Friday, August 6, 2010

The Ancient Aryan Boteh, The Kashmiri Buta & The Paisley

The design motif known as paisley in the west is taken from the ancient Aryan boteh (botteh) motif. Boteh is a Persian word meaning bush, shrub, a thicket (a small dense forest of small trees or bushes), bramble, herb, a palm leaf, and flower bud.

In Kashmir in the north of the Indian sub-continent, the name used to describe the motif is buta. 

The earliest surviving examples of the boteh motif in the weavings of Kashmir, are from the third quarter of the 15 century CE. reportedly commissioned by Sultan Zein-al-Aabedin (d. 1468). This Sultan is the one who, according to Kashmiri historians, geographers and researchers, brought the “decorative designs from Iran to India.” 

The western name for the boteh motif is taken from Paisley, a town in western Scotland (now a western suburb of Glasgow) which had once specialized in the production of scarves and shawls (from the Persian word shal) decorated with the boteh motif.

Weavers in the town of Paisley introduced an attachment to their handlooms that enabled them to use five different colours of yarn. This innovation gave the Paisley weavers a competitive edge over weavers elsewhere who were only using two colours, commonly indigo and madder. The Paisley weavers also took special care to imitate the Kashmiri shawls as closely as possible. 
It wasn't long before the name Paisley became synonymous with the boteh motif and demand for the imitation shawls grew as women all over Britain began to ask for 'Paisleys'.

Other articles on the boteh also link the motif to the Cypress and to the significance of the Cypress as a tree of life in Zoroastrian folkloric tradition. In addition, the boteh motif is sometimes referred to as the flame of Zoroaster.

There are a variety of different forms of the boteh motif. These different forms could also be related derived shapes and they can sometimes be seen within the same design, be it on fabric, a carpet or an engraving.

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