Sunday, October 26, 2003

Status of Women In Ancient Iran

One of the sources for learning about the status of women in ancient iran is from Avesta, the holy book of Zorastrians. In Avesta women are shown to share the responsibilities with men. Men and women are equally praised for their deeds in Avesta. Zarathushtra in his advice to parents recommends that they should facilitate both the sons and daughter to acquire knowledge. Every where we see that Zarathushtra mentions mother and father men and women son and daughter and he does not differentiate between sexes.
In the wedding ceremony prayer recited by the priest, husband and wife are equally made responsible for all decision and actions to be taken.
It is worth noting that with the passage of time changes were introduced to the disadvantage of women. Most of which happened due to the influence of the Semitic race on the Aryan race.
In other ancient countries except Egypt women were seen as a child-producing slave. The Assyrians who were always at war needed men to fight these wars and they expected women to produce as many recruits as possible for the army. Girls were accepted in marriage after receiving money. The husband could sell his wife in Assyria and in old age she could be send away from the house that she had lived all her life. Women could not ask for divorce but men could just divorce by making a statement to that effect. If a woman would make such a statement she would to thrown into the river. If a woman did not bear a child she would be send away while if a man could not produce a baby women had no such right.
Among Chinese it was believed that boys were created by God while girls were created by the Devil. Baby girls were sold as slaves and if there were no buyers they were drowned in the river. Husbands could sell their wives or kill them. Girls were used as sacrifice to the gods.
In India during the Vedic period women were treated as equals but after that they were treated worse than animals. On the death of her husband she had to be burned alive in the same pyre that burned her husband. Like in Arabia and China girls could be killed.
In Arabia girls were buried alive, men would give away their wife in gamble. In Rome women were considered as troublemakers and were only used to create more soldiers to meet the needs of their constant war. A Roman could sell his wives just like he sold his slaves. In Greece women were treated like goods. Aristotle rated women next to slaves and below men. Plato considered men to be above women but gave her the right to conduct the affairs in the house and if a woman had the ability he thought she should have the right to even rule.
In Iran we see that women were rulers and if at the time of the death of the king the prince were a child the mother would rule till the son became an adult, Queen Homa mother of king Ardeshir was one such example. Women ruled Iran during different periods in History, Pourandokht and Azarmidokht are examples of successive queens who ruled Iran. Women in Iran lost their status when Iran lost its power to Arabs.
In Egypt women were respected and shared power and old ladies were given special respected. Women were also traders in Egypt and attend the court and parties in their best attire and they also had religious powers.
Women in ancient Iran compared to women in other nations had great respect and were highly placed in society. They even participated in sports like horse racing, polo, archery etc. After the attack of the Arabs they lost all their personal and social rights and were treated in par with women in other parts of the world. However, lately we have been blessed by a number of Iranian women activists, one of whom was Shirin Ebadi who won this years Nobel Peace Prize as a results of her efforts to acumplish democracy and human rights for the peaple of Iran.
Pictures of Shirin Ebadi :

Friday, October 24, 2003

The Burnt city

One of the most ancient sites in Iran is The Burnt City, located in the Eastern part of the country, South of Zabol in the region of Sistan. The unexpected appearance & the quick disappearance of the city baffled experts for years. According to the excavations and researches, the Burned City has come to be known as one of the most important proofs of the independence of the eastern part of Iran from Mesopotamia. Judging by the artifacts recovered in the area, the inhabitants seem to have been a race of intelligent people who were both farmers & builders of various crafts. So far no military ware has been discovered, suggesting the peaceful nature of the residents. What is really strange about burnt city is the fact that it has no connection to any other old civilisations in the area, as if it completely came from elsewhere. One of the prominent relics found in the Burned City is a skull that according to the anthropological studies, is the first evidence of brain surgeries in prehistoric Iran. Recent archaeological studies, has led into new discoveries in the architectural style of this city's buildings as well as the finding the biggest pre- historic clothe collection in the Middle East. Even more recently, Burnt City has been identified as one of the most rare ancient cities in which women were in charge of their family's financial affairs!


Dinosaur Footprints in Birjand

In the year 2000, forty footprints of dinosaurs, , were discovered on the sedimentary rocks in the north of the city of Birjand. These footprints belong to about 50 million years ago Ali Hassandbady the leader of the archeological group said: “This area was swampy on that time and rocks had plenty of organic materials. The erosion of the upper layer caused the footprints to surf. These footprints belong to the third eon of geology and indicates that this area was suitable for the movement of dinosaurs”. Preliminary studies show a complete harmony between the footprints. They are elliptical and their size is about 42x26 to 12x8 centimeter. Dinosaurs moved in groups and their direction of movement was east to west. The species of the dinosaurs has not yet determined. Also a joint Iranian-Brazilian team discovered a dinosaur tooth and some indetermined bone fragments in Northern Kerman. The discoveries are from red bed attributed to Bidou Formation (Late Jurassic/ Early Cretaceous) in Ab Bid Syncline.


Sunday, October 19, 2003

Roots and Branches of Farsi Language

Some languages have been grouped as Indo-European and a branch of it is called Indo-Iranian. The Indo-Iranian is again divided into two - The Iranian languages being one of them.The Iranian language is again divided into three:

-Old Iranian language
-Middle Iranian Language
-Modern Iranian language

Old Iranian language
The median language is one of the Old Iranian languages.This was the language of the mads,which was spoken in Central and Western Iran around 835 BCE. The Greek language has borrowed many words from this language. The stone carvings of the Hakhamaneshinians have words from this language.
Old Persian was the state language of the Hakhamaneshinians and is related to Avesta and Sanskrit. Two samples of the language are the stone carvings of Daruish and Ardeshir-lll. The carvings at Bisotum in Hamadan have about 500 words of Old Persian.
Avesta was the language of the East and North Eastern Iran. And the religious books at different periods were written in this language. Gathas are the most ancient form of this language.

Middle Iranian language
These languages were steadily formed with the change in political power. It includes Parthian Pahlavi and Hakahmaneshian Pahlavi. Parthian Pahlavi was the language of the Parthian who lived in the North East of Iran and have left behind some stone tablets in Parthian script, which is derived from the Aarami script. Some of these writings have been found in Ooramaneh in Kurdistan. At Naksh Rostam and Hajiabad of Fars the writings of Shahpour-I are an example of this language. So also, is the message of Nersi at Paekuri. Some archeological finds in Nasa have Parthian language inscribed on them. None of the present day Iranian languages seem to be the direct descendents of the Parthian language. The present day people living in the Parthian country (Khorasan) do not speak any thing close to Parthian language. But Parthian language has had its effect on the formation of Farsi and we can find Parthian in modern Farsi.
In Turfan archeologically remains have been found of Parthian language written in the script of the Maanavians. They are two types one written in the 3 & 4 century ACE is pure Parthian the second after 6th century ACE has a mixture and is used for religious purposes.

Middle Farsi language
The language during the Sassanian times can be categorized as Middle Farsi and we have many writings. To name a few Bodahesh, Ardeviraf nameh, Mainu Khared, Pandnameh Adorbad Mehresfand etc.
Sogdian language,spoken in Samarghand and Bokhara and was the language of Central Asia and extend up to China. After the 6th century ACE this language lost ground to Turkamanestani and Farsi but a variation of it is spoken in Yagnab valley. Many Farsi words have their origin from this language.
Khotani language, were also spoken till the 6 and even the 8th century and was replaced by Farsi. It is still spoken in the Khotan district of China.
Kharazmi was the language of the state of Kharazm in Central Asia. It was spoken till and during the 15 century ACE. It was replaced by, Turkey and Farsi.

Modern Farsi - It started as Farsi e Dari and has its roots in Phalavi and Old Farsi and is a southwestern Iranian language and was the officially language of Iran. Ferdowsi's Shahnameh is an example of this language. As time passed writers of Central and northern Iran added words and dialects from their region to this language and still latter Arabic words found their way into this language and still further Arabic grammar was also imported.
Aasee Language is a Caucasian language and is connected to the Sogdian and Karazmian language. The highlight of this language is that it has not been corrupted by other languages and has maintained its purity and relation to ancient Iranian languages.
Pashtu is the language of Eastern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan. In spite of it being corrupted by Arabic and modern Farsi it has still maintained the characteristic of the ancient Iranian languages. In this language nouns are also treated like verbs.
Tajiki is one of the dialects of Farsi spoken by the people of Tajikistan.
Baluchi is the language of the Baluchi people it is a northern language and also spoken in parts of Turkmenistan. The Baluchis who migrated south to their present day location brought it with them. Farsi and Arabic words have entered this language but it has maintained its ancient Iranian form.
Kurdi has many different dialects important among them is Zaza and Gourani. Original Kurdi is called Kermanji. Kurdi has words from Farsi Arabic Armenian and Turkey.
(the content of this note has been taken from a paper by Fariborz Rahnamoon)

Mehregan Festival

Mehregan is one of the most ancient Iranian festivals known, dating back at least as far as the earliest Aryans (Iranians).There are many accounts as to the beginning of Mehregan. A few, different versions are listed below:

1.Mehregan is a day of victory when Angels helped Fereydoon and Kaveh become victorious over Zahak. They imprisoned him in the Damavand Mountain where he died from his wounds.
2.Mehregan is the day God gave light to the world, that had previously been dark.
3.On this day Mashya and Mashyaneh (a concept of Semitic Adam and Eve) were created.
4.On this day the sun was created.

In some form or another, the feast day of Mehregan has always been honored for many hundreds of years in Iran. Mehr is also the time of harvest, ( same principles as thanks giving).
Some scholars believe that the month of Mehr was the beginning month of the calendar year during the Achaemenian era. The Mehregan feast celebrated the beginning of a new year. Mehr in Avestan is "Miora" and in ancient Farsi and in Sanskrit is "Mitra" and in Pahlavi "Mitr". In modern Farsi, it has become Mehr. Although it can be slightly confusing, it should be remembered the word "Mehr" has been used for a God, an angel, a symbol of the sun, as well as the seventh month of the Iranian calendar.

When the Indo-Europeans lived together, Mehr was considered one of the great Gods of that time.
The ancient Iranians thought Mehr was responsible for love and friendship, contracts and covenants, and a representation for light. Later, Mehr was also considered as a symbol of the sun. There again, Mehr was considered to be a God of heroism and warfare. The Iranian soldiers were strong believers and had songs for Mehr. With expansion of Achaemenian Empire, the worship of Mehr was taken to other countries.
Long ago, Mehregan was celebrated with the same magnificence and pageantry as Norouz. It was customary for people to send or give their king, and each other gifts. It was common for people to give presents that they personally liked themselves! Rich people usually gave gold and silver coins, heroes and warriors gave horses while others gave gifts according to their ability, even an apple. Those fortunate enough, will help the poor with gifts. After the Mongul invasion, the feast celebration of Mehregan lost its popularity. Zoroastrians of Yazd and Kerman continued to celebrate Mehregan in an extravagant way.

How to Prepare for Mehregan:

For this celebration, the participants wear new clothes and set a decorative, colorful table. The sides of the tablecloth are decorated with dry wild marjoram. The holy book Avesta, a mirror and Sormeh Dan (antimony cellar) are placed on the table together with rose water, sweets, flowers, vegetables and fruits, especially pomegranates and apples. A few silver coins and senjed seeds (fruit of the lotus tree) are placed in a dish of pleasant smelling wild marjoram water. Almonds and pistachio are also used. A burner is also part of the table setting for kondor (frankincense) and espand (rue seeds) to be thrown on the flames.

At lunch time when the ceremony begins, everyone in the family stands in front of the mirror to pray. Sherbet is drunk and then as a good omen, antimony is rubbed around their eyes. Handfuls of wild marjoram, senjed seeds and noghl (sugar plum) are thrown over each others heads while they embrace one another.
In some of the villages in Yazd, Zoroastrians still sacrifice sheep for Mehr. These sacrifices are done on the day of Mehregan and for three days afterwards. The sacrifice should be done during the hours of sunlight. The sheep is placed on three stones in the furnace, representing the good words, good deeds and good thoughts, and barbecued. After this special ritual, the sheep, including the skin and fat is taken to the fire temple'. The fat is thrown on the fire to make the flames burn fiercely and then the participants pray. This celebration continues for the next five days.
To learn more about Iranian Festivities and celebrations also see Norouz ( New Year) and the Tirgan Celebration ( Jashne Tirgan).

Saturday, October 04, 2003

Takht-e- Soleyman

The archaeological site of Takhte- soleyman is concidered to be one of the most ancient sites, located in North Western Iran. From the time of the Megi who nurtured the sacred fire of adhar Gushnasp beside the bottomless lake of deepest blue until today, Takht-e Soleyman,( the Throne of Solomon), has remained for all who see it a sacred place. Dynasties have called it by different names. For some scholars it was the Parthian city of Praaspa, although this has not yet been confirmed. It was Jis to the Sassanids, Shiz to the Arabs, and to the Mongol conquerors, Saturiq. The ruins of Takt-e Soleyman lie in a broad and remote mountain valley southeast of Maragheh. Sassanian built massive stone walls and the remnants of thirty-eight towers around the lake by the in the third century A. D. After their coronation at Ctesiphon near present-day Baghdad, Sassanid kings journeyed here on foot to receive the divine investiture at the sanctuary of the eternal flame which left no ashes and from which all other sacred fires were ignited.The site includes the principal Zoroastrian sanctuary partly rebuilt in the Ilkhanid (Mongol) period (13th century) as well as a temple of the Sasanian period (6th and 7th centuries AD) dedicated to Anahita. In archeological surveys around the area of the fire-temple a variety of coins, tiles and a huge copper cooking vessel (a remnant of the Islamic period), have been discovered. The Soleiman prison which consists of the remnants of a pre-historic and the Medes temple is included in this aggregate. Sites such as dormant volcanoes, thermal springs and streams around Takht-e-Soleyman are worth surveying.
on July 3, 2003 Twenty- four sites were inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List; one of these sites was our own Takht- e- Soleyman.

See the pictures: