History of the Indian luxury carpet, from its origins to the present day

Luxury rugs Jan 28.2021

History of the Indian luxury carpet, from its origins to the present day

It was the rulers of the Mughal dynasty who initiated carpet making in India. While the influences and style of Persian art were evident in the first Indian carpets, over time a true Indian tradition developed that led to the creation of refined and visually striking carpets.

Six centuries of history 

The earliest historical records date the arrival of carpets in India to the 16th century. At that time, the Persian tradition was already highly developed and particularly fine carpets were produced in the Middle East regions, adorning royal and imperial palaces. 

In the 16th century, the Mughal ruling family called a group of skilled craftsmen from Persia to India to adorn the emperor’s palace. These expert carpet makers brought Persian wool and their craftsmanship with them. From the work of these skilled weavers, what today is one of the most original Asian manufacturing traditions developed. 

Indian carpets are thus directly descended from Persian carpets. While in the early centuries these two styles were such that they overlapped each other perfectly, with the passage of time what can be defined as the Indian style became established. This style is partly traceable to the traditions of neighbouring countries and partly the result of an original elaboration by Indian craftsmen

Between the 16th and 18th centuries, when carpet production in India reached its highest level, the cities of reference for carpet knotting were Agra, Lahore and Fatepur Sikri. Even today, these cities are important centres for the creation and marketing of fine carpets for an international audience. 

Traditional Indian carpets have a compact structure and a high knot density. The knots used are asymmetrical, typical of the Persian school, resulting in durable, warm carpets with a strong personality. 

What makes Indian carpets recognisable is above all the colours used to dye the fibres used for the pieces. The colour that is somewhat of a trademark for Indian carpets, especially those of a certain level, is the red known as lacquer. It is an intense colour and is obtained from certain species of insects. Blue, yellow and green are also often found in the colour palette of Indian carpets. 

Almost all old Indian luxury carpets are made of wool. The finest carpets are made from Kashmiri wool, which is prized for its durability and softness. Some of the carpets that were used in imperial palaces were made of silk, and the most precious carpets had gold and silver thread inserts. 

Flowers and hunting scenes are the most common decorative motifs. The central motif is emphasised by the border, which runs along the entire outer perimeter of the carpet. The latter is deliberately made in darker colours. While in Persian carpets the symmetry of the pattern is almost imperative, in typical Indian carpets the motifs are constructed more freely. The warp becomes a kind of canvas on which to create one’s own designs, asymmetrically and guided by the imagination of the craftsmen.

Among the most original and fascinating Indian luxury carpets are those known as Millefleur. This style is characterised by a particularly elaborate floral design and is distinguished by the presence of silk threads along the warp, which give the carpet unusual and curious plays of light. 

In addition to Persian carpets, Indian carpets are also inspired by Bukhara carpets from Turkmenistan and Turkey. This style involves the repetition of a geometric pattern throughout the carpet, known as a gul. The alternating medallions and the characteristic red colouring of the wool make these carpets particularly harmonious. This makes them suitable for both classical and more modern interior design styles.

Luxury Indian carpets of clear Persian inspiration, on the other hand, can easily find their place in a home decorated in an ethno-chic style. The elegant line of the furniture is enhanced by the presence of accessories and details of ethnic origin. Finally, the most prestigious Indian carpets, thanks to their bright colours and richly detailed patterns, are ideal for furnishing a living room to be used for relaxing moments with the family. But they also stand out for their ability to bring soul and verve to home parties. 

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