Indian rugs are the best-known Native textile art in North America. Impressive Indian rugs weave a fascinating thread of Indian rug history. Here is the low down on top-notch Indian rugs.
Indian rugs originated in the 16th century when the Mogul emperor Akbar (1556-1605), an admirer of Safavid art, had artisans sent from the Persian court to set up specialized rug workshops in Agra and Fatehpur Sikri, the two capitals of his empire, as well as in Lahore. Considered precious items of furniture, Indian rugs were first designed exclusively for the court to adorn the palaces of the Mogul. Early Indian rugs imitated Persian rug technique and style featuring asymmetrical knots with fine knotting; use of precious materials, such as high-quality wool from Kashmir and sometimes silk or gold and silver threads; and curvilinear style.
Over the course of the 17th century, Indian rugs began to develop a more specific Indian character. Under Akbar's son, the emperor Jahangir (1605-1627) who had a passion for botany, Indian rugs featured floral designs and under the reign of Jahangir's son and successor, Shah Jahan (1628-1658), Indian rug style attained its full expressive maturity.
The primary aspect characterizing Indian rugs is their intense palette, based on yellow, pink, light blue, orange, brown and green. However, Indian rugs are best known for their typical bluish red color known as lac red. Indian rug weavers made good use of natural dyes. Indian rug lac red, for instance, is obtained from an insect of the cochineal family known as lac. While natural dyes produce intense, exquisite Indian rug colors, colorfast chrome dyes later replaced natural dyes in Indian rugs.
Indian rugs stand out in the realism of their designs and in their close attention to detail. Indian rug designs are distinguished by their strong sense of the pictorial, with a preference for floral designs and figural scenes arranged on directional layouts. The most common Indian rug layouts are full-field distributions using rows or grids.
Popular 18th and 19th century Indian rug designs feature floral motifs such as plants, palmettes, rosettes and leaves. Floral Indian rugs are the most common type of Indian rug. The flowering plants featured in Indian rugs are often arranged full field within a varying-shaped grid, or are arranged in the more typically Mogul style of horizontal rows.
Figural Indian rugs typically present hunting scenes with the figures shown in movement. Indian rugs also exhibit elephants, and their borders are often curiously enlivened with grotesque masks.
Indian prayer rugs are another common type of Indian rug. Indian prayer rugs have an interior field colored lac red and bear large Mogul flowering plants symbolic of the tree of life.
Today, Indian rugs are made using the asymmetrical knot. Indian rugs stand technically apart due to their particularly dense knotting, well suited to realistic figural designs. Indian rug pile is most often wool, while the foundation is usually cotton. Kashmir is well known for its fine quality Indian rugs made from soft and shiny wool. An average Kashmir Indian rug is made with approximately 324 knots per square inch. Sometimes silk is used both in the foundation and for the pile of an Indian rug. Indian rug piles are trimmed low and Indian rugs come in sizes medium or large, and can lay as large as 150 x 240 inches.
Indian rug weaving occurs in the many different states of India. Often named after the region where they were made, some names associated with fine quality Indian rugs are Jaipur, Agra (Uttar Pradesh), Kashmir, Amritsar (Punjab), Dhurries and Indo-mir. The Mirzapur-Bhadohi belt in Agra (Uttar Pradesh) represents the most important area of Indian rug weaving with the largest concentration of Indian rug weavers.
There are an infinite variety of Indian rugs, carpets and mats. Woolen and silk Indian rugs are renowned compared to other Indian rug materials, while cotton and vegetable fibers are used for making other attractive and practically useful Indian mats and durries. Durries are Indian flat-weave rugs made from cotton and traditionally come in two varieties: one is used as a mattress; the other is used as a floor covering. Indian rug durries are made on an elementary loom called an adda. Indian durries come in numerous designs, the most common featuring stripes of different colors, geometrical designs, and animal and bird motifs. In recent years there has been a growing demand for the Indian rugs called durries both in India and abroad. Modern Indian housewives tend to prefer durries to other Indian rugs and carpets since durries are lighter and easier to maintain. Indian durries are also suitable for hot and dusty environments and being less expensive can be more easily replaced.
Indian rug selections further include Indo-mirs, Indian rugs with an all-over design called mir-i-boteh, which has multiple rows of horizontal, vertical, and diagonal small botehs. The Namdha Indian rug is a specialty of Kashmir that is either embroidered or appliquיd and prepared with woolen thread. Grass mats are woven in many parts of India and Indian mats are also made of wheat or rice straw, types of weeds, and of fine bamboo. Faipur rugs are generally made in the schools of art. These Indian rugs contain many Persian designs representing animals and the cypress tree and have floral borders. Lahore, the capital of the Punjab, has rugs woven in both wool and cotton. These Indian rug designs are Persian and are made from forty to one hundred knots to the square inch. Madras Indian rugs are chiefly made in large quantities for commercial and export purposes. Moodj is the name given to a coarse Indian mat suitable for the veranda. This Indian rug is made of buffalo grass (which grows six to twelve feet high in India) whose fiber is extracted by pounding, and is then twisted into rope or yarn and finally dyed. Fine but scarce Indian Multan rugs have large geometrical figures in octagons, medallions, and circles. Sindh rugs are the cheapest and least durable of all Indian rugs, and thus not many are imported into the Western market. Srinagar, the capital city of Kashmir, makes beautiful Indian rugs from the finest wool. Like other rugs from the northern portion of India, these Indian rugs are highly valued.
Native American Navajo rugs are the most popular and best-known type of Indian rug. Fine quality Indian Navajo rugs are some of the most valued and sought after pieces of Southwestern art. Considered master works of art, Indian Navajo rugs are beautiful, hand-woven textiles that mirror the history of the Navajo people. A source of Native American pride, Indian Navajo rug weaving began approximately 300 years ago. Today, you can find both contemporary and traditional/historic Indian Navajo rugs. Collected worldwide for their beauty and exquisite craftsmanship, you can find Indian Navajo rugs on floors, or framed and hanging on the wall.
If you are interested in seeing an array of Indian rugs, visit the Government emporia in Delhi where each Indian state has a showroom that depicts its range of handicrafts, including their indigenous Indian rugs.
Finally, here is the dirt on how to clean and care for your fine Indian rugs: Use a rug pad to prolong the life of your Indian rug. Rug pads made from plastic foam will not migrate color to your Indian rug or to the floor. Periodically rotate Indian rugs for even distribution of fading and wear. Have your Indian rug treated for moths and carpet beetles and inspect your Indian rug periodically for insect damage or signs of infestation. Vacuum Indian rugs moderately using a vacuum without the "beater bar." Spills on Indian rugs should be cleaned immediately. If Indian rugs get wet, make sure that they dry in the shortest possible time. Do not allow prolonged moisture to penetrate the rug, thereby causing rot or mildew damage. Have your Indian rugs cleaned when noticeably dirty and only by an Indian rug specialist. Do not "dry-clean", "steam clean" or clean Indian rugs by any automated means. Indian rug tears or other damage should be repaired immediately. Quality restoration will retain the beauty and value of your Indian rugs. Keep your pets away from your Indian rugs!
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