A small square or rectangular flat-woven sitting mat, dhurrie or floor covering, asans are used for dhyana (meditation), japa (chanting) and pooja (prayer) and are decorated with religious symbols. Asans made of cotton, silk and wool are commonly used in prayer, rituals and religious congregations and feasts in Buddhist and Hindu temples, as well as in home altars. It derives from the Sanskrit word meaning “to sit.”
Traditionally, asans were made of tiger skin, deer skin, wool or grass. Today, they are made of multicoloured cotton and/or silk threads, with warp and weft threads that interlace to create a pattern. Blue and white weft-facing striped asans are commonly used for ritualistic purposes; the use of the colour blue, specifically indigo, echoes the Hindu mythological association of the colour with Krishna as well as being symbolic of a rain-filled cloud that indicates the arrival of monsoon in the deserts of Rajasthan. Buddhist asans feature motifs such as the lotus and mandalas that echo Buddhist mythology and belief. Other types of asans include the jamkalam, which is a striped rayon dhurrie woven in Bhavani, Tamil Nadu, and used as floor coverings for devotees in temples.
Today, there are several important asan weaving centres across India, including Hoshiarpur, Punjab; Jodhpur, Rajasthan; Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh; Warangal, Telangana; Salem, Tamil Nadu; Panipat, Haryana; Belgaum, Karnataka; and Pune, Maharashtra.
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Ahuja, Shyam, Meera Ahuja, and Mridula Ahuste. Dhurrie. India Book House Limited, 2000.
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Minoo Moallem. “Praying Through the Senses: The Prayer Rug/Carpet and the Converging Territories of the Material and the Spiritual.” In Conversations: An Online Journal of the Center for the Study of Material and Visual Cultures of Religion, 2014.