The Saree industry is one of the biggest industries in Bengal right after sweets and the fish. It is a thriving market since the sari forms a very integral part of every Bengali household. The Jamdani saree is pretty popular among Bengalis the plain reason being it is so light, yet so gorgeous. The fabric used for weaving Dhakai Jamdani or Cotton Jamdani is the finest muslins. Jamdani derives its name from a conjugation of two words namely “jam”, meaning flower and “Dani” which means vase. Hence, the beautiful floral motifs used on the jamdani sarees are no secret. This fine muslin craftsmanship flourished under the patronage of the Mughal rulers who had the taste for the finest muslins.
The word Jamdani has Persian anthropology, and hence it can be assured that it was under the Mughal influence. The name Jamdani suggests the floral designs and motifs which were made on the sarees. The “Dhakai Jamdani ” owes its name from the town of Dhaka, in Bangladesh where it was first conceived. The earliest history of cotton jamdani saris was first sighted in Chanakya’s “Arthashastra” which was written around the 3rd Century BC. This fabric had enjoyed an immense amount of popularity right from its inception to the Mughal period, but post which the popularity declined with the advent of the British colonizers.
A speciality of Jamdani Sarees:
The base fabric used for making and weaving Jamdani saris is a plain cotton yarn that is unbleached. While the weaving process continues, the yarn is bleached which results in a contrasting pattern and silhouette. This process of handloom is very intrinsic and time-consuming one. After the basic sheet of cloth is spurned and sun-dried once, the workers then start making the motifs by needle-pricking the cloth with golden zari and make designs and motifs like small emeralds (known as ‘Panna hazar’), paisleys (‘Kalka’), individual flowers or bouquets covering the entire saree. They also make regular rectangular motifs and polka dots.
The specialty of the Jamdani saree is that it is not very gaudy at all. There is a shimmery self-colored texture and work all over but it is a sobered down design and does not look over the top at all.
A Prized possession indeed:
Cotton Jamdani sarees or Dhakai Jamdani sarees are no doubt the most laborious handloom sarees which need a lot of work starting from dyeing the fabric, to weaving the sarees, making motifs and adding the finishing touches. The weaving part is the most time consuming and labour intensive work, and it is because of this the richness of the sari can be seen. Since the motifs are made in the loom by hand pricking the fabric in a weft technique which is quite discontinuous, it looks all the more beautiful. There is a supplementary weft which complements the standard technique of weft that is used. This creates a sheer and fine fabric with intricate patterns on it.