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The Glory of Jamawars of Kashmir 

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. 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.

Elegance, luxury, sophistication and class. These are but a few of the adjectives that describes the Jamawar Art. Jamawar & Tanchoi are satin weave techniques where the motifs are created using the primary weft itself creating an inlaid look, unlike a brocade, which uses supplementary warp or weft to create the motifs. In industry jargon, we use the term Jamawar when the motifs feature more than one color, while Tanchois usually feature single color motifs. Often the patterns and colors in a Jamawar are more subtle and create an old-world-charm. Predominantly a silk-only weave, we sometimes also throw in some zari in the body or borders to create cross-over fabric that offer the best of both Jamawar and Brocade weaves in the same product.

Cream Ari-Embroidered Georgette Sari From Kashmir

The name is a reference to the fact that originally, Jamavar fabric was only used to make yard long shawls which were purchased by locals to protect themselves against the cold in the chilly winter months. Nowadays, however, it is used to make a wide variety of garments including sarees, shalwar kameez, kurtas, kurtis and even lehenga cholis. Jamawar fabric history is a very interesting one, encompassing multiple dynasties and geographical locations. The technique of weaving this fabric travelled from Persia to Kashmir, reaching the Indian sub-continent about 5 centuries ago.

The production of this fabric flourished in the Mughal reign. Emperor Akbar patronized this fabric which led to a period of economic success for the weavers and a wide-spread popularity for the fabric. It is said that king Akbar was so impressed with these jamawar craftsmanship that he used to invite skilled craftsmen from arab countries and gradually they settled around Kashmir region. Any compendium of Jamawar fabric information would be incomplete without a mention of Banaras, the center of brocade fabric weaving since the medieval times. Jamawar is actually one of the sub-types of the glorious Banarasi brocade. After it arrived in India, the Jamawar technique was further developed by Banarasi weavers, who also introduced beautiful Indian designs and motifs into it. The techniques for creating Jamawar fabrics were so intricate and time-consuming it would sometimes take a decade or more to produce a single shawl.

Cream Pure Pashmina Shawl from Kashmir with Sozni Hand-Embroidered Giant Paisleys and Flowers in Multicolor Thread

Another historical theory claims that when Maharaja Ranjit Singh took over Kashmir to his empire, some Sunni Muslim families migrated to Najibabad where they continued their trade of jamawar shwawls. Sunni Muslims found a commercial possibility for their craftsmanship and started settling there. The industries were blooming and karkhanas (workshops) was established to increase the production of jamawar. Those days, jamawar was solely used to make shawls but now it is used in sarees, lehengas and gowns too.

Once the Jacquard loom was introduced into the process, the time to produce this fabric was reduced, along with cost. This widened the customer base and made this fabric accessible to a people of different classes and income groups. With the wane of the Mughal Empire, the patronage for this fabric declined and the industry dwindled to just a few artisans. In the last century, the Indian government put in special efforts to revive the traditional textile industries of India. This, combined with the increasing demand for exquisite ethnic textiles in Indian as well as international circles, led to a revival of the Jamawar fabric industry. It is even possible for customers in international locations to purchase Jamawar fabric online, from trusted retailers of ethnic fashions and textiles.

Multi-coloured Pure Pashmina Shawl from Kashmir with Sozni-Embroidery by Hand

Banarasi jamawar is set apart by its shimmering and intricate beauty. Multiple hues and detailed designs combine to create a truly exquisite textile. The designs are woven into the fabric itself, and unlike traditional Banarasi brocade, it is neatly clipped on the reverse side. The popular motifs include paisley, flowers, flowering branches, leaves and other such nature inspired designs, as well as Persian style artwork. The artistic motifs are arrayed along rich, zari-woven borders and may sometimes be woven all over the garment. From rich, traditional hues such as red, blue and yellow to delicate pastel shades of pink and green, women will find all types of colors to choose from. Figurative motifs of hunters, deer, peacocks and birds are also quite commonly seen on this type of fabric. However, unlike Banarasi fabric, this will not leave any loose threads on back side even though it is completely woven into fabric.

Historically, Jamawar shawls were handwoven, and so it used to take months to finish a weaving even 1 shawl. And because it is handwoven, it is extremely costly, hence, only royal families could afford jamawar fabric. Thus, it is known for being a prime choice of clothing for the royalty. By the end of 18th century, the discovery of Jacquard loom made it accessible for all class of people, Jamawar became more affordable. The early 19th century saw major innovations in weaving. Skilled embroidery work and flawless weaves accentuated this fabric. However, by the end of 19th century, the art of Jamawar weaving began to fade away as the patronage of Mughals went down. Otherwise, Jamawars were crafted out of pure silk and were exclusively worn by the royal and aristocrat class. Fortunately, with advanced technology and faster looms Jamawars are accessible to all nowadays.

70" x 49" Beige Handmade Pure Silk on Silk Superfine Carpet from Kashmir

The base material with which Jamawar fabric is woven can also vary depending on the aesthetic desired by the weaver. Jamawar silk fabric is the traditional type, made with finest silk threads woven into an exquisite, heavily patterned brocade fabric.The subtle sheen and high-end beauty of this textile sets it apart and has helped to cements its status as the most popular and well-recognized Jamawar fabric even today. Weavers, however, are increasingly using unconventional fabrics to create beautiful Jamawar textiles. Jamawar chiffon fabric is one such interesting innovation. It has a very delicate, beautiful look. In Kashmir, Jamawar is still woven using an adulterated form of Pashmina made of wool and cotton. This type of fabric is meant to keep the wearer warm and is the perfect textile for cold weather.

As far as styling jamawar fabric is concerned, today, Jamawar fabric is used to make all types of clothing, from the classic shawls to trendy sarees, salwar kameez, kurtas, lehenga cholis and much more. The beauty and intricacy of this fabric has also attracted the attention of high-fashion designers, who have chosen repeatedly to use it in order to create gorgeous designer party-wear. Styling and accessorizing such a rich fabric requires a certain amount of attention to detail. The aim is to present an ensemble that is balanced and visually harmonious. Multiple pieces of overly heavy jewelry will create an unnecessary clash and would only be appropriate if it is a bridal ensemble. For other special occasions, it is best to stick with one or two pieces of classic Indian jewelry such as a Kundan necklaces, Polki earrings, diamond mang-tikkas or gold bangles. These will nicely complement the traditional, intricate aesthetic of the garment. A pretty, embellished potli with matching designs will finish the ensemble perfectly. For maintenance, the Jamawar silk weaves should be dry cleaned only.

Honey-Peach Crepe Sari From Kashmir with Multi-colored Sozni Embroidery by Hand

Who hasn't heard of Kashmiri shawls? They are world famous for their exquisite softness of material and beauty of design and colour. Of all the types of Kashmiri shawls the most complex, most beautiful and most expensive is the jamawar shawl which is often referred as "woven jewel". Jamawar has always been associated with fine taste, luxury and grandeur and have been passed on as heirlooms in many of India's old families. These shawls were originally worn by noble men in India and Persia. They used to be gifted by rulers to favoured diplomats, or courtiers in gratitude for services, successes, or loyalty. Jamawars woven by Sufis were used for prayers, as table-clothes and spreads during religious festivals. With such a depth of history you’d be forgiven for comparing one to a diamond, or perhaps some rare art piece. The Jamawar Shawl is really that iconic fashion accessory that is able to instantly communicate to the world the passion and exquisite tastes of its owner.


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