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Sonargoan now a craft city for Jamdani Weaving.

Jamdani is one of the finest muslin textiles in Bengal, a proud heritage of the Bangladeshi weavers which earned worldwide plaudits. Traces of the fabric’s existence are scattered throughout folklore and historical records as 50 metre long piece of fabric could be squeezed into a single match box. The Jamdani reached its pinnacle of excellence during the 16th century under the patronage of Mughal Emperors. Its motifs are said to have been inspired by weavers to resemble local flora and fauna, and the Muslin was considered legendary at the time.

The Jamdani was a popular textile of choice for garments – for both men and women – in the region, but it became a favourite of women courtiers in Europe and England. In modern times Jamdani sarees have become an essential part of a bridal trousseau.

The Jamdani industry saw a gradual decline in the mid-19th century, in the era of the British colonial period. The fall of the Mughal Empire deprived artisans of their most influential patrons, and the use of machinery in the English textile industry, as well as the subsequent import of lower quality, but cheaper yarn from Europe contributed to a steady decline.

In present times a lack of fine cotton yarn and rising cost of production has affected the quality of Jamdani. The National Crafts Council of Bangladesh and Bengal Foundation, in an attempt to restore the Jamdani to its original excellence, organised the Jamdani Festival, as part of the celebration of proud heritage of Jamdani weaving in Bangladesh.

The five-week ‘Jamdani Festival 2019’ ended on the premises of Bengal Shilpalaya in the capital’s Dhanmondi area on October 12.The goal of organizing the festival was to celebrate the proud heritage of Jamdani weaving in Bangladesh, and aiming to make Sonargaon a part of World Craft City.

The initiative has led us to collect original designs from museums and private collections from within the country and abroad. PHOTO:  Aarong

Masterweavers, as well as some of the finest artisans of the younger generation, have been supplied with the best quality Khadi yarn, and tasked with replicating these designs. Weavers have also been commissioned by Aarong, Aranya, Tangail Saree Kutir and Kumudini – four of the largest organisations in the country working with crafts – to ensure a market for future production. The geographic and ecological context of the Sitalakhya River has also helped make Sonargaon unique in the production of its fine cotton and helped sustain Jamdani communities for centuries. The Festival has proposed to the World Crafts Council to grant Sonargaon the status of ‘World Crafts City’.

The gallery on the ground floor of Bengal Shilpalay had a brilliant collection of traditional jamdani sarees, scarfs and angrakha kurtas, among other things. The festival also included the screening of four short films, exploring the designs and weaving process of Jamdani, and the life of a weaver. The gallery on the second floor was showcased 30 selected sarees from the event.

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