Hand-felted and embroidered rugs produced in parts of Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan, namda use felting instead of weaving, a technique that came to India from Iran and Turkey during the Mughal period. The technique of making a namda involves beating and fluffing the wool fibres with a wicker punja (comb) and then layering, matting and flattening. A minimum of three layers are prepared and each layer is spread separately, sprinkled with soapy water and pressed with a pinjra tool to enmesh and interlock the fibres. Each layer is flattened to a uniform size and dimension using water and heavy compression. This layered wool is then rolled out to rinse excess water, is washed with a cleaning agent and left in the sun to dry. Once completely dry, the rug is ready to use as plain or can be decorated using embroidery or appliqué. In the Kashmiri namda, cotton is often mixed with the wool fibre, making the base colour a light shade of white, which aesthetically makes room for vibrant embroidery. Most often the namdas are decorated with colourful aari and kashidakari embroidery using floral patterns and animal motifs such as the chinar tree, dachh (vine), cherry blossoms and pamposh (lotus).
Namda making is a household craft practised primarily by the Muslim community and passed on from one generation to another. In Kashmir, namdas are used as mattresses and floor coverings as they are warm and cater to extreme cold weather conditions. In eastern part of Kutch, Pinjara and Mansoori communities practise the craft of making namdas as floor coverings – for the use of Darbar communities – and their process varies regarding the appliqué technique where a pattern of dyed wool is laid out first and then fused with other layers through compression.
The making of namda rugs is a labour-intensive technique where a craftsman needs the assistance of three people to make two namdas in a day. Prominent manufacturing centres are situated in Tonk, Rajasthan and Srinagar, Kashmir where the rugs are sold in craft bazaars. There remains a notable demand for namdas in the urban cities and the international market, sustaining the craft through the years.
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