Bijar lies in a valley about 200 kilometres Northwest of Hamedan. It is surrounded by vine yards and orchards and beyond that reddish hills.
In the fifteenth century Bijar was a village the property of Shah Ismail, the first Safavi monarch. It’s geographical position is not such as to make it a commercial centre.
Bijar suffered the most during World War I compared to the towns of Western Iran, which were fought over and occupied. First it was occupied by Russians, who were friendly but took as much grain as they could find. Then the Turks occupied it. The population was subjected to Turkish retribution for alleged co-operation with the Russians. They took what little food was left for them . They tore down their houses and terrorised the people. Then there was the famine of 1918. For many months people were dying at the rate of 200 a day. All this decimated the town of Bijar.
The weaving area of Bijar comprise the town itself and about 40 villages with in a radius of 50 kilometres. There were hardly any carpets woven there between the two wars. In the middle twenties the industry began slowly to revive. About 20 years later there were about 1000 looms in operation and out-put of about 1000 pieces a year.
After the second world war; the heavy weight and rather clumsiness of these carpets did not appeal to the noveaux-riches in Tehran. Bijar production sunk again.
One theory why the weaves of eastern Kurdistan abandoned their small, traditional tribal rugs to weave great carpets of unique construction in Bijar and surrounding villages is as follows:
For centuries past the paramount chiefs of eastern Kurdistan have not been Kurds but Turks, and most to this day. Many of these tribes weave double wefted fabrics, like Bijar. Among them Turks of Heriz area and Tabriz; Qashqais; and some of Afshar Kermans. It is possible that one of these chiefs wanted a large solidly built carpet for his castle. They probably achieved this by ordering the carpet to be woven in Turkish Knot, woollen warps and two woollen wefts. If this is so the rest inevitably follows.
Wool being springy, unlike cotton, would have to be beaten vigorously when used as wefts to obtain a quality counting. The result is a tough and dense carpet.
Bijar weavers use an instrument like an iron nail about 30 centimetres long as well as the heavy comb that is commonly used in order to beat the woollen wefts in to place. They bring it down hard upon the weft at close intervals.
Carpet weaving in Bijar is a cottage industry. Previously the looms were very primitive; with the beams being bent or uneven which explains the fact that Bijars are so often crooked. The use of woollen warps contributes greatly to this fact. Wool is elastic and difficult to lay with an even tension and a warp in which the tension is uneven will produce a crooked carpet.
In the past sixty years they have started using cotton for warp and for thin weft, but for thick weft wool is being used.
Bijar does not have a large variety of designs and are mainly rectilinear. Formerly a design was associated with a particular village. The introduction of a “wagireh” system enabled merchants to distribute the better designs more widely. About fifty years ago the introduction of scale-paper patterns has simplified distribution further.
The most common design is the Herati with a centre medallion and no corner pieces. The Bijars use very good dyes and wool. The Bijar carpet occupies a special place in the estimation of the world, like Senneh it is a unique fabric, There is non like it in Iran or anywhere else in the world.