I just cannot stop buying rugs. I absolutely believe that rugs can instantly transform a house to a home, make you feel cozy and add that bit of colour to typical, dull apartment floors. When I moved into my husband’s bachelor pad, these simple additions were the starting steps to making my home.
There are different kinds of rugs or carpets available all across India. Like everything else about this diverse country, each region has a floor covering suited to its needs. The heavy knotted carpets of Kashmir protect your bare feet from the biting chill on the floor. The thick and colourful Jamakkalams of Erode in Tamil Nadu plays both the role of a mattress to sleep on and as a seating place for guests.
So on my trip to Jodhpur, I couldn’t resist visiting a haven for rugs. Panja Dhurries from Salawas in Jodhpur are famous for their high quality, sturdy and really long lasting rugs. Rugs are locally called as dhurries. The dhurries are hand woven and the design is perfected with the use of the Panja, a comb like structure (as seen in the picture above)
Made mostly using cotton, wool and jute are also used in making the dhurries.
The looms are very crude in nature and are manually operated. The complicated designs are identical on both sides. This is done using the Panja.Usually the process of making a 5 ft by 3 ft dhurrie takes about 15 days and the monotonous process is pepped up with constant conversation from fellow dhurrie makers.
Usually the senior in the family supervises the work of the younger apprentices. So when I met Nemaram, a craftsman who belongs to the community of dhurrie weavers, he proudly introduced me to his son and explained in detail about his progress.
What interested me the most were the innovative tools used. A bowl was used as a base to weave a circle, even their scales are very rudimentary and only a recent inclusion to the tool kit.
The most common design is ‘Leheriya’, a wave-like pattern common even in Rajasthan’s tie and dye process. Geometrical patterns are in demand nowadays.
Nemaram showed me some traditional designs commonly used by his ancestors, but long forgotten ever since. During those times, the patterns were very elaborate and adorned the floors of the palaces. Animals and flowers were mostly used, along with geometrical patterns to create complex designs. The workmanship was highly regarded and was favoured by the kings.
Nemaram showed me this sample that he had made with all the colors that are available. This served as his shade card that he showed prospective customers.
I am sure Nemaram has no clue about terms like ‘carbon footprint’, ‘recycle’ and all other green ways of life that we all so vehemently discuss and debate. In Nemaram’s case, it is just a way of life. The leftover threads are woven as bases into chairs and beds(like the one above), old clothes are shredded and woven into rugs for their own use and the trimmed ends of the dhurrie are used to fill their pillow cases.
While Nemaram and I were chatting up, his wife silently ground the dal(lentils) into a paste using the traditional mortar and pestle. The paste was seasoned with a few spices, made into small balls and left to dry in the winter sun. Once dry, the vadis would last her an entire year. Her strong hands moved steadily over an hour to grind all the dal that she had soaked overnight. When I suggested that she could use a motor-run grinder, she was aghast and explained how that would never taste the same.
In typical Rajasthani hospitality, I was treated to an hearty meal of Sogra (their local bread), Gud (jaggery), dal cooked in their traditional earthen stove and topped with loads of desi ghee( home-made clarified butter). Though the Sogra was a little hard and difficult to chew, the smoked flavour of the dal was awesome and unlike anything that I had ever tasted before.
The usual story of a slowly fading craft, the dhurries here face stiff competition from the faster, machine made versions. Some socially driven organisations and institutions help keep the looms running. Moreover, the family has also diversified into making table mats, coasters and bags to keep the money coming in. Growing interest in craft tourism has also helped Nemaram and he is trying to make a brand for himself and his community with the Panja logo (as in the picture)
So having been touched by a simple life, a great craft and loads of purchases, I made up my mind to do my bit to ensure keep this craft alive. Nemaram can worry a little less about his son’s future.
P.S: For more pictures, please click here