Sheaths of fleshy banana leaves sway in the placid streets of a village on the east coast of India………..
Men and women jaunt on their bikes to worship their deity, wearing their taut sarees and lungis, starched with rice water. A moist air envelope this place but during the hot summer days, the afternoons could result in a torpid state when heat and humidity work at their optimum levels to make all your senses carve for a mid-day nap. The streets standstill and the entire village is covered with slumber. This is the demeanor of this village where the finest muslin textiles are woven since times immemorial. For some time, this technique had taken a back seat due to the rapid increase in the use of industrially manufactured textiles, but it has gathered popularity again, in the recent years.
Jamdani is like creating pixilated motifs while the yarns are stretched on the loom. The lengthwise yarns are called wrap and the width wise yarns are weft. The motifs are interlaced in the lengthwise direction by lifting a set of warp yarns and filling it with a thicker set of threads in a contrasting color.
The yarns used for the weaving one of the finest muslins is so brittle that it can break with the slightest of tension. So, it is through the composure of the dresser, patience of the winder and diligence of the weaver that this fabric is produced.
This technique has its root in the Mughal period dating around the 1556, originally getting produced in Dhaka Bangladesh, now its production has moved to villages in West Bengal.
It is a very intricate technique and needs numerous hours of learning and practice to gain expertise. Its training is passed from generation to generation while the kids, from a very young age start observing their fathers, grand fathers and other members of the family making these treasures in their home studios. India has been home to thousands of jamdani weavers but lately exodus of youngsters from the weavers families are moving to the cities for better job opportunities in the city.
It is imperative for us as consumers to understand the nuances of the craft, appreciate the process and glorify the art and its maker.