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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

We then proceeded to the Ziarat


We

then proceeded to the Ziarat, a pilgrimage place famous all over Persia and south-western Afghanistan. I was fortunate enough to take a good photograph of its exterior (see opposite), which will represent its appearance to the reader better than a description. A high rectangular building plastered all over with mud, a front arch or alcove giving access to a small door, and two domed low stone buildings, one on either side, and another ruined building with a wall around it behind the Ziarat. A few yards to the left of the entrance as one looked at it was a coarse upright stone pillar.

The inside of the Ziarat was more interesting than the outside. It was a very large whitewashed single room, with high vaulted ceiling, and in the centre rose from the floor to a height of three feet a gigantic tomb, six yards in length, with a gabled top. It measured one yard and a half across at the head, and one yard at its foot, and had two stone pillars some five feet high standing one at each extremity. To these two end pillars was tied a rope, from which hung numberless rags, strips of cloth and hair. Behind the head of the tomb along the wall stretched a platform four and a half feet wide, on which rested two brass candlesticks of primitive shape, a much-used kalyan, and a great number of rags of all sizes, ages, and degrees of dirt.

The scrolls and inscriptions on the wall were very quaint, primitive representations of

animals in couples, male and female, being the most indulged in by the pilgrims. Goats and dogs seemed favourite subjects for portrayal.

[Illustration: Male and Female Goats. Dog.]

A lock of human hair and another of goat's hair hung on the wall to the right of the entrance, and on two sticks laid across, another mass of rags, white, blue, yellow and red. Hundreds more were strewn upon the ground, and the cross bars of the four windows of the Ziarat were also choke-full of these cloth offerings. Among other curious things noticeable on the altar platform were a number of stones scooped into water-vessels.

This Ziarat goes by the name of Gandun Piran, and is said to be some centuries old. In the spring equinox pilgrimages are made to this Ziarat from the neighbouring city and villages, when offerings of wheat are contributed that the donor may be at peace with the gods and expect plentiful crops. These pilgrimages take very much the form of our "day's outing on a Bank Holiday," and sports of various kinds are indulged in by the horsemen. It is the custom of devout people when visiting these Ziarats to place a stone on the tomb, a white one, if obtainable, and we shall find this curious custom extending all over Beluchistan and, I believe, into a great portion of Afghanistan.

Directly in front of the Ziarat was the priests' house, with massive, broad stone walls and nine rooms. The ceilings, fallen through in most rooms, were not semi-spherical as usual but semi-cylindrical, as could still be seen very plainly in the better-preserved one of the central room. This house had a separate building behind for stables and an outer oven for baking bread. The dwelling was secluded by a wall.


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