(Posted on 08/05/14)
Gul Lozenge-shaped motifs (guls) arranged in vertical rows, usually with off-set rows of minor guls, in a repeating allover format are typical in Turkoman rugs. The word means flower in Persian, but is perhaps more likely to have been derived from the ancient Turkish word for family or clan. Certainly, the Turkoman nomads have used the gul motif as a tribal emblem. Each tribe had its own distinctive variation, which, if they were defeated in battle or amalgamated into a more powerful tribe, would often be replaced, or absorbed into their conquerors. It is also possible that guls possessed some mystical significance, but although symbols aimed at warding off the 'evil eye' are still found in some tribal weaving, any deeper meaning attributed to them can now be little more than conjecture. The influence of the gul design is enormous. The Turkoman nomads were no respecters of national frontiers, and their territory and influence spanned much of Central Asia. They are, however, most closely associated with the town of Bukhara, which was traditionally used as a marketing centre for their wares, and today any item employing a gul design is generally referred to as a Bukhara rug. The number of these tribesmen has decreased considerably in recent years, resulting in a decline in both the number and variety of genuine Turkoman rugs coming onto the market. Finally, there are those rugs featuring highly decorative gul-like forms which are almost exclusively confined to the the Pakistani Mori Bukhara range. Mori Bukhara's may also be referred to by a number of alternative names, and it is not unknown for them to be marketed under the name of the gul most prominent in their design. Persian and Turkoman items are normally referred to as Bukhara's but may equally be marketed under the name of their gul or weaving tribe. Afghan rugs employing the typical Afghan 'Elephant's foot' gul are are rarely referred to as Bukhara's, and are usually marketed under the name of the weaving village, district or tribe, or simply as Afghan rugs.
(Antique Bukhara carpet, circa 1890)