|See The Bengal Handweaves|
The art of handweaving in Bengal is ancient. In the past cotton fabrics were exported to Roman and Chinese empires and Ptolemy mentions the region in his writings. The hot, humid climate of the Ganges delta inspired artisans to produce the most diaphanous fabrics possible. These would be worn in layers and were capable of catching even the slightest breeze.
Poets of the Mughal court likened muslins to baft hawa (woven air), abe rawan (running water) and shabnam (morning dew). There is a story that Emperor Aurangzeb flew into a rage when he saw his daughter, princess Zeb-un-Nissa, almost naked. On being severely scolded, the princess explained that she had not one but seven jamahs (dresses) on her body. Such was the fineness of the handwoven fabric. It was long a custom that a dowry sari be fine enough to be pulled (all seven yards) through the wedding ring.
Weaving is still alive in Bengal and it is possible to walk the length of a village road and hear the flying shuttles of handlooms as you pass each and every dwelling. But without a market that can appreciate the skill and genius of it’s cloth these communities will quickly disappear as India modernizes and weaver’s seek work in construction, or migrate to the cities.
Maiwa is deeply involved in working with village artisans and often commissions unusual fabrics which can be made in no other way. These handspun, loomed cloths are incorporated into our clothing and bedding. We also collaborate with artisans to design shawls and scarves. These are a welcome challenge to the weavers and provide some of our most spectacular pieces.