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Government is bringing back the kudos of Muslin

The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) approved over Tk. 12 m fund for the revival of Muslin.

We remember muslin as a glorious history of Bangladesh’s textile industry. Muslin lovers always wished for the revival of the glorious history of muslin. A good news for muslin lovers, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) approved over Tk. 12 m for the bringing back the glorious history of muslin. The approval came at a meeting of ECNEC held at NEC conference room on 11 Nov with ECNEC Chairperson and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

BD gov to invest in Muslin cloth
Figure: The ECNEC approved over Tk. 1.2m for the bringing back the glorious history of muslin. Courtesy: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muslin

The Muslin story

Derived from the name of the Indian port town Machilipatnam that was more commonly known as Maisolos in the ancient times, muslin is a cotton fabric of plain weave. Hand-woven from an uncommon and delicate yarn, it was found in Bangladesh and the Indian State of West Bengal and was exported to Europe for much of the 17th and 18th century.

A favorite of the Romans, muslin was sought by merchants of the Roman Empire and subsequently reached other parts of Europe. During the 17th and 18th century, Mughal Bengal emerged as the foremost exporter of muslin in the world, with Mughal Dhaka as the capital of the worldwide muslin trade.

During the Roman period, Khadi muslin was introduced to Europe and vast amounts of fabrics were traded. It became highly popular in France and eventually spread across too much of the Western world.

The Portuguese traveler Duarte Barbosa described the muslin of Bangladesh in the early 16th century. He mentioned a few types of fabrics, such as ‘estrabante’ (sarband), ‘mamona’, ‘fugoza’, ‘choutara’, and ‘sinabaka’.

Bengali muslin was traded throughout the Muslim world, from the Middle East to Southeast Asia. In many Islamic regions, such as in Central Asia, the cloth was named Dhaka, after the city of Dhaka.

During British colonial rule in the 18th century, the Bengali muslin industry was ruthlessly suppressed by various colonial policies, which favored imports of industrially manufactured textiles from Britain.

Once the weavers of this country made muslin clothes and it was their own technology. But that technology was lost many years ago. On 12 October 2014, the Prime Minister gave instructions on restoring our technology. Since then, we have started working on this.

Md. Ayub Ali, Chief in planning and implementation, Bangladesh Handloom Board

William Bolts, a legendary merchant noted in 1772 that there were instances where ‘thumbs were cut off’ in order to stop the production of muslin. As a result, the quality of muslin suffered greatly and its finesse was nearly lost for two centuries.

The use of muslin is transparent throughout history. Muslin was frequently used by the Nawabs of Bengal. The first Nawab of Bengal, Murshid Quli Khan used to send muslin to the Mughal emperor. The Emperors used to dress in a type of muslin called the Malma Khash and Nawab’s Badshas and Amirs wore it during summer. The growth of muslin was mostly during the Mughal period because of empress Nurjahan. She selected muslin for the Mughal harem.

Bangladesh government is bringing back the kudos of Muslin
Courtesy: Colltected

Muslin was also heavily imported by Europeans to make fine shirts, dresses, undergarments, and children’s clothing. Josephine Bonaparte was famously painted wearing a semi-sheer muslin gown. Noble ladies often dampened their muslin dresses to make their legs and other parts of their anatomy more visible.

Leading the luxury league tables of Europe were the fashion tastes of the French. It principally revolved around silk, until muslin replaced it, especially under the patronage of Queen Mary Antoinette and Empress Josephine Bonaparte.

In 1771, Caroline Powys – a friend of Jane Austen’s mother and a famous chef at the time – wrote of a family visit, “Never did three little creatures look so pretty; the two youngest in fine sprigged muslins.”

When Edward VII, the Prince of Wales in 1875, came to Bengal, Sir Abdul Gani – the first Nawab of Dhaka – ordered 30 yards of the most superior muslin as a gift for the Prince. It is said that one yard of that fabric weighted only 10 grams!

During British colonial rule in the 18th century, the Bengali muslin industry was ruthlessly suppressed by various colonial policies, which favored imports of industrially manufactured textiles from Britain.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, is credited with introducing gowns to the British. She sent a gift to Caroline Lamb, her niece, for her wedding with William Lamb. The gift was the finest muslin with lace sleeves. Soon after, British women were using a kind of muslin called Shor-bondo as scarves and handkerchiefs.

By the late 17 century, merchants had brought muslin to America. It quickly became popular and was used frequently from weddings and party dresses to everyday items such as children’s clothes and curtains. These fine striped, sprigged muslins were imported from India.

Once upon a time, the muslin of Dhaka was world famous for its delicacy and thinness. They had a monopoly business during that time in Asia, Europe, North American, and the African region.

Reviving Muslin

According to the Bangladesh Handloom Board (BHB), under this project, cotton will be planted mainly for making muslin cloth. Later, the cotton cloth will be made from cotton. Cotton plant has been planted in Rajshahi University areas to manufacture the spinning yarn suitable for muslin cloth.

Recently TextileToday team visited at BHB to know regarding the matter. Md. Ayub Ali, Chief in planning and implementation, said that “Once the weavers of this country made muslin clothes and it was their own technology. But that technology was lost many years ago. On 12 October 2014, the Prime Minister gave instructions on restoring our technology. Since then, we have started working on this.”

Bangladesh government is bringing back the kudos of Muslin
Courtesy: Colltected

In fact, the main objectives of this project are three:  Firstly, restoring the technique of making muslin yarn and cloth through intensive research; secondly, producing muslin yarn and cloth experimentally and, thirdly, to restore the golden glory of muslin in the country.

Generally speaking, a typical Jamdani sari in today’s market has a cotton-count somewhere between 50 and 80. There are some that go up to a 100; about 120 is the peak. The cotton-count determines the fineness of the fabric. But now weavers have been well trained up to produce over 200 count yarns. The project on muslin has been running from July 2018 and will be ended by June 2021.

Under this project, weavers of different areas of the country will be trained on the technology of making muslin yarn and cloth. To implement the whole project, weavers are prioritized in some areas. The areas are Dhamrai of Dhaka; Manikganj Sadar and Shibalaya; Nagarpur, Bhuapur and Madhupur in Tangail; Kapasia of Gazipur; Sonargaon of Narayanganj, Araihazar, and Rupganj; Narsingdi Sadar and Palash; Mymensingh Sadar; Chandina of Comilla; Bandarban Sadar; Khagrachari Sadar; Rangamati Sadar; Rajshahi city and Jessore Sadar.

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