esfahan

Esfahan and related posts. Historic of central Iran. Former capital of Persia.

Rajasthan — India’s West

Visiting Golden and Blue City in Thar Desert, spring 2012. (Reblog with more images and information)

April 8 — Rajasthan sun is merciless. Hot dry breath of wind blows over the dunes and through the ancient desert town. Am in India’s western border. Jaisalmer used to be trade post between east and west, until sea trade replaced camel caravans. After independence and partitioning of India, 1947, Indian-Pakistani border closed much of the regional trade as well. Name Golden City comes from yellow sand stone that is building material for majority of buildings.


Jaisalmer Fort.

My guesthouse arrange camel safaris to the desert. Decided to go with a traveling pal I met in the train. Seemed then like a great idea then. Now am wondering how on earth am going to survive, when even the shade of town seems too much. After washing, clothes are dry after two hours of hanging. @ Jaisalmer


Visit to desert.

April 10 — Back from desert! Air is exhausting from 9am to 5pm and temperature hangs over and under 40 Celsius. At evening winds get cooler and night air is almost chilling. I slept outside in open desert. Its exhilarating feeling, lying in bed and gazing up to bottomless silent night sky. Stars shine as bright as they possibly can. All sounds are natures own: camel munching grass, fire rattling in campfire, night bird cocooing somewhere in darkness. At first its hard to catch a sleep, but eventually the inevitable happens… @ Jaisalmer


Mehrangarh fort.

April 14 — Continued my journey to Jodhpur, the Blue City. Weather here has been nice relief after Jaisalmer. It has rained every afternoon. Yesterday night winds were strong and thunderstorms did show of drum and light over the Mehrangarh fort. Fortification stands on a cliff, and city has grown around it. Houses are colorful and have more variety than in Jaisalmer. Areas in old town are painted blue, from which city has gotten its name. Tradition originates from cast divisions that dictated who were living where.


Rich merchants used to show off their wealth, by building their homes extravagantly. They are called Havelis in Jaisalmer.


Zenana Deodi. The inner courtyard of Mehrangarh fort was once guarded by eunuchs. This is where the Maharaja’s wives lived.

Fort is definitely worth visiting. Audio guides were excellent, and place is fascinating adventure to history both in and outside. Marwars of Jodhpur had semi-autonomous status during reign of Mughal centuries (1526–1857). Wild desert region and proud warriors living here proved too much for even mighty Mughals to repress entirely.

Sati and Jauhar Traditions of Rajasthan

While walking by the big entrance gate of Jodhpur castle, I noticed curious hand insignia’s carved by the gate wall. They were painted in red and had decoration of fresh flowers on them. This is a shrine for widows of Maharajahs that had committed a Sati (seti, suttee), a self immolation.

Sati was practiced among aristocrats, and was at the time accepted practice in Hindu religion. Michael Edwards, British India 1772-1947:

… In 1780, the deceased Raja of Marwar was joined in death by sixty-four wives. A Sikh prince of the Punjab took with him ten wives and no less than three hundred concubines

Jauhar had to do with harsh reality of desert life: isolated communities living where marauding armies could (and did) appear out of nowhere and without warning. Jauhar, for men meant fighting and dying a certain death in hands of enemy. These events repeated several times during the history of Rajasthan. British banned immolations in 1829 and later independent India continued the work. Sati Prevention Act from 1987 makes it criminal to aiding, abetting, and even glorifying the act of Sati.

Coincidentally, years later learned another angle about the topic. This time in a museum in Iran:

Paintings … include the scene of a banquet in Persian and Indian style in which the wedding ceremony of Reza Qoli Mirza, son of Nader Shah and an Indian princess is shown. Another part of the picture is “Seti” ritual in which some Indian princesses commit suicide by being burnt with the corpse of their deceased husbands and this is regarded as a sign of their intense love.

Aside the fact that such ritual was also known in Iran, during the rule of Shah Abbas the second an event happened which connected this ritual with Kandahar conquest episode. Probably the significance of the event for the Safavid culture system caused its illustration upon a Chehelsotoon wall.

One of the most important historical events during the reign of Shah Abbas the second was re-conquest of Kandahar by Iranian army from Indian Gurkanis (Mughals) in 1655 AD. As a story goes twenty days after the beginning of Kandahar siege by Iranian troops, one of the high ranked Rajas of Indian Gurkanis by the name of Matrodas … passed away suddenly. His distressed wife decided to observe the Seti ritual according to her ancient religion. Therefore, she adorned herself with various jewellery and got ready to set herself on fire. Afterwards she took her husbands body and went toward the fire accompanied by her relatives. At this time, Dolat Khan, governor of Kandahar tried to change her mind by giving advice but she remained silent and reluctant. When Dolat Khan and his attendants found out that she is very determined in her cause, they allowed her to go on. At this time the woman began taking off her jewellery on her way and throwing them toward the crowd. After reaching the destination she sat down and embraced the head of her husband. By this time, her relatives had brought a pile of firewood and after putting it around the dead man and the bereaved woman, had set it on fire. Rajput Hindus of the time believed that the words of anybody who was committing suicide in this way was trustworthy and would come true doubtlessly. Therefore, Dolat Khan sent a man to ask the dying woman whether the kind of India would dispatch any reinforcements to break Kandahar siege and whether the Qezelbash army would return to Iranian court empty handed?

The woman answered: “No reinforcement is on its way from Indian king, therefore the victorious Iranian army will conquer the castle in forty days. But about India it must be said that after eleven years a great languor will occur all over the land.”

At this point the woman was not able to talk anymore because the flames consumed her entirely. After this event the messenger of Dolat Khan told him what he had heard which made the governor and his attendants quite disappointed. After forty days her forecast came true and the Iranian army entered Kandahar.

Shah Abbas the second became very impressed by this story so he ordered the depication of it on the walls of Chehelsotoon in order to pay his respects to that courageous woman.


Cannon in Mehrangarh fort museum.

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Persian Bazaars And Caravanserais

This post is part of series documenting travel in Myanmar, Cuba and Iran: Introduction.

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Mud city and citadel of Arg-e Bam, South Iran. Bam was starting point for trade routes heading eastwards to Pakistan and India. Travelers through ages have stopped and awed its massive walls and buildings. Silk Road traveler Marco Polo being one of them.

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Kalouts, at the edge of Dasht-e Lut desert, South East of Iran.
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September 2015 & January 2016

Imagine Kalouts: constant pleasant wind, rock formations continuing to horizon, heat emitting from ground, further away an oasis with palm trees and vegetation. Wind always blows from the same direction, reason of the unique rock formations. Besides the gentle whistle, an unbroken silence. Open the map, turn the satellite on, zoom out, to see the location yourself.

Caravanserai can be described in English as a road side inn. Its a fortified yard where caravans could rest, instead of risking overnight out in the desert – not always the safest of places during uncertain times. It was often build in a place where it could serve as a water storage as well, a vital necessity in hot dry desert regions that caravans had to cross.

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Tehran bazaar.

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Spices in Esfahan bazaar.

Caravans did long distance travels in North Africa, Middle East and India, so network of caravanserais were needed in regular distances along the routes. Such building project would have not been very thorough, unless regional rulers helped making it possible. Obvious benefit being increase of taxable commerce, as well as exchange of information and people.

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Tehran.

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Shiraz.

In urban areas logical place for a caravanserai was as part of bazaar, where commerce could be made, news shared, and people meet. Even when its old purpose has disappeared, many Iranian bazaars still feature a caravanserai.

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Kermanshah.

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Qasvin.

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Kerman.

Bazaars are still very much in use and interesting places for people watch. Abundance and variety of the goods on sale is also interesting. Persian carpets, spices, jewels, hand crafts are the traditional items visitor can satisfy his/her shopping binge. But everything else too, varying from Chinese electronics to Indian clothes to Turkish tools to pretty much anything imaginable.

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Tehran.

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Tehran.

Last photos bellow are from Kashan, one of personal favourites in Iran. Bazaar is large, lively and authentic, with genuinely friendly Iranians both as sellers and customers. City is not as popular tourist destination as Esfahan, Yazd and Shiraz, undeservedly so!

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Kashan bazaar.
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Rooftop of Kashan bazaar.

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Agha Bozorg mosque, Kashan.

Esfahan and Yazd

This post is part of series documenting travel in Myanmar, Cuba and Iran: Introduction.


Lotfollah Mosque, Esfahan

Esfahan

August 2015. Esfahan feels nice relief after crowded hot Tehran. Old bridges over the river Zayandehrud are charming, wish there was any water though. Cool evening winds after exhausting day are blowing over Naghsh-e Jahan Square, great example of Iranian and Islamic architecture. Families are outing, kids playing and adults talking, relaxing.


Ceiling of Lotfollah Mosque. Mosque was used by the court and had a secret access to it from Ali Qapu Palace across the square. Mosque does not have minarets at all, since the call for public prayer was never needed.

Square was center of imperial capital for public appearances and polo matches. Royal palace and court, important mosques and bazaar also surrounding it. Wikipedia: [city] regained its important position during the Safavid period (1501–1736). The city’s golden age began in 1598 when the Safavid ruler Shah Abbas I (reigned 1588–1629) made it his capital and rebuilt it into one of the largest and most beautiful cities of the 17th century.


Music room of palace, walls made for acoustics


Armenian church in New Jolfa, district of Esfahan that was established 1606. Original Jolfa is in Iranian-Armenian border, from where people were transferred to live in Esfahan.


Persian spices in Esfahan bazaar


Singing at Khaju Bridge.

Yazd

Ancient Yazd, town at edge of Dasht-e Kavir desert. Architecture of Yazd old town is a maze of mud houses and curvy corridors. From its outer appearance, Jame Mosque is perhaps most beautiful mosque I’ve seen. Minarets are higher than ones in Esfahan. One reason is that they were used as beacons in old times. Where landscape didn’t permit this function, minarets didn’t need to be so high.


Jame Mosque, or Friday Mosque of Yazd. Every Iranian city has its Jame, the main mosque.


Wind towers, an ancient aircon system, are pronounced feature of Yazd skyline.


Different door knockers for men and women. From the sound, it was possible to tell who was at the door, and decide who could go open it.

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Day trip to Chak Chak, outside Yazd center. Road winding through arid deserts, surrounded by mountains further away. No traffic, heat is the norm, emitting from ground so its not possible to see outer reach of horizon. Eyes of imagination see caravans slowly progressing these infinite plains. Everybody in car are silent, looking mesmerised into distance.

Chak Chak, drip drip. Name comes from slowly dripping fountain inside the cave temple, at the edge of mountain. This is Zoroastrian shrine, one of holiest sites of the religion. Its origins are in troublesome times when Islam had started to spread to Persia, 640AD. Zoroastrians not being Muslims had to flee these remote refuges, at the times of persecutions.


Chak Chak


Zoroastrian fire temple in Yazd downtown.

In many ways, Yazd old center reminds me Jaisalmer in Rajastan, other side of deserts that span over the lands of Iran, Pakistan and India. Here’s a link to a trip there few years ago.