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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

The Kalantar is a large landowner


The

Kalantar is a large landowner, and has the contract for all the grazing tax of East Sistan. Among the villages owned by him are Iskil, Bunjar, and Kas-im-abad, the three richest in Sistan. The name of Kalantar is taken by each of the family as he succeeds to the possession of these villages, lands, and rights.

The Kalantar, previous to the one now in possession, was a man of most commanding presence, very tall and very stout--the biggest man in Sistan--and much respected by everybody. He was extremely friendly towards the English. He had planted an entire garden of English flowers and fruit at Iskil, and took the keenest interest in horticulture and agriculture. Above all, however, he was renowned for a magnificent collection of ancient seals, coins, jewellery, implements, beads, and other curiosities, of which he had amassed chests and chests full that had been dug up from the great city of Zaidan and neighbourhood. Some of the cameos were very delicately cut in hard stone, and reminded one of ancient Greek work. Symbolic representations in a circle, probably to suggest eternity, were favourite subjects of these ornamentations, such designs as a serpent biting its own tail, or three fishes biting one another's tails and forming a circle, being of frequent occurrence. So also were series of triangles and simple circles. The gold rings were most beautifully delicate and simple in design, and so were all the other ornaments, showing that the people

of Zaidan had a most refined civilisation which is not to be found in Persian art of to-day. Personally, I have certainly never seen modern Persian work which in any way approached in beauty of line and execution to the articles excavated from the great city of Zaidan.

A great profusion of beads of amber, jasper, crystal, turquoise, malachite, agate, had been found in Zaidan and some that we saw were handsomely polished and cut, some were ornamented, others were made of some composition like very hard enamel. All--even the hardest crystal ones--had clean holes drilled through them.

The Kalantar had built himself a fine residence at Iskil, with huge rooms and lofty domes, and here he kept these collections. His generous nature had caused him to build a handsome guest house in front of his dwelling in order to put up and entertain his friends, native or foreign.

It was on the steps of his guest house that the last act of a terrible tragedy took place only a short time before we visited Iskil. About ten years ago, in 1891, a man called Mahommed Hussein Khan, an Afghan refugee, came to live in Bunjar, bringing with him a _sigah_ wife (concubine), her mother and a child. Shortly after his arrival he left his family in Bunjar and went on a pilgrimage to Meshed. No news was received of him for a very long time, and the wife wrote to him--when her money and patience were exhausted--that if he did not return on a certain date or answer her letter she should consider herself divorced from him. He replied that she might consider herself free from the date of receipt of his letter, and requested her to send her mother in charge of his child to Meshed.


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