(Posted on 24/03/14)
Prayer rugs have been used in Muslim countries for centuries, and are an integral part of the religious experience of the Islamic world. An orthodox Muslim is expected to pray 5 times a day on a 'clean spot' facing the holy city of Mecca, and a special rug is an extremely convenient way of ensuring that this directive is obeyed. In addition, the basic design of all prayer rugs reproduces the physical area of the mosque in early mosques, the focal point for prayer was a sacred stone (the qibla), which was set in a wall facing Mecca; it later became customary to enclose this stone within an arch-shaped niche known as a mihrab, or prayer niche. In prayer-rug designs this arch-shaped form is usually found at the top end of the composition, although it is sometimes employed at both ends in what are generally referred to as 'double-ended' prayer rugs. It represents both the physical mihrab of the mosque and the spiritual archway to paradise, and is often flanked by the 'pillars of wisdom'. The area below the mihrab, which is knelt upon when praying, is known as the prayer field, and can be taken as symbolizing the floor of the mosque in front of the mihrab. In addition to the prayer niche and prayer field, which are the essence of all prayer rugs, a number of religious objects are often employed. The prayer field is sometime left open, or undecorated, but vase, tree-of-life and other motifs are frequently incorporated. Such schemes are sometimes referred to as paradise or ceremonial designs.Prayer-rug designs are traditionally associated with Anatolia and still constitute the underlying format of most Anatolian rugs. Their interpretation, however, ranges from the exceptionally intricate floral-inspired schemes of the Hereke workshops to the more simplified geometric versions favoured by village groups. Persia produces far fewer prayer rugs, but design is still found in some workshop pieces. Prayer rugs also form the fundamental basis of most Belouch, and a number of other tribal schemes. India is noted for its high-quality interpretations of traditional Persian and Anatolian compositions.
(Fine Persian Prayer rug)