A quick peek into Kashmiri carpet weaving

Story and pictures : Prachi Karnawat

As told to TLJ

 
 Hands at work, making a Kashmiri Carpet

Hands at work, making a Kashmiri Carpet

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 palette of the carpet being made at this loom

The palette of the carpet being made at this loom

 A view of balls of wool, lying next to a loom

A view of balls of wool, lying next to a loom

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.

 Manzoor Sidiq Shah

Manzoor Sidiq Shah

 A scene at the looms

A scene at the looms

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.

 Detail of a  Talim

Detail of a Talim

  Talim,  next to a weaver seated at his loom

Talim, next to a weaver seated at his loom

  Talim  hang on the threads suspended on the loom, as weavers refer to it while working on a carpet

Talim hang on the threads suspended on the loom, as weavers refer to it while working on a carpet

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. 

 A view of the carpet being made.

A view of the carpet being made.

 A group of weavers at the loom, together

A group of weavers at the loom, together

  A weaver looks through his WIP.

 A weaver looks through his WIP.

 

 

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.