Sunday, 16 August 2015 21:07

Historical Geography of Sede from Marbin Temple to Masjid Jami’ of Khouzan


Nowadays the comprehensive map of the city taken with satellite images facilitates the process of doing research on different aspects of human life. But redrawing the historical map of the same city requires having access to reliable sources and documents. The historical geography of Sede, where we were born can be reconstructed through examining its long history. Remnant buildings of its past from ancient to medieval times including fire-temple, Khouzan congressional mosque, and multiple aqueducts help reconstruct the approximate map of Sede from ancient to medieval times. Furthermore, it intends to highlight the significance of this city throughout times particularly in the conditions that lying beside Isfahan has overshadowed its importance. By considering the historical geography of this city we can provide a good plan for the process of modernization of cities and prevents from uncontrolled construction on the outskirts which is associated with economic costs and social and cultural damages.

The name of Sede and its different areas are the first and foremost evidence of the long history of this city. Although its name has changed to Humayounshahr and Khomeinishahr in the recent eras of the Pahlavis and the Islamic Revolution its original names remembered in the collective memory of the people have deep links with the historical and cultural roots of the city.

Located in the northwestern of Isfahan, Sede is surrounded by Imamzaha mountains in the north and the Atashgah (fire-temple) region in the south.  As its name suggests, Sede consists of three villages (dih) or castles (dij): Khouzan, Furoushan and Varnousfadiran which have their own subdivisions. It is said that there were three castles that were devastated in the Alexander’s invasion of Marbin.

  Khouzan the oldest area of Sede includes Andovan or Andan, Fathabad, Shamsabad, Kouvarz, and Kuhandij or Quhandiz. Mafaroukhi the author of Mahasin-i Isfahan in the 9th century, and Amir Yarahmad Khouzani known as Munajjim II (Qazi Ahmad Munshi Qumi, 2004, I, p. 118-123), the famous commander of Shah Ismai’l (1501-1524) the founder of the Safavid dynasty (1502-1736), Suroush Isfahani, the Safavid poet. It is said that Kuhandij which sometimes refer to the whole Khouzan is connected to the Fire Temple via an underground way whose some parts have recently been discovered (Hunarfar, 1965, p.23).

Bavargan, Gardij, Garsela, Kushkabaj, and Zaqabad are the subdivisions of Varnousfadiran originated from Varnousbahaduran. During the Saljuqs (1037-1194) many military men of Vanousfadiran served in the court of Sultan Malikshah (1072-1092) in Isfahan (Sarrami Furoushani, 2003, p. 88). Gilanents specifies that the Afghan troops could not seize Khouzan and Varnousfadiran because of strong resistance of their people against the troops of Afghans (Gilanents, 1959, 101).

Furoushan or Parishan was taken from the name of a woman called Parivash who founded this village or castle. Ibn Mardouya fortress and the Firouzshahi or Dimitriyan aqueducts lay in this area.

The presence of the language and accent indicates to the deep roots of the culture and history of that city. Despite the proximity of the three regions of Sede, they have their own distinguished features (Sepanta, 1996, pp. 83-84). We can recognize some ancient words and structures in the present accents of Sede (Farahvashi, 1963, pp. 311-312), particularly in the accent of velati which has its profound roots in the Pre-Islamic languages including the Jewish and Avesta.

Marbin: from Nahid and Fire Temple to the Ismai’li Fortress

Sede is one of the areas of Marbin in the southern shores of the Zayanderoud. Apart from Sede, Marbin includes Kushk, Kaknan, Nasrabad, Gourtan or Jourtan, Najvan, Zarran, Ladan and Alyaran that are mostly consists of gardens and farms (Hamdureza Al-Isfahani, 2005, pp. 308-309). Even today in the conditions that Iran including Isfahan suffers from the draught this region contains lush gardens where water consumption is not properly managed. We should not forget that Sede had many aqueducts despite the presence of Zayanderoud and its streams. Andovan or Andan, one of the subdivisions of Khouzan is an Elamite word which means the aqueduct. Besides, Kouvarz, another subdivision of Khouzan means the region where is irrigated with the water of aqueduct. Varnousfadiran contained about five aqueducts in the ancient and medieval times (Sarrami Foroushani, p. 88). The presence of these numerous aqueducts shows that Zayanderoud had already been a seasonal river; moreover, its water was usually driven to the northern parts and so its streams were dry in some times of the year (Mafaroukhi, p. 71). Therefore, until Shaykh Bahaie, the Imami scholar in the Safavid era changed the Zayanderoud to a permanent river the people of Sede were obliged to consume the water of the aqueducts.

Marbin or Mars was the temple of Anahita or Nahid, the ancient goddess on the mountain (Masoudi, 1986, p. 581; Ibn Khurdadbih, 1992, p. 24). After the dominance of Zoroastrianism in Iran, Marbin changed to the fire temple (Abu Hamza Isfahani, 2006, pp. 26-27; Ibn Hawqal, 1938, p. 177). It was honored during the ancient times and even Masoudi testifies that it was honored in the early 11th century. Even though there are no traces of the “permanent fire” (Ibn Hawqal, 1938, p. 177) the remnant parts of the fire temple testifies the long history of this region. This mountain which is called Atashgah (the fire temple) determines the southern part of Sede.

 Under the Saljuqs, Sede arrived in a new phase of its history. The revolts of the Ismai’ilis in Jibal (central Iran) and Khurasan after the death of Malikshah  involved Sede in unrest. The assassination of Khwaja Nizam al-Mulk the great vizier of the Saljuqs, burning the congressional mosque of Isfahan, and the dominance of their troops on castles and fortresses including the Shahdiz in Isfahan and the Marbin or Atashgah, which had turned to a castle, stroke crisis in the country. Finally in 1106, Muhammad ibn Malikshah expelled the Ismailis from the fortresses around Isfahan including Marbin (Ibn Isfandiyar, 2010, p.145).

Marbin Temple

Masjid Jami of Khouzan

Masjid Jami (Congressional Mosque) of Khouzan is one of the main social buildings which can help reconstruct the historical geography of Sede in the medieval times. Locating in the center of the city within the weekly market (Panjshanba bazaar) and beside the Fathabad public bath emphasizes on the oldness of this area and its vastness and high population in the medieval times. In line with the four-iwan Saljuq mosques like Masjid jami’ of Zavara and Ardistan, the layout is arranged around a large open courtyard. However, in the four-iwan mosque, each wall of the courtyard is punctuated with a monumental vaulted hal. It was reconstructed and repaired under the Ilkhanids (1256-1353) and the Timurids (1370-1507). In the Safavids, a minaret was built in the southern Iwan and its four-iwans were decorated with eslimi and floral patterns  The mosque was decorated with brick, tile and plaster under the Qajars (Hunarfar, pp. 733-734).

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Nowadays, Sede like all other old cities of Iran is divided into two old and modern parts. The three main parts of the city namely Khouzan, Varnousfadiran and Furoushan lay in the old part of the city. The modern part of Sede which is excessively expanding in the northern part has socially and culturally separated from the old part. The problems of marginalization which was mostly associated with large cities like Tehran and Isfahan has recently become common among smaller cities like Sede. The main problem of these parts of cities is that like their heterogeneous buildings, the cultural trends and social norms developing in these parts are not in line with any highly developed social rules. It is while in the past (before the process of modernization) the people did not leave the old parts of their city abandoned; instead, they uses to reconstruct the old part of their cities based on their needs and current developments of their time.

Maryam Kamali

Habib Hajiheidari


 Masjid Jami of Khousan


 Abu Hamza Isfahani, Tarikh Sunni Muluk al-Arz wa al-Anbiya, tr. Jafar Sho’ar, Tehran: Sazmand, 2006,

Farahvashi, Bahram, “Tahlil System fi’l dar Lahja Sedehi”, Journal of Adabiyat at Tehran University, 13, 1963, pp. 311-312.

Gilanents, Petros di Sargis, The Chronicle of Petros di Sarkis Gilanentz concerning the Afghan invasion of Persia in 1722, the siege of Isfahan and the repercussions in northern Persia, Russia and Turkey, Lisbon: Fundacao Calouste Gulbenkian, 1959.

Hunarfar, Lutfollah, Ganjina Athar Tarikhi Isfahan, Isfahan: Saqafi, 1965.

Ibn Hawqal, Abulqasim Muhammad, Surat al-Arz, Beirut: Dar Sadir, 1938.

Ibn Isfandiyar, Muhammad ibn Hasan, Tarikh Tabaristan, ed. Abbas Iqbal, Muhammad Ramizani, Tehran: Asathir, 2010.

Ibn Khurdadbih, Ubaydollah ibn Abdullah, Masalik wa Mamalik, Beirut: Dar Sadir, 1889.

Mafaroukhi Isfahani, Mafzal ibn Sa’d, Kitab Mahasin Isfahan, ed. Hossein ibn Muhammad Abi al-Reza Avi, Abbas Iqbal, Tehran: Asatir, 2005.

Masoudi, Ali ibn Hossein, Murouj al-Zahab wa Ma’adin al-Juhar, tr. Abulqasim Payanda, Tehran: Elmi wa Farhangi, 1986.

Qazi Ahmad ibn Sharaf al-Din Munshi Qumi, Khulasa al-Tavarikh, ed. Ehsan Ashrafi, Tehran: Tehran University Press, 2004.

Sepanta, Sasan, “Barresiya Azmayishgahi Chand Gouyish Markazi wa Lahja Isfahan”, Nama Farhangistan, 1996, 6, pp. 83-84.


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