Jamdani is a vividly patterned, sheer cotton fabric, traditionally woven on a hand loom by craftspeople in Bengal. It can be traced to as early as c. 321-185 BC. Megasthenes, Greek ambassador in Chandragupta Maurya’s court writes, “Their robes are worked in gold, and ornamented with various stones, and they also wear flowered garments of the finest muslin.” The finest Muslin as Megasthenes calls it refers to one of the finest forms of handloom weaving, renowned throughout the world as Jamdani. It started as a combination of Parsi and Mughal cultures that bore fruit in Dhaka. Consequence was the development of a special form known as Dakai Jamdani.
Jamdani weaving is time-consuming and labour-intensive because of the richness of its motifs, which are created directly on the loom using the discontinuous weft technique. It can be considered as a successor to Muslin. Initially, the figured variety of fine Muslin with meticulous thread work was called Jamdani. In due course, the fabric and the designs went through transformation. Originally made from Karpas cotton, contemporary Jamdani weaving is worked on cotton, silk, linen or cotton-silk blend. It is like tapestry work where small shuttles of coloured, gold or silver threads are passed through the weft. An eco-friendly art, Jamdani is spun by hand and foot tools, and may take two full-time weavers more than a year to complete. Vibrancy of colours and richness of motifs help identify a Jamdani among other handloom products.