Jamdani sarees - ancient gift from Bangladesh and Bengal
Rich in motifs and steeped in history, Jamdani sarees are currently undergoing a revival of sorts in Bangladesh, after the traditional art of weaving them has been declared a masterpiece of the “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity”. They take their name from the Persian word “Jam”, which means “flower”, and “Dani”, which means “container” or “vase”, and are essentially a Bangladeshi product although they have been manufactured in Bengal in recent times as well. Hand woven using only the finest muslin, a traditional Jamdani saree will be rich with delicate motifs which are created out of the loom brocade, with the more intricate sarees coming with gold thread motifs. Common motifs that are present in a Jamdani saree include plants, flowers, and geometric patterns which are said to be the direct result of Persian and Mughal design influence from over 2000 years ago. In those days, Jamdani sarees used to be among the most expensive products from Dhaka looms owing to the time taken to handcraft a single saree. Therefore only aristocrats and ladies from rich families could afford to wear them. Even today, a traditional Jamdani saree from a Dhaka loom would set you back by many thousands as compared with the cheaper, less authentic copycat versions that are also available in the market.
There are a number of varieties of Jamdani sarees that are freely available in the market, including Dhaniakali Jamdani, Tangail Jamdani, Shantipur Jamdani, Begumpur Jamdani, Silk Jamdani, and Dhakai Jamdani among other lesser known varieties. An aspect pertaining to the motifs present in Jamdani sarees which makes them all the more unique, is the fact that the artists who weave the sarees create the motifs on the spot, from memory without using a design template. The result is that each set of motifs per saree will have special characteristics thus making it a one of a kind piece. Interestingly therefore, some Jamdani sarees even have names which are given on the basis of their motifs, for example, a “butidar” is the name given to a Jamdani with small flower motifs, a “tersa Jamdani” refers to a Jamdani with reclining flower motifs, and a “jalar naksha” is the name given to a Jamdani with creeper motifs or peacocks.
While buying your own Jamdani saree, it is best to buy from the source, i.e. to acquire a unique and original piece which has been hand woven in Bangladesh. The authenticity of the craftsmanship and design will make it a valuable addition to your saree collection and its value will remain unchanged for many years to come. In terms of its general popularity, the Jamdani saree has been richly favored by a diverse populous of women, from socialites to aristocrats, from politicians to designers and entertainers. A number of renowned actresses have been seen wearing beautiful Jamdani sarees to events, including the mother daughter duo of film director Aparna Sen and her daughter, actress Konkona Sen Sharma. Actress Vidya Balan, who is a saree aficionado, has also been spotted wearing a beautiful Jamdani saree with intricate flower motifs. Others who have worn the Jamdani saree include designers such as Sharbari Dutta, and Bengali actresses such as June Maliah and Rituparna Sengupta. The popularity of the Jamdani saree will remain unmatched in time to come as it truly is a work of art that is steeped in thousands of years of history, art, and culture.