Social Impact Heroes: Why Maqbul Hasan from Benares India wishes to keep his tradition alive!

Social Impact Heroes: Why Maqbul Hasan from Benares India wishes to keep his tradition alive!

Benarasi babu weaves magic

~ Amy Fernandes, March 12, 2018 (Extract)

The roads of Varanasi are narrow, dusty and teeming with traffic — human and vehicular, not to mention bovine, canine and feline. There are at least a dozen sudden brakes, an unending stream of screeching horns and human voices. But nothing will deter us, or persuade us to return to the safe confines of our hotel. We are on a mission to locate the nucleus of Varanasi's creativity: the weavers of the Benaras. When we finally arrive at Pilikothi, we are ushered through several tiny gullies, sidestepping open drains and ducking cyclists before we are shown through a little door and down a flight of stairs.

Sitting under a harsh blue light is Maqbool Hasan, a karakul hat perched jauntily on his head, trimmed neat beard, looking every bit the patriarch of all he surveys. And he surveys a lot in his crowded little room, overflowing with fabrics, sarees, materials, furnishings, stoles and shawls. We have to be careful not to step on any of these, before we find a clearing to sit in, cross legged. After all, that is how he is sitting behind his counter, manning his business for 66 years now, carrying on the legacy of his ancestors that has existed precariously over the last 200 years. 

Tending to a tradition

His business card, which he hands us, proudly says Maqbool Hasan, National Awardee. Hasan's work in the field of handlooms has won him several laurels. “In 2001 I was given the President's Award,” he says. There is a Weavers' Service Centre under the Ministry of Textiles which looks for different and extraordinary work. The committee here recommended him for the award. It was indeed the start of a glittering career, because that was when he realized the full impact of what his work meant to the rest of the world. “It's not just making beautiful saris, and taking orders and filling your stomach,” he says, “the work we and the thousands of weavers are doing here, is a tribute to tradition. We keep this tradition alive and the heritage of India alive.”

Queens fought over his work

Another time he was invited to Bhutan and was caught in the middle of a frisson between the two queens. He was invited on an exchange of weaving technology. There, when he began to spin the loom, one of the Queens of the King of Bhutan spent inordinate hours watching him at work and bought up nearly 80 per cent of the goods he made. That should have pleased him enormously, except that the next day, when his work was front-paged by the local daily, the other Queen too wanted to buy his fabrics and there were none to sell!

His tryst with royalty doesn't end there. Back home, in his little Pilikothi, he has been visited by Britain's Queen Mother in 1959 and has pictures to prove it. Pulling out old photographs, dog-eared and yellowed with years, he shows us pictures with the father of the erstwhile King of Bhutan Jigme Sigme Wangchuk. Another time, when he met with the Saudi King Bin Abdul's eldest son, he presented him with a precious weave in real gold zari, depicting the store's name. His shop has played host to celebrities such as Tina Turner, Ismail Merchant and several Hollywood biggies. He has many stories to tell, but the best ones are told in the contrasting sharp and mellow colours of the loom, where the weavers sit under a bright light and spin their magic on the cloth, not sure what the future holds; but for now, the loom is clicking and clacking away, telling a new story, that someday Hasan will narrate to friends who visit him.

It was not long before Cricket Legend Virat Kohli tied the knot:

After generating a social media buzz over their "secretive wedding" in Tuscany on December 11, heartthrob Virat Kohli and Bollywood diva Anushka Sharma gave a grand reception at a city hotel in Delhi on Thursday. She was wearing one of Maqbool's Benarasi Creation Sarees..

We at CaravanMaya are proud to offer this exclusive collection of Maqbul Hasan's creations in Benarasi tradition! 



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