Sunday, May 11, 2008

Kerman Area rug Weavers: Meymand Thriving After 12 Centuries

Meymand Thriving After 12 Centuries

Meymand, a village near Babak in Kerman province, is undoubtedly one of the most ancient homes of man on earth. The village dates back to some 12,000 years ago and is still inhabited.
Researchers believe early inhabitants were practicing Mithraists, the website Irpedia reported.

Honoring the rituals of Mithraism, they chose dimly lit caves to say their prayers and carved out chambers and niches in the mountains to place their dead. Therefore, one can find numerous temples and tombs in this region, all cut into the mountain walls.
Mithraists believed in the endurance, stability and imperishability of mountains and inspired by this belief, they dug out their domiciles in the heart of the rocks.
Some experts are of the opinion that the caves merely served as places of worship or burial chambers. However, because of severe climatic changes, their architects were compelled to make the caves their dwelling places.
Mithraism was the dominant religion believed and practiced in pre-Zoroastrian Iran and even lingered a good while after the dawn of Zoroastrianism.
Recent historical findings show that Zoroastrianism emerged some 6,000 years before the birth of Christ. Thus, considering the fact that Meymand was founded by Mithraists, who predated the Zoroastrians, the date 6,000 B.C. may be the closest point of time we can posit for the foundation of the village.
Stone-carvings belonging to 10,000 years ago and 6,000-year-old pottery works discovered at the site are among evidences of the antiquity of Meymand.
Due to the impregnable position of its fortifications, Meymand suffered very little social or physical change during history.
The extremely old complex of houses, temples, castles and fortifications has raised the status of Meymand from a simple village to a specimen of an unrivaled civilization.

The beliefs of the inhabitants of Meymand were originally rooted in Mithraism and later Zoroastrianism. After the arrival of Islam in Iran, Meymand villagers, who were born Zoroastrians, converted to Shiite Islam and made lots of sacrifices in the history of Islamic Iran.
Converts transformed their cave chambers and temples into mosques and Hosseiniehs (places dedicated to religious ceremonies).
Mosque, besides functioning as a center of religious congregations, also serves as a forum for villagers to exchange views.

Natural Beauty
Meymand has a temperate mountainous climate. It has cold winters and mild summers. The village is flanked on one side by a plain and on the other by mountains.
The plain lies between Meymand and Babak, and in the past abounded with pistachios and wild almonds which gradually shrunk to few areas. Closer to the village, mulberries are found in great numbers.
Meymand is also home to different species of desert animals such as snakes, scorpions, lizards, porcupines and turtles. Some of the wild animals found in the mountains of Meymand include the antelope, wild ass, leopard, fox, wolf, wild goat and various birds of prey.
Flow of water from a few seasonal creeks and springs as well as the presence of numerous underground canals excavated to carry subterranean waters have contributed greatly to agricultural activity in this region.
Cultivated lands, like any other natural sight, attract the attention of those who enter the village, especially in spring when it is crowned with blossoming trees.

Economy of the residents hinges on three pivotal activities: agriculture, animal husbandry and carpet weaving. Of the trio, carpet weaving is given more attention and Meymand carpets are among the best in the world.
Urban development has not exempted this hamlet and it has both electricity and piped water. However, its people still shun the use of modern equipment as far as possible.
In early spring, families focus on breeding livestock and producing dairy products. In summer, they collect wild pistachios, wild almonds and grow almond, walnut and cumin. It should be noted that Meymand walnuts and almonds are of high quality.

Rock houses are built on different levels by chiseling horizontal cuts into the precipice. These cuts, called kicheh, measure 6 to 9 meters in length and are dug into the precipice to the extent that enough height is provided for chiseling out the upper house.
The end of a kicheh reaches a terrace-like area known as the dalan which is a very important element in a neighborhood, for most daily family affairs take place there. The doors of 1 to 5 rock houses open to a dalan. There are around 400 large and small kichehs in Meymand.
Interior of a house is either square-shaped or round and illuminated by daylight that enters an opening of 75 to 76 cm. Wooden doors are equipped with a latch known as koleydun (keyhole) which fits into a hole drilled in one side of the stone doorpost when closed.
Entrance of a room in these houses is roughly shaped like a human body. It is narrower at the bottom of the door and gradually gets wider in the upper part at shoulder length.
The foot of a door is raised about 15 to 20 cm above the level of the kicheh which doesn’t let water and dust get into the house.
Iranians are visiting the village in large numbers as it is being publicized in the domestic media.
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