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Talking 'Baluch' with Jerry Anderson: part 4

HALI: What function do prayer rugs serve in the context of Baluch weaving? Are they a traditional art form?


JA: The mihrab form is Zoroastrian, not Islamic . The word literally means 'sun-water' – in other words the life-giving rays of the sun. The so-called tree-of-life we see on so many Baluch prayer rugs is not a tree at all. It is a representation of the rays of the sun, a central part of the Zoroastrian tradition. Fire temples used to have splayed bulls' horns mounted on their spires, and this symbol appears in some prayer rugs, particularly those from Sabzevar and Adraskand, as well as Turkestan. The Sistanis were the last to be fully converted to Islam and the Baluch and Brahui tribal structure is so strong that these latter groups remain less 'religious' than others such as the Turkoman and Pashtuns.

6. Jehan Begi rug, Khorasan, late 19th century. 1.00 x 2.20m (3'3" x 7'3"). Warp: Z2S, ivory wool, alternate warps deeply depressed; weft: 2Z and 4Z, brown wool, 2 shoots; knot: 2Z, wool and goat hair,AS open left, some SY knots at edges; sides: 4 6ZS cables wrapped with goat hair; ends: plain, interlocked and weft-float tapestry and brocade; colours: 8. Rugs of the Wandering Baluchi, pl.30. Courtesy David Black & Clive Loveless, London

HALI: What is plate 28 in Michael Craycraft's Belouch Prayer Rugs?
JA: Perhaps Bahluli, and also in the burial format (11). I'm looking for loops or tufts in the corners, which they used to fasten the rug to the bier, which had four legs, something like a charpoy. A very interesting rug, very beautiful. HALI: What do you make of no.4 in the Baluch poll, published in HALI 59? Jeff Boucher has referred to this type as Baizidi, Michael Craycraft tentatively calls it a Kizil Bash Turkoman.
JA: It appears to have been made by a Jehan Begi woman married to a Salar Khani man (10). This central field is classical Salar Khani. There is nothing Baizidi about it at all – the Baizidi are only copy artists.

7. Jehan Begi funerary (?) rug, Khorasan, 20th century. 0.80 x 1.55m (2'7" x 5'1"). Warp: Z2S, ivory wool, alternate warps deeply depressed; weft: 2Z, natural brown wool, 2 shoots; knot: 2Z, wool and camel (?) hair, some faded violet silk, AS open left; sides: 4 cables (Z2S)4Z individually wrapped with goat hair; ends: plain and slit-tapestry, weft float brocade; colours: 6. Rugs of the Wandering Baluchi, pl.3. Courtesy David Black & Clive Loveless, London.

HALI: Look at these Anne Halley Collection rugs in the Baluch section of Murray Eiland's 1990 catalogue Oriental Rugs from Pacific Collections, which includes some very specific attributions, labelled 'challenging' by the editors of HALI.
JA: Plate 93 ("Torbat-e-Haidari, possibly Karai") looks like a Jehan Begi (21). Plate 95 ("Arab, probably Qainat, Iran") is Arab Baluch (15) – Miri Arabs who settled in Sistan at the time of the Arab invasions. There is no question of Arabs in Firdows weaving rugs of this type. Those Arabs, and those in the Tun area, do not weave Baluch type rugs. They are copy artists who weave Persian type rugs. The Arabs in Qain are Miris and weave these Baluch style rugs.
Plate 96 ("Mahlavat or possibly Turshiz") is Salar Khani, I think (14). It could be from Turshiz. This design type is rare; one weaver in a hundred will make such a rug in a lifetime. Plate 99 ("Baluchi type, Turkic tribes") is very strange (13). These piled ends are very peculiar. It might also be a kaffani. As it is symmetrically knotted it must be Bahluli, possibly from the Adraskand Valley. A very rare rug.
Plate 98 is a Taimuri from Khorasan (22). What has he written here, "possibly Jamshidi"? Traditionally the Jamshidi don't weave knotted rugs in their tents. They weave Baluch rugs and Turkoman rugs commercially in workshops in Herat. Both the Jamshidi and the Firozkohi originally came from the Elburz Mountains in Iran, but they were forced to leave Persia due to their different religious beliefs. They believe that their messiah fled into the mountains long ago and will return. They are classiffied as Sunnis but they are actually Shiite. They needed a place to go where they would be free to worship. The word 'Firozkohi' means blue mountains, Firoz is the word for turquoise and kohi is mountain.

Baluch nomad caravan in Baluchistan (SW Pakistan)

HALI: Have you visited their camps?
JA: Yes. It's a dead end road to get there, you have to turn back once you reach them, they are at the end of the line. There were no pile weavings in their tents. Some of them lived in yurts like the Turkoman, most of them lived in huts like the Hazaras of the area. Some of the tribe tended flocks and moved with their herds, but they were essentially an extension of a fixed settlement, some of whom also engaged in sparse agriculture – like the Jamshidi.

From the Horses Mouth

Original text & photos appeared in HALI 76, © 1994


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