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India: Love It or Hate It

India is not a country one about which one can be ambivalent. After a visit to the sub-continent, the average American (who hasn’t travelled the third world or island nations much) returns with one of two extreme opinions. They either love it or they hate it.

1027 India is a country full of dichotomies. Extreme wealth and abject poverty. Unimaginable beauty and disgusting filth. More people per square mile than you can imagine. Always an adventure in that you never know if you’ll be hit and killed on the street by a car or bus, or if you may be the one to hit or kill someone else. There are no traffic laws to speak of. Exhilarating, yes; but dangerous. I’ve grown to love India. I’ve gotten used to the sites, sounds and smells and I accept it for what it is. It isn’t the US; but that’s one of the most fascinating things about it. I’m in love with the artistic aspect of Indian culture. One of the things that strikes you as you move around the cities and countryside is the amazing variety of color and design in even the average Indian woman’s saris. Indian culture “gets” color and design. Personally, I believe that’s why they are beyond compare in the textile industry.

Everyone in India Weaves

1059There are four major areas in the country where the weaving industry is concentrated, however. They are:

Jaipur – this is the site where one finds the finest of Indian textiles, including rugs. Very high quality, using the best wools and silks in hand-knotted artistry.

Agra – this is the home of the Taj Mahal and my personal favorite. Not quite the quality of workmanship or materials as Jaipur, with less silk used in production.

Bhadhoi/Mirzapour/Varanasi – the largest collection of rug exporters. I’ve been told there are over one thousand exporters located in this region. Tens of thousands of weavers gather here to sell their wares. This is the arena for flat woven and tufted rugs.

Paddyiput – here you will find the flat woven mats and small rugs woven for the mass market. Think Bed, Bath & Beyond and big box home retailers. Weaving is a cottage industry in India. All the areas I’ve listed are surrounded by farms, where the populace works and makes their main income. Weaving is done in the home and the sale of rugs and textiles is used to supplement the family income.