Saris form an integral part of every Bengali woman’s wardrobe. One of the most popular textiles that boast rich history and heritage is the Jamdani sari. Popularly known as Dhakai Jamdani or simply Dhakai, this art of textile weaving has its roots in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Considered to be one of the finest varieties of muslin that is hand-woven from cotton, the art flourished under Mughal patronage.
Even the name, Jamdani, is of Persian origin and comes from the word “jam” meaning flower and “dani” meaning vase. The name is suggestive of the beautiful floral motifs on these saris. The earliest mention of Jamdani saris can be found in Chanakya’s Arthashastra, dating back to the 3rd century BC.
The base fabric for Jamdani is unbleached cotton yarn and the design is woven using bleached cotton yarns so that a light-and-dark effect is created. The process is extremely time-consuming as it involves a tedious form of hand weaving and it results in the vibrant patterns that appear to float on a shimmering surface, which is a feature unique to Jamdani saris.
Jamdani weaving is somewhat like tapestry work, where small shuttles of colored, gold or silver threads are passed through the weft. Designs range from “butidar”, where the entire sari is scattered with floral sprays, to diagonally-striped floral sprays or “tercha” and a network of floral motifs called “jhalar”.