Tourism minister visits UNESCO-designated temple, calls for more investment
TEHRAN – On Thursday, the Iranian tourism minister paid a visit to Takht-e Soleyman, which was once a principal fire temple of the Zoroastrian faith in ancient Persia.
Ezzatollah Zarghami called for more investment in tourism infrastructure of the UNESCO-registered site, saying: “We are currently looking for an investor to complete its [tourism] infrastructure in the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts.”
Situated in Takab county of West Azarbaijan province, Takht-e Soleyman is now an atmospheric destination for domestic and foreign sightseers.
“This complex is unique in its kind… Being subject to many excavations, its lake has a depth of more than 100 meters,” the minister said.
The minister said more investment may be made to help preserve that ancestral heritage, adding: “By strengthening tangible heritage, we seek to promote the intangible heritage as both are appreciated…”
“The present and future generations should get to know the identity of their ancestors,” Zarghami explained.
Overlooking a lake with a backdrop of a snowcapped highland, the ancient interweaves a scenic natural context with a rich harmonious composition. It reveals architectural achievements of outstanding universal values, which from artistic, religious, mythical, and historical points of view, emerge from the synergy of a man-made and spectacular natural setting.
They established the ensemble in a geologically anomalous location where the base of the temple complex sits on an oval mound roughly 350 by 550 meters. It encompasses a lake roughly 80 by 120 meters and a Sassanid-era Zoroastrian temple complex dedicated to Anahita, an ancient goddess of fertility, parts of which were rebuilt in the 13th century during the Ilkhanid era.
They say Takht-e Soleyman’s name isn’t based on real historical links to the Old Testament King Solomon but was a cunning 7th-century invention by the temple’s Persian guardians in the face of the Arab invasion.
In the 13th century, Takht-e Soleyman became a summer retreat for the Mongol Ilkhanid khans. The remnants of their hunting palace are now covered with a discordant modern roof forming a storeroom (often locked) for amphorae, unlabelled column fragments, photos, and a couple of ceramic sections of those ancient gas pipes.
According to Britannica Encyclopedia, its surrounding landscape was probably first inhabited sometime in the 1st millennium BC. Some construction on the mound itself dates from the early Achaemenian dynasty (559–330 BC), and there are traces of settlement activity from the Parthian period.
TEHRAN – A team of cultural heritage experts have found a rack-carved Sassanid inscription that bears prayer for mental health.
The inscription is suffered due to rain, sunlight, and other natural elements for some 1,600 years, was found in the treasured site of Naqsh-e Rostam, southern Iran, ILNA reported on Tuesday.
According to Iranian linguist and historian Abolhassan Atabaki, the inscription dates from the late Sassanid period (224 CE–651) and shows part of the views and thoughts of the people of that time, the report said.
This inscription is inscribed in two lines, and it depicts a plea for mental health for holy people, Atabaki said.
Due to the type of sedimentary limestones and heavy rains for about 1600 years, harmful erosion has occurred on the stones of this place, so that the first line of this inscription is turned darker than nearby sedimentary rocks, he explained.
“Nevertheless, we tried to read this stone inscription, which has practically lost some of its letters and words.”
This inscription is a commemorative or prayer inscription written by a Zoroastrian follower, he said.
Another expert, Najmeh Ebrahimi, says: “Due to excessive erosion of the first line of the stone inscription, the distinction between words and letters is not very clear, so we processed the words of this line with speculation.”
The inscription reads: “The glory of creation… May the soul of a pious person be healthy.|
A must-see tourist destination
Massive rock–hewn tombs and bas-relief carvings at Naqsh-e Rostam have turned the ancient site into a must-see for holidaymakers traversing the Marvdash plain. The Achaemenid necropolis is situated near Persepolis, itself a bustling UNESCO World Heritage site near the southern city of Shiraz.
Naqsh-e Rostam, meaning “Picture of Rostam” is named after a mythical Iranian hero which is most celebrated in Shahnameh and Persian mythology. Back in time, natives of the region had erroneously supposed that the carvings below the tombs represent depictions of the mythical hero.
One of the wonders of the ancient world, Naqsh-e Rostam embraces four tombs where Persian Achaemenid kings are laid to rest, believed to be those of Darius II, Artaxerxes I, Darius I, and Xerxes I (from left to right facing the cliff), although some historians are still debating this.
There are gorgeous bas-relief carvings above the tomb chambers that are similar to those at Persepolis, with the kings standing on thrones supported by figures representing the subject nations below. There are also two similar graves situated on the premises of Persepolis probably belonging to Artaxerxes II and Artaxerxes III.
Beneath the funerary chambers are dotted with seven Sassanian bas-reliefs cut into the cliff depict vivid scenes of imperial conquests and royal ceremonies; signboards below each relief give a detailed description in English.
At the foot of Naqsh-e Rostam, in the direction of the cliff face, stands a square building known as Ka’beh-ye Zardusht, meaning Kaaba of Zoroaster. The building, which is roughly 12 meters high and 7 meters square, probably was constructed in the first half of the 6th century BC, although it bears a variety of inscriptions from later periods.
Though the Ka’beh-ye Zardusht is of great linguistic interest, its original purpose is not clear. It may have been a tomb for Achaemenian royalty or some sort of altar, perhaps to the goddess Anahiti, also called Anahita believed to be associated with royalty, war and fertility.
A general renaissance
The Sassanid era is of very high significance in Iranian history, under which Persian art, and architecture experienced a general renaissance.
Architecture often took grandiose proportions such as palaces at Ctesiphon, Firuzabad, and Sarvestan which are amongst the highlights of the ensemble.
Crafts such as metalwork and gem engraving grew highly sophisticated, yet scholarship was encouraged by the state. In those years, works from both the East and West were translated into Pahlavi, the language of the Sassanians.
Rock-carved sculptures and bas-reliefs on abrupt limestone cliffs are widely deemed as characteristics and striking relics of Sassanian art, top examples of which can be traced at Bishapur, Naqsh-e Rostam and Naqsh-e Rajab in southern Iran.
Today on the show, we have with us Dr. Ramiyar P. Karanjia. He is an M.A., Ph. D. in Avesta-Pahlavi from St. Xavier’s College, University of Mumbai, and is presently serving as the Principal of Dadar Athornan Institute. Also, he is an independent researcher in history and ancient Iranian languages. We are sure that all the regular listeners of TRS would’ve enjoyed this very rich and deep episode with Dr. Ramiyar. This year, we have planned to cover all the world religions, along with Hinduism, I feel it is important for all of us to understand other perspectives as well. Hoping for all the support on our inter-religious series of TRS.
A pass for ‘Monnock Parsee’ and ‘Pendia Pattell’ sailing aboard the Tiger was issued at Fort Bombay carries an impression of the ‘Union Seale’.
Would it surprise you that there is an early representation of UK’s Union Flag on a pass issued in Bombay in 1684?
Bombay, now known as Mumbai, became an English colony on May 11, 1661, as part of the dowry of Catherine of Braganza when she married Charles II. On March 27, 1668, the King leased Bombay to the East India Company for an annual rent of 10 pounds. By 1683 dissatisfaction with the Company’s rule culminated in a rebellion, with Bombay’s inhabitants appointing Captain Richard Keigwin to govern on behalf of Charles II. Keigwin issued passes to local merchants allowing them to trade outside the Company’s monopoly as part of his policy to encourage economic growth in Bombay.
A pass for “Monnock Parsee” and “Pendia Pattell” sailing aboard the Tiger was issued at Fort Bombay on January 6, 1684. Valid for one year, it was signed by Governor Keigwin on behalf of Charles II. It requested ship commanders and British subjects allow the Tiger and its passengers “to passe without seizure, molestation or trouble, nor offering any abuse or incivility”. The pass carries an impression of His Majesty’s “Union Seale” in addition to the signatures of Keigwin and his secretary.
The seal’s design includes a large flag comprising the saltire of St Andrew and cross of St George denoting the union of England and Scotland. Informally combined from March 24, 1603, onwards after the accession of King James VI of Scotland to the English throne as James I, this was not a legal and political reality until the 1707 Act of Union. Nevertheless, a Royal decree on April 12, 1606, ordered the creation of a Union Flag for display on the main topmast of English and Scottish vessels. Various design iterations fell in and out of fashion throughout the 17th century. With flags being termed “jacks” in the maritime world, such Union Flags acquired the nickname “Union Jack”. Becoming the national flag of the United Kingdom from 1707 onwards, our current design has been in use since 1801.
Dosebai Cowasjee Jessawalla was one of the first women in India to receive a British education. She recounts her travels and adventures in ‘Story of My Life’
Every room or landing was guarded by two soldiers, and after passing through six orseven we reached a magnificent hall where I was told to sit down. This room and the furniture it contained were all of uniform colour—bright red—and the guards who patrolled here were dressed even to their boots in the same flaming hue.
Presently the priest returned, and requested me to kneel down on receiving the Pope’s benediction and to kiss the fingers of his hand which he would extend to me instead of his foot. He then brought me to another hall painted and furnished entirely in milk-white colour; here I saw a venerable person of angelic appearance coming towards us at a slow measured pace. At sight of this thrice holy man we dropped on our knees and made humble obeisance which he graciously acknowledged. At that moment I felt such ecstatic joy as could not be described—what I suppose one would experience in converse with a prophet or being of another world.
The Holy Father had the majesty and winning mildness of aspect which we attribute to angels, surely beloved of God must he be to be exalted so high above his fellow-men! He wore white robes and had a white cap upon his head. His dress exactly resembled that which we Parsees prepare on a death anniversary for our departed, and for the first time I saw it on the person of a living man. The Pope wore no flowing beard to enhance the majesty of his well-proportioned form.
In a clear melodious voice he poured his benedictions upon me and my son, after which he condescended to converse with me.
Our conversation was carried on by the Cardinal interpreting for us, and the following is the substance of it. After placing his blessed hand on my head he said: “May you live long and be firm in your faith whereby all your best aspirations will be fulfilled.” I humbly requested him to transfer the first part of his blessing—the long life—to my son who was with me and whom he had mistaken for my husband. Taking out my watch and showing him the beautifully enamelled portraits of my dear husband and daughter on its lids I besought him to bless them with long life and vouchsafe to me the blessing of closing my eyes while these—my all-in-all—should be in the full enjoyment of health and happiness. With a smile beaming on his heavenly countenance he blessed me in these words: “May God fulfil your best wishes and may you reap manifold advantages from your long and arduous travels when you shall have reached your own shores in peace and safety.”
“Pray hand me your card,” he said, “that I may remember you in my prayers and invoke the assistance of God on your every laudable undertaking.” He continued: “You must assuredly have been much pleased with the beautiful churches of St Peter and St Paul,” whereupon I respectfully informed him of my having seen both these celebrated buildings of which the imposing appearance would ever live fresh in my memory and the few days spent in Rome would rank amongst the happiest of my life. He then asked me to stay for a month when his Cardinal would introduce me to the reigning Sovereign of Italy. Gratifying as this gracious proposal was, I had to decline it as my stay in the Eternal City could not be prolonged.
“The great honour you have done me,” I supplicatingly said, “by this interview has made such a deep and grave impression on my mind, akin to what we mortals feel when holding discourse with an angel that I am under a debt of the greatest gratitude to Your Holiness. Believing you to be an emissary of God, I invoke your blessing on me.”
On hearing this, the Holy man said: “God always helps the righteous. My heartfelt benedictions be ever on your head.” I further informed His Holiness that I had at first only intended to stay but two days in that imperial city, but having been favoured by an interview with such an exalted, estimable and worthy potentate as His Holiness I had resolved to stay a few days longer, though all my luggage having been sent off to Brindisi, I had taken the liberty to appear in his august and holy presence in my ordinary garb.
“Is there then any other sort of dress in use among you than what I see?” Hereupon I produced my photograph and explained to him that though the fashion of the dress always remains the same, we wear a more elaborate and costly dress on festive occasions or when paying a visit. I then asked if His Holiness would be pleased to keep the photograph in his majestic palace and he, with much pleasure, ordered his Cardinal to take the picture, as the Pope never accepts anything but through one of his Cardinals. Our conversation lasted for about an hour, then I took my leave enriched by his many benedictions.
Weight: 13 g
Diameter: 30.0 mm
Description: NED University of Engineering & Technology is a public university located in the urban area of Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan. It is one of the oldest and best engineering universities in Pakistan, acknowledged for its best teaching practices and graduates and is recognized as a degree-awarding university of Pakistan affiliated with the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan, a government-appointed body.
Founded in 1921, as Prince of Wales Engineering College, to provide training to civil engineers working in building the Sukkur Barrage. In 1924, the college received a donation of Rupee 150,000 from the heirs of Nadirshaw Edulji Dinshaw. As a result, the college was renamed to NED Government Engineering College.
It is perhaps Mumbai’s most famous statue in honour of a man described as the ‘Lion of Bombay’. Every day, thousands of tourists admire the imposing statue of Sir Pherozeshah Mehta outside the municipal headquarters building at CSMT in south Mumbai.
On April 3, 1923, the bronze statue was unveiled by Governor of Bombay George Lloyd to commemorate the services rendered to the city by Mehta, who was the father of municipal government in Bombay.
A month after he died in November 1915, a public meeting was held in the Marine Lines Maidan where a memorial committee was appointed to raise funds. According to The Times of India, a sum of Rs 80,000 was collected and in October 1917, it was resolved that a statue be erected in his memory. A distinguished sculptor, Derwent Wood of London, was requested to make a bronze statue, which cost £4,000 or about Rs 60,000. The life-size statue showed Sir Pherozeshah in a pose during a “great oratorical effort either on the public platform or in the municipal council hall, and of his peculiar gesticulations when trying to emphasise his points’’.
“The spot on which the statue has been erected is on the south-east corner of the municipal office, which was tacitly acknowledged to be meant for Sir Pherozeshah’s statue for many years before his death and it has at served its destined purpose,’’ reported The Times of India on March 30, 1923.
“The statue is all the more attractive on account of the elevated pedestal on which it stands and from which it towers over similar memorials in the neighbourhood. The pedestal has been designed by the well-known architect Mr George Wittet, and with its adjuncts has cost Rs 20,000,’’ the paper reported.
The ceremony to unveil the bronze statue was held on Tuesday, April 3, 1923, in front of a large gathering including Lady Mehta and George Lloyd, Governor of Bombay.
Mehta, the uncrowned king of Bombay and a prominent figure in local city politics, was involved with drafting the 1872 municipal reform Act. As one of its founding members, he also presided over the Indian National Congress in 1890.
Addressing the session, he said: “All movements of the kind in which we are concerned pass through several phases as they run their course. The first is one of ridicule. That is followed, as the movement progresses, by one of abuse, which is usually succeeded by partial concession and misapprehension of aim, accompanied by warnings against taking ‘big jumps into the unknown’. The final stage of all is a substantial adoption of the object of the movement, with some expression of surprise that it was not adopted before. Well, gentlemen, we have pretty well passed the first two stages. We have survived the ridicule, the abuse, and the misrepresentation…’’
Once when someone proposed erecting a statue of King George V in front of the Bombay municipal head office, Sir Pherozeshah roared: “What business has he to be placed in front of the corporation building? He has done nothing for the city.’’ The resolution was defeated by the corporation, but not before someone taunted him: “Do you want your own statue to be erected there?’’ Pherozeshah shot back, “Why not? I have served this city for 30 years.’’ Ultimately it did happen. Sir Pherozeshah’s statue was placed by unanimous vote on the spot where King George’s was to be—in all its imperious splendour.
A visual history of Zoroastrianism—allegedly humanity’s oldest monotheistic religion—materializes only to the most determined eyes. Buried under millennia of crucifixes, stars of David, and crescent moons, symbols of this four-thousand-year-old faith have been overshadowed and repurposed as cultural and political motifs; yet like its worshippers, Zoroastrian art has not vanished, but rather learned silently to adapt and influence.
The most salient symbol of Zoroastrianism is the faravahar, which illustrates the faith’s dualistic structure. Likely representative of the Ahura Mazda, the omnipotent Lord of Wisdom, the faravahar’s human male visage mirrors and relates to his human followers. His horizontal wings contain three sets of feathers, encapsulating the Zoroastrian motto, “humata, hukhta, hvrashta,” or “good thoughts, good words, good deeds,” while the lower tail feathers connote the inverse. The two coils underneath the human form correspond to Sepanta Minu and AnkarehMinu, or negativity and positivity, with the Ahura Mazda facing goodness. The ring he clutches in his right hand represents determination toward righteousness, and the ring of the covenant. Yet while the icon of the AhuraMazda encompasses Zoroastrianism’s cosmology, the faravahar’s origins perpetuate an older cultural motif.
Gold plaque from the Oxus treasure, 5th to 4th Century
The faravahar derives from the image of the winged sun disk which permeates much Egyptian art; the motif (visible in the image of the Ra-Horakhty stela) originates from Ancient Egypt’s local pantheon (specifically the gods Horus, Set, and Osiris), and denoted the Pharaoh’s authority. The symbol evolved through Sumerian and Babylonian culture before the Assyrians repurposed it into a depiction of the god Ashur. This divine connotation likely translated into the Ahura Mazda after the fall of the Assyrian empire (between 1500 and 1000 BCE) and the culture’s diversification into the Alans, Bactrians, Parthians, and Persians. Around this time, the prophet Zarathustra (or Zoroaster in Greek) rewrote Early Iranian polytheistic religion into Zoroastrianism, which in turn became the principal religion of the Achaemenid (550 to 330 BCE), Parthian (247 to 224 CE), and Sasanian (224 to 651 CE) empires. Just as Egypt and ancient Middle Eastern civilizations birthed Zoroastrianism, so was the winged sun disk subsumed by the faravahar.
The Darius Seal, 6th to 5th Century CE
As the religion drew from its placement near the Sistan basin, it also loaned its aesthetic to Judaism and incipient Christianity and Islam, adding new generational obstacles to identifying its art history. The British Museum carries a gold votive plaque in its Oxus Treasure trove, featuring a male figure clad in the typical, heavily embroidered fashion of Medes, carrying a barsom in his right hand. This barsom, or bundle of wooden sticks, served ancient Zoroastrian rituals and identifies the man as most likely a Zoroastrian priest, whose duty was to stoke and tend to the Eternal Flame in Zoroastrian Fire Temples.
Such clues and recurrences have become an essential part of Zoroastrian investigation; The Darius Seal displays its king at hunt, torso turned defiantly toward his viewer, as Darius repeatedly shoots a muscular lion, while his horses trample another. His clearly carved dentate diadem identifies the emperor, while a centered AhuraMazda shines above, blessing the king’s conquest and dominating the scene. Yet the cylinder remains a debatable Zoroastrian object. While Cyrus the Great, founder of the Achaemenid empire and predecessor of Darius I, was a staunch Zoroastrian, Darius’ faith is uncertain. Only his religious tolerance is established, potentially turning the cylinder into an ode to religious unity, instead of a celebration of Zoroastrianism.
Napishtim, Faravahar, Persepolis
The religion still dictates free worship, and staunchly opposes proselytization; after the Muslim Conquest of Persia in the 7th century CE, a small number of Zoroastrians fled to western India. Known as Parsis, or Parsees (derived from Pars or Persia), the Indian monarch demanded the refugees never marry or proselytize his subjects, and so the Parsi and Zoroastrian population has dwindled to approximately 130,000 worldwide. British colonialism offered the opportunity for Zoroastrians to become an economically powerful minority—and indeed, in the twenty-first century, a Parsi hand helps drive nearly every major industry in the world, ranging from tea production to steel manufacturing. Yet the culture remains modestly invisible.
This perhaps is why the recognition of Zoroastrian art and cultural forcefulness is becoming increasingly pressing. The Parsi honor system dictates an impending self-immolation, but it does not insist upon self-erasure—Zoroastrian imagery remains eternally, if invisibly, inextricable from our most celebrated histories. Deriving from one of the most powerful empires in history, today Zoroastrian art celebrates a quietly puissant community, and translates into consistent contemporary reminders for “good thoughts, good words, good deeds.”