THE manufacture of rugs was introduced into India by the Mohammedans at their first invasion in the beginning of the eleventh century. Persian rugs, however, were always preferred to those made in India, and princes and nobles of the Delhi Court, when it was in its greatest splendor, sought the fabrics woven in Herat, or by the Sharrokhs on the Attrek, or the nomad tribes of Western Kurdistan. These were purchased only by the princes and their wealthy followers. A few specimens of these rugs still remain in India, and are now and then reproduced with more or less accuracy.
In the sixteenth century, however, the Emperor Akbar, or more properly Jalal-ud-Din Mahomed, sent for Persian weavers to make the exquisite fabrics for which Persia was then so famous. At first these weavers continued to weave according to the designs employed in their own land ; but it is not surprising that as time went on, and the natives of India learned the art of weaving from the Persians, Hindoo ideas should have found expression, in Southern India especially. Thus geometrical designs were substituted for floral, although even now the designs of some Indian rugs revive memories of Persian teachers in the careful arrangement of flowers and leaves. The designs of Indian rugs were frequently named after the original owners, in which cases the weavers generally lived and worked in the houses of their employers. At the present time the manufacture of many Indian rugs is carried on largely in jails, where the old Persian designs are generally used.
In Indian rugs, as in those of other countries, there are certain distinct characteristics that stamp them as coming from particular districts, and in India alone are to be detected the few Assyrian types still in existence. Genuine old India rugs are works of art, but they are rarely seen.
The religion of the Hindoo does not permit of his tasting the flesh of sheep ; and as India is not a wool-producing country, except in the northern part, cotton is often substituted. For this reason, and because the time consumed for weaving is less, Indian rugs are generally less expensive than Persian..
Mr. Julian Ralph, in an interesting account of his visit to the home of a prince in India, published in one of our magazines, writes of the splendid rugs shown him by his host : ” They were state rugs, and one was green with a border of gold that must have weighed twenty pounds or more. The other was red with a similar border, so stiff and cumbrous that it did not seem made to walk upon. However, the prince sent for his stiff-soled heavy-heeled ceremonial shoes which were quite as richly crusted with gold, and walked about on the rugs, crushing the gold embroidery in a ruthless way.” When Mr. Ralph spoke of the damage, he said, It is of no consequence, these borders have to be renewed very frequently.”
An Indian rug of great beauty was taken to England from India by Lord Clive, who ordered the architect of his magnificent palace Claremont — then in process of building, to design a room especially for it. Such special care for the proper display of this work of art may be exceptional, but it shows true appreciative power on the part of Clive.
From the time of the decadence of the industry of weaving fine shawls, which was so long a feature of Kashmir, the wool of which they were woven was gradually transferred to the rug industry, and the weavers turned their attention from the shawls to the rugs, on which they displayed the same patience and skill.
( Originally Published Late 1900’s )