India has a rich history of so many dynasties. But the unforgettable one is the Mughal history. The Mughal emperors were ruthless in their conquest techniques but had great compassion for art and architecture. They were fond of beauty and liked their court to be heavily embellished with decorative ornaments.
One such piece of their royal court’s ornaments is Mughal carpets. Their love for hand-knotted carpets is described well in their manuscripts. So, to learn what was so special about these carpets, make sure to read this blog.

An Overview Of Agra’s Rich Legacy In Rug Making

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Agra is located in North Central India and was once the capital of the Mughal Empire during the 16th and 17th centuries. It is also known for being the home of the Taj Mahal. But, earlier, it was primarily famous for its handcrafted carpets.
During the reign of Mughal Emperor Babur, fine rugs were imported from Iran. These rugs were used in his court as he was fond of luxurious items. To make sure that his court had plentiful handmade rugs for decorations, he brought many master craftsmen from Persia.
Those craftsmen taught the art of pile weaving to Indian artisans. And so the making of handmade Mughal carpets began in Agra, making it a carpet-making centre. The style of Agra carpets is emulated from Persia rugs, but since Agra’s artisans weave them, they have unique styles.
Later Akbar wanted to establish an identity for Indian rugs, so he directed the artisans to use their creativity. The artisans did so by infusing the designs of their own culture. Originally made to use in Mughal courts, the handmade Mughal carpets soon became famous around the globe. Thus, giving birth to the carpet Industry in India.

Importance Of Handmade Rugs In Preserving Cultural Heritage

While it’s refreshing to gain knowledge about traditional and cultural heritage, It’s not a foreign concept to understand that it plays a vital role in the economy. Every culture has its own unique style when it comes to artistic approaches. In many cultures, various practices related to art, such as inlaid stonework, textile design, rug weaving, and architecture, are associated with their traditions.
Likewise, Persian rugs were artistic, but they were articles of necessity rather than luxury. They were used to cover the floors to give protection from the cold. However, they were introduced in India by the Mughal ruler Babur purely to fulfil his luxurious needs. If you trace back the history of designer handmade rugs in India, you will find their connection with Iran. It is because Babur brought many artisans from Iran to India. They shared their artistry with the Indian artisans.
This sharing of intercultural artistic techniques was responsible for producing unique Indian rugs. Thus, giving birth to a new culture and history altogether. Today, India is one of the largest exporters of handmade, heavily embellished rugs. So, it’s true that the Mughal court was disbanded centuries ago, but its essence still lives through the Mughal carpets.

History Of Handmade Rugs In Agra

Babur introduced carpet weaving to the artisans in Agra. But, it was Akbar the Great who took it to another level. At first, he instructed the artisans to infuse their own creativity while making the rugs to make Indian rugs distinctive. Later he provided the artisans with high-quality wool and cashmere to make the rugs even more luxurious.
With all the resources at hand, Indian rug makers began experimenting with their skills. They started infusing floral and nature-based patterns into the rugs. Due to this, the weaving time was increased significantly, requiring the artisans to be patient and weave for longer than before. Their patience paid off as their designed handmade rugs were lifelike, and the demand touched the skies.
Akbar established rug-weaving workshops in Agra. These rugs were initially made for mosque interiors and royal courts. Under the reign of Shah Jahan, Britain’s East India Company indulged in the carpet weaving industry. They started trading carpets to Europe. This is how the Mughal carpets produced in Agra found their way into the global markets.

Significance Of Mughal-inspired Designs in Handmade Rugs

The Mughal dynasty gave birth to the tradition of making handmade rugs in India. You can see its imprint even today, as many rugs have Mughal-inspired designs in them. You can see the great significance of Mughal-inspired designs in handmade carpets. Some of the common designs inspired by Mughal rugs are:

Real And Nature-based Designs

The initial design of the rugs was inspired by real-life events or nature. You could see realistic scenes woven into a carpet, like hunting. Some of the patterns are exceptionally inspired by wildlife, such as animals, plants and flowers.

Flower Motifs

Floral designs were quite popular during that time as they were decent and liked by all. You could see floral designs and lattice patterns in the rugs.

Safavid Inspired Designs

Some of the motifs and designs were also inspired by the Safavid neighbours. However, these carpets were quite different from the designs in Persian rugs.

Material & Techniques Used In Handmade Rugs

The material used in handmade rugs was mainly high-quality wool and cashmere. To weave the fabric Persian knot technique was used. Some of the weavings include around 2000 knots per square inch. Using the high-quality fabric with the Persian knot technique set the Mughal carpets apart from the Persian ones.

Famous Handmade Mughal Carpets

Mughals were fond of carpets due to their use in their court and during the prayers. There are so many famous and ethereal Mughal carpets; some of the most famous ones are mentioned below:

  • Star Ushak Carpet (Late 15th Century)
  • The Anhalt Medallion Carpet (First Half of 16th Century)
  • The Emperor’s Carpet (Second Half of 16th Century)
  • The Seley Carpet (Late 16th Century)
  • Polonaise Carpet (17th Century)
  • Vase Carpet (17th Centruy)
  • Pashmina Carpet With Gateway-and-Millefleur Pattern (Second Half of 18th Century)

Skills And Craftsmanship Required To Create Designer Handmade Rugs

Making handmade rugs is a challenging process. You need to be creative along with a large set of skills. Some of the common skills and craftsmanship required to create designer handmade rugs are:

  • Hand Dyeing
  • Design Mapping
  • Hand Carving The Rug
  • Weaving on The Loom
  • Shearing & Clipping
  • Weaving

Final Thoughts

Preparing a hand-knotted silk rug required a high level of artistic understanding and skills. You need years of practice to perfect in making a rug. Rug manufacturers in Agra have been doing the same work for ages as these skills are passed down from generation to generation. The rich legacy of Agra in handmade rugs is the reason why it’s famous globally.

Siddharth Kalra

Founder of The Rugs Cafe-'We Brew Rugs' company, e-tailing the traditional carpet experience to global platforms. Founder of Kalra Consultancy Services, providing end-to-end digitization solutions and disrupting business models across multi-channel industries. Working as a Program Manager at Alphaa AI-AI Data Platform startup - 'Alexa for Data Warehouse', raised $1.6 million dollars. 🚀🚀 CMO at Kalra's Cottage Industry- Promoting the local community of highly skilled artisans by producing luxurious rugs from the Mughal Era. CMO at The International School Agra- enabling future visionaries of India. Bachelor of Business Administration specialized in Finance from Christ University, Bangalore.

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