Sep 4, 2009
The below text is provided by Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur
BALOCHISTAN RUGS. INTERVIEW
WITH JERRY ANDERSON. THIS TEXT IS RELATED TO THE ALBUM ABOUT
RUGS. From the Horses Mouth-Talking 'Baluch' with Jerry
Original text & photos appeared in HALI 76, © 1994
The study of so-called ‘Baluch' tribal weaving has reached a watershed. While
on the one hand Baluch rugs have cast aside their misleading stereotyped image
as derivative Turkoman bastard cousins, on the other we still find in the marketplace
the promiscuous use of little understood attributions and terminology founded
upon ‘scholarship' that too often fails to rise above the level of dogma. Loosely
based on the sometimes unreliable accounts written by European travellers in
the region during previous centuries, or drawing on subjective interpretations
of Asian myth and ethno history, such popular ascriptions are seldom grounded
in properly conducted research or first-hand experience of eastern Iran and Afghanistan.
During the past two decades a number of well-known tribal rug writers, dealers
and collectors, both American and European, have sought, if not always heeded,
the views of a man who has become something of a legend in his own lifetime.
Now 62 and living in Karachi, Pakistan, Jeremy (Jerry) Wood-Anderson is, in his
own words, “second generation old India born and bred”, the grandson of a Scottish
officer who served in the last Afghan campaign. Fluent in several local languages,
since the 1950s Anderson has travelled widely throughout the region, on occasion
as a zoological surveyor and collector for Western museums, and has lived among
the tribes in fixed settlements and nomadic camps in Baluchistan, Seistan, Khorasan
Anderson's avowed passionate interest lies in “the ethnography behind tribal
rugs, the ancient ethno genesis of those great Steppe land nomads who gave rise
to the piled rug concept, and particularly the cosmic symbology of motifs and
designs”. His views of the Baluch pile-weaving tradition, as yet unpublished,
include some ideas which are simple, others extremely complex, with far-reaching
implications. His exposure to the conventional wisdom of rug scholarship has
been limited, but together with his field experience, this very isolation has
afforded him a fresh and, at times, thought-provoking perspective.
Ultimately it is on this extensive field experience that his knowledge of Baluch
rugs is based. He has had the opportunity to see certain specific design types
associated with specific tribes, and of purchasing rugs from the families whose
women had woven them. During his travels Anderson observed ‘old' rugs being used
(or, in the case of treasured heirloom pieces, stored in wooden chests) by the
tribal people who offered him hospitality in their tents and houses as a 'maiman'
or honoured guest. While such observations in the second half of the 20th century
do not necessarily reveal what was being woven in a particular place at an earlier
time, or by whom, they should not be discounted. We therefore commissioned contributing
editor Tom Cole to interview Jerry Anderson during a recent trip to Pakistan.
What follows is an abridgement of a wide ranging two-day discussion that took
place in April 1994 at Anderson's house on the shore of the Arabian Sea, during
the course of which he offered his attributions, based mainly on aspects of design,
for a number of ‘Baluch' rugs published in HALI, as well as in familiar sources
such as David Black and Clive Loveless's Rugs of the Wandering Baluchi (1976),
Michael Craycraft's Belouch Prayer Rugs (1982), and Murray L. Eiland's Oriental
Rugs from Pacific Collections (1990).
HALI: What are the origins of the Baluch people of Baluchistan?
JERRY ANDERSON: They are Assyrian, of Assyro-Arabic ethnic origin. Their own
legends and ballads claim Aleppo in present day Syria as their original home.
There were two waves of migration, one with the Arab invasion a millennium ago
and another about five to six hundred years ago. Those who came in the second
wave settled near Zahidan in Persian Baluchistan, and their tribal names are
derived from the names of the mountains nearby. Some of them came through into
Sind Province of what is now Pakistan. Most of this second wave speaks Rakshani
Baluch, totally different to Makrani Baluch, the original ‘pure' Baluch language.
But these people have nothing to do with weaving rugs.
HALI: Who then are the carpet weavers of Khorasan and Seistan?
JA: They are of Indo-European origin, all of them. Most of the indigenous peoples
of this area do not weave pile rugs, as the Baluchs of Baluchistan do not. There
was a Baluch confederation based upon language, which stretched across Khorasan,
through Seistan and into trans-Indus Baluchistan. So in a sense the name ‘Baluch'
is not a generic misnomer. The political and cultural centre of this confederacy
is located in Seistan, originally referred to as Sakastan, the land of the Sakas
or Scythians. It was these people, the descendants of the weavers of the Pazyryk,
who populated the area of Seistan. At the time of the Arab invasions, the name
was changed to Sijistan (‘sand country'), and from that it eventually evolved,
over about a thousand years, into the name we know today. The weavers of these
pile rugs are ethnically a Scythian people. They are not the Baluch. The word ‘Baluch'
is only about 300 years old and refers only to a linguistic confederation. The
Seistan empire, stretching from Kerman to Karachi, from Sabzevar to the Makran
Plateau, was a political federation, under the rule of a long line of kings.
1. Taimuri prayer rug, Ghurian area, west Afghanistan, early 20th century. 1.18
x 1.37m (3'10" x 4'6"). Warp: Z2S, ivory or mixed ivory and brown wool, on one
level; weft: 2Z, brown wool, 2 shoots; knot: 2Z, wool, with small amounts of
silk and mercerised cotton, AS open right; sides: goat hair selvedge wrapped
around paired 4ZS cables; ends: missing; colours: 7. Rugs of the Wandering Baluchi,
pl.10. Courtesy David Black & Clive Loveless, London.
HALI: Did your father collect rugs?
JA: Not purposely, they were just used in the house. My father was born in Quetta,
his father served in the British Army in the last Afghan campaign. My grandfather
settled in Quetta when he left the army. So I am very familiar with the territory.
I am literally blood brother with the brother of the Brahui chieftain Zaggar
Mengal. Mengal is the original name of the Brahui Sistanis.
HALI: Doesn't Konieczny mention the Mengal in his Textiles of Baluchistan?
JA: Mustapha Konieczny was a colleague of mine, a very nice fellow, a doctor
of literature whose brother was a rug dealer in Berlin. Like me he was a herpetologist,
and we were in constant competition. He used to travel through the desert on
camel and by bus, and I used to pass him in my Land Rover. A lovely man.
HALI: But you called his book useless.
JA: It is full of nonsensical things, giving functions for some weavings like
nose cover and Qur'an bag! No self respecting Brahui would put his Qur'an in
such a bag. He would use a nice silk bag with embroidery. Not something like
this shepherd's bag. He would put his rations in this and go into the hills while
his goats and sheep grazed. These people are loath to tell the truth to outsiders.
They are masters of disinformation! Poor Konieczny only spoke Farsi, but the
people he was studying spoke Brahui, Baluch and some Urdu. He believed them!
I tried to tell him. He was so often wrong, but he only repeated what he was
told. And they lied to him. Constantly!
HALI: Are you familiar with current books on Baluch rugs, such as Jeff Boucher's
Baluchi Woven Treasures?
JA: I corresponded with Boucher, but I haven't seen the book. I gave him many
of the tribal names he used. I was also in touch with McCoy Jones before he died.
I was a member of the International Hajji Babas and they used to send me copies
of what they were working on. And also Schuyler Cammann. He had interesting ideas
on design sources, on cosmic symbology, but he made far too many mistakes, attributing
too much to Chinese sources when it was the Indo-European steppe people who were
the inspiration for much of the Chinese design pool.
The Khan of Kalat, with his sons. Baluchistan, 1919 Photo Courtesy of Baloch
HALI: You know Black and Loveless's Rugs of the Wandering Baluchi. Would you
comment on some of the pieces. For example what type is plate 10, sometimes referred
to as ‘Dokhtar-e-Ghazi' ?
JA: It's Taimuri, from Ghurian near the Irano-Afghan border (1), but the name
is commonly misspelt ‘Timuri'. And it's Dokhtar-e-Qazi”, not Ghazi, meaning ‘daughter
of the judge'. There is a beautiful legend, part of the oral tradition, from
the times of Queen Bilkish of Sabzevar, known as the Bahluli-e-Dana. As the story
goes, about 150 years ago the daughter of a Taimuri qazi was wooed by a dervish
shaman of the Bahluli tribe. Her father disapproved and attempted to chase him
off with threats of death. So he performed all sorts of miracles to impress the
qazi and was allowed to marry her. But the Bahluli had their own rug designs,
and those woven by the judge's daughter are the only true Dokhtar-e-Qazi rugs,
twenty-three in all. Her daughters also wove rugs which may be included in thisgroup,
perhaps seventy altogether. But in the true sense of the word, there are no others
aside from these original pieces which we may call by that name. The rest are
merely Taimuri of Ghurian. I once had a chance to buy an original Dokhtar-e-Qazi
rug. There was a guy named Gordon Tiger with the American Consulate in Karachi
in about 1971. He took it out from under my nose in Quetta. It was being repaired.
I had reserved it, offered to pay in advance. The rafurgari in the Suraj Gunj
bazaar assured me I had nothing to worry about, the work would be done and I
could pick it up in the morning. In the meantime, the owner leaves and his servant
is there and in walks Tiger, asks how much, and purchases it from the boy. I
was so upset. Since then I've seen two cushions (balisht) and a saddlebag that
I thought were also woven by the ‘daughter of the judge'.
The principal motif on the rugs is the mirah boteh design. It looks like a Christmas
tree with a bent over paisley design. It has a flat bottom to it. So many of
the boteh designs on these rugs have a bottom which resembles an arrow head.
That is not the design on the original rugs. Those with the arrow head bottoms
I associate more closely with the Taimuri of Ghurian rugs, a group which predates
the Dokhtar-e-Qazi rugs.
2. Salar Khani rug, north Sistan, early 20th century. 1.12 x 1.85m (3'8" x 6'1").
Warp: Z2S, ivory wool, on one level; weft: 2Z, green-brown and brown wool, 2
shoots; knot: 2Z, wool with traces of magenta silk and blue, white and yellow
cotton, AS open left; sides: 6 cables (Z2S)2Z overcast with goat hair; ends:
traces of plain tapestry; colours: 7. Rugs of the Wandering Baluchi, pl.25. Courtesy
David Black & Clive Loveless, London.
HALI: Who are the Bahluli?
JA: The Bahluli have an interesting history. They are descended from the Afsar,
not Afshar as we mistakenly refer to them. Around the 11th to 12th century, the
Afsar and the Arsari (Ersari) split and the Afsar came into Afghanistan. Soon
after, the bulk of the Afsar moved into the Kerman region of Iran. One group,
the Istajlu, remained in Afghanistan, and it is from them that the Bahluli are
descended. They are part of the Baluch confederation and adherents to Sistani
culture. They always weave using the symmetric knot. They are the ones who weave
the true, small burial rugs, called kaffani. These are more elongated than the
average prayer rug, and usually not as wide, with opposing niches that resemble
those on prayer rugs.
HALI: And the Mushwani?
JA: They are the Sarabani Mushwani, a huge group who came from Caucasia after
the fall of Khazar, a Turkic state which converted to Judaism. The Sarabani left
after the Swedish Vikings ransacked that area. They escaped into what is known
today as Afghanistan. Now the Mushwani are just one subgroup of the Sarabani.
They are located in various places. There are some near Quetta and some in southeast
Afghanistan. There are even some in the vicinity of Islamabad here in Pakistan.
Depending on where they are located they speak different languages, including
Farsi, Pushto, Brahui and Rakshani Baluchi. But the rug weaving groups called
Mushwani are located near Adraskand in western Afghanistan and in Seistan.
3. Shahraki Sarbandi rug, Sistan, late 19th century. 1.07 x 2.18m (3'6" x 7'2").
Warp: Z2S, ivory wool, alternate warps slightly depressed; weft: 2Z, brown wool,
2 shoots; knot: 2Z, wool, AS open left; sides: missing; ends: traces of plain
and weft-float tapestry weave; colours: 8. Rugs of the Wandering Baluchi, pl.37.
Courtesy David Black & Clive Loveless, London.
HALI: What about plate 37 in Rugs of the Wandering Baluchi? Some people call
this type Mushwani.
JA: This is a Sharakhi, one of the twin tribes of the Sarbandi from Sistan (3).
Today all the cloth weavers in Zabol are Sharakhis.
HALI: It has been suggested that this group of rugs was woven by Hazaras near
Bala Murghab in northwest Afghanistan.
JA: How can anyone say that? Did the person ever go to Afghanistan?
HALI: Did the tribes copy designs from one another?
JA: Not until recently, never. Copy artists in the Baluch confederation began
to work after about 1945. Up until 1940 or so, the traditional system of tribal
identity among the Baluch tribes in Seistan, Khorasan and Afghanistan remained
intact. Of course intertribal marriages did occur, and a blend of design and
styles naturally ensued. The woman would weave her tribe's or clan's border design
around her husband's tribe's field design. Among adherents, defeated clans or
tribes who adhered to a dominant tribe, weavers would put their border around
the field design of the dominant tribe.
The Shia Hazaras were copy artists, or they wove rugs for sale on a commission
basis, principally in the Mashad area, including those red prayer rugs with the
hands in the hand panels. But in Afghanistan they do not weave pile rugs. Some
Hazaras were employed around Herat as copy artists in workshops. The same is
true of the Jamshidi and Firozkohi, who were only copy artists in workshops and
did not traditionally weave pile rugs. Now the Hazaras also inhabit other parts
of Afghanistan, including central Afghanistan, ranging all the way down almost
to Kandahar, and also the mountains near Ghor. There they do weave beautiful
jagged kilims, blankets with lightning-like designs, but not piled rugs. The
Hazara are a beautiful people, whose social groups are dominated by their womenfolk.
It is very difficult to get into these areas. In 1968 or ‘69 I tried to get in
there, about sixty miles southwest of Kabul, in my Land Rover, but I was stopped
by Amazons with rifles.
Huts composed of reeds, a common material used throughout Seistan in SE Persia.
The reeds are taken from local lakes.
HALI: Who are the Taimani and do they weave piled rugs?
JA: The Taimani are a totally different people. Taimani is a very old name and
they are a proud ancient nomadic tribe. I think they move all the way down to
Farah and Chakhansur. I don't think of them as an integral element of the Chahar
Aimaq confederation. They weave those very large pushtis (chuval-like bags for
storage and transport) with large-scale designs that one sees in Afghanistan.
Woven in pairs, many of them are cut and separated, then they are mistaken for
rugs. I've seen them published as rugs in some of these magazines.
HALI: Some people call this type of rug, from an American collection, Taimani?
JA: I think this is Sarbandi (20). Some of these tribal people live in fixed
settlements, others of the same tribe are nomadic. There is a fixed settlement
of these people in Zabol itself and they make beautiful rugs which are very different
to these other ones. This rug probably comes from Afghan Sistan, from the Chakhansur
HALI: What kind of rug is Black & Loveless's plate 30? Michael Craycraft
calls the type ‘Karai'. Certainly they are a specific group, defined by depressed
warps and four cord selvedges in addition to the frequent use of the mina khani
JA: Wasn't this one of Ian Bennett's rugs? It is Jehan Begi, one hundred per
cent Jehan Begi (6).
HALI: And Black & Loveless's plate 25?
JA: Salar Khani from northern Sistan (2).
HALI: To what extent have you been concerned with structure in the years you
have been interested in rugs?
JA: I've tried to be. I've at least noticed structure, but have never thought
of it as the only criterion as to who made a rug. You have to understand, I have
been all over the tribal areas in Khorasan, Sistan, Baluchistan, Afghanistan.
I speak some of these languages, including Brahui, Baluch and Urdu. I don't speak
5. Salar Khani/Jehan Begi carpet, Torbat-e-Heydariyeh area, Khorasan, first half
19th century.. 1.09 x 2.18m (3'7" x 7'2"). Warp: Z2S, white wool, on one level;
weft: 2Z, brown wool, 2 shoots; knot: 2Z, wool, AS open left; sides & ends:
missing; colours: 8. Black & Loveless, Rugs of the Wandering Baluchi, pl.39.
Private collection, UK.
HALI: What about Black & Loveless's plate 3?
JA: Another Jehan Begi (7). I believe it might have had a funerary function,
to be placed over the bier – a kaffani.
HALI: And plate 39?
JA: Again, wasn't this Ian Bennett's rug? It is a hybrid Salar Khani/Jehan Begi
from the Torbat-e-Heydariyeh area (5). It was woven by a Salar Khani woman married
to a Jehan Begi man. It's a wonderful rug, and very old. Notice the cock's comb,
Herati-style, border; this is a Salar Khani motif, the Jehan Begi never do this
on their own.
HALI: What of this opposing niche ‘prayer' rug which was illustrated in HALI
54, attributed to the Quchan Kurds, and later sold as an Aimaq at auction?
JA: I think it may have been made by a Bahluli woman who married a Mushwani (9).
It is a burial rug. I believe all piled rugs owe their origins to their sacred
function as a burial shroud with star map designs to guide the departed soul
to heaven. Gradually, over centuries, the by-products of this tradition began
being produced in every imaginable and functional form to which, these days,
there is virtually no end! Witness bicycle seat covers and the like.
HALI: Who are the Aimaq tribe, as opposed to the tribes of the Chahar Aimaq?
JA: They are a division of the Hazaras, or at least a people related to the Hazara
groups. They are called Chengezi Mongols and still speak a Mongol language. There
are deposits of them in northern Afghanistan as well as near Haripur on the east
bank of the Indus River. Those in the Indus Valley are Sunni as far as I know.
They only make flatweaves.
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.
HALI: What do you think of Eiland's plate 97 (“Aimaq or Baluch”)?
JA: This is a very interesting rug (25). It's a Rukshan Baluchistan carpet, from
the area of Nushki. It was made by the Baddini. They are an ancient tribe, mentioned
by Herodotus in the 6th century BC as being a Scythian royal tribe. These people
make salt bags and saddle bags, flatweaves. They do not weave many knotted rugs.
It's a very rare thing.
9. Bahluli/Mushwani (?) funerary (?) rug, Afghan Sistan, mid 19th century. 0.95
x 1.68m (3'1" x 5'6"). Warp: Z2S, ivory wool; weft: 2Z, natural brown wool, 3
shoots; knot: 2Z, wool, SY, 6H x 7V = 42/in2 (650/dm2); sides: 3 cords wrapped
with natural brown wool; ends: missing; colours: 12. Private collection USA,
courtesy Skinner, Bolton, Massachusetts.
HALI: But we thought that no piled weavings were made in Baluchistan.
JA: Rukshan, which is today referred to as the Chagai District of Baluchistan,
was the easternmost part of Sistan and was only annexed by the British in the
late 19th century.
HALI: How do you account for the use in this region of a design which most of
us would associate with the Turkomans or the Uzbeks?
JA: There is nothing Turkoman about this design. You must understand that Sistani
culture is basically the same as that of the Turkomans. So why is it unusual
to see this design on this very rare, very beautiful, rug? Had it not had this
kilim end, it would have bamboozled me. Its size is typical of weavings from
the Nushki area. Their houses are elongated mud dwellings that you have to step
HALI: And this one, plate 8 (“Aimaq”) from the Baluch poll article?
JA: The format is pure Salar Khani (27), typical for this group.
HALI: What do you think of this prayer rug from an American private collection?
JA: Very unusual, must be a Sharakhi from Sistan (17).
10. Jehan Begi/Salar Khani khorjin face, Khorasan, second half 19th century.
0.79 x 0.81m (2'7" x 2'8"). ‘Baluch Perspectives' , HALI 59, p.115, attributed
to the ‘Kizil Bash Turkoman, Mahavalat region', subsequently reassigned to “possibly
Bayat, Nishapur or Turshiz district”. Anne Halley Collection, courtesy Adraskand
Inc., San Anselmo, California
HALI: And no.30 (“Turkestan, Timuri-Belouch” ) from Belouch Prayer Rugs?
JA: Looks like a Kurd, certainly is not a Taimuri (18). The innermost border
is a Sangchuli idea. The camel wool is undyed, but the Sistanis always dye theirs.
This rug is made by some copy artist, some Kurdish group. And this one, no.28,
is from the Torbat-e-Heydariyeh area, not Turkestan (23). Possibly Jehan Begi,
they do use that design. And no.22 appears to be Sangchuli, a very nice example
from Zabol (19).
HALI: And no.2 in the HALI Baluch poll article?
JA: Arab, just like he says, but from Firdows (26). I'm sure it is woven on a
cotton foundation. It's more Baluch than most rugs from Firdows. As I said before,
they are usually a Persian type of rug. What is this about a woven date here?
I really doubt it – for a start most Baluch have no concern for dates and when
they do, the inscribed dates in what are normally workshop rugs are usually placed
in or near a corner, not floating freely in the field. I used to buy fragments
of rugs which had woven dates, just to get some idea of how to date rugs in general.
I had a whole collection of Turkoman and some Baluch fragmented prayer rugs with
dates. But they're all gone now.
11. Bahluli (?) burial (?) rug, Sistan, late 19th century. 0.66 x 1.32m (2'2" x
4'4"). Warp: Z2S, ivory wool, alternate warps deeply depressed; weft: 2Z, olive
green wool, 2 shoots; knot: 2Z, wool, AS open left, 9H x 11V = 99/in2 (1,535/dm2);
sides: 2 cords of 2 cables of Z5S goat hair, each pair overwrapped with goat
hair in figure-8; ends: bands of plain tapestry; colours: 12. Belouch Prayer
Rugs, pl.26, attributed to “Farah or Zurabad”. Courtesy Adraskand Inc., San Anselmo,
HALI: Can you comment on the omnipresent mina khani design. It occurs in so many
different places. Is it a tribal design which moved to the towns or vice versa?
JA: Definitely from the tribes to the cities. It pops up in geographically disparate
regions because it is basically Indo-European, and the weavers of all these rugs
are descended from the same original Indo-European tribes. Many people might
argue with the theory of diffusion, but with the question of carpets, it is all
true. It all fanned out from Balkashia to various locales in Central Asia, Afghanistan,
Khorasan, Persia and Anatolia.
HALI: What accounts for ‘Seljuk' iconography on so-called Baluch rugs?
JA: Are you following what I am saying? They are the same people. What's the
big surprise? It is the dissemination of a single culture, from the Lake Balkashia
region, and eventually to Sistan. Why not a continuation of design? In that vein,
the Persian word for carpet is ghaleen, derived from the ancient Indo-European
word gaalee, which means language! The carpet was an ancient representational
form of language, of religious significance, depicting the cosmic symbology.
8. Village near Zabol, Sistan.
HALI: Why is the wool in Baluch rugs so soft and shiny?
JA: They use lambs' wool, and the wool from the throat and belly, the best wool
on the animal. The animal is unwashed and the wool therefore retains all the
lanolin, the wool has so much natural oil.
HALI: Did the Baluch weave dowry pieces?
JA: Yes, the bride made all these things herself, receiving no help from other
women in the household. These dowry rugs consisted of a 4' x 6' rug, a prayer
rug, a pair of balisht, khorjin (saddle bags), a salt bag and a shepherd's bag
(showandan) The dastarkhan or sofreh were woven by married women, as were many
other functional pieces. Khorjin (donkey bags) are also made for dowry. Sistani
khorjin have a piled shoulder on both sides, while those from Afghanistan are
open across the middle, plain flatweave with no piled shoulder connecting the
HALI: What accounts for the dark, ‘sombre' tonality of Baluch group rugs?
JA: Maturity. Seistan had a very developed culture. The Turkoman used to be like
that, but then they began raiding northern Iran, rampaging, pillaging and looting,
showing off. Thus they made these strongly coloured rugs. The redder the better,
very immature.The Baluch, who live in the desert, like the darker colours, and
of course the dyestuffs available to them yielded those shades. There were exceptions
among the groups located further north where Turkoman influence was greater,
thus the rugs are sometimes redder, as in the Salar Khani rugs of northern Khorasan.
HALI: Some Baluch rugs have very coarse goat hair selvedges, others don't. Why
this disparity in rugs that essentially come from the same culture?
JA: The goat hair acts as a shield against snakes. They will not cross it as
it is like barbed wire on their skin. Therefore rugs used in a nomadic context
will always have the coarse goat hair selvedges, while those used in a sedentary
environment will usually have wool selvedges.
16. Anderson the herpetologist demonstrates how a snake will not cross a cord
made of goat hair.
HALI: We have heard that during the recent troubles the Baluch peoples in northern
Afghanistan were either killed or driven out by the local population, who resented
them. Who are they?
JA: They are a mixture of Baluch and Arabs, and also Lokharis, who do not weave
piled rugs but instead make those dark, dark kilims which often have tufts of
wool inserted on the flatweave, and are woven in two pieces and joined in the
centre. There are also Brahuis in that area who are called Baluch. There is a
book written by a Russian that tells of the whole distribution of the .
Brahuis in Khorasan, Transcaspia, the Bukhara area and the Mazar-i-Sharif area.
So many different peoples are called Baluch, or call themselves Baluch. In Farsi,
the word means beggar. It also has the sense of nakedness, a person living in
a tent and clothed in rags. Now the word -luch means a parasitic type of person.
Ba means ‘from' or ‘of', so the name Baluch has bad connotations in Farsi
13. Bahluli funerary (?) rug, possibly Adraskand Valley, west Afghanistan, second
half 19th century. 0.94 x 1.52m (3'1" x 5'0"). Warp: Z2S, ivory wool, slightly
depressed; weft: olive green and dark brown wool, 2 shoots; knot: 2ZS wool, SY,
9H x 9V = 81/in2 (1,255/dm2); sides: 1 cord over-cast with goat hair; ends: bands
of weft-faced plainweave at bottom; colours: 15. Eiland, Oriental Rugs from Pacific
Collections, pl.99, attributed as “Baluchi type”, subsequently reassigned to “Aimaq,
Ghurian”. Anne Halley Collection, Courtesy Adraskand Inc., San Anselmo, California.
HALI: The names you use for the weavers of Baluch rugs, Salar Khani, Jehan Begi,
for instance, where do they come from?
JA: The original rug weaving tribes of Sistan are the Dobash twin tribes of the
Joteg and Sangchuli, the Khakka religious clan, the Kamali and Jamali (these
two weave only kilims), the Mengal Sanjarani Barohis and Sasoli Narohis. (‘Narohi'
means people from the plains, ‘Barohi' is the opposite, people of the hills.)
From these groups came all the splinter groups or sub-tribes and clans of the
Jehan Begi, Jehan Mirzai, Ali Mirzai, Ali Akbar Khani, Khurkheli, Salar Khani,
Yaqub Khani, Madat Khani, Rahim Khani, etc. The Sarbandi, Sharakhi and Sarabani
Mushwani are later additions to Sistani culture, adherents who weave knotted
rugs. But the Karait Nakabundi tribe of Turko-Mongol origins (the Karai) do not
weave pile rugs at all. They are a proud people and want nothing to do with the
other tribes and groups who do weave pile rugs.
14. Salar Khani (?) rug, Khorasan, late 19th century. 0.89 x 1.52m (2'11" x 5'0").
Warp: Z2S, ivory wool, moderately depressed; weft: olive grey wool, natural camel
hair, dark brown goat hair, 2 shoots; knot: 2ZS wool, AS open left; sides: 2
cords overcast infigure-8 with goat hair; ends: bands of weft-faced plainweave,
weft substitution, double interlocking and slit-tapestry; colours: 8. Eiland,
Oriental Rugs from Pacific Collections, pl.96, attributed to “Mahvalat or possibly
Turshiz”, subsequently reassigned to “Kizil Bash Turkoman, possibly Bayat, Nishapur”.
Anne Halley Collection, Courtesy Adraskand Inc., San Anselmo, California.
15. Miri Arab rug, Sistan, second half 19th century. 0.84 x 1.37m (2'9" x 4'6").
Warp: Z2S, ivory wool; weft: 2ZS, 2 shoots; knot: Z3 and Z4 wool, with some magenta
silk, AS open right; sides: natural ivory wool cables overcast with goat hair;
ends: bands of plain tapestry; colours: 7. Eiland, Oriental Rugs from Pacific
Collections, pl.95, attributed to “Arab Baluchi, probably from the Qainat, Iran”.
Anne Halley Collection, Courtesy Adraskand Inc., San Anselmo, California.
The Bahluli are another relatively large adherent group to Sistani culture. They
are very easy-going people – very gentle, very liberal in a sense. And certainly
not very religious. I've never seen a Bahluli pray. The Sarbandis and Sharakhis
are very arrogant, closed minded people, proud also, but respected. I bought
one of the best rugs I ever had from a Sarbandi.
Sistani tribal lifestyle was essentially intact until about 1980, nomads moving
around in the same locales as they had for centuries. But then the Sarbandi and
many other Sistanis were displaced during the Islamic Revolution. Before 1979,
they were not here in Pakistan and these weavings, salt bags, shepherds' bags
and the like, were just not available.
17. Shahraki Sarbandi prayer rug, Sistan, late 19th century. 0.74 x 1.07m (2'5" x
3'6"). Warp: Z2S, ivory wool; weft: natural brown wool, 2 shoots; knot: 2Z, wool,
AS open right, 9H x 8V = 72/in2 (1,116/dm2); sides: not original: ends: weft-float
kilim at top, weft-faced plainweave at bottom; colours: 11. Private collection,
The Sarbandi and Sharakhi rarely sold such salt bags and rugs before – these
were dowry items, not for sale at any price! But when they were forced out of
Sistan, they had no choice but to sell, and that is why you find them in the
marketplaces – Quetta, Karachi, the markets were flooded with all sorts of weavings
from these Sistan groups. They are a very nationalistic people, the Sistanis,
and when they left Iran, most of them settled near Nushki.
18. Kurdish (?) prayer rug, north east Iran, 19th century. 0.67 x 0.99m (2'3" x
3'3"). Warp: Z2S, natural ivory wool, slightly depressed; weft: natural brown
wool, 2 shoots, loosely packed; knot: wool, AS open left, 10H x 12V = 120/in2
(1,860/dm2); sides: 2 cords 3Z(Z2S) ivory wool overwrapped in figure-8 with continuous
wefts and overcast in wool chequerboard pattern; ends: weft-float and dovetail
tapestry at top, similar plus stepped discontinuous weft-float and slit-tapestry
at bottom; colours: 8. Belouch Prayer Rugs, pl.30, attributed to “Turkestan,
Timuri Baluch”, subsequently reattributed to “Jamshidi, Pende”. Private collection
USA, courtesy Adraskand Inc., San Anselmo, California.
19. Sangchuli prayer rug, Zabol area, Sistan, late 19th century. 0.84 x 1.57m
(2'9" x 5'2"). Warp: Z2S, natural ivory wool, slightly depressed; weft: natural
brown and dark brown wool and camel hair, 2 shoots; knot: wool, AS open right,
10H x 11V = 110/in2 (1,705/dm2); sides: 2 cords 3Z(Z2S) and 4Z(Z2S) ivory wool
overcast in alternate lines of natural brown and plum red wool; ends: missing;
colours: 7. Belouch Prayer Rugs, pl.22, attributed to “Herat”, subsequently reattributed
to “Hazara, Murghab”. Courtesy Adraskand Inc., San Anselmo, California.
The Sasouli and the Sanjaranis are very hospitable people. If you get into their
clutches, you cannot continue on your safari. They will keep you. I used to travel
throughout these areas by Land Rover in my work as a herpetologist. I would sometimes
stop for water and they would insist on throwing their hospitality upon you.
They would lay out all the carpets, give you this and that, and you were stuck!
For at least 24 hours! Wonderful people, really.
20. 'Baluch' carpet, probably Sarbandi tribe. Chakhansur, Minroz area, Afghan
Sistan, mid(?) 19th century, 1.57 x 2.64m (5'2" x 8'8"). According to Jerry Anderson,
rugs of this type, sometimes attributed to the Taimani in the literature, are
the work o fthe Sarbandi tribe of the Sistan region, which straddles teh modern
Iranian/Afghan border. Warps: Z2S, ivory wool; Weft:2Z, light brown wool, 2 shoots;
Knot:2Z, wool, AS open left, 6H x 7V=42/in2 (650/dm2); Sides: traces of 3-cord
ivory wool overcast with light aubergine wool; Ends: plain weft faced flatweave;
Colours 9. Private Collection, USA