Every Hindu scripture has riveting descriptions of magnificent cities, grand palaces and alluring inner chambers that are richly embellished with gold, diamonds, precious stones and expensive cloths. The bright floor coverings that were spread out to receive Lord Krishna at Shauripur near Agra have been described at length in the Mahabharat and the origin of the Agra durrie can be traced back to this ancient period.
India has been known to create stunning floor mats since time immemorial. This traditional craft was patronized by all the Indian kings in a manner typical to their culture and heritage. This craft received a significant boost during the reign of Akbar who was fascinated with the intricate designs and bold colours. Agra, Fatehpur Sikri and Lahore were established as centres for weaving prayer mats, carpets, rugs and other types of decorative floor mats during his reign.
Agra durrie is a flat-woven pileless rug in a variety of designs and colours. These may have simple stripes running from end to end or rectilinear sections or simple patterns in single colour or multi-colour. There are three types of durries namely those made of cotton or jute or hemp, wool and waste cloth. All durries are woven in the weft-faced plain weave.
The base material for durrie made of cotton or jute or hemp is ply cotton yarn with jute yarn or hemp and ply cotton yarn for warp and unspun cotton or jute yarn for weft. As Agra is known for its natural vegetable dyes, madder root (pinks and reds), turmeric root (light yellow), pomegranate skin (darker yellow), rhubarb (dark red and copper red), kusa (green) and kikar tree leaves (brown) are used to dye the raw material in age-old methods.
A sketch of the design is first drawn on graph paper. The master weaver lays the warp first with the weft wound into little rectangular bundles. A single weft bundle is inserted as per the design and the appropriate coloured yarns are woven carefully line by line. A weft-faced plain with dovetail joins is used for interlocking the two colours in the same row. Each line of weft on completion is tightened by beating it down with the panja. This process is repeated till the design is completed. Excess weft threads are trimmed and the rug is washed and finished. It is very common to see blue and white stripes, uniformly repeated geometric motifs framed by simple borders, flowers, birds, reptiles, people and pictorial designs in this type of durrie.
Woollen durries use ply cotton yarn as warp, ply dyed wool yarn or worsted undyed wool yarn for weft. It is essential to sort out the wool fleece by hand and separate it according to colour and quality. The durrie is woven in the weft-faced plain weave in the same manner as mentioned above. All edges are trimmed and washed and finished.
Chindi durrie uses ply cotton yarn as warp, scrap or leather or jute or waste cloth as weft. These scraps of woven fabrics are picked up from markets across India and shredded into small strips of 9 inches size. The horizontal ground loom consisting of two wooden beams to which the warp threads are attached is used to make these durries.
The designs are drawn on graph paper. The chindi dyed in vibrant colours is inserted in the warp according to the desired pattern. As the length is small, another chindi is inserted so that two – three warps will have a double chindi. This process is repeated to make sure there are no holes during weaving. Chindi durries are very innovative in terms of size, colour and design and have been gaining popularity in the domestic as well as international markets.
The weaving industry of Agra has been thriving as a cottage industry for centuries and provides employment opportunities for thousands of people. Agra durrie requires a highly skilled workforce who express their creativity in inventive ways. Agra durrie has been granted the Geographical Indication Tag (GI) in 2013.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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