Here are three versions of the figure stabbing the devil motif. The first is Plate 1 in The Rugs of War catalogue, the second is sent in by Kevin Sudeith, the third by Graham Gower. We know of a fourth version – Plate 38 “Der Krieg im Leben der Nomaden” in Frembgen and Mohm (see bibliography). It’s clearly a story with a contemporary relevance – but what is its history? Surely such a complex pictorial narrative has pre-war precedents?
We’ve called this extraordinary image “The Story of Jahan Bahksh” which we’ve derived from the various translations of its text. (I’ll post the most complete transcription and comment on the problems of translation in due course.) My question remains: does anyone know the origins of the Jahan Bakhsh story?
I interpret the image on this rug, which is slightly different from the image on your rug, symbolically. The mujihadeen is riding one devil while killing another. It is sort of a parable for the Afghan/Soviet war. The jihadi is using the perceived US devil to kill the Soviet devil. How these guys can make such a deal with a perceived devil is beyond me. Such moral relativism seems contradictory to the absolutist interpretation of Islamic ethics practiced by these jihadis. These rugs are definitely from the Soviet era. It shows, in very clear terms, the perceived mission of the mujahideen, of killing the devil.
A rug with a message. Showing are Afghan government soldiers with their camels and helicopter transport. Significantly the central feature of the rug show a Russian soldier (note the boots) portrayed as the devil and being slain. Around the edge forming an impressive border is a line of tanks. In this rug the only concession to traditional patterning are the saddlebags. This is a well woven rug using quality wool. Shows signs of use and most likely has seen domestic use before being sold to the market. Size 5ft. 2 inches x 3ft. 3 inches.