May 17th, 2012
02:07 PM GMT
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Demra, Bangladesh (CNN) - Centuries ago, "jamdani" was among the most highly prized textiles in the world. But these days it's being replaced by cheaper, mass-produced materials, and the expertise needed to make traditional jamdani is dying out.

Jamdani originated in what is now Bangladesh, many centuries ago. Woven on hand looms, for hundreds of years it was traded everywhere from Bengal to China, and as far west as Italy. Historical accounts from the British East India Company show exports of jamdanis in the 1700s worth millions of rupees.

Today, a six-yard piece of fabric that makes up one sari can cost upwards of $2,000, but creating a sari from jamdani fabric is a labour-intensive process that can take up to seven months. These fabrics can only be made by hand, using traditional manual hand looms.

The advent of cheap machine fabrics has threatened the future of the jamdani makers, but now the ancient art is experiencing something of a revival.

Three decades ago, recognizing the importance of keeping the tradition alive, entrepreneur Monira Eemdad began encouraging weavers to go back to their looms - orchestrating sales through retail shops to keep weavers in business.

“The new generation of weavers don’t want to get into this monotonous work,” Eemdad told CNN’s Leone Lakhani. “It's hard for us to explain to the young ones to do this work.”

She began marketing the saris not just in Bangladesh, but overseas too. Some 15,000 weavers work under her guidance today, with 5,000 pieces of jamdani sold each year, mainly in markets across South Asia.

“The subcontinent is the main market,” Eemdad said. “Then maybe others who live abroad - they demand a lot.”

She added: “Internationally, now the jamdani pattern, the motif, can be made into exclusive materials, for instance very expensive curtains, household items. Or others who are into fashion design can make scarves, put a touch of a jamdani design on a dress, to make it different. There are many forms.”

soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. MD tajul islam

    "jamdani" saries is a new version of "muslim" saries or textiles. Muslim was the most amazing textile product in the world which was only possible to make in some skill Bangladeshi about 300 years ago during ruling time of ENGLISH. English killed almost all skill maker of "Muslim" textile at that time, so, for that reason, "MUSLIM" sarie had not been possible to make any more without them and after that "jamdani" has been originated. and humankind has lost a wonderful human made things from the world for the ENGLISH robbers.

    May 17, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
  2. loneguy

    It is "Muslin" and not Muslim – the religion. Muslin was famous in that whole sari could pass through a finger ring. Then the British destroyed this industry by forcing farmers to grow indigo instead of cotton and weavers to do other things forcing them to cut their own thumbs so they do not work for East India Company. Nice to see a tradition coming back. Other famous names are silks of Benaras, Kanjivaram of South India, Chikan of Lukhnow, Patolas of Siddhapur near Gujarat

    May 18, 2012 at 7:10 am |
  3. harvardgrad

    Not true, jamdani art is very old and started by Hindus. Then during Bangladesh's religious cleaning, they wiped out millions of Hindu families. The jamdani making art passed down from family to family. So when they were wiped out, the art was also lost. So funny really, muslims always try to rewrite history.

    May 18, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
  4. what is digital printing

    I'm not sure where you are getting your information, however good topic. I needs to spend some time studying more or understanding more. Thanks for excellent info I was on the lookout for this information for my mission.

    June 14, 2012 at 7:53 am |
  5. Rini

    The Harvardgrad sounds ignorant and biased. I would ask him to do his research before making such ignorant remarks.

    July 6, 2012 at 10:51 pm |

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