Embroidered with over 1.5 million of the highest quality Gulf pearls, and adorned with precious stones such as emeralds, diamonds and sapphires, the pearl carpet of Baroda stands as a spectacular testament to the flourishing pearl-trade relations between the Indian subcontinent and the Arabian Gulf during the 18th and 19th century.
Commissioned by the Mahraja of Baroda in the year 1865 to adorn the tomb of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), the carpet has long been considered a remarkable work of art. Shrimant Mahraja Sir Khanderao II Gaekwar was the third son of Shrimant Rajashari Mahraja Sayajirao Gaekwar II. Khanderao ascended to the throne during the British era and established a court that was renowned throughout the subcontinent for its sophistication and richness. He also started the narrow gauge railway, also known as Gaekwar's Baroda State Railway. Apart from his role as the Mahraja, Khanderao had a special fondness for fine jewels and acquired throughout the years magnificent gemstones. Khanderao, like many other Indian royals who had a high appreciation for art, approached some of the most talented local artists who were previously employed by the Mughal court. However, due to the decline of the Mughal Empire, artists, jewelers, weavers, and gem cutters were displaced and left without an income leading them to seek employment elsewhere, usually in the households of local royals. These artist were highly influenced by the artistic style of the Safavid’s due to the strong ties between the Persia and the Mughal Empire, hence a unique art form emerged, combining both Indian and Persian traditions.
Embroidery was a prevailing tradition in Baroda, and artists who specialized in textile art were welcome at the Maratha court. This was also the case for jewelers and gem cutters as they were commissioned to create exquisite and expensive gifts that were presented by the Indian rulers to their visitors. Their love for jewels, long tradition of gift-giving and favorable financial circumstances, enabled the lords and Mahraja’s of Baroda to create astonishing art pieces, including the beautiful Baroda carpet.
This carpet is not only a powerful representation of the Maharaja’s love for art, but it also serves as a reminder of the Gulf pearl-trade industry that reached the Indian subcontinent. Pearl fishing was the main source of income for the people of Qatar and the Gulf, and they were extensively traded across Europe and Asia. These pearls were then used to adorn jewellery such as tiaras and necklaces for the Queens of Europe, as well as textiles such as the Pearl Carpet of Baroda.