by Ehsan Afzalzadeh Naini, Iran Rug Company
Translated from Persian by Fereidoun Haghighi
Balouch Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes in Iran
There are many different Balouchi nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes who live sporadically across from the Khorasan Province (the north-eastern and largest Province of Iran), Sistan Balouchestan Province (Eastern part of Iran) or even in the Northern part of Iran Gonbad Kavous. The Nomadic tribes from centuries ago were doing animal husbandry and carpet weaving.
Contrary to what people believe that Small Balouchi Rugs, locally called “Ghalicheh”, are produced in Sistan Balouchestan, it is safe to say that, in fact, the rugs are the artist work of the nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes situated in the northern part of Khorasan especially around Kashmar, Torbat Heidariyeh, Torbat Jam and Serakhas…which they are all cities in Khorasan Province; nevertheless, there are still few tribes in southern part of Sistan that weave small Balouchi Rugs as well.
Torbat Heidariyeh and Torbat Jam are central and eastern cities of Khorasan Province respectively, and the cities have very long history of maintaining small Balouchi Carpet workshops. The cities gained their reputation for being the center of Small Balouchi Carpet production in the region, as they are still today.
Balouch Nomadic Tribes in the Khorasan Province, Iran
Nomadic tribes moved to Khorasan during the reign of Nader Shah Afshar and they found themselves in cities such as Torbat Heidariyeh and Torbat Jam. Apart from the two cities mentioned above, there were other tribes who settled themselves in cities like Dargaz, Serakhas, and Tayebad and even in Mashhad city the center of Khorasan Province.
Among the tribes in Khorasan, Bohloul tribe is the most important one from the carpet weaving point of view, and they live in the east of the province around Torbat Heidariyeh and Torbat Jam.
Other Balouch families, also active in quality carpet weaving, are Salarkhanis and Rahimkhanis, around the Khaf and Serakhas region.
However, there are still other nomadic families whose Rugs and Kelims are not as good as other tribes mentioned previously and their production are more like Afghani rugs from Afghanistan (Iran’s east neighboring country). They are Saranis, Rakhshanis, Baranis and Jahandidehs….
Characteristic of Balouch Rugs
One of the features that made the balouchi rugs very popular in Europe and throughout the world was its affordable pricing since they have been always produced in small dimensions and with very light weight.
Balouch rugs in general are produced in various small to moderate sizes such as (90 X 80 cm.), (1.40 X 1.20 m), (1.50 X 1 m) and (2 X 1.10 m).
It is also fair to say that Balouch rugs are quite good example of unique work of art containing a mixture of various cultural backgrounds, and they are known as border art or art that is developed by people who live in vicinity with other countries. In the design of Balouch rugs one could notice that many elements in them are inspired by Turkmen culture which consists of dark red and dark blue colors applied together with the geometrical designs of different shapes. At the same time, the influence of Persian culture in the forms of natural landscape pattern is present in the border (margin) and text of rugs quite emphatically.
Technical aspects of Balouch woven rugs
Persian style asymmetric knot is the order that is implemented in the Balouch carpet weaving and knot counts can range from 160 to 300 KPSI. One of the differences of modern Balouch rugs is that one hundred percent wool is used to weave every part of the carpet; however, in the past the hair of Goat was used to weave some parts of the small rugs which were considered as the specialty of the Balouch rugs, something that is not practice today.
Considering the Balouch workshops, the loom (a main device that is used for carpet weaving) is installed horizontally and in the past both weft and warp were from local wool thread; however, in recent years cotton is also used in the construction of the rugs, which is considered to be a form of devaluation of traditional weaving.
Colors in Balouch Rugs
Balouch rugs are usually colored naturally and mostly dark colors especially black, dark red, brown, dark blue, beige… are used. In the market, the finished hand-woven is called “black carpet” because indeed four to five dark colors are applied by the weavers into their production. In some cases, the use of low quality artificial colors so called “Chemical colors” which make the rugs look unrealistically shiny is the characteristic of the new Balouch rugs in Khorasan province.
Design of Balouch Rugs
Some other designs such as Bottehei, Harati, and Minakhani are woven in geometrical style. In particular, the design of Minakhani style consists of a line of small red flowers and series of other colorful flowers such as narcissus which they are all placed on a navy blue background and the borders follow the same pattern as the text of the rug. The dominant color is the brick-red which is dark and it is mixed with dark brown as well as light gray color.
Design so called “Mashhad-Balouch”
The background colors of these kinds of rugs are red and there are netted indigo blue lines as well.
In some small rugs that are mostly used for preying purposes, there is a pattern of an altar usually in bright yellowish or brownish background and almost always there is a tall so called life tree in the design with simple branches containing two different colors of leaves in blue and red.
There are also two equal rectangular frames at the top end of the rug that consists of well organized geometrical designs of plants, and also sometimes there are only the patterns of the palms of hand placed in them for Moslem worshipers to place their hands while preying. The design locally called “Panjeh Akbar” translated as the hands of Akbar who is a religious saint figure in Islam.
Balouchi weavers sometimes are inspired by the Afshar tribes to weave rugs with the birds’ figures which the Peacock feather is one of them. The design it is locally called “Chahar Morghi Design”. The design consists of a Toranj like diamond surrounded by four peacocks in red and green colors which are weaved in a navy blue background, and it is possible that the four peacocks’ pattern be repeated several times in a rug.
The most important and well known Balouch Rugs being weaved subjectively are called as follows:
Gole Shaftaloo, Se Kheshti, Sangchouli, Fatollah Khani, Yaghouib Khani, Doukhtar Gazi, Gouzani, Cheshmeh Gol, Maddad Khani, Chahar Morgi (Four Birds), Tavousi (Peacock), Keshmiri Gav and Borj Kolahe Deraz or Kolahe Boland, Aliakbar Khani, Barg taki, Gole Shikhi or Calleh Ghandi.
Ehsan Afzalzadeh Naini, Iran Rug Company, 14 December, 2004