The Popularity Of Kashmiri Carpets On The Decline?

 Ravi Speaks:

The Popularity Of Kashmiri Carpets On The Decline?

When I was very young during my school days in the Kashmir valley-my grandfather used to tell me many interesting stories regarding Kashmir and its history. He used to speak very highly of the people of Kashmir, especially regarding their continued efforts put for months and years together in hand-weaving the different classic carpets. It was their matchless skill and a lot of perseverance behind their efforts-which used to give the whole world -the wonderful and matchless carpets.




Rug-Freckles-the minutest knots-the secret of Kashmiri-hand weavers: –

Kashmir had attained special popularity because of these carpets. He used to explain to me as a child what was that special skill they had developed in making these matchless carpets, especially with their hand-woven efforts. He used to call those designs the “Rug-Freckles”-which were the minutest knots woven by them per square of the unit and in this art they were the experts. This art created by the nimble fingers of designers and weavers attracted customers and viewers alike. The quality of Kashmiri carpets depends on the number of knots used per square inch. Each unique Kashmiri carpet is a work of art ranging from 576 knots to 2500 knots per square inch (the most known carpet knot number in the world). Every masterpiece takes years to be completed by a master of the art of weaving. Thousands of rugs are woven each year in Kashmir, but they are only a small part of high-quality art rugs. You can’t find a special Kashmiri rug in every shop or mall. “Multiple knots per square inch” contains silk art on silk carpets. Unique only in Kashmir. All Kashmiri weavers dream of creating a work of art of this caliber. Creating Art Carpets; Guarantees to his maker that art courses are a dream for all weavers!!!





The origin of carpet weaving in the Kashmir Valley: –

The origin of carpet weaving in the Kashmir Valley dates back to the 15th century when the Great Ruler Sultan Zain-ul-Abideen (commonly known as Budshah) brought skilled Persian artisans to the valley. Local craftsmen not only acquired skills but also surpassed each other with diligence and skill, taking art to new heights. During the Budshah administration, the art of carpet weaving flourished because he was a great advocate and true enthusiast of arts and crafts.

Emperor Jahangir showed more appreciation for the art

Craft has gone through many ups and downs, but thanks to the patronage of enthusiasts, it has always survived so far. No one has shown more appreciation for art than Emperor Jahangir himself. He advertised the carpets of the Kashmir Valley in all parts of the empire. People involved in this industry were highly appreciated. The position of craftsmen in the social class was so great that they could push for a large proposal and even reject government agencies because the crafts were so much more profitable. In the mid-18th century, Kashmiri rugs from the Mughal era were exhibited at the Crystal Palace Expo in London. Europeans loved the complexity of design and were impressed by the brilliance of many shades. These luxury products are very popular with discerning buyers in both the Indian and international markets. Hand-woven Kashmiri rugs are one of the most luxurious products from India to the world. These carpets are a wonder of workmanship and skill.




Coupled with tourism, carpet-producing handicrafts are one of the largest sources of income in the Kashmir Valley: 

Since then, Kashmiri carpets have gained international fame and have opened up a unique niche market in the global market for their beauty, strength, and durability. They have a unique hand weave and knot, unlike the tufted carpets that are generally available. Hand-woven and hand-woven rugs will last longer because the delicate and finely crafted knots made by hand are based on durability. Due to their indelible impression on the viewer, these find buyers in the domestic and international markets. Coupled with tourism, carpet-producing handicrafts are one of the largest sources of income in the Kashmir Valley. It provides thousands of people associated with it for life. In the dark winters that make agriculture unsustainable, it also serves farmers as an additional livelihood and source of income.





Economic Survey report clearly shows the declining trend-business plummeting badly: –

According to the Jammu and Kashmir Economic Survey, carpet exports in 2011 were $ 86 million. These numbers have plummeted since 2016. Exports in 2016 fell to $ 56 million17. Meanwhile, Iran recorded $ 275 million worth of carpet exports over the same period. One of the reasons for such prominent exporters is that our designs struggle to compete with their counterparts in Iran and Turkey.

Continued Unrest and Uncertainty in the Valley as one of the factors for the decline: –

One of the main factors responsible for the steep decline in carpet business has been the continued unrest and violence happening in the valley. This has also to a very greater extent affected the lower workers who of late had been coming from outside the valley. These workers also had not been having that skill that the workmen from the valley had picked up from their elderly experts from earlier times.

Most of the young generation of Kashmiri Experts did not take up the skill forward: –

The need for the outsiders to come into the valley to take up the workmen position arose only when the new and young generation of the Kashmiri experts did not take up this skill forward in most cases.

Suboptimal supply of the use of raw materials: –

Another reason for the decline could be the suboptimal supply and the use of raw materials. Manufacturers prefer low-quality silk to reduce production costs. This has proven to be an obstacle to technological progress.

Flood of mechanical rugs in the market adversely spoiling the Kashmiri-rug goodwill: –

Another reason is the flood of mechanical rugs on the market that abuse the goodwill and brand name of Kashmiri rugs. People mistakenly pay high prices for inferior products. If the product does not last long or is found to be defective, it will damage the reputation of the Kashmiri hand-woven carpet industry.

Low-cost mechanical rugs with good appearance: –

The introduction of the mechanical rugs or so-called design carpets has started making inroads into many medium-class households and their costs also are very less. The good-looking mechanized design of the machine carpet with a fairly good appearance range from Rs. 2500/- to Rs.5000/- maximum.



The costliest Kashmiri carpets range in millions of dollars:

Look at the costliest carpets which were earlier flown directly to the different countries at the request of their very rich people or even the high-ranking political figures ranked in millions of dollars. Look at the carpet below-which is costing the highest price known so far. This is around 33 million dollars.

Rich Carpet Traders also facing hard times presently: 

When I was living in Delhi, I had a family living on the second floor of our building which was known for its carpet business in Kashmir as well as outside the valley. Their father was given the Padma-Shree by the government of India for his excellent Carpet business and for offering employment to many workers. I remember his son had already two showrooms in Delhi and all his family members in the European countries. They used to come in November to their apartment and remain there only for three months till the winter passed and snowfall stopped in the valley. Then they would go back. For the rest of nine months, the whole apartment used to remain locked. Recently when I met his son-he told me about the sharp fall in their carpet business and was in a way trying to convey that they could not depend on the Carpet business exclusively and had to look for other avenues for survival.

Seem to be going the old Textiles’ Industry way: –

Finally, when I remember the textiles booming business of the eighties and nineties and then the technical invasion into that sphere as well -I feel the same thing has more or less happened to the carpet business as well in the same manner. Therefore, in the times to come handwoven skills which should be getting the high acclaim and honour-I am afraid to look be fading away.

More and more machine-made sophisticated and advanced designs are coming out in the form of more refined carpets and the cost of those also would be very nominal. With the passage of time and advancement in technical know-how, each skill-gifted hand weaver will have to slowly make the adjustable and adaptable change in his stride to survive in this high competition arena.




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