The Classic Dhakai Jamdani

Unique weaves of the East – II

While growing up in a Bengali household, I have heard and known so much about Bangladesh. One can never escape the debates on who was right and who was wrong(during the partition). West Bengal has always had so many things that have been an influence of Bangladesh. So many people I know in West Bengal who are bangal (a term used to refer to the people of East Bengal (usually from regions around Dhaka and Barisal), now in Bangladesh). Their food, language, mannerisms still speak so much about their history. As per me, it is a beautiful amalgamation of the east and the west. The mix of culture and tradition creates a magical spell over our land.

Though my mother is a ghoti (people from West Bengal), she could not resist being influenced by the magnificent fabrics of East Bengal. In Kolkata, it is very simple, if you are a Bengali, you need to own a “Dhakai Jamdani.” I am so glad that my mother owned more than one and passed them down to me. That fabric has some feel and class attached to it. No other fabric has an exotic blend of Mughal patronage and Hindu traditions attached to it.IMG_1810.CR2

The name Dhakai comes from the city Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. In olden days, the unique hand weaving technique was called Jamdani,  while the weave was called Dhakai.  The saris are absolutely light as feather and they represent one of the finest and ancient form of weaving in Bengal.The beauty of a Jamdani lies in it’s intricate design. The motifs seem to float on an almost transparent and fine fabric, that gives a splendid and classy look to the fabric.


A little background:

It is believed that during the Mughal rule (16th – 18th centuries) the weavers of Dhaka (in present day Bangladesh) who had been weaving this fabric for centuries, received extensive royal patronage. The finest varieties of muslin fabric were produced during this period with fabulous floral and figured motifs. This was the golden age of dhakai muslin when the skill of weaving rose to an art par excellence. With the decline of the Mughal dynasty and the subsequent British conquest of India, the trade continued to flourish for a while and enormous quantities of jamdani muslin were exported to Europe. However, by the nineteenth century, cheaper industrially manufactured yarn from Britain were being imported into India. Yet, the jamdani weaving tradition has survived into modern times, adapting to changing tastes and trends. After the partition of Bengal in 1947, many Hindu weavers from Bangladesh migrated to India and were rehabilitated in West Bengal. This was the start of jamdani weaving in present day India.



Through this blog, I want to showcase what we can do with this beautiful handloom. Two differently coloured jamdanis are used for the shoot. One reflects the traditional style while the other showcases it’s modern ways.

The cream coloured jamdani has been styled to bring out the ethnic influence. This saree can be worn for a wedding or a festival. Since the fabric is extremely light and has beautiful motifs. It is easy to carry and also has an elegant and classy aura. The cream has been contrasted with a purple brocade blouse in order to add more depth to the entire look. Brocade elevates any look very easily. My mother always tells me, saris should have contrasting blouses, matching ones kill the look 🙂

When you are wearing a jamdani  you want the attention to be stolen only by the saree. That is why, the accessories are simple and the hair has been ties in a bun. Keep the bling away. Make use of the humble neck-piece and small jhumkas.


A red jamdani  is a born classic. There is nothing that can beat it’s look and feel. This made me think, what can be done with a classic? How can I make it look different? So, i thought of styling a jamdani to work! Yes. Why cannot we wear such a beautiful fabric to a place where we spend more than half our lives? I understand that saris are difficult to carry, but this fabric trashes that excuse completely.

The red jamdanii has been styled for the modern contemporary woman. It has been made into a work-wear which will make heads turn. A jacket, pinned up hair, studs for the ears, a simple yet beautiful pendant, one bangle and flats were put together to take the sari to work. Since pallu has always been a complain, it has been put around the neck in order to keep the hands and shoulder free.

The jacket adds power and style to the entire composition. It shows how we can infuse an indo-western fusion look through a sari. The beauty also lies in the fact that the jacket has Indian prints, which holds the entire look perfectly.


Both these looks bring out the beauty of an Indian woman and the stupendous charm of the fabric. How beautiful a jamdani  fits in for what it is historically known i.e traditional, and what it can also be known for, i.e. modern?!

The beauty of the sari lies in the intricate weaving technique. Whether figured or flowers, a jamdani is woven fabric of cotton. The saris are woven on a brocade loom. This is a supplementary weft technique of weaving, where the artistic motifs are produced by a non-structural weft, in addition to the standard weft that holds the warp threads together. The standard weft creates a fine, sheer fabric while the supplementary weft with thicker threads adds the intricate patterns to it. Each supplementary weft motif is added separately by hand by interlacing the weft threads into the warp with fine bamboo sticks using individual spools of thread. The result is a myriad of vibrant patterns that appear to float on a shimmering surface. What’s remarkable in this weaving technique is that the pattern is not sketched or outlined on the fabric. Instead, it is drawn on a graph paper and placed underneath the warp.


Needless to say, jamdani weaving is an extremely skillful, laborious and time-consuming process and it could take anywhere from a month to a year to complete a saree. This makes the jamdani a priceless possession.


If you do not own a jamdani,  it is time to get one. Though mostly used for saris, you can have one in the form of a scarf or a handkerchief. But my heart says, nothing beats the sari. You will find them is so many patterns. Popular motifs include panna hajar (thousand emeralds), kalka (paisley), butidar (small flowers), fulwar (flowers arranged in straight rows), tersa (diagonal patterns), jalar (motifs evenly covering the entire saree), duria (polka spots) and charkona (rectangular motifs).


Currently, due to minuscule pay, the weavers do not want their children to be a part of the jamdani  weaving industry. This can take away a beautiful fabric away from us. However, the Government of both India and Bangladesh are trying their best to revive this industry. They are establishing direct contacts with the weavers and scoffing away the middlemen.

Before anything untoward happens to this weave, go and buy one if you do not have one already. And the ones who own it, wear your jamdani at the next family function or office event. Trust me, you will be impressed by the outcome.

Wardrobe – My own

Hair clip, Neck piece and bangle used for the red saree – Either Or


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