Jamdani is considered as one of the most beautiful revelations of artistic talents of weavers in Bangladesh. It is included in the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2013. Only recently it has got the GI (Geographical Indication) registration.
The traditional way of weaving Jamdani in the handlooms by the weavers in Rupshi village located in Narayanganj, Bangladesh.
During the regime (1605-1627) of Mughal emperor Jahangir, the plain Jamdani muslin was decorated with numerous floral designs. The emperor was seen wearing Jamdani muslin swatch around his waist in many occasions.
The weavers are struggling to survive in approximately 150 villages in Bangladesh. A village called ‘Rupshi’ of Rupganj Upazila is popularly known as ‘Jamdani Village’. Situated on the riverbank of Shitalakhya, it is about an hour drive from the capital city Dhaka to the village.
Women members, in particular, of the weaving communities do the work involving the spinning wheel.
Locally made, the spinning wheels are made up of bamboo sticks. Over time they have started adopting some wheels made by spare mechanical tools.
House yards are used to prepare and arrange threads for weaving.
The weavers collect threads from their local shops. It creates a small scale market network among the weavers, service providers, and producers.
Dyers use different types of colors to contrast the threads. Choice of color depends on design and motifs. The weavers have mastered Jamdani motifs.
Artistic hands and touch of nature bring the finest Jamdani.
The local weavers use bamboo in making the whole structure of the loom; it is locally called “tant”. Wood, jute, or plastic can also be used to make loom.
Two weavers can use one loom at the same time to make saree.
In addition to looms for two weavers, there are small looms for one person. These looms are mostly used for making cheaper saree, salwar-kamiz, kurta, and panjabee.
Weavers set up looms inside a house according to space availability and economic capacity. For poor families that usually have only one living room, their looms are set up in it, too.
These weavers are locally called Tantees or Karigors. A village weaving community is generally composed of loom-dressers, dyers, spinners, and master weavers. All of them form a very closely-knit family bounded by enduring unity, distinctiveness, and unique character.
Young people of the weaving community specifically get training through a hereditary system of apprenticeship. They start learning Jamdani weaving at a very young age.
A disciple is learning how to weave Jamdani from his master.
Majority of the loom workers are teenagers. Both boys and girls work together on the same loom.
In the looms, weavers are often accompanied by the close keens and relatives; husband with wife, father with daughter or sister with brother.
As some Jamdani weavers are also mothers, so the presence of children nearby the looms are very common.
There is no written document for the innumerable motifs used in Jamdani. The motifs are repeated with remarkable precision and time-tested consistency. Nothing is sketched or outlined. The weavers can easily estimate the time required for weaving a particular motif.
A senior weaver is using starch (made from rice) on a part of a Jamdani saree to make it softer, making sure that every ply of the thread is interlinked with each other. Starching continues until the whole saree is completed.
Jamdani patterns are mostly of geometric, plant, and floral designs. The Jamdani textiles combine intricacy of design with muted or vibrant colors. The finished garments are highly breathable.
Popular motifs of Jamdani include: panna hajar (thousand emeralds), kalaka (paisley), butidar (small flower), fulwar (flower arranged in straight rows), tesra (diagonal patterns), jalar (motifs evenly covering the sari), duria (polka spots), charkona (rectangular motifs), naksha, belwari, nayanbahar, toradar, hazartara mayuri, and others.
Based on the variations of threads, four kinds of Jamdani are available: nylon, cotton, half-silk, and full-silk.
The price of Jamdani varies from 2,000 to as high as 200,000 BDT depending on the vibrancy of motifs and time spent on stitching.
In addition to the sarees, Jamdani motifs and designs are also used for male and female kurtas.
Concept and Direction: Professor Dr. Saifur Rashid, Department of Anthropology, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh
Team: Daloar Hossain, Ratan Kumar Roy, Noor-un-Nahar Weely
Photo & Cinematography: Bulbul Ahmed
Acknowledgement: Weaving Community of Rupganj and Bargaon, Narayanganj