SRINAGAR: Apart from the scenic beauty, Kashmir is renowned for its carpets, shawls, scarves and sweaters. The carpet industry of Kashmir is an important part of the place and a matter of pride for Kashmiri is slowly dying. The carpet industry of Kashmir has its origin in Persia. The carpets made in Kashmir were largely influenced by Persian motifs. However, in the 16th and 17tcenturies, artisans in Kashmir began giving specialized touches to the carpets produced in the region, giving them a distinctive character of their own.The Kashmir carpet industry has emerged as a specialized industry, providing a livelihood to a significant portion of the people residing in the area. Other than its natural beauty and the shawl and sweater industry, Kashmir is very well known for its carpet industry.
The Kashmiri carpet is a product that has captured the hearts of people the world over, mainly on account of their intricate designs and their durability. Apart from the traditional use of the Kashmiri carpet as a covering for the floor, it serves some other uses too, like that of a wall hanging or as bedding.
The art of carpet weaving in Kashmir has been passed on from one generation to another, with most of the weavers still preferring to hand-weave the carpets rather than use a mechanized process. The process of production of certain carpets having rather intricate designs has been known to go on for long periods of time, sometimes as long as 3 years.
Kashmiri carpets are traditionally made either from silk or from wool. Sometimes, a combination of wool and silk is used. Artisans are nowadays making use of mercerized cotton for the production of these carpets. The base of these carpets is made either from cotton or silk.
Kashmiri carpets are comparatively more expensive on account of the materials used (wool and silk) as well as the elaborate production process involved. The price of a Kashmiri carpet ranges from Rs. 500 to Rs. 50000, depending upon the design and the material used. The use of mercerized cotton by artisans began as a measure to curb the prices of these carpets. In spite of their higher price, Kashmiri crafts are treated as an investment because of their unique qualities.
The tree of life is a design that is very commonly found on Kashmiri carpets. Flowers and trees as well as other motifs inspired by the natural beauty of Kashmir are also largely found on carpets made here.The process of production of a Kashmiri carpet is long and laborious, involving a number of steps such as cultivation of silk or wool, treating and dyeing it, deciding the pattern of the carpet, weaving and then adding the final touches. The person who designs the carpet is called Nakaash in Kashmir, while the weaver and the person who does the dyeing are called Kalimba and Ranger respectively.
However, it is a sad fact that this beautiful industry is dying a slow death. The artisans whose families have been engaged in the preparation of carpets for generations are slowly turning to other professions on account of the low profitability involved in carpet making. Nearly 90% of the demand for carpets in the country is met by the carpet-producing units in Amritsar, Rajasthan, Agra, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. Export of Kashmiri garments has gone down. Figures indicate that the export of carpets was 400 quintals in the year 1973-74, which rose to 5750 quintals in the year 1995-96. This again went down to 650 quintals in 1999-2000. The major export markets for these carpets are USA, Germany, UK, Australia and Canada.
Some of the major reasons behind the lack of growth of the Kashmir carpet industry are lack of financial resources, lack of modern technology, availability of duplicate Kashmiri carpets, lack of training as well as lack of innovations. Artisans are nowadays trying to experiment with different types of fabrics and designs so as to breathe new life into the industry.
A few artisans have started making use of computers for the preparation of designs. IICT i.e. the Indian Institute of Carpet Technology has developed a software called Naqash for the development of designs easily and speedily. It has also set up a carpet designing studio to add a modern touch to the traditional art of carpet designing in the area. The steps that are being taken for the protection of the industry are on a very small scale. It is necessary that effective measures be taken to save this wonderful art and to help the industry reach the position where it should be.-SANA