the carpet weavers in his villagers have changed their profession from craftsmen to laborers. “When I started, there were 80 households who were into this craft but only three are continuing with it,” he says  “There are about 90,000 skilled workers in the valley but only 26 percent are participating in the craft”, says Mushtaq Ahmed Shah, quality control inspector at J&K Handicraft department.

Due to less returns, the art is dying a slow death. Many artisans are switching their profession and the children of artisans are pursuing different professions. Although this has led to a decrease in the production of carpets but it has not affected the income of businessmen who sell these carpets. “They have employed a technique of demanding value added products from their artisans. The newly weaved carpets have more knots per inch which increase their cost. The business houses are earning the same with less production,” an artisan says.

Craftsmen working at a Carpet Factory-Photo:Bilal Bahadur.
Craftsmen working at a Carpet Factory-Photo:Bilal Bahadur.

Another factor which has contributed to the decline in the art of weaving Qaleens is the decrease in the production of world renowned Kashmiri silk which has forced the dealers and government to import silk from outside. Most silk used in Kashmiri carpets is imported from China and Karnataka.  Imported raw material is purchased worth Rs 150-160 crore each year. The rising price of silk has affected the traders.

The carpet industry is not regulated by the state government which means the artisans don’t benefit from the rising price of Qaleens. Their wages depend on how kind their middlemen are. Although the department of J&K Handicraft claims they have recommended some measures to the authorities but nothing substantial has been done.

The state government has established small centers where young girls are taught the art of carpet weaving on a monthly stipend of few hundred rupees.  While the older generation is quitting the art, the government is pushing more people towards it and creating a new class of impoverished traders.

The intrusion of machine-made carpets in the market and a loss of interest in the trade among the weavers, has affected the traders. With manufacturers in China, Pakistan and Iran pushing their own version of carpets in the market and the cost of raw materials increasing, the government needs to do more to stop this trade from meeting a quiet death.

“Apart from setting up new training schools, the government is holding exhibitions usually national and international and providing loans at low subsidies in collaboration of J&K Bank. We have organized a couple of buyer-seller meets in the past to increase the sales of the handicrafts in Kashmir. Government is doing its best to stop this art from vanishing from in the state. What else can it do?” Mustaq Ahmed Shah, the quality inspector, says.

But have any of these steps benefitted the artisans in the state? In the international and national exhibition or state exhibitions, the artisans didn’t participate. Such shows are organized only for the dealers of the handicrafts to increase the sales. “We do not know about it and if at all we know, we can’t bare the expenses of our travel. Besides, what will we do in the exhibition?” says Ganie.

None of them have applied for bank loans as they feel they might not be able to repay it. “The interest rate may be less than other loans but it is too huge for us. Our earnings in no way can help us to repay it,” says Mohammed Salim Ganie, another artisan of Budgam district. “The couple of buyer-seller meets organized by the government were attended by the owners of big business houses of Kashmir which may have increased the sales of carpets but has not made any difference to the financial status of the artisans,” he said.

In the recent past, the state government formed a task force of bureaucrats and members of business bodies to make recommendations which can save this art from dying. The task force is headed by the chairman of handicrafts department. They have not submitted any report so far.


  1. I am looking for 5 x 7 sized carpets woven in silk for end use. We are travelling to kashmir in november for family vacation alongwith another 3 couples.

    Would be interested to buy from Artisans of Badgaum as mentioned in this aricle. with phone and address




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