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Famous “Chelebi” carpets 

Chelebi carpet

The term “Chelebi” is a cultural term of Turkic origin. It is found in the names of religious ranks, titles, designations of social status, names of social classes, as well as in personal names. The study of the prominent orientalist V. Bartold “History and Philology of the Turkic and Mongolian Peoples” provides extensive information about the origin of this term (1). According to V. Barthold, this term was first mentioned in written sources of the XIV century. However, as a personal name, we meet him already in the name of Husam adDin Chelebi, who died in 1284 – the head of the Sufi tariqah, who took this post after the death of Jalaladdin Rumi. The sheikhs of the Sufis of the Mevlevi and Bektashi sects are still called chelebi-effendi. In the Sufi poetry of the Azerbaijani poet of the first quarter of the 15th century, Gasim al-Anwar, the term “chelebi” is used in the meaning of “ashik” (in love). In the symbolism of the Sufis, “ashik” is in love with Allah, beloved of Allah. Another meaning of this term is “chosen by Allah”. After the 17th century, in historical documents and literature, the term “Chelebi” gradually began to be replaced by the term “effendi” (lord, aristocrat), denoting social status.

As for the etymology of the term “chelebi”, its origin is associated with the archaic Türkic word “Chalab” (Almighty), which in the Ottoman dialect took the form “Cheleb”. The word “cheleb”, previously found in personal names (“devoted to God”, “pious”), and later, in ethnonyms and toponyms, was supplemented by the addition of the ending “i” to the root of the word “cheleb”. As you know, in the Muslim East, the addition of the ending “and” to personal names indicates a geographical origin. For example: the one who from the city of Rum became Rumi, Tabriz – Tabrizi, Shirvan – Shirvani, Karabakh – Karabagi, etc. Speaking about the geography of the term “Chelebi”, apart from Azerbaijan, mention should be made of the village of Chelebi in the province of Kyrykkale in the territory of the Republic of Turkey, the Iranian village of Chelebi, the village of Chelebi and the mountain in the Crimean region of Ukraine, the city of Chelyabinsk in the Russian Federation, whose name comes from the word “Chelebi” and hundreds of others. The river in the Urals is also called Chelebi. There is a famous cemetery “Chelebiler” (Chelebi peoples) in the village of Chelebi in the Bolnisi region of Georgia. The word “Chelebi” is found in the personal names of many historical figures. Among them is the son of Jalal ad-Din Rumi – Sultan Veled, who took the pseudonym “Chelebi”, after which his whole family began to call himself – Chelebi. The son of the Turkish Sultan Murad I was called “Chelebi Emir” (Mr. Chelebi). In addition, the word Chelebi is present in the name of the famous Turkish traveler Evliya Çelebi. The ruler of the Sheki Khanate of Azerbaijan in the 18th century was Haji Chelebi Qajar. Chelebi – as a personal name, many citizens of modern Azerbaijan citizens.


Iconography and symbolism

The iconographic stability of the Chelebi carpet design is ensured by its canonized central medallion. Despite about 300 years of development and crystallization of the medallion design, it still remains the main archaic and recognizable carpet motif. Border designs in Chelebi carpets are characterized by a variety of options. In them one can find motives inherent not only in Karabakh, but also in Kazakh, Guba and Shirvan carpets of Azerbaijan. These “borrowings” testify to the close historical ties of the Karabakh rugs with carpets of other groups of Azerbaijani carpets. The iconographic analysis of the medallions of the majority of the classic Chelebi carpets from the world collections allows us to trace its evolution. Complication and enrichment of design took place in large, palace carpets and vice versa, simplification of design took place in late commercial carpets “Chelebi”, created during the period of the Caucasian Handicraft Committee of the Russian Empire. In the early versions of the design of the medallion, preference was given to plant motifs, in later versions, geometricism and stylization intensified, and abstract and symbolic motives appeared. In carpets from the late 17th century, the design of the carpet medallion imitates a sunflower flower. In the later ones, it gradually turns into a radiant sun. Subsequently, the radiant sun, gradually losing its visual figurativeness, turns into a symbolic motive of the light source. In subsequent versions of the medallion design, a rhombic motif a crystal, a diamond – gradually appears in the center of the radiant sun. A small cross-shaped motif (cross-star) appears in the center of the glowing diamond. These abstract ornamental motifs, embedded in one another, create an effect of endless depth and symbolize sacred light.

The process of perfection and “crystallization” of the medallion of the “Chelebi” carpet over a long period testifies to the artistic and symbolic evolution of the carpet motifs. Proceeding from the fact that the first weavers of “Chelebi” carpets were the Sufis, who gave the carpet their name, the direction of improving the motive becomes clear. As we know, the ultimate goal of the spiritual quest of the sufi-chelebi was the liberation of the divine spirit imprisoned in the flesh from the “fetters” of materiality and the restoration of its original state and quality, given to it by Allah. According to the ideas of the Sufis – Chelebi, the divine spirit, freed from the materiality of the flesh, began to emit light, indicating the achievement of perfection. This process of transformation of matter (flesh) into spirit, darkness into light medallion of the Chelebi carpet. is symbolically reflected in the design of the

The historical development of the medallion design symbolically reflects the mystical path of spiritual development of the sect of Chelebi weavers. Based on their doctrine of the “mystical spiritual journey”, the Sufi, freeing himself from the animal urges of corporeality, goes through three stages of spiritual perfection: “Sharia”, “tarikat” and “marifat”. The passage of these stages (maqamas), in the final, leads to a mystical illumination, a flash (sunburst) and the transformation of the bodily “I” into light(nur), with the subsequent merging, dissolution (fana) of the “I” in the light of the divine source. The mystical journey and spiritual development of the chelebi weaver culminated in a mystical ecstasy, symbolized by a flash of sacred light. This spiritual ecstasy is symbolically displayed in the medallion of the Chelebi carpet. Sufis call such a mystical insight – “Hal” (state) Visually, “hal” could only be displayed in the form of a bright flash of light, which we see in the famous medallion of the “Chelebi” carpet. Most experts in oriental carpets admit that the design of the Chelebi medallion and its color scheme resemble a flash of bright light, an unexpected sunrise. The name “Sunburst” given by Western carpet experts reflects the real effect of perception. In the secret allegorical language of the first Sufi weavers, the symbolism of the medallion denoted the idea of “Absolute Truth”, “Perfection” (God). In the mystical teachings of the Sufi sect, the concept of “Absolute Truth” is designated by the concept of “light of Light” (“Nur al-Anvar”). The symbolism of the “Chelebi” carpet is not a simple ethno-cultural or craft phenomenon of a particular denomination. The carpet with its central medallion was perceived as a “mystical mirror” reflecting the spiritual state of the weaver-Chelebi. The emergence of villages with the name “Chelebi” in Karabakh is an interesting cultural phenomenon of the Middle Ages. The name of the village is not a geographic oronym, oikonym or khoronym. The name of the village comes from the self-name of the Sufi sect, which called themselves Chelebi and lived compactly in these villages. It is known from written sources that the rulers of the Safavid dynasty showed great interest in Islamic mysticism and theosophy, supporting the bearers of these teachings. At the same time, it is known that the Safavid rulers traditionally spent hot summers in cool, high-mountain summer camps (yaylag) of Karabakh. Following the Shah’s palace, numerous Sufi sects migrated to Karabakh. This was the reason for the proliferation in Karabakh of numerous chelebi, sofulu (Sufis), halvati and other communities, many of which remained in Karabakh, forming settlements and villages. Note that the earliest “Chelebi” carpets appeared in the late Safavid era, in the late 17th – early 18th centuries. After the death of Nadir Shah and the division of the centralized state into feudal khanates (approximately in the middle of the 18th century), the process of formation of confessional communities intensified. It was at this time that the toponyms “Chelebi” appeared in Karabakh.

Corporate carpet weaving was the economic basis for these villages. The natural exchange of products of production contributed to the long-term preservation of the traditions of carpet weaving in these villages. According to various sources, Sufis played an important role in the spread of carpet weaving in the Muslim East. The process of weaving a carpet for the Sufis was a kind of dhikr(zikr) and allowed for an individual practice of meditation. Carpets woven by Chelebi Sufis can most likely be called materialized evidence of their spiritual quest and mystical travels and insights. In the process of carpet weaving, Sufi weavers, turning into travelers on mystical journeys, created a “symbolic self-portrait” of their spiritual state. The endless knots of the Chelebi carpet, woven row after row, became materialized scamps of the weaver’s mystical journey.


1. The famous “gel” (rosette) “Chelebi” is already present in the carpets of the late 17th century, woven in the Karabakh province of the Safavid Empire. These oversized floral carpets were closely related to the famous “dragon” carpets. Both those and others weaved in the carpet workshops of Karabakh, which carried out large orders of the Safavid rulers. The designs of the “floral” and “dragon” carpets were done by the same professional artists. The gravitation of the Safavid ruler Shah Abbas to the mystical disciples of the Sufis was reflected in the literature, calligraphy, fine and carpet arts of this era. Adepts of mystical symbolism were Sufi brotherhoods united in various craft workshops, including carpet. With the collapse of the Safavid state, the designs of large palace Karabakh carpets began to be simplified and turned into medallion designs. 2. One of the major handicraft centers of the plains of Karabakh at that time was a settlement (“kulliye”) with a caravanserai, a mosque and a madrasah, built by Sheikh Haji Garaman Chelebi in Hijri 1088 (1678AD). Real name – Ahmed Chelebi (10). Over time, his settlement (“kullie” – a gathering place) turned into a village named Chelebi. Part of the inhabitants of this village moved to the north of Karabakh (Barda region) and settled there another village, Chelebi. In both villages, “Chelebi” carpets with identical designs were

woven. 3. The design of the “Chelebi” carpet is more than the design of a utilitarian

household item. The design of the “Chelebi”

carpet is a testament to the spiritual enlightenment and inspiration of the Sufi artist who creates the design. He visualized the symbolic “living” rays of the ascending source of life. Divine light is the symbol of life. 4. “Chelebi” carpets today adorn many museum collections in the world and regardless of how they are called: “Sunburst”, “Jelaberd” or “Chelebi” – they demonstrate

the recognizable traditions of carpets of the Karabakh group, which has direct artistic ties with Tabriz, Kazakh, Shirvan and Guba groups of Azerbaijani carpets. 5. Caucasian carpets have always been named after the village / town where they were traditionally woven. Today the Karabakh village of Chelebi in the Jebrail region of Karabakh is completely destroyed as a result of the Armenian occupation of the region. But the name of the village lives on in the carpets woven in this village and in the name of the carpet designs once created by Sufi weavers.


1. Абдуллаева, Н. Ковровое искусство Азербайджана. Баку: “ Элм”. 1971 2. Бартольд, В. В, Работы по истории и филологии тюркских и монгольских народов. Том 5.Москва: «Наука». 1968. 3. Исаев, М.Д. Ковровое производство Закавказья. Тифлис. 1932 4. Kərimov L “Azərbaycan xalçası”. I cild. Bakı –Leninqrad 1961 5. Muradov V. Azərbaycan xalçaları: Qarabağ qrupu. Bakı: “Elm” 2010 6. Пиралов А. Краткий очерк кустарных промыслов Кавказа. Тифлис. 1900 7. ORIENTAL RUGS DICTIONARY, «The eagle Kazaks are also known as Chelarberd, sunburst or Adler Kazaks». . 8. Зедгенидзе Я., Салахбек Зохраббеков, Амбарцум тер Егизаров. Производство ковров и паласов в Шуше. Сборник материалов для описания местностей и племен Кавказа. Вып.XI. Тифлис 1891 9. Maurizio Cohen. The World of Carpet. “Crescent Books”. Naw York.1996. 10. Джебраильский район. Краткий очерк о районе.

Karabakh. Jabrail district, Chelebi Village

Karabakh. Barda district, Chelebi Village

Safavid Period. Early 18th century. The Province of Karabakh (Persian: باغ قره والیت, romanized: Velayat-e Qarabaq) Türk ve İslam Eserleri Museum, Istanbul

Safavid Period. Early 18th century. The Province of Karabakh (Persian: باغ قره والیت, romanized: Velayat-e Qarabaq) Türk ve İslam Eserleri Museum, Istanbul

Safavid Period. Early 18th century. The Province of Karabakh (Persian: باغ قره والیت, romanized: Velayat-e Qarabaq) Türk ve İslam Eserleri Museum, Istanbul

Khanate Period (1735-1805). Chelebiler Village. (Chelebi peoples Village) Karabakh

Khanate Period (1735-1805). Chelebiler Village. (Chelebi peoples Village) Early Karabakh rug

Khanate Period (1735-1805). Chelebiler Village. (Chelebi peoples Village) Early Karabakh rug. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Khanate Period (1735-1805). Chelebiler Village. (Chelebi peoples Village) Early Karabakh rug. Azerbaijan National Carpet Museum

“Chelebi” rug. Karabakh. 1800-1899 Victoria and Albert Museum

Karabakh. “Chelebi” rug. End 19 th century. Private collection

Karabakh. “Chelebi” carpet. Musée du Louvre