As Glenn has stated, takyabs are usually
attached to the head of animals,usually the lead pack animal in a caravan.
Partly to provide good luck via an auspicious symbol, and partly just for
insulation. Think of them as a "Horse Hat". The English term would be
As a very utilitarian textile, most extant examples tend
to be newish. They're used, abused...and discarded. Think about it: Horses
stick their noses into everything...scratch ing on posts and rocks...other
horses...feedbags and dipping their heads into rivers and troughs. And
then of course there are the insects which accompany any animal. All will
rapidly degrade a small piece of fabric.
So most examples out there
tend to be in rough shape and look like this:
many of the takyabs you come across may be in bad shape. But some will be
in excellent shape. Like the one below. If so, there is a good chance they
were never used. This one still has the warp and weft with which is was
cut from the loom.
I've never seen a takyab woven, my feeling is that because they are
basically an expendable item, and because they are so small, they lend
themselves to be "mass" produced. Look at it this way: You are talking
about a piece of rug that is usually less than 1ft by 1ft. A weaver can
probably produce 15 of these in the same time it would take to make a
standard 5ft X 3ft Khaden sleeping rug. Why WOULDN'T you "mass" produce
Take a look at the following photo of takyabs I recently
notice that most (center excepted) of the animal faced takyabs around the
outside are drawn in a similar style and have similar dyes. Also, I have
two additional animal faced takyabs in the SAME style. Other animal faced
takyabs occasionally come up on Rugrabbit and elsewhere...also in the SAME
style. In fact there is one on the cover of Kuloy's book on Tibetan
Carpets. I 'm pretty much convinced they all came off the same loom.
Point: Mass production.
As you might have guessed, "One of these
things is not like the others". The takyab in the center of the group is
silk embroidery on wool.
The shape, is typically that of a "Horse
Face" or more accurately a "Goat Face" due to the horns. Not sure how this
originated, but of course, Yaks, a common beast of burden in Tibet, due
sport horns. Sheep, in past times were often used to haul salt (and
themselves) to Nepal. It's speculation really. Other shapes such as
circles or "sleeve" designs have been depicted in some books, but I have
never seen them and they are certainly not as dramatic as the "Horse
Of the symbols in Takyabs, there are many, but probably about
90% of them fall into a few categories:
2. Potted Plants
: The Takyab below is a fine example of a
"potted" plant displaying many Auspicious fruits including a Buddah's Hand
Citrus, which of course, not native to Tibet, but neither are the lotus,
peony, plum blossom, or other foliage constantly appearing in Tibetan
rugs. As an aside, this was the first Takyab I acquired.
: An important Lama-ist motif, this again, is an
auspicious symbol and refers to the body, speech and mind of the
or the "Ten Fold Powerful One" represents the 10 teachings of the
Kalachakra Tantra. Not all Buddhism in Tibet is Tantric Buddhism. Far from
it. But here is a symbol from one of the Tantric branches.
as to materials:
Most of the Takyab collector's
are likely to see are piled. And like most Tibetan rugs, if they are
piled, they will be wool on cotton warp and weft and occasionally wool
warp and weft, which can be an indicator of age...or of nomadic origin.
Nomads still exist in Tibet, but they have been a minority for centuries.
Dyes can be natural, synthetic or mixed. Pure natural dyes are quite rare,
but in my opinion often look muddy.
than the one that Glenn posted, and the one that I posted above, I have
only seen one other example. Mine is not strictly Tibetan, having been
acquired via Nepal. The other example (not pictured) originated in Bhutan.
So of the three examples known two me, two come from the south side of the
Himalayas, and therefore this leads me to believe they may not be stricly
Tibetan. The material of mine is a red wool felt field with silk
3. Felted or Applique:
I don't have one of these,
but I must say, Glenn's looks nice:.
Believe it or not, while in Lhasa I saw a Takyab made of
. Probably the last sort of material you'd want to put
to such an intense usage,...and it showed. I suspect if you looked hard
enough you'd also find leather Takyabs and other more exotic materials as
5. There is another category which isn't really a material:
. It seems a fair amount of Takyabs are just simply cut from
other worn out carpets. Of the ones depicted below, #6 and #9 are both
salvage. Some of these can be so well executed you would not know they
aren't a dedicated weaving. Others...not so much.
should also point out that Takyabs 3 and 4 above are a matched pair...more
evidence of "mass" production.
Are takyabs made outside of Tibet? I
would think that vast, vast majority are made there. The construction
motifs and dyes are all consistent with Tibetan weaving practices. But
there is always an exception: The embroidered pieces sited above come from
outside Tibet. I have Pakistani friends who tell me that in Kashmir and
other alpine Pakistani states you can also find similar items. Now you can
argue that these regions are "culturally" Tibetan, and for sure you would
be correct, in a matter of degrees. But then there is this piece below,
which is not made using any Tibetan technique, but is made using Mongolian
knotting and dyes and appears to be a dedicated piece.
there has long been religious and commercial pilgrimage between Mongolia
and Tibet, so it should really be no surprise. Just like there are plenty
of Honda Motorcycles in the US, a casual tour of Japan will reveal more
than a few Harley Davidson's. Trade typically goes both ways. So here is a
Mongolian takyab for Tibet.
an aside, in 2008 I posted some pictures of an antique saddle store in
HoHot Mongolia...I can't find the post anymore....but it would be
interesting to note that ALL of the saddle rugs in that particular shop
were Tibetan, rather than the more usually seen Mongolian rugs. Any chance
of locating that?