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R. SHAH TRADING CO.

A Wholesalers boutique for Kashmiri & Nepali shawls,Carpets, Copperware, Crewel & Indian Handicrafts.

 

The removal of Jazia put both the Muslim and non-Muslims on par with each other. Hindus were made the grandees of the Empire. The part played by the Rajputs in consolidating the Empire is known to all. In Kashmir, as noted in the preceding pages, Pandits too were given commands in the army, though the Pandit's services were utilized for local purposes only.

The Empire was divided into a number of Subas (provinces). Kashmir was one such Suba. Each Suba was placed under a Subedar. The Subedar was the Head of the provincial administration and was responsible for the maintenance of law and order, He was assisted by a Diwan, in charge of financial matters, and a Faujdar. In Kashmir there used to be a Faujdar at Anantnag, then known as Islamabad.

From ancient Hindu times Kashmir was divided into a number of Parganas (sub-districts), traditionally thirty-six, which served as administrative units. Each Pargana was administered by a Parganadar under whom were other petty officers such as Patwaris, Thanedars, Shikdars, Qanungo, Fotedars etc. A Parganadar and his local beareaucracy was responsible for land revenue collections.

Land revenue was collected in kind. To begin with the land revenue was fixed at about twenty two lacs of Khirwars of Shali. Later on the produce of the whole country according to Ami Akbari was estimated at sixty-one lacs of Khirwars of Shali, and the land revenue was fixed at one half of the produce.

Says Aini Akbari "the system of revenue collection is by appraisement and division of crops. Although one third had been for a long time past the nominal share of the State, more than two shares were actually taken, but through His Majesty's justice it has been reduced to one half. According to the assessment of Qazi Ali the land revenue was fixed at 3073050 kharwars of Shali." In dams the land revenue came to 74670000 dams, which would mean that the price of one khirwar of Shali was about 24 dams, i. e. ten annas. In Shah Jehan's reign the total revenue (including other taxes and duties) was estimated at Rs. 3750000 and on the death of Aurangzeb it was Rs. 5747734, though previously the revenue had shown some decrease.

Agriculture was very well looked after and many improvements were effected in its methods. Irrigation was a special concern of the State. The Karewas or tablelands in which Kashmir abounds, were mostly irrigated and much ingenuity was displayed by their engineers in carrying water to the top of these hillocks. It is no wonder that the produce of Shali and other food grains was very rich and abundant. Fruit growing was practiced on an extensive scale.

The method of grafting was introduced in Kashmir during this period. Many central Asian fruits were introduced into the country and many gardens were laid in Kashmir during at this time. Wherever one may go in Kashmir, a Mogul garden in ruins will be there with a grove of chinars to proclaim in mute eloquence the past glory of the place.

The Subedars while following the footsteps of the Emperors vied with each other in laying gardens. Seven hundred gardens are estimated to have been laid. The Chinar tree is believed to have been imported during this period.

Akbar selected the site for laying the seat of Government on lands round about the hill of Hari Parbat. A fort was constructed around the hill and a town was founded there which was named Nagar Nagar. The fort itself was named as Nagar Nagar fort. In constructing the fort a crore and ten lacs of rupees were provided from the royal treasury and besides two hundred master-builders were sent from India. The construction greatly relieved the horrors of a famine which had broken out during those days. The Subedars had their residence inside the fort which had twelve big gates and a number of small entrances - the latter led to the gardens laid by various Mogul Subedars.

The palaces where the Subedars lived were constructed inside the fort on the northern and the eastern side of the hill. Jehangir himself raised a magnificent palace on the eastern side. Ali Mardan Khan a Subedar (1650 A. D. to 1657 A. D.) also built one to its north. Other Subedars raised similar palaces.

There was a stream which flowed near the palaces. This was known as Lachhmi Kuhl and catered to the needs of the people who attended Jama Masjid for prayers. On the southern side of the fort there was a gate known then as Delhi Darwaza which exists even now; and is known to the people as Kathi Darwaza. The Naubat Shahi was located there. The jail was just near it at a place where the present jail is situated. The reason why the gate is now known as Kathi Darwaza is perhaps that the condemned people were hanged there - the word in Kashmir for a scaffold being Kathi.

In spite of their depotism, Moguls were not unmindful of public opinion. Various methods were adopted by them to keep public opinion on their side, one such method was not to allow anybody to go to bed with an empty stomach. Poor houses were started under royal patronage which fed the poor and infirm sections of the population. In Srinagar there was one such poor house located in a building known as Bilor Khana which was constructed just near the royal palaces on the bank of Sudrabal lake. Food was distributed free both morning and evening to anybody who felt its need. On the western side of the fort there was another gate which led to Idgah. At Idgah there stood a mosque and a Chinar grove. In Idgah on the Id day after Nimaz the Subedar and other Mansabdars participated in a number of games. Horse races and peg driving were practiced. Thousands of people enjoyed sight-seeing and made use of the grove. The Subedars and other Mansabdars had quite a jolly time and the people were happy and peaceful. For the Subedars and other important people drinking water was brought from Gagribal. The sluice at Drugjan is still situated at the same place.

Kashmir carried a brisk trade with Central Asia and India. It was the centre from which articles of Indian manufacture such as muslins, brocade etc. were transported to Central Asia, and from which articles manufactured in China and Central Asia were sent to India. In fact it was a meeting place for traders, from such distant places as Balkh and Bukhara in the north and Delhi and Amritsar from the south. The revenue from customs was estimated at two lacs of rupees, which is much more than the income even at present, taking into consideration the fall in the value of the rupee since Mogul times. Anantnag was the place from which trade was directed with India and Jammu, Bhadrawah, Kishtwar etc. The habit of taking tea which is now universal in Kashmir was practiced during this period following contacts with Tibetian traders who had themselves taken it up from Chinese.

Many industries flourished in Kashmir during this period, chief of them being carpet and shawl industries. Silkworm was reared and the silk industry was flourishing. Additionally, there were other industries such as paper mache, silver work, copper work, wood work, furs, leather work and paper manufacturing.

About paper it is recorded that Kashmir did " fabricate the best writing paper of the East which was formerly an article of extensive traffic, as were its lacquer ware, cutlery and sugars."

The shawl industry was at its peak during this period, with about forty thousand shawl looms working in the country. Shawls found their way to all parts of the world. Merchants and commercial agents from all over Asia were stationed here. The art of shawl making was highly developed and a shawl could very easily pass through a ring. It is recorded that a Sayyid who had come to Kashmir in 1796 A. D. carried with himself a shawl given to him as a gift which he later presented to Khedive of Egypt, who on his part presented it to Napoleon. Napoleon handed it over to his wife Josephine, who later introduced it in fashionable Paris societies. Gradually Kashmir shawl secured quite a good market in France, which continued right up to the day the French were defeated in Franco-German war of 1870 A. D. The collapse of France contributed in a very large extent to the collapse of the industry in Kashmir.

During the Mogul period in Kashmir the shawl weavers do not seem to have been considered a respectable class. It’s possible that they were quite an exploited class. In any case their lot was far from being enviable. Many pithy sayings about them, that evolved during this time, are current even now and describe their plight in an unmistakable manner. Even now, whenever circumstances urge somebody. to use an inferior material, where a better material should have been used, the following expression would be used: " Sin muhima sochal raian muhima Khandawav" which rendered in English would mean " Famine of vegetables will force you to eat Sauchal (a wild grown vegetable) and dearth of good husbands will compel a woman to choose a shawl weaver." Compared to modern conditions there were too many working hours each day with no respite. Many other sayings, still in vogue today, prove this. But it’s also a fact that they eked out a secure living from their profession and never starved, though they seldom lived in opulent circumstances.

There was not the problem of unemployment that is common in present day. With forty thousand shawl looms working in the country, besides the forty thousand workers on the looms twice the number must have been dependent on this industry alone. These would include spinners, darners, washers, embroiderers, dyers etc. as well as the rich shawl magnates and their staff and servants. The unemployment, in towns must have been almost non-existent.

The people with even small incomes could have kept starvation at an arm's length. The price of food grains had gone very high. For example, the price of a. Khirwar (two maunds) of Shali was only ten annas and with a further increase in the production during Shah Jehan's reign, this price must have gone further down. In the first instance the abundance of food produce must naturally have kept the peasants free from want. Besides this, the value of money at that time was nearly thirteen times as much as it was at the beginning of the second world war, and the value of the rupee at the beginning of the second world war was four times higher than it is today. Even though a Khirwar of Shali fetched in those days only eight annas, that would mean in our currency thirty two rupees and eight annas, this compares very favourably with the present day prices.

Also, the village population had their own carpenter, barber, iron smith, physician, washerman and weaver. These were paid in kind at each harvest for the services they rendered during the year. Fruit was abundantant, but because of lack of speedy means of transport was not exported in any large quantities. Unlike these days, fruit was very cheap and, therefore one of the main staples.

The shawl factories were in operation at two places near Jama Masjid and Buchhwara at the foot of the Shankaracharya hill. The weavers also had established their residential colonies at these two places. It is believed that the waters of Dal lake have some special properties needed for washing the yarn and it is therefore that Buchhwara was chosen for starting factories. Paper manufactories existed at Vicharnag, but the finishing touches were given at Harwan. Namda making was yet another industry. The dealers had established themselves at Baldimar in Srinagar, and did quite a brisk business.

It is not possible to know the exact amount of wages drawn by a worker at a factory. It would not likely be less than that of a peon - the lowest in rung in official hierarchy - who was paid those days Rs. 3/8/- a month in India. Judging from the fall in the value of currency, a person with an income of 3/8/- a month then is as good as a person of these days with a monthly income of Rs. 150/-. All this might seem a fiction, but all this is fact.

The State, too, made a huge income from this prosperity. At the close of Akbar's rule the land revenue of the valley was a little more than 24 lacs of rupees. By the end of Aurangzeb's rule, the land revenue may have gone up by an other six lacs. The total income, including taxes, customs and excise duties was about 57 lacs of rupees during Aurangzeb's rule, which while deducting the land revenue would leave a balance of about 27 lacs from other sources. The figure of 57 lacs would indeed become a staggering figure if converted into modern currency. No wonder then that the Moguls in Kashmir became responsible for a number of beneficent projects, such as road-building schemes, irrigation schemes, laying of gardens, fruit improvement schemes and so on.

For one hundred fifty years, Kashmir witnessed an era of unprecedented peace. Trade and commerce too were in a flourishing condition. Majlis Rai, to whom reference has been made earlier hailed from Jullundar Duabal and is said to have owned a crore of rupees worth property in cash and kind. He did extensive money lending business and when he fell he had an outstanding of twenty four lacs. He is said to have charged an interest of eight annas per cent. There were other Khatri traders who were equally rich. The lot of the Kashmiri Pandits could in no way be described as unhappy. They had quite a good say in the affairs of administration and their causes were decided by Hindu Judges according to Shastras - one such Judge being Srikantha - a Kashmiri Pandit, who on account of his learning was appointed by Jehangir. Deeds were generally written in Sanskrit - not the polished language of scholars, but in a dialect which was an admixture of Sanskrit and Persian.

There was a fair measure of religious toleration. Even Aurangzeb granted some lands to the Pandas of Martand Tirtha (Mattan) under his royal seal. The Pandas of Mattan have preserved this Sanad. There were many religious festivals celebrated then by the Pandits which have now fallen in disuse. And so were many Tirthas which the Hindus visited year after year. Some of them are not even known now.

There were many instances where the Sebedar misbehaved during these times. But the moment information reached the Ruler at Delhi, prompt measures were adopted to set the matter right. The Pandits made a complaint to Jehangir against Qilich Khan - a Subedar during his reign. Jehangir at once wrote to the Subedar. "Supporter of Government. Thy complainants are many and thanks-givers few. Pour cold water on thirsty people or else relinquish thy post."

The history of the Oriental Rug design is like the flow of a river. It adopts and blends with the many countries and cultures it flows through. Each country or culture gives its own touch, variation in finish, colors, drawing and treatment. Once these differences and uniqueness are noted it is easier to identify a rug according to the country of its origin.

The constant movement of the Nomads from one area to another in search of a new pasture for their cattle brought new cultural influences to other areas. When tribes intermarry they blend and adopt new ideas and designs. For example, some of the earliest designs found in the shawls made in Kashmir are also found in shawls from Kerman. This is due to the fact that India was invaded time and again by the Afghans and Turks. Nadir Shah, who captured Persia from the hand of the Afghans in the 1720's, successfully invaded Afghanistan and India. He came back to Persia with the "Peacock Throne", wealth of jewel and fine rugs. The Indo-Herati floral design is an example of a design adaptation.

Design
From the antiques of Isfahan, Ardebil, and Mongol carpets, down to the pieces that are manufactured today in India, Iran, Turkey, Pakistan and Romania, the same theme persists- a flower garden, the open air, life. In antique rugs the field is closely covered and stems, leaves, and tendrils pave the winding paths of multicolored flowers and vines on which the design is formed. The arabesques, panels, corner pieces and figures are all balanced. There is a perfection in detail and composition which adds a special charm to the old rugs.

In later years, a medallion was added to the design bringing a centerpiece therefore the repeat pattern became more unusual. Though, centuries have come and gone, many of the classic patterns are still used. The cone, which has become paisley, the rosette and serrated leaves of the Herati pattern, the growing vine, the rose, carnation, lily, peony, the star like Henna blossoms, the palmette, the pomegranate, the shah abbas and the Minakhani patterns, the turtle, the Chinese knot of destiny with birds, trees and animals are all still used.

Rug Producing Countries
The transition from simple lines to geometric to floral of Safavid 15th century design was a gradual shift. No one knows exactly when or where this change occurred. The 15th and 16th centuries in Iran were the golden age of the Persian carpets. In India there are travelers reports of carpet weaving industries in Calicut in the 15th century. A Portuguese trader, Barbosa, wrote in 1518 about the heavy carpets in Cambay Gujarat. Some of the finest carpets were made from 1580 to 1650, with 2500 knots per square inch, in Kashmir, Agra and Lahore.

The major rug producing countries are Iran, Turkey, Caucasus, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Romania and China. The two types of knots are Turkish knot and the Persian or Senna knot. Both types are used in Iran and Turkey.

Types of Rugs
There are three types of rugs: Geometric patterns from Turkoman, floral patterns from Persian and carved pattern from China.

Types of Weave
The earliest form of weave is the dimensional flat weave, where horizontal threads are passed over and under vertical threads. This kind of weaving can be traced back to ancient Egyptian times, before pile weaving began. There are four types of flat weave rugs: Kilim, Dhurry, Sumakh and Aubusson.

Types of Dyes
There are three types of dye used: vegetable dye, analine dye in 1856 and chrome dye in 1930.

Types of Fibers
There are three types of fibers used: cotton, wool and silk. The warp and weft are cotton as it is used for the backing of the rugs due to the fact that cotton shrinks evenly when it is washed. The pile in most of the rugs is wool. In the finest carpets silk is used and occasionally metallic threads are used to brocade.


 
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