Bakhtiyar (Bakhtiari) rugs are woven by a collection of tribes that once roamed through the Chaharmahal Va Bakhtiyari province of western Iran (photographed by Iman Fazeli Farsani). As with the majority of Iran’s roaming tribes they settled in the 1900s. Despite assimilation into modern day Iran, they still hold on to distinct traditions and lifestyles, as visible in the individuality of their rugs.
Bakhtiyar rugs have been exported globally from the bazaars of Isfahan since the early 19th Century. The province has its own Bazaar, however the finest Bakhtiyar rugs are sold in the affluent and internationally frequented Grand Bazaar of Isfahan.
How to Identify a Bakhtiyar Rug
Bakhtiyar rugs usually use the famous Khesti design (garden motif). The carpet is sectioned in to numerous decorative squares or circles, wherein smaller motifs are woven. Common motifs include flowers, Cyprus trees and the Tree of Life design. This can be seen the in the carpet below.
The use of the Tree of Life design in Persian carpets dates back roughly 700 years ago to the Bakhtiyari tribespeople. According to Bazaar legend, a mother first incorporated the design into a carpet she was weaving as a bridal gift for her daughter. The tree combined smaller willow trees that represent love and fertility with pomegranate fruits that symbolise virtue and good health.
Materials Used to Weave Bakhtiyar Rugs
Bakhtiyar rugs have a cotton base (warp strings) and are knotted with wool. The cotton and wool used to weave these carpets is home grown and reared from the sheep and plants around the tribe. This means that depending on the tribe, the sheen on the rugs can be quite different due to the discrepancies in the lifestyles of their herds.
Types of Bakhtiyar Rugs
Each Bakhtiyari tribe has a distinct weaving technique. The four main types of Bakhtiyar rugs in order of typical quality and market value are; Chal Shotur, Shalamzar, Saman and Ghahvehroukhi. Ghahvehroukhi means ‘brown faced’- as the name implies, these Bakhtiyar rugs have a distinctly brown appearance.
The Khesti design allows easy identification of a Bakhtiyar rug.
Some of the best Bakhtiyar rugs can be found in the Grand Bazaar of Isfahan.
Bakhtiyar rugs can be categorized into four types- (1 )Chal Shotur, (2) Shalamzar, (3) Saman and (4) Ghahvehroukhi.
Larger Bakhtiyar carpets are hard to find, making them of relatively high value.