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Updated: November 8, 2013 12:37 IST

Classic and classy

Pushpa Chari
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The Kashmir Carpet and Rug Mela at Tulsi's Arterior, Nungambakkam. Photo: B. Jothi Ramalingam
The Hindu The Kashmir Carpet and Rug Mela at Tulsi's Arterior, Nungambakkam. Photo: B. Jothi Ramalingam

The Kashmiri Carpets and Rugs Mela is a ‘revival’ exhibition that has a captivating range.

The unbroken art tradition of Kashmiri Kaleen making was brought to the Valley by Badshah Zain-ul-Abidin in the 15th century. Evolving from its Persian aesthetic roots to incorporate Mughal naturalism in flowers, animals, pictorial storytelling and motifs including the Hindu ‘gajasimha’ to create its own distinct language In the last three decades, when loom after loom shut down in the face of riots and terror strikes, many feared that the fabled art of Kaleen-making would soon become history. However, with the return of peace to the Valley, looms are again being set up in homes and cooperatives and deft fingers knotting silk and cotton yarn on the margin warp to create fields of roses and nargis, frolicking animals and precise geometrical patterns as the master artisan reads out the taleem. And once again carpets with poetic names such as Charbagh, Qum, Kashan and Bagh-e-bahaar and ‘won,’ roll out of the loom, each a one-off piece.

Carpet connoisseur Tariq has bought a range of carpets, dhurries and kilims specially created for a ‘revival’ exhibition. His ‘Kashmiri Carpets and Rugs Mela’ celebrates the typical flavours and muted colours of the Kashmiri Kaleen. The range on view is captivating. There are Kashan Mughal carpets with curling vine and a profusion of roses in a symphony of beiges touched with green, a red Medalan carpet , jungle or ‘won’ wool deep blue carpets full of leafy trees alive with squirrels, wood-peckers and hornbills, bordered with red and also featuring deer, elephant and birds! Another sensational carpet celebrates bullock carts and horse carriages and a 3-tier border of elephants. The carpet has Taj Mahal in the centre. A Bagh-e-bahaar carpet in ruffle wool grabs one’s attention with its entwined trellis and vine, while a Hamadaan (6x4) silk carpet also features the trees of life.

Also part of the exhibition are Iranian and Turkish kilims with dramatic colour combinations. Indian kilims too offer a connoisseurs choice.

Shaukat is part of a young artisans’ group which works part time to revive classic carpets, kilims and dhurries. Holding up a stunning red silk kilim featuring birds, Shaukat says, “One day I saw Satoot bird walking in the snow and decided to bring it to life on a kilim. The kilim was woven on a flat loom and done entirely with a needle. First we prepare the loom and set the warp and then literally embroider the birds, motifs etc. with a big needle. Only vegetable colours made out of flowers and leaves which we collect in the summer are used. We prepare the dyes in the winter months in huge vessels, soak the yarn overnight in the dye, dye it and then begin the weaving”.

‘The Kashmiri Carpets and Rugs Mela’ has many contemporary dhurries on offer along with silk ones in autumnal shades as well as uniquely textured kahdi tribal dhurries.

The Mela is on at Tulsi Arteriors, No. 6, Rutland Gate, 4th Street, Nungambakkam Chennai. Till December 10. Details: 9791190718)

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