The glory, and the colors of nature captured skillfully on cloth characterize the famous Jamawars of Kashmir. "Jama" means robe and "war" is yard. King and nobles bought the woven fabric by the yard, wearing it as a gown or using it as a wrap or shawl. Weaving Jamawar

The base of the Jamawar was always wool-with perhaps addition of a little cotton. The brocaded parts were woven in silk or pashmina. Most of the designs were floral, with the kairy or paisley as the predominant motif.

The art of weaving a Jamawar was painstaking and intricate one. Several kannis or little wooden shuttles of different colors were used for a single weft line of the fabric. Upto 50 colors could be worked into one shawl-the most popular colors being zard (yellow), sufed (white), mushki (black), ferozi (turquoise), ingari (green), uda (purple), gulnar (crimson) and kirmiz (scarlet). Months of hard work went into the preparation for each Jamawar, with not more than an inch being added per day in a 48-inch width of material.

Historical Background


Said to have been brought to Kashmir from Persia many centuries ago, the art of Jamawar weaving grew and flourished, reaching its zenith during the Mughal period. Emperor Akbar was one of its greatest patrons. He brought many weavers from East Turkestan to Kashmir.

The early 19th century saw a major innovation in the weaving of the Jamawar. Embroidery began to be used to enhance and embellish the woven design. Some shawls actually recreated the entire woven design in embroidery so skillfully that it was hard to tell one from the other!

However, by the end of the century, the art of Jamawar weaving had begun to wane. Jamawar weaving had mainly flourished when the craftsman's time and patience had been unlimited; when the superb quality of his work had brought him as much if not more satisfaction than the money he earned from it, when the patronage he enjoyed had been both discerning and magnanimous.

With industrialization, urbanization and the quickening tempo of modern life, all this changed, reducing this beautiful art to a relic. Jamawars survived only as valuable and cherished antiques in a few homes and museums.

Reviving The Art

In recent years, the Indian government has attempted a modest revival of this art by setting up a shawl weaving center at Kanihama in Kashmir.

Efforts to revive this art have also been made by bringing in innovations like the creation of Jamawar saris by craftsmen in Varanasi.

Each sari is a shimmering tapestry of intricate design, in colors that range from the traditionally deep, rich shades to delicate pastels. A minimum of four months of patient effort goes into the creation of each Jamawar sari.

Many of the Jamawar saris now have matching silk shawls attached to them, creating elegant ensembles fit for royalty. New things are being tried out to make jamwar more popular. Saris woven equally in silk and pashmina; saris embellished by the incredibly minute aksi embroidery and taking more than nine months to complete; saris which draw inspiration from the weaving techniques of Bhutan-all these are being experimented with and improved upon.

Another and perhaps the most vital project is the documentation of the various motifs of the Jamawar weave, so that this ancient and exquisite art may be preserved for generations to come.