Project LooM

Geometry and flowers: motifs and meaning

Thank you, Ruby Palchoudhuri for explaining jamdani motifs to us.

Some master weavers say that there are 160 motifs in jamdani. Many have been collected by folklorist, Mohammed Saidur and published in the book, “Traditional Jamdani Designs.”

The earliest motifs were abstract and geometric, playing on animals. Later, the Mughals brought in floral vines and flowers. Many have Persian names such as gulab buti for rose flower, or chameli buti for the jasmine. Motifs can be divided into four types.

  1. Butis: shaped like coins or flowers or buds that are dispersed through the saree. They are generally small in size. Hazar buti jamdani has small bead like motifs all throughout a saree. Panna hazar means thousand emeralds and is with green butis. Duria Jamdani has designs of spots all over. Charkona has rectangular motifs. Ashrafi refers to coin type buttis
  2. Paar: Border designs. Generally contain flowing creepers called “lata.” Madhuri Lata Jamdani has long designs resembling the Madhuri Lata, a garden creeper/climber. Phool paar: these are flowers arranged in a straight row. One with the large flowers motif called toradar. Others include singara, peacock, rose,  scissors, bil patha, and leaves.
  3. Techri: Reclining diagonal rows of vines, leaves and flowers. Imagine flowers falling or reclining over the saree. That is a techri look. When these designs cover the entire field of the fabric it is called jalar naksha or simply jhalar, or jaal.
  4. Aanchal: The part that is the end of the saree. The pallu, or pallav. This has the most elaborate motifs that can contain peacocks, crows (kauva), and any other flower. There are kamal or lotus flowers, tota-myna or parrot and myna, humar-parinda or peasant bird, bangadi mor or peacock in a bangle.
  5. Chita: generally contains sago, ginger, and other spices. Pradeep has lamps and sometimes there are fruits like citrus too. Others include shell/conch or shankho, sabudana or barley, small flies, buds, chandrahaar, birds, animal, and leaves.
  6. Korat: the sharp serrated knife-like edges that are common in a jamdani
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Here is a list of popular motifs, listed in the book, “Traditional Jamdani Designs.”

Bagherpara: tiger’s claw or pugmark

Singara: samosa like snack

Chira: pressed rice

Dalim: pomegranate

Doringphool: flower

Kakra: crab

Sandesh: sweet

Prajapati: butterfly

Shapla: lotus

Chotobuti: small buti

Juiphool: a flower

Korola: bittergourd

Jhumka: earrings/dangling ones

Tara: star

Madli: running patterns at the border of a saree

As stated in a paper on motifs here, “Some of the Persian motifs used in the old days are golab buti or rose flower, chameli buti or jasmine flower, gul daudi buti or chrysanthemum flower, buti jhardar, toradar, butidar, tercha, jalar, phuldar, turanj, jamewar-buti, and panna hazara (Glassie and Mahmud, 2008). Butidaar is small floral pattern. The hazar buti or thousand flowers is the most famous. If these flowers are arranged in reclined position it is called tercchha jamdani. If such designs cover the entire field of the sari it is called jalar naksha. If the field is covered with rows of flowers it is known as fulwar jamdani. Belwari jamdani with colorful golden borders used to be made during the Mughal period, especially for the women of the inner court. From Banglapedia here

Here are the names of some designs or motifs that the weavers fancifully or minutely create on the ground, expanse or border: angur lata, kalka, kach, karalla, dalim, hapai, maduli, dooring, batpata, Sandesh phul, chan, kachulata, inchi, hazar moti, ring, baghnali, panpata, kajallata, pona phul, mayur, pach, dokla, anaras, panphul, tas, seta, chira, jhunjhuni phul, chira, amrity, jadushari phul, hushful etc.”

Later day motifs include fruits, vegetables, spices, and whatever else takes the weaver’s fancy. From the fields, they can weave bunches of bananas, ginger or sago root.

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