I keep having customers coming to my shop and asking for a pure Jama shawl and we roll our heads on where we begin. Sometimes a customer doesn’t have time and we wish we could have informed them more. Sometimes the customer tells their budget and we show a wool piece and they think we are duping them by showing something different. Oh how much have some fly by night guys ruined it for us!
Jama an abbreviation of Jamavar/ Jamawar or even Jaamavar. I am not a linguist so I do not know how the exact way to write the urdu word in English, but the internet has made variations of the spelling and hence my reason for telling you. The word essentially is in two parts – Jama and Var/ War. The urdu word jama means a dress, robe, suit or even a nightdress and var is body or chest. By the end of this section the translation may make more sense!
So a Jama essentially is not linked to the fabric of pashmina or wool. It refers to the pattern or design of the shawl. An “all over” design of a shawl where there is dense embroidery, showing very little space of the body color is what we call a Jamavar. So a Jama could be a wool jama or a pashmina jama. Depending on the type of embroidery we could get a sozni jama, ari jama or a paper mache jama.
Notice how in the picture the black color of the body is completely hidden with the beautiful dense paisley embroidery? Well that’s a Jama! So hopefully now things adds up to the evolution of the two words Jama and Var coming together to form Jamavar.
Now that you have understood Jama, Jaal should be easy to understand. Its again “all over” designs on the body of the shawl but very “open-ended”! Jaals are not as dense as a Jama, more like the opposite!
In this gorgeous and exclusive piece, the embroidery is highly detailed and intricate but spread out to show the beautiful natural beige color.
Please don’t think JAMA is superior to jaal. Both have their own charms and appropriate times for wearing!
By now you would have understood what are we essentially talking about. All these names are used to identify and refer to a shawl based on its design and how they are placed on the body of a shawl. Shawl making is after all an art and the empty frame of a shawl the artisan’s muse.
Dordaar shawls are shawls where we have a plain solid colored body, with detailed embroidery happening on four borders of the shawl. There could also be a motif or buti on the corners of a dordaar shawl. The width of the border also changes from piece to piece. Some dordaars may have a thin border and some may have a thicker border. But all would come under dordaars!
Now, remember, shawl making is an art and we have even subsets and types of dordaars. Below should be helpful –
Topdor – The embroidery border is 3.5” or about 9 cms in height.
Neemdor – The embroidery border is 2” or about 5 cms in height.
Chaar Hashia – The embroidery border is 0.75” or about 1.8 cms in height.
Baledaar/ Baildar – The embroidery border is 0.5” or about 1.2 cms in height.
At the same time, it is important to note that weavers, embroidery, and artisans along with myself do keep experimenting with designs and sizes. You can come across new sizes and patterns which is completely fine! A piece should be to your liking and beautiful to you, that is what matters!
Palla has now become more or less a Hindi word. If you are a Hindi speaker you would be able to understand this but it is not, palla actually means many things – edge, border, and even panels – like cloth panels. Palledaar shawls are one where the embroidery is limited to only the two short sides of the shawl. In fact palledaar shawls are the brother of dordaar shawls. In dordaars the embroidery is running on all four borders but in palledaars the embroidery is just on two sides.
Buti/ Buteh/ Booteh/ Buty
A motif or design on a shawl is called a buti. Yes, it is pronounced as booty but remember this is an Urdu word. The motif is not restricted to anything and can be paisley, flower, etc. The buti can be just on the corners or repeated all over.