Jamdani | The History & Making Process

Jamdani, an ancient fine muslin cloth, has been dominating the fashion world for a long time. its demand and popularity among the fashion crazy people are everlasting. With its geometric or floral designs, Jamdani was a coveted product of the Royal Court and Trade and a trend among the whole world. Even today, Jamdani is treated as one of the most lavish garments and an adorable product of the affluent society.

In one word, Jamdani can also be said to belong to the class of Muslin because, in earlier times, any fine cloths manufactured in Bangladesh would be referred to as Muslins. But the remarkable range and the diversity of patterns of Jamdani set it apart from all other Muslins. The borders and the textures of the Jamdanies are knitted with comparatively thicker threads and the layouts contain varieties of sceneries and designs. Besides, different colored threads are being used to do the texture of Jamdani.

The History of Muslins and Jamdani is very old. According to some historians, Dhaka Muslins used to get exported in a huge amount in the third millennium BC, and, as the early as the first century, many “fine cloths” from Bangladesh i.e., Muslins and Jamdanies, had being exported abroad. There are numerous historical records of the legendary Bengal Muslins by travelers and traders who documented them extensively.

From the book of Pleny we get to know that once the ancient Roman girls have been very fond of Dhaka Muslin. From Rome to Egypt, from Egypt to Iran and even Babylon has been no different from that. In the 13th century, Marco Polo, in 14th Centurym the tourist of Morocco, IBN Batuta, in the 16th Century the Chinese travelers also praised these kinds of Muslins manufactured in Bangladesh.

In the 17th Century, Bruce, a French ambassador, took a dozen of Muslin cloths from Bangladesh to rank as a gift for Madame De Pompo, the beloved of the French Emperor, Lui fiftieth.

The art of making Jamdani was at its zenith during the Mughal rule and it was the Empress, Nurzahan who was first to take a keen interest in it. She made it a major part of the customary annual tribute of the Imperial Court. Later on, under the royal patronage of the Mughals, the Muslins flourished greatly. At that time, Jamdani was hand loomed in almost all the villages in Dhaka. Dhaka, Sonargoan, Dhamrai, Titabari, Jangalbari and Bajitpur were acclaimed for making exclusive Jamdanies. Later on, Mulmul Khas and Sarkar-i-ali promoted this craft further by introducing it to the rest of the world. The Mughal emperor, the Nawabs of Delhi, Lucknow, Nepal and Murshidabad, traders from Europe, Iran, Armenia and even the Mughal Pathan traders were fond of Jamdani and they bought it with the high price.

No one knows the origin of the word “Jamdani”. The time when Jamdani has been brought to light is also uncertain. However, it is thought that the Muslims might be the first inventor of Jamdani. Although the literal Bengali and Urdu translation of Jamdani is “Wine Cup”. It is accepted that it came from the Persian word “Jam” meaning cloth and dana meaning diapering. So, in one way, Jamdani can also be called “Diapered Cloth”. In fact, any Muslin cloth with designs on it can be called Jamdani.

An exquisite Jamdani cloth depends on how well the yarn is made. For more delicacy, the yarn should be of 200 to 250 counts. The main characteristics of Jamdani is its transparency. If we display a Jamdani by opening every fold, we will notice the delicate design patterns on it. Each and every delicate design is being hand loomed with a comparatively thicker thread. A Jamdani weaver uses his first finger and the middle finger like a tool in order to do the main designs of Jamdani. that is why, even for a short period of time, a Jamdani weaver does not want to do any other work that may affect his fingers.

Over the years, the Jamdani weavers chose the bay of the river, Shitalakshya, in old Sonargaon as a suitable place for weaving Jamdani. The weavers believed that because of the moisture of the river, Shitalaksya is very rich for manufacturing Jamdani.

After passing many steps, a complete Jamdani is woven. First of all, the weavers buy yearn from the shop and give it to the “Pariwasllas” starch it and wound it on a cylindrical bamboo frame, “Natai” and allow it to dry so that the weaving quality of the yarn improves greatly.

The second step is done by the “Howzainnas” They separate the yarns into two different categories. They roll the design-yarn into small bobbins, “moura” and warp-yarn on slightly larger ones known as “noli”. The “shanebeji” weavers then inset the yarn individually  and painstakingly into comb-like dents of the bamboo reed called a “shana”.

Finally, the weavers sit to weave. Jamdanis require two weavers to work in unison to weave the patterns perfectly. One of them is the main weaver, while the other is the assistant or “shargbid” Jamdanis involve the use of the discontinuous supplementary weft in the weaving process to create subtle opaque designs, often matching the colors and weight of the ground and occasionally adding gold or silver threads to highlight the motifs. The main weaver, who is very skilled, sits on the right while the assistant sites on the left. The main weaver draws the main design by placing paper patterns under the warp and follows them by inserting the required lengths of design-yarn.

He does this by drawing fine needles through the number of threads necessary to the particular design. After completing each line, the layout is drawn in one stroke using a shuttle which is passed from one weaver to the other.

This is the basics of Jamdani, its history and how it is made.

Please comment below if you have any question regarding this.

Source: Jamdani Design by Samar Majumdar.

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