The Jasz of Hungary: an Iranian Connection

The Jaszbereny of Hungary are named after the Jasz which is derived from a northern Iranian Alano-Sarmatian tribe known as the Jazygians (also: Iazygians), who migrated to Hungary from around the Caspian Sea in the mid 1200s. It is believed that these arrivals were the result of the devastating Mongol attack into Hungary in 1242 (Kiev in the Ukraine had already fallen just two years previous). Mongol local rulers were eager to recruit excellent horse archers around the late 1240s or early 1250s, and this is when the Iranian-speaking Jasz arrived. These were then allotted land in the Heves county of the region which were to be known as Jaszsag.

Jaszbereny ChurchExcellent view of the Jaszbereny Church (Source: Wojsyl in Public Domain).

Nevertheless, the first arrivals of Iranian-speaking Alanic peoples into ancient Pannonia (the name of Hungary before the arrival of the Huns) had occurred by the 4th century CE or perhaps earlier. Note that the Huns were dominating the Germanic Ostrogoths and Alans in Eastern Europe at the time. The land of Hungary is named after the original Hunnic Magyar settlers who arrived in Pannonia.

Over the centuries many of the Alans had been either destroyed or absorbed by various Turco-Hun tribal confederations (notably the Khazars of the northern Caucasus who had converted to Judaism by the 8th century CE).

Jaszbereny is now a Hungarian town, situated approximately 50km east of Budapest. A number of other towns and villages in the region bear the Jasz– prefix, yet there is nothing except the name itself to set apart the Jasz today. For more on this topic consult for example:

  • Engel (2005). Realm of St. Stephen: A History of Medieval Hungary. IB Taurus, pages 103-105.
  • Turp (2007). Hungary. Penguin Books, pages 254-255.
  • Hebbert, Longley & Richardson (2002). Hungary, page 372.
  • Bedford & Dunford (2009). Hungary, page 251.

With the passage of time, a number of other towns emerged as well, resulting in a regional Hungarian culture bearing Iranian roots.

Osetia_woman_workingA Russian photograph of Ossetian women of the northern Caucasus working with textiles in the late 19th century (Source: CAIS). Ossetians are the descendants of Iranian speaking Alans who migrated to Eastern Europe, notably modern-day Yugoslavia and Hungary, where their legacy remains in the Jasz region.

The Jasz continued to speak their Iranian language well into the 15th century as seen by their lexical influences on Hungarian; on this topic consult for example:

  • Andras, Rona-Tas, Hungarians and Europe in the Early Middle Ages: An Introduction to Early Hungarian History, Central European University, 1991 & 2001, page 104.

The descendants of the Alans are known today as Ossetes or Ossetians, but the Ossetians  refer to themselves as Ir-on. Only two dialects of Alan remain in the Caucasus today: Ir-on and Digor.

A Short Overview of Iranian Languages and Influences on Turkic and Hun Languages

There are in general two general categorizations for Iranian Languages:

  • Middle Persian or Pahlavi – generally Parthian and Sassanian Pahlavi
  • East (or Northeast) Middle Iranian languages such as Khotanese-Saka, Bactrian, Soghdian, Khwarazmian and Alanic.

According to Abaev and Bailey in the Encyclopedia Iranica article on the Alans:

“The name “Alan” is derived from Old Iranian *arya-, “Aryan,” and so is cognate with “Īrān” (from the gen. plur. *aryānām).”

Alan-WarriorIranian-speaking Alan warrior circa 5th century CE. The descendants of the Alans are found in Western and northern Iran as well as the Caucasus and Eastern Europe. Large numbers of Alans also assimilated with Europe’s Germanic tribes, notably the Ostrogoths (Painting by the late Angus McBride).

Iranian language terms have entered Old Turkic-Hun languages from eastern Central Asia and/or the Western Mongolia region for centuries (see for example: Khotanese Texts Volume 7, (edited by Harold Walter Bailey), Cambridge University Press, 1985, pages 105-106). Examples include:

  • Oxs into Turkic Oksu.
  • Avestan Thavana, Khotan-Saka Thauna (cloth, silk) Ossetian Tuna (Ir-on: Tyn) into Turkic Ton (dress)
  • Old Iranian Avestan Vara (IE: Var) [or surrounding or enclosing of walls protecting a city or settlement] in Middle Persian or Pahlavi is: Gurtih (enclosed place) note that the Hungarian term Var – Varos (city) is derived from the Jasz people.

r1achartjan31[Click to Enlarge] Interesting diagram outlining common genetic markers between peoples of Europe, the Near East and the Tatars (Source: Zeta Board).

Other examples of Ossetian type loan words into Hungarian (see also Cheung’s article in the Encyclopedia Iranica titled “Ossetic loan words into Hungarian”):

  • Gazdag “rich, wealthy” ~ qæznyg, qæzdyg/ǧæzdug “rich” (< *gazna– + -yg/-ug)
  • Méreg “poison” ~ marg “poison” (< *marka-)

Conversion to Zoroastrianism

The article below by Hannah Michael Gale Shapero originally appeared in the CAIS website hosted by Shapour Suren-Pahlav  in London.

1-hannah-shapero

Hannah Michael Gale Shapero is an artist, illustrator and scholar. She was born in Boston, Massachusetts, US and grew up in the Boston area and in Rome, Italy. Shapero studied Classics-Greek and Latin as an undergraduate at Brandeis University and as a graduate at Harvard. She was also active as an artist and writer during that time. In 1978 she left academia for an art career and in 1981 became a professional artist. She has studied art at the Boston University art school but most of her training has been with private teachers, especially her mother.

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The question of whether Zoroastrianism should allow converts is one of the most divisive and bitter issues facing the whole community. While other religions, such as Christianity and Islam, depend on converts to increase their numbers, Zoroastrianism has been, at least in recent centuries, strictly based on ethnicity. You have to be born a Zoroastrian in order to be one; you cannot enter into the faith from outside. But the question is continually asked: why must this be true? Can this policy be changed? And has this always been true in the long history of the faith? In this essay I will try to describe the many problems, arguments, and reasons on both sides of the question.

Can you convert to Zoroastrianism? The official answer, which is given by the Parsi priestly hierarchy in Bombay, and supported by a large number of traditional Zoroastrians, is NO. In order to be a Zoroastrian, you must be born of two Zoroastrian parents. One is not enough! No children of mixed marriages are officially Zoroastrian. In practice, however, the children of Zoroastrian fathers and non-Z. mothers are sometimes given admission to the faith – but not the children of Zoroastrian mothers and non-Z. fathers. Zoroastrian identity descends through the father’s line, unlike Jewish identity, which is defined by the mother being Jewish.

Why has this rule against conversions come about? There are many levels of reasoning behind it. Conservatives who support the ban on conversions will cite philosophical, religious, political, social, and emotional reasons for it. Here are some of the arguments against conversion, which are commonly used by Zoroastrian traditionalists to justify their belief in the ethnic exclusivity of their faith.

The philosophical and religious reasons are represented by educated Zoroastrian conservatives. They say that all great religions are equally true, and that no one faith is better or more desirable than any other. All religions that lead to righteous and constructive actions are inspired by God, and will lead their good believers to a heavenly reward. Therefore there is no reason to choose one religion over another. These conservatives recommend that a spiritual searcher should seek within his/her own faith, without trying to adopt other religions. In this view, not only should there be no conversion to Zoroastrianism, but the need should not even arise. Christians should be good Christians, Muslims good Muslims, and Jews good Jews – without coveting the illusory benefits of someone else’s faith.

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Sedreh Pushi of a group Russian converts to Zoroastrianism – Moscow, Russia (Source: CAIS).

A religious version of this argument claims that God Himself has placed everyone in his/her faith in a kind of religious destiny, and thus conversion is a disobedience against the God who has given you your specific religion. Many Zoroastrian traditionalists, especially Parsis, believe that the soul, which pre-exists birth into a material body, has chosen, in union with the will of God, to enter a specific religion. Attempting to convert is going against the true nature of one’s own Soul. For traditionalists, conversion to Zoroastrianism is just short of blasphemy – an act of contempt for the God who has given you birth in a specific tradition. It is true, the traditionalists admit, that many of the great faiths were originally built on conversions from other religions, but these early, founding conversions are justified because they were done under the inspiration of a true Prophet – such as Moses, Jesus, or Mohammed. Once the era of the Prophet is gone, then conversions again become invalid, for only a divine Prophet has the authority to convert people.

This leads to the conclusion that hundreds of millions of people are worshiping invalidly, because their ancestors, without the benefit of a Prophet, chose an alien faith – whether willingly or because of coercion. This includes numerous Iranians, who were originally Zoroastrian but were converted to Islam. The conservatives, though they are aware of this, still maintain that even an Iranian Muslim whose Zoroastrian ancestors were forcibly converted to Islam cannot return to the faith of his/her fathers. God, and those individual souls, chose that particular birth, no matter what went on historically. History cannot be reversed. Only a divine Prophet can convert people back to Zoroastrianism. Zoroastrian traditionalists rely on their religious beliefs about a coming Savior – the _saoshyant_- as a final answer to the problem of conversion. When the Savior arrives (a Zoroastrian idea that pre-dated Jewish Messianism and may have inspired the Jewish idea of the Messiah) this divine man will have the authority to convert people. Zoroastrians then hope that all people will be converted to Zoroastrianism through the power of the Savior, who will appear at the End of Time.

3-sedreh-pushi-ceremony-in-the-uk

Sedreh Pushi of a group Iranian converts to Zoroastrianism by Dr Vandidad Golshani in London, United Kingdom (Source: CAIS).

Meanwhile, traditionalist Zoroastrians wait patiently and continue to oppose conversion to their ancient faith. The next reason they use to justify their opposition is political and cultural. When groups of Iranian pilgrims fled an oppressive Muslim regime in Iran in the 10th century AD, they came to Gujarat, a kingdom on the west coast of India. The Kisseh-i-Sanjan, an epic poem written by a 16th-century Parsi priest, documents the history of his people in India. According to the poem, the pilgrims negotiated with the rulers of Gujarat for safe haven there, and they worked out an agreement. The pilgrims were required to explain the tenets of their religion to the ruler; they were also to learn the local language and speak it rather than Persian. They were also required to adopt the dress of the area rather than wear Iranian garb, they were to celebrate their weddings in the evening rather than in the morning, and they were to put aside their weapons and not wear them at any time. Other traditions say that the Zoroastrian pilgrims were never to convert their Hindu or Muslim neighbors. This promise of non- conversion may not be documented in the poem or other surviving texts, but it is oral tradition, handed down in Zoroastrian culture for a thousand years and more. And the Parsis, as these pilgrims to India were called, have kept their promises. Thus the prohibition against conversion has a longstanding political background.

The social argument against conversion relies on the idea that Zoroastrianism is a strictly ethnic religion. In the traditionalists’ historical view, Zarathushtra was not an innovator, but a reformer who practiced the priestly traditions of his ancient Indo-Iranian people. Zoroastrianism, then, does not break traditions, but continues them – reformed from polytheism to monotheism by the divinely inspired Prophet. And these traditions are from time immemorial the exclusive possession of a people known as Aryans. In the West, the term “Aryan” has been permanently discredited by its misuse by the Nazis, and the more neutral “Indo-Iranian” is preferred. For a conservative Zoroastrian, especially those with a more extreme outlook, only those who are Indo-Iranian Zoroastrian, with an unbroken lineage unmixed with any non-Zoroastrian heritage, can be true Zoroastrians.

Proselytizing and conversion: Parsi Zoroastrians do not proselytize. In recent years, however, Zoroastrian communities in Iran, Europe and the Americas have been more tolerant towards conversion. While this move has not been supported officially by the priesthood in Mumbai, India, it has been endorsed by the Council of Mobeds in Tehran.

4-sedreh-pushi-ceremony-ceremony-in-stockholm

Sedreh Pushi of two Iranian converts in Stohkolm, Sweden (Source: CAIS).

Traditionalists regard Zoroastrianism as more than just a religion. It is an integral culture, which comprises not only faith and practice but an entire lifestyle: language, symbolism, law, clothing, calendar, festivals, food, family life, songs and literature, humor, history, etiquette, gestures, even interior decoration. This integral culture is learned from the earliest moments of life – transmitted from parents to children in an education that no school or sociological study could ever provide. In the traditionalist view, it is impossible to enter into this culture if you have not been born into it – you cannot learn as an adult things you should have learned along with your first steps and words. This culture, and the religion that goes with it, thus cannot be transferred. A non-Zoroastrian married to a Zoroastrian will always be at a loss to understand things his/her spouse takes for granted. And the non-Zoroastrian spouse will bring elements from his/her own culture that are alien to the Z. culture. It is better never to marry outside the culture, as conflict will always follow. The religion is a precious heirloom, which will only be misunderstood and adulterated by outsiders. In this view, intermarriage can only be seen as a threat, which will result in the dilution or even the extinction of the precious culture. And as Zoroastrians, both Iranian and Parsi, migrate away from their native countries, the immigrants are terrified, with good reason, that this heirloom culture will be swept away by the polluted ocean of “Western” culture which surrounds them. Modern culture is a deeply fearsome thing to many traditionalist Zoroastrians.

The third set of reasons that Zoroastrian traditionalists give for their opposition to conversion is emotional and psychological. Zoroastrianism, ever since the Muslim conquest of Iran, has been a minority religion. It has been persecuted in Iran for centuries. Even in India, where the Parsis lived more or less undisturbed by their hosts, the Zoroastrians have always remained separate from the majority. The main reason why these minorities have been able to survive through the centuries is because their religion gives them strength. Zoroastrianism has been the coherent core of the people, the rallying point that keeps them going through hard times, poverty, and persecution. Why, then, should it be given away to those who have not earned it, not suffered through the long years of trial? It would mean nothing to an outsider. And so conversion becomes meaningless, or even an insult.

4-sedreh-pushi-Istanbul

Sedreh-Pushi ceremony of a group of Turkish Kurds and Iranians in Istanbul who are recent converts to Zoroastrianism (Source: CAIS).

There seems to be a series of good arguments for banning conversion to Zoroastrianism. The trouble is that the number of “true” Zoroastrians continues to decrease. There are many reasons for this: a low birth rate, economic problems, the difficulty of finding qualified mates and raising families with a high standard of living, emigration, intermarriage, and simple apathy or ignorance of the faith. The resistance to any religious change has alienated many Zoroastrians, who question ancient laws and practices that they say were appropriate for the agrarian society of the past but have no relevance in a modern, technological world. If Zoroastrianism does not accept converts, say these questioners, it risks going the way of near-extinct sects such as the Shakers, whose inflexible practices (in the case of the Shakers, maintenance of celibacy and thus non- procreation) made it impossible to continue as a group.

It must be added that most of the anti-conversion sentiment in the Zoroastrian world comes from the Indian Parsis. Iranian Zoroastrians are much more likely to accept converts, marriages to non-Zoroastrians (who are then welcomed into the community) and people of mixed ancestry. The problems with conversion in Iran are mainly political: converting someone away from Islam is an offense against the Islamic Republic and may be seriously penalized. Therefore, conversions in Iran are done very quietly.

Since the late 1980s, new Zoroastrian congregations have been founded hroughout the world, including Brazil, Norway, Venezuela, Germany, Sweden, United Kingdom and the newly created republics of Central Asia. The yare mainly inspired by the missionary organization The Zarathushtrian Assembly, based in Los Angeles, California, and in line with Zoroaster’s original teachings, these congregations have, contrary to the Indian Zoroastrians which accept converts. 

What arguments do the “liberal” Zoroastrians use to counter the conservatives? The liberal reformists claim documented history as their strongest argument in favor of conversion. According to the scriptures of Zoroastrianism, which range from the original Gathas of Zarathushtra to doctrinal works written in medieval times, conversion has not only been mentioned but accepted as a practice throughout the long history of the religion.

6-sedreh-pushi-ceremony-in-oslo

Sedreh Pushi of a group Iranian and Norwegian converts, Oslo, Norway (Source: CAIS).

There are many passages in the original hymns of Zarathushtra, the Gathas, where the Prophet explicitly claims a mission to convert all people – not just Indo-Iranians. References to conversion occur throughout the Avesta and even in the latest book of the Avesta, written about 200-400 AD, the Vendidad. Scholars both Western and Zoroastrian have written extensively on the spread of Zoroastrianism to Armenia, Central Asia, and as far east as China; other historical texts and archaeological studies prove that Zoroastrianism had spread, through Persian traders, as far west as Asia Minor, Syria, and possibly even Eastern Europe. In lands bordering Iran, many people became Zoroastrians who were not of Indo-Iranian ethnicity. Even after the Islamic conquest, Zoroastrianism was still open to converts, especially servants in Zoroastrian homes who were adopted into the faith by their employers. The strict ban on conversion only dates from the nineteenth century AD.

Notable converts to Zoroastrianism include Swedish artist and author Alexander Bard. and became one of the founders of the Swedish Zoroastrian congregation, currently the largest in Europe.

The textual and historical evidence provide a strong and convincing argument for conversion to Zoroastrianism. The traditionalists, faced with Zarathushtra’s clear references to converting all people, including non-Indo-Iranians, can only respond with the counter-argument that it is the TEACHINGS and IDEASof the Prophet that are intended for the whole world, while the RELIGION and its rituals belong only to the Indo-Iranian people. In other words, everyone can be inspired by Zarathushtra’s holy words, but only pure-bred Indo-Iranians can practice the actual religion of Zarathushtra. Another variant of this argument is that Zarathushtra’s references to a “universal” conversion only refer to a MORAL conversion from wrong-doing to right action, rather than a RELIGIOUS conversion from one faith to another. The more extreme traditionalists discount any conclusions or evidence provided by Western scholarship, regarding all Western interpretations of the Avesta scriptures as misguided, irreligious, and devoid of spiritual insight. Thus the Gathas, when considered as a separate text, are regarded by these traditionalists as a scholarly reconstruction, imposed by Western colonialists. For these extreme traditionalists, the entire Avesta, not just the Gathas, are the words of the Prophet, given by God, and its interpretation must be done in a spiritual and sometimes mystical fashion.

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Sedreh Pushi of three Iranian converts in Dubai (Source: CAIS).

The “liberal” Zoroastrians are inspired by the text of the Gathas, which they regard as the only surviving words of the Prophet, and the primary text of the faith. They view Zarathushtra as a great innovator, rather than a reformer of a previous tradition. In the Gathas there is no mention of elaborate mythology, sacred time-schedules, coming Messiahs, Indo-Iranian exclusivity, priestly laws, or strict religious and ritual practices. The tone of the Gathas is philosophical, abstract, and ethical. The rituals, myths, and practices that the traditionalists are so intent on keeping, say the liberals, were DISCONTINUED by Zarathushtra, who never wanted them. It was only later that these religious and social elements were re-introduced into the religion. Therefore, say the reformers, there should be no objection to converting to Zoroastrianism, because the exclusive religious privileges of the Indo-Iranian people were never intended by Zarathushtra.

Caravansaray

The article below entitled “Caravansaray” by Moḥammad-Yūsuf Kīānī and Wolfram Kleiss originally appeared on the Encyclopedia Iranica on December 15, 1990 and is available in print (Vol. IV, Fasc. 7, pp. 798-802).

Kindly note that excepting three figures and captions from the original Encyclopedia article, all other images and captions did not appear in the original Encyclopedia Iranica posting.

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Caravansaray (also Caravansarai, Caravansaray, Pers. kārvān-sarā/-sarāy “lodging for caravans,” from kār(a)vān “caravan” and sarāy “house”; sometimes called ḵān), a building that served as the inn of the Orient, providing accommodation for commercial, pilgrim, postal, and especially official travelers. The term kārvān-sarā was commonly used in Iran and is preserved in several place names.

In Persian the Arabic term rebāṭ, meaning a fortified rest house on a land route, was common, as was the popular designation kārvān-sarāy-e šāh-ʿabbāsī (built by Shah ʿAbbās) after Shah ʿAbbās I (996-1038/1588-1629); the latter term, however, was applied indiscriminately to all caravansaries built between the late 10th/16th and 13th/19th centuries.

chardin-caravanseray-kashan

Jean Chardin’s illustration from his book “Voyages de Mr. Le Chevalier Chardin en Perse et autres lieux de l’Orient 1723” of a caravansary in Kashan during the late Safavid era i(Source: Public Domain from Gallica website).

Caravansaries could be established by religious foundations on pilgrim routes or by merchants’ guilds, as well as by rulers and notables on normal commercial routes, which were often identical with the pilgrim routes (in only rare instances are original building inscriptions preserved in situ). In addition, especially in the reign of Shah ʿAbbās, when the road system was systematically extended throughout Iran, the court at Isfahan seems to have built many caravansaries along the new roads: those linking Isfahan to Faraḥābād on the Caspian Sea (Kleiss, 1980); those leading from Bandar-e ʿAbbās(ī) on the Persian Gulf coast to Lār (either directly or through Bandar-e Lenga) and Shiraz, to Sīrjān and Yazd, and to Bāft and Kermān; and those from Isfahan to Hamadān, from Isfahan to Mašhad via Yazd and Ṭabas, from Isfahan to Kermān via Yazd, from Kermān to Mašhad, from Qazvīn to Shiraz via Sāva and Isfahan, from Qazvīn to Jolfā via Tabrīz, and from Tehran to Mašhad (Kleiss, 1987; 1981, pp. 203ff.).

From the number of surviving caravansaries (by 1366 Š./1987 some 465 buildings had been systematically measured) and from their sizes it is clear that in Safavid and Qajar times there was a state architectural department that was specifically concerned with the construction of caravansaries and stations on the overland routes. Furthermore, in the cities a number of caravansaries were erected as lodging houses, depots, and commercial offices in the vicinity of the bāzārs. They resembled the road caravansaries in form, except that most had two stories, whereas the latter had only one.

Caravanaray-Samanid

The Izadkhast carvansaray dated to the Samanid era (c. 819-999) (Source: Public Domain by Mbenoist).

A social consciousness fostered by the laws and beliefs of Islam and embodied in the institution of the waqf (pious endowment) certainly played a role in the construction of caravansaries, but the desire for prestige was also recognizable in all periods and especially under the Safavids and the Qajars, when rulers and merchants sponsored many such structures along the caravan routes near Isfahan and Tehran.

The normal caravansary consisted of a square or rectangular plan centered around a courtyard with only one entrance and arrangements for defense if necessary. Whether fortified or not, it at least provided security against beasts of prey and attacks by brigands. This architectural type developed in the 1st millennium b.c. in Urartian and Mesopotamian architecture (Kleiss, 1979; Frankfort, pp. 73ff.) and was further evolved in the ancient world, in the palace architecture of the ancient Greeks, for example, the palace of Demetrias called the Anaktoron, with rooms opening from a large colonnaded courtyard (Marzolff; pp. 42ff.); Greek and Roman peristyle houses; and a.d. 3rd- and 4th-century Roman castles like Burgsalach (Ulbert and Fischer, p. 87, fig. 67) and the Palast-Burg in Pfalzel, near Trier (Cüppers, pp. 163ff.). The same building type persisted in the Near East in structures like the church-house from Dura Europos (a.d. 3rd century; Klengel, p. 162). It achieved its fullest expression, however, in the work of Muslim architects: in the desert palaces of the Omayyads, hypostyle (or “Arab”) mosques, Koran schools (madrasas), and above all rebāṭs and caravansaries. It thus played an integral part in the architectural history of the Islamic lands. The Crusaders brought it to Europe, where it was combined with the cruciform aisles of Christian architecture and adopted for the castles of the Teutonic Knights (Holst), as well as for Renaissance (e.g., the castle of Aschaffenburg; Wasmuths Lexikon, p. 191) and Baroque palaces (Wasmuths Lexikon, pp. 321ff.); it survived in modern architecture in buildings for special purposes, like 19th-century museums (e.g., the Kunstgewerbemuseum in Berlin).

In the Persian setting this courtyard plan, the one most commonly adopted for caravansaries, was probably borrowed from the rebāṭ. In the 2nd-6th/8th-12th centuries the Persian rebāṭ was typically almost square, with a single entrance, frequently emphasized by a projecting block. Towers at the corners and at intervals along the curtain walls conveyed a powerful and forbidding impression. Inside the walls the courtyard was surrounded by arcaded porticos and four halls (ayvāns) open toward the courtyard as at Qaḷʿa-ye Sangī near Kāj on the road north of Qom (Figure 61 A). Arrayed against the outer walls were vaulted rooms, opening from the arcades. In the four corners of the structure there were large domed rooms or more complex spaces consisting of cruciform corridors, each with four corner rooms. Only such rebāṭs, which had been designed mainly as military guardposts to ensure safety on the roads but which naturally also served to shelter travelers, could be considered suitable for reception of large camel caravans.

The Mongol invasion brought a visible change in building forms and functions. In the post-Mongol period, for example, it is clear from the plans themselves that the main function of caravansaries, such as that at Bīsotūn, was as inns, especially in the Safavid constructions of the 11th/17th century (see Figure 61 B).

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Figure 61. Plans of large courtyard caravansaries. A. Qaḷʿa-ye Sangī near Kāj, with porticos (after Kleiss). B. Bīsotūn, with diagonal walls in the corners and anterooms opening directly from the courtyard (after Kleiss; Encyclopedia Iranica).

Typically there were arched niches on both sides of the portal, which served as cupboards and fireplaces for those staying overnight outside the caravansary. The portal was placed more architectonically, on the central axis of the facade, and emphasized by a projecting two-storied entrance block; in the upper story there were residential quarters for more affluent travelers. There were no porticos around the courtyard; instead there was a series of anterooms with arched entrances, through which travelers passed to reach the guest rooms. The anterooms were raised 60-100 cm above the level of the courtyard so that the caravan animals could not stray into them. Both anterooms and guest rooms were provided with niches and fireplaces, the latter vented through chimneys. The ayvāns, also slightly raised above the level of the courtyard, served to articulate the inner facades and, with the exception of the entrance ayvān, provided additional accommodations for more important travelers. On both sides of the entrance behind the portal there were usually at least two rooms, intended for a guard and for the manager of the caravansary, who no doubt also offered provisions for sale. Larger caravansaries had storerooms, latrines, baths, and places for prayer; in particular there might be a prayer niche in one of the ayvāns, depending on whether or not one of the building axes was oriented to the qebla (the direction of Mecca). In the four corners of the courtyard there were often diagonal walls with entrances to the stables (though arrangements for access to the stables varied considerably). The stalls, with raised sleeping platforms for caravan drivers, were found between the outer walls and the guest rooms (Figure 61 B) and were frequently divided into four sections, in order to increase the capacity for accommodations. The sleeping platforms in the stables were also provided with niches and fireplaces. In a few caravansaries, instead of stable entrances in the four corners of the courtyard, elaborate suites of guest rooms opened directly from the courtyard. These suites could also be entered from the stables through domed rooms. The range of architectural variation in Iranian caravansaries was considerable and was further developed in each subsequent period. Until the construction of caravansaries came to an end at the beginning of the 14th/20th century, they represented an unbroken tradition of considerable achievement within Iranian architecture.

Aside from courtyard caravansaries of this type, among which there were a few examples with two entrances on opposite sides, as well as one with entrances both in front and in one side wall (e.g., Ḵātūnābād near Tehran, see Figure 62 A), there were also round caravansaries with twelve-sided courtyards and octagonal caravansaries (see Figure 63 B-C further below). The number of ayvāns could vary between two and four.

fig-61fig-62

Figure 62. A. Plans and sections of mountain caravansaries at Ḵātūnābād (left; after Kleiss) and Gambūj east of Tehran on the road to Āmol (right; after Siroux, 1949). B. Plan of the mountain caravansary at Gadūk near Fīrūzkūh (after Kleiss; Encyclopedia Iranica).

Furthermore, in certain regions of Iran, there were caravansaries without interior courtyards: completely roofed mountain caravansaries and a pavilion type in the coastal areas on the Persian Gulf. Mountain caravansaries were built in or close to passes and were partially dug out of the cliffs so that their backs and parts of their side walls were sheltered under the overhanging mountains. They provided travelers with shelter from snow storms and avalanches in the autumn and spring (Figure 62 A); in winter the roads through the passes are almost entirely blocked. In lower mountain regions completely vaulted caravansaries also occurred but as a rule only as later additions or as entrance structures associated with courtyard caravansaries. This combination of enclosed and open-court caravansaries occurred much more frequently in the Saljuq ḵāns of central Anatolia and in the Transcaucasian steppes than in Iran. The completely roofed type of mountain caravansary encompassed a broad range, from small road stations to royal structures of the period of Shah ʿAbbās (Figure 62 B). In the smaller examples there is typically a central domed room with surrounding stable corridors or a series of tunnel-vaulted or domed chambers.

In the hot, humid coastal areas along the Persian Gulf, the climatic pattern is entirely different from those in the central Iranian desert basins or the uplands. The caravan routes and buildings on the coastal lowlands along the Persian Gulf can best be studied on the stretches of road built by the Safavids from Bandar-e ʿAbbās to the west, northwest, and north, especially the stretch between Bandar-e ʿAbbās and Lār (Gaube, 1979, pp. 33ff.). The majority of caravansaries on these roads were built in pavilion style (see Figure 63 A), with many variations in plan and construction. The basic type was a square building with a cruciform central space and corner rooms.

fig-63

Figure 63. A. Plans and sections of three pavilion caravansaries (top; after Kleiss). B. Plans of centralized caravans: Rebāṭ-e Zayn-al-Dīn (middle; after Kīānī) and the Zīza caravansary (bottom; after Siroux, 1971). C. Plans of octagonal caravansaries at (1) Dehbīd, (2) Amīnābād and Ḵān-e Ḵorra, and (3) Čahārābād (all in Fārs)

A stone platform encircled the building. The rooms could all be entered from the outside, as these caravansaries were not intended to provide protection; apparently such measures were unnecessary when the type was introduced by Shah ʿAbbās I, who provided for general security on the caravan routes. The pavilion caravansary could thus be open on all sides in order to permit the cooling winds to blow through the buildings. The cisterns that stood next to such pavilion caravansaries were usually larger than the accommodations themselves.

The size of the caravansaries, especially those built in courtyard form, depended upon the frequency of traffic on the different roads. The prime considerations in construction were function and the need for space, not ostentation. By the size of the buildings the relative significance of the roads can thus be measured.

The spacing of way stations on level terrain was 30-40 km (average 35 km), which represented a day’s caravan journey. In mountainous regions, where the distance between two caravansaries was determined by the steepness of the road, the interval could be as small as 10-20 km. The pavilion caravansaries in the lowlands along the Persian Gulf were only about 5 km apart, often even closer together. The same is true of the small courtyard caravansaries on the road from Bandar-e Lenga to Ḵonj via Lār. These buildings consisted of long, narrow stables, which were grouped around mainly square courts, with small rooms for travelers flanking the entrances.

caravansaray-armenia

Interior passageway of the Orbelian (previously Selim) carvansaray in Armenia (Source: Wowarmenia).

Čāpār-ḵānas (postal stations; cf. čāpār) were frequently built next to large caravansaries, mainly in the Qajar period. They also had courtyard plans, but because of their size and construction technique they were not suitable for caravans.

Large Iranian courtyard caravansaries were built mainly of baked brick. The rebāṭs, the mountain caravansaries, and the pavilion types of the Persian Gulf were more frequently built of rubble and faced with stucco. Rubble was also used for many Qajar courtyard caravansaries. In the Saljuq period dressed stone was used in such buildings only in Khorasan, but it was typical for caravansaries in Armenian settlement areas of Azerbaijan in the 12th/18th and 13th/19th centuries.

Bibliography

H. Cüppers, Trier. Kaiserresidenz und Bischofssitz, Mainz, 1984.

H. Frankfort, The Art and Architecture of the Ancient Orient, Harmondsworth, 1956, 4th ed., Harmondsworth and Baltimore, 1969.

H. Gaube, “Ein Abschnitt der ṣafavidischen Bandar-e ʿAbbās-Šīrāz-Strasse. Die Strecke von Seyyed Ğemāl ad-Dīn nach Lār,” Iran 17, 1979, pp. 33-47.

N. v. Holst, Der deutsche Ritterorden und seine Bauten, von Jerusalem bis Sevilla, von Thorn bis Narwa, Berlin, 1981.

M.-Y. Kīānī, “Nosḵaye aṣlī-e ketāb-ḵāna-ye Mūza-ye Brītānīā dar bāra-ye kārvānsarāhā-ye ʿahd-e Ṣafawīya dar Eṣfahān,” Bāstān-šenāsī o honar-e Īrān 5, 1349 Š./1970, pp. 44-49.

Idem, Iranian Caravansarais with Particular Reference to the Safavid Period, Tokyo, 1978.

W. Kleiss, “Die safavidischen Schlösser in der Wüste östlich des grossen Salzsees (ʿAbbasabad/Siah Kuh und Sefid Ab),” AMI 13, 1980, pp. 179-89.

Idem, “Karavanenwege in Iran (Stand 1986),” AMI 20, 1987 (forthcoming). Idem, “Zum Stand der Karavanserail-Forschung in Iran 1979,” AMI 14, 1981, pp. 203-05.

Idem and M. Y. Kīānī, Fehrest-e kārvānsarāhā-ye Īrān I, Tehran, 1362 Š./1983.

Idem and S. Kroll, “Vermessene urartäische Plätze in Iran (West-Azerbaidjan) und Neufund (Stand der Forschung 1978),” AMI 12, 1979, pp. 183-243.

H. Klengel, Syrien zwischen Alexander und Mohammed. Denkmäler aus Antike und frühem Christentum, Leipzig, 1986.

P. Marzolff, “Demetrias 1979,” in Bericht über die 31. Tagung für Ausgrabungswissenschaft und Bauforschung 1980, Osnabrück, 1982, pp. 42ff.

K. Pīrnīā and K. Afsar, Rāh o rebāṭ, Tehran, 1359 Š./1970-71.

M. Siroux, Caravansérails d’Iran et petites constructions routières, Cairo, 1949.

Idem, Anciennes voies et monuments routiers de la région d’Isfahan, Cairo, 1971.

Idem, “Les caravansérais routiers safavides,” Iranian Studies 7/3-4, 1974, pp. 348-79.

G. Ulbert and T. Fischer, Der Limes in Bayern. Von Dinkelsbühl bis Eining, Stuttgart, 1983. Wasmuths Lexikon der Baukunst I, Berlin, 1929.

A Refreshing view of History and the Movie 300

The below YouTube video “Why The Persians Should Be The Good Guys In ‘300’ ” was posted by Cracked on December 27, 2016 and received 70k hits in less than a day. This is a remarkable posting by young western bloggers and writers who question Eurocentrist historical revisionism and place the ancient Greco-Persian wars in a more even-handed perspective. Readers may also find the article “The 300 Movie: Separating Fact from Fiction” of interest (posted in 10 segments below):

  1. Introductory notes — see also: The Notion of Democracy and Human Rights
  2. What really led to War
  3. The Military Conflict: Separating Fact from Fiction
  4. The Error of Xerxes: The Burning of Athens
  5. The “West” battling against the “Mysticism” of “the East”
  6. The Portrayal of Iranians and Greeks
  7. A Note on the Iranian Women in Antiquity
  8. “Good” versus “Evil”
  9. Bibliography
  10. ترجمه مقاله کاوه فرخ به فارسی توسط غزال خاكسارى: فیلم 300: افسانه یا واقعیت

Consult also John Trikeriotis’ article: False depictions of Xerxes and Artemesia in “300: Rise of an Empire”; See also articles under: “کوروش بزرگ -Cyrus the Great & the Cyrus Cylinder

 

 

Notes on Iranian Cuisine

The article below by Maryam Ala Amjadi on Iranian Cuisine was originally printed in the Tehran Times on September 4, 2011. Kindly note that the pictures and captions posted below did not appear in the original Tehran Times publication.

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An incredibly wise man and a passionate food lover once opined that if the divine creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is to prepare them well and serve them with ceremony. This axiom of festive spirit is perhaps the most evident feature that lies at the core of Iranian culinary.

Enriched with a colorful and yet a healthy diversity of dishes that are peculiar to various regions of this country, Iranian food is highly popular in the east and the west for its freshness and deliciousness. The Persian kitchen has the ability to retain its uniqueness by preparing meals within a range of subtle and yet contrasting flavors, such as a combination of sweet and sour or mild and rarely, spicy.

Ash-e-Anar[Click to Enlarge] A bowl of Ash-e Anar known for its unique taste made with pomegranates (Picture Source: Public Domain).

Generally, in Persian cooking food is not overpowered with spices. While herbs, spices and sometimes fruits are used for seasoning and garnishing, the flavors are quite subtle and delicate as in the design patterns of a Persian carpet.

Persian cooking largely relies on rice as one of the main ingredients, which is an affordable and readily available staple in everyday diet. A typical Iranian meal is often a full plate of chelo (plain cooked rice) topped with vegetables, meat or fish. The mild flavor of rice provides a delightful contrast to the seasoned meat and vegetable toppings.

 Dolmeh Kadoo[Click to Enlarge] A vegetarian delight: the Dolmeh Kadoo (stuffed squash in the Persian style) (Picture Source: My Persian Kitchen).

Another staple food of Iran is naan (bread), typically a round, flat bread that can either be baked or cooked over a bed of small stones. While in villages, locals make their own naan, several varieties of fresh-from-the -oven bread is easily purchasable at naan shops in the cities.

After lamb, which is Iran’s favorite meat, beef and chicken are commonly eaten in stews as well as in the form of the popular kabab (kebab) , which is actually meat grilled on a skewer. Fish is common as well, particularly in the North and the neighboring Caspian Sea towns where it is found fresh. In addition, there are a number of dishes prepared with a combination of herbs, grains, pulses, vegetables and even fruits.

 Persian CuisineThe diversity of Persian cuisine as displayed in the Ariana restaurant in London, England (Picture Source: Ariana Restaurant).

A bowl or platter of seasonal fresh fruits and dishes of herbs and vegetables which may be considered “exotic” (like dates and figs) in some other countries, are standard side dishes to most meals. They are also very creatively combined with meats in order to form flavored accessories to the main dishes. The dolma, for example, is one such dish. The term actually describes any vegetable or fruit stuffed with rice-meat mixture. The stuffed grape leaves are the most popular form of dolma.

Today, Persian cuisine is gaining popularity in multicultural cities and cosmopolitan arenas, particularly Los Angeles, Vancouver, Washington D.C., Toronto and London. These cities have significant Iranian population.

Some similar traits of Persian cookery can be found in the cuisines of a few other nations such as the Turks and the Greeks, mainly due to cultural and historical contacts among Iran and these nations. For instance, the kabab which is found worldwide today initially originated in Persia and was later on adopted by the Middle East and Turkey. There are of course many distinct features that set Iranian cuisine apart from other Middle Eastern food. First and foremost, Iran’s rich agriculture and diverse regional climates provide high quality food items and a natural wide diversity of herbs and vegetables. Iranian cookery, therefore, begins with high quality ingredients which preserve a strong natural taste, smell and texture. Secondly, most dishes are a work of art and delicacy and like other artistic works of this land, they are a little more time consuming in terms of preparation. Thirdly, the food is prepared fresh and served fresh. Fourth, less salt and oil are used in Iranian cooking as compared to other Middle Eastern cooking, a positive feature which makes Iranian cuisine, a healthy and hearty choice in one go. Moreover, side dishes shape a colorful panorama on the Iranian table. Spinach and yogurt, minced shallots in curd, lentil soup, a range of salads with olive oil and vinegar dressing, pickled fruits and vegetables peculiar to various regions of Iran are some of the side dishes that accompany the main edibles.

Sabzi-polo-Mahi[Click to Enlarge] Sabzi-polo Mahi (vegetable-seasoned rice and north-Iranian style fish filet) (Picture Source: Phancouver).

Rising above the ingredients of Iranian cooking, one can claim that food is undoubtedly a fundamental part of the Persian heritage. Each item is a tasty representation of geographical aestheticism in a range of colors and scents specific to those regions. Eating is associated with a great deal of social events, as in births, funerals, weddings and many other rituals that convince us of the fact that culinary traditions are intertwined with Iran’s history, religion, culture and even literature. Some ingredients are even used as metaphors in Iranian poetry and prose: Honey colored eyes, peach colored complexion, laughing mouth like pistachio, pomegranate colored lips, hazelnut-like noses, red apple cheeks, almond-shaped eyes and many others.

Deep dish delights at Persian Restaurants

Even through economic slumps, restaurants in Iran are an ever growing industry. After cafés, they are the most popular hangouts for the Iranian youth particularly in the capital. Moreover, with their tradition setting and unique ambiance, they are also a compelling tourist attraction both inside and outside the country as they generally observe the standards of cleanliness and hygiene.

Restaurants are majorly categorized by the type of dishes and services they provide. In a very typical and traditional restaurant, also known as sofreh khaaneh you can expect kabaabs done in a variety of styles: soft kababs, such as koobideh (minced meat kabab), pure meat kababs such as chenjeh (lamb chop kabab), bakhtiyari (a combination of roasted chicken and meat pieces on skewers) and a few others. These kababs as well as almost all stews are served with plain rice, side dishes and a popular yogurt based drink called doogh.

Kabab DishMixed Koobideh, Barg and Joojeh Kabab skewers served with rice (Picture Source: Reza Restaurant); for more on this culinary art, see “Iran’s favorite dish: the Chelo Kebab“…

Sofreh khaneh has flat wooden day beds with large cushions laid out for the diners to recline on as they eat. Sometimes the beds are laid out in a small garden. There are of course many restaurants that offer the same traditional food in the standard restaurant settings but for its relaxed and unique ambience, the sofreh khaneh continues to evolve into an even more popular place, where families and closed ones can bond over food.

Mastokhiar[Click to Enlarge] Persian appetizer (also a yoghurt-dip) called Maast-o Khiar which is a combination of cucumbers, raisins, walnuts, in a Persian-style yogurt (Picture Source: Debbie Ohi). 

Modern Pizzerias face the Kabab Tradition

The much younger generation, however, seems to have developed an increasing preference for fast food which has naturally resulted in the establishment of small and big fast food outlets, where one can usually find a variety of pizza, steak, hamburger, fried chicken etc.

Known humorously as ‘keshloghmeh’ (elastic loaves), a modified Persian word, pizza done in an assortment of styles and flavors, continues to remain a very popular fast food dish among young Iranians. Despite the allure, however, the youth still know where to turn if they are, in the long run, looking for wholesomeness and deliciousness in one plate: the gastronomic charms of the traditional Persian platter. Restaurants serving traditional Iranian dishes, like the cholo kabab are still the most crowded and favored places.

International cuisines are also currently in trend. Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Thai and Mexican food have become quite popular in recent years, primarily in Tehran.

Persian Pizza[Click to Enlarge] Persian-style “Pizza” from the eateries of Tehran (Picture Source: iFood.TV). There is fact a very large difference between the Persian Pizza and its classic Italian counterpart with respect to the base, toppings, etc. The “Persian Pizza” has become one of the most popular streets foods in Iran.

Facts about food and table manners in Iran

Fork and spoon are the main pieces of cutlery used at the Iranian table. A knife is rarely used at lunch or dinner.

When invited as a guest to lunch or dinner, expect to be offered second and even third helpings. Initial refusals will be assumed to be polite gestures (ta’arof, a sign of social decorum) and are taken mildly.

Iranians usually eat a handful of herbs and greens along with their meals. Known as sabzi khordan (edible greens) these herbs are typically a combination of chives, spring onions, mint leaves, basil, tarragon, radish, parsley and dill, often along with handful of walnuts, naan and a piece of feta cheese.

In most modern house settings food is eaten at the table but in a more traditional atmosphere, sofreh (table cloth like garment) available in a range of material and design pattern is spread on a Persian rug or table. Even in modern houses, some meals are still served on the floor and the sofreh is spread on the dining table.

There are four major types of flat breads (naan) and about ten types of unflat and sweet breads available in various shapes and sizes in the art of Iranian bakery.

Naan e Barbari[Click to Enlarge] Naan-e Barbari (Picture Source: Food and Wine).

Iranians revere bread to a great extent and do not discard or throw away stale bread along with other trash. Leftovers are usually disposed in separate containers. A practical way to refrain from unwanted disposal of bread was the formerly popular custom of trading dried bread for salt or fruit baskets with hawkers who roamed around for this purpose, a tradition that has been fading out, but still in practice in rural areas.

Black tea is an all time beverage in Iran. It would not be an exaggeration to call it the national drink of the country. It is mostly drunk along with sugar cubes and on occasion with sweets. The sugar cubes are taken between the teeth and then the tea is sipped.

 Chai Irani-TS[Click to Enlarge] Traditional Persian Tea (Picture Source: Tumeric Saffron).

Lunch and Dinner: Rice, white gold on the Iranian dining table

Grown mostly in Iran’s northern Caspian provinces and prized mainly for its aroma, rice is indeed the jewel of Persian cuisine. What distinguishes Iranian rice dishes is the range of methods in which this ingredient can come to life in a Persian kitchen. Iranians consume rice daily in ways that somehow elevate it; sometimes it is as simple as boiling it in salt and oil and at times, it can be a ritual of running it half cooked through a sieve, throwing it back into the pot to fully steam and develop , then enriching it with a dash of saffron on the top and creating a golden crust (tahdig) at the bottom of the pot which comes out in different shapes and flavors, after the top of the pot is emptied and served, usually with a combination of another ingredient.

 TahdigThe Tahdig delicacy crust shaped around the rice in the form of a cake (Picture Source: YumSugar). There are in fact a large varieties of the Tahdig.

The main typical Persian dishes are a blend of rice with meat, chicken or fish but rice can also be prepared as the main dish per se: On occasion, Persian rice dishes are richly studded with fruits, nuts, herbs and spices but more than often, rice is seen as an a companion to other dishes.

 Khoresht-e Karafs

The Khoresht-e Karafs (Picture Source: Mastering Persian Cooking).

Another distinct feature in the tradition of rice eating as compared to rice eaters in the west that, when served with stew (khoresht) of either meat or chicken; rice is used as an edible bed where both items are mixed in proportion by the consumer before they are eaten.

The two main national rice dishes are chelo and polo (white rice alone or with addition of meat and/or vegetables and herbs).

Chelo Kabab-Tabriz[Click to Enlarge] Serving of fresh skewers of Čelow-kabāb in the city of Tabriz, Iran’s Azarbaijan province (Picture Source: Payvand News). Tabriz is famous throughout Iran for its culinary style of the Čelow-kabāb dish and is also known for having popularized this throughout the country as well. There are still traditional restaurants in Tabriz that serve skewers almost a meter long! For more on the Čelow-kabāb culinary arts see “Iran’s favorite dish: the Chelo Kebab” …

 

Persian Omelette[Click to Enlarge] Traditional Persian Omelette (Picture Source: Herald Sun).