Qaleen Bafi: The Wilting Art of Kashmir

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QALEEN is a type of hand knotted pile carpet. Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin introduced Qaleen making craft from Persia to Kashmir in the 15th century. The Sultan brought carpet weavers from Persia and Central Asia into Kashmir to train the local inhabitants. The art of Qaleen making of Kashmir is famous worldwide but it is now dying.
The craft of weaving Qaleens is practiced mostly by people in rural areas. The carpets are woven on a large wooden loom having two logs fixed horizontally. White threads are carefully tied on these legs which form the base of the carpet. In Kashmir, either cotton or silk threads are used as the base of the carpet. The deadline for weaving a carpet is fixed by the middleman who buys the carpets from the artisans. The price depends upon the material used in the carpets. The carpets are made of three types: silk on silk, silk on cotton and art silk on cotton. The carpet trade is Rs 650 crore strong with a majority of products worth Rs 412.45 crores exported to United States, Germany, France, United Kingdom and Gulf countries. However these huge prices haven’t changed the lives of the artisans.
Due to less returns, many artisans are switching their profession and the children of artisans are pursuing different professions. Another factor which has contributed to the decline in the art of weaving Qaleens is the decrease in the production of world renowned Kashmiri silk which has forced the dealers and government to import silk from outside. The carpet industry is not regulated by the state government which means the artisans don’t benefit from the rising price of Qaleens. Adding to this, educational backwardness of artisans often exposes them to being overexploited by middlemen. Their wages depend on how kind their middlemen are. So, the government needs to come up with policies to save the legacy of this art.
Jamsheed Bin Jabar

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