Saturday, August 26, 2006

Babak Khorramdin

Bābak Khorramdin ( بابک خرمدین ) is considered as one of the most heroic leaders of Iran who initiated the Khorramdinan, ( Those of the joyous religion), movement. This was a local freedom fighting movement aimed to over throw the Abbasid Caliphate who came to power after the Arab conquest of Iran.

Early Life:

Babak Khoramdin was born in the 8th century AC in Balal Abad region of Southern Azarbaijan, close to the city of Ardabil. His father died when he was in his teens and the responsibility of his 2 brothers and mother fell on his shoulders since. He became the protector of his family during a traditional Zoroastrian ceremony in a fire- temple which required him to wear a purple ribbon around his body and drink a glass of Azari wine. By age 18, Babak had already established himself in the city of Tabriz and was engaged in the arms trade and industry. His engagement in businesses gave him the opportunity to travel through out the Middle East, Caucasia and Eastern Europe. His travels familiarized him with the history, geography and the language of the regions.


In the 8th century AC Iran was under the rule of Arabs Caliphs and hence unrest and resistance was growing in all the Iranian provinces. In 755, the ruling Caliph ordered the murder of Abu Muslim of Khorassan, who was a popular Persian nationalist especially among the Non- Muslims. His death provoked many Iranians to start revolts in different regions of the country in order to regain their freedom. This in turn, forced the Caliphs to use more violence against the Iranian population in order to keep the country under control. Moreover, Azarbaijan which was at the time the only Non-Muslim region in the country was constantly under the ravage of Bani Abbas ( the Caliph) to expand Islam further North. During this time, Azarbaijan defended itself through the leadership of Javanshir, who was the ruler of Azarbaijan at the time. Witnessing all this pressure being exerted on the people, Bābak joined the "Khurramiyyah (Khorram-Dinān)" movement in what later became known as Ghale-ye Bābak, meaning "Bābak Castle", located in the mountains of Qaradag. His knowledge of history, geography, and the latest battle tactics strengthened his position as a favorite candidate for commander during the early wars against the Arab occupiers. After a number of victories against the Arabs, Javanshir became severely injured and passed away, hence Babak took over power and married Javanshir's widow who introduced Babak to the Azari people as their leader. Bābak was a highly spiritual and educated person who respected his Zoroastrian heritage. He made every possible effort to bring Iranians together and also with leaders such as Afshin and Maziyar to form a united front against the Arab Caliph.
One of the most dramatic periods in the history of Iran was set under Bābak’s leadership between 816-837. During these most crucial years, they not only fought against the Caliphate, but also against Arab language and culture. Eventually, Bābak, his wife, and his warriors were forced to leave Ghaleye Bābak after 23 years of constant campaigns. He was eventually betrayed by Afshin and was handed over to the Abbasid Caliph.

Babak's Execution:

During Bābak’s execution, the Caliph's henchmen first cut off his legs and hands in order to convey the most devastating message to his followers. Legend has it that Bābak bravely rinsed his face with the drained blood pouring out of his cuts, thus depriving the Caliph and the rest of the Abbasid army from seeing his pale face, a result of the heavy loss of blood.

Babak's Influence:

There are many speculations about the origin of Babak. Some believe he was an Azari Turk, but others believe that at this time, Turks had not yet migrated to Azarbaijan. Still others believe that he was Persian since his name is purely from Persian origins. Also he was a follower of Zoroastrian Persians and there has never been any proof supporting his Turkish background. No mater what region of Iran he was from, he was an Iranian freedom fighter. Babak’s sensational and legendary campaign to defend Iran's national identity and interest is still pursued after nearly 1200 years in Southern Azerbaijan every year on his birthday. Every year in July, Iranians pilgrims visiting Babak's Fortress to hail their Persian hero, Babak, as the symbol of Iranian resistance against foreign and dictatorship rules. The pilgrims reading poetry including Shahnameh (the Book of Kings - Iran’s most famous epic) and playing traditional Persian music. They also lit up bonfires to follow traditional rituals of ancient Iran.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Narenjestan-e- Ghavam ( Qavam's House)

Narenjestan is not an old complex in comparison with other brilliont buildings of ancient Iran, but one look at this structure will lead to a love affair with the Iranian architect and art. Narenjestan is located in Shiraz and it's the perfect stop on a hot summer day as the gardens will refresh your very soul. The building has been occupied by many but the original builder was Mirza Ibrahim Khan who built this amazing complex in late 1800s. Mirza Ibrahim khan was the great grandson of the elder "Ghavam" and grandfather of the contemporary "Ghavamolmolk". The Ghavam family were merchants originally from Qazvin. But they soon became active in the government during the Zand Dynasty, followed by the Qajar and Pahlavi Dynasty.
The complex includes the private bath house, public bath house, Husseinieh (religious ceremonies building, detention house and stable. The detention house and stable no longer exist. The buildings were interconnected by an underground passage way. The Qavam "Naranjestan" preserves the elegance and refinement enjoyed by the upper class families during the nineteenth century. The paintings on the low ceilings of the house are inspired by Victorian era Europe. Every room has its own theme identified by paintings on the ceilings, walls and fire places. For me the most beautiful of all the rooms was the mirror porch, which is also the focal point of the house, overlooking onto the gardens lined with date palms and flowers. There is nothing more peacfull than sitting on that porch in one afternoon and listening to the whisper of the waterways and birds singing in the trees. The smell of tanjerine and jasmin will blow your mind. During the second Pahlavi era, the House became the headquarters of Pahlavi University's "Asia Institute", directed by Arthur Pope and Richard Nelson Frye. It is necessary to mention, that Professor Arthur Upham Pope spent 50 years of his time life, working here, dedicating it numerous antique artifacts. Collections of photographs and slides, initiated by Professor Pope, are also preserved here as there is a museum beneath the building structure. Frye and his family also lived in the house for a while. The house today is a museum open to the public. For more pictures of Narenjestan go to "my photos".

Friday, July 21, 2006

Jiroft Civilization


Jiroft is a city in Kerman province, Iran. It is located 230 kilometres south of the city of Kerman, and 1,375 kilometres south of Tehran. In the past it was also known as Sabzewaran, and on account of it being very fertile land it is famous as Hend-e-Koochak (the little India). Jiroft is located on the vast plain of Halil Rud which contains many of the ancient archaeological sites of Iran. One of the most recent discoveries in this area was the uncovering of a millennia-old city buried near Jiroft. Buried in the city were two inscriptions that are considered to be the oldest evidence of written Language in the world. The discoveries further indicated that the city was in a trading business with Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and the Persian Gulf region about 5000 years ago! Archaeological evidance shows that the civilians were experts in making pottery, vessels and seals and these goods contained most of the tradings.

Jiroft Civilization

Jiroft is reletively a new archeaological site and although the inhabitants of this area had a well developed society even before the Elimate Dynasty not much is known about them. Sir Aurel Stein was the first archaeologist to survey the area. At least twelve sites are now under excavation in the area, the oldest thought to be more than 5000 years of age. The recent accidental discoveries have led to a surge in illegal excavations and looting, mainly of ancient tombs. The number of smuggled artifacts discovered became so noticeable that police forces had to be dispatched to try stop the looting. Interpol has also been cooperating on stopping the trade sourcing from the area. The most significant of these sites are Shahr-i Sokhta, Tepe Bampur, Espiedej, Shahdad, Iblis, and Tepe Yahya. Some are in the neighboring Sistan and Baluchistan province. The recent archeological findings at Jiroft that have uncovered an "independent, bronze age, civilization with its own architecture and language" have led some archaeologists to speculate it to be the remains of the lost Aratta Kingdom, though some others disagree. But what is for certain is that this kingdom had a large pottery industry, was a transit hub for trade merchants, and had active interactions with the Elamites. The archaeological excavations have been under the supervision of Dr. Yousef Madjidzadeh since 2003. His team's accomplishments include the finding of the location of an estimated 700 sites in an area of about 400 square km. Focusing on two hills of Konar Sandal, he has been able to identify a construction which he classifies as a ziqqurat (a temple-tower of Mesopotamian origin) and a citadel, both dated by him to the 3rd millennium B.C. In addition, six large cemeteries, a large industrial center near Anbaraba, and numerous domestic structures have been discovered in the surveyed area. Among artifacts 25 seals were discovered and the first undisputable evidence of writing: a clay brick with an Elamitic inscription. Jiroft is considered one of the major cradles of civilizations and the world is eager to learn more about the inhabitants of this historical site.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Chogha Zanbil

One of the most significant 13th century BC architectural works of Iran is the Chogha Zanbil Temple (1250 BC) located 45 kilometres from Susa. The western vaults of Chogha Zanbil Temple were so skillfully built that at present, even after three thousand years, they remain in marvelously good conditions. The vaults are constructed on prolonged corridors and over internal staircases of the temple and represent an extraordinary achievement in the architecture of ancient Iran. This ziggurat is the best surviving example of the Elamite architecture anywhere.
Throughout the ancient Near East a tendecy exists to admire and worship mountians. Huge ziggurats relieved the flat monotony of the Mesopotamian plain, ritual imitations of the familiar sacred mountains that ring the Iranian Plateau. Thus, even if the impressive development of these colossal structures was Mesopotamian, their inspiration and meaning was clearly Persian. The men who came down from the eastern lands could not bring with them their mountains, so they made their own "holly hill" or "mountain of all lands".
Chogha Zanbil was built at Dur Untash, a city near Susa, by Untash-gal, king of Elam, about 1,250 BC, and in honor of Inshushinak, gauridan god of Susa, and reached the hight of its splendor in 1,200 BC, its downfall occuring in 640 BC. The ziggurats serve as both temples and tombs with splended tile work and inscriptions.