spirituality 12.pdf | Carpet | Religion And Belief

spirituality - lesson 12: carpets

the pazyryk carpet, circa 2/3 B.C

carpet weaving is a complicated art form. it displays a high level of talent and creativity by people who, after months of hard work on each one, remain practically unknown. it was probably through the nomads of middle asia that the craft of carpet making spread. anatolian carpets are one of the earliest know periods of production stemming from its nomadic history, these carpets were most likely to be kilim rugs, that is they were flat woven, but of course this did develop into carpets with a pile. the communities of the iranian plateau were primarily raising cattle and soon became accustomed to using the wool from the livestock to create clothing. eventually the material was utilized to create carpets with the aim to add comfort and warmth to their tents, something to replace the hides of animals formerly used for floor coverings. sheep, goat and sometimes camel hair would be turned into threads and knotted together, a beater (a knife consisting on many blades), would be used to tighten the knots. shears would then clip the wool to create the pile. dyes made from mineral pigments, crushed insects, flowers and vegetables would be used to give rich coloring to the carpets. the earliest example of a knotted pile rug is the pazyryk carpet which dates back to the earliest islamic periods (2 or 3 B.C) and the reign of sassanian khusarau I. the carpet in question, with over 36,000 knots per 10cm sq, was found preserved

in siberian ice of the altai mountains near mongolia, along with a mummified horse, a wheeled cart and other items.

detail of the pazyryk carpet over time the practice of creating carpets filtered into much of the islamic world and spread west during the 14th century by italian merchants. by the sixth century persian carpets were being produced in silk and were renowned in royal court circles. in the 16th century, during the safavid dynasty the production of carpets was a state enterprise, it is only then that carpets began to be signed and dated, elevating carpets to a new level of importance. carpets had become artworks. middle eastern cultural references as a result of the highest skill and intricacy these carpets have become one of most renowned islamic arts. with every stitch another layer of meaning is applied to what would otherwise be a domestic comfort. the islamic carpets are a celebration of a long history and ultimately are aids to the contemplation of spiritual forces. carpets are mentioned throughout the qur'an, as furniture of paradise. each society has used the format of carpets for slightly different means. in tibet lama artists were key in creating myriad carpet designs and yet they were not intended for religious use. instead they were supposed to be used to create an auspicious environment that would emanate good fortune and connect to the unknown and powerful forces around.

the ardabil carpet, iran, circa 1539

detail of the central medalian of the ardabil carpet which is inscribed just above the signature and date is a persian couplet from a ghazal, or ode, by 14th century poet hafiz: 'I have no refuge in this world other than thy threshold my head has no resting place other than this doorway'

prayer rugs especially those found in turkey, are characterised by rich and minutely detailed decoration. a traditional prayer carpet has a 'directional' design, with an obvious top and bottom. the design relates to its religious function, with an arched mihrab. they are an important part of islamic religion, the act of sitting upon them in respectful to allah. cleanliness during prayer is essential and a rug goes some way to achieving this, just as one must remove shoes in an islamic mosque. niche carpets were (and still are) made for muslim prayers, with the directional 'mihrab' (a niche/small alcove) in the center. often a pendulum of light hung from the centre woven arch. these types of depiction signal the development of inspiration from nature to reflecting themes within religion as well. the presence of a mihrab and lantern refer to the part of a islamic mosque that locates the direction of mecca and are symbolic of allah, as a guiding light. pattern whilst there are some carpets that carry religious texts it is mainly though patterns and transcendental symbolism that spiritual meanings are expressed. styles can be divided into two different types; floral designs and geometric patterns. floral patterns, which mostly occur in the carpets of persia and india, can range from images of gardens, flowers and trees, different types of birds and animals to hunting grounds and scenes of battles and legendary / rare creatures (the yellow deer for example). the depiction of exotic gardens and landscapes provides a metaphor of the soul's search for paradise. in safavid persia the use of wild animals and animal combats often symbolize temporal authority and power or man's spiritual struggles. however, in an ancient religion called mithraism the lion, which can be found in many pre-islamic carvings, was associated with the sun and fire. it was then perceived as a moral cleanser, not a symbol of strength as the lion is most commonly connected with today. this form of symbolism predates islam to a time in ancient persia where water was scarce and therefore sacred, to pollute it was a great sin - the lion was a symbol of purifying forces. an old story tells of how iman ali saved a lion on his way back home from battle. the lion then followed iman ali where ever he went acting as a protector. this tale offers some explanation of how the symbol of the lion became a sign of sovereignty, power and protection. with both floral and geometric designs a carpet will usually be made up of two parts. the main part is the context which is enclosed by borders of patterns to help reveal the beauty of the central part.

floral style patterned persian rug

a seljuk carpet, 19th century

a seljuk carpet, 16th century

geometric patterns are predominantly found in caucasian and turkoman rugs, and in the rare occasion that floral themes are used they will usually appear very stylized and rectangular. these shapes are the oldest form of islamic patternation and stem from the tribal weaving of nomads and villages. the motifs can be described as ‘aniconic’, meaning they are symbolic of a DIVINITY but not representational. they are probably based on classical greek formations, but developed by the intellectuals in islamic cultures - scientist, mathemeticians and astronomers. the forms are usually based around a circle, and stemming from that - the square, the triangle and the hexagon. due to their structure they have the possibility of being repeated endlessly, representing the infinite nature of GODNESS AND DIVINE CREATION. a lot of carpets will contain a central circle being symbolic of the eternal essence of GOD. the triangle represents the hunab consciousness and principle of harmony. the square is symbolic of physical experience and the material world, whilst the hexagon speaks of heaven. another very common symbol that is used throughout islamic art is the star which is attributed to equal radiation and symbolic of the spread of islam. carpets represent a huge part of islamic culture, display the art of celebrating beliefs and transmitting culture through the generations with out any representations of a GOD. all motifs, due to or aside from their seeming

complexity strongley evoke the islamic idea of omnipresent unity. the logic underlying such complex decoration expresses the inherent islamic understanding and vision of the order and logic within the universe.

a tabriz prayer carpet, north west persia, late 19th century

persian carpet with inscriptions from the qur'an, 16th cenury

examples of anatilian konya rugs, 13th century

create a carpet which can reflect your inner beliefs, being religious ones or involve other spiritual research. focus on decoration. your pattern should be considered… you might want to exercise and share your creation or thoughts on the discussion area.

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