KUHPĀYA i. The District

 

KUHPĀYA

i. The District

Kuhpāya is a large piedmont boluk (3,000 km2) separated from Ardestān on the north and Nāʾin on the east respectively by the Fešārk and Kuhestān chains, extensions of the Karkas range. Its administrative center Ku(h)pā rests on a desolate landscape at 1,643 m above sea level, lat 32°43′ N, long 52°26′ E, halfway (65 km) along the road from Isfahan to Nāʾin. Kupā served as the second caravan station on the Isfahan-Yazd route and was a medium of commerce between Isfahan and some hundred hamlets along several valleys to its north and east. Along the north-south axis, Kupā was an important junction between Ardestān and Rudašt (cf. Siroux, 1971, pp. 27-31).

Kuhpāya has little recorded past. Historically and locally known as Vir (Yāqut, IV, p. 944; Tatawi, II, p. 1470), the toponym still had some administrative currency under the Safavids (Golčin-e Maʿāni, I, p. 404), although the name had largely been replaced by Kuhpāya (Afuštaʾi, pp. 515, 533), Qohpāya (Afuštaʾi, p. 573) or Qohpā, as the nesba Qohpāʾi was borne by several men of letters (see Golčin-e Maʿāni, I, p. 300; idem, II, pp. 1358, 1366; Mahdavi, pp. 99, 355, 451; cf. Rajāʾi Zefraʾi, 1979). Early modern sources document the center of the district as Vir (Afżal-al-Molk, fol. 88) and Qupā or Kupā (e.g., “Coopa” on the 18th-century maps of Delisle and Lotteri).

Old Kupā was surrounded by a mud wall and was divided into the quarters of Meydān, Purān, and Oštorḵān (lit. “camel caravansary”). Its fortification (qalʿa), ca. 60 × 60 m, now in ruins, shows architectural elements from various eras (Siroux, 1966; idem, 1971, pp. 54-56). Kupā’s relatively large Friday Mosque has a domed čahārṭāq construction (Figures 1 and 2) on a 36 m2 cruciform ground plan seated on an isolated platform, surmised to be Sasanian or early Islamic, akin to those in nearby Qehi, Harand, and Yazdeḵvāst; its meḥrāb is dated 710/1310 (Figure 3; see also Siroux, 1966; idem, 1973). The Safavid caravansary (rebāṭ-e Šāh-ʿAbbāsi), dated 999/1591, laid out around a four-ayvān courtyard (Figures 4 and 5), is also a splendid construction for Kupā’s modest location; the caravansary was relatively well preserved owing to its function as a local gendarmerie garrison (Siroux, 1949; idem, 1971, pp. 156-59; idem, 1974). Within the historic quarters of the town there are several cisterns, including the four-towered Bāḡčaḵān (Figure 6), presumably from the Safavid period.

Halfway on a secondary road from Kupā to Harand lies Qehi (locally Ki or Ji), 11 km south of Kupā, with dozens of caravansaries, cisterns, and bathhouses—relics of a prosperous past, when the village was at the crossroad of caravan routes. It had some thousand households, of which fewer than one hundred remained by the 1960s, with much of the village abandoned (Siroux, 1966; idem, 1971, p. 30; idem, 1973).

The importance suggested by the Safavid architecture might have continued under the Qajars, when Kuhpāya administered over neighboring Nāʾin, Ardestān, and Jarquya. In the late 19th century, when the province of Isfahan consisted of nine boluks, eight maḥalls, two qaṣabas, and five nāḥias, Kuhpāya was a maḥall stretching 1,600 square miles over the plain of the Zāyandarud and included the villages Kuhpā, Zefra, Fešārk, Mašgenān, and Harnad (Houtum-Schindler, pp. 125-29; cf. Afżal-al-Molk, folios 88-89; Arbāb, p. 22). The 17th-century head of the Capuchin convent in Isfahan, Raphael du Mans (II, p. 179), noted the nationwide reputation of the raisin production in “Koupa.” In the later 19th century, Kupā was praised for its horticulture and poppy plantations, the products of which was exported to Yazd (Stack, II, pp. 18-19). Kuhpāyā was then populated by 1,334 households and was known for its mines of iron ore and collyrium (Janāb, pp. 172, 178, 198); the latter (sang-e sorma) was known throughout Persia for its therapeutic effects (Soudavar Farmanfarmaian, p. 304). Modern institutions were established in Kupā under the Pahlavis (Kāviāni).

Kuhpāya has been subjected to several administrative changes. In the early Pahlavi era, Kuhpāya boluk had 36 villages and a population of 3,135 households; Rudašt was counted a separate boluk (Keyhān, II, pp. 423-26). In more recent times the district of Kuhpāya embraced Rudašt and Jarquya to its south (Edāra, p. 254; Razmārā, p. 162), both of which are now independent administrative divisions. At present, the baḵš of Kuhpāya, within Isfahan šahrestān, consists of Tudešk, Jabal, Zefra, and Sagzi subdivisions. Notwithstanding the vague usage of the toponym, Kuhpāya proper should be understood as mountainous (jabal; or Kuki in the local usage), which rests on the southern slopes of Fešārk and Šuraḡestān mountains, with the peak Mār(e)šnān. It has some forty settlements, including Kupā, Ḵvāja, Pāza, Keriči, Jaza, Mandābād, Daḵrābād, Kerdābād, and ʿOlunābād (Eilers, p. 220). The eastern district of Tudešk is divided into the village districts of Tudešk, Ješuqān/Gašgun, and Mašgenān (cf. Razmārā, pp. 56, 183); the village Mesr Yazdi had Zoroastrian residents until late times (Siroux, 1971, p. 29; cf. Rajāʾi Zefraʾi, 1975). By the early 1990s, an Armenian community was reported to live in the village Varṭun (Janāb, p. 178).

The present district is home to 30,000 people. Irrigated by subterranean aqueducts (kāriz), it has some 3,000 ha of farmland producing cereals, beans, and cotton; an additional 600 ha of orchards exports nuts, pomegranates, apricots, jujube (ʿannāb), and other horticultural products that are suited to the cool climate (sardsir; Razmārā, p. 162; MAI, village Gazetteer, pp. 12-14, 19; Maddāhi Kupāyi). The traditional economy was supported by a textile industry chiefly connected with that of Nāʾin; there are still more than 3,000 carpet looms scattered throughout the district and some 60 ʿabā-weaving factories, employing 600 workers. Construction of an Isfahan-Yazd railroad in the 1970s played a role in the development of the region. More recently, industrial townships (šahrak-e ṣanʿati) have been established near Kupā, Sagzi, and Mazraʿa-šur. Major industries of Kuhpāya are stone mining, bricks, textiles, and food processing. The four short subterranean aqueducts that supplied water to the six public cisterns of Kupā, no longer meet the needs of the expanding township; water is planned to be pumped up 25 km from the Zāyandarud River (Maddāhi Kupāyi; Keyhān, viža-ye ostān-e Esfahān, 29 Mehr 1375 Š./1996, pp. 1-4).

 

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(Habib Borjian)

Last Updated: June 26, 2013