An outsider’s perspective on India is that we instantaneously conjure images of Bollywood (as clichéd as it may seem), touristy historical monuments, bright colors, flavor-bursting cuisine, and a stunning and extensive cultural legacy. We are unaware of the country’s position in the cutthroat market for hand-woven carpets. In addition to other nations, India is one of the top three producers and exporters of handmade carpets worldwide. 

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Kevorkian Hyderabad Carpet (17th century, India) in Museum of Islamic Art. Doha, Qatar_©www.asergeev.com/pictures/archives/compress/2013/1197/10.htm

The industry had existed since the 16th century, if not earlier when weavers from Persia and Turkey were brought to India by the great mogul Akbar (1556-1605) and began producing the country’s first Indian carpets for his palace. However, this activity was eventually halted for various reasons before natives took over the weaving business after the country’s independence (1947). Ninety percent or more of the Carpet woven in India is exported. With a $1.8 billion annual turnover, the industry employs up to 2 million people. The numbers prove how highly the world appreciates this particular commodity and continue to support the notion that it is a profitable business.

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Rug weaving in India_©unsplash.com/photos/496EjDO2YFE?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditShareLink

Carpet types and weaving craftsmanship

India’s ancient carpet-weaving customs date back to the Middle Ages. The Persian method of weaving carpets, which is typically done with wool and silk, was adopted by the Mughals. The carpet culture of the Mughals had a significant impact on India’s weaving history. There are various carpet types, and they are all unique. To name a few, there are woven carpets, carpets made of needle felt, carpets that are knotted, tufted carpets, and many more. Which category the outcomes belong to is determined by the technique and material selection. To avoid ambiguity, carpet artistry can be divided into two main categories:

Pile Carpet

Because of how they were constructed, these carpets have considerable thickness. They are made either by manual knot tying or machine weaving on a power loom. They are termed “pile carpets” because of their appropriate thickness.

Pile-less Carpet

These carpets are flatweave. They are flat, and back-and-forth weaved like Pakistani and Indian durries because they lack a pile. Kilims from Iran or Turkey are another type of flat-woven Carpets, as are carpets made by Native Americans.

The most famous ones are made of Indian silk and wool, but there are also carpets made of cotton, jute, bamboo, grass, and coir. A carpet’s style, in addition to the material or weaving method used, contributes to how distinctive it is and how it stands out from the competition. Examples include Mughal-style prayer rugs, floral rugs, and carpets. In India, each state has its own distinct identity in carpet weaving. Weaving hubs for carpets can be found all across the nation, in places like the North, Central, Eastern, Western, Rajasthan, Kashmir, etc. Each Carpet has a unique pattern specific to the area where it was made. For instance, Kashmir carpets are a one-time investment that is quite expensive. The carpets are made with either silk, wool, or a mix.

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Kashmiri Pure Silk on Silk Gumband design_©www.mirascrafts.com/product/kashmiri-pure-silk-on-silk-gumband-design-square-carpet-8-x-8-feets/
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Shyam Ahuja Geometric Dhurries_©www.shyamahuja.com/floor-coverings-geometric.html
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The Thakurs’ living room_©dressyourhome.in/5756/thakur-residence

Carpet motifs & cultural significance

Designs for carpets from Asia and the Middle East have elaborate themes that are usually not random. They are adorned with sophisticated cultural tales that are multicolored, full of symbolism, and full of meanings.

Indian weavers get their motifs’ inspiration from religious and architectural concepts. Animals, flowers, fruits. Motifs on Indian carpets are an exquisite blend of innovative Persian patterns and ethnic Indian designs. Grids, geometric patterns, symmetry, asymmetry, repetition, a system of design organization, and occasionally a center medallion that stays the prominent feature and around which every other symbol gravitates are all common elements in carpet weaving designs.

Indian carpets occasionally have motifs like animals, flowers, arabesques, rhombuses, and others, although they are not popular. Here are some examples of their significance: Camels (wealth and happiness), Peacocks (the divine bird), Doves (peace and good omen), Cypress trees (afterlife survival), Tree of Life (eternal life), and Doves (peace and good omen). 

Traditional Indian carpets have become the pinnacle of rich carpeting in India and other parts of the world. Indian carpets are undoubtedly one of the essential components that give a space a welcoming appearance of luxury, playing a pivotal role in home décor furnishings worldwide.

When one imagines opulent semi-public places like five-star hotels, eateries, and brand-name retail stores, one home design element unites them all: carpets. Area carpet upkeep is less costly to maintain than wood floor treatment. To avoid overpowering the space and enable each element to integrate the created area visually, interior designers are progressively warming up to the notion of using carpets in their work. Why should one think about carpets? They attenuate echoes in a sparsely furnished space and act as sound insulators. When properly used, they can make a small area appear more prominent and help those with young children or pets avoid slipping, spilling, and falling. After a long day of walking on concrete walkways, ceramic tiles, and wood floors, they give off a feeling of coziness and warmth and are usually very soothing to the feet when one wants to relax.

Trianon _©www.shyamahuja.com/floor-coverings-traditional.html

References:

  1. Carpet – Wikipedia. En.wikipedia.org. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carpet. [Accessed 28 June 2022].
  2. India’s carpet industry which employs 2 million people and exports $1.8 billion every year has stagnated in the last five years(2019). Business Insider. [online]. (Last updated: OCT 12, 2019). Available at:

India’s carpet industry which employs 2 million people and exports $1.8 billion every year has stagnated in the last five years | Business Insider India  [Accessed 28 June 2022].

  1. Indian carpets – Carpet Encyclopedia | Carpet Encyclopedia. [online]. Carpetencyclopedia.com

Available at: https://www.carpetencyclopedia.com/styles-origin/indo-carpets . [Accessed 29 June 2022].

  1. Indian Carpets. Culturalindia.net. [online]. Available at: https://www.culturalindia.net/indian-crafts/carpet-work.html . [Accessed 29 June 2022].
  2. Faith Barasa (2020). The World’s Largest Exporters Of Rugs. WorldAtlas. [online]. (Last updated: December 11 2020). Available at: https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/the-world-s-largest-exporters-of-rugs.html. [Accessed 01 July 2022].
  3. Carpets of Northern India. IndiaNetzone.com. [online]. (Last updated: 04-05-2015). Available at: https://www.indianetzone.com/68/carpets_northern_india.htm#:~:text=The%20North%20India%20Handicrafts%20which%20consists%20of%20the,the%20globe%20for%20its%20unique%20colours%20and%20designs. [Accessed 01 June 2022].
Author

Nadjath is an architecture graduate, traveler, and part-time freelance writer. She believes that the built and unbuilt environments are more than just about form and function. In a fast-growing culture where people are reading less and less, she is enthusiastic about transmitting the essence of architecture via words.

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