The Fascinating Legacy of a Glorious Tribe, The Bakhtiari Rug

bakhtiari rug

The Bakhtiari are an Iranian tribe, a subgroup of the Lor people. Actually, there is no ethnic difference between Bakhtiaris and other Lors. This naming dates back to the Safavid era. Because they showed courage in wars between Iran and the Ottomans and their role in defeating the Portuguese occupiers, the Safavi King called them Bakhtiar, which means fortune companion. The Bakhtiari tribe includes two branches: Char-Lang and Haft-Lang, and both have their own subgroups. This article explores the artistic aspect of this tribe and its most exquisite embodiment: the Bakhtiari Rug.

Who Are Bakhtiari People?

This tribal structure of Bakhtiaris formed in the Safavid era due to social class structures and taxations of the time. They speak the Bakhtiari dialect, a southwestern Iranian dialect belonging to the Lori language, a subset of middle Persian languages. Nowadays, the Bakhtiaris inhabit five southwestern Iranian provinces: Chahar Mahal and Bakhtiari, Khuzestan, Lorestan, Bushehr, and Isfahan. Chahar Mahal and Bakhtiari are the heart of the Bakhtiaris habitat, located on the hillsides of the Zagros Mountains.

The Zagros Mountains contain several ecosystems. Some parts are the forest-steppe having a semi-arid climate, and other parts (the Chestnut forests) are mantled with rainforest. And there are also rivers, lakes, and waterfalls. As a matter of fact, the earliest evidence of wine production has been discovered in the Zagros Mountains.

Some believe these hillsides are the first place for horse domestication. At least, there are pieces of evidence enough to claim the most ancient horse culture formed in this region and notably started by the ancestors of the Lor people. The Chahar Mahal and Bakhtiari province has been the pathway. And, often been the settlement for several nomads and people, such as Kurds, Lors, Khamse, Arabs, Qashqai Turks, and Armenians. Its neighboring provinces are Isfahan, Khuzestan, and Fars. The province has been under Haft-Lang Khans’ rules (thanes), and its capital is Shahrekord.

The combination between Nomadic and settled people is obvious in the woven pieces of the region. Bakhtiari rug mirrors this cultural fusion with their designs, patterns, colors, and even weaving techniques. Although each of the Bakhtiari clans has had its patterns and designs, the designs were recognizable over 200 years ago. The patterns have started dialogues, making a range of various designs. 

Settled Bakhtiaris of the city and villages of the Chahar Mahal and Bakhtiari province produce rugs these days, not nomads. They produce the best Bakhtiari rugs in many towns and villages. Namely,  Chaleshtar, Shalamzar, Saman, Hinegan, Qahfaroq, Boroojeni, Ashgaftak, Pirbalut, Arjang, Vardanjan, Boldaji, Faradonbeh, and Ardal.

Technical Aspects and Structure of The Bakhtiari Rug

Sheep wool is the main raw material in carpet production. The wool used in the Bakhtiari rug is hand-spun and of high quality. Bakhtiaris shear their sheep once a year, generally in April. Because of the influence of other tribes, weaving quality and styles differ from part to part in the province. 

Among Bakhtiari rugs, you can find both wool and cotton warps. Most of the Bakhtiari weavers knit symmetrical, but in some regions like Hinagan and Nasrabad, the common knot is asymmetrical. The ways of weft-passing are also diverse.

Most Bakhtiari rugs are single-weft, but the rug artisans in Shahr-e-Kord also produce double-weft rugs. Weaving double-weft rugs started 80 years ago. 

Except for looms offered by Carpet Cooperation of Iran to weavers, most looms in Chahar-Mahal and Baktiari region are horizontal. And, even big-sized rugs are woven horizontally. The number of rajs is normally between 17 and 20, but in recent years this number has risen up to 40. The carpets were mostly flat-knitted in the past, but little by little, the round-knitted (Lool Baf) rugs have been replaced. And nowadays, both ways of knitting are common in Bakhtiari.

Bakhtiari rugs are various in size. Small and medium are common, but there are also larger rugs, and you can find among them square rugs, too. Bakhtiari weavers also produce wide and narrow Runners and Kallegi.

Dyeing and Painting of The Bakhtiari Rug

Women from Bakhtiari nomads gathered and dried natural plants and derived colorants from them by boiling in the past. By adding sour pomegranate juice, they were able to make the colorants mordant. The result was fixable dyes and vivid and wild colors on the Bakhtiari rug. Bakhtiaris use gray wool instead of white, which gives dark tonalities. The crimson and green of Baktiari rugs are the main characteristics in comparison with the same colors in other Iranian rugs. They also use black instead of dark blue and cobalt blue. The rug artisans obtain yellow from reseda and Rubia, which is very common in Bakhtiari rugs. Rugs with self-colored wool are also common in Bakhtiari. 

Rugs with these natural colors usually have five colors (white, milky, gray, chestnut, and brown). And, a famous description for Baktiari rugs was introduced during the 60s and 70s in Europe and America. ‘Bibi-Baf‘ is a category in Bakhtiari rug, which mainly means Lady-Woven. Bibi means lady at all. In Baktiari culture, it’s a title for wives and daughters of the Bakhtiari Khans (thanes).

In the past, there were rug-weaving workshops under the supervision of these Bibis. Some of them were themselves, weavers, too. Rug weaving was a common side interest for the Iranian ladies, including the Bakhtiari Bibis. But of course, the main products of the Bibis’ workshops were woven by skillful workers. Bibi-Baf rugs were standing on a high level of quality and color. Kheshti (brick) and Sarvi (cedar) were the most common designs in these workshops. The last generation of Bibi-Baf rugs dates back to 1930. That year, Reza Shah ordered the annulment of the Khanate system.

Designs and Patterns of Bakhtiari Rug

The patterns

Bakhtiari designs are mostly broken, and the rugs are categorized as nomadic or village-woven. In the past, there was no prior design, and Bakhtiari rug was all improvised-woven. Since 80 years ago, Bakhtiaris have started to make designs for some of their rugs. The Bakhtiari rug designs are primarily based on the influence of their Bakhtiari designs. This is because of the proximity between the Bakhtiari people and other Lors and Qashqais and partially Armenians, But the main original Bakhtiari design is Kheshti. The Persian word ‘Khesht‘ means brick or adobe, a basic material in Iranian architecture. Iranian bricks are mostly square, and the square frames in Bakhtiari designs justify the appellation.

The square frames of a Kheshti design are arranged in orderly side by side, and there is a pattern inside each of them. This includes patterns such as a splendid branch, a bush or vase full of flowers or birds, gazelles, and panthers. It could also include other animals or a cedar tree. But the most prominent pattern is the weeping willow, which has become a representative for the Bakhtiari rugs.

The Unique Designs

Qab- Samovar (samovar frame) is another design cluster whose patterns are frequential as well as Kheshti. With this difference, the squares of Kheshti have changed to Rhombus. In some instances, the frames look like samovar, so this cluster is well-known as Qab-Samovar design. Cedar is the primary pattern inside the Samovar frames.

In terms of design, the Bakhtiari rugs are very various in number. Some experts even categorized some of the Qashqai, Lori, and Armenian rugs under the Bakhtiari title. This being because the cultural combination in the Chahar Mahal and Bakhtiari makes it reasonable. But the original Bakhtiari rug has its own elements and aesthetics, as mentioned above.

Interested in Bakhtiari Rugs? Then head over to our Louisville, KY Rug Store or website right now. There you can explore them more in detail. With our On-Approval policy, you can try these rugs in your room, making your decision there in comfort and Free of Charge. Our team will gladly bring the rugs to your home and place them in your room. Feel free to get in touch with us for more info and no-obligation quotes.

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