A Brief Intro to Carpet Weaving in Lahore

Inner panels of Badshahi Mosque in Lahore
Pakistan is amongst the world’s largest producers and exporters of hand-knotted Oriental carpets. In the last few decades, Pakistani carpets have reached the farthest corners of the world.

The art of weaving developed in the region, comprising Pakistan, at a time when few civilizations knew about it. Excavations at Moenjodaro and Harappa – ancient cities of Indus Valley civilization – have established that the people knew the use of spindles and spun a wide variety of weaving materials. In fact, some historians are of the view that it was the Indus Valley civilization that of the first time developed the use of woven textiles.

The tradition of textile weaving has survived in the shape of folk culture in various parts of Pakistan. The textile designs, architecture and characteristic of our folk culture point to the floral and geometric patterns that are basic to carpet designing. This clearly shows that the art of carpet-making and designing existed in the region from very old

Islamic Heritage
Carpets have, from the beginning, been a part of the Islamic culture as it achieved unprecedented heights in Baghdad, Damascus, Cordova, Delhi and in the fabled cities of Central Asia. They were predominantly used to cover the floors of mosques and houses, and were occasionally used as wall decorations. The first half of the 16th century is considered the ‘Golden Age’ of Persian carpets, when large carpets with rich colors and complex designs were produced out of factories in Iran. As a result, carpet weaving in Orient was perfected to fine art in Persian and Turkish regions and their were the first to be recognized as Islamic carpets.

Mughal Tradition
Carpet weaving in Pakistan goes back to the inception of Mughal Dynasty, when the last successor of Timur, Babar, extended his rule from Kabul to India, to found the Mughal Empire in the early 16th century. However, historians believe that carpet making was first introduced to the region now constituting Pakistan as far back as the 11th Century with the coming of the first Muslim conquerors, the Ghaznavids and the Ghauris from the West.

A fine-quality Mughal Kashan

Established Carpet weaving in Indo-Pak Sub-Continent started under the patronage of the Mughals, when Indian craftsmen adopted Persian techniques and designs. The carpets woven in Punjab at that time – often called Lahore carpets – made use of the motifs and the decorative style found in Mughal architecture.

During the Mughal period the carpets made in the Indo-Pak Sub-Continent became so famous that there was a mounting demand for them abroad. These carpets had a distinctive design and boasted a rich knotting density. The carpets made for the Mughal emperors, including Jahangir and Shah Jahan, were of the finest quality. It was during Shah Jahan’s reign that Mughal carpet weaving took on a new aesthetic and entered its classical phase.

After the establishment of Pakistan in 1947, most of the Muslim carpet makers, designers, masters and other
craftsmen migrated to Pakistan and settled down in and around Lahore and Karachi – two major centers of carpet weaving in today’s Pakistan. It is these people who now form the backbone of the carpet industry in Pakistan.

Mughal Bakhtiar with central medallion

Lahore is famous as the hub of handmade carpet manufacturing in Pakistan. At present, hand-knotted carpets produced in and around Lahore are among Pakistan’s leading export products and their manufacture is the second largest cottage and small industry. Craftsmen in Lahore have the capacity to produce any type of carpet using all the popular motifs: gulls, medallions, paisleys, traceries, and geometric designs in various combinations. However, the new Institute of Carpet Designing and Weaving has been established in Bahawalpur to train teachers. The Lahore Design Centre at the Punjab Small Industries Corporation maintains a separate section of carpet designing to experiment with new designs.

Ninety-five percent of the carpets are produced for export and Turkoman, Persian and Caucasian designs are crafted since they meet the popular taste abroad. Balochistan and NWFP excel in tribal Turkoman patterns and color
combinations, while Lahore and Karachi are famous for single-wefted designs in Turkoman and Caucasian style, and double-wefted Mughal types (commonly referred as Pak Persian).

3 Comments so far

  1. mina (unregistered) on September 11th, 2005 @ 2:25 pm

    Sadly, gorgeous carpets rely on child and bonded labour to produce them, because child fingers are nimbler than adult ones and bonded labour…well, they’re just slaves :/

  2. Jangli Jagga (unregistered) on September 13th, 2005 @ 1:27 am

    You’re right, Mina. But attitudes are changing fast. The biggest employers were Sialkot’s industries, but if you go there now, you would see big signs saying we discourage child labour. We’re also working in tandem with Care & Fair, Pakistan to help the children of weavers. In fact, we’re also in process to hold such talks with SOS Children’s Village.

  3. younus patell (unregistered) on November 13th, 2005 @ 8:16 pm

    i am sheif struaid and purcher or interrel decoratour too of regentplaza resturent your any branch in karachi you just send me your connect number

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