The kind of carpets made in Kashmir resemble Central Asian styles like bokhara and Turkish makes. Often, a cotton warp is mixed with a woollen weft. Silk carpets are also made. Medallions, horse designs, and hunting and animal scenes are the motifs used. Floral and plant designs in unusual sizes can also be found. Trellis designs, the hallmark of Mughal traditions, are combined with plant motifs. Medallions in many varieties and shapes are found along the borders. In these carpets, repetition does not give rise to monotony. Since carpet-weaving originated in Persia and travelled to Kashmir, the designs are mostly local variations of Persian themes. In addition to the design, the knotting of the carpet is the most important aspect determining durability and value. Kashmiri carpets are always hand-knotted. A carpet is extremely expensive and considered as a lifelong investment. The carpet industry provides employment to a large section of the local population and also earns a fair amount of foreign exchange.
The carpets woven in Ladakh are an integral part of the culture there. The community of Buddhists in Ladakh prepare carpets chiefly for personal use. The people in the area have been weaving the carpets from very early times. These are used as the main form of furnishing in a region where temperatures dip to extreme lows. The carpets are used for sitting on during the day and sleeping at night, as well as to seat guests and in ceremonies and feasts. The basic Tibetan style which is 3 inches x 6 inches is known as the khalidal. These carpets are woven by looping knots known as khabdan. The designs woven into the carpets are generally drawn from religious motifs, inspired by the symbols of Mahayana Buddhism..
Barajasta is the technique in carpet-making where the main design is worked out in pile and the background has a plain weave in gold thread which adds a lustrous appearance. Bokhara carpets are made in pure wool and three rows of irregular octagons form the main motif. Other geometrical motifs are used sometimes as are leaf patterns; the motifs at the edges include the ‘tree of life’, diamonds, herringbone, and latch hooks. The colours used are ivory, red, blue, and green. The background is usually in mahogany, mauve, yellow, dark green, and burnt almond or orange. The skeletal warp of the carpet is stretched tightly on the frame and the weft threads are passed through the talim or design, after which the colour specifications are worked out.
Woollen carpets are very well-known in Kashmir and they are called kalin. Shawl weavers here took to carpet weaving as this has a better demand. Talim, a weaver’s alphabet in shawl-making, started being used for carpet-weaving. The colour card has the dyed pieces of thread attached to it to indicate the colour combination to be used. The talim is organised in graphical manner, with each square standing for one knot, with the design being built up on this basis. The talim and the shade-card or the rang-ticket as it is called are combined together for the weaving operation. The talim writer may take up to three months to finalise it, depending on the number of knots per square inch. Indian carpets are distinguished by the panalidar back or pronounced ribs running down the back of the carpet. Modern carpets have a smooth back and the quality is not very good.