It is often said in Kashmir folklore that a home is incomplete without a soul – a Kashmir carpet, which is said to “bring the entire house together” into a unified whole.
There is more than just “heaven-on-earth”, when one walks through the mystical Kashmir. Famed for its untouched beauty and the natural splendor of its lush green valleys and alluring lakes, Kashmir is also the heart of some long preserved traditions and crafts. And it is only when you stroll through the streets and peek inside the aged houses, you realize what treasures lie hidden in this vale, since times immemorial…
It was in 2012, during a tranquil holiday to Kashmir that I got to explore the tales, Kashmir had to tell. More than the surroundings, it was the people who attracted me more. Thanks to my dad, who has been doing business with some Karigars in Srinagar since 3 decades now, my trip was not only like a tourist, but I also got a chance to visit some old houses in Kashmir, meet and eat traditionally with the natives, who have been a part of Kashmir’s illustrious history and culture. Out of my well recognized curiosity I walked through some old village lanes, peeped through the windows which still has the bullet holes from the war, and spoke to people about their views on the situation of Kashmir.
Amid all this, one tour was to the a tiny room in the backdrop of a old half-mud half-cemented house – a workroom of a traditional carpet weaver of Srinagar, Kashmir. With hardly a space to stand, the room was just big enough to fit the huge loom and the weaver to sit and weave. I could hardly trace a bulb for lights, and all I could see was a window which filled the room with natural sunlight.
Rolled on the loom, was a half done carpet with the most intricate pattern I had ever seen in the world of textiles. Made out of pure wool and silk threads, I knew I was witnessing one of the finest examples of human art in a moment of reality.
A little research to validate the history of what lay in front of me, the search engines proudly announced – Akin to the famed Persian (Iranian origin) carpets, the Kashmir carpets and rugs are considered to be investments for life, made by tying thousands of knots with fingers gnarled and callused from years of back-breaking labor.
With its hub in Srinagar, Kashmir carpets are handmade, hand-knotted and involve hereditary skill to come out in their purest of forms. Cascading through centuries, the technique has been passing on from fathers to sons, and a weaver might take months and even up to a year or two, to complete one big carpet which is often custom-made for a client who is ready to pay lakhs per design.
A little more of google investigation – Available in wide-ranging colors, designs and sizes, these rugs are distinguished to have bright, jewel-like color tones such as sapphire blue, ruby red, emerald green, aquamarine, amethyst, and ivory. Rugs from Kashmir are traditionally made in oriental, floral designs that typically involve the significant and culturally important motifs such as the paisley, chinar tree, (the oriental plane) and tree-of-life. Most of these designs are rooted in the Kashmiri way of living and are a symbolic representation of the age-old Kashmir tradition of hospitality, warmth and genuine love.
While I spent minutes in that room without a blink of an eye, gazing the carpet loom in front of me, memorizing each detail in that space, albeit being awestruck, I also had my subconscious mind focused on the story of the man behind the creation. Even though rich in design and value, the sad story comes from the weaver himself who sincerely shared his feelings –
“It takes me a year or more to finish a carpet like this, but all I get is just enough to feed my family per month. The contractor takes all the profit, selling this jewel like textiles to sheikhs and kings who have a fetish for oriental royalty. Only if we were paid to our real value, time and expertise, and the modernized machinery hadn’t killed this hand done art of making carpets, my story and of a lot of others like me, would have been more flourishing…”