To resuscitate the rare art of producing jamavar, People for Animals is hosting an extraordinary two-day exhibition on antique jamavar shawls at Hotel Lalit here beginning this Saturday.
According to People for Animals chairperson Maneka Gandhi, the exhibition will be a first-of-its-kind in the country. “In order to explain to the public the art of painstakingly producing ancient jamavar shawls, we have roped in all-India expert Rajeev Sethi. People will know exactly how the antique form of weaving was done.”
Jamavar shawls are fast disappearing because the weavers, by and large living in the Kashmir Valley, are not willing to take up the tedious task of this ancient style of weaving, she says. “It takes a year to produce a jamavar shawl. This is the reason why this antique form of weaving has not passed down from one generation to another. Children have drifted to other professions. Two hundred and fifteen shawls procured predominantly from families in Jammu & Kashmir will be displayed on a grand scale. Proceeds from the exhibition will go for our pig and monkey shelters.”
Researchers from Ms. Gandhi’s organisation will put together a fabulous collection of both original and new jamavars which the current generation of weaver families have laboriously tried to revive.
Rajeev Sethi, known internationally for preserving the South Asian cultural heritage, will make the most of the opportunity at the exhibition in imparting his encyclopaedic knowledge acquired over the years on the art of identifying jamavars from different centuries. He will discuss the subject with film-maker Ekta Kapoor on the first day of the exhibition.
“I hope Ekta in one of her serials shows a mother-in-law fighting her daughter-in-law over possessing an ancient jamavar shawl!” says Rajeev in a lighter vein.
According to Rajeev, the discussion format will give people an idea of People for Animals’ consistency in creating awareness about such issues. “It is adept at linking art to humanitarian concern. It will be a rare opportunity, extremely rewarding for anyone to acquire a heirloom which goes into meeting greater ends.”
Explaining the drastic decline in the art of producing jamavar shawls, Rajeev says the rapid proliferation of mechanisation in the 19th Century was the primary reason. “European looms were invented to break into the Indian market. In Europe it had become extremely fashionable to own hand-made products from India. Mechanisation led to manufacturing of products in large quantities but they eventually destroyed the livelihood of 2 lakh artisans linked to jamavar trade.” According to People for Animals spokesperson, the Jamavar weave came from Persia. Sultan Zain-Al-Abidin summoned weavers from Turkmenistan to teach their skills to Kashmiris. “The Mughal era saw this art flourish, reaching its height during Emperor Akbar’s time.”
Kashmiri weavers worked together simultaneously on one shawl and this could take up to three years depending on the technique, design and colour palette involved, he says. “The process is very detailed with each person diligently performing their designated job. The women prepared the warps by doubling the thread, the designer decided the pattern, the “Tarah-Guru” read the design from the bottom upwards.
A pattern maker-master, the “Talim-Guru”, then wrote the instructions down using the traditional signs -- the shawl alphabet -- which then were kept in front while weaving.”