Kashmir’s Iconic Handmade Carpets To Grace New Indian Parliament

A woman from Khanpur village of Budgam weaves a silk carpet on a loom for the new parliament building coming up in New Delhi. KO Photo

Srinagar- Weavers from Kashmir’s Budgam district are presently working to complete an order of dozen carpets gracing Parliament of India by the end of this year when the house will return to its usual business.

The artisans from the remote village of Khanpur—where 70 percent of the population is involved with the carpet industry—in Budgam are working day and night to make Kashmiri silk carpets for the Indian Parliament building in New Delhi. These carpets are being made by 50 artisans of the village.

Speaking to Kashmir Observer, Wilayat Khan, who received an order from Obeetee Pvt Ltd to weave 12 traditional carpets in November last year, says that it’s a privilege for him to be able to make these carpets for the new parliament.

“We’re making 12 silk carpets with traditional Kashmiri designs for the new Indian parliament. Our artisans have already made carpets for several five star hotels, so we hold an expertise in making traditional Kashmiri silk carpets. We received an order from OBT in November 2021 and September 2022 is our final deadline,” Khan said.

He said that the process of making a traditional Kashmiri carpet is quite laborious as it involves a lot of time and different steps starting right from the cultivation of silk till the final glow up.

“But, it’s all worth it. 90 percent of the work has already been completed and the rest will be completed by the end of this month.” says Khan, adding that the latest order will pave the way for stabilizing the artisan community.

Pertinently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2020 laid the foundation stone of the new Parliament building, nearly a hundred years after the foundation for the existing Parliament was laid by the Duke of Connaught on February 12, 1921. The new building would be a four-storey structure with a seating capacity of 1,224 and cost Rs 970 crore.

Explaining the designs of the 12 carpets, Abdul Rahim, a carpet weaver from Khanpur village said that size of the design is very different from contemporary ones.

“It starts with less width and goes on to become broader. It’s more like a triangle. Five artisans work to make the broader part of design, then 3 artisans work to create the middle portion and finally, two artisans sit together to enhance the design. It’s such an exhilarating process. These carpets will help our industry a lot,” Rahim told Kashmir Observer.

He said that most of the village has been earning wages through the carpet industry for over 5 decades now. “However, most of the time we’ve to participate in part-time jobs as the normal wages to make carpets are very low. It ranges from Rs150-200 on a normal day,” says Rahim

“But, since this parliament project was assigned, we’re earning pretty good. On an average we’re being paid 500 rupees per day. This project has helped to lift our fading artisan community,” he added.

He further said that it is for the first time that they have received this kind of an order. “We’ve already given final touches to 9 carpets. As of now we’re completing 3 other carpets. They’ll be completed by the end of this month,” says Rahim, adding that the width of these 12 carpets is 8 feet and 4 inch and the length is 10 feet and 5.5 inch with 24 knots per inch.

Notably, the iconic carpet industry of Kashmir has been facing a sharp decline in recent years, forcing most carpet weavers to take up odd jobs to earn their livelihood. The weavers say economic losses during the pandemic lockdowns have dealt a big blow to Kashmir’s multi-crore carpet industry.

Echoing similar views, Shabir Ahmed, another artisan who has been in the carpet industry for the past 3 decades, says that he was on the brink of quitting before the parliament order gave a new lease of life to his career.

“We were facing major losses and not able to earn anything. We were not getting good rates for carpets, so we were about to stop making carpets”. Ahmed told Kashmir Observer, adding that this project has saved his skills.

He said that the artisans from his village are hopeful that they’ll receive more such orders that will eventually boost this traditional art and weavers’ wages.

“There goes a lot of hard work into making this rug as they’re very intricate. Imagine a person sitting at one place for over 8 hours. But, if it wasn’t for this project we would still be earning a very meager wage. This project has helped to lift our community. We’re hopeful that the Government will give us more such projects so that we can live a peaceful life and keep this traditional art alive,” Ahmed said, adding that the 12 carpets for the parliament have 12 different colors.

It is pertinent to mention here that the artisans believe that this traditional art needs to be given due attention so that this artwork will live for generations to come. “90 percent of our village is involved with handicrafts. If an economic boost isn’t given to our industry then our whole community will cease to exist,” says Ahmed.

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Zaid Bin Shabir

Zaid Bin Shabir is a special correspondent at Kashmir Observer. He tweets @Zaidbinshabir

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