N for Navalgund Dhurries
Navalgund is a town in Karnataka. The name of the town translates into ‘the hill of peacocks’. The dhurrie/rug made here derives its patterns from the local flora and fauna. Navalgund had a lot of peacocks until a few decades ago and one of the most traditional and popular motifs on the dhurries is the national bird of India—the peacock.
Hence, you will see a lot of peacock motifs on the rugs woven here.
The rugs are fondly called jamkhanas, which translates to floor covering mats in Kannada. In the mid-16th century, when the subcontinent witnessed a dispute between the Vijayanagara Empire and the Deccan Sultanate, the jamkhana/dhurrie-making artisans migrated to Navalgund in Dharwad district from Bijapur. The artists initially traded in pearls but later settled down in the town, established looms and wove durrigullu.
These rugs are handwoven on vertical looms in North Karnataka. These vertical looms are locally known as ‘Khadda Magga’, which means ‘vertical or upright loom’. Earlier, these looms were always in the homes of weavers.
A white thread is used as the base and colourful yarns are woven into the horizontal direction in accordance with the designs that are to be created. A pointed wooden tool is used to press these horizontal threads after which the weave of the dhurrie is tightened with the help of a tool called the panja. Bright yarns are used in the process. The motifs are mostly geometrical and highly inspired by the flora and fauna of the surroundings.
The designs include striped, stepped, serrated patterns with brightly coloured wefts of red, yellow, blu, and green, geometric designs and motifs of choukhas (dice game board), mor (peacock), charmor (peacock motif in four corners) and stylised intricate patterned mihrabs (niched arches). The dominant colour for the background is a bright red in most jamkhanas. The Navalgund dhurries are of various types and sizes depending on their use such as the jamkhana, which is used as a floor covering; the jainamaz, used as a prayer mat; totalle jamkhana, used for cradles; and guddar which is used as a protective cover when storing grains.
The weavers do not use manuals to construct the designs; they craft them from memory and experience, giving each durrie its own personality. Red is the dominant hue, which is utilised as the background in most Navalgund dhurries, while yellow is used to set the other colours inside it. Accent hues include green, black and white.
These rugs were initially made by women of the Sheikh Sayeed community who used to live in the Jamkhaan Gulli. Jamkhan Galli is also where most of the weavers stay today.
The art is exclusively taught to the daughters-in-law of the local community in order to preserve the tradition. It is said they don't even teach the craft to their daughter because it is believed they will move to another home and take the secret of weaving the craft with them. Two women usually take two days, working from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. to weave one dhurrie. A small group of women have been continuing this art for the past 25 years.
The government supports the weavers with yarns and most of the artisans weave the dhurries and are reliant on the government for marketing it further. But this also means that the weavers are putting all their eggs in one basket and more often than not don’t actively look out for new markets.
Today Navalgund in the Dharwad district of Karnataka is a proud owner of the geographical indication (GI) tag to preserve the originality of the handloom craft.
These products find a vast international market in Germany and Australia.
Do explore this craft on your expedition to Karnataka.