Jail Carpets in Mughal India

a guest piece by Syed Mohammed Hasan who has a keen interest in designing carpets and has got famous artwork made on carpets.

The world renowned Mughal jail carpets, possibly the most expensive carpets
in world at present originated from the Mughal empire under the patronage
of one of the greatest mughal emperors, Akbar grandfather of Emperor
Shahjahan, who was the one who built the Taj Mahal, Agra in memory of his
departed wife Mumtaz in the 16th century.

Emperor Akbar, who was illiterate himself was a great propagator of the arts
and culture and it was during his reign that the arts flourished most in
India. It was when it was brought to the notice of the emperor that the
prisoners used to create a lot of ruckus in the jails that he decided to
reform them. Between 1520-30’s he brought some of the finest weavers of
carpets from the most well known carpet workshops of Persia to teach the
jail birds, the art of weaving carpets.

These jail birds took a lot of pride in their work and they eventually
outshone their masters. These carpets were made for the palaces in India
and some were also sent abroad in the form of gifts. Since there was no
shortage of money, labour or a time constraint, it could take a few hundred
weavers up to 15 years to make a single carpet.

They used the finest wools, velvets, silks and sometimes even ‘Pashmina’
(Cashmere) which is considered to be one of the most exotic fibres for
weaving shawls for making
these carpet. The dyes were all natural dyes/vegetable dyes extracted out
of plants, rocks, minerals, insects etc.

These designs were rare and quite different from the traditional
Persian , Turkish and Central Asian carpets and a lot of these designs
were original Indian patterns prior to the Mughal influence. The most
famous jails for carpets were Agra Jail, Lahore Jail, Amritsar Jail, Jaipur
jail, Gwalior jail and Bikaner jail.

SILK CARPET FROM AGRA JAIL - TIGER RUG 6.4X4 CC7986 (19)

SILK CARPET FROM AGRA JAIL WITH TIGER MOTIF

AGRA JAIL 13.8X13 CC-1191 (2)CARPET FROM AGRA JAIL- SIZE – 13.8X13

AMRITSAR LATTICE 17.7X11.9 FT CC-349.JPG (3)

LATTICE WORK CARPET FROM AMRITSAR JAIL – SIZE  17.7X11.9 FT

AGRA PAISLEY 10X5.7 CC-6308 (1)PAISLEY CARPET FROM AGRA JAIL -SIZE – 10X5.7

AMRITSAR JAIL PASHMINA SHIKAARGAH 23.9 X8 TCC 1438 011 (1)

PASHMINA SHIKAARGAH FROM AMRITSAR JAIL -SIZE-  23.9 X8

AGRA JAIL 11.6X5.3 CC-2782.JPG (1)

FROM AGRA JAIL – SIZE – 11.6X5.3

these carpets were with a private collector the late Mr Sheel Chandra

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