Nazmiyal Antique Rugs

Persian Rugs the O'Connell Notes

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Persian Rugs: Guide to Bakhtiari Rugs and Carpets

The majority of Tribal Confederations in Iran  come out of the Turkmen Seljuk migrations. Then with the end of the Turkmen Dynasty  the Safavid broke up the old Oghuz  tribal confederations and reassembled them as Kizilbash confederations. The last Kizilbash Confederation under the Safavid Dynasty was the Durrani Pashtun. Trusting the Pashtun was disastrous, resulting in the destruction of Safavid rule in Persia.
Nadir Shah  defeated the Hotaki Durrani and he did it with the help of the Deraki Bakhtiari.  To reward the Deraki Nadir Shah gave them an elevated status basically Kizilbash Status.
The last major confederation was in 1861 - 62 when the Persian Shah Naser ed-Din  (Khajar) created the Khamseh Tribal Confederation

The Bakhtiari are a tribal confederation of primarily Luri speaking people in Southwest Iran.

If the Bakhtiari  genealogies are to believed  the Bakhtiari descend from Adam by Noah (But aren't we all). But if we want to understand when the Bakhtiari took their major role in Persian history we only have to go ck to March 24  of 1728. Nadir Shah the Afshari Khan of Northeast Khorrasan had driven  the army of Hussain Hotaki  out of  the former Safavid Persia with the exception of Kandahar. The city was a Durrani Pashtun stronghold and of course the Hotaki clan was the elite clan of the Western Pashtun Duranis.
Nadir Shah was in a jam because he was stuck in present day southern Afghanistan while he had enemies to the west in what is now Iran. The siege of Kandahar started in April of 1737  and by March of  1738 knew he had to break the siege. He came up with  a plan for an assault of his 3,000 fiercest troops. These troops were Bakhtiari and they breached the city walls and were able to turn the cannon on the citadel where Hussain Hotaki and his court were holed up.
The Deraki leader Ali Saleh Khan was given a Farman which is to say that along with money and power the Shah Nadir Shah recognized them as the authority in their region. This recognition increased the power and prestige of the Bakhtiari as a major tribal confederation.
Tribe is an imprecise term in this case. The Bakhtiari used the Mongol word IL to indicate the whole Confederation. Ali Saleh Khan was the first Bakhtiari Khan. So after him there were many khans but there was one IL Khan at a time. Of course their was also an IL-Begi but I have not figured out exactly what his role was. After the Il were the Taifeh or Tribes. For example the Deraki were an Taifeh of the Bakhtiari IL

The land owned by the Shah was called Khorlasey and the land owned by the village was called Urbabi

Woman in Chaharmaha Bakhtiari_provinc

Woman in Chahar Mahal Bakhtiari Province
Photo: Iran Daily

A Bakhtiari Khan's Carpet

The Deraki tribe  increased their overall control of the Bakhtiari confederation in the late 19th century and held control up through the middle of the 20th century.  Unlike the Kashqai where the Khan and the Il-Khan were loved and respected  the Bakhtiari Deraki Khans were hated and feared. I see a contributing factor was the role of the British. In 1908 oil was discovered in Masjed Soleyman County of Khuzestan Province in Khajar Persia.  The British grabbed the oil and this was the start of The Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC) later the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC). Which we know today as BP or British Petroleum.

The British could control the fragile Khajar monarchy and later to a lesser extent the Pahlavi Monarchy but APOC was opperating in bandit country. The easiest answer was to buy off the biggest bandits. At this point the APOC began cash payments to the Deraki Khan. Up until this point the Bakhtiari were in a continual series of border skirmishes with the Qashqai.  The leader who could manage the warfare had an advantage in controlling the tribal confederation. But with a huge influx of British cash the khans moved to mansions in the capitol where managing the tribe for the British was far more important then raiding the Qashqai for sheep or to avenge some slight. Add to this the Tribal subjugation policy of Reza Shah the founder of the Pahlavid Dynasty. While not as brutally cruel as his dictatorial son Mohammad Reza Shah he had a policy of using a standing army to disarm the tribes and force them to settle. in villages. 

Prior to the Pahlavid dynasty (1925 - 1979) the Khajar shahs had a very small standing army and drew on tribal levys for troops, So up until that time the Bakhtiari where an important component of the army. 

Bakhtiari Kilim with Mahali Luri Border ca. 1930

Bakhtiari Kilim with Mahali Luri Border ca. 1930

The Bakhtiari weavers produce rugs, kelims and bags for their own use as well as for commerce. Here are some items more likely to have been woven for indigenous use.

Women of Kohkiloyeh Boyerahmad Spinning

Women of Kohkiloyeh Boyerahmad Spinning
Photo: Iran Daily

Bahktiari Salt Bag Chahar-Mahal Bakhtiari province 20th C Lot 154

Bakhtiari Salt Bag Chahar-Mahal Bakhtiari province 20th C Lot 154

The Bakhtiari make wonderful sumac bags. Note the pile at the bottom. This is rare except with the Bakhtiari. Pile at the wear points prolongs the life of the bag.
Bakhtiari Rugs: Local people perform traditional music at a feast in Chaharmahal Bakhtiari province

Local people perform traditional music at a feast in Chaharmahal Bakhtiari province
Photo by Mohsen Shahmazdar

The Bakhtiari have a distinctive culture. The are both very Persian and very Bakhtiari at the same time.

The Bakhtiari are a sizable population in Khuzestan province.

Bakhtiari Rugs: Water channels in Shushtar Khuzestan province

Water channels in Shushtar Khuzestan province
Photo: Iran Daily

Bakhtiari Rugs: River and bridge in Shahr e Kord Chaharmahal Bakhtiari Province

River and bridge in Shahr e Kord Chaharmahal Bakhtiari Province
Photo: Iran Daily

Bakhtiari Rugs: A tribes man standing near a stone lion in Aligoudarz, Lorestan province

A tribes man standing near a stone lion in Aligoudarz, Lorestan province (Fars Photo)Photo: Iran Daily



Copyright Barry O'Connell 2004 - 2014
Last revised: October 05, 2009.


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