Antique Rug Motifs: Chintamani Motif
Meanings of the Chintamani Motif in Rugs and Carpets
Chintamani Motif – Chintamani is a Sanskrit word for a wish-fulfilling gem. The design features three balls above wavy lines, a popular Hindu and Buddhist motif, commonly seen on Indian and Tibetan rugs. The lines are reminiscent of the stripes of tiger skin.
It was used on many ornamental art forms, symbolizing the power of royalty; eventually the design was adapted for use on Ottoman carpets in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Chintimani Motif and the Royal Ottoman Courts
The chintimani motif is one of the most fascinating symbols to appear on rugs and other textiles from the Ottoman Empire and Persia during the late Renaissance. It consists of three circles of equal size that are stacked in the form of a triangle. Two of the circles are on the bottom, and one is on the top. Sometimes, these three circles are found spaced between rows of wavy lines. It is a curious symbol, and one cannot help but to let the imagination wander about its origins. Let’s explore this fascinating motif a bit further.
Use and Spread
The chintimani design is found on textiles from Turkish silk fabric to items from Tibet. It is so widespread that its origins are obscured, and it is a topic of scholarly debate. Regardless of which of these origin theories is correct, it seems that as this symbol spread, each culture developed its own story and explanation of its meaning.
The design can take many different forms, but they are all called the “chintimani,” and they are considered to have the same meaning. Sometimes, it appears as three circles alone, and sometimes, it is just the wavy lines. In other textiles, it can appear as only a single circle with a dot in the center. It can also look like a crescent with the tips extended so that they touch. The chintimani can be combined with other patterns, or it can appear alone. In Persian rugs, you will find the pattern appearing as round circular flowers. The circles can be of a solid color, or they can have patterns inside. In any form, it is easily recognized.
Garments of the Sultans
In Ottoman Turkey, there are quite a number of garments surviving that have this symbol. However, all of them are from the wardrobes of the Sultans and upper class. They are not found on the garments of the common people. It appears that this symbol was associated with royalty during this time, but why?
We can find clues by looking at the garments depicted in miniature paintings of the Ottoman Empire. It seems that this pattern does appear on both women’s and men’s clothing, but only on those of high status. During the 16th century, the Ottoman sultans were at the peak of their power economically and politically. They placed great importance on the arts to demonstrate their status to the world.
Special workshops were set aside to produce the textiles and housewares for the royal courts. Even though they eventually contracted some private workshops to meet demand, all production was under the strict control of the state. The state-controlled the number of warps, wefts, and the patterns. Early Turkish fabrics often used designs found in Chinese art to show their worldliness and wealth. The chintimani is among one of many Chinese motifs adopted by the royal Ottoman courts.
Chintimani fabrics are especially prevalent during the time of Suleiman the Magnificent, who was the 10th Ottoman Emperor. There are some who claim that Suleyman issued an edict that only members of the Royal Court could wear the chintimani pattern. However, this is considered to be only legend by others for lack of finding physical evidence of such a rule. Regardless of whether it was an actual royal decree or not, there is no doubt that it became a symbol of Suleiman’s court that was widely recognized. It became like a trademark that easily marked the court of Suleiman the Magnificent.
The Ottomans and Persians borrowed the chintimani pattern from older Chinese textiles. The legend goes that the chintimani represents a stone that can fulfill wishes. This myth is found throughout Hindu and Buddhist cultures. It is widespread and can be found throughout China, Tibet, Mongolia, and other cultures from Southeast Asia.
The stone is similar to the philosopher’s stone in Western alchemy. In Buddhist mythology, the stone is held by the Bodhisattvas, who are divine beings considered to be wise, compassionate, and powerful. It appears carried on the back of the Lung Ta, or wind horse, in Tibetan Prayer. In Hindu culture, it is associated with the gods Vishnu and Ganesha. The chintimani is said to be one of four relics that came in a chest that fell from the sky during the reign of King Lha Thothori Nyantsen of Tibet. It is found throughout the Sanskrit texts and ancient Chinese writings. However, it is so common in these ancient writings that it is difficult to say where it arose first.
It is likely that the Ottoman Turks were introduced to the chintimani pattern through goods traded along the Silk Road. The pattern begins to appear early in the Ottoman Empire, and it gradually increased in frequency. The first indication that it became an “official” symbol of the Ottoman courts seems to be in the 15th or 16th centuries. You will often find chintimani fabrics with gold and silver threads. The Topkapi Museum has one of the most extensive collections of these garments in existence today.
The only thing that is clear about this ancient symbol is that it appears to have come to the Ottoman Empire through trade with Southeastern Asian cultures. It was eventually adopted as an official symbol of the power of the Ottoman Empire and the royal courts. The meaning of the chintimani lost its connection to its Buddhist and Hindu origins, but it is still considered a symbol of luck and power of the Ottoman sultans.
We invite you to explore of collection of rugs that feature this ancient and mysterious symbol. A rug or textile that uses this pattern is a real treat for your collection or home.