Carpets have always been magical. Through the ages, we have read about them in fairy tales, seen them add beauty to homes and felt like royalty each time we walked on one. Where do these carpets come from, who are the faces behind this artistry and what are their stories? In India, a small city named Bhadohi has come to be known as the ‘carpet city’ and has been weaving its way into history for over 5 centuries. The artisans of Bhadohi are responsible for the making of 60% of India’s carpets and rugs. The tradition of carpet weaving was brought here by the Mughal emperor Akbar, and since the 16th century has been the livelihood of many in Bhadohi. These artisans and their workshops are spread over 1lakh sq. kms. Across towns and villages in the city of Bhadohi.
Today, the handmade tools are replaced with technology that is helping them save huge amounts of time and labour. Technology has helped them advance in many ways, but their skill hasn’t aged in any way making the process a perfect blend of modernity and tradition. The carpet making industry on the Bhadohi-Mirzapur stretch has helped 3.2 million people earn a living and this number increases every year. Carpets worth Rs.4400 crore are exported every year from India out of which 75% are from Bhadohi.
The Bhadohi artisans specialise in all kinds of carpets from Persian and Turkish styled ones to hand knotted silk and woollen carpets. The industry has come a long way since its inception. In the early days, carpet making was the practice of only the Muslim community along with agriculture. With time, all other communities as well realized it is a business that is rural in nature with minimum requirement and can provide well for the household. In 1985, all these artisans came together as one community and formed the All India Carpet Manufacturers Association (AICMA) to promote exports and manage the market.
In a big win, the Bhadohi carpet making industry was given the ‘Export Excellence’ tag by the government of India in 2018. This is bound to boost the morale of all these artisans and make them realize how valuable they are to the nation. Under this tag, there are multiple benefits including financial aid from the central government that will allow the purchase of machinery, global fairs and exhibitions and better export infrastructure. The small-scale industry is the backbone of the Indian economy and the more we nurture its development, the sooner we will see constant growth.
The process is mesmerizing and deserving of tremendous respect and dignity. One can only imagine the time and effort it takes to weave a carpet. These artisans do it with the utmost dedication and it reflects in the intricacy of the finished product.