Almost three years back, I fell in love with a namda created by a very close friend, who sells delightful products in Kashmiri tradition under the name of ‘Raffughar’. This Christmas when my friend finally decided to shift base to Delhi, I felt like a little boy, whose good behaviour was going to be rewarded by Santa himself. I got my rug and I am glad it didn’t fit into a stocking hanging on the mantel.
For readers, who are wondering what namdas are, they are traditional felted rugs that are made in and around Srinagar and Anantnag. Sheep wool is enmeshed with soap water under a lot of pressure and the resultant surface of these rugs is then reinforced by zalakdozi embroidery(embroidery in wool done with a hook called ara kunj, which appears like chain-stitch on the surface) depicting delicate multi-coloured floral and figurative patterns. These rugs are not only cheaper but also provide effective insulation in the cold northern weather, making them very popular.
The rug I acquired is made entirely of sheep wool with motifs in the natural breed colour. The robust motifs that occupy the field of the rug echo a faint influence of its distant cousin in Kyrgyzstan, the shyrdak rug. It is not surprising to see this unintentional reflection, as the tradition might have travelled back and forth, with felted rugs being made extensively in Iran and Central Asia. Here, they are called namads. They survived as a parallel tradition alongside carpets and kilims with their own share of importance. The more humble ones were used as base for expensive carpets,although the finer ones with embroidery formed a prominent item of décor. Scholar Hadi Maktabi has compiled numerous accounts of travellers in the post Safavid era about palaces in Iran being decorated with namads and carpets. He also illuminates a fine felted rug called takiya–namad, which was folded into four and was quite often seen under reclining princes in Persian paintings.I will definitely be reclining in mine, but it is advised not to fold felted rugs as they tear and much care is to be taken to keep them from the reach of moths.
Neelam Grewal. The Needle Lore: Traditional Embroideries of Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. (New Delhi: Ajanta Publications, 1988), 12-15.
Hadi Maktabi, ‘Under the Peacock Throne: Carpets, Felts and Silks in Persian Painting, 1736-1834’ in Muqarnas: An Annual on the Visual Cultures of the Islamic World, Vol. 26, ed. Gülru Necipoğlu. (Leiden: Brill, 2009), 318-322.