Resembling a twisted teardrop, the fig-shaped paisley is of Persian origin, but its western name derives from the town of Paisley, in West Scotland, a centre for textiles where paisley designs were produced.
Some design scholars[who?] believe it is the convergence of a stylized floral spray and a cypress tree: a Zoroastrian symbol of life and eternity. It is a bent cedar, and the cedar is the tree Zarathustra planted in paradise. The heavenly tree was “bent” under the weight of the Arab invasion and Muslim conquest of Persia. The “bent” cedar is also the sign of strength and resistance but modesty. The floral motif was originated in the Sassanid Dynasty and later in the Safavid Dynasty of Persia (from 1501 to 1736), and was a major textile pattern in Iran during the Qajar and Pahlavi Dynasties. In these periods, the pattern was used to decorate royal regalia, crowns, and court garments, as well as textiles used by the general population.
According to Azerbaijani historians, the design comes from ancient times of Zoroastrianism and is an expression of the essence of that religion. It subsequently became a decorative element widely used in Azerbaijani culture and architecture.
The pattern is still popular in Iran and South and Central Asian countries. It is woven using gold or silver threads on silk or other high quality textiles for gifts, for weddings and special occasions. In Iran and Uzbekistan its use goes beyond clothing – paintings, jewelry, frescoes, curtains, tablecloths, quilts, carpets, garden landscaping, and pottery also sport the buta design. In Uzbekistan the most frequently found item featuring the design is the traditional doppi headdress.
In Tamil Nadu the manga maalai (mango necklace) with matching earrings is a traditional feature of bharathanatyam dance.
It is a prominent design in Kanchipuram saris. It has sometimes been associated with Hinduism.
In other languages
The modern French words for paisley are boteh, cachemire (cashmere; capitalized, “Kashmir”) and palme, the latter being a reference to the palm tree, which, along with the pine tree and the cypress tree, is one of the traditional botanical motifs thought to have influenced the shape of the paisley element as it is now known.[not in citation given]
In various languages of India and Pakistan, the design’s name is related to the word for mango:
In Bengali: Kalka
In Tamil: mankolam, mango pattern
In Marathi: koyari, mango seed
In Hindi/Urdu: carrey or kerii, means unripe mango
In Punjabi: ambi, from amb, mango.
In Chinese it is known as the “Ham hock pattern” (火腿纹 huotuiwen). In Russia this ornament is known as “cucumbers” (огурцы).