Beautiful Turkmen carpets, reminiscent of the Turkmen expanse without extremes, covered with colorful flowers originates from the depths of distant centuries.
Incomparable beauty of carpets surprises and captivates many, and behind all this lies the talent of Turkmen women. Carpets and carpet made widely used in modern life is a visual proof of the fact that Turkmens created great art in the past, which still amazes everyone with its incomparable beauty. During archaeological excavations in the southwest of Turkmenistan, information was found confirming the fact that since the Neolithic and Bronze Age carpets and carpet products were widely used in the Turkmen ancestors’ everyday life. Ornaments on found ceramic articles and jugs, which belong to IV-III centuries B.C., are very similar to the modern carpet ornaments and this proves that Turkmen ancestors created carpets and carpet products in old times. Archaeological excavations have also revealed the bronze scissors for carpets, which do not differ at all from the scissors used nowadays by Turkmen carpet weavers. Today talented and hardworking Turkmen carpet weavers worthily continue the national tradition of carpet weaving. Turkmen carpet occupies an important place among remarkable samples of material culture created by Turkmens throughout history. Amazingly beautiful carpets, which have become a symbol of harmony and beauty and perfection, are a solid foundation of Turkmen people’s love for life and reverence for national heritage. Since times immemorial, the artisans have been conveying all the beauty of Turkmen nature with the help of knots. Looking closely at this beautiful art imbued with the character of Turkmens, the precepts of their ancestors, its “gyols”, flowers, each pattern gives a magical view of the fate and life of the Turkmen nation about its dream of peace.
Carpet weaving is one of the most ancient forms of Turkmen applied art. Traditionally, Turkmen women are taught the craft from the early age. The durability and beauty of Turkmen carpets are rooted in traditions of Turkmen carpet weaving and skill of its weavers. Weaving carpets is a complicated and time-consuming process, in which weavers create complex patterns and designs using elementary and ancient methods of production. The best carpet weavers create entire compositions and ornaments on carpets using their memory, imagination, and new interpretations of traditional patterns. Yarn used in Turkmen carpets is taken from the wool of Saraji sheep, which is valued for its ability to absorb heat, fragrances and dyes. Yarn is traditionally dyed with vegetable and mineral dyes. One of the strengths of Turkmen carpets is their density of knots – 180 to 400 knots per square meter. Another benefit is the traditionally natural dyes. Nevertheless, perhaps Turkmen women make the greatest contribution. Their hands create real masterpieces. Their traditions are preserved through the transmission of traditions and secrets about paints, designs, methods, and other things from one generation to another.
Since ancient times, carpets were traditionally made in villages by family groups of women who worked in their homes with primitive looms lying on the floor and only three tools: comb, scissors and a knife with a hooked blade. A two by three meter rugs usually takes a couple of months to make, and three months to make a larger wool rug. Normally, a Turkmen carpet is always quadrangular. The two smaller sides, where the masters start to weave the carpet and where they finish it, are the fringe. Then comes the strip, which is a pile-free weave of its base, and this part of the carpet is called “toprak”, which means “ground”. It is the beginning and end of the carpet and there is a symbolic meaning because Turkmens say that everything is born from the ground and everything goes into the ground. In addition, the main decorations on Turkmen carpets are primary and supplementary “gyols” – carpet ornaments inspired by nature, life and customs of Turkmen people, sometimes complementing the dreams, feelings, joys, sorrows, wishes and hopes of weavers and their tribes. If you carefully study the structure of the ornaments, we can say that in building various geometric patterns, they used a very subtle and complex method. In a word, as in all religious canons we can see the values of the universe, the tree of life and the earth. Putting it together, we can say that this “gyol” symbolizes the earth, rotating the expanse of the universe. The ornaments of this art, created because of complex mathematical calculations, are based on the golden rule of measurement. Scientists think that this ornament means “the sun” and was created in ancient times, when people worshipped the sun god. In the middle of the ornament, all the middle lines equally intersect and form a red rectangle. The lines that go from the base of the ornament from its central point are like thoughts and philosophies spreading to all corners of the world.
Turkmen carpets, being carefully passed down from generation to generation, decorate the house of every Turkmen family to this day. There are several varieties of Turkmen carpets, such as “Akhalteke”, “Beshir”, “Ersari”, “Kerki”, “Teke”, “Yomud” and others.
In Turkmenistan, where each tribe had its own ornament, the carpet is so sacred that even the flag and coat of arms of the country depict carpet ornaments. The vertical stripe of the Turkmen flag features the five main gyols of the famous Turkmen carpets. Five gyols of carpets depicted on the flag symbolize five provinces of Turkmenistan. Deep philosophic meaning lies in the symbolism of these carpets. All gyols are built on the principle of golden section, in proportions of 21 to 34. Their ornamentation mainly uses colors of four elements: fire-yellow, water-white, air-red and earth-green.
Since ancient times, carpets were created to protect nomadic homes from the hot climate in arid terrain on desert mountain slopes. Rugs were the ideal solution to protect against different climatic conditions, and they could easily be rolled up for transportation, as they were very durable. A rug was woven to celebrate the birth of a child. The bride was given a rug as dowry, sat on a camel decorated with rugs, and the groom prepared a family home decorated with rugs. A special rug “gapylyk” covered the entrance to the yurt, the nomad’s home, in the center of which there was a field divided into four parts representing seasons and stages of life. Every day Turkmens pray on the “namazlyk” rug for prayers, and after death, they cover the deceased with the rug. The main rug in the house served as a “family tree”, telling the story of the tribe and family. Sitting on the rugs, people took food, slept on it, and covered horses and camels with the rugs to protect them from the elements. They also created many household items from the carpet products such as bags, “chuvalas” and others. These traditions are still kept by Turkmen carpet weavers. In modern Turkmen women, carpetbags are patterned and improved after ancient patterns. Carpet art requires innate talent and patience. In ancient times, carpetbags were woven for domestic use. The carpetbags woven by Turkmen ancestors differed from each other in patterns, colors and originality of woven patterns. Nowadays, carpetbags are woven in improved form in different shapes. They are woven according to the wishes of girls and women in different sizes and shapes. These carpet products are a great addition to the closets of Turkmen women. They are not only a necessity for them, but also an unrepeatable national decoration.
Turkmen carpet occupies an important place among remarkable samples of material culture created by Turkmen throughout history. As far back as in X-XIII centuries in the times of Great Seljuks, Turkmen carpets became famous in European and Oriental markets as one of the best. Exquisite art born by the skillful hands of Turkmen girls and women has become the way and fate of life in the pages of history. Turkmen women in a burst of inspiration created miracles with their painstaking labor. As a tremendous tribute to the Turkmen carpet on the part of the state, a new building of the National Museum of Turkmen Carpet was built and commissioned in 2009. National museum of a carpet is one of the main cultural centers of the capital of Turkmenistan and is located on the Atamurat Niyazov Avenue. Area of the national museum is more than 5 thousand square meters. There are more than 2 000 exhibits in Carpet museum, among which are unique double-sided and relief carpets. Quality of carpets is largely determined by their density, and it depends on the number of knots made by a carpet-maker in one square meter. For a good carpet, density is estimated at 200 – 300 thousand knots per one square meter. There are several hundreds of the best samples of Turkmen carpets in the museum, the oldest of which dates to the XVII century. There is also the world biggest handmade carpet “Golden Age”, made in 2001. The carpet is 301 square meters and weighs 1200 kilograms, and it was included in the Guinness Book of Records. Forty people wove it during seven months.
With its doors, wide open the National Museum of Turkmen carpet welcomes many visitors where experts tell about the most ancient handicraft of Turkmen people about the history of Turkmen carpet weaving. UNESCO experts recognize Turkmen carpet weaving traditions as part of the world great cultural heritage, which once again proves the national importance of weaving of the Turkmen people. The Turkmen carpet museum is a temple of heritage of spiritual and material culture and stores very ancient and therefore invaluable samples of art of distant ancestors of Turkmens.
Every year on the last Sunday of May, Turkmenistan national Turkmen Carpet Festival is held. In recent years, it has been held in Ashgabat, the only museum of Turkmen carpet in the world, where over two thousand exhibits are displayed, some of them very rare. Traditionally, many events promoting national art of carpet weaving are held on this festive day.