on The city of Varanasi.

Considered one of the oldest cities in the world, with recorded evidence of human habitation estimated as far back as 3000 years, Varanasi, also known as ‘Banaras’ or ‘Kashi’, is located in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India. Nested near the banks of the holy river, Ganga, or the Ganges, Kashi is considered the cultural & religious hub for Indians especially Hindus. In fact, its location on the banks of the sacred Ganges River also contributes to its prestige as an important site of pilgrimage. Apart from the religious significance the city also holds the prestigious trade monopoly for being the manufacturer of the famous and beautifully crafted ‘Banarasi sari’. This world-renowned weaving heritage goes as far back as 800 years & is an important factor contributing in the city’s trade as well as tourism. Considered amongst the finest in India, ‘Banarasi saris’ are made of finely woven silk and decorated with elaborate embroidery and engravings. The quality of these designs, aided by a local climate conducive to silk handloom weaving, has put Kashi at the helm of India’s silk weaving industry. The Kashi weaving industry also stands as a symbol of synergetic and composite culture, merging Hindu and Muslim patterns in its sari designs.

The ‘Banarasi Sari’ is predominantly woven on hand looms by highly skilled weavers. This ancient practice has undergone innovation & change over the years. However, in the past few decades, an increased share of weaving has been done on power looms. The ‘Banarasi Sari’ craft is specific to certain areas of Kash i- Lohta, Bazardiha, Rohaniya, Chiraigaon, Lallapura, Ramnagar and Badi Bazar.


Weavers Of Kashi

The city of Varanasi flourished as a hub of textile trade & craftsmanship when it was a capital of Kashi kingdom, under Prince Siddhartha (later known as Gautam Buddha). The ‘Jataka Puran’ also mentions that when Buddha was alive, Kasi kingdom was a crucial centre for silk and cotton fabrics. Zari and Brocade textiles are, to date, a specialty of the city. It is noted historically that, silk weavers from Gujarat migrated to Kashi in 17th century after a famine in 1603. A new environment for weavers led to various innovations and by 19th century, the city had flourished as the textile capital of the region. Development of brocade and zari work in the city saw new heights during the Mughal period, especially in the reign of emperors such as Akbar. Weavers were considered in high regard as skilled craftsman and artisans. While they have always labored hard, their skills and unique products placed them in relative prosperity within their communities. Typically a weaver’s entire family is involved in the occupation. The number of Kashi workers and families associated with weaving is uncertain, as no extensive survey has been conducted. However, unofficial estimates have placed the total number of workers at around 500,000. ‘Karkhanas‘ or weaving centres are spread all over the modern city and the weavers, known as ‘Kaarigars‘ often work under the guidance of a well managed Karkhana. The workshop of a single loom weaver is called ‘Bunker‘. A master weaver may have 15-20 weavers training/employed under him. There are two traditional weaving sectors in Varanasi- Alaipura and Madanpura. Both groups have their own unique compositions and weaving techniques.

The Challenges

A majority of ‘Kaarigars’ or weavers have little or no education. Weavers are typically dependent on traders for their livelihoods. The traders purchase saris in bulk from weavers and sell them in a market which typically leaves an average earning of only 600 to 700 rupees per sari, which may take 15 days to complete. Weavers are only paid by traders when the sari is actually sold in the market. They often work 10 hours a day for 10 to 12 days on a stretch to complete one sari. During this period, a weaver might be helped by his family in the creation of intricate designs and stitching. Usually female members of the household help with this task, essentially serving as unpaid workers. While this work is critical to sari production, it is assigned little value or status, and is usually not considered in sari pricing or labor wage fixing. Weavers and their families suffer from a range of health problems. Many develop respiratory ailments related to breathing due to fibers and dust from the fabrics they work with. There is a high level of tuberculosis, particularly Multidrug Resistant Tuberculosis (MDR TB), which can be induced from exposure to silk and cotton fiber. Due to bad socio-economic conditions, weavers cannot afford regular health check-ups or medical treatment. The children of these weavers are either dropouts from school or have never enrolled, usually because they support their parents in weaving. Due to unavailability of markets, the involvement of middleman and brokers along with unawareness of how the principle of demand and supply in trade works, these weavers are paid insufficient, minimum wages for their craft. Many weavers have switched their traditional occupation and moved towards other trades to earn a livelihood. This has put the weaving industry’s future in jeopardy in Kashi.

Our Endeavor & Projects

Sewa International has been involved in the upliftment & reinvention of the weaving trade in Varanasi by helping poor weavers in backward areas of the city through skill enhancement programs & by establishing Microenterprises to help weavers become entrepreneurs. Our emphasis though, is not just limited to the trading aspect of the city, rather, is focused on the overall development & welfare of the entire region, therefore, we also remain committed to the health, sanitation & education verticals through various programs. “Swacch-Shikshit-Kushal Kashi” was started with the aim of reviving the dying handloom industry of Banaras and has evolved with multi-pronged holistic interventions in the fields of education, health, sanitation & agriculture.

Kushal Kashi

Focused on skill development, especially empowerment of women through livelihood generation initiatives & programs, the main objectives of ‘Kushal Kashi’ are –

Enriching the socio-economic status of weavers.
Self-employment for handloom weavers & helping establishes micro-enterprises.
Skill enhancement by providing vocational training in color combination and value addition.
Providing marketing support to weavers by organizing Trade Exhibitions.
Facilitating modification of looms, to enable product diversification suited to the export market.
Providing Social welfare & security to weavers.
Women’s empowerment via skill development programs & training initiatives.

Events

Sewa International initiated a 10-month long handloom training program for the welfare of weavers in Ramnagar. This event was organized at the office of Sewa International, Ramnagar, Varanasi. In this training program, there were 20 weavers that working with Sewa International Bharat. These weavers had quit weaving for the last 10-15 yrs, and they were engaged in menial labor. Sewa international united them under a common objective of weaving and motivated them to reinvigorate their passion. Through this training program, our motive was to make weavers independent. This program was organized keeping in mind 5 stages:-

To provide better information about weaving from Master Weavers.
To provide better information about designs from well known designers.
To provide better information about dying and coloring with the help of Master Dyer.
To provide better information about Market, and to associate them with Governmental and non- Government Organizations for the marketing of the produced items by our weavers.
To make them aware about the recent programs started by a government:

Handloom Mark
Silk Mark
E-marketing

The training was provided to 20 weavers of Ramnagar and Ayodhyapur with the assistance of Master Weaver Durga Prasad Maurya and Ramasre Maurya. Shri Darshan ji, Pearl Academy of Delhi and Nishi Singh also participated in the training sessions in Ramnagar and along with the master weavers, other weavers also received training. Master dyer Vakar Ansari imparted invaluable lessons on wrap coloring to the weavers.

 

In an Exhibition effort, products of weavers like stoles, dupattas etc. were showcased at Janpath house, New Delhi, Ode to Earth, Gurgaon Mela, Dastkari haat samiti in Delhi haat where Smt. Jaya Jaitely, founder of Dastakari haat bazaar visited and encouraged the weavers. The products were also sent on Myroots.com & ethnicdiva.com via e-marketing so that weavers can be benefited by online stores.

A silk & handloom mark awareness camp was organized on 23rd Aug, 2016 where Sri. Ramesh Chandra, Senior Executive (Silk Mark) & Sri. Brijesh Kumar Shukla, QA Officer (Handloom Mark) provided their valuable guidance to our weaver community. A total of 82 weavers participated in the event.

Under the Banner of Silk mark organization of India, Sewa International Organized an awareness program called Bharat Interface for Money (BHIM). On April 20, 2017 Sewa international structured the program for their weavers regarding the Importance of Silk mark and the BHIM app for the enlightenment of which Mr. Ramesh Chandra, Deputy Director (instructor) of Silk mark organization of India was chosen.

Kushal Kashi – Beneficiary Testimonials

“ My name is Radhe Yadav & I am a 68-year-old occupant of Jalahiya tolla. I am linked with Sewa international since last year. I was involved in weaving at the age of 13 now it’s been 55 years. Weaving was the traditional trade of my clan but due to financial crises, my father got me into weaving rather young. At the age of 22, I started my own weaving business which was going quite well. But After a few years the government stopped all weaving business due to which there was less demand and supply, and gradually there was no work for us. We started searching for other jobs such as labor, construction, carpentry etc. This period lingered on till Sewa international came into our lives. A year ago we met with the team of Sewa International and they told us about their endeavor to restart the concept of weaving with some modern techniques with the weavers of Varanasi. Sewa international also provides training programs for our skill development so now we don’t have to seek Work in other places. We get paid of our hard work in a timely manner. We are very satisfied with this project and our income.”

 

“ My name is Ram Lal Vishwakarma from Adalahat. I’m 70 years old & my family consists of my wife & 5 children. Bunkari is my family tradition. I’ve learnt it since childhood. I was very interested in it. Earlier, bunkari was in vogue, and its demand was high so we would get a good amount of money for our work, but gradually there were an inadequate supply of finance, the supply of yarn also started to knock down & we became economically weak. After that, I worked for 26 years as a bunker under different firms but I was not getting work on a daily basis and was not receiving pay, on a regular basis, for my work. My life became miserable & my family suffered immensely, so much so that, I had to take debt to even marry my daughters. All this changed when I walked into the Sewa International Office one day after hearing of their continued efforts in our city. For the last 10 months, my life has changed after attending training programs by Sewa. I got financial help to pay my debt now I’m able to work here freely without any stress this is what I always want to do. Now I have good work and a better package.”

“ My name is Gulab Mohmad , I am 35 years old & my family consists of my wife and 6 children of which the younger 3 are school going kids. I belong to a low-income household due to which I couldn’t send my 3 older children to school. Earlier I was engaged in weaving (Majduri) at home and I hardly got Rs 300 on an average day.A few months ago my friends told me about Sewa International and their good work with the weavers of Varanasi. Somehow I got linked with SI and now I am working here for last 8 months. Here I feel relaxed about my work now I don’t have to seek for work anywhere else and by attending training and development program I have become better skilled. Now I get appropriate remuneration for my work.”

“My name is Sakina Bebi, I am 40 years old from Nakkhighat, Millat Nagar. I Belong to a poor family.My husband is suffering from paralysis and 7 children studying in which the elder one is working, and I am the only earning member. I am linked with SI for the last six months before that I was not getting much work to do, due to which I was not able to fulfill the basic needs of my family and the condition was very pathetic but now from the time I am connect with SI. I have a better life, more work as well as better increased income from which I am able to take care of my family and pay fees of my children.”

 

 

“ My name is Vakar Ansari, I am 31 yrs old. I belong to Ramnagar .I am in the trade of dyeing for the last 6 years. My father was also a dye craftsman. He gave 40 years of his life to the trade but suffered huge losses. For the betterment of the family trade, I underwent training in an  Institute & worked in a mill for 3 years. I always try to learn new processes, concepts of dying , color combinations etc.
I am linked with Sewa since last 6 months. Every time I come here I capture a great amount of knowledge. After I joined Sewa I learned many innovative things which I never knew before. I got more work here, they introduced me to new weavers, and other weavers working under me also got engaged with Sewa. My work has expanded like never before thanks to Sewa efforts. “

Krishi Kashi

Krishi Kashi is the agricultural initiative by Sewa International in the region of Varanasi the main objective of which is to enhance agricultural output for the socio-economic development of local farmers with awareness campaigns involving new farming techniques, soil & plantation tips etc. For this, Sewa has been actively involved with small farmers who have lesser portions of farmland in the Narayanpur block of Mirzapur. Sewa international organized initial meetings with village farmers to determine the core issues being faced by them in the agricultural or social sector.

Objective:

Development of farmers from a social, economic & political standpoint.
Free exchange of information about Organic farming.
Teach basic methods of organic farming.
Lay a strong emphasis on sustainable farming methods.
Make farmers self-sufficient by introducing modern farming techniques.
Knowledge sharing about model vegetable seeds.

Events

A Soil Health Awareness Camp was organized on Sep 3rd, 2017 by Sewa International at Gangapur Village, Narainpur, Mirzapur, Chunar & Varanasi. During this camp we invited Prof. Surendra Singh form Banaras Hindu University. He imparted valuable knowledge about SOIL HEALTH to the members present & explained how to improve soil drainage. He also shared tips on how to improve low soil pH with agricultural lime. He also distributed soil health certificates to Gangpur farmers.
Dr. Nagendra Rai from the Indian Vegetable Research Center, Varanasi was also a chief invitee. He shared very useful information about various types of vegetables and their farming techniques. A total number of 100 farmers attended the camp which was organized under the able guidance of Mr. Govind Narain Singh, Nitesh kumar, Ashish kumar and Akanand along with other team members of Sewa International, Varanasi.

Sewa International organized an Onion Awareness Camp at Gangapur, Narayanpur, Mirzapur, Chunar & Varanasi on December 12, 2017. The main objective of this program was to provide information useful techniques in onion farming. During this camp, Dr. Major Singh, Joint Secretary of the INDIAN SOCIETY OF VEGETABLE
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY was invited. In the camp Dr. Major Singh explained the techniques and processes of onion farming. He also observed crops from five villages and encouraged farmers about innovation in the field of onion cultivation.
During the camp, Dr.Nagendra Rai also shared key information pertaining to vegetable farming. He highlighted information about improved varieties of vegetables, nursery management, weed control, nutrient and water management, pest and disease management, post-harvest management, processing and onion seed production.

Javik Kranti For Anna Swaraj was a camp organized by Sewa International, Varanasi which was held to create awareness about the various benefits of organic farming. Organic agriculture can be defined as an integrated farming system that strives on sustainable methods of crop and livestock production that involve much more than choosing not to use pesticides, fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, antibiotics and growth hormones and focuses also on providing attentive care that promotes the health and meets the behavioral needs of livestock.

Beneficiary Testimonial

“ My name is Ram Kuwar Singh; I belong to Gangpur, Narayanpur, Chunar, Mirzapur (UP). I am 48 years old. My educational qualification is Intermediate, along with this qualification I have also done ITI. My wife’s name is Urmila Devi and I have two girls & a boy. My family profession is agriculture. But we have faced many problems in agriculture, our main problem lack of saleability when the crop is ready. The Sewa International team, especially, Ashish Kumar Singh, shared very useful information about agriculture. Sewa International team took soil from my field and sent the soil for testing Banaras Hindu University (BHU), Varanasi and they also took me for a visit to the Indian Vegetable Research Center, Varanasi. Sewa International also gives us marketing platform. They joined the local mandi for selling. Now our condition is improving and I am thankful to Sewa International. “

Shikshit Kashi

 

Sewa International has taken a significant step in uplifting unprivileged children under the project of Read India Read Kashi. This project provides education to 250 underprivileged children studying in class L.K.G to Vth. These deprived children are good at studies but struggling for education support as their parents or guardians cannot afford to educate them as they work as daily wage laborers in construction sites or farmers, carpenters etc. Our main motive was to encourage those children by providing them proper counseling through conversations about their future & interests and by telling them about the importance of education in one’s life. Our project aims to transform the lives of children through education and for that we must start with basic schooling. We have allotted 6 educational centers without any charge in local areas like Macchartta, Bagheli Tola, Jalahaiya Tola, Ratan Bagh, Bhitti, and Ayodhyapur, qualified teachers at each respective center with almost 40 students in each center.

Objective :

Establishing learning centers.
Providing academic & career guidance to underprivileged students.
School kit distribution.
Reduction in school drop-out rate.
Increase enrollment in the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.

Events

Our valued supporter from the Caribbean, Mrs Indrani Rampersad collected funds from her friends & family for distributing School kits with Sweets to 200 school children at Ramnagar in Kashi, UP on 11th Aug 2016.

Inauguration of the computer center in Ramnagar, Varanasi was held on 7th september 2017 by honourable H.O.D of “Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy”, B.H.U, Prof.T.P.Singh and Assistant Professor Dr. Sharad Sharma.

Beneficiary Testimonials

“ My name is Rajan; 25 yrs old & I belong to Bhitti, Ramnagar. I’m a B.ed student. There are 7 members in my family, my mother is a cook in a primary school and earns merely Rs 1000 / month. My father died 6 years ago, after which family’s financial condition worsened. It was a very bad phase of life wherein it was difficult to arrange bread and butter for the family. It’s been almost more than 6 months since I have been allied with Sewa International They appointed me as a teacher in an educational center run by them and I was feeling very fortunate that I will be there to provide tuitions to poor kids. Since then, I’ve been imparting education to 40 students from LKG to 5th. In these 6 months, the economic condition of my family has improved. The amount I get from tuitions is satisfactory. In these few months, I have become responsible and I can see a huge change in the behavior of my students. They are all doing really good and this project set up a very good opportunity for people like us.”

“ My name is Ruby, I am 12 yrs old & belong to Panchwati, Ramnagar. My father is an autorickshaw driver, the mother is a housewife and we are 6 siblings. I am a student of class 3rd in primary school, due to high tuition fees in private schools my father cannot afford to send me in those schools. I am immensely interested in studies but in Primary school, I was not receiving a proper education. When Sewa International started a center in Bhiti, My parents took me here, registered my name and I started coming here on a regular basis.”

 

“ My name is Gulshan. I’m 10 yrs old and belong to Bhiti Ramnagar. I’m a student of class 4th in primary school. I belong to a low-income household family, my father is a worker my mother is a housewife and I have 3 younger sisters. My teacher says I’m a bright student but I lack the confidence to present any query to my teachers. I was always been good at studies but in schools, teachers are not available for every child to solve their problems. Few months before, I joined SI center in Bhiti, After that I was very much delighted and now I can clear all my doubts with my teacher. My parents are also glad that their child is receiving good knowledge at no cost.”

 

 

“My name is Rekha Devi, I am 27 yrs old & belong to Ratan bagh Tengra mod Ramnagar. I have completed Masters in Geography from Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth. I got married at the age of 23 and I belong to a lower middle class family. In my family there’s my mother-in-law, two children and my husband Shyamnath Patel is a teacher in private school. He is the only KARTA of the family. There is no other source of income. I never wanted to remain confined as a housewife like other women. I always wanted to support my family , my husband financially and to do something for society. When Sewa International reached our village and planned to set up a Read India Read Kashi center in our area, they wanted to appoint me as a teacher of this center. It was like a golden opportunity that knocked at my door and at the very moment I grasped that opportunity and started to impart the children of my village, my life and that of the children, changed for the good.Now I’m imparting 45 students from L.K.G to 5th std. Life has never been better.”

 

“ My name is Ramakant, I belong to Ratan bagh Tengra Mod. I’m 11 years old student of Shri Devraha Baba Public School in class 5th. My father is a farmer, my mother died a couple of years ago. We are 6 siblings I’m the youngest one. The school where I go is not a good school to study as my father couldn’t afford sending me to a better school so he sends me here. I go to school but I don’t understand what they teach me. When my father saw that I don’t know anything that I am being taught, he decide to appoint a tutor for me but they also charge high fees.One day someone told my father about tuition centers started by Sewa International that too free of cost, without any delay my father get me there and I started taking tuitions there. Now I have learnt many things in just 6 months. My teacher focuses on me and helps me in any dilemma I face. Now my father is relaxed and tension free about my studies.”

Swachh Kashi

Swachh Kashi started as an endeavor to make Varanasi Open Defecation Free (ODF) through sponsored individual/community toilets and soon became a cleanliness drive which focuses on organizing sanitation awareness camps & health-check ups for locals.

Objective :

Regular cleanliness drive supporting the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
Installing communal toilets in villages.
Organizing free health-camps
Distribution of free medical kits at community centers.
To spread awareness on Ganga swachhta or cleanliness of the river Ganga.

Events

A Cleanliness drive was carried out in nearby villages of Ramnagar, Varanasi viz. Bhitti, Ratan Bagh, Tengra Mod, Maccharhatta, Ayodhyapuram, Purushottampur on 19 Nov 2016, on ‘Toilet Day’. As part of the drive, Sewa International has installed 16 toilets in these villages.

2 medical camps were organized in Bhitti and Ramnagar villages. More than 700 people participated in the camp. Activities carried out in these camps were:
a) Health check-up,
b) Bone density test
c) Free medicine distribution

Beneficiary Testimonial

“ My name is Sitara Devi, I’m 30 yrs old, belong to Macchharahatta, Ramnagar. My husband Raju is a vegetable vendor and we live with my four children and father-in-law. Our financial condition is not good we merely arrange two meals a day. The area where we live is very dirty and no one is interested in taking an initiative to clean it. For defecation people have to go outside the house in open areas. Six months ago, Sewa International organized a health campaign and we participated in it. There we got to know the importance of cleanliness and hygiene in our life. SI established toilets in our home and now we don’t have to go outside of our homes for sanitation. Now we keep our homes and locality clean.”

“ My name is Uma Devi, I am 45 yrs old. I belong to Bhiti Ramnagar. I have 5 children. My husband is a fruit vendor in Ramnagar joined by our elder sons. Our financial condition is not so good, sometimes they get sufficient income sometimes not, we can say seasonal income. We are able to get food to eat but cannot have more than that or any other materialistic things. Once we participated in a program conducted by Sewa International about cleanness and hygiene under Swachh Kashi Abhiyan. On that day we learnt how cleanliness is necessary for us. In the month of August SI also constructed a toilet in our house which is very helpful and essential for us. Before that we had to go outside the house in open areas which was not only unhygienic but also a safety hazard for our daughters.”

“ My name is Gunja Devi, I am 28 yrs old. I belong to Bhiti ,Ramnagar. I have 4 children my husband Rajesh Patel is a worker in a ply shop and we live with my mother in law. I’m a housewife and my husband is the sole breadwinner.The area we live in is not clean as everyone throws their garbage outside their houses and makes surroundings dirty. A few months ago, a campaign was conducted by Sewa international in our area and we participated where we got to know about the importance of health and hygiene from cleanliness. SI implanted a toilet in our house to promote health and hygiene and after the implantation we feel secure at home as we’re no longer forced to defecate openly.”

“ My name is Kanchan, I am 19 yrs old. I belong to (Harijan Basti) Bhitti, Ramnagar. 6 months ago, Sewa International organized a campaign about cleanliness and hygiene & luckily, somehow we got to know about the campaign and we participated in it. There we learned about the benefits of hygiene in our life. Si installed a toilet in our house which we could not afford without their intervention & we are very thankful to them as they are doing a great job for the betterment of poor people.”

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