Jazzy Jam­dani!

In the last few years, a fab­ric which has cap­tured the imag­i­na­tion of a num­ber of de­sign­ers and brands, that are heav­ily into eth­nic cou­ture, is the Jam­dani. Sud­denly, there is a lot of in­ter­est for this ex­cep­tion­ally fine form of tex­tile. The Jam­dani is

Apparel - - Contents -

Ex­plor­ing the Jam­dani fab­ric and its fu­sion with Western wear


The Jam­dani weave has al­ways had an up­mar­ket, elit­ist con­no­ta­tion to it. The fab­rics wo­ven thus were the ex­clu­sive pre­serve of roy­alty. It reached its zenith dur­ing the Mughal rule and was con­sid­ered to be an ideal fab­ric for sum­mers. The hallmark of Jam­dani weav­ing was the use of fine muslin. The sheer­ness of the cloth was fur­ther ac­cen­tu­ated by fine weav­ing, akin to ta­pes­tries, with gold, sil­ver or muslin cot­ton threads high­light­ing the de­sign. The or­na­men­ta­tion was brought about by us­ing ex­tra weft. Even to­day, the weav­ing is car­ried out in the same man­ner. The de­sign em­pha­sises the sheer­ness of the weave. The or­na­men­ta­tion is brought about by what is called ex­tra weft tech­nique. The ex­tra weft nee­dles or shut­tles, made out of bam­boo, work along with the nor­mal weft to cre­ate the mo­tifs. De­pend­ing on the colour scheme in the sari, coloured yarn or zari are at­tached to the nee­dles. The num­ber of such shut­tles de­pends on the com­plex­ity of the de­sign. A com­plex one could even have more than 100 shut­tles used in the pallav or the body of the sari. The warp yarn is sep­a­rated with fin­gers and the ex­tra thread in the shut­tle is passed through to com­plete the de­sign. The shut­tles work above and be­low the warp to com­plete the mo­tif. The bam­boo nee­dle is wrapped with rags so that it does not cut into the fine wo­ven cloth. The or­na­men­ta­tion is akin to em­broi­dery with nee­dle, only this is on the loom. In many cases, this tech­nique is also re­ferred to as loom em­broi­dery.

A cel­e­bra­tion of Jam­dani was held by the Delhi Crafts Coun­cil to cel­e­brate their golden ju­bilee. A rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Delhi Crafts Coun­cil stated, “Jam­dani is In­dia’s an­cient legacy, which is dwin­dling in modern times. It must be recog­nised that the Jam­dani in­dus­try can only sur­vive if it is pro­moted on a global plat­form. The Jam­dani sari ex­hi­bi­tion is an ini­tia­tive by Delhi Crafts Coun­cil to keep this glo­ri­ous weav­ing tech­nique alive. We look for­ward to hon­our tal­ented Jam­dani ar­ti­sans and bring their ex­tra­or­di­nary cre­ations to light for a larger base of con­sumers.”


Jam­dani is wo­ven in sev­eral parts in In­dia. The most fa­mous of th­ese places are in West Ben­gal es­pe­cially Kalna, Tan­gail. Dhakai Jam­dani is equally fa­mous. The Jam­dani from Up­pada is a GI (Ge­o­graph­i­cal In­di­ca­tion) tagged fab­ric. It is also wo­ven in the North East, es­pe­cially Ma­nipur. The weav­ing at Up­pada is done by two weavers, who work si­mul­ta­ne­ously at the two ends of the bor­der. This makes it easy to work and the piece is fin­ished faster. The pallav is, how­ever, wo­ven by one per­son only. Ear­lier, jam­dani saris were wo­ven with gusto in Venkata­giri also. Now, with a de­cline there, it is only in Up­pada where this tech­nique is preva­lent. This is prob­a­bly the only in­stance of weav­ing us­ing Jam­dani tech­nique in the south. Jam­dani weav­ing in Venkata­giri is wit­ness­ing a re­vival.


To­day, there are a lot of in­no­va­tions be­ing made with Jam­dani, which is con­tribut­ing to its steady re­vival in the main­stream. Jy­otish Deb­nath and Ra­jib Deb­nath from Kalna are well known names in the field of Jam­dani. Ra­jib Deb­nath has stud­ied at NIFT and wishes to open a

school for Jam­dani. Jy­otish Deb­nath, a na­tional awardee, has tried to make sam­ples of Jam­dani de­signs, wo­ven across time, as a ref­er­ence for any­one who would want to re­visit this form of weav­ing. Jy­otish Deb­nath gets very ex­cited while de­scrib­ing the way in which the hand spun, hand­wo­ven Jam­dani is made in Kalna. As he says, the hand spun muslin yarn has its own way of be­hav­ing; un­like the power loom yarn which one can mould as per one’s wish. The hand spun muslin has its own mind and one has to un­der­stand it to be able to weave ac­cu­rately with it. A lot of th­ese equip­ments were on dis­play at the re­cently con­cluded Jam­dani ex­hi­bi­tion put up by the Delhi Crafts Coun­cil. Jam­dani done on the loom, the jacquard Jam­dani which has seen a resur­gence in Benares, the Awadhi Jam­dani with its al­most trans­par­ent flow of white ma­te­rial done by Su­parkar, was all part of the dis­play. Ex­treme in­no­va­tion has been un­der­taken by the weavers from Up­pada. They have re­ally man­aged to combine modern and con­tem­po­rary mo­tifs and give Jam­dani a new look. The ex­hi­bi­tion it­self had sev­eral out­stand­ing old pieces, along­side the doc­u­men­ta­tion by Deb­nath.

The Up­pada Jam­dani com­bines tra­di­tional mo­tifs like geo­met­ric pat­terns; and mo­tifs of lep­ak­shi – the stylised swan, par­rot, pea­cock and am­bis, con­tinue to be a part of the reper­toire. Newer ad­di­tions in­clude the tree of life, vrik­sha, jala sys­tem, which is in­cor­po­rated from Luc­knowi Chikan, and the lo­tus mo­tif, with a host of ten­drils and com­pli­cated jalas. When saris are wo­ven with­out bor­ders or pallavs, the en­tire ground of the sari is a wo­ven con­flu­ence of bright flow­ers, ten­drils and creep­ers. Th­ese saris con­form more to the printed crepe or silk look. When there is a bor­der, it could just be a block of plain zari called ‘zari patti’ in lo­cal par­lance. Le­heriya in­spired bor­ders have also been in­tro­duced. As has Paithani-like in­no­va­tion on tis­sue base with flo­ral pat­terns on the fore­ground. The tra­di­tional stylised mo­tifs have been teamed with a range of pas­tels in self de­signs. The newer fash­ions of dou­ble pallav or shoul­der pallav are also wo­ven. A clas­si­cal ex­am­ple is the typ­i­cal Luc­knowi chikan jaal de­sign, wo­ven in Jam­dani tech­nique out of tus­sar. The jaals are worked out in darker tus­sar yarns with sil­ver and gold threads.


The cloth­ing brand Dosa Inc of Christina Kim has done a spe­cial project on Jam­dani. Us­ing Jam­dani saris as fab­ric, they have de­signed a se­ries of gar­ments. Left over fab­ric is of­ten con­verted into patch­work ap­pliqué in Gu­jarat. This mode of de­sign takes the form of re­cy­cle and re-use. Fur­nish­ings de­vel­oped in this man­ner are beau­ti­ful and stand out. The re­sults are star­tling and in­ter­est­ing.

Abra­ham & Thakore have de­vel­oped a range of saris us­ing Jam­dani. Gau­rang Shah is an­other de­signer who has ex­per­i­mented with a lot of Up­pada Jam­dani. He has worked with Jam­dani us­ing cot­ton, silk, tus­sar, and jute – just to name a few! Re­cently, Srib­has Su­parkar, a de­signer based in Benares, has been work­ing ex­ten­sively to re­vive the Awadhi or Tanda Jam­dani. This fab­ric is so finely wo­ven, that it is of­ten de­scribed as ‘po­etry in mo­tion’.

From Varanasi, the nee­lam­bari, pita­m­bari, rak­tam­bari are tra­di­tion­ally wo­ven on the jacquard looms. Aashni + Co, a Lon­don-based con­cept store which show­cases the work of South Asian de­sign­ers to the UK mar­ket, has a range of pella dresses in In­dian hand­looms. The white pella block dress is ex­tremely pop­u­lar. Since Jam­dani pulls off the white on white look, it is hugely pop­u­lar as a fab­ric which can be shaped into any type of gos­samer wear. It is frag­ile, del­i­cate and falls beau­ti­fully.

For In­dian ap­parel man­u­fac­tur­ers, this should be viewed as a golden op­por­tu­nity. If com­bined with great de­signs, good prices and ex­cel­lent ser­vices, a ver­sa­tile fab­ric like the Jam­dani can do won­ders for a dis­cern­ing de­signer. With the trend of mix­ing and match­ing the clas­sic with the con­tem­po­rary, the eth­nic with the global – Jam­dani is a fab­ric that of­fers it­self up for nu­mer­ous pos­si­bil­i­ties. It is an in­ter­est­ing and re­fresh­ing trend which will cer­tainly wit­ness more pop­u­lar­ity in the near fu­ture.


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