Muslin ( or ) is a cotton fabric of plain weave. It is made in a wide range of weights from delicate sheers to coarse sheeting.〔 It gets its name from the Indian port town Masulipatnam, known as ''Maisolos'' and ''Masalia'' in ancient times and the name 'Muslin' originated from the name ''Maisolos''.〔Periplus, Point 62; http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/periplus.html〕 Early Indian muslin was handwoven of uncommonly delicate handspun yarn, especially in the region of what today is Bangladesh and indian state of West Bengal .〔 It was imported into Europe for much of the 17th and early 18th centuries.〔
Fine linen muslin was formerly known as sindon.〔''Oxford English Dictionary'', 1st ed. "sindon, ''n.''" Oxford University Press (Oxford), 1911.〕
In 2013, the traditional art of weaving ''Jamdani'' muslin in Bangladesh was included in the list of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
== Etymology and history ==
The word "Muslin" is derived from the name of the ancient port town "Maisolos". Muslin clothes were traded by ancient Greeks and Romans from the East Indian port town Masulipatnam, known as ''Maisolos'' and ''Masalia'' in ancient times and the name 'Muslin' originated from the name ''Maisolos''.〔 The chief merchandise of Maisolia, eagerly sought for by the merchants from the Roman world, was muslin-so favourite a wear with fashionable Roman ladies of that age that a legend has it that an ounce of muslin used to sell in Rome for an ounce of gold. Because of this trade Roman gold coins poured into ''Maisolia''. Several Roman coins were found during excavations of Buddhist towns located near Masulipatnam (Maisolia).〔Buddhist Monks and Monasteries of India: Their History and Their Contribution to Indian Culture by Sukumar Butt, Motilal Banarsidas Publishers, 1988, p. 132〕
Subsequently, the word Muslin found its place in various European languages as French ''mousseline'', Italian ''mussolina'' etc.,
Some believe Crusaders of the First Crusade found the cloth in the Middle East and brought it back to Europe.
In 1298, Marco Polo described the cloth in his book ''The Travels.'' He said it was made in Mosul, Iraq.〔Polo, Marco. (''The most noble and famous travels of Marco Polo, together with the travels of Nicoláo de' Conti'' ). Translated by John Frampton, London, A. and C. Black, 1937, p.28.〕 During the 17th and 18th centuries, Mughal Bengal emerged as the foremost muslin exporter in the world, with Mughal Dhaka as capital of the worldwide muslin trade. During the Roman period Khadi muslin was introduced in Europe and a vast amounts of fabrics were traded to Europe for many centuries. It became highly popular in 18th-century France and eventually spread across much of the Western world. During British colonial rule in the eighteenth century, the Bengali muslin industry was ruthlessly suppressed by various colonial policies, which favored imports of industrially manufactured textiles from Britain. Brutality to muslin weavers was intense, William Bolts noting in 1772 that "instances have been known of their cutting off their thumbs to prevent their being forced to wind silk."〔 As a result, the quality of muslin suffered greatly and its finesse was nearly lost for two centuries. There have been various attempts at reviving the muslin industry in modern Bangladesh.
At the end of the 16th century the English traveler Ralph Fitch greatly admired the muslin of Sonargaon. The Portuguese traveler Duarte Barbosa described the muslin of Bangladesh in the early 16th century. He mentioned a few types of fabrics, such as estrabante (sarband), mamona, fugoza, choutara, and sinabaka. Although this view has the fabric named after the city where Europeans first encountered it (Mosul), the fabric is believed to have originated in Dhakeshwari, now called Dhaka, which is now the capital of Bangladesh.〔(Indian Textiles: Past and Present - G. K. Ghosh, Shukla Ghosh - Google Books )〕 In the 9th century, an Arab merchant named Sulaiman made note of the material's origin in Bengal (known as Ruhml in Arabic). Bengali muslin was traded throughout the Muslim world, from the Middle East to Southeast Asia. In many Islamic regions, such as in Central Asia, the cloth was named ''Daka,'' after the city of Dhaka.〔 In present day, many different types of muslins are produced in many different places, including Dhaka.
The word muslin is also used colloquially. In the United Kingdom, many sheer cotton fabrics are called muslin, while in the United States, muslin sometimes refers to a firm cloth for everyday use, which in the UK and Australia is known as calico.
Under British rule, the British East India company could not compete with the local Muslin with their own export of cloth to India. Muslin production was repressed and the knowledge eradicated. Local weavers were systematically rounded up and their hands mutilated with removal of their thumbs.
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