The Carpet Weaving Technique of Sikkim

Weaving cloth is often a community effort that brings people together. One of the oldest forms of weaving that reflects traditional values and local lifestyle is the carpet weaving technique of Sikkim which continues to remain popular even to this day.
A Den from Sikkim. Image source: Directorate of Handicrafts and Handloom, Government of Sikkim

A Den from Sikkim. Image source: Directorate of Handicrafts and Handloom, Government of Sikkim

Carpets known as Den are widespread in Sikkim. They are made out of wool and are hand-knotted. A fascinating fact about this craft is that their technique of carpet weaving also happens to be one of the oldest in the world. The carpets are prepared on an upright wooden frame loom and are adorned with Tibetan patterns.

Although the practice of carpet weaving had been present in Sikkim since ancient times, the craft became the centre of attention during the reign of Chogyal Tashi Namgyal in the 1920s. Special workshops, known as Namkhang were built to ensure that carpet weaving was done without any distractions.

Carpet weaving is not an easy task and artisans need to be dedicated and must concentrate on the task at hand. Before the fabric even makes it to the loom, the design needs to be prepared on graph paper. On the warp (taan) side, you have cotton or wool. This site is placed on the upper beams while the woven side is attached to the lower beam. The graph paper acts as a guide for weavers to warp and weft accordingly.

The preparation of carpet weaving begins in the initial stages of carding, dyeing, and balling the wool. Once the warp has been attached to the loom, the weaving and knotting begin. Long wooden hammers, locally known as fong, are used for knotting. Once the weaving process is completed, the extras from the carpet are cut to give the carpet the required shape and size.

Further, each design has a special significance and depicts a meaning. Some popular designs include that of the dragon with a ball in its mouth, then we have two mythical Tibetan birds, Dak and Jira, symbols from Buddhism. There are also designs inspired by the scenic beauty of Sikkim. The carpets also include geometric patterns and the colour is added using vegetable dyes.

Traditionally, the preparation of one single carpet takes around eight to ten days and in addition to these time-honoured carpets, Bhutia women also prepare smaller carpets, known as Asanas, that are kept near the bedside.

The tradition of carpet weaving in Sikkim reflects their customs and lifestyle. Its popularity has only grown across the world and it is one of the major industries that drive the economy of Sikkim.


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