Takht-e Foulad: A 800-year Old Cemetery in Esfahan


Takht-e Foulad is the fifth most important ancient cemetery of the Islamic word. The first written source that mentions the site is an 11th-century historical book, which reports that Takht-e Foulad held grave of the Israeli prophet Yushea (Prophet Joshua) son of Noah. The cemetery passed into Muslim ownership in the 8th-9th centuries has since been known as Lesan al-Arz, Rokn od-Din, or Takht-e Fulad. By the 15th century, it was the main graveyard of Esfahan and housed many significant tombs, of which the mausoleum of Baba Rokn od-Din was the most important. During the Safavid reign, the number of shrine exceeded 400, but few of them remained. Large portions of the cemetery were occupied by living quarters during the Qajar period; nevertheless the cemetery did not lose its importance. Until the end of the Pahlavi reign, Takht-e Foulad remained the only graveyard of Esfahan. Most of the present structures of Takht-e Foulad belongs to one of the following three periods: Safavid (8 buildings), Qajar (20 Buildings), and Pahlavi (17 Buildings).

 

The best time to visit the cemetery is on Thursdays and Fridays, when most of the mausoleums are usually unlocked.

Lesan al-Arz

Lesan al-Arz was a celebrated 10th-century (buyid) structure, expanded by the Safavid kings, who added a famous water storage tank beside it. The grave of Yushea  was located here. Unfortunately, the building was demolished in 1973.

Rokn od-Din Shrine

Baba Rokn od-Din was a famous 14th-century Sufi, who died in 1367 and was buried in Takht-e Fulad. Since then, his grave has been the popular pilgrimage site. Although Baba Rokn ol-Din was undoubtedly a very important figure in Sufism, little information about his life is available. His grave is the oldest in the cemetery. The present building dates from the time of Shah Abbas I, and was completed one year after his death in 1629 by Shah Safi. The tomb is pentagonal, surmounted by a brick drum and a dodecagonal pyramidal dome (reminiscent of a Sofi hat) that is covered with blue enameled faience.

 

Baba Rokn ol-Din mausoleum

Baba Rokn ol-Din mausoleum

Valeh Mausoleum

A popular poet, calligrapher, and artist of the 18th-19th centuries, Valeh Esfahani died in 1814 and was buried in the Valehiyeh Tekiyeh, He carved his own gravestone during his lifetime, and only the date of his death was added later. The mausoleum was built in the time of Sadr Esfahani during the reign of Fath Ali Shah.

Mir Tekiyeh

Another important crypt in the graveyard belongs to Mir Fendereski, a famous Sufi. His grave is marked by a stone 3.60 m (11.8 ft) long, 1.90 m (6.2 ft) wide, and 1 m (3.28 ft) high. The Tholth inscription on its side is dated 1640. The room beside the grave features a ghazal (sonnet) by Hafez, written in Nastaliq by the famous calligrapher Mir Emad – the only inscription by his hand that can be found on a building’s wall. Around the courtyard are scattered family of the Bakhtiyari chieftains. One of them was once adorned with a depiction of Mir Fendereski, Sheikh Bahai, and a lion. It portrayed the story of the dispute between Mir and Sheikh Bahai about scientific and spiritual approaches to life. The story says that the discussion was interrupted by a lion that fled from its cage and rushed into the loyal palace where the dispute took place. Sheikh Bahai was not frightened, because he knew that a lion would not attack unless it was hungry (scientific approach to the problem); however, he could not assist in the situation. On the other hand, Mir managed to tame the lion by his spiritual power. Today the picture has been taken from its original site to the Saad Abad museum in Tehran.

Mausoleum of Aqa Hossein Khansari

A great Safavid scientist and famous social and public figure during the reign of Ahah Soleiman Safavid, Aqa hossein Khansari died in 1688. After his death, for the first time in history, Shah Soeiman ordered the construction of a mausoleum for a scientist by a special royal decree. Regretfully, the site has recently undergone rather excessive modifications, but it still retains much of its original charm.

Among other important shrines of Takht-e Fulad, which are worthy of the tourist visit, are the Malek Tekiyeh, built during the lifetime of the builder of Angurestan-e Malek and Timche-ye Malek and where he was buried, and Hajj Mohammad Jafar Abedei Tekiyeh, with the tomb of the founder of the mosque of now bears his name. In close proximity to Takht-e Foulad is Golestan-e Shohada (The rose garden of Martyrs), a modern graveyard, where victims of the Iran-Iraq war are buried.

 

By: Seyed Moahammad Emami

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