Rugs from the Indian Sub Continent part 2

By: James M. Keshishian, Mark Keshishian & Sons, Inc.

Washington, DC

As little as two years ago, I could not have reported favorably on the state of rug weaving on the Indian subcontinent. Happily, today, I can say there is a lot of improvement being made in this article, we'll talk about Pakistan, the Kashmir region and India in that order. Bangladesh, unfortunately, has little to offer for the purposes of this article.


A poor nation, Pakistan was created in 1947. Carpets were manufactured then, as now in predominantly Turcoman (So-called "Bokhara" designs) and Turkish Prayer patterns. The wools have been local in origin, of poor quality and generally harshly dyed. Today's "motel auctions" are full of these. They are quickly worn, do not clean well and range from very fine to coarse in weave.

Where there has been outside commercial influence, the product has improved. Today thousands of displaced Persians fear for their safety in a return to Iran. Many of these people are from the rug weaving industry and they are answering the call for quality. Some have even established manufacturing facilities in Pakistan. Supervision, better wools and a new attitude are influencing the quality of the overall product.

Today we are seeing handsome rugs in Mogul, Persian and, again, Turcoman and Turkish designs. One point of criticism of even the best looking rugs from Pakistan is the sizing applied to the back of most. This is Carboxy Methyl Cellulose-CMC. Translation: glue. Many importers that buy as jobbers are not even aware of this.

 The future looks bright as virtually every aspect of the product has improved. The resale of older or used rugs from this area reflects no increase in real appreciation in the market place. But rugs from Pakistan will most certainly cost more as inflation and increased costs are taken into consideration.


The reputation of this area called Jumma and Kashmir is well deserved. Fine knotted, well supervised and excellently designed carpets using silk, are quite often the rule here. The designs are local as well as Persian. The Arab and Persian Gulf states have large numbers of these fine rugs available in their bazaars and shopping areas.

As an appraiser active in the Washington, DC area, many of these rugs are brought to me for appraisal. The owners are often U.S. Consular officers, foreign officials or travelers having arrived just days or even hours before. The marvel of air flight! Unfortunately, many of these purchases were not in any sense bargains. These same shopping areas probably showed the prospective buyer other fine rugs as well, i.e. Isphahans, Nains, Kashans and Tabriz rugs from Iran. By comparison the rugs from Kashmir are equally fine or finer. But then again, the future resale value of Kashmir rugs will fail by comparison. Time may change this.


The colors and materials used in Indian woven carpets have changed little since the end of the Safavid Empire in 1736. But within the last ten years product quality has improved.

Since their independence, India has sought every source of hard currency and its rug production is a primary contributor. With low wages, inadequate trainable work force and well tuned distribution already established, India is doing well. Five or even three years ago, very few quality rugs came from India. The picture today is changing. Good rugs are now coming from India, due in large measure to the contributions of Persian expatriates of the rug weaving industry from Iran.

Carpets from India are quite often superior to the rugs they use to copy from. Whereas many Tabriz rugs do not use two-shot wefting and may skip lines of wefting for quick production, the Indian copies do weft properly. Medium fine Indian rugs look almost machine made on the backs. The improved supervision is very apparent. The wool is very good, with the blending of Australian and New Zealand qualities with native wool. At present, the Indian government has imposed a 30% limit on New Zealand wool used by rug maker. The manufacturer can blend or weave any rug in any proportion a long as his total foreign to domestic wool percentage is 30/90.

The warp yarns look like kite threads-well- pun and hardy-and contribute to dimensional stability. Good dye stuffs add yet another form of stability. Some local luster washing is done and this helps to sell the rugs throughout the world.

As a professional rug cleaner, I am interested in the overall reliability of the product. I can endorse the "new breed" of rugs from northern India. They clean well, keep their shape and look better through age and usage. The dye are manmade, reliable and in proper coloration.

The designs are most often exact copy of successful Persian designs and the colors are usually the semi antique or antique version of the original Persian.

Sizes are available in addition to the normal 3 x 5, 4 x 6, 8x 10, 9 x 12 formats. When a continuity pattern is developed, orders are available for unusual sizes if one cares to put up a deposit and wait.

Prices for these rugs are approximately one-half to one-fourth of the retail Persian carpets. One does not have to be a glib salesman when color, design, quality and price are so plainly visible. These rugs sell well to an appreciative market.

Region after region has been given credit for the best production and competition is lively. Today, many look to-the Varanasi area for the most saleable rugs. Bhadohi, Khanarish, Mirzapur (this is where most of the durries come from) and Allahabad are in the forefront with Varanasi (old name by the way, was Benares). As time passes and the Iranian situation does not improve, the "Indian connection" could be the best long-term source of good rugs.


The revolution in Iran has made India, Pakistan and the Kashmir region experience a revival in the rug weaving industry. The consumer benefits, the developing nations become more self-sufficient and, thankfully, the professional cleaner has an easier time with reliable rugs.

Warning Signs,

Problem Areas & Suggestions

  1. 1.    Backing: Watch for glue on the back used as a sizing (on some Indian, Pakistani and Kashmiri). Surface clean if possible as immersion cleaning will destroy the backing.

  2. 2.    Dye bleeding: look for color run into the white fringes or into neighboring light colors on the surface. Test with saliva on a handkerchief. Surface clean.

  3. 3.    Pile shading: Pakistani and Kashmiri rugs within rug yarn show distortion easily. Brush, squeegee, vacuum and then put through a wringer to lay pile in the right direction.

  4. 4.    Storage: roll up rug against the pile and use multiple cords to tie. Never store rug directly on a concrete floor.

  5. 5.    Normal cleaning: There are three basic schedules of professional cleaning.

a.    Cyclical--every six months, year, etc.

b.    Hygienic-to process by need even if no dirt is visible.

c.    Visible soil-to remove the obvious when owner determines the need.

Here are some suggested tips for consumers

Carpet Sweepers: 
Lightweight hand sweepers are wonderful for the quick pick up of loose visible soils.

Vacuum Cleaners: Avoid the "beater bar" or power head variety unless you have: (1) a heavy traffic area with a rug replacement plan or (2) if no other method is available. Tank type or central vacuums do best, but if you have to use a "beater bar" vacuum, remember that it's better to remove the rubber belt in the nozzle. Move the vacuum in the direction of the pile. Take it easy and the rug will last a long time.

Home washing:
Avoid it. Many home products just add soaps, detergents, fillers, fluorescent dyes and other chemicals to the pile. When a professional takes it to his rug cleaning plant, the carpet quite often foams, the color runs, the dyes change or the appearance is altered all because it was "loaded" with household cleaning products.


Recommended Buying Sources:

Look for established Oriental rug stores and Oriental rug stores that have an established rug cleaning plant-not a back room with minor equipment. Also, try department stores that sell Oriental rugs and have a full rug cleaning service, not simply wall-to-wall cleaning only.



Copyright 1983-2012 James Mark Keshishian Trust, Mark S Keshishian Mark Keshishian and Sons Inc.. All rights reserved.
No part of this article can be reprinted with out permission.