The Luminous Persian Bahktiari Rug

Bakhtiari RugOne of the most wonderful Persian tribal designs is the Bahktiari rug. To get a better idea of how to clean them, I spent some time learning and understanding their nature first. They are renowned for their exquisite vegetable dyed brilliant colors. So come with me for a moment on a little in depth trip to their region so we can better understand them and their rugs!

The Bakhtiari are southwestern Persian tribe, and a subgroup of the Lurs. They speak the Bakhtiari dialect, belonging to the Lurish language. Bakhtiaris primarily inhabit Chahar Mahaal and Bakhtiari and eastern Khuzestan, Lorestan, Bushehr, and Isfahan as well as Khuzestan.

Some Bakhtiari are still nomadic pastoralists, migrating between summer quarters (sardsīr or yaylāq) and winter quarters (garmsīr or qishlāq). Numerical estimates of their total population vary widely. The term “bakhtiari” can be best translated as “companion of chance” or “bearer of good luck”. The term has deep Persian roots and is the result of two smaller words “bakht” and “yar” complied together. “Bakht” is the Persian word for “chance” and “yar”, “iar”, “iari” literally means “companion”.

The latter designation largely relates to the nature of the tribe’s annual “migration”. This has to do with the harsh nature of Bakhtiari life and overcoming of countless difficulties that Bakhtiaris have faced in the Zagros ranges. In this sense, Bakhtiaris view themselves as a hardworking tribe, facing numerous obstacles every day and yet fortunate enough to overcome each of these challenges as a solid unit. With the expansion of Bakhtiari influence, urban elites (particularly in Tehran) began to worry in regards to a potential Bakhtiari takeover of Persia’s affairs. Prior to this point, the Bakhtiari had largely remained within their own territorial boundaries. The Bakhtiari influence would continue to play an important role within the early 20th century politics of Iran. The Bakhtiari people are mainly from two tribal divisions, Chahar lang (English: Four Legs) and Haft Lang (English: Seven Legs). Due to the harsh nature of their life style, Bakhtiaris have been able to keep their blood lines intact, largely marrying within their own tribe.

The famous documentary: “Grass: A Nation’s Battle for Life” (1925) tells the story of the migration of Bakhtiari tribe from winter quarters in Khuzestan to summer quarters Chahar Mahaal. This film also tells the story of how these people crossed the river Karun with 50,000 people and 500,000 animals. The documentary “People of the Wind” (1975) retraces this same journey, 50 years later. The British documentary series “The Ascent of Man” (1973) in the first part of its second episode, “The Harvest of the Seasons,” also shows the Bakhtiari making the annual migration to the summer pastures. This portrayal is not however, particularly positive, using the Bakhtiari as an example of a pre-agricultural tribe frozen in time. As of 2006, the migration still takes place, although the livestock are now transported in trucks, and the shepherds no longer walk barefoot in the snow between provinces.

An early 20th-century visitor to the lush Chahar Mahal district in Central Persia noted: “To me Bakhtiari carpets are among the most interesting of the tribal village weavings of Persia . . . for they have that quality which we call character: that is, individuality, sincerity, and strength.”

Traditionally producing only geometric designs, the Bakhtiaris—along with the Armenian, Kurdish and other weavers of the Chahar Mahal—were also influenced by the floral carpets of the Persian cities, especially those of nearby Isfahan. This gave birth to an innovative and distinctive stylization. This is found especially in their oversize and palace-size antique Bakhtiatri carpets that were woven on commission by the great Bakhtiari khans. These are among the most highly regarded of the antique Bakhtiari carpets. Until the 1930’s Bakhtiari rugs were characteristically woven for use by the tribe or on commission within Persia. As they were rarely produced to be exported, they offer lanolin-rich, extremely durable wool and luminous colors, which were procured through a thorough knowledge of dyeing, using natural dyestuffs. The oversized Bakhtiari carpets represent the endeavors of a group of highly skilled weavers working years together the level of harmony and balance they achieve in their best antique rugs, not to mention their truly inspiring artistry, is incredible.

Renowned for their dramatic renditions of the “Garden Compartment” motif, usually organized in a series of square-shaped compartments that seem to be images one would see when looking out a window on their garden. Another carpet design, known as Guli Farang, translated as “Foreign Flower“ is believed to stem from an English cabbage flower design. The best Garden Bakhtiari rugs present delightful variety of pastoral scenes within the various compartments, in a wide palette of continually changing colors. For all you rug washers amongst my friends, this means to take extra precaution for color run and be mindful of their weight and really admire and appreciate these works of art. Running River Rug Cleaning ®

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