Hand-knotted carpets have been extant for thousands of years, with the Pazyryk Persian Rug dating back to the 4th century B.C. being the oldest on record. Hand-popularity knotting has risen and fallen several times in the 2,400 years since that rug’s inception.
So, let’s have a look at the long history of hand-knotted rugs and how they established their roots in the history and culture of India.
The art of creating carpets was most likely created thousands of years ago in the Central Asian plains. The nomads needed something more manageable than sheepskin blankets to shield them from the frigid winters. They were also crafting decorations for their tents at the same time. The resources for the warp, weft, and pile came from a goatherd and a sheep flock.
In their most basic form, the looms consisted of two wooden ribs attached to the ground and a warp connected between them. These horizontal looms, which are still used by nomads today, have the benefit of being easy to fold and transport to the next campsite.
Geometrical or curvilinear themes were used to create the patterns on these early carpets.
The technique of weaving progressed over time, and numerous objects essential in everyday life were made, such as saddlebags for horses and camels that could be used to convey a variety of objects. Because the strands were so long, the nomadic people made kilims with goat hair and utilised them as warm blankets, much like Siirt blankets do today.
These early blankets are supposed to have been fashioned to look like real animal felts. Kilims were also used as tent room dividers and cradles, with the corners fastened to the tent poles overhead so that the cradle could be swung back and forth to rock the babies to sleep. These various forms of woven items evolved, with new uses emerging as time went on.
Initially, nomads who lived solely in tents heaped dried leaves and placed them in the tent’s corners, using the soft stacks as mattresses. The beds quickly turned to dust under the weight of the occupants and provided little comfort, necessitating frequent replacement. The nomads then began to add pile to the fundamental flatweaves, inspired by the use of animal pelts as a model.
These early pile rugs were extremely flexible, and nomads would simply fold them and toss them on the back of a horse to use as a sleeping bag on lengthy journeys.
Persia to India
The craft of carpets was established in court workshops in Persia throughout the 16th century, under the protection of the monarchs.
When the Mughal Empire arrived in India, Babur, the legendary dynasty’s first ruler and a descendant of Persian royalty were overcome with a yearning for the luxury that was unattainable in his new realm. Under Akbar the Great, the Persian influence began to spread down to present-day Telangana.
Akbar merged a multitude of cultures and spread Indo-Persian tastes far and wide, resulting in the emergence of hand-knotted rugs in India. With an insatiable thirst for knowledge and an open mind to share it, Akbar merged a multitude of cultures and spread Indo-Persian tastes far and wide, resulting in the emergence of hand-knotted rugs in India. The Mughal imperial homes in the cities of Agra, Delhi, and Lahore were the original epicentres of carpet creation.
Expansion of rugs in India
Hand-knotted rugs in India fell out of favour as the Mughal Empire fell apart, as money and power transferred between numerous factions and new, more efficient manufacturing methods emerged. Hand-knotting did not become a sustainable industry in India until the last few years of British rule. Traditional Persian rugs from Iran were expensive, thus India was the obvious choice for less expensive rugs of comparable quality.
As a result of this expansion, various rug-making belts sprang up across the country, including Bhadohi, Agra, Mirzapur, and Jaipur. The weavers of these rugs were mostly from destitute families and lower castes looking for work in a system that was designed against them — a far cry from the dignity and respect shown to Mughal craftspeople in previous centuries.