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Jamdani Festival celebrates the glorious heritage of jamdani

To restore the original excellence of Jamdani and to celebrate the proud heritage of jamdani weaving in Bangladesh, the National Crafts Council of Bangladesh and Bengal Foundation organized the Jamdani Festival from 6 September to 12 October, 2019 at Bengal Shilpalay in Dhanmondi, Dhaka.

BD heritage jamdani
Figure: Jamdani is a symbol of aristocracy in Bangladesh. Courtesy: Aarong

Weavers had also been commissioned by four of the largest brands working with crafts in the country- Aarong, Aranya, Tangail Saree Kutir, Kumudini. The festival has proposed to the World Craft Council to grant Sonargaon the status of ‘World Crafts City’.

There was an exhibition showcasing reproduction of century-old Jamdani designs, collection of original antique sarees loaned from collections in Bangladesh and abroad. The exhibition was accompanied by live demonstrations by weavers at the venue.

A seminar was conducted which discussed the past, present and future of Jamdani. Four short films were screened exploring the designs and weaving process of Jamdani and the life of Jamdani weaver.

Four of the most gifted master weavers and apprentices awarded with Master Craft Persons Award for their skill and contribution to the jamdani community. A series of weavers’ workshops were conducted to restore the quality and exquisite design of Jamdani and to provide technical knowledge required to produce Jamdani to the audience.

Minister for Ministry of Textiles and Jute, Golam Dastagir Gazi (Bir Pratik), MP, was the Chief Guest of the event. He handed over the certificates to weavers and apprentices achieving Master Crafts Person’s award.

Jamdani is a symbol of aristocracy. The demand for quality jamdani sarees has increased exponentially over the years. In more recent years, the production of jamdani has witnessed a revival in Bangladesh.

Jamdani, a handloom woven fabric made of cotton, which was historically referred to as cotton. It is a fine muslin textile of Bengal, produced for centuries in Sonargaon, Rupgonj and Sidhdhirgonj in the Narayanganj district.

The historic production of jamdani was patronized by imperial warrants of the Mughal emperors in the 16th century. Its production was inspired by local weavers to resemble the local flora and fauna. It was a legendary period for muslin.

But under British colonialism in the mid-19th century, the Bengal jamdani and muslin industries rapidly declined due to colonial import policies favouring industrially manufactured textiles. The fall of Mughal Empire, introduction of modern machinery in textile industry, subsequent import of lower quality but cheaper yarn from Europe- all these factors contributed to a steady decline of muslin and jamdani production.

Various collections of jamdani consisting of original designs from museums and private collections from within the country and abroad were exhibited in the festival. Master-weavers, as well as some of the finest artisans of the younger generation, had been supplied with the best quality Khadi yarn and tasked with replicating these designs.

The government and other organizations are trying to revive the old glory of Dhakai Jamdani. In a bid to avoid middlemen, they are trying to establish direct contact with the weavers. A Jamdani Palli has already been established near Dhaka.

In 2013, the traditional art of weaving Jamdani was declared a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. In 2016, Bangladesh received Geographical Indication (GI) status for Jamdani Sari.

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