Jamawar or grown piece, is a special type of shawl made in Kashmir. "Jama" means robe and "war" is yard. The best quality of Jamawar is built with Pashmina. The brocaded parts are woven in similar threads of silk or polyester. Most of the designs seen today are floral, with the kairy (i.e. the paisley) as the predominant motif. Historically handmade items, some shawls took a couple of decades to complete; consequently, original Jamawar shawls are highly valued.Modern, machine-made Jamawar prints, produced in cities such as Kashmir and other parts of Pakistan, Punjab cost less to buy but handmade Jamawar are very expensive.
Today, the best and the most expensive Jamawar is woven in Kashmir. This fabric is widely used in that country for bridal and special occasion outfits. The texture and weave of patterns is such that the fabric often gets caught when rubbed against rough surfaces (metallic embroidery, jewellery etc.) it must therefore be handled delicately when worn. Hand Made Jamawar Shawls have a very high monetary value and are occasionally worn by people.
Kanika Jamawar is a high end variety of Royal Jamawar shawl. It is made with weaving sticks and the patterns are so finely done that front and back of the shawl are indistinguishable. Pashmina wool is used to make these shawls. Less than a dozen Kani Jamawar shawls are manufactured every year. The primary manufacturing centre for these shawls is Kashmir while some low end, machine made shawls also coming from Najibabad, U.P.
Traders introduced this Chinese silk cloth to India, mainly from Samarkand and Bukhara and it gained immense popularity among the royalty and the aristocracy. King and nobles bought the woven fabric by the yard, wearing it as a gown or using it as a wrap or shawl. Jamawar weaving centres in India developed in the holy cities and the trade centres. The most well known Jamawar weaving centre is Kashmir, Pakistan and Punjab.
Due to its rich and fine raw materials, the rich and powerful merchants used Jamawar and noblemen of the time, who could not only afford it but could even commission the weavers to make the fabric for them, as in the case of the Mughals. Emperor Akbar was one of its greatest patrons. He brought many weavers from East Turkestan to Kashmir.
One of the main reasons for the diversity in the designs of the Jamawar cloth was the migratory nature of its weavers. Ideas from almost all parts of the world influenced these designs.
The Indian motifs were greatly influenced by nature like the sun, moon, stars, rivers, trees, flowers, birds etc. The figural and geometrical motifs such as trees, lotus flower, bulls, horses, lions, elephants, peacocks, swans, eagles, the sun, stars, diagonal or zigzag lines, squares, round shapes, etc. can be traced through the entire history of Jamawar and are still being used but in a rather different form in terms of intricacy and compositions, thus creating new patterns.
Indian weaver predominantly used a wide variety of classical motifs such as the swan (hamsa), the Lotus (kamala), The Tree Of Life (kulpa, vriksha), the Vase of Plenty (purna, kumbha), the Elephant (hathi), the Lion (simha), flowing floral creepers (lata patra), Peacocks (mayur) and many more. Mythical creatures such as winged lions, centaurs, griffins, decorative of ferocious animals, animals formally in profile or with turned heads, animals with human figures in combat or represented in roundels were also commonly used motifs. These motifs have remained in existence for more than two thousand years. However, new patterns have consistently been introduced; sometimes some of these are even an amalgamation of the existing patterns. Such attempts at evolving new designs were particularly noticeable from the 10th century onwards, when patterns were altered to meet the specific demands of the Muslim rulers.
The bull or the swan, arranged between vertical and diagonal stripes can still be found in the silk Jamawar saris of India. Patterns with small flowers and two-coloured squares (chess board design) are seen, used both as a garment and as furnishing material – bed spreads with same kind of pattern are still woven in some parts of Gujarat.
Jamawar dating back to the Mughal era however contained big, bold and realistic patterns, which were rather simple with ample space between the motifs. The designs stood out prominently against the background of the cloth.
Complex patterns were developed only when additional decorative elements were included in the basic pattern. During later periods, the gap between the motives was also filled with smaller motives or geometrical forms. The iris and narcissus flowers became the most celebrated motifs of this era and were combined with tulips, poppies, primulas, roses and lilies. A lot of figurative motives were also used in the Mughal era such as deers, horses, butterflies, peacocks and insects. The Mughal kings played a vital role in the enhancement of Jamawar by putting their inspirations into the cloth’s designing and visiting the weavers on a regular basis to supervise its making. Shining, decorative pallus were jals were the main designs of this time. The borders were usually woven with silk and zari.
After the Mughal period, the figurative motifs were discouraged by the Muslims and more floral and paisleys were introduced. However, inspiration was taken from these figurative motives and put into designs as in the case of using only the peacock feathers instead of the complete figure.
Another big change was brought about in 1985, where the source of inspiration was the Chinese Shanghai cloth. The patterns of the Chinese Shanghai were amended in accordance to the weave construction of the Jamawar cloth and introduced in the cloth. This proved to be a very successful change and is still appreciated by many.
In recent years, the Indian government has attempted a modest revival of this art by setting up a shawl-weaving centre 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 colours 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.
- "Jamawar". Antara Senior Living Blog. Retrieved 25 April 2013.