Home ENTERTAINMENTBOLLYWOOD Magic on Muslin – The Jamdani Sari

Remember your childhood Bengali aunty in the neighborhood? The one who always seemed

elegantly turned out in her breezy cotton saris in delicate pastel colors, despite the scorching

summer heat? Chances are, she used to wear cotton jamdani to carry her through. Every Bengali

lady worth her style and comfort quotient will have at least a couple of these beautiful drapes in her


Jamdani comes from the Persian words – Jam and Dani and it is generally believed that it was

derived from the intricate designs on the wine jugs used by the Mughal emperors. The origin of

Jamdani as a woven muslin material came much earlier, though. Some claim it was mentioned in

Kautiliya’s Arthasashtra. Scholars say that it found an entry in the records of Arab, Chinese and Italian

travelers to the Indian subcontinent. So, it’s obviously a fact that it was woven and used in the

Bengal region many years from today.

The weavers of Dhaka (the capital of Bangladesh) and the adjoining areas were the wizards of the craft.

For this reason, it is still known as Dhakai Jamdani and it’s an accepted fact that the best and

exclusive pieces are still created there. However, craftsmen in Bengal do a mean job as well and you

will find some remarkable saris in little-known saree shops all over Kolkata.

Jamdani is woven on the finest of cotton and involves an intricate double weft. Here, there is a basic

weft holding up the main fine fabric and a supplementary weft with thicker threads that the weaver

uses to create magical geometrical designs. Note, that the designs are not drawn on the fabric but

created using a template held beneath the fabric. As weaving progresses, these designs grow and

flower on a shimmering, almost translucent surface, eventually covering the entire nine yards. Think

white or grey on white, vermillion red on white, gold and red on white and many more. A lot of

modern infusions have brought about a burst of colors on this canvas and these days, you will find

black and gold, bottle green and gold and plenty of avant-garde motifs.

The Jamdani saw a serious decline during the British Empire when the rulers ordered the use of

cheaper and affordable yarn brought in from England. The Muslim and Bengali Hindu royals, who

favored the craft had fallen on hard times and could not afford it like earlier. Craftsmen had no

work and the looms fell silent. It was only post-independence and growing awareness over the

years, that the craft of Jamdani weaving slowly revived and the saris found their way back into

women’s wish lists.

If you guessed this is a time-consuming and labor-intensive art that requires talented craftsmen,

you’re quite right. Usually, a team of tantis (weavers) works together to create the sarees, under a

master weaver or Ostad. For this reason alone, Jamdani sarees were earlier favored by and could

be afforded by the womenfolk of royal families and aristocrats of Bengal. Thankfully, we live in better

times and an authentic Jamdani saree is well within reach of most modern Indian women, though

they are still priced on the higher side.


So, next time you are in the city, ask your local friend to take you to a good store selling Bengal

handloom and ask for the range Jamdani Sari there. Spend some happy time selecting a couple. They

are slightly prohibitively priced but make for deeply cherished gifts.

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