Muslin Anecdotes

Arab traders exchanging stories on the boats to Bengal, 9th century

According to William Bolt who wrote in 1770 in his “Consideration on Indian Affairs”, the Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb, once chastised his daughter for being naked although the princess was fully clothed.  The princess protested for she was in fact wearing 7 layers of fine Abrawan, muslin.  The fabric was so fine and sheer that she appeared to be wearing nothing at all.

‘In this same Country they make Cotton Garments, in so extraordinary a manner, that no where else are the like to be seen.  These Garments are for the most part round, and wove to that degree of fineness, that they may be drawn through a Ring of a middling Size’ – Sulayman al-Tajir, Abu Zayd Hasan ibn Yazid Sirafi, Arab travellers, 9th-10th centuries.

‘There is also made in Seronge another sort of Calicut, which is so fine that when a man puts it on, his skin shall appear through it, as if he were naked.’ – Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, 17th century French traveller.

One of the myths about muslin was that the yarn was spun underwater because of the fabric’s sheer and silky quality.  Although this really wasn’t the case this particular myth may stem from the fact that the spinning could only take place in a humid environment and spinners sometimes placing bowls of water in the room to further humidify the air.

During the time of Alibardi’s rule, a piece of muslin was placed on a field to dry.  However, with the cloth being so fine and thus almost invisible, a farmer’s cow, grazing in the same field ate the cloth along with the grass.  The story goes that as a punishment, the farmer and his cow were later thrown out of Dhaka.

‘Thy bride might as well clothe herself with a garment of the wind as stand forth publicly naked under her clouds of muslin’ – Gaius Petronius Arbiter, 27-66 CE, Roman senator, generally regarded as author of Satyricon.