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Cognitive bearing of techno-advances in Kashmiri carpet designing

An Erratum to this article was published on 08 February 2017

This article has been updated


The design process in Kashmiri carpet weaving is a distributed process encompassing a number of actors and artifacts. These include a designer called naqash who creates the design on graphs, and a coder called talim-guru who encodes that design in a specific notation called talim which is deciphered and interpreted by the weavers to weave the design. The technological interventions over the years have influenced these artifacts considerably and triggered major changes in the practice, from heralding profound cognitive accomplishments in manually driven design process causing major alterations in the overall structure of the practice. The recent intervention is by the digital technology: on the one hand, it has brought precision and speedy processing in the design process, and on the other, it has eliminated some of the crucial actors from the practice. This paper, which forms part of a larger study on the situated and distributed cognitive process in Kashmiri carpet-weaving practice, describes the technological makeover of the design artifacts involved in this practice over the years and their resultant cognitive impact on the design process as well as on the practice.

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Change history

  • 08 February 2017

    An erratum to this article has been published.


  1. 1.

    See also Gans-Reudin (1984: 14, 31) and Goswami (2009: 146). For a concise history of carpet manufacturing, see Goswami (2009) and Roy (2004).

  2. 2.

    Harris (1991, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2007) is a good source for discussion of talim-usage in Kashmiri shawl-weaving from weaver’s perspective. Though, both shawl and carpet-weaving use identical talims, their usage styles differ. I restrict to carpet-weaving practice in my work.

  3. 3.

    There is no consensus on the term for ‘talim-copyist’ in local jargon as community knows them as copyist or copier only. A few elderly respondents recall these actors being referred as nakkaal or nakal-karanvol in olden times.

  4. 4.

    Warp threads are vertically fixed on the loom and weft-threads are those with which knots are tied on these threads. As such, weft-threads run horizontally, left to right and vice versa, on the loom. One knot is a cross-tie of vertical and horizontal threads, and consequently, can be represented in a grid-like structure.

  5. 5.

    In shawl-weaving, the loom is positioned horizontally as if going from the lap of the weaver to beyond, because of which the graph can be placed beneath the warp threads, while in carpet-weaving, the loom is vertically positioned and warp threads are fixed like drapes.

  6. 6.

    A clear difference between Leitner’s description of design process vis-à-vis traditional version can be discerned: while tarah-guru is skipped, the role and arrangement of other actors is altered. The coding is done by the ‘head of the manufactory’ instead of a talim-writer, who recites the instructions by ‘estimating’ them from the plan directly laid beneath the warp threads, which talim-nawis listens and writes down.

  7. 7.

    The IICT Report (2009: 30) shows a talim numeral-table up to 100 which uses a novel style of representing numbers beyond 20. Instead of using number of dots to represent multiples of 10, the number-code of that numeral is used inside the tilted-circle instead of dots. For instance, Leitner would use, three dots and the unit-numeral to represent 32 (or as per “outside notation” (p.15) form), this report uses code of three for three dots and unit-numeral outside the tilted-circle like this for 32. Evidently, this is cognitively more efficient system, yet, this is not used in actual talim-writing which requires distribution of knots in 20–24 knots per columnar-row only. One exception: the same report shows for 9 which resembles Leitner’s version. In digital setting, nowadays, is used; hence I used this symbol in my numeral-table. In manual setting, a talim-writer may also use for 9 depending on her choice.

  8. 8.

    For Naqash, see For Qaleen Weaver, see:


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I am thankful to National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bengaluru and its Consciousness Studies Programme for supporting and funding the fieldwork in 2015. I am extremely obliged to Ms. Aamina Assad, Chief Designer, School of Designs (SoD), Mr. Gazanfar Ali, the then Director, Directorate of Handicrafts—Massive Carpets Scheme (MCS) and Mr. Zubair Ahmad, Director, Indian Institute of Carpet Technology (IICT), all in Srinagar, for facilitating my work at their respective institutions. I am thankful to Prof. Mushtak Haider, University of Kashmir, for translating the Consent Form used during 2015. I am grateful to Mohd. Ashraf Khan and Sajad Nazir for providing me samples of Alchay and Inch-square graphs, respectively, and M/s BMW Designers, Srinagar for permitting me to reproduce a talim-roll in my paper whose copyright they hold. I am thankful to Prof. Siby George, IIT Bombay and Ms. Sanam Roohi, NIAS for their feedback. Last but not the least, I am obliged to all my respondents for their invaluable time.

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Correspondence to Gagan Deep Kaur.

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Kaur, G.D. Cognitive bearing of techno-advances in Kashmiri carpet designing. AI & Soc 32, 509–524 (2017).

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  • Talim
  • Kashmiri carpet weaving
  • Carpet designing
  • Graphs
  • Notational system