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Woven wonders

Showcasing a unique collection of cotton, woollen and jute dhurries and woollen kilims, the "Dhurries and Rugs" exhibition beckons Chennai-ites.

IT MAY not possess the woven perfection, the exquisite beauty and romance of a Persian or Kashmir carpet. But a good Indian dhurrie has a sophisticated simplicity of weave and look, a cool, muted charm and an inherent designer sensibility, which is a perfect foil for long hot summers. Its origin and history are lost to us, but the dhurrie is perhaps the oldest floor covering of India. Ain-e-Akbari speaks of a floor covering older than the carpet tradition brought by the Moghuls, and cotton dhurries are mentioned in 15th Century South Indian land records. And the oldest dhurrie in existence is an 18th Century dhurrie from the Deccan, featuring a harmonious amalgam of the floral and vine theme set within geometric configurations.

Another interesting fact to be remembered amidst the profusion of exquisite designer dhurries now woven in India, mostly for export, is that ironically, the then languishing craft of dhurrie weaving was revived in the cloistered confines of British Raj jails in the 18th Century! Over the years, the jail inmates of India produced a wide variety of dhurries ranging from the coarse and basic to some of the finest examples of traditional and innovative dhurries. It might even be said that the nurturing and promotion of the craft of dhurrie-weaving in the Raj jails led to its great `renaissance' as well as the `reformation' process of the jail inmates...

This ancient floor covering, seen as a poor cousin of the woollen and silk woven carpet, is perhaps closer to the `kilim" since it is woven in the same simple tabby weave. Its most common and striking design of stripes is achieved by warp sharing techniques such as dovetailing and interlocking. In its functional decoration forms of individual and communal prayer mats used in mosques, large sized dhurries for homes, marriages and erstwhile royal palaces, the dhurrie has a documentary from the 17th Century onward. However, very few examples of old dhurries survive, chief among them being fine examples of Moghul style dhurries woven in the Bikaner jail in the early years of the 20th Century and an exquisite example of a tapestry-like dhurrie depicting a landscape scenario woven in in Ahmedabad jail. Some examples of South Indian dhurries dating back to the 17th Century can be seen in private collections.

Today, the dhurrie is a much sought-after part of interior scapes and verandahs, and is woven in a dazzling variety of geometrical designs, stripes, Moghul motifs, the modern art genre, diffused floral themes etc. The colours range from the sophistication of muted, watered shades to the brightest of primary hues.

The use of ancient weaving techniques such as ikat and vegetable dyeing, as well as the language of modern art sensibilities have transformed the dhurrie into a prized possession and a work of art.

Some striking and attractive examples of dhurries and kilims from India and Central Asia are being showcased at an exciting "Dhurries and Rugs' exhibition opening today. On display is a veritable treasure house of cotton, woollen and jute dhurries and woollen kilims. The vegetable dyed true-blue indigo dhurries from Warangal and Badoi are in geometric-ikat patterns with traditional stripes, and a fantastic juxtaposition of vibrant colours. The Warangal carpets in 6 ft by 9 ft, 6 ft by 4 ft and 3 ft by 5 ft are stunning. Oranges, greens, blacks, whites, and reds mingle and merge in typical arrow-like designs. There are jewel-like dhurries completely covered with patterned leaves and large sized ones in soft pastel shades with a sprinkling of woven motifs.

The more muted Badoi dhurries in earth shades display patterned weaves in contemporary modern art themes. The jute dhurries from Badoi as also the woollen dhurries are compellingly attractive.

The Central Asian woollen kilims rival woollen carpets in the intricacy of their weave and their dense floral design. Stripes, zig zags and floral designs cover the entire kilim surface with rich muted magic.

The kilims come in deep mauves and browns as well as soft pinks and oranges. Eco-friendly, vegetable dyed, easily washable - and stunning. Experience dhurrie and kilim magic at "Indo Persian Carpets and Rugs," Shops 2 and 3, Parsn Apartments, Opposite Bharathi Dasan Road, Alwarpet, Chennai or contact Tariq on phone: 4337880.

PUSHPA CHARI

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