Jamdani (Bengali: জামদানি) is one of the finest muslin textiles of Bengal, produced in Dhaka District, Bangladesh for centuries. The historic production of jamdani was patronized by imperial warrants of the Mughal emperors. Under British colonialism, the Bengali jamdani and muslin industries rapidly declined due to colonial import policies favoring industrially manufactured textiles. In more recent years, the production of jamdani has witnessed a revival in Bangladesh.
Jamdani was originally known as Dhakai named after the city of Dhaka, one of many ancient textile weaving centers in Bengal region. Under the Mughal Empire the Persian term Jamdani came to be in popular use, since it was the court language of the Mughals. The term Jamdani is Persian deriving from 'Jam', meaning flower, and 'Dani', a vase or a container, named after decorative floral patterns found on Dhakai textile. Jamdanis are popularly known as Dhakai Jamdani or simply Dhakai. The earliest mention of jamdani and its development as an industry is found into Dhaka, Bangladesh..
The origin of the Jamdani is shrouded in mystery. The word Jamdani is of Persian origin; Jam meaning flower and Dani meaning a vase. The earliest mention of origin of Jamdani and its development as an industry is found in Kautilya's Arthashastra (book of economics, about 3rd century BC), where it is stated that this fine cloth was used in Bangla and Pundra. Its mention is also found in the book of Periplus of the Eritean Sea and in the accounts of Arab, Chinese and Italian travelers and traders.
Jamdani is a hand loom woven fabric made of cotton, which historically was referred to as muslin. Jamdani weaving tradition is of Bengali origin. It is one of the most time and labor-intensive forms of hand loom weaving. It is undoubtedly one of the varieties of finest muslin. It has been spoken of as the most artistic textile of the Bangladeshi weaver. Traditionally woven around Dhaka and created on the loom brocade, jamdani is fabulously rich in motifs.
Varieties of jamdani work
Though mostly used for saris, Jamdani is also used for scarves and handkerchiefs. Jamdani is believed to be a fusion of the ancient cloth-making techniques of Bengal (perhaps 2,000 years old) with the muslins produced by Bengali Muslims since the 14th century. Jamdani is the most expensive product of Dhaka looms since it requires the most lengthy and dedicated work.
Jamdani patterns are mostly of geometric, plant, and floral designs and are said to have originated thousands of years ago. Due to the exquisite painstaking methodology required, only aristocrats and royal families were able to afford such luxuries.
Changes with time
We do not know exactly when jamdani came to be adorned with floral patterns of the loom. It is, however, certain that in the Mughal period, most likely during the reign of either Emperor Akbar (1556–1605) or Emperor Jahangir (1605–1627), the figured or flowered muslin came to be known as the jamdani. Forbes Watson in his most valuable work titled Textile Manufactures and Costumes of the people of India holds that the figured muslins, because of their complicated designs, were always considered the most expensive productions of the Dhaka looms.