Since time immemorial, Dhaka has been the headquarters of some of the most marvellous textiles the world has ever seen. Muslin, for example, was shipped to various parts of the world and has been claimed by some to have been used for the outer covering of mummies of the pharaohs.
Jamdani, a similarly special fabric holds immense fascination among the national and the international fashion communities. These saris are distinct from others in the fine texture of Jamdani, portraying detailed motifs all over the fabric.
History has recorded the beauty, charm and appeal of Jamdani. Some of the earliest mentions of Muslin and Jamdani include Kautilya's book on economics (which was written around 300 A.D.), and the accounts of Chinese, Arab and Italian travellers, like the travelogues of Ibn Batuta, who admired the cotton textiles produced in Sonargaon.
Ibn Batuta, the Moroccan traveller of the middle ages, was fascinated with these fabrics. Centuries later, you would also be awed seeing a Jamdani sari, with the intricate designs and the fineness of the fabric, being made in a loom. The designs contain geometric motifs of subjects found in nature such as flowers, leaves, creepers, etc. One reason why human and animal figures have been usually omitted is because of the fact that Jamdani saris have traditionally been woven and worn by Muslims.
Interestingly enough, sketches or drawings of the designs are not preliminarily made before weaving. The motifs and patterns, which are passed down from one generation to the next, are weaved instinctively or from memory, while the fabric is on the loom, with remarkable precision.
Therefore, the art of weaving Jamdani requires immense concentration, time, experience and expertise. It is the confident articulation of hands, the years of apprenticeship and the centuries of craftsmanship at play that produce a charming sari, which can take up months to complete.
The work is quite laborious, but entering a workshop one might be shocked by the silence: the Jamdani loom does not make any sound. Two Jamdani weavers sit side by side to operate the traditional handloom. The exceptional hand weaving technique is one of the reasons why Jamdani saris are held in such high regard.
The traditional art of weaving Jamdani is now recognised as Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO's Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Jamdani therefore is a part of Dhaka's precious history, and a sampling of it is not to be missed during your visit. Many of the Jamdani villages are situated on the banks of River Shitalakshya. Tour operators offer visits to Jamdani villages on their itinerary, often combined with a river cruise, a visit to Sonargaon (which is a historic, administrative and commercial centre), etc. If you want to visit a Jamdani village, contact Dhaka Holidays (01712125379) or Galaxy Holidays (93310) or other local travel agencies.