The Mughal Era


The Mughal Era:

Without any shadow of doubt, it can be said that the jamdani industry of East Bengla reached its zenith during the Moghul era. The art of making jamdani designs on fine fabric reached its zenith during Mughal rule. There were handlooms in almost all villages of the Dhaka district. Dhaka, Sonargaon, Dhamrai, Titabari, Jangalbari and Bajitpur were famous for making superior quality jamdani and muslin. Traders from Europe, Iran, Armenia, as well as Mughal-Pathan traders used to deal in these fabrics. The Mughal Emperor, the Nawab of Bengal and other aristocrats used to engage agents at Dhaka to buy high quality muslin and jamdani for their masters' use. The golden age of Dhaka muslin began with Mughal rule. Since then the demand for jamdani and muslin fabrics at home and abroad grew and this prompted further improvement in their manufacture. According to 18th century documents of the East India Company, a high official of the company was posted at Dhaka to buy mulmul khas and sarkar-i-ali. He had the designation of Daroga-i-mulmul. Every weaving factory had an office, which maintained records of the best weavers and other exports. Weavers had no fixed salary. They used to be paid the market value of the jamdani or muslin they produced. It was the duty of the Daroga to keep a sharp eye at every stage of production. Mulmul khas worth about Re. 100,000 collected from Dhaka, Sonargaon and Jangalbari used to be sent to the Mughal court every year. According to a 1747 account of muslin export, fabrics worth Re 550,000 were bought for the Emperor of Delhi, the Nawab of Bengal and the famous trader Jagath Sheth. The same year European traders and companies bought muslin worth Re 950,000. Towards the end of the 18th century, the export of muslin suffered a decline. After the English gained Diwani in Bengal in 1765, Company agents resorted to oppressing the weavers for their own gains. They used to dictate prices. If weavers refused to sell their cloth at a lower price they were subjected to repression. To stop this repression the East India Company started buying the textiles directly from the weavers. According to James Wise, Dhaka muslin worth Re 5 million was exported to England in 1787. James Taylor put the figure at Re 3 million. In 1807, the export came down to Re 850,000 and the export completely stopped in 1817. Thereafter muslin used to go to Europe as personal imports.