Background & Mission

 
Tipu Sultan’s muslin jama

Muslin.  It was the gossamer of the East.

A cloth so fine that at various times in recorded history it was described as ‘woven air’ and ‘the skin of the moon’.  The Mughals called it ‘mul-mul’.

Six yards of muslin cloth could be fitted into a matchbox, sixty yards would fit inside the shell of a coconut, a pound of this yarn could be stretched for 250 miles.

The origins of muslin cloth are a thousand years old.  Historically recognized as a unique hand-woven cotton fabric of legendary lightness and distinctive motifs, the cloth was made from delicate hand-spun yarn which was produced from a cotton plant (Gossypium Arboreum Var. Neglecta, locally called ‘phuti karpas’) that grew exclusively along the banks of a certain stretch of the Brahmaputra/Meghna river.

In 2013, Drik Picture Library, Dhaka, Bangladesh (www.drik.com) was approached by Stepney Trust in the UK to bring their exhibition on muslin (Bengal to Britain) to Bangladesh.

Saiful Islam agreed to the proposal and the project, Bengal Muslin (BM), was subsequently formed with team members from Drik as well as some external advisers.

The project’s goals were to explore, reproduce and reveal muslin’s history and craft, its contribution and the impact that the fabric had on our culture and commerce and eventually our national identity.

Bengal Muslin has not stopped at exploring the past and creating awareness of muslin’s many faceted past.  Instead it investigates the potential revival of a fabric that was used and treasured by Mughal and European courts, with a view to giving our weavers a sustainable future by placing it within a contemporary design setting.

There are numerous myths, many owners and a large variety of muslin cloth that exists to this day but allow us to lead you through the real story about this unique fabric from Bangladesh.