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Cotton Handwoven Dhurries - a brief history; origin & process

weaver handwoven cotton rug

History And Process Of Panja Dhurrie Weaving In North-West India

Dhurries are floor coverings made of cloth which are usually found in Indian homes. Growing up Shiv and I both grew up with these colourful floor coverings in Punjab. In fact Shiv's grandmother and her sisters would weave these at home themselves. Dhurries may be made of cotton, wool, warp or even silk.Weaving dhurries have been a part of a household tradition that creates floor coverings for personal use at homes or to be given as gifts for weddings and other occasions.

Panja dhurries or Cotton Handwoven rugs on our site here are exclusively made of Cotton. These floor coverings add cheer and colour to many homes worldwide, but how did they come about? What are their origins?

Origin

Carpet weaving reached India under the rule of the Mughal emperors. Dhurries first received international recognition in 1851 at the Crystal Palace Exhibition in London. Later on, dhurries gained more attention at the Delhi exhibition in 1902. During these periods, prisoners of the local jails were introduced to dhurrie weaving in Jaipur by the Maharaja, Sawai Ram Singh II. By the 20th century, prisoners in all Indian jails started weaving.

It is widely accepted that to compete with mechanisation weavers started producing colourful, intricate designs which were hard to copy and prodiuce on machines. This gave birth to the modest Cotton dhurrie in today's form. Though this craft has spread over North and East, the tradition continued to be practiced in Rajasthan, especially in Jodhpur. 

 

The Process of Panja Weaving

Designing

The weavers use conventional designs based on their region or the design patterns. We almost exclusively use traditional designs and remove and amend as needed to fit modern homes. 

Raw Material

yarn to thread

Cotton for warping and wool for weft are the raw materials used for weaving. For Cotton rugs, the process for weft is replaced by cotton thread. These materials are normally obtained from local dealers and further processing is done for weaving. (download our dhurrie making process in full detail, if you'd like to read more)

Dyeing

Natural dyes like indigo, mangeetha, harad, peel, pomegranate etc and chemical dyes are used for dyeing dhurries. While a yarn bundle coloured with natural dyes shows variations in shades and such variations are not available in using chemical dyes.

Yarn Opening for Weft

Following dyeing, the yarn will be in the form of bundles or rolls. Since yarn bundles have tangles, women are involved in reeling the yarn using charkha. 

Warping

As this step requires expertise, a master weaver will usually make the warp based on the designs and color combinations. Using the taana, a machine used for warping, the thread rolls will be placed in vertical movable frame as per color combination. The other ends of the thread are passed through a small frame grid and then coiled on octagon-shaped cylinder according to the design.

By the end of this step, the whole cylinder will be covered with the thread. This tightly-wound thread will be given to the weaver for using it on the loom frame.

Weaving  

The wrap will be bound on the upper and lower beams of the loom. There will be two layers in the warp which are guided by a flat metallic reed in the middle. The number of weavers will be based on the width of the dhurrie; if it is three feet, two weavers can work while if it is larger than five feet, only one weaver can work at a time.

on the loom ready for weaving

Weavers will look at the design in the beginning and memorize the patters eventually. According to the design requirements they pull a set of warp threads towards themselves and put the small weft bundle across the thread lengthwise to fill the gap.

The markings on the warp will help the weaver determine the design patterns. When one row of weft is finished, the weavers will use a metallic claw shaped panja to beat it. This will make the weft settle tightly into the warp. After tightly beating across the wrap with a panja, the upper and lower layers of the warp will be exchanged by the weaver. This step locks the weft among the two layers of the warp and provides sturdiness and durability to the dhurrie.

The weavers tighten screws between two beams that will stiffen the warp and will help in keeping symmetrical designs. This step will be repeated till the lower section of the warp gets filled up.

Finishing

After weaving, the master weaver will check the dhurrie and tighten the loose knots. If the woven dhurrie is stone-washed, the washerman will wash it using water and detergents. If there is any difference in width, the dhurrie will be tightened using a frame for two days.

Finally, a clipper will use a pair of scissors to cut the threads that stick out and the knots to get a smooth look for the dhurrie, which is then ready to be sold.

Arts and crafts are symbols of ancient culture, tradition and history. Panja dhurrie weaving is one of the heritage crafts that need to be preserved for future generations. And we hope that our work will help keep these skills alive - each dhurrie passes through the hands of no less than 20 skilled artisans. 

See our complete collection of Panja Handwoven Cotton rugs here