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Espakho, the Forgotten Temple in Khurasan


01 March 2006




LONDON, (CAIS) -- The ancient stone temple of Espakho in North Khorasan Province has never been properly introduced to the world, the Persian service of IRNA reported on Wednesday.


Located in a village of the same name near the town of Maneh and Samalqan, Espakho dates back to about 500 CE and is considered one of the most important ancient Iranian monuments.


The monument is comprised of an iwan, a hall and a square room. The dome of the room resembles Sasanid square domes. In the western wall of the room, there is an undecorated altar with niches on both sides.


The iwan is connected to the room by a domed hall. The iwan is mostly constructed of mortar and stone covered with plaster and a mix of straw and mud in some parts.


In the hills surrounding the temple, there is a cemetery where people were buried in family graves, which is very different from Muslim burial customs.


Each grave is a plaster and mortar cube covered with randomly arranged square stones.


The director of the Maneh and Samalqan Cultural Heritage and Tourism Office said that despite the inhabitants’ beliefs that the building was a church but there is no evidence proving that Christians once lived there.


“However, it is presumed that Zoroastrians constructed it due to the rotating altar, the censer, and the holes made in the ceiling for smoke to exit,” Habib Sadrifar added.


In addition, the vestibule facing the rising sun proves that the place was made by Zoroastrians, since the sun was a symbol of life and brightness for them, he noted.


He explained the name of the village and temple, saying, “Esp-" is the old variation of name of Aspa (NP. ASb - horse) in Persian and because horses were raised in this part of the province, the place was named Espakho.”


He stated that some parts of the dome, the iwan, and the western wall of the room have crumbled over the centuries, but the dome and iwan have been renovated for the most part during the restoration process that began a few years ago.

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