Bokhara rugs, so called in America and England would not be recognized by that name by the Turkoman tribes of the Transcaucas who weave them. As they were formerly shipped from the city of Bokhara in company with the Khiva, Afghan, and Yomous, the name of the bill of lading adhered to the rugs. Fine specimens of the Bokhara or Turkoman rugs are now extremely difficult to obtain. With the Russian occupation of this disctict has come into use the cheaper and more easily prepared aniline dyes, and sad to relate, the people have become corrupted in their taste.
One sees now for sale Bokhara rugs of all shades from a brown to an old rose, but a glance at the under side will usually revthe eal the rich red aniline dyes, which on the surface have been toned down (chemically) to these shades so different from the rich reds of the old vegetable dyed Bokhara. There are few rugs that have remained so true to the original design as the Bokhara. Travel pilgrimages and encroaching civilization have nearly brought to an end the pure tribal designs; not so with the Bokhara, for to this day nothing can induce the Turkoman tribes who weave them to depart from the design handed down to them by their forefathers. Would they had been equally true to their traditions in the matter of dyes!
These rugs come in two patterns known in the East by the name of Tekke and Royal. The prayer rugs are called Tekke from their use in the Tekke sor places of worship of the Dervish sects to which these tribes belong. In the interior of Turkey the tombs of saints are also called Tekkes, and Mohammedans make pilgrimages to them as the Catholics do to their shrines. The word “Tekke,” however, unless qualified, always means a place of Dervish worship, and by the term “Dervish” one must not think them always to be of the howling or whirling kind, for there are many sects of Dervishes whose form of worship has nothing of the spectacular about it.
The prayer niche of the Tekke Bokhara is almost octagonal in shape, and one scarcely notices it at a first glance. These player rugs are always divided into four sections, the field in each section being invariably covered with a fine design representing candlesticks (candles in profusion are used in the Dervish Tekkes). The bands that divide the field into four sections always contain strictly tribal or family designs and vary in different rugs, so that even in a large collection one will seldom find two rugs with the same designs in the border and upon these transverse bands. The Armenians call these rugs Khatchli Bokharas, for the reason that the bands that divide the field into four sections form a cross, and the word “Khatchli” in the Armenian language means “a cross.”
The Royal design or pattern is the octagon that one always associates with a Bokhara rug. Again we must make a long journey over high mountains to trace this pattern to its home, for the Bokhara octaon with its light division (its centre light on one side and dark on the order) is of Mongolian origin. It is a conventionalizing for convenience in weaving of the Chinese circle of the zodiac. The eight divisions of location, according to Chinese mythology, were presided over by eight animal deities, just as in all zodiacal representations the signs are under the control of preseding forces. The powers of light and powers of darkness formed the two extremes, and in the weaving the colours representing these powers are given in their proper location, but the figures are ommited as would be expected in a Mohammedan representation.
The Yomoud Bokhara are large rugs in colour resembling the so called Bokhara proper, but borrowing in design from the Daghestan, Shirvan, and other Caucasian weaves. Geometrical and rectilinear designs prevail, the reds of the Bokhara family are used for the background but the blues and bright yellows are skilfully introduced. In the borders, and frequently around the diamond shaped and octagonal figures in the field, the latch hook design is to be found. These rugs have a coarse, wide selvedge which sometimes is worked in squares or checker fashion in red, blue, and brown; this selvedge is always in the kelim stitch. They have the striped web end and the long fringe of goats’ hair peculiar to the rugs made in this region. The Afghan Bokharas are heavy carpets containing the Bokhara octagon much enlarged, set in the red field with no small designs to fill in the background. They sometimes have a touch of white and yellow in the octagon; the borders frequently contain crude flower forms. They are finished with a coarse, straggling, grayishbrown fringe. The Khiva Bokharas are easily mistaken for the real ones; but a close examination will reveal the difference, as they are of much coarser weave, the octagonal design is softened and not so closely followed, and sometimes animal forms are introduced into the field and border. A variety of these Turkoman carpets, now rarely seen in the market, is the Bushir or Beshir. The reds are lighter in tone than in the Bokharas and show less of the brownish tinge; dull yellows are used sparingly and very little white. The figures are larger and the border has the saw tooth arrangement found in some Persian rugs.