A quick peek into Kashmiri carpet weaving
Story and pictures : Prachi Karnawat
As told to TLJ
In the bustling alleys of Srinagar, are cottage industries with generations of people whose family inheritance is mostly their art—of weaving in some families and papier-mâché in others— passed on from generations. In April this year, I visited one such establishment, specialising in carpet weaving. Called Ali Shah Carpets, it was started in 1860 and is now owned by a fourth-generation family member, Manzoor Sidiq Shah.
As you enter the factory, the unceasing, rhythmic clenching sound of the loom welcomes you. Colourful woollen threads of various hues make each loom a sight to behold. Amid this chaos of colour and sound, dedicated weavers at each of these ground-looms weave and knot, engaging with warps and wefts, with 90's Bollywood music keeping them company in the background.
The 35 year old Shah takes me on a tour of the factory. Each carpet that’s made here, he says, ranges from Rs.50,000 to several lakhs of rupees.
While the carpets, till date, enjoy the patronage of clientele from domestic as well as foreign shores, he adds that the advent of machine processes in carpet-making has adversely affected the economics of their handmade craft. The story is similar to the one of most of India’s handlooms, which work out to be more expensive for the specialised man-power and more man-hours they require for their making.
It all starts with a talim, a code that is used to transfer a design concept and its colour palette, handed from the designers to the weavers. Carpets at this factory are of different sorts, ranging from those made of pure wool or pure silk, or at times, a mix of both.
On an average, a colourful handmade 4ft x 6ft carpet can take around one year to complete with two people working on the loom and the colourful wool.
I watched mesmerised as a group of 6 people weavers worked on a 18ft x18ft long carpet, which they've been working on for the last three years. It could take them another year to complete this piece, they say.
Ali Shah Carpets is located on the Nageen Lake Road in Srinagar.
Prachi Karnawat is a dreamer and scribbler with a zest to travel the world. She loves Polaroids and low flying planes.