The majority of Baluchis live in Pakistan. However they are also live in the western area of Afghanistan and in the South-Eastern border of Iran, thereby Baluchi rugs have a flavor of all three cultures. They make an excellent addition to the décor of the house because of their rustic allure . They take up the name of the region they are made in, so those in Afghanistan are called ‘Herat’ and those in Iran are called ‘Persian’. However their distinctive style indicates that they are Baluchi Rugs.
Baluchi Rugs: A Reflection of Rural Life
They are one of the best examples of products made by the local people that highlight the cultural process. The design and elements of the rugs have been treated as a cultural reference book which narrates the social structure, rituals and symbols.
Hence these rugs provides us with a graphic depiction of their traditions, because the entire life of Baluchi people is reflected in the patterns and the imagery that they weave in the carpets (below is a rug which shows the rural landscape and is known as ‘Aksi‘). All three ethnic groups are involved in carpet weaving i.e. Baloch, Brauhi and Pathan tribes. Tribal rugs are considered superior to non-tribal because they represent the heritage of a particular ethnicity.
Weaving of these rugs is a primary source of income for the rural woman. Those woven by nomads are smaller in size due to their moving from place to place. Usually they are dark colors and the motifs hardly visible in harsh light.
Baluchi Rugs: Materials and Colors
Primarily wool is used, however cotton and camel or goat hairs are utilized too. Silk is added only if they are being made for a special occasion such as a wedding.
Colors that are used are navy, medium blue, maroon, red, camel brown, deep purple and cream. Black shading and outlining is used, giving even a darker effect.
Baluchi Rugs: Technique Used
They are hand knotted, with the asymmetrical knot known as ‘Senna’, which is open on the left. Two-ply wool is used, Z-spun and S-twisted. The knot count is 80 to 120 knots per square inch. Typical size is 4 by 6 feet. However a 9 by 12 feet rug can take up to 10 months to make, with 4 to 5 weavers working 6 hours a day.
Balcuhi Rugs: Classic and Animal Designs
Baluchi motifs are abstract and simple. Classic designs includes use of rectangles, hexagons and octagons (you can see a sample in the picture below). While repeated or alternating lozenges and medallions can be seen in most rugs. The repeated pattern can create a unique honeycomb motif that makes the field color near invisible. Plants can be seen in the patterns but they are represented geometrically or angularly.
The are images of sheeps, goats, camels, horses and donkeys which exemplifies their nomadic lifestyle that is similar to the rural way of living. It is the second most popular design. It has a central medallion and is woven by Pashtun and Hazara tribes who live in the heart of the province. There are around 100 classic designs of rugs, yet the individual weaver can add various new patterns while weaving. A typical example is having the central medallion as a water fountain where trees, flowers, animals and birds would surround it. The diversity of animals on the carpets basically shows the concept of a ‘peaceful kingdom’ a place where all creatures live together in peace and harmony.
Among the birds which are usually depicted on the rugs are peacocks because they are a symbol of beauty and happiness, roosters which announces the time of prayer, deer which signifies innocence, beauty and speed, and the lion which is an epitome of power and authority.
Baluchi Prayer Rugs/Jae Namaz
The prayer rug is the most important religious craft of Baluchistan. These are mostly made in a rectangular shape and consist of different designs of Mihrab (this is a curved recess in a wall of the mosque that represents the direction of Kaaba which we face while we pray. The wall is called the Qibla wall).
The prayer rug is designed in a one way pattern, i.e. the ‘Head and Shoulder’ (you can see a sample below). The entire field (this is the central portion of the rug that is surrounded by the border) of the prayer rug is decorated with geometrical shapes.
The ‘Tree of Life’ (a sample carpet can be seen in the picture below) usually on camel ground is one of the most frequently made designs. It is because we have many symbolic trees mentioned in the Holy Quran such as Tooba and Sidrat ul Muntaha (Lote).
However some architectural themes can be seen, especially mosques. In some only minarets, domes, archways, and doors are illustrated. Real life mosques are also used as designs (the first picture below shows Faisal Mosque, while the other shows the central mosque in Quetta).
The patterns, colors and style of weaving are used to classify the rugs and weavers’ tribe.
Baluchi Rugs: Influence of the Wars
Traditionally Baluchi women used designs with flowers, birds and animals showing their peaceful life, but during the Afghan-Soviet war (1979-89) there was a new addition to images. They started to weave what they witnessed in their everyday lives, and hence showed their hatred for the war. So planes, helicopters, tanks, grenades, rifles could be seen depicted in the rugs. At first the images were subtle, but with the passage of time their popularity increased and the pictures became very obvious. This has continued to date due to their own socio-political and military situation as well as the invasion of the USA since 2001. These rugs have become one of the world’s valuable institutions of War Art in the 20th and 21st century.
Baluchi Rugs: Preservation of Traditions
And so Baluchis have been very successful in preserving their culture and traditions in their weaving, and will hopefully continue to do so to in the years to come.
Keiany, Mohsen, Balochistan: Architecture, Craft and Religious Symbolism, Oxford University Press (2015)