TAFT, town and district in Yazd province. The town is located 20 km southwest of Yazd, on the road to Abarquh, at an altitude of 1,560 m. The district, formerly known as Piškuh, is an arid piedmont consisting of the rural districts of Piškuh, Šurkuh, ʿAliābād, Naṣrābād, Dehšir, Bonādkuk, Zardin, Saḵvid, Garizāt, and Kahduʾiya (Razmārā, Farhang X, p. 48; Moṣāḥab, p. 650; Jaʿfari, p. 293).
An early mention of Taft is found in the 15th century; it was known for its pleasant climate, water, and produce, especially pomegranates and grapes. A dry riverbed, flooded seasonally, bisected the town into two rivaling quarters, Garmsir and Sardsir, with a Friday mosque in the former (Kāteb, pp. 214-27). Taft was home to the 15th-century mystical leader Shah Neʿmatallāh Wali, who built a ḵānaqāh there (Afšār, I, p. 412); his offspring built other structures (Bāfqi, pp. 685-88). The tomb of Neʿmatallāh’s great-grandson, Shah Ḵalilallāh Ṯāni, whose corpse was carried to Taft from Herat, is still revered by the locals (Afšār, I, pp. 414-16). There is a cave near Taft, mentioned by several travelers (e.g. Khanikoff, tr. pp. 219-20), inside which there is a waterhole that has been the subject of fascination and myth for the natives. Another landmark is a lofty waterfall nearby.
The township of Taft (designated a village until recently) has retained part of its traditional form, and constructions from as early as the 15th century can still be seen. These point to a period of economic prosperity that lasted until the end of Safavid rule. There is no indication that Taft was walled at any point in its history, suggesting a predominant farming community. However, there were several forts and watchtowers in the area, probably built during the Qajar period (Afšār, I, p. 423).
Following the Constitutional Revolution of 1906, which affected the district only some years later, a rebellion broke out in Taft, led by Ostād Moḥammad Bannā, who, together with his armed bandits, briefly took over the government seat in Yazd. The rebellion was promptly suppressed in September 1911 by Prince Amir Aʿẓam, causing Moḥammad Bannā to flee back to Taft (Ṭāheri, p. 83).
The population of the district remained low until recently. It was estimated at 14,100 souls in 1938 (Ṭāheri, p. 28). The town’s population, 6,451 as of 1956 (Ministry of the Interior, 1956, XIV, p. 1), did not grow significantly in two decades, probably due to emigration. In those years the literacy rate was at 26 percent (idem, p. 23), a relatively high number that continued to climb in subsequent decades. The population of the town doubled in the first post-Revolutionary decade, and continued to rise, concomitant with the claimed economic growth caused by the implantation of various industries and a college.
As are the neighboring districts, Taft has long been a home to Zoroastrians. In the 19th century, consul Abbott (Amanat, 1983, pp. 104-05, 137-39, 198) and N. Khanikoff (tr. p. 218) reported that the Zoroastrians were repressed, although they had a fire temple in their quarter north of Taft. As a religious minority, Zoroastrians were obliged to wear distinctive yellowish robes, a signifier of shame (Browne, pp. 394-96). Only a few Zoroastrian families still live in the town, while the villages Zaynābād, Čam, and Mobāraka were mainly occupied by Zoroastrians until recently.
Iraj Afšār, Yādegārhā-ye Yazd, 2 vols., 2nd ed., Tehran, 1993.
Abbas Amanat, ed., Cities and Trade: Consul Abbott on the Economy and Society of Iran, 1847-1866, London, 1983.
Moḥammad-Mofid Mostawfi Bāfqi, Jāmeʿ-e Mofidi, ed. Iraj Afšār, Tehran, 1961.
Edward G. Browne, A Year Amongst Persians, London, 1893, repr. 1950.
Jamsheed K. Choksy, Conflict and Cooperation: Zoroastrian Subalterns and Muslim Elites in Medieval Iranian Society, New York, 1997.
ʿAbbās Jaʿfari, Gitāšenāsi-e Irān III, 2nd ed., Tehran, 2005.
Moḥammad-Saʿid Jāneballāhi Firuzābādi, “Taʾṯir-e amāken-e maḏhabi bar bāft-e maḥallāt-e sonnati-e šahrestān-e Taft,” in Majmuʿa-ye maqālāt-e mardomšenāsi III, Tehran, 1987, pp. 1-30.
Aḥmad b. Ḥosayn b. ʿAli Kāteb, Tāriḵ-e jadid-e Yazd, ed. Iraj Afšār, Tehran, 1978.
Ministry of Interior, Public Statistics, Census District Statistics of the First National Census of Iran Aban 1335/November 1956 XIV. Yazd Census District, 1960.
Ḡ.-Ḥ. Moṣāḥab, Dāyerat-al-maʿāref-e fārsi, I, Tehran, 1966.
Plan Organization, Iran Statistical Centre, National Census of Population and Housing, no. 168, Tehran, 1968.
Idem (Sāzmān-e barnāma wa budja), Markaz-e āmār-e Irān, Āmārnāma-ye ostān-e Yazd, no. 788, Tehran, 1979.
Aḥmad Ṭāheri, Tāriḵ-e Yazd, Yazd, 1938.
N. Khanikoff, Memoire sur la partie meridionale de l’Asie Centrale; Pers. tr. A. Yaḡmāʾi and A. Bigonāh as Safarnāma-ye Ḵānikof: Gozāreš-e safar ba baḵš-e jonubi-e Āsiā-ye Markazi, Mašhad, 1996.
(EIr, based on an article submitted by Ali Modarres)
Originally Published: February 4, 2011
Last Updated: February 4, 2011