The origin of Jamdani is sounded to be established in Bangladesh. This sumptuous woven fabric has been a part of this region since the Mughal Empire. Dhakai Jamdani or widely known as ‘Jamdani’, has been produced for centuries In Bangladesh. Jamdani is well known all over the world for its refined texture and delicate embroidery.
Though Jamdani wasn’t a ‘new’ genre fabric, it is actually a ‘reformed’ version of Muslin. Muslin is a type of finely woven cotton, which was prominent for its purity in softness. However, Jamdani was introduced to then Bengal during the Mogul empire, it still successfully managed to survive with the same glory during the British era, too.
According to conventional ideas, the word ‘jamdani’ came from Persian origin. ‘Jam’ means flower, and ‘Dani’ means vase, therefore ‘Jamdani’ means flower vase. Back in the 3rd century (BC), this word was mentioned in literature. It is believed that the word Jamdani was found in Kautilya’s ‘Arthasharshtra’. In this book, jamdani was referred to as a fine fabric made in the ‘Pundra’ and ‘Bangla’ region. But it is also said that this word was introduced to Bengal in the Gupta period, back in the 4th- 6th century (AD).
The famous book named ‘Periplus of the Erythraean Sea’ also had a record to mention this textile inside this book. However, merchants and travelers from Arab, China, and Italy also knew about Jamdani.
Talking about the beginning of jamdani production, it took more than 12 centuries to start spinning the weave. During the Mughal Empire, weavers started producing this cloth but only for the royal family. Back in the 16th century, weavers produced this gorgeous fabric by the patronage of Mughals.
But at the beginning of the 19th century, this fabric got a different level of recognition when James Taylor described the beauty of jamdani within a few words. Taylor, the Scottish minister, and historical author depicted Jamdani as the flowered or figured textile. Later, at the end of the 19th century, Trailokyanath Mukhopadhyay or renowned as T. N. Mukharji insisted to name this cloth ‘Jamdani muslin’.
During the period of British colonialism, extraordinary designs including figured and floral motifs were included in Jamdani. This period was mentioned as ‘’dhakai muslin’s golden age’’ in history.
From the beginning, this artistic cloth got a huge response, not in Bengal but also in the world. Although this fabric was a part of importing markets during the Mughal period after a few decades jamdani started facing various obstacles in the British era. British rulers started exporting cheaper yarn from European countries which cost a huge loss for Jamdani producers. The local cotton yarn began to lose its market which was one of the primary reasons for the turning down of Jamdani.
At the time of the Mogul empire, Madhurapur and Jangalbadi were famous for this textile fabrication. But after a few decades, villages and regions like Madhupur and Jagalbadi lost in dust due to the oppression and tyranny of Regal.
Even after the Mogul period, British rulers also tried to snatch the uniqueness and lessen the sparkling glory of this exquisite fabric. In 1947, after the partition, quite a large number of weavers moved to West Bengal from the root of Jamdani, Dhaka. This incident helped to develop a new jamdani market in India.
This elegant cloth had always overcome the barriers it faced during the time of Moguls and British. No matter how hard the time was for the producers of this fine textile, the trading and the exporting never stopped. In the time of British colonialism, a vast amount of jamdani muslin was exported to Europe from Bengal. It can be found in history that during the golden period of Jamdani, a piece of Dhakai Jamdani was sold for 400 bucks, whereas the price of eight-ounce rice was only 1 buck! James wise who was a civil surgeon and writer describes in his writing how precious Muslin and Dhakai was that time. He wrote that, in 1787, a single piece muslin saree’s exporting price was 5 million bucks.
But time flies. Though, nowadays the material, texture, and finishing of Dhakai jamdani are not the same as before, yet this textile carrying its Individuality and acceptability even after 5 centuries.