The artisans use their hooks to embroider the beautiful flowers and birds of the Kashmir Valley.
Exquisite: A carpet on display at Alisons.
On idyllic summer days in the environs of Srinagar one can often come across a group of craftsmen stitching ‘gabbas’ and ‘namdahs’ in shady chinar groves. The men diligently use their hook to embroider the beautiful flowers
of the Valley, phantasy peacocks and storks and the magic of geometric motifs and borders into ‘gabbah’ known as the ‘common man’s carpet.’
During winter, both men and women do chain stitch embroidery on ‘namdahs,’ ‘gabbas,’ wall hangings and ‘pherans’ or kurtas much like how their ancestors did for the past 200 years when chain stitched carpets first became popular collectibles of the ruling British.
By the 18th century, chain stitch or ‘jalakdozi’ embroidery, believed to have been brought during Akbar’s reign, was organised in ‘karkhanas’ or ateliers employing weavers, pattern or ‘naqsha’ makers, embroiderers etc. Today there are many units and individual master embroiderers like Mirza Ghaznafar Ali in Srinagar and Anantnag.
Many come to Chennai to demonstrate their craft at various exhibitions and literally turn a piece of felt or stitched pieces of old carpets into works of chain stitch art, abloom with brilliant colours and motifs.
Both ‘gabba’ and ‘namdah’ chain stitched carpet are thrift craft.
A ‘gabba’ is made up of pieces of used carpets which is washed, milled and stitched together on a waste cotton cloth.
Bold, vivid embroidery is then done featuring the legendary flowers of the valley: the nargis, the rose and the tulip, birds of brilliant plumage, human figures, hunting scenes and very rarely embroidered reproductions of Mughal miniature paintings, especially in the ‘gabbas.’ The designs are traced by the traditional ‘naquash.’ Beautiful motifs stand out against a background of chain stitch concentric circles, or in solid rows of chain stitch with cross fillings, satin and butter hole stitches. The total effect on a ‘gabba’ is that of a textured carpet.
The embroidery is done with woollen yarn or 2-3 ply silk thread. The traditional artisan has a brilliant sense of colour, yet the end product is one of mellow beauty.
While the ‘namdahs’ have a folksy charm a ‘gabba’ can be a classic piece of embroidery.
These can range from superb representations of the ‘tree of life’ to classical piece done in brilliant primary colours.
The traditional chain stitch embroidery of Kashmir done on ‘gabbas’ and ‘namdahs’ has now found a new canvas on cushions, quilts, soft furnishings and high fashion attire. A range of ‘gabbas,’ ‘namdahs,’ and other chain stitch products are on view at ‘Chain Stitch Carpet Exhibition’ currently on at Alisons, 10/50 Kasturi Rangan Road, Alwarpet, Chennai.
Send this article to Friends by
Chennai and Tamil Nadu