ČAḴĀNSŪR, principal town of the large Ḵāšrūd delta oasis in northeastern Sīstān. Immediately downstream from the oasis the complex of Sīstānī playas begins with a large floodplain covered by a dense halophytic steppe, which provide seasonal pasturage after the spring floods: the aškān (ašken) of Čaḵānsūr (Maitland, p. 80). Despite the long history of human occupation in the region, attested by abundant archeological remains and the traces of old irrigation networks, the toponym Čaḵānsūr does not appear before the 13th/19th century. Perhaps the town is to be identified with ancient Sarūwār/Sarūzān (Eṣṭaḵrī, p. 245), as proposed by H. C. Rawlinson (p. 286); the connection with Kada, suggested by J. P. Ferrier, (p. 417), must be rejected, however, for the latter locality still exists about 30 km northeast of Čaḵānsūr. In the English 19th-century sources Čaḵānsūr is referred to under various forms, which have led to a number of different interpretations. Particularly noteworthy are Conolly’s (p. 713) popular derivation of “Chukhnasoor” from “Khanehsoor” (?), signifying “the house of marriage” and Rawlinson’s (p. 286 n.) scholarly interpretation of “Chaghān-sūr” as “the mound of marriage.” Both authors relate the name to a tradition concerning the marriage of Rostam’s daughter. The form Sheikh Nassoor (Ferrier, pp. 415ff.) is also found, as is the spelling Chaknāsūr (probably a misreading of Chukhnasoor), which Bellew interprets (p. 269) as a highly conjectural composite of Arabic and Brahui: “the fort of birds.” Furthermore, according to M. Weiers, the form Čaḡānsūr, still attested in some Afghan sources at the beginning of the 14th/20th century (Ḥayāt-Allāh Khan, p. 89), would be equally readable in Mongol (apud Fischer, p. 11). Today only the spelling Čaḵānsūr is used.
Čaḵānsūr, once the seat of a local dynasty of mīrs (Tate, p. 210), passed into the hands of the Sanjarānī Baluch at the beginning of the 13th/19th century and became the center of their northernmost principality. At that time an imposing fortress stood there and at its feet a town containing in 1845 “between fifteen and eighteen hundred houses, a bazaar, five public baths, two caravanserais, and a mosque” (Ferrier, p. 417). Several families of Hindu merchants were established there (Peacocke, p. 28). At the time of the amir Šēr-ʿAlī Khan (1285-96/1868-79) the Sanjarānī sardār (ruler) of Čaḵānsūr, Ebrāhīm Khan (d. 1311/1893), shifted his allegiance to Kabul. In practice, however, he remained independent until 1299/1882, when the new amir, ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān, drove him out and annexed his territory after a brief military expedition led by the Afghan governor of Farāh. The Baluch town was then deserted. The new Afghan administration was established less than a kilometer to the southeast in a new village which was named from the local representative of the amir (Deh-e Nāyeb Aḥmad Khan) before the name Čaḵānsūr was readopted.
This new town, two days’ journey by horseback from Farāh (Tate, p. 212), became the capital of Afghan Sīstān, itself a district (ḥokūmat) of the province of Farāh. After the administrative reform of 1343 Š./1964 this district became an autonomous province under the name Nīmrōz, and its capital was transferred to Zaranj, which is more centrally located, about 46 km by track southwest of Čaḵānsūr. The latter then entered on a phase of decline, which was accelerated by construction in the 1350s Š./1970s of a direct gravel road between Delārām and Zaranj, bypassing Čaḵānsūr at some distance. Today the town is only a secondary administrative and commercial center, the main town of a simple district (woloswālī of Aṣl-e Čaḵānsūr, 9,660 km2), without urban status. Its bāzār, constructed on a linear plan, includes no more than a few dozen poorly stocked shops (Grötzbach, p. 137).
There are no population estimates for the town of Čaḵānsūr. At the beginning of the 14th/20th century the district is supposed to have had about 24,000 inhabitants, of whom 43 percent were sedentary and 57 percent nomadic (Tate, pp. 334, 360). In 1978-79 the same region (woloswālī of Aṣl-e Čaḵānsūr and ʿalāqadārī of Ḵāšrūd) contained approximately 36,000 inhabitants, of whom only 9 percent were nomads.
H. W. Bellew, From the Indus to the Tigris, London, 1874; repr. Karachi, 1977.
E. Conolly, “Sketch of the Physical Geography of Seistan,” JASB 9, 1840, pp. 710-26.
J. P. Ferrier, Caravan Journeys and Wanderings in Persia, Afghanistan, Turkistan, and Beloochistan, London, 1857; repr. Westmead, 1979, Karachi, 1976.
K. Fischer, ed., Geländebegehungen in Sistan 1955-1973, Nimruz 1, Bonn, 1976.
Gazetteer of Afghanistan II, s.vv. Chakhānsūr, Sarjarānī. E. Grötzbach, Städte und Basare in Afghanistan, Beihefte zum Tübinger Atlas des Vorderen Orients B16, Wiesbaden, 1979.
Ḥayāt-Allāh Khan, Joḡrāfīā-ye Afḡānestān, Kabul, n.d.
P. J. Maitland, Diary, Afghan Boundary Commission, Records of Intelligence Party 1, Simla, 1888.
M.-Ḥ. Nāheż, ed., Qāmūs-e joḡrāfīāʾī-e Afḡānestān II, Kabul, 1336 Š./1957.
W. Peacocke, “Diary from September 1884 to October 1886,” in Afghan Boundary Commission, Records of Intelligence Party 3, Simla, 1887, pp. 1-426.
H. C. Rawlinson, “Notes on Seistan,” JRGS 43, 1873, pp. 272-94.
G. P. Tate, Seistan, Calcutta, 1910-12; repr. Quetta, 1977.
Originally Published: December 15, 1990
Last Updated: December 15, 1990
This article is available in print.
Vol. IV, Fasc. 6, pp. 646-647