Thursday, 1 October 2015

Crafts of India: wool rugs

Agra carpet, late 19th century. Nazmiyal Collection

Who would doubt that Mogul Emperors of India loved luxury: for its special comfort and as display of their power and wealth. And in case they found something missing or were not quite happy with the local products they didn't hesitate to invite foreign craftsmen to fulfill their desires and to teach locals. Seems like one of them, Akbar, especially missed soft and nice Persian carpets in his interior and so he established a carpet weaving centre right in his palace in Agra in 1580. And thus the Indian carpet was born. And in time it became no less famous as its predecessor the Persian carpet.
Sir George Birdwood, one of the greatest authorities on Indian carpets, said that they "...gained their reputations for the originality and great beauty of their designs, the harmony of their colouring, and their special fitness for the houses of the cultivated, the wealthy and the great".
And that's how he describes one of the Indian carpets at the Paris Exposition of 1878: "it is a carpet which it will be difficult to put into a European room, as its surface is too beautiful to allow of its being broken by furniture. It is a carpet to be looked at like a golden sunset...".
As at the start carpet weaving was patronized by the higher class it reflected its taste in designs: gardens, flowers, fruits and hunting were popular themes at those times. With the end of the patronage and the rise of interest from western countries the Indian weavers widened assortment of patterns and now there are large varieties of carpet designs offered: from Persian to Scandinavian, from Central Asian to Chinese.

Mogul carpet, 1600-1699. Hand knotted on cotton warp and weft; 154 knots per sq. in. The animals in this carpet are balanced by many curving floral stems; these curves enhance the rather playful movements of the animals.  Victoria and Albert Museum

Kashmir carpet, ca.1650. Knotted-pile pashmina (goat-hair) on silk. Victoria and Albert Museum

A definite feature of the Indian carpet is its specified border, that is framing the border line with different patterns to match similar patterns to balance in the middle of the carpet. Each motif has a significance. The circle means eternity; zigzag - water; the tree is bounty and the swastika means guiding light in darkness. Colours, just like designs, have a basic symbolism of their own: white and green together speak of joy; white alone refers to mourning; red and purple mark rank and distinction; black and dark blue signify sadness, darkness and trouble.
Among Indian wool rugs Kashmiri ones are perhaps the highest in quality and undoubtedly most famed. Kashmir makes the old Indo-Persian and the central Asian types like Bokhara and also the Turkish. Designs cover a wide range from medallions and vases to hunting and animal scenes. The popular ones are the scenic of pictorial with finely drawn stems, leaves, giant flower heads, flowering trees. The number of knots may vary between 125 to 500 a sq. inch.

Kashmir carpet,  Carpets of Kashmir

Amritsar carpet, late 19th century.  Fred Moheban Gallery

Uttar Pradesh has the largest carpet industry in India with Agra being one of the old carpet centres and Mirzapur, Badohi and Khamaria being modern ones. The carpets of this region are mostly in medium quality and the knots are around 60 per sq. inch which enables quicker production.
Amritsar in Punjab came up as a carpet centre only from the late 19th century. The specialty of Amritsar are the mauri carpets, originally from Meru in Central Asia. In a way they resemble the Bokharas except that here the octagons are smaller and the shades are lighter.

Agra carpet, 19th century.  Fred Moheban Gallery


The entire Himalayan belt from the West to the Northeast region produces a wide range of carpets, each distinctive in its own way. The patterns are mainly geometrical, using blocks of colour to build them up. The Bhutias who are traditional weavers make small bedside carpets commonly woven with 60 knots to a sq.inch. They use the old alpana designs, drawn of the floor on festive occasions, and geometrical patterns with floral motifs. Pangi in Chamba district of Himachal produce a goat hair carpets called thobi woven mostly in black and grey natural colours. They have designs like trishul, swastika and a few odd symbols like an eight pointed motif composed of a diamond and concentric circle.
So, if you want to bring some luxury, comfort, beauty and a little bit of history into your house think about an Indian woolen carpet.

1 comment:

  1. I always love learning something new when I see your posts! Thank you. XXOO

    ReplyDelete