A carpet is not just a piece of home furnishing but a testament to ancient history, crafts and traditions. Proving this was the 25th India Carpet Expo recently held by the Carpet Export Promotion Council at Pragati Maidan.
It brought together more than 285 exhibitors from all major carpet-making centres of India along with carpet-admirers and buyers from across the world. But even more fascinating than the elegance and designs of the carpets, were the stories brought along by exhibitors.
The largest number of carpet manufacturers were from Bhadohi – a small town in east UP, also known as the Carpet Capital of India. One of them, Numan Ahmed, informed Metrolife, “It is said that 400 years ago, a caravan of Iranians travelling along the ancient Sher Shah Suri Road, stopped by at Bhadohi.
Even though the people here were poor, they served the visitors so well that a small number decided to stay back and impart carpet making skills to the hosts. Since then, carpet making has evolved as an industry in Bhadohi.”
“As skilled labour became expensive in Bhadohi, the craft spread to adjoining Gopiganj, Mirzapur, Kamaria, Jaunpur and other areas. Today, this region is known as the carpet-making belt of India.” Pointing to his family and company staff members he added, “We are the descendents of those Iranians who stayed back and married local women.”
Evidently, his carpets displayed ancient Persian designs such as Tehran (flowers and tendrils), Mashad (very busy curvilinear floral motifs), Isfahan (one central medallion with vines and palmettos), Bijan, Siraj, Tabriz etc. These are also names of cities in Iran where these designs or weaving patterns originated. Iran is the birthplace of carpet-making in the world.
Another variety of carpets was displayed by Vikram Makhni – the only exhibitor from Amritsar, Punjab. Vikram says, “In the 18th C., Maharaja Ranjit Singh came to Amritsar. He donated all the gold that we see today in the Golden Temple’s crown and decided to set up his palace nearby. It occurred to him that his sabhas should have regal carpets and brought in weavers especially from Kashmir. He then asked them to replicate the paintings in the Golden temple on the carpets and that is what adorns Amritsari carpets today.”
Apparently, another Royal brought the floor covers to Jaipur – one more centre of carpet-making in India. It is said that Raja Sawai Jaisingh, who founded Jaipur, was fond of carpets and brought weavers from Bhadohi to specially create carpets for him. Since then, Jaipur has manufactured lakhs of carpets thanks to the very fine quality wool produced in neighbouring Bikaner.
In contrast to the woollen carpets producedby the above centres, Kashmir makes silk carpets – smooth, shiny, heavily knotted (durable) and intricately designed. Sajjad Shawl of Mirza Sons informed us, “Carpets have been made in Kashmir since Mughal times. In winter, people used to stay indoors and just weave carpets. At one time, every household in Kashmir had a carpet loom.”
“Kashmiri carpets don’t imitate Persian designs. Rather, we produce our own designs, inspired by monuments and landscapes. Not everyone likes lions, dragons and hunting scenes in their living rooms. Most prefer soothing sights beneath their feet.”