Monday, May 31, 2010

Baharestan Carpet

The Baharestan Carpet و(فرش بهارستان) also known as Bahar Khosro and Bahar Kasra, was commissioned by the Sassanid King Khosro Anooshiravan, which was made for the main Audience Hall of the Sassaniad dynastic imperial Palace at Ctesiphon, in current day Iraq. Reports of its actual size differ, but many believe the Carpet was 140 meters long and 27 meters wide although other reports place it at 30 meters by 30 meters. Woven of silk, gold, silver, and rare stones, the carpet depicted a splendid garden akin to Paradise. Representations of paths and streams were embroidered on it with gems against a ground of gold. Its border was embroidered with emeralds to represent a cultivated green field in which were flowering spring plants with fruit embroidered with different colored gems on stalks of gold with gold and silver flowers and silk foliage. In 637 CE with occupation of the Iranian capital Ctesiphon, the Baharestan Carpet, being too heavy for the Persians to carry away with them, was taken by the Arabs and sent to Omar in Medina. The assembly agreed that Omar should use his own judgment in disposing of it while Ali was concerned lest someone be deprived of a rightful share in the future. Omar wanted to keep the carpet as a whole, yet once Ali pointed out that Arabs may talk and even revolt (in order to receive their share of the loots). As a result Omar changed his mind and ordered the carpet to be cut up and divided it into 60,000 pieces among the Muslims. Although Ali did not receive one of the best pieces, he sold his for 20,000 dirhams. No trace of this carpet is to be found today. It should be pointed out that while many historians have described the events as listed above, however, some details, particularly about the Carpet’s dimensions may have been exaggerated. Even if one assumed the smaller 30 meter by 30 meter size, the weight of such a carpet could easily exceed a ton. How something of such weight (and also proportionately large volume) was transported to Saudi Arabia is puzzling. Furthermore, and for the sake of argument assuming the larger estimate of 140 meters by 27 meters, when cut in 60,000 pieces the Carpet would result in square segments with a side of 25 centimeters, roughly the size of a place mat. A price tag of 20,000 dirhams for such a small and practically useless item seems questionable. According to historians, the famous Taghdis throne was also covered with 30 special Baharestan Carpets representing the 30 days of the month and four other carpets representing the four seasons of a year.

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