Filpaya, Persian Baloch, Kothan, Bukara, pastel hues, folklore, quirky, cutwork…spend a few hours at “The Carpet Cellar” with Dhruv Chandra and you will not only be able to recognise some of these styles but will be surprised when he says – “I think you have become an expert!”
Expert or not, the journey into this basement at No. 1 Anand Lok here leaves you with kaleidoscopes for eyes and a refresher course in geography with the collection ranging from the Black Sea to China including Mongolia, the former Soviet Union, Turkey, Mesopotamia, Persia, Afghanistan, Baluchistan, India, Egypt and Morocco.
But how did this vast collection comprising city carpets and tribal rugs come to live in a cellar in South Delhi?
“My Chacha Sheel started collecting carpets more than 35 years ago,” explains Dhruv, seated on a comfortable sofa filled with “saddle bag covered cushions”. “In the late 1950s-early ‘60s, he bought a fantastic Persian carpet for a song, something like Rs.200-300, and he loved the fact that this was over 100 years old.”
Then began a journey that saw Mr. Sheel Chandra, the chairman of The Carpet Cellar, travel the length and breadth of the carpet weaving world to carefully select the best hand woven and handcrafted masterpieces making him the second largest private collector in Asia. “The Carpet Cellar was created with this purpose to create things for the future generations to appreciate,” says Dhruv, adding that ‘Carpet Educational Workshops’ are held at the store to provide an opportunity for people to learn about different carpets, to see the extensive collection and learn how to maintain them.
This is partly done also because of the attitude towards carpets nowadays. “Carpets have become a commodity and are no longer treated as a work of art,” says Dhruv. “Today, for carpet manufacturers to reach economies of scale, unique pieces are no longer commissioned but there is mass production of carpets,” he laments.
Yet, despite facing a huge problem in finding weavers to make fine rugs and facing a considerable challenge from the machine-made carpet sector, The Carpet Cellar, boasts a stock of 10,000 pieces and has developed a reputation of producing some of the country’s finest pieces. Dhruv says that there has never been a situation where a client has come in and said: “I don’t like anything.” They “generally tend to find something that they like and we encourage them to see as many carpets as possible before making a decision.”
With antiquity being The Carpet Cellar’s forte, Dhruv and his uncle are planning to showcase their collection by setting up a carpet museum in the Capital. “Delhi is where most people understand carpets. There is a tradition of using carpets in the North, maybe because of the weather,” he says. In a world filled with adulteration, the Cellar continues to be a mystic world of carpets, kilims, rugs, shawls and more…