In Pictures: Kashmir’s centuries-old carpet code is disappearing fast – TRT World

In Pictures: Kashmir’s centuries-old carpet code is disappearing fast – TRT World

The younger generation in Kashmir is unwilling to learn the ancient code of carpet making because the industry is struggling to survive in light of a poor economy and changing market dynamics.

Two decades ago, the Hyder colony in northern Srinagar was abuzz with pattern singing, a melodious chanting of a 500-year-old carpet code. The weavers rhymed in a hypnotic chorus, changing their tone while wrapping the threads on wooden looms. Ending the verse meant cutting the end of each thread with a hook knife, which created a gentle thud. 

Tucked away in the northern corner of Srinagar, the capital city of India-administered Kashmir, the Hyder colony has now fallen silent. Almost every house in the neighbourhood has a carpet loom but most of them are now defunct. The only life visible there on a recent June morning was children chasing a bicycle tyre rolling down one of its bylanes. 

Once a hub of carpet manufacturing, the Hyder Colony is no longer a busy commercial neighbourhood where merchants would throng in large numbers to buy the handmade carpets and rugs.
(Omar Bazaz / TRTWorld)

Jan Mohammad, a 55-year-old carpet weaver, laments about the condition of Kashmir’s carpet industry. His neighbourhood is a stark piece of evidence portraying its decline.  

“This craft has passed down from my ancestors to my father and through him to me,” he told TRT World. 

Carftsmen like Jan Mohammad work out of small family-owned looms on rare occasions when their clients ask them to make bespoke carpets.
(Omar Bazaz / TRTWorld)

Hearing the screams of the children playing outside, he recalled the time when his neighbourhood was “buzzing with activity and exporters would jostle to get to the craftsmen here.” 

“But now, like the craft, the neighbourhood is dying too.”

He walks up the stairs that lead into a small room under a rusted tin roof. In it, there is a small loom which he operates on rare occasions to weave carpets on demand. Gone are the days when Mohammad and his neighbourhood was part of an industrial-scale carpet churning.

“Everyone now has a small loom. This is no longer a neighbourhood of carpet weavers, shawl makers and dye specialists. All those machines are gathering dust.”

Since carpet making is a long, tedious task, Kashmiri weavers feel inspired to work behind the looms by listening to local Kashmiri music on old cassette players.
(Omar Bazaz / TRTWorld)

The three decades of political violence coupled with fast-changing market dynamics, with Chinese carpets flooding India, has crippled Kashmir’s carpet manufacturing. 

 “Most of the youngsters here have left the craft and now they sell clothes in the flea (Sunday) market at the city centre.”

Lack of opportunities, poor wages and exploitation at the hands of big exporters have further eroded the carpet industry from the inside.

Mohammad is paid a daily wage of $2.7 (INR 200). Although being an underpaid artisan has pushed him to desperate margins, his commitment to his craft has never wavered. 

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