FEEL THE FELTED!

Posted: November 18, 2011 in Colors of Culture and Heritage, The NamoLeague Times
Tags: , , , , , ,
THE DYING ART OF NAMDAH – A FELTED, WOOLEN RUG MADE BY THE ARTISANS OF KUTCH IN GUJARAT

Gujarat is a land of rituals and traditions. It is full of hospitality and warmth. It is a place where people move ahead with times, without forgetting their customs. One such custom is sitting on the floor. Be it for the purpose of having meals, socializing or performance of some ritual. And what can be a better treat than a hand-made rug to form the floor covering. A Namdah carpet is one of the known floor coverings made from hand-made woolen sheets and are decorated with traditional embroidery and appliqué designs.

THE STORY BEHIND
Namdah is an Urdu word, a Kashmiri styled carpet adopted by the felt artisans of Kutch. These artisans earlier used to put together animal saddles for royal families. There are many myths attached and many legends narrate that art of making Namdah originated during the time of Chengez Khan, the Mongol. It is said that the king used to carry sheep everywhere he went. His soldiers used to create makeshift beddings for him even at the battlefield. These were made simply by laying layers of wool on top of each other. When they got dirty due to constant use, they were washed with cleansing agents. This resulted in natural felting of the woolen fibers. Thus, the process of felting evolved. Once this process evolved, it was further refined and passed on to the next generation of soldiers.

Another folklore has it that a subordinate weaver first wove a Namdah for the Mughal Emperor Akbar’s horse. It was made in order to save the animal from cold.

The Mongols and the Mughals were the pioneers of the Namdah art in India. As their rule spread, so did this art. They continued this craft in order to have an identity related to that of their rulers. This led to the sowing of the seeds of Namdah craft in Gujarat.

The Pinjara community of Gujarat is known to practice the Namdah art and later they are being known as the Namdagar as well.

NAMDAH NUANCES
Felting is one of the oldest form of fabric known to humankind, predating weaving and knitting. All wool shrinks and entangles itself more and more with other wool fibers when heat, moisture, friction or pressure is applied on them. This results in what is called felting. Felt products are made from coarse wool with or without mixture of any other animal, vegetable or man-made fiber.
Namdah is one such felted textile product. It is made from sheets of beaten wool. It applies non-woven techniques of felting to create these sheets. Layers of compressed wool are then stuck together with natural gum. After being completed, embroidery is executed in woolen yarn. Namdah is well known for its chain stitch embroidery. The chain stitch is worked with silk wool or cotton threads, and the stitches are done with a crochet hook (known as an ari) instead of a traditional needle. This hook can cover a much larger area than a regular needle in the same amount of time and is, hence, more economical to use.

With the advent of competition, pure wool has given way to waste wool in making of the Namdah.

Gujarat is famous for making Namdah that is appliquéd, printed or embroidered. Many motifs like floral themes, amplified birds, human forms, animals etc. are used. Mesmerizing ones even display tree motifs with hunting scenes. Yarns of white, brown, grey, beige or black natural wool are usually used.

THE BEST COMPLIMENT TO ANY DÉCOR
The unique technique, natural effects of the woolen texture and the bright colors give an earthy appeal to the Namdah. It is an all-purpose article, indispensable to daily life. It can be used as a floor bed, pillow, dining table, wall hanging, sofa throws or even corner mats. Apart from these, Namdah products are in high demand in the cold countries as they work as insulators.

Much to the delight of the buyers, Namdah carpets are less expensive than the contemporary woolen ones. They are equally warm, stylish and durable too. Usually, the high proportion of wool marks the high quality of a Namdah.

Namdah is a labor intensive art. It uses almost no modern form of technology. It is a dying art and today just 3-5 families of Gujarat are into it. The dwindling numbers are allegedly due to lack of resources and support from the Government. Also, it is a tedious job and takes at least 15 days to finish a product involving around 10 artisans. So the young generation is not interested in taking up Namdah as a career.

Read original article at: http://epaper.namoleague.com/EpaperArticle.aspx?title=Feel%20The%20Felted!_584

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