Bismillah and the Lore of Carpets


The names of Persian rugs are derived from the city, village or tribe where particular patterns and designs were first woven or traded, for example Shiraz, Tabriz, Hamadan.

The most common motifs for Persian rugs, especially the larger ones, are central medallions  - yet no two medallions are ever exactly the same!

 The basic design of a  carpet is divided into two main parts : the field ( interior area ) and the borders, which frame the inner design.


Historic monuments and Islamic buildings, inspired by their beautiful tile-work, structures and the geometry of ancient buildings.

Shah Abbass  - a special flower / rosette design, off-set by other floral rug patterns, leaves and foliage, originating during the reign of Shah Abbass in the 17th century.

Spiral branches with leaves - here the end of each branch splits to resemble the jaws of a dragon.

Boteh designs - these are what we call " paisley " designs, which come in many different shapes and configurations. Boteh are usually a repeat design, as frequently found in Mir carpets.


Medallions usually appear in the central field of a carpet and may be floral, geometric, square, circular or rectangular. Sometimes smaller medallions or part medallions appear in the corners. 


The Gul  is an octagonal motif used in most Turkoman rugs and carpets. The octagonal form varies, depending on where the rug and design originates. On a small rug there may be 3 guls arranged in a row - in larger carpets there will be more rows.


Hunting carpets - these scenes usually depict life-like animals and humans, often on horseback.

Garden panel carpets contain different, but repeated squares of plants, flowers and trees. This design is much favoured by the Bakhtiari tribe!

In a prayer-rug, the Mihrab is a representation of the prayer niche in a mosque, the "Gateway to Paradise in inmost Heaven", ornamented with pillars, chandeliers and floral designs, and indicating the direction of Mecca, which all the faithful face when they pray.


Many carpets are woven with Geometric designs , which are composed of vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines which are repeated ( polygons etc.). The motif of a carpet can be used to determine the particular tribe or place of origin.

The Tree of Life is a distinctive motif which can occupy the entire central field of a rug and may be pictorial or stylised geometric. In the Orient where water is in short supply, a tree in bloom was a symbol of vital force.

Tree of life.jpg

The Herati pattern dates back many centuries, named after Herat, formerly part of Iran, but now part of Afghanistan. There are many variations, but basically this pattern consists of a single floral head surrounded by a diamond frame surrounded by 4 curled, serrated leaves.


Vases - this design is easy to recognise as it takes the form of two vases of flowers, one above the other, though it can also be just a single vase or a repeat-design over the field. A bird may be interspersed sideways between the vases. 


 Tribal carpets are the oldest and most original creations, inspired by natural surroundings.

In the next blog we will discuss various traditional symbols used in Persian carpets. 

Macushla FalkinerComment