A Brief Introduction to Carpet Weaving History of Pakistan
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 Mohenjo‐Daro 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 times.
Carpets have, from the beginning, been a part of the Islamic culture as it achieved unprecedented heights in Baghdad, Damascus, Cordova, and 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 there were the first to be recognized as Islamic carpets.
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. 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.
At present, hand‐knotted carpets are among Pakistan's leading export products and their manufacture is the second largest cottage and small industry. Pakistani craftsmen have the capacity to produce any type of carpet using all the popular motif gulls, medallions, paisleys, traceries, 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. Baluchistan 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).