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Kerman, City of Historical Places of Worship

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Sima Karamouziyan 

The ancient city of Kerman has been a haven for coexistence of various religions from a long time ago. For this reason, the signs of that coexistence can be found all through the city.

Grand Mosque

The grand mosque has been there for many centuries as a base for the faithful. The building is reminiscent of braveries of Ali Bami in the war waged against Jermanian and Oghanian peoples by Mohammad Mozaffar Meibodi. When the ruler of Kerman was saved from what seemed to be inevitable death; he vowed to build a place of worship as a sign of thanksgiving to God.

As its inscription shows, Mozaffari Grand Mosque has been built in 750 AH and its cost has been covered by Mohammad Mozaffar, the ruler of Kerman. The first congregational prayer leader of the mosque came from Yazd. Beauties as well as historical and artistic values of the mosque are such that Professor Pope, the renowned Orientalist, has noted that Kerman grand Mosque is among those buildings which can inspire the Iranian nation with a sense of pride. After the mosque was built and during the current century, other buildings including “Aqa Seyed Ali Mojtahed Courtyard” and a chapel have been built to its eastern side. Taqi Khan Dorrani also rebuilt part of the mosque in 1176 AH. The main courtyard of the mosque measures 49.5 m by 66 m. It is connected to Dr. Shariati Avenue and Mozaffari Bazaar through three gates on eastern, southwestern and northern sides. The mosque has four porticos and there is a big, beautiful altar in the big portico which is framed by a green marble stone, inscribed by beautiful calligraphies.

The winter courtyard is very vast and has been built by Hajj Seyed Javad Shirazi, the congregational prayer leader of that time. Delicate art used in decorating the attractive tilework and stone columns on the eastern side entice the viewer.

The Grand Mosque has witnessed many events during its history. It was burnt on October 16, 1978 by agents of Pahlavi regime. Also, the great Iranian mystic and artist, Moshtaq, was murdered at the entrance of this mosque. The supporters of Aqa Khan Mahallati took shelter at the mosque when they were attacked by Mohammad Shah Qajar’s men. The prosperity of the mosque during recent years is owed to efforts made by Ayatollah Salehi Kermani who has founded the seminary school of the city and is also congregational prayer leader of the mosque.

Pamenar Mosque

This mosque is located at Shahid Fathalishahi Street and dates back to the time of Al-e Mozaffar and 8th century AH. The entrance to the mosque is adorned with beautiful tiles which is very attractive to visitors.

Emam (Malek) Mosque

Malek Mosque, is the oldest as well as the biggest mosque in Kerman and is reminiscent of the rule of Malek Touran, the Seljuq king, who had built it along with Malek Pond, a place of worship for Sufis, a garrison, a bathhouse, as well as a hospital. It was the sole mosque in the city until Mozaffari Grand Mosque was built. Malek Mosque is 101 m in length and 91 m in width and has been built between 477 and 490 AH. It has four porticos the biggest of which is located at the western side of the mosque. The famous Imam Hossein (AS) courtyard which is located southwest of the mosque as well as the beautiful Seljuq tower to its east, have added to the beauty and importance of the mosque.

A major work which has been done in the recent years was to uncover very attractive plasterwork and brickwork on the body of the western courtyard which carry inscriptions in Kufic script and, unfortunately, had been buried under various layers of plaster and brick knowingly or unknowingly. The father of Malek Touran Shah, who ruled Kerman circa 433 AH, also built another mosque in the city which has been destroyed in the course of time. The tomb of Malek Touran Shah has been located somewhere around the mosque and “Shah Adel” neighborhood has been named after the Seljuq king. There have been four bathhouses around the mosque all of which have been destroyed save for Sheikholeslam bathhouse. Up to about 40 years ago there was a beautiful fountain in the middle of the mosque which was 4 m deep and was locally known as “Ab Mastoureh (Hidden Water)”. It was where people washed in preparation for daily prayers.

One of the beautiful constructions in the mosque is located at the western courtyard whose roof is decorated while the upper parts of the altar and columns standing on its sides are covered with plasterwork. There are also two ventilation shafts on both sides of which ventilate the whole interior of the mosque.

Green Cupola

Green cupola is located at one of the ancient neighborhoods of Kerman along Abu Hamed Street. It dates back to Qarakhtai era (614-704 AH) and is a collection of a mosque and tomb. Boraq Hajeb (died in 632 AH) is known to have built the complex. It has been written in books of history that he was buried at Turkabad School which had been built by him and an excellent dome had been built at the school to be his burial place. The cupola is currently known as Green Cupola. Some have ascribed the building to Tarkan Khatoun and maintain that once upon a time it was a place where people learnt science and literature and was, in fact, the first university in Kerman. During history, it has been damaged a lot and only the entrance remains now. The most beautiful part of the building is the tilework on top of the portico and two spiral columns on its sides. The building is highly respected by Kerman people.

Shah Nematollah Vali Shrine

The shrine of Shah Nematollah Vali is a place where mystics come together and is about seven centuries old. The building was first planned by Ahmad Shah Bahmani Deccani, the king of Deccan in India who founded the main building through his money. The inscription at the entrance of the building says that it has been built in 840 AH. The inscription is a valuable work of art and its value has not gone unnoticed by experts.

The complex includes some courtyards and other sections which are as follows when one moves from the street toward the interior of the mosque: Atabaki courtyard, Vakil-ol-Molki courtyard, Modir-ol-Molki portico, the shrine, Shah Abbasi portico, Mirdamad courtyard and Hosseiniyeh courtyard.

1) Atabaki courtyard

Atabaki courtyard has been built through contributions from Ali Asghar Khan Atabak, the chancellor of Nasser-ed-din Shah and has porticos around and a big pond in the middle.

2) Vakil-ol-Molki courtyard

Vakil-ol-Molki courtyard has been built by Mohammad Esmaeil Ebrahim Khan Nouri, Vakil-ol-Molk. On the upper part of the entrance corridor is Shah Nematollah Museum while a bookshop is located to the north and the tombs of Amir Nezam Garousi, the famous politicians, literary experts, artist and renowned figure of Qajar area are located to the southwest. There is a polygonal pond in the middle of the courtyard, which is usually adorned with geraniums. After Mohammad Esmaeil Khan died, his son, Morteza Qoli Khan, added two minarets and a portico to the complex.

3) Shrine (mausoleum)

It has a dome-shaped arch which is adorned with paintings and has two shells. In the middle of the arch, there is a high tomb some 3.4 m long and 2 m wide. On the marble stone which is the last covering of the tomb, there is a Quranic verse around which the names of 12 Shiite imams have been written.

4) Chelleh Khaneh (40 Nights House)

On the southwestern side of the portico behind the shrine, there is a small place where Shah Nematollah Vali spent 40 days and nights worshipping God. Its roof is like the hat worn by Sufis and has 12 cracks in it. Some verses of the holy Quran as well as Islamic traditions and poems have been written on the walls. Chelleh Khaneh was totally damaged during a flood in 1932, but was reconstructed later.

5) Shah Abbasi Portico

The portico has been built in 998 AH under the rule of Shah Abbas the Great and when Beik Tash Khan was the ruler of Kerman. The names of 12 Shiite imams have been written at the entrance of the portico in relief inscription.

6) Mirdamad Courtyard

This courtyard which is also known as Shah Abbasi courtyard has been reconstructed under the rule of Nasser-ed-din Shah of Qajar dynasty.

7) Hosseiniyeh Courtyard

This is the last courtyard of Shah Nematollah Vali complex which has been given a magnificent glory by Mohammad Shahi minarets which stand on the western side of it. The minarets are 42 m high and were built under the rule of Mohammad Shah Qajar. They were damaged in a quake in 1981. This courtyard is connected to Biglarbeigi House by a bridge, which is currently known as Motevalli Bashi House and is a hostel. The bride was destroyed in a flood in 1932. Other parts of the shrine include the library and Shah Vali Museum where valuable copies of the Quran, one of which is attributed to Bibi Khatoun and is called Si-Pareh (30 pieces), various types of armors and swords and a unique piece of cloth which once covered the tomb are being kept. The fabric is among artistic handicrafts of Kerman province, which is called Pateh and was built under Nasser-ed-din Shah for four years by tens of Kermani artists.

The museum is also known as “Amiriyeh Building”. Shah Nematollah Vali, is the great poet and literary expert of the eighth century AH, who was born in 731 AH and died in 834 AH after living many honorable years in Kerman. He was buried there upon his own last will and testament.

Moshtaqiyeh of Kerman

Moshtaqiyeh comprises three domes which contain tombs of Moshtaq Alishah, Sheikh Esmaeil, and Kowsar Alishah who were among major Sufis of their time. The site was constructed after 1202 AH where Mirza Hossein Khan Rayeni, who once ruled in Kerman, is also buried. After Moshtaq Alishah was killed in Ramadan, 1206 AH, at the entrance of the Grand Mosque of Kerman, he and his close friend, Dervish Jafar, were buried in this pace, which was called Moshtaqiyeh from that time. The building is located at a square which carried the same name and the Grand Mosque of Kerman is located to its west. The treed courtyard of Moshtaqiyeh has added to its beauty.

Khajeh Atabak Mausoleum

This building has been constructed in the 6th century near the end of Seljuq rule in one of the old neighborhoods of Kerman, which is known as Bazaar Shah Neighborhood. Khajeh Atabak was a mystic as well as a political figure of Seljuq era and author of Aqd-ol-Ola maintains that he ran all the affairs of Kerman in the 20-year interregnum after the rule of Toghrol Shah’s sons.
The building is octagonal from outside and quadrangle from inside. Outer walls are adorned with beautiful plaster work and tilework with designs which were customary under Seljuq kings. The building has an altar as well as plaster inscriptions where verses of the Quran are written in Kufic script. At the foot of the altar, there is a beautiful stone inscription below which the tomb of Khajeh Atabak is located.

Emamzadeh Hossein

This is a holy shrine at Joupar town, which is located near Kerman. The shrine has been built by Safavid kings and was completed and developed under Qajar kings. The complex includes a courtyard, shrine, a dome and porticos and has been inspired by the dome of Shah Nematollah Vali in Mahan. There are two hostels for pilgrims and also, Jame’-ol-Rasoul Mosque, a caravansary and a traditional market are attached to it.

Kerman Church

The church which is located at Dr. Shariati Street after Vali Asr Square (National Garden) was built in 1941 by the famous architect of Kerman, Ali Mohammad Ravari. The building includes a gathering hall and several rooms. There is a beautiful portico on the opposite of this complex and the whole building is surrounded by a green area. The gathering hall has been built with bricks and there are beautiful arches surrounded by windows with colored glass. The altar has also been decorated with Safavid style paintings and tilework. When the last priest left Kerman, the church was practically abandoned.

Zoroastrian Fire Temple

The fire temple is located at Zarisef Street, Mirza Borzou Amighi Avenue and is considered the last fire temple built by Zoroastrians of Kerman. There were already other fire temples like that built at Shahr neighborhood, which were closed down later when the new fire temple became operational. The current fire temple includes a beautiful garden, which was once the residence of Jahangir Ashidari and has been changed into a fire temple. The fire kept there, as Zoroastrian priests maintain, is the same several thousands years old fire which has been first transferred from India to Shahr neighborhood before being put in the new fire temple. The fire temple is more than 40 years old. Of course, there has been another fire temple at Qanatestan neighborhood, which has been totally destroyed.

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