India Rugs – Below you can view our current collection of antique carpets and rugs from India.
Superfluous, flamboyant and elegant only begin to describe the sumptuous style of the antique rugs from India. Since the 16th century, deft craftspeople in India were competing against established weaving centers in Turkey and Persia. Led by Mughal shahs, India became a powerful artistic force known for immense creations like the Taj Mahal. Indian carpets are no less important or ambitious in their scale, complexity and superb level of color and detail.
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Early Mughal carpets crafted in the royal ateliers of Agra determined the style of the first creations and subsequent rugs. As British exporters entered the market, Indian carpets featuring elaborate interpretations of traditional Persian and Turkish designs were produced in styles, colors and sizes that would appeal to Western consumers. Many antique rugs from India, hunting carpets and European-influenced art deco rugs were produced in Lahore, Kashmir, Amritsar and Agra. These regional creations are still recognized for their elegant, flamboyant style and uniquely Indian appearance, which incorporates many distinct influences.
Antique Rugs That Were Woven In India
Boasting a long and storied history, antique rugs and carpets that were woven in India are among the more intriguing of all antique Oriental rugs. Beginning with the Mughal Dynasty that ruled India from the sixteenth century, carpet production in India became an important art form practiced in select regions of the country. Seen as an exotic and faraway land by westerners for centuries, India has long drawn its share of visitors from Europe and elsewhere.
As such, many of carpets from India, especially those from early twentieth century Agra, were woven expressly for western consumers.
Rug Weaving In India
Rug weaving as an activity has been well known in India since the 1500s. They probably got many of their ideas from the Persians, due to the fact that the designs of the Persians and the Indians are very similar. The Indians also got some of their influential ideas from parts of Asia. However, Indian rug weavers began to develop their own style. The most elaborate models got woven during the Mughal Empire between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. To the South, the Deccan area rugs got their distinctive looks from their designs and colors.
In India, rugs made of wool, also called “pile” rugs, were not common in the households of Indian families. They may have been brought to the region by migrants that came from different parts of Asia. The first group that invaded India from Eurasia were the Aryans, who accomplished the feat around 1800 BCE. The Aryans were a nomadic group that survived by breeding animals. Some experts think that the Aryans invented sheep breeding, as well as providing wool textiles to parts of India. Then India got invaded by the people of Hepthalite Empire, another group of nomads. By the fifth century BCE, some of the areas got taken over by the Achaemenid Empire. No one knows whether this group were weaving pile carpets or for how long. Unfortunately, no carpets have survived the passage of time. Early reference of Indian carpets came from Tang dynasty writers from China (618 – 907 AD). When the Arabian group invaded Sindh in 712, India got its first taste of Islam. The Ghaznavids, as well as the Ghaurids, helped Islam to gain a foothold in India. A geographer from the Arab region, Al-Muqaddasi, talked about Sindh carpets in 985 AD.
Experts can definitely trace Indian carpet weaving to the Mughal Empire in the early part of the 16th century. It was then that the very last person who succeeded Timur – Babur – lengthened his rule from Afghanistan to India and even started the Mughal Empire. The successor of Babur, Humayun, hid in the Safavid court of the Shah Tamasp I. Because he got support from the Savafid Empire, Humayun went back to India. Akbar the Great, his son, extended the power of the empire to parts of India and the Deccan area. Under the Mughals, Indian rug makers adopted the designs and colors of Persian craftsmen.
We now know those miniature paintings from the Akbar court show Indian carpets in use during the Mughal court. Even commercial records show that Indian rug weavers were doing business with merchants throughout Europe. Indian carpets were even portrayed in paintings by artists from the Netherlands. Indian rugs still have a royal place in many European art collections.
Most carpets that come from the Mughal period shows leaf and blossom patterns, floral motifs, all of them appearing on a red background. Depending on the particular influence, Indian rugs might get labeled as “Indo-Isfahan”, or “Indo-Persian”. T.H. Hendley studied Indian carpets, and many of the specimens he looked at were stationed in Jaipur.
Some of the Indian rugs got labeled according to the purchase date, the cost, and size. Many of the carpets that come from Jaipur come with a cotton base. The artisans also used white cotton for contrast and accents in the pile. The best carpets come from Persian weavers, but carpets that come with an animal design usually get called Indian. The field gets dyed with lac, which is a special type of dye that has some resemblance to cochineal dye. On Indian rugs, palmettes get seen along one of the axes. On bigger carpets, the palmettes surrounded a horizontal row that points to both the center and the outer edges. Minor figures get arranged along scrolling lines of vine work. This vine work gets adorned by leaves which are shaped by lancets. Some of the colors that we see in Indian carpets include different shades of blue and red, as well as yellow and green. In many Indian rugs, artisans will put two shades of the same color together without an outline separating the two colors.
The floral design that often appears in Indian carpets often looks a lot more natural than in the Persian varieties. Experts consider this feature typical of rugs that were crafted under Jahangir. Another design that you can see in these rugs are what is known as the millefleurs design, which came about between the 1600s and 1800s. These intricately woven carpets come with wool and silk warps. The colors also change as you travel across the rug, which forms “rainbow” bands that go across the rug. The field gets covered by flowers connected by beautiful vinework. Prayer rug designs show flower arrangements that get surrounded by trees. These motifs can not only be seen in Mughal art, but also in Mughal-era buildings like the world-famous Taj Mahal. No one can really put an exact date on Mughal-era rugs. That’s due to the fact that most of the rugs don’t have dates on them. But rugs eventually got woven in areas like Lahore, Agra, and Fatehpur Sikri.
When the Mughal Empire lost its power by the last years of the nineteenth century, carpet weaving as art also went on the decline. British colonial administrators actually opened factories, even some in prisons, to continue making rugs. After India and Pakistan gained their independence, the art of rug weaving returned to these two countries. The carpet production industry in India and Pakistan use designs from other countries. The artisans in these countries also create commercial rugs that serve a utilitarian as opposed to an artistic purpose.
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View our current antique selection of rugs from India below: