Just as the long-revered beauty of Kashmir, the bright orange, brown, red, gold, and yellow scattered leaves on the country roads gives a warm welcome to travelers from all over the world, a brief gaze at a beautiful Numdah carpet is also enough to bring out the art of poetry.
In India carpet weaving first travelled to Kashmir in the late 15th century (600yrs to 700yrs) from Iran along with a Sufi Saint, ‘Amir Shah-el-Hamdan’.
The valley of Kashmir offers a range of floor covering. Likewise, the hand-made Numdah carpet from Kashmir, a tradition inherited and passed on over 500 yrs. The technique of Numdah art was inherited and inspired by their ancestors from Iran. Mostly Numdah carpets the floor of Kashmiri homes during winter and the bright colors & designs turn your home into a place of warmth.
Numdah involves the craft of making carpets by felting. These colorful hand felted carpets from Kashmir are made out of unspun wool and cotton, in certain proportions, or entirely of 100% wool. The felt decorations are seamlessly layered with the base without a stitch. They not only brighten up your spaces but also feel soft and warm below your feet.
The technique requires taking unspun wool and pounding it with water and soap multiple times until a flat base of wool is achieved. They then sketch the pattern on to the Numdah rug base. The bold patterns and rich muti-coloured designs often depicting nature are then embroidered with a hook. The sizes usually range from 2’x3′ to 6’x9′ in square, rectangular, round and oval shapes.
The felted carpets are predominately made of pure sheep wool. The sheep wool ‘kat yer’ required for this technique is locally bought from Badgam, Pahalgam as these regions have been inhabited by shepherds and Naushera (where the Govt. House for wool distribution is stationed).
These Numdahs are generally sold through ‘Craft Bazaars in Kashmir’.
It continues to be one of the prime occupations and the main source of livelihood of many people of the valley even to this day. But this craft making seeks a whole lot of physical strength and the remunerations are hardly comparable. This is the reason that the art form is fading with time and a handful of people are recently left to make Numdah.
Reviving The Art
But 29 year old Arifa Jan from Kashmir has taken up the daunting task to revamp this 11th century rug making technique, Numdah, which is indigenous to the valley.
“I had no interest in a government job. I always wanted to have my own business.”~Arifa
Even after facing a lot of challenges at every step, her love for the craft and the zeal to take it ahead has inspired many around her.
Just as no one can stop the beauty of nature from spreading slowly into the eyes of the beholder, no matter the circumstance you cannot stop the power of art to travel far and wide. We completely appreciate the enterprising spirit of the Kashmiri craftsman and today’s youth who have struggled to keep the art alive, while himself being surrounded with negative situations.
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