Jamdani was born in Dhaka which was once in the undivided Bengal of the Indian subcontinent and is now the capital of Bangladesh. In India, Jamdani is practised in West Bengal where many artisans migrated from Dhaka during the partition. The unique and labour intensive weaving process helps create a fine muslin cloth with vibrant patterns that appear to float on a gleaming surface.
The earliest mention of Jamdani sarees can be found in Chanakya’s Arthashastra, dating back to the 3rd century BC. Sulaiman, a 9th-century Arab traveller, wrote of cotton fabrics made in the kingdom of Rahmi (erstwhile undivided Bengal) which were so fine they could pass through a signet ring. These fabrics were adorned with beautiful motifs which was a Mughal influence. And eventually what it evolved into is ‘Jamdani’.
Jamdani fabrics are woven on a brocade loom. It is a supplementary weft technique of weaving where the artistic motifs are produced by a non-structural weft in addition to the standard weft that hold the threads together. Each supplementary weft is added separately by hands by interlacing the weft threads into the warp with fine bamboo sticks using individual spools of thread. Often the threads used for motifs are golden or silver hued.
How to Identify a Jamdani
Jamdani fabric is made of high quality cotton muslin which is very thin & soft making the fabric light & airy. The fabric always has ornamental motifs woven onto the fabric. These intricate motifs in thicker thread seem to float on the surface of the ultra-fine fabric.
The Present Scenario
This art, like several other arts, was on the way to obscurity. But, like it has happened with several art forms, designers took a shine at this unique weaving process. Gaurang Shah, one of the pioneers to have showcased the Jamdani weaves on the ramp, has worked extensively with this textile and aims at reviving the love for this beautiful fabric not only in India, but all over the world. He feels that Jamdani is the perfect expression of India’s elegant and detailed heritage. These kind of admiration and usage of Jamdani is infusing a fresh life into this art which was on its way to extinction.