"Manchaha" Carpets Blend Artistry And Functionality With Humanity

Pioneering carpet manufacturer Jaipur Rugs’ “Manchaha” collection has not only won international prizes for its weavers but also contributed to their social and financial upliftment
"Manchaha" carpets by Jaipur Rugs
Like an artwork, you never know what a “Manchaha” rug will look until it is absolutely finishedCopyright: jaipurrugs.com

The 21st century has made us gratuitous consumers who can order things online without a care in the world. The products we buy are often cheaply made and break or tear after a few uses. For those lamenting an age where handcrafted and original furnishings adorned the homes of our families and were treated akin to artworks, let us introduce you to Jaipur Rugs’ “Manchaha” collection.

A Seed Sprouts

It all started with an idea that Kavita Chaudhary had. As the design director of Jaipur Rugs, Chaudhary wanted to pursue a holistic blend of design and craft that tapped into rural women’s creativity of striving for beauty amid functionality. Recognising their artistic potential, she took a leap of faith and launched the first edition of “Manchaha” in 2010. Using leftover yarn from consumer-facing production lines, rural weavers stitched their aspirations, experiences and dreams into their creations. While the finished pieces were exquisite, this labour of love came at a time when the market simply wasn’t ready.

"Manchaha" carpets by Jaipur Rugs
Using leftover yarn from consumer-facing production lines, rural weavers have stitched their aspirations, experiences and dreams into “Manchaha” creationsCopyright: jaipurrugs.com

Fast forward to 2016 when a “Manchaha”-inspired carpet called “Antar,” which means “differences” in Hindi, won the German Design Award, thus giving Chaudhary the reassurance and motivation to give her passion project another try. Today, the collection is winning prizes and accolades left, right, and centre, showing the time is ripe for rural weavers’ creations to be appreciated and coveted far and wide.

Making “Manchaha”

Like an artwork, you never know what a “Manchaha” rug will look until it is absolutely finished. For starters, it is woven without a “talim,” which was a song or poem that became like a map and dictated the design of the carpet. No “talim” is provided to the artists who make “Manchaha;” all that they are given is a fully set-up loom, sacks full of leftover yarn from other productions, and time.

"Manchaha" carpets by Jaipur Rugs
The average “Manchaha” starts at 30 colours, with some integrating an astonishing 60 coloursCopyright: jaipurrugs.com

The artists can incorporate as many colours as they want without having to worry about when it will be finished. If they were using a “talim,” they would only be able to incorporate around eight to 12 colours. However, the average “Manchaha” starts at 30 colours, with some integrating an astonishing 60 colours. The artisan’s imagination and work knows no limits here.  

Their inspiration is multifaceted. They often draw from everyday life and weave in what they see around them: a patch of a pattern from a friend's skirt, a local symbol of prosperity, a nearby hill, even a neighbour’s field. But not everything is so literal; at times the rugs descend into an otherworldly madness of abstract motifs, asymmetry and wild colour. They represent common experiences as well as individual hopes, ambitions and dreams.

A "Manchaha" artisan with her work
The “Manchaha” project has raised the social status of the weavers in their communities. Pictured here is artisan Manju Devi with her carpetCopyright: jaipurrugs.com

Thus, each carpet is completely unique and the culmination of a personal journey by the artists themselves. At any point, only about 8-12 inches of the rug they have woven is visible to them before it is rolled underneath the loom. As they knot, they venture into unmarked territory with nothing but instinct to guide them. After it has been woven, the rug is taken away to be trimmed, cleaned, neatened and processed before the weaver lays eyes on the finished product and has to name it. The name of an artwork carries great significance, hope, purpose and intention. It is only after a “Manchaha” has been endowed with its name that it is considered complete.

The “Manchaha” artist then, in the truest sense of the word, is a trailblazer.

Bettering Lives With Every Stitch

"Manchaha" carpets by Jaipur Rugs
Jaipur Rugs has been a pioneering force in breaking down the complex and exploitative supply chain that was the norm by working directly with each of its artisansCopyright: jaipurrugs.com

The “Manchaha” project has raised the social status of the weavers in their communities. Previously, the vocation of weaving was often looked down upon in rural communities and was relegated as lower-caste work. Jaipur Rugs has been a pioneering force in breaking down the complex and exploitative supply chain that was once the norm in the industry by working directly with each of its artisans.

To extend the social and material benefits to even more people, the “Freedom Manchaha” initiative was devised. More than 250 inmates across six prisons were given looms and yarns to create unique pieces. The detailed, narrative-driven work that came out of this collaboration is a testament to the persistent effort of Jaipur Rugs to find creativity in places where most don’t dare to look. 

"Manchaha" carpets by Jaipur Rugs
The artists' inspiration is multifaceted when making “Manchaha." They often draw from everyday life and weave in what they see around themCopyright: jaipurrugs.com

So, the next time you’re swiping through carpets and rugs online, pause and look up the “Manchaha” collection, where you will find beauty in irregularity and a humanness which lies in every thread and weave of something as elegant and simple as a carpet.

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