A City in the Southern part of Khorasan Province, Iran
By Ehsan Afzalzadeh Naini, Iran Rug Company
Translated from Persian by
Birjand city once was one of the important cities in Ghehestan (an old name for Khorasan Province) centuries ago. The city is located in the southern part of khorasan and its distance from Tehran, the capital of Iran, is 1309 kilometers. Its neighboring cities from North are Ghaen, Ghonabad, from East neighboring country Afghanistan, from South Zahedan, Kerman, Zabol, and from West Tabas, and Ferdous. The climate in Birjand region varies in a way that in the South the weather is hot and in the mountainous North it is moderate.
Carpet Weaving in Birjand
Birjand’s carpet is famous and is known internationally as “Mood Carpet”. Mood is the name of a region in Birjand and the carpet weaving style is unique in that region, the style is also practiced in other cities such as Nehbandan, Ghaen and part of Ferdous. In addition, most of the rugs, in the region, are woven in the villages around Birejand.
The History of Carpet Weaving in Birjand
Although the history of carpet weaving is not documented in Birjand by historians, but because of its special geographical situation in the area and the influence of important native carpet producers who happened to be government officials too, by no means the history of carpet waving is less historic than other parts of Khorasan.
Based on some studies that were performed regarding the early days of the rug production in the area, one can assume that the history of carpet weaving goes back to at least to 200 years ago, and according to the same study in some villages around Birjand, the existence of carpet even goes further back. The two most prominent villages “Mood” and “Derakhsh” are very famous villages, in terms of quality carpet productions near Birjand city, which is situated in Eastern part of Iran and in Southern part of Khorasan Province the largest Province in country. Between the years 1931 to 1941 the carpet industry in Birjand really picked up its fame and in spite of their monotonous design they possessed good quality and were the preferred choice over other carpets woven in khorasan Province.
Birjand has always played an important rule in carpet industry in Iran and because of that almost all the carpet historians and researchers’ referred to carpet weaving in Birjand in one way or another in the past time and among them Cecil Edwards in his book “Iran’s Carpet” has written extensively about it.
Among Iranian historians, Messrs: Hozuri, Daneshgar, Hussein AzerBad, Heshmati and Zhuleh were those who introduced the carpet industry in Birjand extensively to the public and among them the Mr. Zhuleh with his two books: “Bargi az Ghali Khorasan” translated as “A chapter of carpet weaving in Khorasan”, and another of his book based on the research performed about the Iran’s carpet played and important rule in introducing Birjand carpets.
Before the World War II, in both Birjand and Derakhsh, there were three to four thousands looms and with the start of the devastating war and the collapse of the Europeans market, the export of carpet had a tremendous set back and consequently the quality and the quantity of the carpets reduced enormously.
However, from the year 1941 with the participation of some individuals such as Mr. Zahraii, Dr. Ahmadi and Mr. Jamshidi and some others who were the major quality carpet producers the situation turned around for good and later Mr. Amini one of the acclaimed businessmen and carpet producers in the region worked diligently and hard to get back the reputation of carpet industry in Birjand internationally and for many years his quality carpets were known as Birjand’s trade mark.
Carpets in this region from the design, coloring and weaving point of view were among the best in Khorasan and the reported number of the looms in 1993 were more than 14 thousands and created 50 thousands jobs in the area.
Master Weavers of Carpet Industry in Birjand
In the beginning of the current century the price of carpet was determined by a unique length measurement called “Zar-e” in the region, which it is defined as the distance between the elbow and the fingers of an arm, and for many people it was difficult to measure the length of the carpet that way; therefore, for the first time Haj Mohammad Samadi a talented man published a book under the name ” Carpet Square Zar-e” in 1930 and made the life easy for the carpet producers in the Birjand area.
The first significant production line was established in 1946 and thanks to the efforts of Mr. Amini who for the past 50 years and up to the recent years had worked exceptionally hard to produce fine carpets and who meticulously utilized quality raw materials such as natural colors right from the nature to apply to his carpets in the city of Birjand.
In addition, his grand and impressive production line was set up adequately to accommodate many carpet weavers to work and weave in an acceptable atmosphere in order to produce many carpets simultaneously all with the same color, size, and design to satisfy the customers demand worldwide.
Cotton thread that is used in Birjand is called “Rass” and the wool thread known as “Khame”; in addition, silk is used in some part of the carpets like the beginning of Toranjes and Lachaks to make the carpets look pretty. These carpets are known as silk carpets and the best wool is considered spring Wool which the wool is obtained from the live animal.
Weaving Specialty in Birjand
KPSI (Knot Per Square Inch): the number of KPSI in most carpets in Birjand are between 119 to 211 and in some cases maximum 267 KPSI
Knot: the style is Persian asymmetrical knot in which the yarn is wrapped around only one warp, and then passed behind the adjacent warp so that it divides the two ends of the yarn. The Persian knot may open on the left or the right, and rugs woven with this knot are generally more accurate and symmetrical
Carpet Loom: the loom is vertical and moveable one and it is similar to the looms from Kerman region
Cheleh Keshi: in Birjand the task is done with famous Persian style
Weft: contemporary carpets in Birjand are woven with two wefts one weft is fine and another is thick.
Carpets in Birjand are woven in small and large sizes. Large sizes in metric measurement are as follows: 4X6, 3X4, 3.5X4 and 3.5X5
Small sizes in metric measurement are as follows: 2X2, 2X2.5, 2X3, 2.5X3.5 and 3X3.5
Popular Carpet Designs in Birjand
Carpet designing in Birjand region is unique since the margin of the carpet is as important as the text itself, something that can not be seen very often in other parts of the country. It is also fair to say that according to the weavers in the region, the margin in a carpet is considered to be like the frame of a painting in which a nice fine and pretty frame will add value to the picture, and in case of a rug it will add value to text or ground of the rug.
Reiz Mahi Design (Small Fish)
Currently this motif is more popular in the Birjand region and approximately 80% of total carpet production is woven by applying Reiz Mahi pattern. This kind of pattern consists of figures like small fish mixed with plants and flowers. The pattern also can be with or without the Lachak and Toranj.
Rugs with Lachak and Toranj have a big and beautiful Toranj which resembles a radiant sun right in the middle of it. Toranjes in Birjand have special characteristics which made them popular worldwide. In no region of Iran’s carpet industry one could find the sun pattern weaved in such precision and vividness. According to some, that is maybe because this land in the past was referring to as the land of rising sun.
One other reason that this kind of design is popular internationally because of the variety of colors that are used such as Crème (Custard), Crimson (Persian Laky or Red), Indigo (Blue), Turquoise, which among them crème it seems more appealing to the customers.
Bouteh Jegh-ghei Design (Bush Aigrette)
This design is considered to be an old pattern in Birjand and currently not too many weavers or carpet producers implement the design. The design consists of figures in forms of Pears, Almonds and the likes which are woven in the form of spread.
Rabbi Saadi Design
The design is one of the most primary and traditional ones in Birjand and in the Mood district, the pattern is woven mostly in crimson and the color of pomegranate flower and the style is used by the Birjand Carpet Company Incorporated. The pattern consists of plants and flowers and filled with the spiral lines called “Eslimi”. These carpets usually have Toranj and Lachak; however, they are different in each three parts of the text. Sometimes, Toranj looks like a Samovar (A metal urn with a spigot, used to boil water for tea and traditionally having a chimney and heated by several means) which the design is one of the most traditional ones in the Mood region.
Kaleh Asbii Design (The horse head Design)
The center of the rug, in this design, is decorated with 16 fictitious winged horses woven in a circle fashion and all over the text is covered with the plants and flowers. The text color is usually crème or pale chocolate. In the Lachak of these rugs, there are two back to back dragoons.
Kheshti Design (brakes)
In this design there is no Toranj or Lachak but the text is covered with brake like rectangles (Ghab) placed uniformly. They are placed on the rows and columns, on each Ghab there are figures of flowers, plants, flowerpot, tree and etc. These rugs are popular among the flour millers in the Derakhsh region and mostly done in colors like chocolate and steel.
Afshan Design (Spread)
Flowers, leaves, branches, trees, birds, animals and eslimi lines (spiral lines) are popular in this design in which all the figures are woven in special order and all over the rug and that explains why is called “spread design”. There is one special rug of this kind that is woven in the city of Birjand, “called seven colors”,’ which seven different colors are applied to it.
In Persian a color fabric with lines is called “Moharramat”. In rugs of this kind, which are woven in Birjand, there are beautiful patterns but unfortunately theses days there are not too many of them to be seen on the looms in the weavers’ workshop.
The Culture of Carpet Weaving in Birjand
The carpet weavers in Birjand during their tedious long hours of artistic work and in order to take the pressure of them and also as a relaxation technique, they form a choral singing of some poems that give them energy while weaving. Here are some of the lines:
I hold the shiny Steel comb in my hand, With every stroke that I make, I remember Farhad (a Persian legend who was excellent hunter)
I make a hunting-ground in many colors, With all the mountains, hills, deserts and stones
I weave trees full of blossoms, Under it grassland of fodder
On top of each tree a nest, In it sweet-singing birds
Ehsan Afzalzadeh Naini, Iran Rug Company, 1 December, 2004