Carpet weaving is one of the most famous handicraft practised in the state of Uttar Pradesh and thus was the theme of Avinash’s research. All he knew was that in this field Mirzapur cluster is recognised by Indian ministry of textiles. An artisan cluster is a geographically concentrated household units producing handicraft/handloom products. In a typical cluster, such producers often belong to a traditional community, producing the long-established products for generations. Investigating further, Avinash went to Mirzapur, the city famous for its dhurries (dari) woven in the panda technique. To understand better Avinash contacted a factory owner and it was him who introduced Avinash to Badohi, Khamaria and Agra as important centres of carpet-weaving. Before setting his foot on for these places he went around the factory and met with the artisans weaving weft threads on horizontal
looms with hand, Mirzapur dhurries are completely hand woven. According to the owner, it is the juxtaposition of colourful wefts to make geometrical patterns like diamond shape, animals and birds like lions and peacocks that make Mirzapur dhurries an exception, and his factory makes one of the finest owners, “we have craftsmen with centuries old carpet making skills and today we have a reputation for fusing these skills with modern design techniques to give a choice of more than four thousand colours of carpet to our customers”. He calls an artisan to tell the relevance of his carpet, “Sahib I believe that if someone buys these then they are participating in a 500 year old tradition and buying a piece of history with it.” Avinash was surprised to see how a tradition of carpet weaving, dating back to the reign of 16th century Mughal Emperor Akbar, is now grown to meet the demands of 21st century. The next stop for Avinash was Badohi, a detour that he was glad to take. Today it is
the largest carpet manufacturing centre in the country and is also known as ‘Carpet City’. Avinash was invited by an artisan to his home for staying during his research. The dinner table conversation gave him necessary insights, the fact that the entire economy of this district is dependent upon the carpet business left Avinash stunned. Each day he went to the workshop that artisan took him to and learned about the kind of carpets they weaved there, approximately 63,000 artisans in the district are associated with this work and the total number of looms in the district is more than 1lakh with over 500 established export units. The artisans of Badohi boasts of the unmatched intricacy and art of carpet making, which made Avinash to look at some of their finest works. Supposedly one of the most prominent woven carpet, here, is the hand-knotted carpet. This type of carpet is manufactured on a vertical wooden loom. Designs depicting flowers, animals, gardens, trees and trellises are used in various hues and ways to liven up these floor coverings.
After an enriching and organic stay at Badohi Avinash went on to Agra, known for its Jail carpets since 16th century and just looking at hem gave Avinash the royal feel of its retaining the same ancestry, heritage and cultural influence that can be found in any Persian carpet. To know the story of ‘jail carpets’ Avinash spoke to the oldest member of the workshop he walked into, “Dada Sahib, can you tell me the story behind the ‘jail carpets’ is it the designs or the workers one talk about?” Dada Sahib, probably in his eighties, starts speaking in his urdu-hindi mixture, which translated as. “ son, this is a story that I heard from my grandfather, and he from his, and so on. It is a known fact that it was Emperor Akbar who founded the first school of carpet weaving in Agra, after declaring it as the capital. It is said that when the news of the prisoners creating a ruckus in jail started to worry him, he decided to reform them. For this he invited some of the finest weavers of carpets from Persia, it had most well known carpet workshops in the world, to teach the jail prisoners the art of weaving carpets.”
Avinash, who would be able to collaborate the crux of this story with historical texts, wanted Dada Sahib to on, “ So I see, the ‘jail carpets’ referred to the carpets made in the jail of Mughals. But the prisoners were taught by the Persian carpet weavers, does this mean they only accommodated the Persian style in their work?” Dada Sahib, “that’s not true! We outshined our masters very soon and the emperor sent the carpets abroad as gifts. Do you know? Sometimes hundreds of us worked on a single one for 15 years! The designs we employed were rare and quite different from the traditional Persian , Turkish and Central Asian carpets in fact, a lot of these designs were original Indian patterns prior to the Mughal influence.” Avinash. “ oh thank you so much for your time, I loved it.” This was the story of our carpet weaving tradition, the handicraft of Uttar Pradesh. After the Mughals, it was the British who encouraged this, today these carpets are considered some of the most decorative pieces internationally.
About the author:
Khyati, is a history student and an aspiring researcher. She likes to dive into intricacies of society, culture and histories of the country. Further she has interest in writing, researching, and reading, so basically she's a nerd.