Kashmir’s weavers

August 5, 2008

Carpet weaving in Kashmir, which was once considered to be a tradition for the region, is today facing absolute extinction. A large number of carpet weavers have already changed their means of earning while those who continue to weave will be soon be forced to do the same because of the low income and low standards of living accompanied by the profession.

I visited a weavers work shed recently, while shooting I learnt a few things about the craft and its problems

The Process of weaving a carpet begins with the master artist preparing a drawing of the design. He then converts the drawing into a handwritten code. The code defines each colour and knit of the final carpet. The weavers then begin to work, simultaneously deciphering the code and weaving. Often when two workers are at a single loom, the leader calls out the code and the assistant follows in perfect rhythm

the code

the code

reading and weaving, simultaneously

reading and weaving, simultaneously

The silk comes from China, the finest ofcourse

fine Chinese silk

fine Chinese silk

The looms are made of solid wood

evergreen Deodhar trees make the looms

evergreen Deodhar trees make the looms

Back to back, side by side the weavers work eight to ten hours a day for a hundred and fifty rupees. An average carpet takes six to eight months to weave, sometimes a year or two. The work shed smelt bitter sweet, between cage like walls of silk, the beauty of an ancient art

patience, a quality thats rare to find these days. One of the reasons its becoming harder to find fine craftsment

patience, a quality thats rare to find these days. One of the reasons its becoming harder to find fine craftsment

Detail, nimble hands help, and love for the craft.

this carpet will cost about a lakh and fifty, how much of that do you think these hands will get

this carpet will cost about a lakh and fifty, how much of that do you think these hands will get

Weavers strongly believe that they have been tremendously exploited by the Government as well as by the middlemen. While exporters are extracting the profits from the hard work of weavers, the real creditors are finding it difficult to meet even their daily expenses

Most have got used to photographers hovering around shooting incessantly, sometimes intrudingly

Most have got used to photographers hovering around shooting incessantly, sometimes intruding

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6 Responses to “Kashmir’s weavers”

  1. astralwicks Says:

    we have no regard respect for the old, the ancient and as you say the patient. some time ago i met a woman who runs an odissi emporium in juhu (next to kala niketan). she gets her stuff from the villages in orissa. she was ruing the fact in some years she won’t get any supplies. the youngsters don’t want to practice the old art of hand-weaving. takes too long and no commensurate pay. what is the govt doing? nothing.

    the archives at the pune film institute too caught fire 2 years back. burnt most of our early prints. preserving we are not and one day therefore will be forgotten. deservingly.

  2. gudus Says:

    think we have a ministry looking after the preservation and promotion of arts and crafts, though haven’t been able to find it on the government website. Maybe its a sub – committee or whatever of another ministry. Their ineptitude boggles the mind

  3. astralwicks Says:

    they have all of that. i am sure the carpets you see at J&K fairs must be coming from these guys..but the artists don’t get much money. it is the brokers and people who run emporiums for the rich who slake their thirst first. plus with all the violence in kashmir who cares about the poor weaver. the villages in south where kanjeevaram silk is woven etc are better off. it is more organised – both the back-end and the front-end. sometimes i think that India as a nation has no aptitude to appreciate the finer things…busy as we are with caste,quota,religion,election,identity…even after 60 years it is still largely a question of survival.

    art can definitely take birth and exist in poverty but it cannot flourish in poverty. the government should have been the patron of all people but… we have rapacious plunderers.

  4. myexpression Says:

    let all those things extinct who cant metamorphose with changing times… something new will take birth…

  5. gudus Says:

    @myexpression…survival of the fittest? then we shall be ever changing always evolving with no idea where we came from and where we are going

  6. Alex Says:

    I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you down the road!


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