The headgear worn on ceremonial occasions by the Dalai Lama, the Karmapa, and other Tibetan high priests is made of a rare brocade woven with gold. It’s called gyasar, and given its almost religious symbolism, it seems like cosmic irony that the road leading to one of the few people skilled in this art is raucous with the clacking of powerlooms. But hidden away in the serpentine lanes of Varanasi’s weaver locality is Kasim Silk Emporium, owned by Haseen Ahmeed Ansari and his family. Ansari is one of the leading manufacturers and master weavers skilled in making gyasar. The rich brocade is made by twisting three or four gold-coated silk threads into a single twine in the weft to create bold floral prints with striking textural details. “The base technique is the traditional kimkhab brocade weaving style of Varanasi, but because of the thickness of the twine, the brocade has a raised feel,” explains Shahid, Ansari’s younger son. The brilliant silk floral patterns appear etched in gold. Depending on the quality of the gold used, gyasar can cost anything from Rs 5,000 a metre to Rs 35,000 a metre. It takes close to two weeks to weave 7 metres of gyasar. Fashion designers, including those from DKNY, Rohit Bal, and Manish Arora, have been using gyasar, popularising the craft. For the few remaining gyasar weavers, such interest represents hope—with a brocade lining.

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