Hatchlu Rugs: A Rich History

Photo depicting a cobalt blue colored Hatchlu with shades of red undertones.
Here we have a Hatchlu rug with a unique set of colors: a cobalt blue background, often mistaken for the color black, featuring warm tones of red, ivory, and rose throughout its guls and borders. This color combination is unusual for Hatchlus, making the one above a rare gem. This rug is a part of our Tribal Rugs Collection.
Photo retrieved from the Bashir Persian Rugs Collection.

Hatchlu rugs were originally made in the mountainous regions of Central Asia, between Mongolia and Afghanistan. They are hand-knotted wool area rugs made with Persian knots, also known as Senneh knots. The high quality of their knots is one of the factors that contribute to their long life-span and durability.

Even more so than their knots, Hatchlu rugs are known in the Oriental and Persian rug community for their four symmetrical quadrants, a very unique and distinctive design, which is connected to the Enssi (Engsi) family of rugs. This term Enssi refers to rugs that are traditionally used as wall decorations or entrance hangings of tents by Turkoman nomads located in Central Asia. Enssi rugs are thus associated with the Hatchlu design, which comes in several different variations and colors, such as the Afghan Hatchlu, the Baluch Hatchlu, and the Pakistani Hatchlu.

We can see here that there are numerous possible color combinations for the Hatchlus, ranging from more traditional shades of rust red and earth tones to more avant-garde teal and emerald hues. These rugs are a part of our Tribal Rugs Collection. Photos retrieved from the Bashir Persian Rugs collection.

Curiously, the word Hatchli signifies “cross” in Armenian. Because of this, many intellectuals are convinced that the large cross design on the Hatchlu rugs is of Armenian origin rather than Turkoman. The true origin of the rugs is a heated topic of discussion to this day.

On modern Hatchlus, the texture of their pile is smooth and fine. Their wool is cut at a length that is not too long and not too short. Additionally, they tend to have a second motif installed at both ends, representing the tribe to which the weaver belongs.

Nowadays, these carpets are, for the most part, made in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Afghanistan, there are Hatchlu rugs called Kabul Silk Hatchlu. This type of rug has an afghan silk and wool pile on a silk base. Generally, they have short piles and are thinner than Hatchlu rugs from other regions due to their silk base and the high percentage of silk in its pile. Nonetheless, they are also very durable pieces.

Pakistani Hatchlus are mostly all identical in design and are popular in North America. They have a soft and smooth wool pile, usually made of a mixture of New Zealand and Pakistani wool, on a cotton base. The weave used is the “single-knot” and their pile (material) is usually left longer than that of Afghan Hatchlus. In fact, the texture of their pile and their type of weave is the same as the ones of Pakistani Bokharas. Pakistani Hatchlus are available in a wide variety of colors and sizes. They showcase an attractive shine, as a result of the specialized washing techniques and dyes used to create them.

Hidden Symbolism Behind the Hatchlu

Photo representing a close-up of the motif of the Hatchlu pictured above.
A detailed look at the candlestick motifs.
Photo retrieved from the Bashir Persian Rugs Collection.

When it comes to the use of the Hatchlu, certain carpet dealers believe that the decoration of a nomad’s tent with a Hatchlu was a sign of a warm welcome to incoming visitors. Many authorities, however, attribute the foundation of the design as being a reflection of the shapes of the tents themselves, representing security and the home.

Meanwhile, other dealers believe that its one-way design finds its roots from traditional prayer rugs. They say that the four quadrants represent the gardens of Islamic heaven, thus attributing it a religious symbolism. This theory corresponds with the symbolism of the colors used in the creation of these rugs.

A Tekke rug where we can observe the mihrab at the top of it's cross design.
We can easily observe the aforementioned mihrab at the top of this Tekke’s quadrants. It is thus understandable if a person mistakes a Tekke for a Hatchlu as they have a fair bit of similarities! Photo retrieved from Dorotheum.

Continuing with the theme of Islam, there exists a type of prayer rug called the “Tekke”. This rug is hand-knotted by Turkomen weavers and is also referred to in certain circles as the “Princess Bokhara”. Many westerners mistakenly think its a Hatchlu. One can easily discern the difference between the two rugs, a Hatchlu and a Tekke prayer rug, thanks to what is known as a mihrab. A mihrab is a semicircular niche in the wall of a mosque that indicates the qibla; that is, the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca and hence the direction that Muslims should face when praying. While a Hatchlu may sometimes have a similar shape in its design, it will never have just one mihrab as it is not a prayer rug.

Nevertheless, two similar characteristics can be observed on all Hatchlus. They are divided into four usually symmetrical quadrants, with each quadrant featuring rows of finely detailed Y-shaped or “candlestick” motifs. Also, their pile, which is the material used to create them, is entirely wool.

The Allegory of Colors

A longer Hatchlu rug, where we can observe the Engsi design which is a popular pattern on Turkmen tent door hangings. The motif is comprised of four quadrants as well as a space between every one of them that forms a cross. This rug is a part of our Tribal Rugs Collection.
Photo retrieved from the Bashir Persian Rugs Collection.

As you may have noticed in another one of our blog posts, Same Rug, Two Shades, the colors of a rug have a large significance, more so than just creating a beautiful design. That’s why it’s important for an aspiring carpet buyer to read up on the subject to understand the reasoning behind the choice of colors on each rug. Also, the meaning of the colors varies according to each culture; the future rug enthusiast must therefore gather a large amount of information for an aspect that may seem simple at first glance.

For Hatchlus, the majority of these rugs come in warm colors such as burgundy red but, rarely, a Hatchlu is born in a dark blue shade with luxurious red undertones. Given that these rugs are of Turkoman origin, the red, when used, is created with natural plant-based dyes and is a symbol of beauty, joy, and courage. These are all desirable traits for any household. Blue, however, represents power and alludes to life after death.

The Tradition Continues

These days, it is not necessary to be a part of a nomad tribe to appreciate a beautiful Hatchlu rug. These pieces are handmade using centuries-old techniques; their quality and symbolism are not found in machine-made versions. The important tradition of Hatchlus is lost when a machine comes into play. This is one of the reasons why Turkmenistan is home to the Ministry of Carpets! A Hatchlu will be able to bring a high-quality aspect to your home but, at the same time, contribute to creating a welcoming environment for all visitors; all that’s left to decide is whether it’s better to hang it on the wall or to place it at your front entrance.