LĀḴ-MAZĀR “Rocky sacred place (?),” name applied to gorges not far from the settlement of Kuč, 29 km southeast of Birjand in Khorasan Province (ostān). For the name, compare Pers. sanglāḵ “stony place, gorge of stones,” dīwlāḵ “dwelling of div” (q.v.), rūd lāḵ “river bed.” In April 1992 Iranian scholar-archeologists, students of local lore, and linguists working in the Department of Cultural Heritage of Khorasan Province investigated rock inscriptions and petroglyphs there (the results were published in 1994; see Ḵāniki and Baššāš).
Through the gorges of Lāḵ-Mazār runs the road from Khorasan to Kerman. Travelers have left on the rocks numerous inscriptions: Arabic (Kufic and later, 35 inscriptions in all, some of them with dates of the lunar Hijra calendar, from the 9th to the 18th century); New Persian (8 inscriptions, all of them very brief; see Ḵāniki), containing personal names and Qurʾanic formulas (only in Arabic); and Parthian, more lengthy ones. Rajab ʿAlī Labbāf-e Ḵāniki (p. 22) mentions 80 Parthian and Middle Persian inscriptions, but on the photographs and tracings (Ḵāniki and Baššāš, pp. 40-43) one can find only one Middle Persian inscription and six Parthian. On the tracings there are about 40 Parthian inscriptions, but the tracings are very inaccurate, and in most cases it is difficult to set boundaries between the inscriptions.
The authors of the publication date the Parthian inscriptions to the fifth century. This date is confirmed by the finds of the coins of King Kawād I (r. 488—531) in the gorges and by the presence of an engraved image representing a man’s head in a crown in which Ḵāniki (Ḵāniki and Baššāš, p. 31) sees the portrait of this king.
In the publication the Parthian inscriptions are reproduced on 6 photographs and 5 plates of tracings (Ḵāniki and Baššāš, pp. 40-44; Baššāš). It can be noticed that in the tracings among other inscriptions one can distinguish variants (‘drafts’) of the same Parthian texts, which are very carefully (even calligraphically) executed on other rocks by the same hand with a clear difference between r and d (the latter with a diacritic below the character) and the forms of h and ḥ.
Rasūl Baššāš, who published the transliteration, transcription, and translation into Persian of the six most clearly distinguishable Parthian inscriptions of Lāḵ-Mazār, came to a conclusion that they were ritual, telling about religious ceremonies in honor of the Zoroastrian deities of Truth and Righteousness. The word drwdšt “firm, righteous”—which is present in some of the inscriptions—Baššāš associated with the Middle Persian name of the religious sect of drist-dēnān, lit. “(with) the right faith,” connected with the Mazdakite movement (on which, see in brief IRAN ix[1.1]). The second subject that, in the opinion of Baššāš (Ḵāniki and Baššāš, p. 74), is considered in the inscriptions is a reflection of the Zoroastrian ritual of nōknawār connected with the coming of age (15 years), when a boy received his sacred belt (kustī-bandī), and the performance of the rites through which faithful Zoroastrians attain the priestly rank of hērbed.
However, the reading of the Parthian inscriptions from Lāḵ-Mazār shows that they have nothing to do with Zoroastrian ritual practices or with the Mazdakite drist-dēnān sect. The Lāḵ-Mazār inscriptions present an example of humorous texts. The authors of these inscriptions were six Parthian lads working as guides on the mountain road running through the gorges. Their names were Mihrbān (Mtrybn “possessing the brilliance of Mithra”), Wišādewēnēn (Wyštywynyn, “with open gaze”), Ardaxšīr (ʾrtḥstr, “having the favor of the deities of Righteousness and Power”), Girdāzād (Grtʾzʾt, 'having the free [celestial?] orb”), Paryōžnaw (Prgwznw “new victor”), and Warhrām (Wrhr”m, “created by the deity of Victory”). Their ‘visiting card’ is the inscription, in which their names are enumerated, demonstrating that these lads were not remarkable for their modesty: (1) mtrybn (2) wyštywynyn Wmtrybn (3) MNW nʾyt drwdšt (4) drysyd sr ḤWYt “[Says] Mihrbān: if Wišādewēnēn and Mihrbān take anyone across [the gorges], he stays in good order (and) (his?) head sound (?).” That they were proud of their profession is revealed in another inscription: mtrybn Wwystywynyn MNW nʾyt drwdšt tḥsyt “Mihrbān and Wišādewēnēn [if they] take anyone through, will strive [to take him] in good order.” Those lads were probably taking pleasure making jokes and laughing at each other. For some reason they did not like Ardaxšīr’s donkey, of which they twice informed in two identical inscriptions: (1) ʾrtḥštr (2) ḥwtwy pty (3) ḤMR ʾyysyt (4) pty ḤMR MH (5) ʾnywš “Lord Ardaxšīr comes upon a donkey, the donkey which is out of his mind” (lit. ‘which is mad’).
The guides did not lack certain artistic abilities; they carved on the rocks several images of lions. Upon one of them they wrote: (1) šgrw ZNH kyrt (2) grtʾzʾt (W)mtrybn “This lion has been made by Girdāzād and Mihrbān.” Once three of the lads decided to add some images of bears. Upon one of them they wrote: (1) ḥrsk ZNH kyrt (2) wyštywynyn Wrtḥštr (3) WMNW p(t)y ZNH ḥrsk (4) ḤMR ʾKLw Wšʾt [ḤMR?] ʾKLw (5) wyštywynyn L[Ḥw prz]ryt “This bear Wišādewēnēn, Mihrbān, and Ardaxšīr have made. And [if] anyone has drunk wine upon this bear and drank [wine] with joy, then Wišādewēnēn will [withhold [him] from further libations].”
Such are the texts of the Parthian inscriptions on the rocks in the gorges of Lāḵ-Mazār, as far as it is possible to read them from the published photographs and tracings.
Rasul Baššāš, “Katībahā-ye ḵatt-e pārti-ye dawra-ye sāsānī-ye sangnigāra-ye Lāḵ-Mazār-e Kūč,” in Ḵāniki and Baššāš, pp. 58-63.
Rajab ʿAlī Labbāf-e Ḵāniki, “Gozāreš-e barrasī-ye sangnegāra-ye Lāḵ-Mazār-e Bīrjand,” in Ḵāniki and Baššāš, pp. 22-23.
Rajab ‘Alī Labbāf-e Ḵāniki and Rasul Baššāš, Selsela-ye maqālāt-e pažuhiši-ye mirāṯ-e farhangi-ye kešwar I. Sangnegāra-ye Lāḵ-Mazār, Bīrjand, 1373 Š./1994.
V. A. Livshits, “Parthians Joking,” Manuscripta Orientalia. International Journal for Oriental Manuscript Research 8/1, March 2002, pp. 27-35.
(V. A. Livshits)
Originally Published: January 7, 2011
Last Updated: January 7, 2011