A collection of old Tibetan meditation carpets that evoke peace

For the Indian eyes, used to the staple of floral motifs, viewing this collection would entail a different sensory experience, for they bear imagery as vivid as dragons, cloud rainbows, tiger stripes and mandala designs. Known as Tibetan meditation carpets, they will be on view at The Carpet Cellar, Siri Fort Road, from June 5 to 30.

Hand-knotted Tibetan meditation rugs had a purpose to serve. Not intended for commercial purposes, they were supposed to be used as prayer rugs. “That's why you won't find them larger than 5x3 feet. They are quite small,” says Mudita Chandra, who manages the storehouse owned by Sheel Chandra.

Tiger rugs were specifically used for tantric meditation and were given as gifts to lamas in the monasteries. While the tiger stripe evokes a feeling of peace, the mandalas have come to symbolise inner awareness. And the dragons holding wish-fulfilling jewels stand for good luck, health and prosperity.

Sheel picked up these carpets — all 40 to 80 years old — during his several sojourns, which were mostly before the crisis. Striking imagery when paired with the right colour scheme creates a strong impact, like in this case, where flowers, dragons and other mythic characters are set in shades of red, orange, beige and even blue and green.

The carpets are priced between Rs.21,000 and 49,000.

“According to me India hasn't had any carpet tradition of its own. We are largely producing copies of Iranian carpets,” says Mudita.

The wool used in Tibetan carpets is strong, resilient and long-fibred. First it was hand carded and spun and then dyed in small quantities, using only the purest of natural products and dyes such as rhubarb, tea, walnut, vermillion, indigo, and ochre. These ingredients were crushed, boiled, and mixed with fermented foods like yoghurt, heated in iron cauldrons over a wood fire, and dried on rooftops. Traditionally, the rugs were created by one person on a nomad loom. The woven piece was then extended with handmade felt that was sewn to all the edges and then covered with red cloth, wool, or cotton, and backed with blue cotton. Because of their size, Tibetan carpets were easily rolled up and stored for travel. Tibetan rugs have their own distinctive knot. The wool is wrapped around the warp threads (cotton or wool) and upon completion of the piece the knots are clipped, creating the pile as opposed to flat weaves.

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