Undoubtedly, Sassanid dynasty is one of the most glorious eras in Iran history. This monarchy left signs of its dignity in various places in the country. for sure, one of these visit worthy monuments is Naghshe-Rajab. This historical site, Naghshe-Rajab consists of three amazing bas reliefs related to two of the Sassanid kings. Most noteworthy, these carvings in Naghshe-Rajab date back to about 224 AD.
As you might know, Sassanid dynasty was the second prominent empire in Persian history after Achaemenian. Subsequently, they left a bunch of bas reliefs and inscriptions in major parts of their territory to show off their power and magnificence. Naghshe-Rajab is one of them and is located in about 70 km outside of Shiraz. Sassanid kings ordered to carve these 3 bas reliefs in Naghshe-Rajab on the rocks of the northern side of Rahmat Mount. Actually, this mountain is near Istakhr, the historical capital of the monarchy. It’s also on the right side of the Royal Road.
To be specific, Naghshe-Rajab is just 3 km away from Persepolis and just on the way of Naghshe-Rostam. Apparently, the monarchy spent their leisure time in this neighborhood, considering the flatness ahead of the bas reliefs, mild weather and pleasant view of the mountain and green fields around it. Unfortunately, there is no definite evidence to inform us about the ascribed name of Naghshe-Rajab. It literally means the picture of Rajab which is an Arabic proper noun that we’re not aware of denomination.
First Bas Relief in Naghshe-Rajab
The middle bas relief is the first carving of Naghshe-Rajab we are going to explain. Actually it’s the oldest one as well. It is carved in honor of coronation of the founder of Sassanid Empire. To be specific, It demonstrates the king, Ardeshir I, receiving the sacred crown from the major priest, a magus. Apparently the magus acts as a go between for the king and god, Ahura Mazda. As a result, it indicates that they believed the kings ruled the country under god’s authorization. This scene also includes two women, claimed to be the kings mother and wife. Besides there are two kids that we guess to be his children or grandchildren. One of the two men behind the king is a distinctive warlord holding a fly whisk over the king’s head. And finally the other man is of course the crown prince, Shapur I. He is holding up his index finger as a sign of respect.
Second Bas Relief in Naghshe-Rajab
Now let’s talk about the bas relief on the right side of the one we explained. The second carving of Naghsh e Rajab illustrates the coronation of Shapur I. To be specific, he is magnificently seated on the back of a horse. He is receiving the sacred crown from Ahura Mazda, the supreme being. Actually, in this scene god is exhibited in form of a human dressing almost the same as the king. He grants the crown to Shapur I while sitting on a horse in front of him. That warlord we talked about in the previous part, again is carved at the back of the king.
Third Bas Reliefs in Naghshe-Rajab
The last carving of Naghsh e Rajab is placed in front of the previous one. Actually, With 6 m length and 4m width, it’s kind of bigger than the other two. It shows Shapur I sitting on a horse while 9 of his courtiers standing behind him. We assume their heading the coronation ceremony or some other special session or ceremony. Clearly the crown prince, Hormoz I, and three warlord royals are distinctive from their hats. Fortunately, an inscription is carved on the front part of the king’s horse. It’s the king’s words written in Pahlavi language that introduces himself and shows respect for Ahura Mazda.
+1 Bas relief in Naghshe-Rajab
On the right side of the first bas relief of Naghsh e Rajab, we notice a small carving of Kartyr. He was the highest Magus during 7 Sassanid kings. Actually, this carving was added during domination of Bahram II (276-293AD). The mark of a religious personality beside all the carvings of the royalty is something noticeable. Subsequently, It indicates the influence of Zoroastrianism in Sassanid era. Furthermore, it’s a sign of the special position of Kartyr in that period. He is depicted while rising his index finger as respect. Notably, The inscription beside him gives us an abstract information about him, his works and his claimed holy ascension.
Is it worth visiting?
For sure, observing those detailed carvings of the humans, their wardrobe and horses informs you more of the Sassanid culture. After all, Naghshe-Rajab is worth a visit. Specially that it’s just near important destinations of Persepolis and Naghshe-Rostam. Actually many tourists plan to visit this place on their way to Shiraz or Isfahan. It should be noted that this monument together with Naghshe-Rostam are on the tentative list of UNESCO world cultural heritage.