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Woven magic

An exhibition-cum-sale at Indo Persian Rugs and Carpets, Alwarpet, celebrates the wonder of Kashmiri carpets.

THE MAGNIFICENT Kashmiri carpet, sometimes woven with an incredible hand knot count in excess of 323 per square inch, has ever been a symbol of incredible beauty. Some have likened it to a many-faceted jewel, others to a perfectly executed stained glass panel! Created in the Persian leitmotif of geometrical symmetry or in a profusion of lyrical flowers arranged in vases, stunning compositions of delicate birds and animals, fruits and trees, every Kashmiri carpet is a masterpiece woven with a passion for perfection and harmony.

An exhibition-cum-sale of rare Kashmiri carpets currently being held at Indo Persian Rugs and Carpets, 432 (new number) T.T.K. Road, Alwarpet, (ph: 4337880) celebrates the wonder of Kashmir's carpets from Qum and Bokhara to Kashan and Artebil, from smaller exquisite prayer rugs to 6 feet x 4 feet, 6 feet x 9 feet and even 9 feet x 12 feet carpets.

The motifs encapsulate all the fabled formats and designs of traditional Kashmiri carpets in mellow harmonised colours. There are some rare and magnificent Artebil carpets in the collection, an exceptional Boteh Miri carpet with a perfect structure of patterned `amris' arranged all over the surface, lovely rugs depicting a Mughal hunting scene and a fantastic 14 feet by 9 feet golden-hued carpet, woven in jewel- like tones full of winged birds, peacocks and animals frolicking in a meadow of flowers....

Talking to master carpet weaver Farroukh from Srinagar, as he diligently demonstrates his craft, is an experience in itself....

What is the essential difference between a Kashmiri and a Persian carpet?

In both, the carpet making techniques are the same. Both use the single knot technique. After all, carpet making came to Kashmir from Persia. Many of the motifs too are the same, though Kashmiri carpets evolved under the Mughals and locally, with the depiction of flowers, birds, animals, human figures and so on. Also both Kashmiri carpets and Persian get better with usage and age!

How long does it take you to weave one carpet?

Depends on the size. A 6 feet by 4 feet wool carpet takes six months with two crafts persons working on it. The same single knot silk-by-silk carpet can take two and a half years!

And this magnificent Artebil carpet which you have created?

My whole family made the Artebil. Its original is in the Victoria and Albert Museum. It took us five years to make with three people working on it.

How do you procure the yarn?

We buy the yarn, which is mostly made of sheep's wool and dye it ourselves. Earlier a lot of very beautiful and fast vegetable dyes were used. But now mostly chemical dyes are used, particularly German dyes which are the best.

Do you use only traditional designs in carpet making?

Yes, we mostly do Qum, Kashan and Artebil. But slowly innovation is also creeping in. I can make anything as per the client's wishes. In the English days European Aubusson carpets were reproduced in Kashmir — we can reproduce anything.

Who taught you the craft?

I learnt it for my father, and have continued with my paramparic experience, without any training or design experience. Earlier in Sheikh Abdullah's time training schools had been set up, along with R&D and design facilities. There was also a library of designs. All these have been closed down due to militancy and the turbulent situation in the valley.

How many carpet weavers still continue in the craft? Are there any carpet-weaving units?

Most carpet makers, like me, operate from their own homes with the entire family working in the craft. Where half the population in the valley once made carpets, today only one-lakh carpet weavers are left. And the young are all leaving the craft. None of my children will pursue this vocation.

Is carpet weaving economically viable any more?

I am still able to eat izzat ki roti, Inshallah. But because of militancy no tourists come to Kashmir and subsequently, there are no sales. We have to travel to far off metros like Chennai to sell our carpets....

PUSHPA CHARI

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