Jamdani sarees were originally woven using the finest variety of muslin that is handwoven from cotton, the art flourished under the Mughal patronage.
The term Jamdani came to be in popular use, since it was the court language of the Mughals. Jamdani, is of Persian origin and comes from the word “jam” meaning flower and “dani” meaning vase. This is suggestive of the floral motifs originally found on these sarees.
Jamdani was originally known as Dhakai as it has its roots in Bangladesh, one of many ancient textile weaving centers in Bengal region.
The earliest mention of Jamdani sarees can be found in Chanakya’s Arthashastra, dating back to the 3rd century BC.
Jamdani was also mentioned in accounts of Arab, Chinese and Italian travellers and traders and also in the book of Periplus of the Erythraean Sea. In the first half of the 19th century, James Taylor described the flowered Jamdani.
The art form of Jamdani bloomed during the Mughal period. During the British period, there was a decline in the production of of Jamdani primairy due to Export of cheaper yarn from European countries.
Post the partition, many weavers migrated to present day West Bengal, and that marked the beginning of the art form in India.
Jamdani Weaving Process
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.
Jamdani weaving is somewhat like tapestry work, where small shuttles of coloured, gold or silver threads are passed through the weft.
The process is time consuming and involves a tedious form of hand looming and is almost like embroidery. Jamdani involves the supplementary weft technique along with the standard weft technique.
The supplementary weft motif is added by interlacing the weft threads with fine bamboo sticks using individual spools.
The designs are done using thicker threads on a base sheer material.
This process results in the vibrant patterns that appear to float on a shimmering surface, which is a feature unique to Jamdani sarees.
Designs range from the “butidar”, where the entire saree is scattered with floral motifs, to diagonally-striped floral sprays or the “tercha” or a network of motifs called “jhalar”.
The pattern is drawn on tracing paper and placed underneath the warp.
Today Jamdani weaving techniques are being adapted scarves, dupattas and stoles, in addition to sarees.
The ultimate expression of regality, Jamdani is called the finest muslin for this extremely skillful weave takes anywhere from a month to a year to complete a saree.
A Dhakai Jamdani, however, takes a minimum of nine months to weave.
Types of Jamdani based on the Regions
A Jamdani saree can be vary based on the each region.
Dhakai Jamdani from Bangladesh are the original and the finest sarees with the most elaborate workmanship. A Dhakai Jamdani saree could take between nine months to a year to weave.
The Tangail Jamdani is woven in the Tangail district of Bangladesh. Traditionally, these Jamdani sarees have broad borders featuring lotus, lamp and fish scale motifs.
The Shantipur Jamdani from Shantipur, West Bengal, is similar to Tangail Jamdanis. They have a fine texture and these sarees are often decorated with elegant striped motifs.
The Dhaniakhali version of Jamdani has a tighter weave as compared to the Tangail and Shantipur varieties.
How to identify a Jamdani Saree
Jamdani sarees are made of high quality cotton muslin, which is very thin and soft, making the saree very light and airy.
Jamdani sarees are characterised by eye-catching ornamental motifs woven onto the fabric. These intricate motifs in thicker thread seem to float on the surface of the ultra-fine fabric.
Floral motifs are almost always present on Jamdani sarees. You’ll find paisleys, diamond shapes as well as lotus, lamp, fish etc depending on where the saree is manufactured.
The Price— A Cotton Jamdani saree will not cost less than Rs.2500.
It is best to dry clean your Jamdani saree. You can wrap it in a clean cloth and store it in a saree bag.