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Temple of Anahita at Kangavar

Visual Essays

Jamshid Varza

On the road traveling from Tehran toward the city of Kermanshah "Bakhtaran," one passes through the valley of Asad-abad. In small town of Kangavar, ruins of a majestic historic site start to appear right by the roadside. <Slide Show>

View of row of columns and eastern wall.
The site is known as the Temple of Anahita, built by Achaemenian Emperor Ardeshir II (Artaxerxes II), 404 BC to 359 BC. 

A single column on eastern wall.
Kangavar was mentioned by the Greek geographer Isidore of Charax in the first century AD, under the name of Konkobar in ancient province of Egbatana; its name may be derived from the Avestan Kanha-vara, 'enclosure of Kanha'.

View of front wall.
This temple is built in honor of "Ardevisur Anahita," the female guardian angel of waters. It is known as "Temple of Anahita"

View of section of front wall.
Architecture of this temple coincides with palaces and temples built during the Achaemenian period, 550 BC to 330 BC, in western Iran. Large pieces of stone are cut and shaped into blocks of rock. They are placed on top of each other; their shape usually causes them to interlock to form a wall or platform by a mountainside.

View of main front area.
The Arab geographer Yaqut wrote of Kangavar in 1220; he says the place was the haunt of bandits, locally called either Qasr-i Shirin, 'castle of Shirin' after Khosro's favorite wife, or more often Qasr al-Lasus, the 'Robber Castle'. He wrote: "The Robber Castle is a very remarkable monument, and there is a platform some twenty cubits above the ground and on it there are vast portals, palaces, and pavilions, remarkable for their solidity and their beauty."

Base of a column.
Shapes and carvings of the columns in temple are similar to those found in Persepolis and palace of Darius in Susa.

Stone block part of a terrace.
In the nineteenth century, various Europeans investigated the ruins. Ker Porter in 1818 found them to form the foundations of a single huge platform - a rectangular terrace three hundred yards square, crowned with a colonnade.

View of general area
Professor Jackson in 1906 found one very well-preserved retaining wall at the NW corner of the enclosure, probably part of the foundation of a single building; it was 12 to 15 feet high and runs north and south for more than 70 feet.

General view from the hill behind the temple.
According to classic historians, the temple of Anahita at Ecbatana was a vast palace, four-fifths of a mile in circumference, built of cedar or cypress. In all of it, not a single plank or column stood but was covered by plates of silver or gold. Every tile of the floors was made of silver, and the whole building was apparently faced with bricks of silver and gold. 

View of general area
It was first plundered by Alexander in 335 BC, then further stripped during the reigns of Antigonus (BC 325-301) and Seleucus Nicator (BC 312-280). 

View of general area
But when Antiochus the Great arrived at the city in 210 BC, he found columns covered with gold and silver tiles piled up in the temple, along with gold and silver bricks. From these he struck coinage amounting to about four thousand talents' worth.

View of upper section of the Taq carved in celebration of Khosro II, Parviz coronation. Anahita's image on the left side is marked with a white dot.
Archeological excavations uncovered layers belonging to Sassanian dynasty.  

Continuing the road to Kermanshah would take the traveler to another ancient site known as Taq-e-Bostan. In this area several Taqs (arches) were carved with detailed inscription commemorating a major event of the era. The largest and latest Taq was carved celebrating the coronation of Khosro-II Parviz, also know as Khosro-Parviz. In upper section of the Taq, Khosro's image is carved receiving his crown from Mobed-e-Mobedan (highest priest of his time) under the protection of guardian angel of waters -- Anahita.