Prayer Rug with Tree of Life Design

Baluch (Afghan; Pakistani; Iranian)
Mid to late 19th century
Work : 45 1/2 x 29 1/2 in. (1.2 m x 74.93 cm)
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Gift of the Mason Family in honor of Verne Trinoskey and Paula Armintrout Trinoskey
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The design on this prayer rug depicts a stylized tree with leaves emerging from a central trunk. It is often referred to by textile dealers and collectors as the “tree of life” design. Many cultures around the world have myths about trees that nurture life and are sources of knowledge or power. Islam’s holy book, the Quran, includes a story about a tree of life in the Garden of Eden that plays a crucial role in the expulsion of Adam and Eve from paradise. The Baluch people also have stories about special wish-granting trees called zarat, which have the power to help people achieve objectives and escape troubles. The Baluch traditionally invoked the power of zarat by making offerings to the trees or tying strips of cloth to their branches. It is not certain if the design on this rug was specifically meant to depict the Quranic tree of life or a zarat, but the imagery certainly evokes stories about both.

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