3 – 1 Saint Khaled Nabi
There are variety of accounts explaining the origin of saint Khled Nabi – probably all incorrect – but the accounts can be bundled in two sets christen and Islamic based.
The christen set is perhaps based on the fact that during part of sassanian and Mongol period the Christians were very welcomed in Iran and Khaled Nabi shrine refers to the memory of an important priest of the period.
Saint Khaled Nabi according to literature on the internet was one of the 4 saints before Jesus who were going around and telling people of Jesus coming
The Islamic version( I assume that it is Islamic) assumes that Khaled Nabi who was prosecuted in Aden due his teaching, with his followers comes to Iran but are all killed in current place by a perusing army and hence the grave yard adjacent to the shrine hill. As north of ran is covered with similar grave yards we can forget this and similar versions.
These simple explanations to me are not sufficient to explain how Khaled Nabi got to be berried in this middle of nowhere? My feeling from just the look of the things is that the shrines are not that old. Or if there is anything older than 400 years it must be berried under the foundation of perhaps one of the shrines.
To the east of the shrine hill at a lower elevation lays a small hill on top of which is a relatively flat plateau containing a very old graveyard with male and female phallic grave stones marking each grave.
The shrines and the folk stories surrounding this grave yard have had a great protective value and have preserved what remains of this grave yard. One of the folk stories has it that a brave group of fighters were surrounded by the enemy on this hill top and they prayed to god to either be granted death or be given victory over the enemy and god had mercy on them and they were turned to stone. So the locales mostly Sunni look at this place as scared and in someway protected under the patronage of saint khaled nabi.
The Khaled Nabi hill Viewed from the top consist of three shrines one on the north,
one on the south belonging to “alem-ali khan baba” and “chopan ata” I think
And i believe that the one in the middle belongs to Khaled Nabi (Khaled-ebn Snan).
The dirt road goes around the east side of the Khaled Nabi hill and ends at hectic parking area and a souvenir bazaar at the top. The bazaar sells all sort of cheap torkaman and handy crafts and some food products.
Near the shrines there are rooms that can be rented for a nights stay. The shrines attract considerable number of visitors. On the day of our visit I think there were in excess of 200 people there, quite a lot of visitors for such remote place. Most of the visitors came by motor cycle, as it is the common local means of transport, but there where quite a few mini business and vans. A steep short foot path connects the shrine hill top to the ancient graveyards.
3 – 3 the graveyards
The steep narrow footpath takes one from the shrine parking area to the main phallic graveyard.
The grave yard extends to the tops of two adjacent southern smaller hills where there are more graves. Around the main khaled nabi hill especially to the north and around the main graveyard hill top one can find scattered mail and female grave stones of varying size .
Half way between the shrine hill top and the main graveyard on hill top, on the side of the footpath, stands the tallest mail phallic grave stone as if greeting the visitor to the graveyard. A recent book on khaled nabi claims that About 70 years a go there were 3 more such long grave stones that do not exist today. The same source also has pictures of grave stones with some sort of engraving on them that do not exist today.
To the north of the path or on the slopes of the burial ground one can see fallen phallic stones here and there. In few places one comes across illegal digs few small ones and one large one cut into the side of the hill.
The path to the main burial plane goes over a little hill covered with green vegetation mixed with flowers.
The graveyard with the torkamans moving between them in their colorful clothes is really a sight to see. Again on the sides of the hill one can also find small and large fallen grave stones. It is a wonder that so many are standing.
The footpath runs to the other side of the burial plateau (south) passing a variety of phallic objects
Very large ones
Clusters of grave stones
Or a small, waste high, unusual size grave stone, the foot path then climes to the top of the small green hill at the south of the main graveyard. This small hill over looks all the hills and valleys to the north, there are two small grave stones, a male and a female; close to gather on top of this small hill perhaps that of torkaman Romeo and Juliet. The grave was illegally dug and the bones were scattered. A medical friend on examining the bones believed that they belonged to a male and a female – in the same grave. The grave was at depth of about 45 cm and covered by few irregular flat pieces of stone.
Perhaps the diggers found nothing of significance otherwise the whole place would have been dug inside out. We collected the bones and put them back and covered them with earth and throw the slabs on them. It is surprising that the bones had remained intact for so long in such humid soil. The bones looked rotten rather than having a fossil look. The bones make a novice wonder whether the site is old at all. The path continues to another adjacent small burial ground at a flat hill top to the east.
The grave stones come in variety of sizes. The stones have basically the same shape but very in height and thickness. Some have no ring. Some have one ring at the top and some two and some three rings. On few the top ring is corrugated. One was only waste high with no ring and different shape altogether. some are very thick in fact so thick that one cannot get his hands around it. Perhaps the height, the rings and the thickness are an indication of social order of the dead.
The female phallic stones , as far as I could see were all short – knee high – except in one case where it was as high as the tallest male phallic stones but with no rings and very thin. The male and female grave stones were mostly mixed .There were no writing on the stones, perhaps they did not have script to write with?
3 – 3 Who were these people
We know phallic worship was one of the earliest forms of worship practiced by ancient people and that it perhaps predated modern religions. There are phallic grave stones scattered all over northern Iran (Golestan province, Azerbaijan) and kordestan – for more information see next article. There are such grave stones in other countries of the world like India and Ireland. Very few remain in Europe as they were destroyed by the Christians. The pagan cults of fertility worship have close association with cults of sun worship. So biased on these assumption one wonders:
How old could this burial site be?
To what people did it belong?
(For some answers to these questions refer to next article on khaled nabi)
The people who used this burial ground must also have been well-off. Well-off enough to be able to provide sufficient extra manpower to cut the stones some weighing a ton or more and then have them move to the burial cite. But were they roaming nomads? Moving between a summer and a winter camp with no permanent settlement and hence no permanent structures to represent them. Or were they settled people with a city some ware near 10 km? 100 km? We know that in lorestan (Iran) where the nomads move between a winter and summer location they have two burial sites one for summer and one for winter, could there be a matching graveyard further in Turkmenistan republic further to the north
What about the round stone rooms behind the Khaled Nabi hill? Do they have any significance, how old are they; we know round rooms are very old technique but are they old. How old are the shrines on top of the hill. Was this place used as place of worship as well as burial site, could there be structures buried and not yet excavated.
Who were these people, Torkaman, Aryans or Mongols?
Was phallic worship specific to Khaled Nabi? Could this be an indication of phallic worship in Golestan province or north of Iran at some time or even over current Iranian Plateau at some time?
In Lorestan in some of the burial sites they used statue of lion as a grave marker. There are also such grave stones in north of Iran, is there a connection
So how old is this place.
2000 – 4000+ BC round houses, no writing, and phallic structures, belonging to locals
2000 – 0 BC Aryans
0 – 1000 Mongols and Turks
(Fore some information on above see the next article on Khaled Nabi)
3 – 4 Return journey
When on the burial hill top with such weight of history, sun, fresh spring green grass, flowers and fine weather one only wishes to lie on the grass with his shirt of for hours and some members of the group just did that.
Around 2 pm the group reluctantly decided to terminate their expedition and start the return journey. We all gradually made our way back to the parking lot at the khaled nabi hill top. From top of khaled nabi hill, the highest point in the area, at this time of the year – before all vegetation dies due to heat and lack of rain – one can see for miles and miles.
to the east the wave like hills green on one side and white on the other . to the east gentle green sloping hills all the way to the horizon with foot paths quite often running on the ridges. To the north, green hills terminate in the Alborz range, and to the north, the wave like hills continuing in to the fare away flat plains of Turkmenistan republic.
on the return journey from the shrines to Gachi so we took the van.
Our neighbors at Gachi so had invited the ladies of the group to sort of wedding – more correctly engagement announcement lunch party – but we missed it.
When we got back to Gachi so the engagement ceremony had finished and the ladies were washing the dishes with their colorful dresses. At the engagement party only the bride was present. The groom could not make it as he was too far away and could not afford the expenses twice – once for the engagement announcement and once for the marriage. Any way the part was only for announcing that the girl was named i.e. to be married. The groom will come for the wedding in a few months time.
We had lunch, macaroni, salami and tomato sauce, salad…. . The villagers said that the main industry around this area is breeding cattle, sheep and growing wheat.
Small plots of say tomato are grown for privet consumption water availability permitting. Our land lord and his wife were very friendly and kissed us god by. We left at 4.20 and hopping to get to Tehran by 2.00 to 300 am .
On the way back, perhaps high by the beauty of the place, 3 of our fellow travelers by the virtue of their youth, climbed on to the roof of the mini bus and from there jumped on to the roof of the van and back several times while we were traveling at the speed of about 30 km/h. A type of fun with the potential to ruin any good journey – statistically speaking – But I kept my promise to my self and said nothing.
We had minor trouble with 3 torkaman motor cycle riders. They blocked the rod in front of the mini bus by traveling at a very low speed, we stopped and after some discussion they left. This incident created some tense moments but fortunately it was eventually handled properly. Perhaps the rote of the problem lay in some sort of rude exchange between the guys on the roof and the local motor cycle riders.
Going back to Tehran we took a different rout. We went as far as Azad Shahr and from there we took the Shahrud pass through the Alborz range. On the way back the mini buss was quite. No more singing or jokes, everybody was tired.
Our return timings are as follows:
Leave Gachi so 4:20 PM
On the main asphalt road (junction) 6:00 PM
Start of Shahrud pass 7:00 PM
Shah rood city 10: 45 PM
Tehran 5:00 AM
Office 8.00 AM
Home sweet home no wife ( nazi)
Some interesting sites on province of Golestan: