In the Western world, the rug is often taken for granted – literally trampled over, you could say. In the West, rugs are commonly used as a simple aesthetic embellishment to furnish our homes and living rooms. In the East, however, the rug holds a range of deep-set reverential and religious significances.
When we think of rugs in conjunction with the Eastern world, we may think of flying, magical carpets. For this reason, it’s no coincidence that the Eastern world is viewed as a mystical place among many Westerners; a place where magic can happen, and often does. The rug, more than a simple piece of furnishing, has a rich, symbolic significance which goes beyond its use as simple household furnishing.
A Brief History
Ancient rugs are still being uncovered today by archaeologists. The oldest rug that has been successfully verified dates way back from 4,500 BCE in Siberia. By the 11th century, the rug became a staple of Indian culture, which, as historians have speculated, may have been the result of a trading of cultures in the Muslim invasion of the Indian shore.
By the 16th Century the more familiar and renowned Persian rug began to appear. These were expertly crafted out of wool or silk and were well loved by their owners, often turning up in the fine art of the era. For the Iranian nation today, they are still a major export.
Mass production has of course changed the significance of the rug. In manufacturing rugs through machines, we eschew the religious significance of their older history, turning the rug from a home-made labour of love into a mere consumer item. In today’s society, we should cherish our beautiful home-made rugs, rare as they are.
However, for many of the world’s Muslims they are still held aloft as a unique piece of religious paraphernalia. Prayer mats are often used by Muslims in mosques, allowing them, as scripture has it, to hold communion with their god, Allah. They are seen as divine, sacrosanct artefacts which must be treated with care at all times. For some cultures, the spiritual status of the rug still remains intact in 21st century living.
Love Your Rug
This famous middle eastern export has enlivened homes for centuries, and we would do well to remember that a rug is never simply a piece of cloth but is rather a portal to our own ancient history.