Magi and Murder: Kashan, Part 2


Wise men, called the three magi from the East, came to Jerusalem, asking, "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?” The word “magus” is of Persian origin.

Legends and tradition assigned the meaning of the “kings of the Orient’ to the Zoroastrians, men versed in a prophecy of Zoroaster (emissary of Ahura Mazda). According to A.V. Williams Jackson, Columbia University, a majority of the Church Fathers regard Persia as the native country of the wise men, without expressly locating their place of origin. Marco Polo, however, mentions three places in Persia from which these ‘kings’ were supposed to have come, with special emphasis on the “castle of the fire-worshippers.” Jackson believes the reference Marco makes to Cassan (Kashan) establishes the location of these learned people in the region of Kashan, or perhaps 20 miles south on the Kashan-Isfahan road-- now a deserted place where a settlement of fire-worshippers gathered adjacent to the ruins of a magnificent caravanserai. (A. V. Williams Jackson, Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 26 (1905), pp. 79-83, Published by: American Oriental Society). (More on the Zoroastrians, in later blogs).

Kashan bazaar ceiling

It is far from certain whether Kashan figured in the biblical account of the discovery of Jesus but its candidacy reflects the ancient mystique of this city, an oasis on a desert (the Maranjab) strewn with mounds dating back several millennia BC. Kashan’s antiquity is attested by the mud-brick backstreets and a cluster of palatial homes. Kashan was a leisure vacation spot for Safavi Kings.

Timcheh-e Amin o Dowleh -bazaar hub

Among the highlights of any visit to this city is the virtually undiminished historical Kashan Bazaar with its central Timcheh-e Amin o Dowleh – a structure designed to naturally regulate temperature and sunlight, and ventilate the interior. Wandering within the cavern-like market I discovered what I dubbed the “green mosque”, presiding over a back alley courtyard that was nearly deserted but bathed in emerald-colored lights – I learned that green is a popular color in Iran and symbolizes, according to one account, "gardens, nature, heaven, and sanctity." Green also purportedly was the favorite color of the prophet Muhammad. In the 12th century, green was chosen as dynastic color by the (Shiite) Fatimids, in contrast to the black used by the (Sunnite) Abbasids.

A towering ceiling dominates the hub of the Kashan bazaar