The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies
(Mount Khajeh / Ushida)
For CAIS - February 21, 2007
(Revised on 14 May 2007)
Kuh-e Khwajeh (Mount Khajeh), is a flat-topped black basalt mountain located 30 km southwest of the town of Zabol is an island in the middle of Hamun lake, in the Iranian province of Sistan and Baluchestan.
trapezoid-shaped basalt lava, situated 609 meters from the sea level, with a
diameter ranging from 2.0 to 2.5 kilometres. It is the only natural height left
behind in Sistan area, where a citadel with palace, fire temple (Herzfeld,
p.301), pilgrimage centre and graveyard known to locals as the "Suren's
resting place" reminiscent of the past are still in good condition (Kawami,
pp.13-52). Also there are number of small temples, in particular a temple believed to belonged to the cult of Mithra, which was the
religion of Parthians
known to the locals as the "Kouchakchal Ganjeh" (Moghdam, CAIS),
while some believe this section of the edifices were constructed during the
Achaemenid dynastic Period (Colledge, p.41).
Kuh-e Khwajeh historical complex is one of the most important archaeological
sites in Iran and the biggest model of unbaked mud brick architecture with
mortar for rubble used for domestic walls (Colledge, p.41), remaining in Sistan
region, which dates back to the Arsacid dynastic era (248 BCE-224 CE) (CAIS
news, 03 November 2005 and Ranajit Pal).
ancient site was identifies by Marc Aurel Stein, who discovered a Buddhist
monastery at Mount Khwajeh in 1916. Roman Ghirshman pointed out that the art of Mount
Khwajeh predates Gandhara art which disproves the widely accepted notion
that Buddhism spread from Nepal or Eastern India, and it claimed that Mount Khwajeh was
Kapilavastu, the birthplace of Gotama. Stein's work clearly shows
that Buddhism was born in Iran but was later nurtured in modern India,
Afghanistan and Pakistan (Gullini,
p.57). The site was later
excavated by Ernst Herzfeld, and was thoroughly investigated in part by G.
Gullini in a short expedition of 1960. According to his findings the palace and
the fire temple were already in existence in the Parthian dynastic period (Colledge,
p. 54 and Herzfeld p.291). The ruins on the southern slope, dates back to 1st
century BCE and it is still known as Kal-e i Rustam as well as Kuk-u Kohzadh
(Herzfeld, p.287), which is denoted to Kofasat the founder of Parthian house of
Suren-Pahlav (Herzfeld, p.291).
Khwajeh Mountain Complex is greatly respected by followers of the three ancient
faiths of Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Islam and considered as a holy place.
The mountain has been named after the mausoleum of "Khwajeh Mehdi",
one of the sympathizers of Alavi rulers, which is situated on this mountain, but
its' pre-Islamic name was Kuh-i Ushidā (Herzfeld p.297 and CAIS news 03
oldest and by far the most important structure of the site is an ancient
fortress on its eastern slope, called by different names such as the Rostam
castle, the Kāferūn castle, Kohan-Dež, etc. Unique murals had decorated the
walls of the fortress, few of which have survived (Ramazan-nia). Over the recent
years, a complete documentation of the site was carried out (Bivar). In
addition, partial restoration and fortification of the castle were conducted on
its walls and arches. These once vividly-coloured wall-hangings include motifs
taken from the repertoire of western artists (Keall), yet the art is not
western. Liberties are taken with designs which ignore their original
properties, and, through the geometrising of natural forms, Parthian art
anticipates Islamic art by several centuries (CAIS news, 11 December 2006).
known as the birthplace of Iranian hero Rostam, has very strong
associations with Zoroastrianism. According to Zoroastrian tradition, Lake Hamun
- which lies at the foot of the mountain - was the keeper of Zoroaster's seed.
And when the world's end is at hand, three maidens will enter the lake, and
afterwards will give birth to the Saoshyant (the Zoroastrian' Messiah) who will
then be the "final saviours" of mankind.
the Christians, the significance of the complex is related to the belief that
upon Christ's birth at the Lord's house three Magi standing on this mountain and
watching the light emanating from this divine prophet acknowledged their faith
are also three bas-reliefs belonging to the Sasanian dynasty (224-651 CE),
depicting horse riders, which were carved on one of the walls of the castle. The
reliefs are the only ones made of clay remained from the Sasanian dynastic
period in this edifice (CAIS News, 11 December 2006).
Khodayar Bahrami is an Iranian Zoroastrian from Kerman born in 1975. He obtained his BA in History from the Tehran University, and went on and completed his MA in social anthropology from La Trobe University, Melbourne.
He is currently a PhD student the the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). His current research is on the Parthian Histography, which is based on extensive field work and archival research conducted in Damghan (Parthian Qomis).
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