February 9th, 2012
11:38 AM GMT
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Varanasi, India (CNN) – The sari is a symbol of Indian style known around the world, but the makers of India’s most coveted saris are losing out to Chinese competition.

Banarasi saris are considered perhaps the finest of all saris. Originating from India's holiest city, Varanasi, they are traditionally worn by brides on their wedding day.

For centuries the silk saris have been made by hand in villages. The government has even given them a geographical identifier to indicate authenticity. But these enclaves of creativity are threatened by cheaper goods made in China.

Rajni Kant, of Varanasi’s Human Welfare Association, told CNN’s Sara Sidner: “Due to the effect of these Chinese attacks in the trade sector, right now 50% of the market has collapsed."

Bhayia is one of the few weavers left in his village still doing this intensive work. It’s a skill passed down to him from the generations who came before him, but he worries that it’s a dying art.

"The product that is coming from outside, it has resulted in the shutting down of looms here in the village,” he said. “Everyone is taking up other jobs."

The villagers say that making saris with handlooms was the main source of income for generations. There were once more than 150 people making saris - now there are about eight.

Kant says the problem is that local traders are cheating people by selling Chinese machine-made sari fabric as authentic Banarasi saris. The price for the knock-offs is a fraction of what the real thing sells for, and weavers complain the government does nothing about it.

"If no agency nor the government will enforce the law, definitely the whole sector will collapse and maybe in the future the generations will see the handloom in the museums," said Kant.

At a local sari shop they admitted to that some of the sellers are dishonest. Shop owners also pointed out that saris made in China sell well due to simply being cheaper - normal competition.

But there was also the issue of the import tax. For years the Indian government placed only a 10% tax on silk fabric from China. That fabric was simply cut and turned into saris. But the silk thread from China that the local weavers use to make the real thing was taxed at 30%.

Last year the government changed the import duty. Now silk thread from China is taxed at just 5% and demand for authentic Banarasi saris is increasing - a welcome relief to local weavers.

Now there is another problem: because so many weavers were forced to find other work there is a shortage of those who have the ability to weave this coveted piece of Indian art.

soundoff (72 Responses)
  1. gliese42

    Stupid indians

    February 9, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
  2. orleos

    It's sad when an old tradition as this dies out next to new technology and cheaper production methods that come forth. It's most likely going to become a lost art if no one does anything about it which is sad, but even if someone steps in, all they can do after a lengthy amount of time is probably make the Traders label their product as 'Made in China'. It's kind of like when the people on the streets of the city sell cheap knockoffs of designer clothing and products, but on a different scale.

    They can try to diminish the amount of damage that's done, but ultimately, the people will buy the cheaper product. In a place where the lower class makes up the biggest part of society, what woman or family there for that matter wouldn't want to say their daughter has an 'authentic' Banarasi Saris.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
  3. Predjudice

    Another articl e to blame China, even my Idian friends said this article is so untrue, it is nothing to do with China they did it on purpose to make Chine a bad guy.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  4. whosurdaddy


    February 9, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  5. Henry E. Samonte

    Beware of Chinese Diplomacy and trade. The old adage that says, "Give an inch and they will take a mile" is almost true when you trade with China. India is just one part of the story. In Brazil, the once popular Brazilian Bikini which was inherent on that place are now at a lost against Chinese Bikinis which looks better but cheaper. Same thing, before, thousands engage on these cottage industry, now, there are just few Brazilians. Same thing in the Philippines which is located in Asia. There is a place in Manila where in genuine leather shoes were hand made. They were durable and stylist. When the Chinese products came in, the price of their fake leather shoes was so cheap, that there was no way the Filipino shoe makers can compete. The Chinese fake leather shoes are a lot cheaper than the leather material. So, same story, many leather shoe manufacturer folded up. All over the globe, the complaint is the same, "Made in China" is creating economic downfall to the rest of the world because of unfair trade practices. The question is what shall all the nations affected do about it. Do they just sit idle while the Chinese are committing unfair trade practices?

    February 9, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  6. ikander

    This is an unfortunately effect of the world marches on. Throughout the ages, newer technologies and better production methods have driven more traditional art forms to extinction, but the glass isn't half empty, for every old art form that faded away, there are more new ones taking its place.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  7. FreeTrader

    This is the result of free trade which affect any country

    February 9, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  8. paybackisabiyatch

    Amazing that India has been doing this for years to other countries – on a much larger scale – and now that the tables have turned, the whining starts. Hilarious!

    February 9, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  9. AccliamedMan

    Stupid "gliese42" !!!

    February 9, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  10. ceasar

    that is where Chinese is good at. cheating, piracy, smuggling, drugs, immorality. everything wicked.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  11. JeetKuneDo

    Funny how the people here who b!tch the most – shop at Walmart – hypocrites one and all!!!

    February 9, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  12. keygudo

    Its Sad and tragic what is happening to India because of some greedy Indians to make few bucks faster, Mahatma Gandhi weaved his own clothes and encouraged the Indians to weave their own cloth materials so that they can boycott English made cloth but now again India is soon becoming a Chinese colony. India wake up before its too late and your country will become like Tibet. Remember Gandhi ji and stop buying made in China

    February 9, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  13. J. Bhattacharyya

    While it is sad that an old and beautiful tradition of “Benarasi” sarees is being threatened out of existence, the copy market thrives because of the unwritten law (taboo) that the "Benarasi" sarees are must for the bride to wear at the wedding. The fact is that the prices of these beautiful pieces of art are pretty high (gold thread and all) which makes it practically impossible for many families to afford those when needed and that would certainly make the well fabricated cheaper copies very attractive for an average Indian family. I think, however, that the number of affluent Indian families who can easily afford these sarees is large enough in India for this tradition to go on, although may be in a somewhat lesser scale.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
  14. Don Canard

    well well, the folks in the "glohbalization" hotbeds are figuring this sh!t out too. Good. Time to chase the moneylenders out of the temple again.

    February 9, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  15. Jhansi

    CCN must know the facts and do little research when posting such type of articles. CNN looks any indian media where they are completely biased

    February 9, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
  16. BBC

    Soon the Indian will blame Wal-Mart or Carrefour kills their entire old fashion bazaar.

    February 9, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
  17. Shadow

    It used to be the only trades in the global market were raw earth materials and products that were unique and not made anywhere else. Now its all about greed and those at the corporate level with the 7 to 10 figure monies are the reason for this. Poor countries do not develop from their own boot stings. Corporate greed is what made this happen. Corporate greed is what influnces governements to relax trade protect laws. Relaxing trade protect laws only benefit the super rich, not the common man or woman. Investment pay back is the margin the product sells at developed country prices. The laborer benefits almost nothing while the greedy 1% make a killing.

    February 9, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
  18. James

    China is becoming destructive to most world economies, i have seen it happen in my home country. They come in with their cheap toxic products and flood the markets with it, their government subsidizes them which in turn keeps their products artificially cheap even with all the taxes added to them ! Industries in India are being destroyed thanks to Chinese, they are masters of copying and will copy and sell anything and everything to everyone.

    February 9, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  19. Zak

    What about the companies outsourcing all the US local jobs to India? It is same going for the Cheap Deal..

    February 9, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
  20. whosurdaddy

    @Zak That sir is political incorrect. China just vetoed US, CNN is on full force bashing China now.

    February 9, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
  21. Leo

    From the article, I just noticed it is the fault of Indian local traders.

    February 9, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
  22. Leo

    Haha, u got the point. Also, CNN never reports negative news about US. Those negative news about US can be only found in other news websites.

    February 9, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
  23. LOL

    CNN is behaving like an internet China troll.

    February 9, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
  24. midwestmatt

    The Chinese are never going to operate honestly with the rest of the world. They lie, manipulate and cheat their way to success by ignoring treaties and abusing their workers.

    What is going on in China today is what precipitated the original revolution. An elite group is extremely rich and powerful and the rest of the country is told to shut up and work 60-90 hour work weeks to earn a pittance. Shame on you China and shame on the rest of the world taking advantage of their lies.

    I hope another revolution occurs and the newly minted elites are knocked flat while workers get a fair wage with better working conditions. It happened once, it can happen again.

    February 9, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
  25. Damn

    Chinese factories only make to orders. Stupid.

    If anyone has to be blamed, it must be those Indian retailers who cheat.

    February 9, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
  26. MS OF NY

    It is the rest of the world who should get the blame for letting chinese dump their cheap trash on rest of the world. The chinese are just milking the greed that they are finding in US, India and everywhere else. I hope we stop blaming china and be responsible for our own welfare and stop buying cheap chinese trash. The more the chinese exports grow greater the strength of the chinese economy and the greater the threat to rest of the world due to their selfishness. In the future you will get to see more of chinese indifference such as vetoing UN over reigning down Iran or Syrian regime.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
  27. Hujintao

    Well, it's called Free Market! Bummer huh, when it suddenly doesn't work out for you, but for someone else! The silk industry was invented and dominated by China centuries ago. Now the chinese is merely taking it back! You want to outdo the chinese? Well then, go work harder and better!

    February 9, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
  28. Choco monster

    China sucks. Its ruining world economy. Even on reservation gift shops, red indians kachina dolls are made in china. Instantly its garbage to me and has no cultural value. Its coming down to world vs china and china will lose. China thinks it owns everything? We shall see.

    February 10, 2012 at 12:53 am |
  29. Marco Hsiao

    From 1300 BC to 1700 AD, only China produced and exported silk. The cloth of first "silk saris" might be imported from China to India in 1500 years ago.

    Mainland China is upgrading quality and salary fast. 10 years later, a great and high quality Chinese products will begin flooding on the world market. Smart Indian business people should capture the opportunity.

    Now Buddhism is restoring in Mainland China. Buddha is respected in China comprehensively for 1800 years. 10 years later, millions of Chinese tourists also will flood to India for Buddhism and tourism, it will be a big business. India and China (Mainland + ROC Taiwan + Hong Kong) both are moving to prosperity; some other countries might be jealous.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:23 am |
  30. Choco monster

    This isn't selling slik, it's selling a hand woven design that you copied.

    February 10, 2012 at 2:08 am |
  31. sadat

    Watch for a few moments to catch an owl in the pitch

    February 10, 2012 at 3:04 am |
  32. Xia

    The world used to push China towards free market.. told them open up, free the market, hands off businesses.. now
    that China did.. and did it the Adam Smith way, the (free world) is showing it's true face.. hay! hold on.. you can't be
    that serious.. we were kidding!

    February 10, 2012 at 3:07 am |
  33. jo_smith456

    So even India is riding the bandwagon blame-it-all on China. In the meantime, Indian outsourcing companies keep pushing Indian technology workers to come here to the US, to which American technology workers are complaining/blaming India. (Of course, part of the blame is also wall-street-companies setting up offices in India; such foreign affiliates/offices then become the mechanisms to apply easily for US visas.)

    IOW, India is doing the same thing that it's blaming China for.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:31 am |
  34. Floyd Burgoz

    This is so funny, I would have never thought that that India would be out done in the copy cat industry.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:16 am |
  35. Binod Thapa

    @ Marco Hsiao: Even though you did not mention it Buddha was born in Nepal and Buddhism also started from Nepal. For Buddhism Nepal is the first place to visit.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:51 am |
  36. Choco monster

    America is importing Indian technology workers. The companies have to show the government proof that they cannot staff from locals. America in fact, demands Indian IT skills. We have a lot but not enough apparently. On the other hand, we don't demand Chinese manufacturing. It's been stolen from us.

    February 10, 2012 at 6:40 am |
  37. Roger

    Indian handicrafts will never fade away as long as companies like Fabindia are around.

    February 10, 2012 at 6:47 am |
  38. rich_eat_poor

    is not so sad, just economic evolution. weaver revolts are know in Europe since the middle ages. techniques are developping, thanks god nobody in developed countries needs to run anymore behind horses to work the soil with harrows or whatsoever... humans are all to often unwilling to changes, but in the long run its good for everybody. les work for more outcome. BUT every new wealth has to be distributed to all the people, that is where the problem lies...

    February 10, 2012 at 10:32 am |
  39. alvin

    I am really strange that some guy's saying in this place. Why do you think china is cheating you. You can choose to buy "made in china or not by youself. Don't use the cheap goods and blame china together

    February 10, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  40. Observer

    I agree with alvin. That's right noone is forcing you to buy Chinese things. Everything is fare in business. Every one cheats on everyone, not only China/India/USA/.........

    February 10, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  41. Nepali

    @ Binod Thapa Yo thulo thulo des le Nepal ko kura k garchha ra. Truth is hidden by big countries.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  42. Nepali


    February 10, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  43. sfbi

    This is nonsense. The same kind of "cultures" are dying out everywhere. Here the problem is that if a machine made product is better and cheaper than a man-made one, what is the point for doing it by hand. This has nothing to do with China, and actually many things in China previously made by hand are now made by machines. This report shows a prejustice and it always is with many CNN reports.

    February 10, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  44. Big Bang

    China is doing the Indians a favour. Now every Indian woman can afford a sari !

    February 10, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
  45. guest

    China invented silk. When did the Indians steal this kowledge?

    February 10, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
  46. b o s s

    Nobody has been forced to buy the materials from China. that is your onw choice, Why do these people always compalin about Chinese produces? You can boycott Chinese Goods if you don't like them. So i want to say that the news is ridiculous.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
  47. xavi

    The same has happened with African traditional clothing.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
  48. b o s s

    Sorry, it's the "complain about"

    February 10, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  49. thekiid

    you all should read the book Poorly Made in China by Paul Midler. it shows that the chinese have no interest in quality and seek to cheat importers and customer alike. the chinese are not anyone's friends and they seek to make as much money without consideration of the impact the cheating has on the customer including using questionable materials. remember these are the same people who were willing to poison their own children through melamine in the milk. the chinese don't care. stop buying their products, boycott china...

    February 10, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  50. Choco monster

    Sorry but the silk worm invented silk. Lol

    February 11, 2012 at 8:01 am |
  51. Marco Hsiao

    Thekiid, you are wrong. The US citizen also use bad butter peanut to poison US own citizens. The French made bad artificial breast to poison her citizens, too. So we boycott US and French productions?

    Remember, half of world prisoners are the US citizens in the US jails; the US has lots of murderers kill the US own citizens. The Chinese criminals are in life jail. But the US bad guy could poison US citizens continually.

    Mainland China’s productions are so much, some are bad that is true, but the majority are good and the quality is improving. In 2011, the US imported more than US$ 400 billion from Mainland China. Thekiid, do you accuse that the US citizens are foolish?

    February 11, 2012 at 8:41 am |
  52. chaudhari

    china is a Footpath of the world. One day they will supply Bridegrooms at a cheaper rate! Of course attractive and hard worker!

    February 11, 2012 at 11:29 am |
  53. Choco monster

    China was left behind by the world. They are now attacking the world economically in a jealous rage, due to 60 years of isolation that they themselves caused. The footpath of the world invents things, the follower copies it.

    February 11, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
  54. hothead

    CNN is a biased News Channel controlled by the Zionist Jews so any thing in favour of america will be put on News while all anti American News will be blocked.

    February 12, 2012 at 3:07 am |
  55. Hot Wheels

    The Indian fabric industry deserves to collapse for making no effort to modernize.

    February 12, 2012 at 4:50 am |
  56. ashish

    do not disown ur own for saving feww rupees.

    February 12, 2012 at 6:49 am |
  57. lkjlkdsjfe

    Don't blame innocent business people for the evil crimes of Chinese factory workers! Shame on devil-worshipping China for selling sari's to Indian shop owners!

    February 12, 2012 at 9:43 am |
  58. Skyshield

    Figures, "poor India" , taken for a ride by the Chinese, they sure weren't saying that when they hijacked our jobs for their cheap labor pools. Even to the extent of learning how to "be American" on the phone and calling themselves , "Bob or Martha". Of course we can focus on others to blame, but, the real blame is greedy people trying to harvest themselves more money at the expense of American's trying to feed their families. Blah on India !!

    February 12, 2012 at 9:45 am |
  59. SokU

    "China made products are crap!!!!" *turns iPad around to see a Made in China stamp* damn it..

    February 12, 2012 at 9:48 am |
  60. Tibet Rebels

    China is bullying other countries by their trade policies. What all the other countries have to do together is by increasing the duties of Chinese imports slowly to balance the economy. I hate the Chinese tactics, but even I have to go there to do business because of feasability.


    February 12, 2012 at 9:55 am |
  61. Asian

    36 % of scientists at NASA are Indians
    38 % of doctors in USA are Indians
    34 % of microsoft employees are Indians

    Are they stupid?!!!!!!!

    February 12, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
  62. Choco monster

    China made products are crap. Do you know how many warrantees electronics companies have to do as they switch from supplier to supplier trying to find someone who isn't just trying to scam. The successful products made in China come at the price of heavy management from the United States. Because the Chinese have a belief that screwing the customer is perfectly acceptable as long as they get away with it. This they do to themselves, with chemical milk and the like. The only reason we make anything in that country is because the labor pool is so cheap you can just keep sending warrantee replacements and still make a profit. It's a drain on the world in many ways.

    Also the guy complaining about call centers, get real. Call center jobs in America compete with Mcdonalds for workers. They are among the lowest level of jobs we have. And they are a small part of our economy. But what really hurt us was losing our manufacturing industries to China. Often by other firms simply duplicating our stuff and selling it cheaper. If not luring away factories by slave wages.

    February 12, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
  63. Anya

    When you buy products made by slaves, you support slavery. India apparently had no problem with that until it started to hurt them.

    February 14, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  64. Anon

    @gliese42-very mature, perhaps you are the stupid one

    February 15, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  65. ElmerFudd

    Sounds like they are afraid that their JOB / INCOME will ultimately be taken away, huh?? But they have NO problem coming to the US as students or H-Visa workers and displacing Americans. Suck it up, India – what goes around comes around...!

    February 16, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
  66. sari

    Nice and helpful article shared by you . Its really helpful. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us. sari is a great indian wearing style. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
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    March 29, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
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