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The Jamdani weaving tradition is of Bengali origin. It is one of the most time and labor intensive forms of handloom weaving. In the first half of the nineteenth century, James Taylor described the figured or flowered jamdani; in the late nineteenth century, T. N. Mukharji referred to this fabric as jamdani muslin.

Jamdani – background

- Ninety-five kilometers from Kolkata, West Bengal is the town of Ambika Kalna or Kalna, positioned on the western bank of the river Bhagirathi that is known for the famous Jamdani.

- Jamdani has its roots in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It is a hand-woven, fine cotton fabric deftly embellished with intricate motifs that are expertly woven into the fabric.

- Jamdani was traditionally done using mill cotton thread, resham silk thread, muga silk and tussar silk thread. It is a specialty weaving style, where patterns are woven into the fabric.

- The skills are passed down from generation to generation.

- “The traditional handloom used to make Jamdani is very large. A lot of technical adaptations to the loom to be able to do Jamdani style weaving with muslin yarn has been done.

- Muslin yarn is sensitive to changing weather conditions. It can’t get too dried out, or it will get brittle and impossible to work with—it’ll snap under the slightest tension. It needs to retain a certain quality of moisture which it naturally absorbs from the air.

- To keep the heat out in the place of work, a three layer insulated type of roof is sometimes constructed.. The first layer is made out of thatch, then tin, and then below that bamboo. In summer, a damp cloth over the windows cuts down some of the effects of the hot air. A lot of fans are kept moving.

- In pre-independent India, Kalna had a surfeit of weavers. The yarn available then was more “mota”— thicker—and used only to make saris. Once finer yarn and silk thread became available, the weavers made their first forays into making bed, table linen, and curtains, all of which became very popular.

- These days, weavers who have space to accommodate a loom in their house are identified and given a loom where two or three of them can work together. The Jamdani fabric is government certified, right from the thread processing stage to the weaving to sales.

- Muslin yarn was not traditionally dyed. Attempts were made to get just the right count that could withstand the dyeing process.

- Despite their small numbers, the weaving community is tightly knit.

- There had been an exodus of weavers in between, to look for better opportunities to earn and to boost their income. These weavers adapted their skill and sensibility of design to fashion gold jewellery.

- But there are some who remained having a strong fervour for their craft and are quite hopeful for the future. It is their effort that has fetched the present-day glory of the Jamdani back to where it was.