The Mughal Jama

The jama was introduced to India by the Persians in the 16th century as an outer garment for formal occasions. Around 1800, it was gradually replaced by the angrakha, but it was not completely eradicated. The Jama’s full-sleeved upper body is one of its most distinguishing features. Strings tie one side of the garment to the other by crossing the centre front and tying them together. Its lower half resembles a wrap-around skirt, while the upper bodice has a front flap that can be worn in either a left or right direction and is held in place by strings. In most Mughal miniature paintings, the Jama is depicted as a common piece of clothing for men. Jama’s style evolved over time. On top of the Jama, a cummerbund or patka was tied around the waist. Katzeb was another name for it. It was often worn with loose or tight trousers or even a dhoti.

Figure 2 portrays the dress of the Indian elite men painted by Dara Shikoh, a Mughal Prince and son of Shah Jahan. This painting from the 17th century is part of the British Library collection of Indian Miniatures. It shows him wearing a Jama of printed fabric. 

​​It is also noteworthy that fashion statements of the elite remained similar throughout the 18th century. Jamas and pyjamas remained in fashion, but the construction began to alter. The length of the Jamas also increased, almost touching the feet. These garments remained in fashion and were worn by the aristocrats irrespective of their religion. In an interesting distinction, Muslims and Hindus tied their jama in different directions. The silhouette was also adopted by Mughal women, who wore it over tight pyjamas and an odhani. The jama drape is said to have been popular in the Deccan kingdoms of Bijapur, Golconda, and Ahmadnagar, despite the political turmoil of the 18th century; the style there was influenced by the local weather. The costumes worn by Indians at the time are depicted in a variety of Rajasthani and Pahari miniature paintings from the mid–18th century.

Deccan invented the Chakdar Jama, which has a hem that falls to four to six points and wore it in the angrakha style. These costumes can be found in paintings from the 16th to 17th centuries, and they may have been influenced by the Rajput styles depicted in Figure 3.

Following the arrival of the British in the 19th century, the Jama was phased out and replaced by the Sherwani and the Achkan, both of which were seen as more anglicised and practical.

References:

Bhushan, J. B. 1958.  The Costumes and Textiles of India. Bombay: Taraporevala’s Treasure-house of Books.

Goswamy, B.N. 1993. Indian Costumes in the Collection of the Calico Museum of Textiles. Ahmedabad: D.S Mehta on behalf of Calico Museum of Textiles.

Singh, C. 1979. Textiles and Costumes from the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum. Jaipur: Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum Trust.

Sahapedia.Org.The Jamas of Mughal India. Online at https://www.sahapedia.org/the-jamas-of-mughal-india (Viewed on January 23, 2022)

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