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Kerman, Mysterious Culture and Geography

Monday, June 2, 2008

Javad Abbasi 

Kerman is a collection of mysterious geographical conditions which combine hot weather with cold and includes a unique culture with beautiful handicrafts like carpets and delicate shawls. Each year thousands of domestic and foreign tourists visit the province.

Various parts of Kerman province have different climatic conditions. That is, at the same time that an area is very cold, another area is scathingly hot. For this reason, provincial cities are divided into warm and cold cities and the change in climate has provided good grounds for cultivation of dates, on the one side, and lemon trees, on the other hand. Due to such climatic conditions, this region has been always so prosperous that people are offered with the needed material for various handicrafts.

It is not only Kerman carpets which are famous. The city includes a lot of historical monuments and some of those monuments, including the Citadel of Bam, are world-famous.

These, however, are not sole treasures of the province. The most important advantage of Kerman province is its patient, perseverant and hospitable men and women who have gotten along with natural and historical difficulties of their land and pay serious attention to development of their province.

Appearance of Kerman city

Rasteh Bazaar is the first place where travelers arrive in. It is 3 km long and has been built in different eras. That part, which has been built under the Safavid rule, has many domes with holes for sunlight which create a dim atmosphere in the market.

Ganjali Khan and Vakil markets are similar and there are other malls and bazaars which are several hundreds years older.

There are many gates at Rasteh Bazaar which take travelers to old caravansaries with square, cobblestoned yards with a small garden in the middle and chambers for merchants around it. There are two old bathhouses which are wonderfully beautiful.

Ganjali Khan Bathhouse, which has turned into museum of anthropology, contains statues which show people bathing in old times. Vakil Bathhouse has not become a beautiful traditional teahouse. After going through the roofed marketplace, you arrive in the grand mosque which contains two historical domes. It directly leads to Zoroastrians neighborhood.

A cursory glance at the history of Kerman would reveal that it is among few Iranian cities which were so secure and safe in ancient times that enabled their people to keep their rituals. Many alleys are cobblestoned at old neighborhoods. Houses are so big that you sometimes see a single door at an alley. There were three worship places at the old neighborhood of Zoroastrians which have been destroyed under Nader Shah. They were called Pir Gheib, Pir Morad, and Pir Sabzpoushan.

Khajeh Khezr or Chehl Tanan is the name of another old neighborhood. Some say that Khajeh Khezr Mosque has been made by Tarkan Khatoun, the wife of Atabak Sa’d ibn abi Bakr. So, it dates back to the 7th century AH. They say that there have been 40 houses where people spent 40 days worshipping, so that, Khezr would appear before their eyes and grant their wishes. Those neighborhoods are part of the old fabric of Kerman. New Kerman, though, has its own beauties and attraction.

The longest street in Kerman is 24 km long. After Rasteh Bazaar, it is the most important business hub. Many streets branch off this street toward north and south and create the main part of the city. The alleys of Kerman are around those streets and they are attractive, narrow passages with high walls. Some of them are so narrow that even a single car cannot pass through.

Gifts of Kerman for world architecture

Undoubtedly, Kerman province is the birthplace of some of the agricultural gifts that Iran has offered the world. They range from the now ruined Citadel of Bam to mosques which date back to the Safavid era. They deserve to be explained in many books. Here, we will discuss some of them.

Grand mosque of Kerman

It is one of the most important architectural feats of Iran. The art of architecture combined with religious faith have joined hands to create a symbol of lofty thoughts and creativity of this land.

The mosque has been built in 750 AH by Mir Mubarez al-Din Mohammad Mozaffari, the founder of Al-e Mozaffar dynasty. According to a stone inscription at the entrance of the mosque, it has been first located outside the city, but as the city sprawled, the mosque has been assimilated. The grand mosque, with its beautiful façade, attractive tile work and historical inscriptions is among valuable buildings of Kerman. Verses of the Quran have been written on the marble stones around the altar. They say the yard of the mosque has been decorated by Haj Seyed Javad Mojtahed Kermani.

Various parts of the mosque have been repaired in different times including under the rule of Shah Abbas II when part of the altar and southwestern façade were repaired. Under Karim Khan Zand, the minarets were renovated.

Jabaliyeh Dome

The done has been built on the slopes of Qolleh Dokhtar Mountain and is among the most beautiful architectural feats of Iran. It has been attributed to Seljuk rulers, but its architectural style shows that it has been a fire temple in the Sassanid era.

The octagonal building of the dome is 20 m high and is surrounded by sunshades which reduce the diameter of the walls. Eight portals with a width of 2 m are seen around the building, which are now blocked with stones in order to prevent destruction of the whole building. Stones cut in various sizes are seen in the building of Jabaliyeh Dome, which have been attached together with a hard mortar.

The dome has been called Jabaliyeh, Jahan Sang, Gonbad Gabri, and Ma’bad Sangi in historical texts.

Moshtaqiyeh Dome

The dome, which houses the tomb of Moshtaq Ali Shah, dates back to Qajar era and is located to the east of the grand mosque. Moshtaqiyeh dome comprises two domes with tilework and a simple dome. Therefore, it is also known as “Three Domes” (Moshtaqiyeh, Kowsar Ali Shah, and Sheikh Esmaeil domes).

Moshtaqiyeh Dome has a long shaft and its internal decorations are remarkable. The tomb of Moshtaq Ali Shah is located north of the building and is facing a yard with a water pool in the middle. There is a valuable pulpit remained from old times.

Measures have been taken during recent years to repair and renovate the building.

Shah Ne’matollah Vali Mausoleum

Shah Ne’matollah Vali, nicknamed Noureddin, is a famous Iranian mystic. His death has been reported in 834 AH. He was born in Mahan, 42 km from Kerman.

According to a tablet which is installed on the façade of the building, it has been built on the order of one of his disciples called Ahmad Shah Rokni in 840 AH. It has been developed under Shah Abbas I of Safavid dynasty as well as by Mohammad Shah and Nasser-ed-din Shah, both Qajar kings.

The building includes various parts such as the façade, minarets, Atabaki yard, Vakil-ol-Molki yard, Shah Abbasi portico, Chelleh Khaneh (where people spent 40 days worshipping God), a big yard and a very beautiful garden. More details about this building will follow.

Ganjali Khan Bathhouse

The bathhouse is 1,000 square meters in area and has been built by Ganjali Khan, the ruler of Kerman in the Safavid era. Beautiful tilework, paintings, plaster work, and decorations have made Ganjali Khan Bathhouse one of the most beautiful buildings in Iran. The bathhouse has two external and internal chambers and there are two big marble stones which had played a great role in attracting more light to the internal chamber. The bathhouse, which was later turned into an anthropology museum, is located at Kerman bazaar.

Dokhtar Castle of Kerman

Dokhtar (Girl) Castle is one of the most famous historical buildings of Kerman which is located to the northeast and in the vicinity of Kerman city. They say that the castle has been built by Haftvad or Belash of Sassanid dynasty. Local legends have it that a girl was ruling the castle, who had put a powerful spell on it, making it insurmountable. However, historical research has revealed that a number of castles are called Dokhtar (or girl) in various parts of Iran, which implied that they have been difficult to conquer.

The castle dates back to the Sassanid era and is remnant of Anahita Temple (Anahita was the goddess of waters, women, plants, and fertility in ancient Iran). The castle can be divided in two parts. One part is located on top of a relatively high peak on the southeast and is totally separate from the main castle due to its historical location. Another part is located on a lower hill. Under Seljuk kings, this castle has been a haven for the people of Kerman.

Shahzadeh (Prince) Garden is located a few kilometers before Mahan city and has been built under Qajar kings. There are successive water pools along the main street of the garden which are built on a slope, thus making a beautiful cascade.

Another architectural attraction of the province is Vakil complex, which includes a marketplace, a bathhouse, mosque and caravansary. They date back to 1275 AH.

Mahan, a Paradise at the Heart of Desert

Mahan city is located 42 km southeast of Kerman, along Kerman – Bam road. The city is famous because of Shah Ne’matollah Vali Mausoleum. It has led to development of the city around the mausoleum in circular pattern. The city is not as big as other cities in Kerman province. Due to its geographical location near mountains, Mahan has been a resort for people of Kerman since old times and the mausoleum of Shah Ne’matollah Vali attracts pilgrims to the city.

Historical background and divisions of the mausoleum

The first part of the building has been constructed in about 835 AH. This part includes a dome and the tomb of Shah Ne’matollah Vali. A big door leads to the interior of the complex on the south which is topped by beautiful decorations. The inside of the dome has been adorned exquisitely while its outside is covered with azure tile work along with white and black colors. The dome was damaged during Kerman earthquake, but it was later repaired.

The shrine and tomb of Shah Ne’matollah Vali is like a big room with an arched dome. His grave is covered with marble stones and has four doors which open toward the portico. The building of the mausoleum has been attributed to Ahmad Shah Deccani or Bahmani the king of Deccan and Lahore who ascended to the throne in 825 AH. Since he thought that his rule was owed to Shah Ne’matollah’s blessings, he revered him. Therefore, the grave dates back to the era of Gurkani kings.

There is a portico on the east of the shrine which is the grave of Shah Khalilollah Sani, a grandson of Shah Ne’matollah Vali. On the north side of the shrine, one can see Vakil-ol-Molki portico which leads into a big yard. The yard and portico are attributed to Mohammad Esmaeil Khan, Vakil ol-Moluk. It was finished later. The beautiful yard has a water pool in the middle and many rooms have surrounded the pool. Atabaki yard is located to the north of Vakil-ol-Molki yard and has been probably part of Vakil-ol-Molki yard which had been later repaired by Mirza Ali Asghar Atabak and is the vastest yard in the complex. This yard includes two symmetrical flowerbeds on both sides of the pool and a cistern is located on the western side. Between two yards, there is a two-story building whose beautiful decorations attract viewers.

Shah Abbas Amir Damadi portico and yard are located to the south of the tomb. They date back to the Safavid era and are smaller than other yards.

Pilgrimage sites for women in Kerman

Special attention has been paid to history and culture of Kerman due to efforts made by one Dr. Bastani Parizi, who turned 80 in 2006. However, there are still unexplored fields in history and culture of this vast province. One of those fields is unknown places of pilgrimage and shrines. Since they are mixed with people’s beliefs, it would be very interesting to study such places. The following places of pilgrimage are special to women and special rituals should be observed when entering those places.

Bibi Dokhtar

There are two places of pilgrimage for women in Kerman province, which are located at two different villages. One of them is Bibi Dokhtar shrine which is located at a village near Kerman city. Bibi is the nickname that local people give to women who are supposed to have descended from Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). The pilgrimage site is located northwest of Kerman, near Ekhtiar Abad village. Ekhtiar Abad is a region which is now close to Kerman due to development of the city.

Bibi Dokhtar is located 12 km away from Kerman airport. Bibi Dokhtar Mausoleum is situated at the end of the village and is surrounded by a public graveyard. The half-open dome of the mausoleum is 4-5 m high. It has been adorned by tilework and is surrounded by various poems.

Bibi Hayat

Bibi Hayat is another pilgrimage place for women in Kerman. Bib Hayat is the name of a village near Rafsanjan city and is an administrative division of Khanaman rural district. The district is counted among pleasant resorts of Kerman province.

Bibi Hayat is situated to the northeast of Rafsanjan. Traveling 45 km from Rafsanjan, you would arrive at Khanaman rural district. From there, you must go on for 40 more kilometers to arrive at the mausoleum.

Bibi Hayat mausoleum and grave are among the most ancient monuments of the region, which date back to 305 AH. Since Bibi Hayat is located in a cold region, it is less crowded in winters, but many people flock there in summertime.

Most pilgrims are people who have vowed to donate something in order for their wishes to be granted. Donations range from chadors and headscarves to rings, necklaces and other artifacts worn by women.

طراحی و توسعه آگاه‌سیستم