Traditional heritage are hidden in every corner of Bangladesh where Jamdani proudly hold its place in Bengali history from the Mughal era. It is mostly known that this heritage birthplace is Dhaka territory more specifically in Narayanganj. The government of Bangladesh undertook many initiatives in several times to protect and promote this heritage including establishment of a Jamdani Industrial Estate & Research Centre and most recently achieving of Geographical Indication (GI) certificate. For its subtle contexture, Jamdani has huge demand mostly in India and also in Italy, USA, Canada and the Middle Eastern countries.
‘Jamdani’- where is the origin
Jamdani is most possibly derived from the Persian word ‘Jama(e)’, which means clothes. ‘Jamedan’ in Persian means a closet or wardrobe. In the history of Bangladesh Jamdani generally refers to the ‘saree’, most popular garment of Bengali women. From various historical accounts, folklore and slokas, it may be assumed that very fine fabrics were available in Bengal even from as back as the first century A.D.
The historic production of Jamdani was patronized by imperial warrants of the Mughal emperors. It adorned royalty and nobility across Asia and Muslim world for centuries. Under British colonialism, the Bengali Jamdani and Muslin sector rapidly declined due to colonial import policies favoring industrially manufactured textile.
From those the declination continued. While Muslin has almost been extinguished, ‘Jamdani’ survived. Good this is that in more recent years, the production of Jamdani has witnessed a sort of surge in Bangladesh as Jamdani’s reach and market is wider particularly in South Asian countries.
The ‘Jamdani’ artisans:
Most often it is seen that the weavers or artisans or the craftsman are always neglected and not get their proper wages and facilities. Also their socioeconomic status is not up to the mark.
Though the Jamdani artisans are scattered all over the country but most of them are in Narayanganj area such as Noapara, Dakkhin Ruposhi, Ruposhi Kajipara, Gandabpur, Shiddhirgonj, Mugrakul, Khidirpur, Imkoli, Tarabo, Khalpara, Dighborar, Khadun, Pabankul, Sultanbagh and some areas of Sonargaon upazila. Bangladesh small and cottage industries corporation (BSCIC) conducted a survey in the jamdani rich Tarabo Union in 1962-63, when 1466 jamdani industrial units were traced out there. The number came down to 1173, when the second survey was conducted in 1964-65. After the liberation, BSCIC conducted another survey in those 15 villages including 14 villages of Tarabo union in 1993 and found that only 1119 weavers were engaged in jamdani production. According to the next survey conducted in the some villages in 1999, the number of jamdani weavers increased a little. BSCIC started the construction work of the Jamdani Industrial Estate and Research Centre in Noapara village under Tarabo union of Rupgonj upazila in Narayangonj district in July 1993 and completed the work in 1999 at a cost of Tk 58.563 million across a land of 20 acres. At present, there are 407 industrial plots (each of about 1500 square feet) over 14.39 acres of land. So far almost all plots have already been allotted to the entrepreneurs. Because of this initiative of the government the artisans are in vantage-ground.
Jamdani’s local & international market condition:
According to Md. Mamunur Rashid, Industrial Estate Officer, Jamdani Industrial Estate, Tarabo, Rupganj, Narayanganj, at present in Jamdani Industrial Estate about 3000-3500 weavers are working and about 1750 hand looms are in production. Mainly saree, Punjabi and three-piece are weaved. The annual production of Jamdani goods of the estate is approximately 60,000 -70,000 in number and its market price is BDT 12-15 crores. A weekly ‘Hat’ held in Noapara, Rupganj where Jamdani traders are gathered to sell their vendible. In each market approximately BDT. 50 lakhs-1 crore are transacted said Md. Mamunur Rashid. Beyond this there are also so many weavers all over the country who produces Jamdani products.
In India “Jamdani” mostly knowns as “Dhakai Jamdani”. Indian merchants often come to Bangladesh for their customer demand and they directly deal with the weavers with providing their design and color of the product. Besides India ‘Jamdani’ products are also exported to other South Asian countries and some of European countries. Many of those exports are not being calculated in mainstream export figures as these transactions are being made in cash and the shipment mostly are going through hand carriage of the travellers.
How India influences Bangladeshi ‘Jamdani’ sector:
Over the past few years India started to produce ‘Jamdani’ by using power looms where Bangladesh still now using conventional hand looms. For the mechanization, their production is high and they have variety in color and designs but from the point of view of quality and traditional heritage aspect Bangladeshi ‘Jamdani’ is far ahead. But it is true that Indian entrepreneurs keep pace with the new updates and participate in promotion and market exploring opportunities where the Bangladeshi entrepreneurs are not aware of these activities which throw Bangladesh at the rear. Many ‘Jamdanis’ being made in Bangladeshi cottage ending up to today’s high end fashion aware ‘saree’ loving Indians living all around the world. Some Indian companies are using their branding and promotion strength to make money on the cottage industry handmade Bangladeshi prodcuts. Bangladeshi artisans are only getting wages not the premium of the art they produce by their own hands. So, even though number of ‘Jamdani’ sarees sales is increasing that put little impact on the life of the artisans.
Bangladesh achieves “Geographical Indication (GI)” for ‘Jamdani’:
According to World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), GI is a name or sign used on certain products which corresponds to a specific geographical location or origin such as a town, region, or a country.
Jamdani has got the registration as the first Geographical Indication (GI) product of Bangladesh on November 17, 2016. Industries Minister Amir Hossain Amu, on behalf of Department of Patents, Designs and Trademarks (DPDT) under his ministry, handed over the GI registration certificate to Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC).
“With giving GI registration to Jamdani, the country has stepped forward to protect the rights on traditional and national products,” the industries minister told at the certificate giving ceremony. With the GI registration, the country will be able to protect better the origin of Jamdani and gain from its international market. DPDT hopes that the GI registration will help in protecting the national heritage and also increase the market value of this traditional and much sought after product.
Recommendations to move forward:
- This should be ensured that the entrepreneurs can utilize the advantages of GI.
- The supply chain of ‘Jamdani’ export should be in a transparent way.
- More technical seminars, promotional fairs, fashion shows should be arranged where the entrepreneurs are given free access.
- Modernize the design development process, conventional machineries should be upgraded keeping the originality of art intact.
- Government should formulate appropriate rules and regulations to support this heritage.
- Government should plan and built facilities to increase the value addition through country level branding of ‘Jamdani’. Once GI has been confirmed, massive branding and promotion is badly needed.
- Craftsman should be assured of basic needs and a better life at least for their next generation.
Jamdani is a family based cottage industry. Here all the members of a family are involved with this tradition and this is how the artisans hold this heritage from generation to generation. Now that the GI law has been introduced in Bangladesh and that the global community has recognized ‘Jamdani’ as Bangladesh’s own, it is hoped that the Government of Bangladesh and international trade regime will take effective measures to restore Jamdani as Bangladesh’s own product and heritage. Jamdani has its own identity and it will remain if the artisans survived.