In search of the story behind a lost textile

Avinash Maurya Gupta and Kriti Gupta, makers of Jajam.  

For centuries, a traditional floor spread with intricate designs, has been the centre of community life in the villages of Rajasthan. But by the 1970s, with the migration of large numbers of people from villages to cities, such regular community get-togethers became less, thus affecting the production of the traditional textile Jajam, which was central to these meetings.

Last year, two documentary filmmakers from Rajasthan went in search of the remaining pieces of Jajam floor spreads and the few artisans and block printers still involved in its making.

Avinash Maurya Gupta and Kriti Gupta tell the story of that quest in their documentary Rediscovering Jajam, which was screened in the short documentary competition category at the 12th International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala.

Meaning of Jajam

“The name Jajam itself means a coming together of people. Its history goes back to several centuries. When people started living in communities together, it was about sustainability and sharing. Jajam served as a textile for important gatherings, from weddings to village panchayat meetings where important decisions were made,” says Kriti.

The documentary shows how deeply embedded it was to the culture of the region, through folk songs where the mention of Jajam pops up. Some of the songs even has elaborate descriptions on dyeing these pieces of clothes.

“For us, the biggest challenge was in capturing this embedded cultural textile which is now lost. There are hardly any books or research work on it. We went around village after village, asking people about it. We found some remaining ones in community temples, with some block printers, antique collectors and a few who are still making it,” says Avinash.

Some of these clothes have board games printed at its centre, for the groups using it to entertain themselves during long get-togethers, while some others have motifs of warriors at its periphery, meant as ‘protectors’ of those sitting inside. The motifs are all etched on the cloth using the method of block printing.

“More than rediscovering the printing or the textile, our aim was to bring back the sense of community. Along with the documentary, we are re-making some of these ‘jajams’, mostly for urban settings. Even the clothes we are wearing now uses the designs from these ‘jajams’,” says Avinash.

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Printable version | Jan 15, 2022 5:40:17 PM |

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