Gwalior might have been ruled by the Moguls once in the history of time, but the Persian flavor they brought along with them exists in the aesthetic sensibilities of this region even today. Carpet weaving in Gwalior is a much renowned craft, nourished by families of skilled craftsmen.
The proficiency of the Gwalior carpet weavers has contributed significantly towards making the district one of the prime places of weaving in the country. Most of these designs are original creations of the master craftsmen. Many established designers and furnishing houses get their designs masterfully executed by the weavers in Gwalior. The hand-woven carpets are also exported to the US, Canada and many other places around the world.The master weavers have their looms either at their homes or in another location, where other weavers would come and execute the master weaver’s designs on a contractual basis. These weavers belong to the Muslim and the Hindu Kori communities. While they are not taking up the seasonal contract work of carpet weaving, they have to find other means of livelihood. Women are mostly confined to the house and are mainly involved in the pre-weaving activities.
Myths & Legends:
The earliest form of carpet weaving in India was recorded at around 500 BC in Buddhist texts. The evidence of use of carpets in India also comes from Mongolia and these carpets were found to be very similar to the present day Persian or Anatolian carpets. The Venetian traveler, Marco Polo, too has written about the popularity and widespread use of flooring in many parts of India in his chronicles. It is believed to be a time-tested and long-used method of flooring in Indian villages. The Durrie is a small carpet woven by women in rural areas on two parallel bars for looms. This carpet is found to be commonly used in Indian villages. The carpet weaving craft is believed to have been carried into Gwalior by the Mughals. This craft had flourished strongly in Iran and accompanied the smitten Mughal rulers who established the skill in Gwalior. The Mughals invited many Persian artisans to live in India and practice the craft under their patronage. They also trained the Indian artisans in the art of carpet-weaving. Very soon this craft flourished in Gwalior and the Indian weavers produced carpets as good as or even better than the Persians in terms of quality and variety.During the subsequent years when the Mughal rule declined and other dynasties conquered, the craft of carpet weaving held on strongly. Just like the other arts in Gwalior, It imbibed desired characteristics from every culture that had braced Gwalior.Carpet-weaving had come with the Mughals and so it travelled along with them wherever they went. Therefore this craft is found in India from Jammu and Kashmir in the north to Tamil Nadu in the south and from Rajasthan in the west to Arunachal Pradesh in the east.Some of the major carpet-making areas of India are the following: -¢ Jammu and Kashmir (Persian designs), Ladakh (Tibetan designs)-¢ Delhi (carpets as well as durries)-¢ Rajasthan -“ Durries and Dhadki of Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Ajmer and Barmer-¢ Madhya Pradesh – Gwalior carpets-¢ Uttar Pradesh – Mirzapur and Bhadohi (where 90 per cent of all carpets of country are produced)-¢ North eastern states – Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Manipur (Tibetan designs)-¢ Andhra Pradesh – Warangal and Elluru-¢ Tamil Nadu, Karnataka The British took over Gwalior in 1779 CE and established the East India Company. They were smitten by the richness of this craft and went on to establish the Oriental Carpet Manufacturing company (OCM) in the early 1900s to derive maximum benefits from the carpet weaving industry. The strong Persian influence still pulsates through the designs, colors and motifs of the Gwalior carpets. The technique of weaving and the design of the looms too are the descendants of the Iranian technique.
The designs in the Gwalior carpets are infused by the Persian carpet designs which are an interplay of the permutations of symmetry and geometry. The symmetry helps the pattern to spread out in an organized manner and helps in determining both invariance and change. The basic framework of the design is much similar to its Persian ancestors, with only mild, if any, variations. The rectangular carpet consists of a two thick borders which flank a central medallion. The medallion expands symmetrically in the ‘Field’ and leaves a spandrel or triangular quarter panels in the corners, which touch the inner border. Every gap of this framework is elaborately decorated with motifs of flowers, foliage and others inspired from nature. Designs fall into two different categories: curvilinear and rectilinear. According to a few craftsmen, the Gwalior carpets are famous for their beautiful floral patterns.The fringes of the carpet or the shorter sides have tassels of threads. The designs, patterns and their symmetrical variations occur in two main parts of the carpet – the field and between the borders, which frame the field. The craftsmen of Gwalior have incorporated traditional themes into contemporary designs without diluting their bonds with the vast reserve of the ancestral patterns.
Carpet weaving is skill and labor intensive. Meticulous work and dexterity combined with immense patience is shown by the craftsmen. The larger and intricate the design, the more time it consumes to reel out a carpet of high quality. In spite of this, there is very little value for their labor and the returns are also minimal. Therefore, only a small percentage of craftsmen are able to provide the basic standard of living to their families, which includes education and basic amount of food. Children are believed to pick up the craft very quickly and deftly go about it. However, children below the age of fourteen are not authorized to start working at the family looms and have to attain basic education. It is seen that by the time these children cross this age they have taken the family profession for granted and set their interests elsewhere. There is a marked absence in social security amongst the average and poor weavers, which makes them indebted to the higher income groups such as the master weavers and the traders. The old pit looms situated in dimly lit sheds are facing increasing competitions from mechanized looms have also been largely responsible for a crisis in carpet weaving.
Carpet weaving in Gwalior is done in twos or threes by the skilled craftsmen. The knots made by them on their vertical loom slowly transform into elaborate designs of vibrant colors and strong motifs. As the carpet evolves through different stages, it assumes an admirable number of expressions. The master craftsmen themselves draft all the designs for the carpet. The designs are mostly symmetrical and are deciphered on the loom where they materialize into pixilated patterns through knotting. Warp for at least two to three carpets of a singular design is stretched at a time.
A large percentage of raw material suppliers also double as master weavers who supply these raw materials to other master weavers. They are quite affluent and well versed in their craft and trade. This way, the trader holds about 60-70 percent of shares in his business of yarn supply and production.
Cotton: It is mainly sourced from Haryana. Sources also vary as per the kind of cotton thread required for the warp and weft. For the regular quality, the thread used is 6/6 and is sourced from Rajasthan. The stone washed one, which is 12/20, is bought from Delhi. Mostly both of these are procured from dealers and not produced by the weavers.
Wool: It is the primary raw material used to knot into the weave. Wool is sourced from Bikaner and Amritsar. The two main types of wool are handspun and the mill-spun wool. I. Handspun: This is pure wool procured from the markets of Bikaner and Jodhpur in Rajasthan. This type of wool is used for durries that are colored using vegetable dyes. This wool is not of uniform gauge as it is handspun. II. Mill spun: This too is pure wool, procured from Panipat and Bikaner. In durries made with this kind of wool, normally chemical dyes are used. This is cheaper than hand woven wool and is of uniform gauge.
Viscose: This is sometimes used instead of wool. Viscose is sourced from Panipat and Surat.
Tools & Tech:
Taana Machine: The Taana machine is used to spin and organize the threads for the loom. It is made of two basic parts – a big octagonal horizontal cylinder that rotates on its axis and a vertical frame on which a number of thread rolls can be attached. Loom: A vertical loom is used by the carpet weavers of Gwalior. The loom is believed to have derived its design from the Tabriz loom of Iran. The vertical frame of this loom is made up of two horizontal beams of wood or steel. The first beam is almost two feet above the ground and the second one is about six feet from the ground. The looms are quite simple, unlike the usually complex ones.The beams are fastened using a screw and chain mechanism. The upper beam is movable and the length of the beams changes according to the dimension of the carpet to be woven.A Reed is a horizontal metallic frame through which the warp threads pass. This keeps the threads sturdy, straight and at a uniform distance from each other.The ‘Kamana’ is a V-shaped wooden frame where the ends are bound with a tight piece of rope. Of the two layers of the warp (Taana), one remains on the outside and the other remains inside. The Kamana is used to interchange these positions if needed.The Kamana is attached to the beam, just above the reed, using two pieces of bamboo called ‘Ruchch’. Panja: It is a comb-like instrument to ensure that the threads are compacted and firmly positioned in the matrix of weaving. Patti: A flat tool used to beat the carpet so that all the knots and threads settle uniformly. Dhoori: A locally devised apparatus for cutting off the excess threads which stick out once the weaving is done. Faavda: A tool used to polish the fully woven carpet so that the surface is evened out.
Designing: The designs are sketched on a graph paper by the craftsmen, with the help of a basic grid as the reference. Colors and shades are also detailed out on this paper. The grid helps in keeping the designs symmetrical as they grow and spread on the paper.
Dyeing: Natural pigments were traditionally used to dye the wool but since it was time consuming, the craftsmen now buy pre-dyed wool for carpet weaving.
Threads for weft: After the yarn is dyed, it is normally delivered in bundles. In this case, the thread needs to be untangled and stretched to make them tighter. A charkha or spinning wheel is used for the reeling. This process is not required if it is dyed in factories since the weavers receive them in rolls.
Warping: The master weaver uses the Taana machine for warp making depending on the requirements of his design. The threads are fed into the vertical frames in the desired pattern and color combination. In this movable frame, the ends of the threads are taken from the rolls and fed through another grid-like frame that guides the thread. This is wound on an octagonal cylinder according to the combination. Once the entire cylinder is covered, it is passed on to the weaver who feeds it into the loom for further work.
Fixing the loom: On the vertical loom, the warp is set such that at least 2-3 copies of the same design can be created. Two or three people work together and knot the threads to the required designs. The knots are called ‘Persian Knots’, named after their birthplace.
Weaving:The two layers of warp which is bound on the two beams pass through the Reed while weaving. There is a small bench before the loom, facing the warp, on which one or two weavers sit and work. The number of weavers depends on the width of the carpets.Since there is more than one person weaving, the communication or mutual instructions become very crucial. They sit together on one side, facing the loom. The graph paper, on which the design is made, is present only with one of the weavers. That weaver takes a look at the graph paper at regular intervals, and voices a particular term to the other weavers. This term means a particular kind of design or knot in the weave, which has to be worked on or replicated by the other weavers. A few examples of the terms are:
Byayi: The color that lies below needs to be repeated on the top.
Bachcha: The knot that comes on the right side of the line below needs to be repeated.
Chala: the thread in front needs to be worked on eg. chala lal, chala neela etc In sequence, these terms are pronounced to get the weaving process done symmetrically. It is almost like a sing song language of codes only the weavers understand.To aid the process, there are markings made on the warp, which guide the weaver about the location of a particular feature in the design. After a row of weft is woven, the weavers beat it and use the ‘Panja’ to comb, so that it gets compacted to the warp. Once this is done, the weaver interchanged the layers of the warp using the Kamana and Ruchch. This locks the weft between the two layers of warp, making the carpet more strong and durable.
Polishing: After weaving, the carpets are immersed in water for 8-10 hours and left to dry. This is done so that the knots settle down uniformly. Later, the fabric is washed and cleaned with chemicals to strengthen it. The ‘Faavda’ is used to polish the surface till it evens out.
Clipping: The carpets are then sent to the Clipper, who clips off the protruding threads and knots using shears to give them a smoother finish. These days, the craftsmen also use electrical cutting machines and tools.
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The history of Gwalior is radiant by the princely influences over the years. It gets its name from the sage Gwalipa. A popular story goes that, in 8 AD, this sage cured the Rajput chieftain Suraj Sen of leprosy using water from Suraj Kund tank (which still remains in Gwalior fort). In gratitude he founded a city which he named after the saint who had given him the gift of new life. Renaming him Suhan Pal, the saint foretold that Suhan's descendants would remain in power for as long as they retained the name Pal. His next 83 descendants did just that, but number 84 changed his name to Tej Karan and eventually lost his kingdom.
The oldest records of Gwalior are the scripts found in Pavaya, which date to the 3rd century AD, when the Shishunaags ruled the area. On the basis of the coins which were excavated, it was deduced that the names of the rulers were Bheem, Skand, Vasu, Vrahaspati, Bhavnaam, Dev, Vyaghra and Ganapati. Description of King Ganapati has been found at the Inscriptions of Samudragupta at Allahbaad.
In the 6th century BC this region was taken over from the Shishunaags (of the Magadha Empire) by the Nand dynasty of Patliputra. They stationed their capital near the Pavaya village in present day Dabra in Gwalior. The then ruler was Swamin Shivnandi.
Gwalior went on to become the cradle of many great dynasties. The stately Gwalior fort stood witness to many change of rules. It is believed to have been ruled by the Guptas and then the Hunas in the 6 century AD. Gwalior was under the possession of Gurjara Pratiharas until around 942 AD. Inscriptions found at Gwalior show that the King Bhoj of the Pratihara dynasty ruled from the Gwalior fort from 836 AD to 882 AD. Later during 1021-1022 AD Mahmood Gajnavi invaded the fort.
Mohammed Ghori attacked Gwalior during 1195-96 AD. He however could not capture the fort, and after a treaty handed over the responsibility to Malik Bahauddin Tughlak. Eighteen months of brutal battle ensued, and he took over the fort. Afterwards Mohammad Ghori's Commander Qutubuddin Aibak appointed Iltutmish as the Officer in Command of the Gwalior Fort.
In the 10th century, the Rajputs marched in and conquered Gwalior. The Tomar dynasty ruled from 1486 AD to 1526 AD. This era witnessed a wondrous flourish of arts, architecture and culture under the patronage of Maharaja Mansingh Tomar. He was a pioneer of many innovative systems in Gwalior. The Moti Jheel is one such system which proves to be the source of irrigation even in the present times. Vikramaditya was the last ruler of this dynasty and was killed in the battle of Panipat.
In 1528 Babur who ascended the throne, extensively praised the Gwalior fort in Babur Nama. The Mughals later took over completely in the time of Emperor Akbar, and the city with its sturdy fort came under the Mughal Empire. In the Ain-i-Akbari, Gwalior was mentioned as the official mint of Akbar's empire, where the copper coins were issued. There is also a mention of an iron mine in the region. Its saga of possession continued when the British took over and later it came under the rule of the Scindias. Till the Indian Independence, Gwalior was under the Scindia dynasty. After Independence, the princely titles were eliminated. Maharaj Jyotiraditya Scindia served as the Minister of State for Commerce and Industry in Indian Government.
The art and craft history of the city therefore became a delicious blend of the best of all the cultures which touched it. It came to be renowned for many poets, musicians and warriors. Its resplendent past still pulsates through the lives of people.
The Gwalior city is located in Madhya Pradesh, 423 kilometers north of Bhopal, the state capital. Gwalior is located at 26.22Â°N 78.18Â°E and lies at an elevation of 196m above sea level and is often called the tourist capital of the state. The city is spread over an area of 5214.00 sq km, in the Chambal river valley and is landlocked from every side.
Gwalior is a well connected city. It has direct flights from major cities. The Agra-Bombay national highway (NH3) passes through Gwalior, connecting it to Shivpuri on one end and Agra on the other. The city is connected to Jhansi by the National Highway 75, towards the south of the city. In the North, the city is connected to the holy city of Mathura via National Highway 3. There are bus services to and from all major and minor cities near Gwalior, including Bhopal, Agra, Delhi, Jabalpur, Jhansi, Bhind, Morena, Dholpur, Etawah, Datia, Jaipur and Indore.
Gwalior is connected by regular bus (Dabra Bus Station, Ghatigaon Bus Station, Gwalior Bus Station) service with neighboring cities of Agra, Jaipur, Delhi, Indore, Jhansi etc.
Gwalior is on the Central Railway's main Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Chennai lines. The many stations in the city are Birlanagar Railway Station, Main Gwalior Railway Station and Ghosipura Railway Station. Among other major trains, the Shatabdi and the Taj Express connect Gwalior with Delhi and Agra daily.
Gwalior is a primary area of the Chambal region. It serves as the headquarters and is surrounded by many industrial and commercial zones of the neighboring districts, which are Malanpur - Bhind, Banmor - Morena.
The fourth largest city of Madhya Pradesh, Gwalior is a thriving city retaining the essence of its rich cultural heritage and yet moving onto to equip itself to match present needs. The city is well connected and has more than the basic amenities available, just like any other major city in India. It has several important education institutions like the Indian Institute of Information Technology and Management, Indian Institute of Tourism and Travel Management, Scindia School etc. The industries here are dairy, chemical, manufacturing, textiles, handicrafts and other industries. Gwalior also has prominent hospitals like Sahara Hospital, Mascot Hospital, Birla Hospital, Cancer Hospital & Research Institute and many good private doctor clinics.
The Roop Singh Stadium is also of prime importance in Gwalior and it has hosted many One Day International cricket matches. It is named after the renowned hockey player Roop Singh from Gwalior. A swimming pool of international standards is also present by the name of Taran Puskar.
The skyline of Gwalior is specked by architecture both ancient and new. The grand fort of Gwalior, the Man Mandir and other ruins speak of its rich heritage while the contemporary structures speak of its adept evolution. Even in the constructions, there is an intermingling of the various cultures and styles. The carvings and motifs have slight Islamic influences and are also said to be inspired from the carvings in the Chaitya caves. There are Hindu temples, Jain cave temples and also Islamic buildings in Gwalior.
The Mughal style is visible in the mausoleum for Mohammed Ghaus and the use of Gwalior Jhilmili with glazed blue tile cladding is unique and beautiful. The style also reflects in the tomb of Tansen, modestly designed and placed next to his teacher Mohd. Ghaus.
The European and Indo-Saracenic influence is well observed in the palace complexes of Moti Mahal, Jai Vilas and Usha Kiran. An Italian architect called Michael Filoze had a big hand in the design of the Jai Vilas palace built in 1861-1874. The designs were inspired by the palaces and gardens in Versailles, France. The Man Mandir too is an exquisite palace in the fort complex. The Gurudwara Data Bandi Chor is a beautiful white marble structure in the complex, built in the memory of a Sikh guru who was imprisoned here. The Residential Scindia School and the Sardar School for the children of royalty and nobility are fine examples of colonial architecture.
The city is specked with both intact buildings of old architecture as well as the close knit rows of houses which have mushroomed amidst the crumbling ruins. These minimalistic houses are of brick and cement and still retain certain elements of the traditional architecture like the arches, pillars and brackets. The constructions were mostly in sandstone, which gave a yellow wash to the Gwalior panorama. The present ones are using a mix of blue paint with the lime plaster to give a slight blue tint to their homes, instead of coating it with a layer of paint.
The affluent families of Gwalior still retain their 'Havelis' and grand complexes as residences. Many palaces and structures of the royal era have been taken over by the government and now act as government offices. The rest are being restored and being lined up in the rich list of tourist attractions.
The passing dynasties have also lead to a potpourri of cultures. Gwalior is a blend of two rich cultures- Bundeli and Braj. The people speak Hindi, Malwi, Rajasthani and Marathi. A few communities of Muslims also speak Urdu. The major religion is Hinduism. Jains, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians also constitute chunks of the population. All the major festivals are celebrated in Gwalior with much pomp and show. The national festivals celebrated include Diwali, Holi, Onam, Makar Sankranti, Vishu, Eid-ul-Fitr, Rakhi and other local ones like Nag-Panchami, Ahilya Utsav, Ganesh Utsav, Garba (Navratri Utsav), Dussehra, Durga Puja. The city is vibrant with splashes of color during Rang Panchami, a festival celebrated five days after Holi. This is celebrated differently here with the colours mixed with water and poured onto others in merriment. Ganesh Chathurthi too is enthusiastically celebrated with a carnival of floats or 'Jhanki' as it is locally called. During the months of January the sky is freckled with kites and strings while they celebrate Makar Sankranti or the 'kite festival'.
It is said that the last decade saw an increasing celebration on the occasions of western origin like the Valentine's Day, Rose day and New Year.
Gwalior has a rich culture of music. The Gwalior Gharana is one of the oldest Khayal Gharanas and the one to which most classical Indian musicians can trace the origin of their style to. The famous Tansen Sangeet Samaroh or the Tansen Music Festival is celebrated every year on the Tansen Tomb in Gwalior. Folk poetry is an integral part of the Gwalior culture. The music lovers hum the poetry of Jagnik and Ghag even now.
Dance too is a part of their festival spirit. The tribals rejoice with dances like Lur dance, Dul-Dul Ghodi dance, Lanhgi, Ada- Khada dance, Raya dance, Ahiri dance etc. These dances are vibrant with culture and quite contagious in the sense that one cannot stay uninfluenced.
Gwalior's rich heritage has naturally seeped into its people. It was once the seat of the Rajputs (Pratiharas, Kachwahas and Tomars) and then the Marathas and then the Mughals.
Gwalior as a place is the womb of many varied cultural interests and its children can be thus defined.
The city is the birthplace of the oldest discipline of Hindustani classical; it brims with a plethora of musicians and music lovers. One of the 'nine jewels' of Akbar's royal court, Tansen's rhythms pulsated up until his death in Gwalior. A delectable line of musicians and poets kept tradition alive, among which a few names are Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Jan Nisar Akhtar, Javed Akhtar, Bihari Lal, Nida Fazil, Ghulam Farid Sabri. The city also richly nurtured other skills like art and theatre and is the hometown to famed talents like Kiran Chopra and Piyush Mishra.
The people are very much inclined to politics too. India had one of its Prime Ministers from Gwalior. Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a strong political figure and also a poet with flair.
Lineages of skilled craftsmen can also be seen in Gwalior. They wield their talents in many handicrafts including carpet-weaving. This craft originated from Persia and was brought to Gwalior by the Mughals, where it stayed on to help develop Gwalior into a major carpet-weaving centre. The craftsmen are skilled not only in weaving but also in dyeing. Their skills also spill over to making dolls out of cloth pieces and crafting objects out of leather.
Most of the population still retains the gait of proud royalty. They walk with stately confidence and sometimes even carry weaponry with them.
The craftsmen practicing carpet-weaving in Gwalior involves a substantial Muslim population. A lot of them prefer to work with their families within their courtyards. One of the master craftsmen, Chandra Prakash Prajapati, has been weaving since 1997. He confesses that it would be impossible to pull off the herculean task single handedly and is hence assisted by his brother and son while at work.
The Gwalior fort had inspired Emperor Babar to describe it as â€œthe pearl amongst the fortresses of Hind". The magnificent outer walls of the Fort still stand and are two miles in length and 35 feet high. Statues of Jain 'Tirthankaras' are carved into the rock faces surrounding the fort. It is located on a steepened hill and the old town of Gwalior lies at the eastern base of the fortress. An interesting feature of the fort is the Chinese dragons carved at the hilt of the pillars. This Chinese influence is the result of the flourishing trade with China during the time of construction. The fortress encloses beautiful palaces (Man Mandir and Gujari Maha) as well as dungeons. With the change of rulers, and amidst the possessions of the fort, many additions were done and many different flavors blossomed on the structure.
Gwalior is also famous for its Jain, Hindu temples and monuments.
Teli ka Mandir (Oil man's temple): It is a lofty temple in the Gwalior fort which is almost 100ft high. The shape of the roof is distinctively Dravidian, while the decorative embellishments have the typically Indo-Aryan characteristics of Northern India. The name is believed to be so because the temple had been used for processing oil before the British occupied the fort. The idols have vanished from the interiors and only the dedicatory inscription to the goddess in a niche proves its erstwhile presence.
The tomb of Tansen, the father of Hindustani classical music, is in Gwalior. Built in a distinctive Mughal style, Tansen's tomb is the grand host of the famed annual Tansen music festival held in November-December. The other memorials include the ones for the Rani of Jhansi and Tatya Tope, the great freedom fighters.
The Gwalior Mela is also a prime attraction. It came into being a century ago under the patronage of the ruler Madho Rao Scindia I. In 1905 the Mela or the fair was called Mela Maveshiaan and was started to provide an opportunity for the famine hit farmers to trade their crop and goods with the farmers from other areas. Its fame spread far and wide and came to attract many buyers and sellers. It has now grown in size and is held in a 104 acre land with almost 1200 permanent pavilions.
Gwalior is also famous for its culinary feasts and specialties like 'Gajak'. This is a thin dry sweet made of sesame seeds or 'Til' and sugar/jaggery. The demand increases in the winters since sesame is known to have warming properties.
The Gwalior bazaars are perhaps the oldest in Madhya Pradesh with shops boasting of lineage from the princely times. The Rajwara, Laskar and Patankar Bazaars are brimming with beautiful handicrafts like lacquer ware, dolls, hand-woven carpets, wall hangings and jewelry and saris.