Source: Textile Review

Carpets are the earliest companions of man. The term 'carpet' comes from the latin word 'carpere' and was used until the 19th century for any type of cover of heavy material. This wider meaning comprised tapestry and clothes made of felt or piIe. The remote origin of this art of weaving and carpet- making is suggested by the saddle-cloth found in 1949 in a tumulus, thought to be a Scythian tomb, in the frozen wastes of Altai, near the Mongolian border. In India, before the empire of Moghuls carpets had been imported from Persia, particularly Kirman; the last Persian city on the trade route to India.

The organised manufacture of hand knotted carpets began in the 16th century when the Moghul emperor Akbar brought some Persian carpet weavers from Persia to India, set up the Royal Workshop in his own palace and commissioned them to produce carpets equal to those in their own country.

Designs of old Indian carpets included Tree of Life, The Bird of Paradise, Circle, Swastika, Lotus flower and colours were confined to "Perfect Seven" --- red, blue, green, yellow, brown, black and white. But with the close of Mughal rule, the high quality of art carpets had begun to decline. The export of the Indian carpet to Europe and America led to phenomenal growth of the industry and revolutionized the designs and colours and this marks the beginning of modern carpet industry.

The main carpet manufacturing centres in India are UP, Amritsar, Panipat, Bihar, Srinagar, Elluru, Warangal, Jaipur, hilly areas of HP, and West Bengal. Carpet weaving industry is mainly export oriented. With the settlement of Kashmiri shawl weavers in Amritsar, it became the centre to use the Talim, or coded- pattern guide, for the knotting of carpets. Rajasansi village in Amritsar district of Punjab near Rajasansi International Airport is especially famous for carpet weaving on hand looms.

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Ramanjit Bajwa is a Lecturer for Clothing and Textiles Dept. and Mrs. Ruby Joseph is Retd. HOD, Clothing and Textile Dept. in Govt. Home Science College Chandigarh

Originally published in Textile Review, September 2010

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