The Jamdani style of cotton weaving belongs exclusively to Bengal. The elaborate and intricate designs of Bengal’s Jamdani have caught the attention of fashion lovers around the country and world. Once produced for the royal and noble family members, the Jamdani style of Bengal is basically cotton garments embroidered with gold and silver thread. The fabric is apparently lace like with subtle dreamy designs.
Word ‘Jamdani’ – derived from a “PERSION” word ‘JAM’ meaning a ‘cup’ and ‘DANI’ denotes the ‘container’. The origin of the word Jamdani is uncertain. According to a popular version, it came from the Persian words jama (cloth) and dana (diapering). In other words Jamdani basically denotes diapered cloth. Another version holds that in Persian the word jam meaning flower and dani a vase or container.
The earliest mention of Jamdani and its development as an industry is to be found in Kautilya’s Arthashashtra (book of economics) wherein it is stated that this fine cloth used to be made in Bengal and Pundra (parts of modern Bangladesh). Jamdani is also mentioned in the book of Periplus of the Eritrean Sea and in the accounts of Arab, Chinese and Italian travelers and traders.
The “Mughals” recognized this excellence, acknowledged its rarity. During the region of Emperor Jahangir and Aurangjeb, the manufacturer of finer Jamdani was a rare product and a royal monopoly. Trading accounts reveal how the Jamdani travelled to the courts of the Mughals in the 15th – 16th century period. For the Mughals it was fashioned into elaborate angarkhas (upper garment/shirt) worn by both men and women; it also travelled from Dhaka through Agra, to Bukhara, Samarkand and other parts of West Asia. After the “Mughals” Jamdanis were continued to develop under the patronage of ‘Nawabs’ Wajid Ali Shah of Tanda and Nawabs of Dacca (presently under Bangladesh).
The base fabric for Jamdani is unbleached cotton yarn and the design is woven using bleached cotton yarns so that a light-and-dark effect is created. Alexander the Great in 327 B.C mentions “beautiful printed cottons” in India. It is believed that the erstwhile Roman emperors paid fabulous sums for the prized Indian cotton.
TYPES OF JAMDANI SAREE
The Jamdani is basically an inlay technique on lightweight cotton fabrics. Different types of Jamdani include: –
- Daccai Jamdani –originally a Bangladeshi style of cotton weaving is now practiced in West Bengal also.The Daccai Jamdani sarees displays floral motifs and linear multicolored designs spread over the entire body of the saree.
- Shantipur Jamdani –belongs to the Shantipur region of Nadia District in West Bengal, the Shantipur Jamdani sarees have excellent fine-grained texture. The softness of the fabrics is highly appreciated.
- Tangail Jamdani –originated in the Tangail region, the Tangail Jamdani sarees have traditional borders with lamp or Pradeep, lotus or Padma and fish scales or Aansh paar patterns. The warm colored sarees give emphasis on the Anchals or the part of the saree, which goes over the shoulder.
- Dhonekhali Jamdani –this exceptional style has its origin in Dhonekhali in West Bengal. The whitish opaque surface of the Dhonekhali Jamdani saree is adorned with borders of contrasting colors in black, purple, red or any other dark colors. The Dhonekhali Jamdani sarees are hardier and have a longer life than the other variations.
The method of weaving resembles tapestry work in which small shuttles of coloured, gold or silver threads, are passed through the weft. The jamdani dexterously combines intricate surface designs with delicate floral sprays. When the surface is covered with superb diagonally striped floral sprays, the sari is called terchha. The anchal (the portion that goes over and beyond the shoulder) is often decorated with dangling, tassel like corner motifs, known as jhalar.
The most coveted design is known as the panna hazaar (literally: a thousand emeralds) in which the floral pattern is highlighted with flowers interlaced like jewels by means of gold and silver thread. The kalka (paisley), whose origin may be traced to the painted manuscripts of the Mughal period, has emerged as a highly popular pattern. Yet another popular pattern in jamdani is the phulwar, usually worked on pure black, blue black, grey or off-white background colours.
The traditional nilambari, dyed with indigo, or designs such as toradar (literally: a bunch or bouquet) preserved in weaving families over generations are now being reproduced. Other jamdani patterns are known as phulwar, usually worked on pure black, blue black, grey or off-white background colours.
Jamdani weaving is labour intensive, requiring a delicate touch. For traditional jamdani weaving, a very elementary pit loom is used and the work is carried on by the weaver and his apprentice. The latter works under instruction for each pick, weaving his needle made from, buffalo horn or tamarind wood to embroider the floral sequence. With a remarkable deftness, the weft yarn is woven into the warp in the background colour from one weaver to the other.
The butis (motifs) across the warp, the paar (border) and anchal (the portion that goes over and beyond the shoulder) are woven by using separate bobbins of yarn for each colour. The fine bobbins are made from tamarind wood or bamboo. After completion the cloth is washed and starched.
The main pecuiliarity of Jamdani work is the geometric design. The expert weavers do not need to draw the design on paper, but instead work from memory. Jamdanis have different names according to their design (for instance, panna hajar, dubli lala, butidar, tersa, jalar, duria, charkona & many others). Present-day Jamdani saris have on their ground designs of rose, Jasmine, lotus, bunches of bananans, bunches of ginger and sago. A Jamdani with small flowers diapered on the fabric is known as Butidar. If these flowers are arranged in reclined position it is called tersa jamdani. It is not necessary that these designs are made of flowers only. There can be designs with peacocks and leaves of creepers. If such designs cover the entire field of the sari it is called jalar naksha. If the field is covered with rows of flowers it is known as fulwar jamdani. Duria Jamdani has designs of spots all over. Belwari jamdani with colorful golden borders used to be made during the Mughal period, especially for the women of the inner court.