Bengal Handloom

 

 

Nestling in rural Bengal, amidst lush green paddy fields, punctuated by picturesque pukurs (ponds) are entire weaver villages engaged in creating the equivalent of poetry on fabric. Triumphing over the trauma of partition, weaver families which migrated to West Bengal in the 1950’s have helped keep alive a priceless heritage of highly stylized weaving techniques honed over generations. The handloom industry in the eastern region has had its share of bumpy rides, but Bengal handlooms have survived the ups and downs to become a household name among connoisseurs of textiles. Different Varieties

There are at least six varieties of Bengal handlooms, each deriving its name from the village in which it originated, and each with its own distinctive style. The undisputed queen of the range, however, is the fabled Jamdani, which in all its myriad local avtars continues to retain its original grandeur and sophistication. The original version is referred to as Daccai jamdani, although it is now produced in Navdeep and Dhattigram, in West Bengal.

Daccai Jamdani

Daccai Jamdani is distinguished from its mutant cousins by its very fine texture resembling muslin and the elaborate and ornate workmanship. In Bangladesh, weavers use fine Egyptian cotton, while the Indian weavers use

only indigenous raw material. The single warp is usually ornamented with two extra weft followed by ground weft. While the original Bangladeshi sari is almost invariably on a beige background, the Indian weavers are a little more adventurous in their choice of color schemes. The gossamer thin black Jamdani with its splash of multi colored linear or floral motifs sprinkled generously all over the body and border and crowned with an exquisitely designed elaborate pallu is a feast for the eyes.

The Daccai Jamdani is woven painstakingly by hand on the old fashioned Jala loom, and many take even up to one year to weave a single sari. It feels supple to the touch and drapes gently to reveal the contours of the wearer.

Other Jamdanis

While the Daccai Jamdani is strictly a party affair, the other Jamdanis are much sought after by fashion-conscious working women for their elegance. These are mostly Jamdani motifs on Tangail fabric and are generally known by the confusing nomenclature of Tangail Jamdani. Although beige background is the most popular, these are available in a riot of colors, at affordable prices.

Tangail, Dhoneokali, Shantipuri and Begumpuri are other popular styles of Bengal handlooms in the lower price range. Of these, Tangail which comes from Fulia, has a fine texture, with its 100s count fabric and highly stylized motifs, while Dhoneokali is known for its stripes and checks.

Over the years, the distinctive patterns have merged as weavers started experimenting with various combinations of design and yarn, so much so, it is now difficult to distinguish between the various styles, unless one is an expert on texture.