Muslin: The lost treasure of Bangladesh

The word “muslin” refers to a plain-woven cotton fabric made of cotton that was originally called Maisolos, after the Indian port town of Machilipatnam. Throughout the majority of the 17th and 18th centuries, it was sent to Europe, where it was hand-woven using a rare and delicate yarn from Bangladesh and the Indian State of West Bengal.

The history of muslin was altered by colonialism and economics, but the original producers in Bangladesh retain their traditional methods of production to this day.

A favorite food of the Romans, muslin was sought after by Roman traders and eventually made its way throughout Europe. Mughal Dhaka served as the center of the global muslin trade, and during the 17th and 18th centuries, Mughal Bengal became the world’s largest exporter of muslin.

This extraordinarily delicate fabric was once created by Bangladeshi weavers in Dhaka using a process known as the discontinuous weft technique. In order to hold the cloth together and produce the design, the weaver had to work with two layers of weft—one as fine as spider’s silk. Using delicate bamboo sticks to interlace the pattern threads with the warp threads, each pattern motif was stitched separately.

It is evident that muslin has been used throughout history. Bengal’s Nawabs were regular users of muslin. Murshid Quli Khan, the first Nawab of Bengal, used to send muslin to the Mughal emperor. In the summer, Nawab’s Badshas and Amirs would wear a sort of muslin known as the Malma Khash, which was once worn by the Emperors. Because to Empress Nurjahan, the Mughal era saw the majority of the rise of muslin. She chose the Mughal harem’s fabric, muslin.

Europeans also imported a lot of muslin to manufacture elegant gowns, shirts, undergarments, and kids’ clothes. The iconic painting of Josephine Bonaparte features her in a semi-sheer muslin gown. Often, nobility women would dampen their muslin gowns to highlight their legs and other body attributes.

Manufacturing process

Since all the processes were manual, manufacturing involved many artisans for yarn spinning and weaving activities, but the leading role lay with the material and weaving.

  • Ginning: For removing trash and cleaning and combing the fibers and making them parallel ready for spinning a boalee (upper jaw of a catfish) was used.
  • Spinning and weaving: For extra humidity they used to weave during the rainy season for elasticity in the yarns and to avoid breakages. The process was so sluggish that it could take over five months to weave one piece of muslin.



Muslin has several kinds of variations. Many of the below are mentioned in Ain-i-Akbari (16th-century detailed document)

Alliballi The name embraces ā’lā, ‘superior’, bhalā, ‘good’.
Adatais, a fine and clear fabric.
Seerhand muslin was a variety in between nainsook and mull (another muslin type, a very thin and soft). The fabric was resistant to washing, retaining its clearness.
and varieties of mulmul (Mulboos khas, Jhuna, Sarkar ali, Sarbati, Tarindam) were among the most delicate cotton muslins produced in the Indian subcontinent.

More variations

Mull is another kind of muslin. It is a soft, thin, and semitransparent material. The name is derived from Hindi “mal” which means “soft”. Swiss mull is a type of which is finished with stiffening agents


Dressmaking and sewing

Use in food production

Set design and photography

As Medicine


Once upon a time, Dhaka’s muslin gained international recognition for its delicate texture and thinness. During that period, they operated a monopoly business throughout Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America.

Bengali people were well-known for their exquisite handicrafts long before Dhaka was designated the capital of the Mughal Empire in 1608. According to Roman writers, the most sought-after luxury item in the ancient world of civilization was “Generic Muslin.” It is regrettable that what was once Bengal’s pride has vanished into the annals of time. Under a government effort, a group of academics recently woven muslin sarees in Bangladesh. In 2020, the study team woven six sarees made of muslin. In the upcoming years, the muslin saree is anticipated to be introduced to the market.

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