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As the result of Negligence, Parthian Edifices of Mt. Khwajeh Would Completely Be Destroyed  by 2020: Experts


01 February 2007



By Khodayar Bahrami (SOAS)


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Remains of Mt. Khwajeh palce known as the Rostam Castle and one of three Sasanian riders (Click to enlarge)


LONDON, (CAIS) -- Experts have warned as the result of negligence by cultural authorities, the edifices of Mt. Khwajeh (ancient Ushidar), would completely be destroyed by 2020, if no immediate measures are taken.


The authorities' negligence are due to limited financial resources for protection and restoration, illegal excavations, and inhospitable environment, such as heavy rains and strong winds. These are some of the biggest problem that this magnificent historical place is currently suffering from.


Previously on June 2006, Mohammadali Ebrahimi, the director of Sistan and Baluchestan province's Cultural Heritage and Tourism Department asserted that the area badly needs vegetation to neutralize the destructive impacts of the strong winds, which occur for four months of the year with speeds reaching 120 km per hour. Despite his warnings in August 2006 one of the eastern walls has collapsed.


In December 2006, Ali-Reza Khosravi, director of Burnt City Research Centre has warned: "What has remained of the Sasanian bas-reliefs of Mt. Khwajeh is extremely fragile and will be completely washed off by heavy rains. If the province had not experienced drought in the past few years, nothing would have remained from these bas-reliefs by now." He further stressed the importance of covering up the bas-reliefs and calling on some of the most skilled restoration experts to immediately start restoring these Sasanian remains."  



Mount Khwajeh

Mount Khwajeh, which also spelled Kuh-e Khajeh, Kuh-i Khaja, is a flat-topped black basalt mountain located 30 km southwest of the town of Zabol and is located on an island in the middle of Hamun lake, in the Iranian province of Sistan and Baluchestan.


The trapezoid-shaped basalt lava, situated 609 meters from the sea level, with a diameter ranging from 2.0 to 2.5 kilometres covering an area of 40,000 square meters, is the only natural height left behind the Sistan area. It is here we can find a citadel with palaces, fire temple, a pilgrimage centre and graveyard denoted to Surens. Also there are number of small temples (possibly Mithraist or Anahit), known to the locals as the "Kouchakchal Ganjeh".


The Kuh-e Khwajeh historical complex is one of the most significant archaeological sites in Iran and the biggest model of unbaked mud brick architecture remaining in Sistan region, which dates back to the Parthian dynasty (248 BCE-224 CE).


The ancient site was identified by A. Stein, E. Herzfeld, and was investigated in part by G. Gullini in a short expedition conducted in the 1960. According to his findings the palace and the fire temple were already in existence in the Parthian period. The ruins on the southern slope, dates back to 1st century BCE and it is still known as Kuk-u Kohzadh, which is denoted to Kofasat (NPers. Kohzad) the founder of Parthian house of Suren-Pahlav.


Stein also discovered a Buddhist monastery at Mth. Khajeh in 1916. Roman Ghirshman pointed out that the art of Mth. Khajeh predates Gandhara art which disproves the widely accepted notion that Buddhism spread from Nepal or Eastern India, and it claimed that Mth. Khajeh 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.  


However, 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, often referred under its Islamic name Kuh-i Ushidar.


The oldest and by far the most important structure of the site is an ancient fortress found on the eastern slope, referred to under various connotations such as Rostams castle, the Kāferūn castle, Kohan-Dež, etc (denoted to the General Surena). Unique murals decorated the walls of the fortress, few of which have survived. Recently, a complete documentation of the site was carried out. 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, yet the art depicted 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.


Sistan, known as the birthplace of Iranian hero Rostam, has very strong associations with Zoroastrianism. According to Zoroastrian mythology, Lake Hamun was the keeper of prophet Zoroaster's seed. And when the worlds end is at hand, three maidens will enter the lake, and afterwards will give birth to the Saoshyant, who will then be the "final saviour" of mankind.


To the Christians, the significance of the complex is related to the belief that upon Christ birth at the Lord's house "Three Magi" were standing on a mountain watching the light emanating from this divine prophet , which acknowledged their faith in Jesus.


There are also three bas-reliefs belonging to the Sasanian dynasty (224-651 CE), depicting horse riders carved on the walls of the castle. The reliefs are the only ones made of gypsum which have remained since the Sasanian dynastic period in this edifice and on the verge of total annihilation.  





E. E. Herzfeld, Iran in the Ancient East New York (1988), p301.

T. S. Kawami, L. Becker, R. Koestler, "Kuh-e Khwaja, Iran, and its Wall Paintings: The Records of Ernst Herzfeld ", in Metropolitan Museum Journal Vol. 22, (1987), pp. 13-52.

Edward C. D. Hopkins, The Religion of Parthia, (

M. Moghdam Mithra, The Second International congress of Mithraic Studies, Tehran 1975 (

M. A. R. Colledge, Parthain Art, London (1977), p.41. 

Shippmann, K., "The Development of the Iranian Fire Temple", 5th International congress in Iranian Art & Archaeology, Tehran, 1968, pp.353-362.

CAIS, Mount Khwajeh , the Biggest Unbaked Mud Structure from Parthian Times, Dated 03 November 2005, (

Ranajit Pal, Alexander's Dream of a united Nations, (

G. Gullini, Architettura Iranica dagli Achemenidi ai Sasanidi, Turin, (1969)p 57.

M. A. R. Colledge, Parthain Art, London (1977), p.45.

E. E. Herzfeld, Iran in the Ancient East New York (1988), p291.

E. E. Herzfeld, Iran in the Ancient East New York (1988), p287.

E. E. Herzfeld, Iran in the Ancient East New York (1988), p291.

CAIS, Mount Khwajeh , the Biggest Unbaked Mud Structure from Parthian Times, Dated 03 November 2005, (

E. E. Herzfeld, Iran in the Ancient East New York (1988), p297.

Nersi Ramazan-nia, The treasures of Lake Hamun, Berkeley, California February 1997, (LINK).

D. H. Bivar, "Cosmopolitan deities and Hellenistic traces at Kuh-e Khwāaja" in Sistan", in C. G. Cereti, M. Maggi and E. Provasi, eds., Religious themes and texts in pre-Islamic Iran and Central Asia, Studies in honour of Professor Gherardo Gnoli on the occasion of his 65th birthday on 6th December 2002.

E. J. Keall, Parthian Architecture, (

CAIS, Sasanian Bas-reliefs of Mt. Khajeh Fortress Falling Apart, dated 11 December 2006, (



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