India's majestic carpet industry- All you need to know

India’s heritage of handmade carpet has been recognized worldwide for its subtle elegance, eco-friendliness and exquisite vibrant colour craftsmanship. The industry remarkably caters to women's employment, while contributing substantially to societal objectives like poverty alleviation. 

Innovation and Technology
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3
 Min read
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April 19, 2022

The timeless artistry of carpet-making speaks of traditions, culture, art and techniques that have evolved over the centuries. The well-established and internationally acclaimed Indian carpet industry has masterpieces created by over 3 million weavers and craftsmen working across the country. Since its inception, the industry has been rural and semi-urban-based, contributing significantly to employment as well as foreign exchange. 

 The Indian carpet industry is the finest example of how a small-scale household sector may expand into a large-scale mechanised industry.

 The history of carpet-making

The history of carpets or carpet flooring goes back to thousands of years when men started using animal furs to protect themselves from cold. It is said, that initially carpets were made up of sheep wool or goat hair. However, as people started domesticating animals, the reliance on fur for carpets declined and the use of woven material increased significantly. Over the years, a diverse variety of natural and fabricated materials were used to provide comfort to humans.

The earliest knotted rug - the Pazyryk carpet was woven around 464 B.C. It was found in 1947 in Siberia and was named after its place of discovery- Pazyryk in Kazakhstan. The carpet encompassed characteristics of a modern Persian or Anatolian rug with a pile and Ghiordes knot. 

Over the centuries, with the evolution in the carpet-making market, the Middle East from Persia to Turkey became the main region for hand-knotted carpet production. In the 16th Century, the Mughals introduced carpet weaving to India, and some of the majestic carpets in the country can be seen from the same era. Carpet weaving continued expanding and surviving in India under the patronage of the Indian nobility.

The intricate handwoven woollen carpets soon became a status symbol and the trend of carpets as home decor started catching up. As time passed, the Indian artisans learned the magic of colours, developed new weaving techniques, and began redefining luxury. These carpets became a true expression of the artists’ inspiration with a hint of the country’s history and culture. 

India’s carpet-making belt

With variations in material used, designs, colour palettes, geographical conditions and quality, different regions in India engage in different types of carpet-making. While the northern region carpets are soft and shiny, mainly made up of wool, the southern region carpets are rough and textured.

Currently, the leading carpet manufacturing workshops are located in Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Andhra Pradesh. 

The Persian culture that influenced Kashmir's carpet industry has also acquired an indigenous character. It has been internationally acclaimed for producing the finest and most premium silk carpets, which on average have 324 knots per square inch. Silk carpets woven with the traditional Kashmiri patterns- leaves and flowers are considered a life-long investment. 

Uttar Pradesh's Shahjahanpur is equally famous for luxurious carpets. Here, the patterns are majorly geometrical with a black or maroon background. The Mughals also declared Agra as the traditional centre of carpet weaving, where silk is mixed with woollen yarn and designs resemble the Persian style.

India and carpet exports 

India’s heritage of handmade carpet has been recognized worldwide for its subtle elegance, eco-friendliness and exquisite vibrant colour craftsmanship. The industry remarkably caters to women's employment, while contributing substantially to societal objectives like poverty alleviation. 

With a commendable share in global exports, India exports handmade carpets to over 70 countries including China, the USA, Germany, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. Almost 90% of carpets made in India are exported, with overseas shipments worth $916.15 million during April-November 2019. 

According to a Business Insider report, India added an average of $1506.6 million in exports to handmade carpet and flooring exports since 2014. Carpet Export Promotion Council reported that in 2021-22, India exported carpets and other floor coverings worth $1490.3 million. 

In order to boost exports and discourage imports, the Carpet Export Promotion Council (CEPC) of India also launched India Carpet Expo, which is usually attended by 400 overseas buyers from over 50 countries.

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