Afghanistan: the incredible Takht-i Rostam

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Takht-i Rustam (Haibak), literal meaning the throne of Rostam, named after Rostam, a king in Persian mythology that had… a very special armor!

One of the lesser-known curiosities of Afghanistan is the Takht-e Rostam monument in Samangan province, between Mazar-e Sharif and Kunduz in the north. A Buddhist monastery built into solid stone, with a square building above, Takht-e-Rustam is named after a hero from Persian mythology (Rostam), and archaeologists believe it dates from from the 4th-5th centuries.

The site is divided into three levels for the king, court and commoners, and there are two large halls nearby, one of which is circular.

As you can see, this is a massive sight, built with some spectacular precision. But the story of gets even better:

A MAGICAL ARMOR

Babr-e Bayān is the name of a suit that Rostam, the legendary Iranian hero wore in wars. The suit had a number of preternatural features. It was invulnerable against fire, water and weapon. Its color was dark and apparently it was hairy. Rostam, before going to battle, wore three levels of defensive suits, he first put on a zereh, then a gabr or jowshan, and lastly the Babr-e Bayan.

Etymology: The name Babr-e Bayan consists of two components. Babr, the first component, simply means “tiger” in Middle Persian.

Bayan, the second component, is not a Persian word and its origin is uncertain. There are several suggestions for this but none of them are convincing. In an account, when Rostam was 14 years old, he killed a dragon known as Babr-e Bayan in India. The dragon lived in the sea, but he came out of the sea one day every week. When Rostam killed the creature, he made a suit for himself out of its skin. There are similar accounts to this in other Persian epic poems.

After the death of Rostam, the suit was passed to his son, Faramarz, never to be seen again.

On a tour to assess situation of the historic sites in Samangan, the information and culture minister, Abdul Karim Khurram pledged to rebuild the damaged parts of the Takht-e-Rostam or Rostam’s Throne.

The throne is a stone-made old stupa, and is considered a rare historic site in the whole region. The minister said they will rebuild the underlying parts of the throne first and then the surrounding wall that protects the site. Unfortunately, there will be no visits or studies for the next years.

Unlike other stupas, the one of Takht-e Rostam has not been mounted above ground, but it has been carved into the ground, in a style that resembles the monolithic churches of Ethiopia. Why? No one knows for sure…

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