Skip to main content Accessibility help

The shrine of Imām-i Kalān in Sar-i Pul, Afghanistan

  • Mehrdad Shokoohy


When in 1857 Ferrier reported a rock relief, apparently Sasanian, in the region of Sar-i Pul in North Afghanistan, he left us with an enigma which is still unsolved and which has for over a century remained a subject of intense discussion for specialists. The intrepid scholars who searched around the remote and often inaccessible rocky mountains of the area found no trace of the rock relief, but A. D. H. Bivar, while searching for the relief in 1964, was the first to notice some important and yet previously little known Islamic shrines near the village of Sar-i Pul. The two most interesting monuments were the shrines (ziyārat) of Imām-i Khurd and Imām-i Kalān. The first, a small squaredomed chamber, with several inscriptions, one commemorating the martyrdom ofYahya b. Zayā (d. 125/742–3), was described in detail by Professor Bivar who suggested a mid eleventh century date for the building, and it is not discussed again here. The other shrine was briefly mentioned, and two photographs showing details of the cut stucco work of the building were given.



Hide All

1 Joseph Pierre, Ferrier, Caravan journeys and wanderings in Persia, Afghanistan, Turkistan and Baloochislan, 2nd ed., London, 1857, 229.

2 Jonathan L., Lee, ‘Ferrier's journey from Sar-i Pul to Daulatyār’, East and West, XXXII, 1982, 99113.

3 Bivar, A. D. H., ‘Seljūqid ziyārats of Sar-i Pul (Afghanistan)’, BSOAS, XXIX, 1, 1966, 5763.

4 The historical inscription of Imām-i Khurd has also been noticed by Afghan, scholars and a reading of it was first published in Nāma-yi Žūndun, no. 15, Saratān, 1341 (1962), and was reexamined by Habibi, A. H., Tārīkh-i Afghānistān ba'd az Islām, Kabul, I, 1345 (1966), 187.

5 Bivar, op. cit., plates X and XI.

6 Imām-i Khurd measures about 4–80 m. square on the outside, and has a hemispherical dome, with the walls decorated with a small engaged column at each corner. The dome and the columns are comparable to those in the tomb of Ismā‘īl the Samanid, but no ornamentation can be seen on the exterior of the tomb of Imām-i Khurd.

7 Janine, Sourdel-Thomine, ‘Deux minarets seljoukides en Afghanistan’, Syria, XXX. 1953. 122–30.

8 Pope, A. U., A survey of Persian art, Tokyo-London, 19641965, VIII, 265–9.

9 Melikian-Chirvani, A. S., ‘Baba Hatem, un chef d'oeuvre inconnu d'époque ghaznévide en Afghanistan’, 5th International Congress of Iranian An and Archaeology, 1968, Tehran, 1972, n, 110–12, figs. 2 and 3.

10 Pougachenkova, G. A., ‘Découvertes et études des monuments architecturaux de Mawara'al- Nahr et de Khurasan (1957–67)’, 5th International Congress of Iranian Art and Archaeology, 1968, Tehran, 1972, n, 374–5.

11 For studies of this type of square-domed chamber, apart from the publications mentioned below see: Pribitkova, A. M., Stroitel'naya kultura Srednei Azii, ix-xn veka, Moscow, 1973, 50–5, 59–74, 119–86;Pribitkova, A. M., ‘Arkhitekturnie shkoly Srednei Azii’, Arkhitekturnoe Nasledstro, XXX, 1982, 103–19;Pougachenkova, G. A., ‘Khurasanskie Mavzolei, Khudozhestvennaya Kultura Srednei Azii IX-XIII veka. Tashkent, 1983, 1429;Voronina, V. L., ‘Mavzolei Samanidov i evo Zarubezhnie Analogi’, Arkhitekturnoe Nasledstvo, XXXIII, 1985, 191–7.

12 Eric, Schroeder, ‘Standing monuments of the first period’, in A survey of Persian art, ed. A. U., Pope, Tokyo-London, 19641965, III, 945–9.

13 Kutaichik, B. A. and Balakaev, A., Pamiatniki architektury Turkmanistana, Leningrad, 1974, 145–50.

14 ibid., 91–7.

15 G. A. Pougachenkova, art. cit. at n. 10 above, 370 and 373–4.

16 Kurt, Erdmann. ‘A contribution to the problem of the Sasanian fire temple, in A survey of Persian art, ed. A. U., Pope, Tokyo, London and New York, XIV, 1967, 3045–8.

17 G. A. Pougachenkova, art. cit., 371–2, building no. 2.

18 Kutaichik, B. A. and Balakaev, A., Pamiatniki architektury Turkmanistana, op. cit., 124–6.

19 Oskar von, Niedermayer and Ernst, Diez, Afganistan, Leipzig, 1924, 62, pis. 182–4;Derek, Hill and Oleg, Grabar, Islamic architecture and its decoration, London, 1967, pis. 143–4;Rafi, Samizay. Islamic architecture in Herat: a study towards conservation, Kabul, 1981, 1619.

20 Michael J., Casimir and Bernt, Glatzer, ‘Sāh-i Mashad: a recently discovered Madrasah of the Ghurid period in Ġarǧistān (Afghanistan)’, East and West, XXI, 1971, 5368;Habibi, A. H., ‘Nukāt-i nau dar tārīkh-i hunar wa dānish-i Khurāsān, Māh Malik, shāhdukht-i Ghūr wa banā-yi madrasa-yi Shāh-i Mashhad, Gharjistān, takmīl wa taṣhīh-i katībā-hā'ī ki nakhwānda-and’, Hunar wa Mardum, CLXXII, Isfand 2535, 1977, 2636.

21 Kutaichik, B. A. and Balakaev, A., Pamiatniki architektury Turkmanistana, op. cit., 173–91.

22 Page, J. A., An historical memoir on the Qutb: Delhi, Memoirs of the Archaeological Survey of India, XXII, Calcutta, 1926, 13–14, pis. 1, 6, 1112;Friedrich, Wetzel, Islamische Grobbauten in Indien, Ausgabe, 1918, repr. Osnabruck, 1970, 106;Tatsuro, Yamamoto et al. , Delhi, architectural remains of the Delhi sultanate period, Tokyo, I, 1967, 71, pl. 75 (T. 2); II, 1968, 116–19.

23 F. Wetzel, op. cit., 27–32; T. Yamamoto, op. cit., I, 1967, 72 (T. 7); II, 1968, 34–56.

24 Shokoohy, M. and Shokoohy, N. H., Ḥiṣār-i Fīrūza: Sultanate and Early Mughal architecture in the District of Hisar, India, London, 1988, 53–5.

25 ibid., 103–6.

The shrine of Imām-i Kalān in Sar-i Pul, Afghanistan

  • Mehrdad Shokoohy


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed