Demystifying Muslin | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 30, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:06 AM, August 30, 2016

Demystifying Muslin

Historically, handloom's heritage and preeminence is a part of our culture. The tradition of weaving cloth by hand is one of the richest aspects of Bangladeshi culture and heritage. Muslin is produced from a handloom and it is widely considered to be one of the purest, simplest, most fine and most comfortable fabric in the world. It is believed to have originated in Bangladesh during the Middle Ages. The process of making handloom fabrics is intricate and it requires unparalleled and unique level of artistry. The industry has displayed innate resilience to withstand and adapt itself to the changing demand of modern times. Moreover, handloom fabrics are eco-friendly.

Our heritage in handloom has been dignified because of Muslin- a world famous fabric. It was the symbol of majestic aristocracy. Muslin is specially produced from “Carpus Fibre” in special weather yielding a perfect plain, even, thin and transparent material. 

Muslin was the chosen brand name of Pre-colonial Bengal Textile, specially of the Dhaka Region. During British rule, skilled weavers of Bengal attained worldwide fame for their Muslin weaves made from locally produced cotton and it was branded as the Dhaka Muslin. It was a favourite of the girls of the Royal Palace, who would love to drape themselves in lovely dresses made from the fabulous fabric. 

Once upon a time the emperor of Delhi, Jahangir, was said to have pledged to give some gifts to his mother-in-law. She expressed her preference for Muslin. Jahangir then sent 2200 cavaliers to Bengal to collect the muslin. Two-thirds of the cavalier died during the campaign. The rest of the riders of the party collected a small cup of muslin (the fine fabric could actually be folded into increasingly small spaces) and presented it to the mother-in-law of the emperor of Delhi.

Muslin had enormous goodwill as evident from the documents of European merchants in the 17th and 18th century. Subedar of Bengal selected the Muslin fabric as a gift for the Mughal emperors to draw their attention. Even, Empress Nurjahan had a special fascination for Muslin fabrics. The famous muslin is preserved at Victoria and Albert museum in United Kingdom (UK).

The finest sort of Muslin was made of “phuti” cotton, which was grown in certain localities on the banks of the river Shitalakshya. 

 Dhaka's Muslin was considered as the benchmark, though parts of India also produced the Muslin, although of a debatable quality. Dhaka's cotton was special; glossy, feather-light, transparent, (Gossypium arboreum, a la, phuti karpas), its yarn reached thread counts above 1000 and its weavers produced both plain and the much-sought after, flowered and figured Jamdani.

The honourable Prime Minister of The Government of The People's Republic of Bangladesh visited the Ministry of Textiles & Jute on 12 October, 2014 and gave directions for the development of the handloom industry of the country. Upon her instructions, a specialised Committee headed by Chairman, Bangladesh Handloom Board (BHB) comprising 7 members was formed and they are working according to the TOR and work plan. Meanwhile, the specialised committee chalked out strategies to implement the aforesaid directives. BHB is frantically looking for Muslin made Angrakha to carry out research work. In this context, BHB is making an effective coordination and rapport with Bangladesh National Museum. BHB is asking technical support and expertise from Rajshahi University Biological Science and the famous research organisation “Drik”.

In view of materialising the said directives, BHB has prepared a DPP under the guidance of Ministry of Textiles & Jute. Hopefully our efforts shall be successful in terms of reviving and producing the muslin yarn and muslin fabrics eventually. By turn, this effort will help revive the lost glory of muslin and uphold our heritage and tradition across the country and globe.

By Jashim Uddin Ahmed

Chairman (Additional Secretary)

Bangladesh Handloom Board (BHB)

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