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Jamdani, one of ancient Bengal’s finest cotton muslins which gained popularity across Britain and Europe during the 17th century, is still longing to regain its glorious heritage.
The government is planning to establish a Fashion Design Institute at Rupganj in Narayanganj in a bid to regain the golden legacy of Jamdani, which will also produce skilled designers and fresh designs in line with consumers’ demand.
Jamdani became a thriving fashion trend with the patronage of Mughal emperors by the 16th century. It travelled and became popular across Britain and Europe as the rivers Shitalakhya, Meghna, Brahmaputra and Sonargaon (then capital of Mughal Bengal) flourished as a hub of commercial activity until the 17th century.
Later, under British colonialism, the Jamdani and muslin industries rapidly declined due to colonial import policies favoring industrially manufactured textiles. In more recent years, the production of Jamdani has witnessed a revival in the country.
Jamdani is a fine muslin cloth on which decorative motifs are woven on the loom. Often a mixture of cotton and gold thread was used presenting fascinating and lucrative looks. This is a supplementary weft technique of weaving, where the artistic motifs are produced by a non-structural weft, in addition to the standard weft that holds the warp threads together.
The Jute and Textile Ministry initiated the Fashion Design Institute project to establish an exhibition and sell center and a fabric processing center to develop the marketing system of Jamdani and ensure different benefits for weavers.
Besides, the Bangabandhu Fabric and Jute Museum will be launched to display the golden history and tradition of the fabric and jute sector. The ministry is hoping to implement the Tk 199.40 crore project by 2024, that will provide employment to approximately 150 people.
The project aims to exhibit the tradition of the textile and Jute sector and provide pre-weaving and post-weaving services to the weavers.
Md Motiur Rahman, director of the project, said “The project is still at the primary stage and it will be placed at the ECNEC for nod after completing a design for project building.
“Although the primary cost for the project has been projected at Tk 200 crore but it may slip down to Tk 160 crore.”
According to the Bangladesh Handloom Board (BHB), residential facilities will be ensured for 60 weavers under the project where they will also be able to operate their handloom work as each of them will have separate machines.
Consumers including foreign and local visitors will be able to visit the facility, see artistes operate the handloom machines, and purchase Jamdani products.
A total of 15 buildings will accommodate the weavers where each building will house four weavers’ families that will be established beside “Dhaka Muslin House” at Tarabo in Rupganj upazila in the outskirts of Dhaka.
Handloom Census of 2018 revealed that around 31, 000 people were involved with weaving, while the country has a total of 10,053 Jamdani handlooms including 200 in Araihazar upazila, 2,799 in Sonargaon, 3,185 in Rupganj.
Sonargaon, Rupganj, and Araihazar areas on the bank of Shitalakhya River have been the ancient center for making finest cotton muslins fabric as temperature and humidity of the climate, the soil ecology, and the minerals contained in the Shitalakhya’s waters made them uniquely suited for the production of cotton, particularly Jamdani.
Currently, the art sustains in Noapara of Rupganj, Rupsi, Ganganagar, Borabo, Pabankul, Maikuli, Khadun and several areas of adjacent Sonargaon and Siddhirganj along with some other places of the country.
Jamdani fabric is mainly used for making sarees (Women’s traditional wear of Bangla region) but the recent time Jamdani fabric is also used for making Salowar, Kamij, Fatua, handkerchiefs, and curtains as well.
In 2013, the traditional art of weaving Jamdani was declared a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, and in 2016, Bangladesh received geographical indication (GI) status for Jamdani Sari.
Jamdani, remnant of the region’s Mughal rule, is the finest art created by artisans but their fate is not as gorgeous as this fabric as their average wage is much less that many weavers do not want their children to come to the profession.
Despite the demand for these handmade products is on the rise, middle-men usually get the biggest cut of the proceeds. Yet, the untiring hands of weavers continue to carry on the heritage of the fashion for years.