Due to its exquisite design, quality and credibility; handicrafts of Kashmir especially carpets are renowned world-over. The skill of handmade carpet weaving is an intrinsic part of Kashmiri culture.
The carpet industry provides employment to a large number of people and substantially contributes to the exports of Kashmir. Each kind of carpet has its own tradition, design, and significance catering to the different needs of customers.
The Kashmiri Carpet can be used for several purposes like covering the floor, bedding, wall hanging, etc. The special nature of artisanal products derives from their distinctive features, which can be utilitarian, aesthetic, artistic, creative, culturally attached, decorative, functional, traditional, religiously, and socially symbolic, and significant.
Handmade carpets are considered elite because of their quality and durability. It goes through various stages until the final product is made. Handmade carpets can be given any shape and design according to the need but the machine carpets are uniform in design and shape.
The artisans in Kashmir give specialized touch to carpet products giving them a unique quality of their own. The weavers prevalently weave in the solace of their homes. The raw material designs in the shape of coding guidelines for weaving and wages are given to them on a piece-rate basis.
Traditionally, the carpet industry in Kashmir used to contribute to the economy immensely, however, due to machine made carpets this craft saw a drastic decline.
Manzoor Ahmad Dar, a local artisan speaking to Rising Kashmir said, “In present times, the carpet industry is facing enormous problems. The domestic market of Kashmiri carpet also decreased due to competition from other states. The damage to the Kashmiri carpet industry is affecting the livelihood of people engaged with this industry. The carpet industry in Kashmir is dying a slow death."
Dar further said machine-made carpets have hampered business big time. “Machine made carpets have large productivity in lesser time and are also available at lesser prices as compared to handmade carpets. More than 50 % of weavers doing this work have switched to other fields of work because they are paid very less”.
Uzaib Manzoor, the owner of the carpet business unit at Eidgah Srinagar said "The buyer is not able to differentiate between the handmade carpet and machine-made carpet because they look the same with a naked eye. Only an expert can tell whether a carpet is machine-made or handmade".
The main difference between the handmade and machine carpet is the weight. The handmade carpets are heavy as compared to machine carpets. The other difference is that handmade carpets are warm in comparison to machine-made carpets.
Director Handicrafts and Handloom Kashmir, Mahmood Ahmad Shah, said “There’s no decline in the carpet industry but the sales have decreased abroad in recent years. We are also monitoring the sale of carpet products because machine-made products are sold in the name of handmade products to the customers.
He added that soon, these handmade carpets will be tagged in the name of “Kashmir hand-knotted carpets” and given a geographical indication (GI) tag so that customers won’t be fooled”.
Shopkeepers have been selling machine-made carpets due to the decline of handmade carpets. “People prefer machine-made carpets because they are more appealing and cost-effective and we sell what is in demand. There are selective buyers for Handmade carpets which hinders our business and the prevailing situation in Kashmir has made us switch from hand-made to machine-made carpets” says Bashir Khan, a shopkeeper at Srinagar.
Raw material for handmade carpets is different and pure. “We get it from Ladakh and Tibet and local women spin the cotton and deliver it to us.” says Uzaib Manzoor.