Jamdani is a fine textile of muslin which originated in Sonargoan, an ancient trading city near Dhaka in today’s Bangladesh.
The word Jamdani has been derived from Persian word ‘Jam’ meaning flower and ‘Dani’ meaning vase. As the name suggests Jamdani traditionally had flower motif vividly woven on a loom into the finer fabric by expert craftsmanship.
The unique fabric is woven on loom brocades, mostly decorated with floral motifs, though figures too often adorn the Jamdani. Whether figured or flowered, jamdani was originally woven in cotton.
The technique used involved a supplementary weft technique, where the artistic motifs are produced by a non-structural weft, in addition to the standard weft that holds the warp threads together.
During the Mughal era, Jamdani and muslin production was at its zenith as it was patronized by the Mughal nobility and royalty. However with the advent of the British, Bengal’s Jamdani and muslin industries rapidly declined due to a colonial policy of encouraging duty free import of industrial manufactured cloth from Great Britain.
It became difficult for the poor weavers of Bengal to compete with cheaper industrial products. As these Jamadani were a products of finer creativity by artisan craftsmen, the time taken to finish one sari could take up to five months or more, which meant that modern cost economics and imperial policy both were against the local craft.
However, braving all ods the tradition survived. In their endevour to keep up the heritage of Jamdani weaving, weavers teach their children and wards in the fine art.
The `parampara’ or tradition passed through generation still stays alive and is now gaining new recognition globally as hand crafted textiles again become popular.
Giving the traditional fine textile a leg-up, Bangladesh home to much of the Jamdani weaving industry has received the global indication status in the year 2016, the first GI to be awarded to any product from Bangladesh. UNESCO too has recognized the intangible cultural heritage in 2013.
Today Bangladeshi women take pride in wearing them at national events. Jamdani sarees have become a symbol of identity, dignity and self-recognition. Jamdani fabric has also found new uses as dupatta (stole), scarves and kurtas (ladies’ shirts).