BĀR (audience). The royal audience was one of the most important and enduring of the court ceremonies practiced in Iran. Initially it was influenced, in certain details of the ceremonial, by similar Egyptian and Assyrian practices, and subsequently it in turn influenced the practices of imperial Rome, medieval Europe, and above all the caliphate and the Indian empire (Walser, pp. 19ff., 22ff.). In Iran the audience ceremony endured without significant change until the 20th century.
i. From the Achaemenid through the Safavid period.
ii. The Qajar and Pahlavi periods.
i. From the Achaemenid Through the Safavid Period
Reliefs on stone from the Achaemenid period, particularly the relief found at the treasury site at Persepolis in the excavations by the American archeological mission in 1936, depict an audience given by Darius (521-485 b.c.), and the Greek historians supply further information. The formalities were as follows. The audience seeker addressed his request and stated his reasons to the head of protocol, who explained the procedure to him and on the appointed day escorted him to the king’s presence. The king in full regalia sat erect on a high-backed chair, wearing a tall hat called kidaris and holding a long scepter in his right hand and a lotus flower in his left hand. Behind the king stood his personal servants and his bodyguard (Ghirshman, fig. 255). In the relief depicting Darius’s audience, the heir apparent Xerxes appears in equally fine array, standing at his father’s right side and also holding a lotus leaf in his left hand, while his right hand is raised as a signal that he is about to speak.
In later periods, high-ranking officers, officials, and nobles also attended royal audiences. Each had a preallotted place, and the nearness of his place to the king marked the importance of his rank. Likewise, being seated was rated higher than standing, and being on the king’s right higher than being on his left (Šāh-nāma, ed. Mohl, IV, p. 612 vv. 3007ff.). If anybody was put in a place lower than one befitting his rank, it was a sign that he had incurred the royal displeasure (Bayhaqī, pp. 32ff.). In the Sasanian period, the king sat on cushions on a golden throne, and the crown was hung on a chain in such a position that it seemed that the king was wearing it when he sat down. These practices remained in vogue under the first Islamic dynasties in Iran, who took the Sasanians as their model. At the Sasanian court, a curtain was kept hanging between the king and the audience seeker until the latter reached his place, when it was drawn aside. This custom was maintained, likewise in imitation of the Sasanians, at the Omayyad and ʿAbbasid caliphal courts but is not mentioned in accounts of the courts of the Islamic dynasties in Iran. As soon as the audience seeker saw the monarch, he was required to kiss the ground. In later periods, kissing the king’s throne or his hand and signet ring was also customary. At the caliphal court, kissing the ground was not at first required, as it was thought sufficient that the person being received in audience should say “Peace upon you, O Prince of the Believers, and God’s mercy and blessings!” In later times, however, this was superseded by ground kissing, and, although initially the heir apparent, sons of the caliph, Hashemites, judges, theologians, ascetics, and Koran reciters were exempted, ultimately they too had to conform to the originally Iranian custom (Ṣābeʾ, p. 31; Jāḥeẓ, Tāj, p. 7; von Kremer, II, pp. 246ff.).
After kissing the ground, the person being received was bidden by the king to stand. He then waited for the king to question him. In the Sasanian period he commenced his reply with the words “May you live for ever” (anōšag bawēd), sometimes adding “and attain success!” (ō kāmag rasēd). In later times also, it was usual to express such a wish, e.g., “May the king’s life be long!” (Kār-nāmag, ed. Sanjana, 9.16.20, 10.7.9, 12.13, 13.9.15; Šāh-nāma I, p. 318 v. 1289; VII, p. 362 v. 81; Ṭabarī, I, pp. 824, 1048; Bayhaqī, 2nd ed., pp. 63, 65, 73, 75).
In Achaemenid times, the person being received had to hold his hand in front of his mouth while speaking to the king, in Sasanian times a handkerchief (Ṭabarī, I, p. 1036; Šāh-nāma VII, p. 362 v. 88; Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, pp. 343, 367; Christensen, Iran Sass., p. 400). He stood to attention with his arms crossed while the king was speaking (Šāh-nāma IV, p. 218 v. 2528; VII, p. 362 vv. 80, 87).
In addition to these formalities, there were several precise rules which had to be observed by the person being received and others attending an audience. One was that nobody might speak except in answer to a question from the king. Anyone bidden to speak must speak slowly and briefly and not repeat himself. Correcting the king’s words, mentioning adverse omens, exaggeration, backbiting, laughing, spitting, and blowing the nose were not permitted. All those present had to observe the rule of silence and, as far as possible, refrain from coughing and sneezing. Those who were to come close to the king ought to have previously used the toothpick so as to have good breath, but ought not to use strong scent. At the ʿAbbasid court, the person being received was required to wear black, the color of the ʿAbbasid flag, but nobody might wear red shoes because red was the color of the caliph’s shoes. It was also impermissible to drink water at the caliphal court. Other courts, however, were less exacting; visitors to the Buyid, Il-khanid, Timurid, and Safavid courts were allowed to sip water, and special cups for this purpose were placed in the audience hall. On leaving the king’s presence, the person who had been received had to walk backward for some distance to avoid turning his back on the king. Furthermore, nobody could enter the palace precincts on horseback unless the king had previously authorized him to do so. When audiences were granted to persons who had come from abroad and did not know the language of the country, an interpreter was summoned (Plutarch, Themistocles, pp. 27ff.; Kār-nāmag, 10.7.9-13, 12.4.13; Šāh-nāma I, pp. 98 v. 355, 144 vv. 369f., 146 v. 375, 172 vv. 687f., 302 vv. 1084f., 315 vv. 1288f., 324 vv. 1365f., 488 vv. 22ff.; IV, pp. 218 vv. 2526ff., 532 v. 2059; V, p. 170 v. 827; VI, p. 24 vv. 230ff., 652 vv. 1308ff.; VII, p. 282 vv. 3340f.; Ṭabarī, I, p. 859; III, p. 59; Ṣābeʾ, pp. 32, 33f., 35f., 52, 57, 59, 68, 74f.; Jāḥeẓ, Tāj, pp. 7, 28, 69, 112, 125f.; Masʿūdī, Morūj, ed. Pellat, I, p. 288; Yāqūt, Odabāʾ V, pp. 349, 355; Gardīzī, ed. Ḥabībī, p. 136; Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, p. 93).
In pre-Islamic times, women had the right to seek and attend audiences (Šāh-nāma I, p. 315 vv. 1281ff.). The king’s spouse is seen beside him in pictures on vessels which have survived from the Sasanian period (Ghirshman, Iran, Parthians and Sassanians, figs. 244, 259). Likewise at the courts of the Mongol Il-khans and Tīmūr, the monarch’s mother, wives, and daughters took part in audiences, sitting or standing beside or behind him in positions determined by the rank of each; furthermore they themselves gave audiences, at which they received not only women and male relatives but also unrelated men (Carpini, IX, 13. vi, 14. viii; Nachtrag, 7, 8. Ebn Baṭṭūṭa, II, pp. 387f., 406; Jovaynī III, plate facing p. 101; Clavijo, pp. 244f., 268). But at the courts of the caliphs and other dynasties in Iran in the early Islamic period, no women were present at audiences except dancing girls.
In order to reach the royal presence, the audience seeker of whatever rank or sex had first to obtain permission from the head of protocol. This official was usually a military man of noble birth, sometimes a close relative of the ruler (Jāḥeẓ, Tāj, p. 28; Masʿūdī, Morūj I, p. 288; Šāh-nāma I, p. 172 v. 687). The Samanids and Ghaznavids, however, appointed Turks, and Maḥmūd Ḡaznavī even chose good-looking young slave soldiers who from time to time took his fancy (Bayhaqī, pp. 134, 159f., 329f.).
In the Achaemenid period this office was held by the hazārapati (Greek chiliarchos), i.e., the commander of the royal bodyguard. In the Sasanian period the holder was called the handēmāngarān sālār (Christensen, Iran Sass., pp. 113, 394f.). In the Šāh-nāma he is mentioned as the sālār-e bār (head of protocol) and pardadār (keeper of the curtain). The corresponding official at the ʿAbbasid court was the ḥājeb al-ḥojjāb (head chamberlain), who had a large staff of chamberlains under him. Since ḥājeb is the Arabic translation of pardadār, it may be inferred that at the Sasanian court the sālār-e bār had likewise been in command of the chamberlains. In the Samanid and Ghaznavid periods the chamberlains were designated ḥājeb and their chief ḥājeb-e bozorg, and under the Saljuqs these terms remained in use together with bārbeg for the former and amīr-e bār or oloḡ bārbeg for the latter (Rāvandī, pp. 128, 367, 390). Under the Il-khans officers of the bodyguard (kezīk-kešīk) held positions similar to those of the ḥājebs of earlier times and were headed by the amīr-e kezīk (Rašīd-al-Dīn, pp. 543, 908, 958). At Tīmūr’s court the function was performed by three royal princes, who were called mīrzā (short for amīrzāda, son of the amīr). In the Safavid period all matters relating to royal audiences were handled by an official named the īšīk āqāsī bāšī, who was assisted in his task of keeping order at such gatherings by guards known as yasāvolān-e soḥbat (macebearers in attendance; Taḏkeratal-molūk, ed. Minorsky, p. 64; Anṣārī, p. 51). The designation īšīk āqāsī bāšī endured throughout the Qajar period; under the Pahlavi dynasty it was changed to raʾīs-e tašrīfāt-e darbār (head of court protocol). In all periods of Iranian history, holders of this office enjoyed high status and great influence. Not infrequently they were privy to conspiracies, which led in some cases to the deposition or murder of the ruler and sometimes also to their own rise to higher rank (Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca Historica, chap. 69; Ṣābeʾ, p. 71; Jāḥeẓ, Rasāʾel, pp. 159f.; Gardīzī, pp. 136, 160f.; Jorfādaqānī, pp. 40, 92f., 127, 157; Bayhaqī, pp. 12, 33, 58, 325f., 433, 865f.; Rāvandī, pp. 159f., 233, 235, 254f., 264; Jovaynī, II, pp. 211f., 258f.; Rašīd-al-Dīn, pp. 543, 546f., 908, 919, 1065f.; Qāšānī, p. 124; Clavijo, pp. 283f.).
Throughout the history of Iran, it was always customary that the person being received should bring gifts for the king and accept gifts from him. For governors of provinces and envoys from other kings, this was essential. Under the Il-khans and Tīmūr the practice was considered so important that anyone who had failed to bring a gift could not hope to gain access to the khan. The expressions tegšīmīšī and uljāmīšī (kardan/yāftan), which were in use in the Mongol period, meant “to bring gifts and be received in audience” (Jovaynī, I, p. 213; III, p. 46; Rašīd-al-Dīn, pp. 542, 543, 809, 831, 879, 881, 891, 896; Qāšānī, p. 54, etc.). If the donor was a man of importance, the gifts were laid out on the audience day in the presence of the person being received and displayed publicly before they were carried to the king in the audience hall. Carriers of such gifts are portrayed in the reliefs flanking the steps of the Apadāna at Persepolis (Šāh-nāma I, p. 318 vv. 1290f.; II, p. 268 vv. 872f.; V, p. 242 vv. 1692f.; VI, p. 234 vv. 1987f.; Bayhaqī, pp. 52, 53, 471, 474; Carpini, IX, 12. v.; Clavijo, pp. 159, 168, 218f., 243f., 327f.; ʿĀlamārā-ye ṣafawī, p. 449; Moḥammad Rafīʿ Anṣārī, pp. 51f.; Taḏkeratal-molūk, pp. 14, 96; Kaempfer, pp. 24, 66, 106, 271, 276f.; Tavernier, pp. 130, 146).
Audiences were normally held in a hall in the palace, but in spring and summer sometimes in the palace garden, in which case the crown and throne were carried to the garden and a parasol was erected. In Achaemenid times the hall of the Apadāna was used for audience ceremonies, in late Sasanian times halls in Ḵosrow’s palace. Rulers in Islamic times held their audiences in buildings specially constructed for the purpose. The great khans of the Mongols were still tent dwellers and therefore gave audience in tents, but under the Il-khans reception in the palace gradually again became customary. From Tīmūr’s reign there are reports of audiences in both palaces and tents. In the Safavid period use of tents finally ceased, and as in old times the royal audience, now called the majles, took place in a palace—at first at Qazvīn, later at one of many fine edifices such as the ʿAlī Qāpū (q.v.), Čehel Sotūn, Kāḵ-e Bāḡ-e Golestān, Kāḵ-e Bāḡ-e Bolbol, and others at Isfahan. For an audience day, the floor of the hall was laid with carpets, and its walls were adorned with colorful screens, pictures of battles and feasts, and portraits of kings; the hall was embellished with flowers, lamps, censers, and artificial trees bearing jewel-studded leaves, fruits, and birds; the pools were beautified with floating flowers and fruits, and the jets d’eau were put into play. Armed guards wearing splendid uniforms and gold or silver belts stood in rows inside the hall and outside. Sometimes animals tethered with golden chains, such as lions, leopards, tigers, camels, elephants, and horses were put on display in front of the palace. For special audiences, such as those held on Nowrūz and Mehragān festival days or for reception of envoys from foreign courts, the pageantry was greatly increased (Christensen, p. 397). Envoys arriving from abroad normally spent several days in the capital before they were received in audience; sometimes, particularly in the Safavid period, they were guests of the government during the whole of their stay in the country (Šāh-nāma I, pp. 144 v. 366, 172 vv. 684f.; III, p. 364 vv. 844f.; VI, p. 146 vv. 277ff.; Ṣābeʾ, pp. 14f., 79; Gardīzī, p. 200; Bayhaqī, pp. 48f., 50, 380, 470f., 655, 713f.; Jorfādaqānī, p. 132; Jovaynī, III, pp. 98, 101; Rašīd-al-Dīn, pp. 947f.; Banākatī, pp. 464f.; Qāšānī, pp. 45f., 133; Clavijo, pp. 206ff., 237ff., 241, 269ff.; ʿĀlamārā-ye Ṣafawī, p. 593; Ḥasan Rūmlū, pp. 88, 92, 482, 484, 487; Qāżī Aḥmad, pp. 6, 63, 85, 89; Olearius, pp. 130f.; Tavernier, pp. 123f.; Kaempfer, pp. 206ff., 252ff.; Christensen, Iran Sass., p. 397).
Royal audiences fell into two categories: (1) the private audience (bār-e ḵāṣṣ) for reception of dignitaries of the kingdom and foreign princes and envoys or for consideration of state business, (2) the public audience (bār-e ʿāmm) for reception of members of the public. Nowrūz and Mehragān audiences were similarly divided into celebrations for the elite (ḵāṣṣa) and the public (ʿāmma). On the first five days of each festival the king held public audiences for commoners, and on the sixth day he began a series of private audiences for dignitaries, nobles, and members of the royal family. Members of the nobility were not allowed to attend the public audiences (Bīrūnī, al-Āṯāral-bāqīa, pp. 218f.; idem, Tafhīm, p. 253; Neẓām-al-Molk, p. 60; Masʿūdī, Morūj I, p. 311).
In ancient Iran, the royal audience formed such an important part of the system of government that the audience and the monarchy were thought to be inseparable; if ever the audiences ceased, the monarchy too would cease (Šāh-nāma V, p. 176 v. 912; VII, p. 12 vv. 88f.). For this reason instruction in the rules of the audience ceremony was part of the education of royal princes (Šāh-nāma II, pp. 200 v. 88, 218 v. 190; IV, p. 684 v. 3865).
At both public and private audiences one of the king’s principal duties was to hear complaints. For this reason the term “(hearing of) grievances” (maẓālem) was sometimes used instead of “audience” (bār) in the Islamic period. Every ruler vowed at the start of his reign that he would sit to hear grievances once or twice a week on prescribed days (Šāh-nāma V, pp. 102 v. 35f., 232 v. 11; VI, pp. 162 v. 33f., 180 vv. 25ff.; Bayhaqī, pp. 195, 472, 675; Ebn al-Aṯīr, X, p. 459; Bondārī, p. 7). From the viewpoint of members of the public, the king sitting in audience was their last legal resort, as he had power to give redress to those whose rights had been violated by his officials and courtiers. The king could also grant pardons. If an offender was admitted to an audience, this was taken to mean that he would probably be pardoned. Therefore, in the popular view, the measure of a king’s justice was his willingness to sit in audience. A king who was farāḵbār, i.e., held audiences frequently, was thought to be a just ruler, while one who was tangbār, i.e., did so seldom, was considered unjust. The people did not forgive a king who neglected to hold audiences on the prescribed days unless there were compelling reasons such as a journey, war, sickness, death of a relative, receipt of bad news (Šāh-nāma I, p. 162 v. 586; III, p. 8 v. 50; IV, p. 220 vv. 256ff.; VI, pp. 4 vv. 8ff., 222 v. 752, 702 v. 1899; VII, p. 278 v. 3298; Bayhaqī, pp. 199, 703, 747; Ṭabarī, I, p. 871; Rāvandī, pp. 254, 277; Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, p. 113; idem, Aufsätze, p. 106).
Even so, there was always the risk that chamberlains might abuse their power or that courtiers might contrive to prevent commoners from gaining access to the king (Šāh-nāma VI, p. 162 vv. 33f.). Various precautions against this danger are mentioned; for example, the king might get rid of suspected chamberlains, or he might hold public audiences in a field outside the palace precincts after giving instructions that petitioners should wear red clothes so as to catch the king’s eye. Such precautions were evidently more theoretical than practical, and, although certain kings are reported to have observed them, the reports often have a fabulous aspect like the story of Anōšīravan’s “chain of justice” (Tārīḵ-eSīstān, p. 265; Neẓām-al-Molk, pp. 13, 55f.; Rāvandī, p. 131). On the other hand, there are many recorded instances of deception by kings who summoned men to audiences and arrested or even killed them as soon as they arrived. The best-known case is the murder of Abū Moslem (q.v.) in 137/755 by order of the perfidious caliph al-Manṣūr; having obeyed a summons to an audience, he was escorted to the audience hall and killed by the caliph’s guards right there. Similar foul play was not uncommon in later times, notably under the Samanids, Ghaznavids, and Saljuqs (Gardīzī, pp. 160f.; Bayhaqī, pp. 66, 68f., 97, 99; Rāvandī, pp. 259f.).
In the long run, however, such abuses and crimes did not detract from the prestige of the royal audience. At all times the audience was an important part of both court ceremonial and governmental administration. See also darbār; salām.
1 . Achaemenid period. A. Erman, Die Literatur der Ägypter, Leipzig, 1923, pp. 53ff.
R. Ghirshman, Persia. From the Origins to Alexander the Great, London, 1964, figs. 160-65, 246, 254, 255.
W. Hinz, Altiranische Funde und Forschungen, Berlin, 1969, pp. 63ff.
A. Parrot, Assur. Die mesopotamische Kunst vom 13. vorchristlichen Jahrhundert bis zum Tode Alexanders des Grossen, Munich, 1961, figs. 112, 113, 115-17.
E. F. Schmidt, Persepolis I, Chicago, 1953, pp. 162ff.
P. E. Schramm, Kaiser, Rom und Renovatio, Leipzig and Berlin, 1929.
W. von Soden, Herrscher im alten Orient, Berlin, 1954, pp. 90ff.
G. Walser, Audienz beim persischen Grosskönig, Zurich, 1965.
A. Wiedersich, Prosopographie der Griechen beim Perserkönig, Breslau, 1922.
2. From the Sasanians to the Saljuqs. A. Alföldi, “Die Geschichte des Throntabernakels,” La Nouvelle Clio, 1949-50, pp. 536-66.
Bayhaqī, 2nd ed., pp. 618f., 655, 657 (ʿAmr b. Layṯ’s audiences), 713f.
Abū Rayḥān Bīrūnī, Tafhīm, ed. J. Homāʾī, Tehran, 1316 Š./1937.
Fatḥ b. ʿAlī b. Moḥammad Bondārī Eṣfahānī, Tawārīḵ Āl Saljūq, in Houtsma, Recueil. J. Ch. Bürgel, Die Hofkorrespondenz ʿAḍud ad Daulas und ihr Verhältnis zu anderen historischen Quellen der frühen Buyiden, Wiesbaden, 1965, p. 78.
H. Busse, Chalif und Grosskönig, Beirut, 1969, pp. 203-22.
Idem, “Thron, Kosmos und Lebensbaum im Schāh-nama,” in Festgabe deutscher Iranisten zur 2500. Jahrfeier Irans, Stuttgart, 1971, pp. 8ff.
A. Christensen, Iran Sass., pp. 66ff., 466ff. Ebn al-Aṯīr (repr.), VIII, p. 196 (Mardāvīj’s throne, crown, and audiences).
Ebn al-Balḵī, Fārs-nāma, repr. 1968, p. 97 (the throne, the assigned places at audiences).
Ebn al-Jawzī, Montaẓam, pt. 7, pp. 7, 99f. (Buyid audiences).
Ebn Meskawayh, Tajāreb I, pp. 317f. (Mardāvīj’s throne, crown, and audiences).
ʿA.-A. Faqīhī, Āl-e Būya wa awżāʿ-e zamān-e īšān bā namūdār-ī az zendagī-e mardom-e ān ʿaṣr, n.p., 1357 Š./1978, pp. 328-39, 343.
Gardīzī, ed. Ḥabībī, p. 200 (Masʿūd Ḡaznavī’s throne, crown, and audience hall).
R. Ghirshman, Iran. Parthians and Sassanians, London, 1962, figs. 214, 225-26, 242, 244-46, 259.
Ḥamza (Kāvīānī Press), Berlin, n.d., p. 34 (royal dress and regalia).
Helāl al-Ṣābeʾ, Rosūm Dār-al-Ḵelāfa, ed. M. ʿAwād, Baghdad, 1964, pp. 14f. (Buyid audiences). Jāḥeẓ, Rasāʾel, ed. ʿA. M. Hārūn, Cairo, 1965.
Idem, Ketāb al-tāj fī aḵlāq al-molūk, ed. A. Zakī Bāšā, Cairo, 1322/1914, pp. 27 (the royal fan and fly whisk), 28 (Ḵorrambāš).
Abu’l-Šaraf Nāṣeḥ Jorfādaqānī, Tarjama-ye tārīḵ-e yamīnī, ed. J. Šeʿār, Tehran, 2537 = 1357 Š./1978.
A. von Kremer, Culturgeschichte des Orients II, Vienna, 1877.
Masʿudī, Morūj, ed. Pellat, I, pp. 228 (story of the Sasanian throne), 288 (Ḵorrambāš), 295; V, pp. 112 (Yaʿqūb b. Layṯ’s audiences), 270 (Mardāvīj’s throne).
Idem, Tanbīh, ed. ʿA. E. Ṣāwī, Cairo, 1938, p. 93 (royal dress and regalia).
Moḥammad b. ʿAlī Rāvandī, Rāḥat al-ṣodūr wa āyat al-sorūr, ed. M. Eqbāl, London, 1921.
Naršaḵī, pp. 12f. (audiences given by the ruler of Bukhara’s wife before 656/1276).
Ḵᵛāja Neẓām-al-Molk Ṭūsī, Sīāsat-nāma, ed. J. Šeʿār, Tehran, 1348 Š./1969.
Th. Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, pp. 221f., 453f.
Idem, Aufsätze zur persischen Geschichte, Leipzig, 1887, repr. Graz, 1974.
Ẓahīr-al-Dīn Abū Šojāʿ Rūḏravārī, Ḏayl tajāreb al-omam, ed. H. F. Amedroz, Cairo, 1914-16, pp. 17f., 111 (Buyid audiences).
Šāh-nāma, ed. Mohl, I, p. 172 vv. 682-83 (royal regalia and positions assigned to participants in audiences); II, p. 268 v. 868 (the throne); IV, pp. 226 vv. 2620f. (the curtain in audiences), 612 v. 3015 (the king holding a citron in his hand); VI, pp. 24 vv. 242 and 247 (the throne), 282 w. 1467ff. (positions of participants); VII, pp. 306 vv. 3634ff. (the Ṭāqdīs throne), 314 vv. 3723ff. (bribing the head of protocol), 326 v. 3864 (suspension of the crown on a chain), 362 vv. 90ff. (the throne and its ornamentation), 362 w. 93ff. (the king’s hand).
J. Sauvaget, La mosquée omeyyade de Médine, Paris, 1947, pp. 129ff. Spuler, Iran, pp. 344ff., 363ff. Ṯaʿālebī, Ḡorar, pp. 698f. (the Ṭāqdīs throne).
Ṭabarī, I, p. 946 (suspension of the crown). Tārīḵ-eSīstān, pp. 222f., 265f. (Yaʿqūb b. Layṯ’s audiences), 317f. (Naṣr b. Aḥmad Sāmānī’s audiences), 378f. (audience given by Tāj-al-Dīn Abu’l-Fażl Naṣr b. Aḥmad, the amir of Sīstān, in 448/1054). Wolff, Glossar.
3. Mongol period. Abu’l-Qāsem ʿAbd-Allāh b. Moḥammad Qāšānī, Tārīḵ-eŪljāytū, ed. M. Hambly, Tehran, 1348 Š./1969.
Faḵr-al-Dīn Abū Solaymān Dāwūd Banākatī, Tārīḵ-eBanākatī, ed. J. Šeʿār, Tehran, 1348 Š./1969.
C. R. Beazley, The Text and Versions of John de Plano Carpini and William de Rubruquis, London, 1903.
Doerfer, I, sec. 50 (audiences among the Mongols).
Ebn Baṭṭūṭa, II, Paris, 1854, pp. 346, 383f., 387f., 406.
Rašīd-al-Dīn, Jāmeʿ al-tawārīḵ, ed. B. Karīmī, vols. 1-2, Tehran, 1338 Š./1959.
Johann de Plano Carpini, Geschichte der Mongolen und Reisebericht 1245-47, tr. and explained by F. Risch, Leipzig, 1930.
F. Risch, Wilhelm van Rubruck: Reise zu den Mongolen 1253-55, Leipzig, 1934.
Spuler, Mongolen2, pp. 261ff.
4. Tīmūr and the Timurids. Clavijo, Embassy to Tamerlane, tr. from Spanish by G. Le Strange, London, 1929.
Abū Ṭāleb Ḥosaynī Torbatī, Tozūkat-e tīmūrī. Institutes, Political and Military. Written by the Great Timour, with Eng. tr. by Major Davy, publ. Joseph White, Oxford, 1783; 2nd ed. of the text, Tehran, 1343 Š./1964, pp. 326ff.
5. Safavid period. Anonymous, ʿĀlamārā-ye ṣafawī, ed. Y. Šokrī, Tehran, 1350 Š./1971.
Moḥammad-Rafīʿ Anṣārī Mostawfī-al-Mamālek, Dostūr al-molūk, ed. M. T. Dānešpažūh, appendix to MDAT 16/5-6, 1346 Š./1967.
Englebert Kaempfer, Am Hofe des persischen Grosskönigs (1684-85), ed. W. Hinz, Tübingen and Basel, 1977.
Adam Olearius, Die erste deutsche Expedition nach Persien (1635-39), ed. from the original by H. von Staden, Leipzig, 1927.
Qāżī Aḥmad Qomī, Ḵolāṣat al-tawārīḵ, ed. with German tr. H. Müller, Die Chronik . . . , Wiesbaden, 1964. J.-B. Tavernier, Voyages en Perse, Geneva, 1970.
See also J. Ḵāleqī Moṭlaq, “Bār o āyīn-e an dar Īrān,” Īrān-nāma 5/3, 1366 Š./1987, pp. 392-438; 6/1, 1366 Š./1987, pp. 34-75 (covering all periods).
The first Qajar shah was mostly engaged in foreign wars or struggles over the succession and paid little attention to formulating a detailed protocol for the royal audience (usually called salām in this period). In fact, it was not until the long reign of Nāṣer-al-Dīn Shah, during which Iran enjoyed a certain degree of political stability, that such a protocol was developed; it remained generally in force until the end of the dynasty. Until 1299/1881-82 Nāṣer-al-Dīn Shah regularly held public audience in the hall of the Taḵt-e Marmar (marble throne) on Nowrūz (new year); after that time the newly built Tālār-e Mūza (museum hall), later renamed Tālār-e Tājgoḏārī (coronation hall), was used for this purpose. At these ceremonies princes, ministers, and military and civil dignitaries were arrayed in order of rank (though this order was not always strictly observed). Palace cooks and eunuchs could be seen standing beside viziers and generals (Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana, p. 422). The shah would then appear in a military uniform studded with diamonds and other precious stones, carrying the diamond-studded sword (šamšīr-e jahāngošā) of Fatḥ ʿAlī Shah and wearing the royal crown with a jeweled plume.
At the earlier bārs each guest would receive a purse containing 150 silver šāhī and five gold do-hezārī coins; in later times, however, the number of šāhīs declined, and the gold coins were omitted completely. The shah also received handsome gifts for himself (ibid., pp. 945-46). At first the diplomatic corps was received as a unit, the senior diplomat wishing the monarch a happy new year on behalf of his colleagues; the shah would then make a brief response through his interpreter. After the bārs had been moved to the Tālār-e Mūza, representatives of foreign governments were received individually by the shah, while the minister of foreign affairs and the royal interpreter stood at his right and left respectively. The bār at Nowrūz was customarily followed by displays of athletic skills, including gymnastics and wrestling bouts; the shah would reward the participants by throwing handfuls of gold coins. When Nowrūz coincided with days of solemn religious observance, however (as in 1312/1894, when it fell on 23 Ramażān), the bār was not held.
Beside Nowrūz there were other occasions for bārs. One such occasion was Nāṣer-al-Dīn Shah’s return from his European tour. A general audience was held at the Taḵt-e Marmar on 24 Ṣafar 1308/25 October 1890. Military and civil grandees, as well as representatives from all classes of society, were stationed in the garden facing the open hall from the south. Military officers wore tall lambskin hats and blue broadcloth vests with shoulder straps indicating their ranks, the religious leaders their customary long cloaks and turbans, and judges tall cylindrical hats wrapped in cashmere shawls to match their cashmere robes. The shah appeared at the bottom of the garden and passed along the line, as the guests greeted him with bows, until he reached the throne, which was covered with a superb Persian rug and furnished with a pearl-studded cushion for him to lean against. As soon as he was seated, an attendant handed him a cup of coffee and a narghileh adorned with turquoise stones. He then spoke briefly of his satisfaction with the administration of the country during his absence. In response there were two orations on the happy occasion of his return and a program of choral music in his praise. The shah remained seated on the throne throughout these ceremonies, which lasted for about an hour, then left for the Golestān palace through a corridor to his left (Feuvrier, pp. 120-21).
The first major modification to the protocol of the bār under the Pahlavis was replacement of the long cashmere cloak (jobba-ye terma) and cylindrical hat by full formal dress (lebās-e rasmī) on the European model.
Two types of bār, or salām, were regularly held under the Pahlavis (1304-57 Š./1925-79). The first was the general audience (salām-e ʿāmm) held on four official festivals: the shah’s birthday (24 Esfand/15 March for Reżā Shah and 4 Ābān/26 October for Moḥammad-Reżā Shah); Nowrūz (1 Farvardīn/21 or 22 March); ʿĪd-e Mabʿaṯ (27 Rajab), the day the Prophet was charged to recite the word of God; and ʿĪd-e Ḡadīr-e Ḵomm (18 Ḏu’l-ḥejja, q.v.), the day on which, according to the Shiʿites, Moḥammad nominated ʿAlī as his successor. The second was the special audience (salām-e ḵāṣṣ) held on the ʿĪd-e Feṭr (1 Šawwāl), the celebration at the end of Ramażān.
Under Moḥammad-Reżā Shah the general bār usually lasted from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in the grand audience hall of the Golestān Palace, known as Tālār-e Tājgoḏārī. Groups composed of members of the cabinet and parliament, ranking representatives of foreign states, directors of institutions and government agencies, and community leaders were received separately by the shah, according to a preestablished timetable. The master of royal ceremonies usually informed each group of its scheduled time at least one week in advance. Members of the group arrived at the palace half an hour before the appointed hour and were greeted by the master of ceremonies, who then conducted them into the audience hall, where they arranged themselves in order of rank to await the arrival of the monarch. The shah was announced by the master of royal ceremonies and entered in the full uniform of commander-in-chief, to be greeted with bows by the assembled notables. The leader of the group expressed on behalf of his colleagues good wishes on the auspicious occasion and received a brief reply from the monarch, who then proceeded past the line and left the hall through the doorway by which he had entered.
Separate audiences were granted in the following order: 1) Representatives of the clergy were received by the shah seated in his private office, rather than in the Tālār-e Tājgoḏārī. Only a few (at most five) men from the Tehran area attended these audiences, dressed in clerical robes and turbans; the religious leaders of Qom and Mašhad, the two most important Islamic centers in Iran, rarely if ever participated. 2) The second group included the minister of court, the shah’s military and civil adjutants, department heads from the Ministry of the Court, and the directors of subordinate agencies like the Pahlavi Foundation, the Royal Bureau of Social Services (Sāzmān-e Šāhanšāhī-e Ḵadamāt-e Ejtemāʿī), and the Institute for the Protection of Mothers and Infants (Bongāh-e Ḥemāyat-e Mādarān o Kūdakān). 3) Members of the cabinet and their deputies came next, with the ministers aligned behind the prime minister in order of seniority of service, then of age. Former prime ministers and speakers of the Majles, as well as those who had received the Homāyūn or Tāj decorations, were considered senior to their colleagues, regardless of their tenure in office. 4) Senators and deputies of the Majles were received in two separate groups. 5) Next came ranking government officials, heads of state agencies (selected for the occasion by their respective departments), and judges of the supreme court (Dīvān-e ʿAlī-e Kešvar). In the early 1320s Š./1940s ministers were ranked as follows, according to the official manual of protocol (Dastūr-e tašrīfāt, pp. 4-5): Foreign Affairs (Omūr-e Ḵāreja), Finance (Dārāʾī), Justice (Dādgostarī), Interior (Kešvar), Education (Farhang), Roads (Rāh), Industry and Commerce (Pīša o Honar o Bāzargānī), Communications (Post o Telegrāf o Telefon), Agriculture (Kešāvarzī), and Health (Behdārī). 6) Officials and faculty of the University of Tehran and other institutions of higher learning, who were arrayed in order of seniority of service. 7) The foreign diplomatic corps, including ambassadors, ministers plenipotentiary, and chargés d’affaires in that order, attended only on the occasion of Nowrūz and the shah’s birthday. They dressed according to the customs and protocol of their respective countries. Representatives of some Islamic states also participated in the audience on the ʿĪd-e Mabʿaṯ, when they were received by the shah in his private office. 8) Former ministers, ambassadors, and provincial governors formed a separate group. 9) Next the president of the National Oil Company, trustees of government-controlled banks and insurance companies, members of the chamber of commerce, publishers of major Tehran newspapers, and representatives of the bar association (Kānūn-e Wokalā-ye Dādgostarī) were received. 10) The succeeding group included ranking municipal authorities of Tehran, like the mayor, members of the city council, and other high officials, as well as community leaders and guild chiefs (roʾasā-ye aṣnāf). 11) Ranking officers of the armed forces (from colonel up, Dastūr-e tašrīfāt, p. 2), the police, and the gendarmerie were the last group presented.
The state dress prescribed for court officials, ministers, and their deputies was frock coat, trousers, and bicorn hat, all of black broadcloth; black patent-leather boots; and white gloves. The frock coat had gold-embroidered cuffs, a high closed collar, and seven gilt buttons bearing the Persian lion and sun. A long sword with a golden hilt was worn on the left side, and the side seams of the trousers were trimmed with gold braid 10 cm wide. Ministers had panels of gold embroidery on the front and back of the coat; in addition, the prime minister wore a braided gold belt and tassel. Deputy ministers had panels of embroidery on the back but not the front. Dignitaries lower than the rank of deputy minister had no embroidery on either the fronts or backs of their frock coats. The bicorn hat was creased in the middle and ornamented with white feathers and gold braid clasped in the center by a circle in the three colors of the Iranian flag: red, white, and green. (According to Dastūr-e tašrīfāt, p. 19, other forms of official dress were permitted in the Persian Gulf area in summer.)
University and college professors attended the bār dressed in hexagonal caps with tassels and long black robes with wide bands sewn onto the shoulders in the colors of the schools or institutions they represented. Judges appeared in black robes with white lace on the collars and shoulders and tall cylindrical hats. Other groups wore black jackets, trousers striped in charcoal and light gray, neckties, white shirts, black patent-leather boots, and tall cylindrical hats. Decorations and medals were worn on the left side of the chest or as pendants.
The salām-e ḵāṣṣ was held at Saʿdābād Palace when ʿĪd-e Feṭr fell in summer and at Nīāvarān palace when it fell in winter. The shah customarily received members of the cabinet, the presiding officers of the Majles and the Senate, the commander of the armed forces, the chief of the Iranian intelligence agency SAVAK, and representatives of Muslim countries.
In addition to these regularly scheduled bārs or salāms, ambassadors and ministers plenipotentiary assigned to Tehran were granted royal audience to present their credentials. On the appointed date the representative would be met at his embassy by the master of ceremonies of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who would personally conduct him and the ranking members of his staff to the court, where they would be greeted at the gate with their national anthem played by a military band. Then they would be conducted to the anteroom, where the master of royal ceremonies would greet them. The latter would then conduct the ambassador or minister plenipotentiary and his counterpart from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to an audience with the shah. The minister of court, military and civil heads of the court departments, and the minister of foreign affairs would also be present. The foreign representative would submit his credentials and ask permission for his colleagues, who had remained behind in the waiting room, to be introduced to the monarch. After these ceremonies the foreign delegation would be ushered out of the palace in exactly the same manner in which it had arrived.
In an effort to keep all important national matters under his close personal control, Moḥammad-Reżā Shah received in audience (šarafyābī) the prime minister twice a week; the president of the Senate, the speaker of the Majles, the president of the National Oil Company, the head of SAVAK, the commanders of the various branches of the armed forces, the chief of the military staff, and the head of police reported to him once a week. According to Dastūr-e tašrīfāt (p. 6), black jackets and top hats were required dress for such meetings. All ministers, except for those of war and foreign affairs, reported through the office of the prime minister unless they were specifically summoned by the shah or had something particularly significant to report to him directly. The minister of foreign affairs often met with him at the end of each day. The master of royal ceremonies oversaw the general management of the official audiences with the shah, and the adjutants made sure that daily court routines proceeded smoothly and on schedule.
The šarafyābīs were held in the Kāḵ-e Marmar (marble palace) and in the Kāḵ-e Maḵṣūṣ (private palace) and in summer in Saʿdābād Palace. When, after the assassination attempt on the shah at the Marble Palace 10 April 1965, Nīāvarān Palace (Kāḵ-e Nīāvarān) was built, most audiences were transferred to it. The new palace incorporated the Jahān-nāma, a Qajar construction, which was used for morning audiences; the Kāḵ-e Maḵṣūṣ-e Nīāvarān was used in the afternoon.
At such meetings the shah received his visitors seated. They greeted him with a bow and bowed again when taking their leave. If the shah honored them by stretching forth his hand, they would normally kiss it. As none of his adjutants attended such meetings, the monarch’s instructions were conveyed through his visitors, who submitted them in writing to the royal chancery.
Audiences with the queen were requested and granted through her office, and a similar protocol was followed. For further details see court.
E. Aubin, La Perse d’aujourd’hui. Iran-Mésopotamie, Paris, 1908, pp. 133ff.
Dastūr-e tašrīfāt, Tehran, 1321 Š./1942.
Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana, Rūz-nāma-ye ḵāṭerāt. J. B. Feuvrier, Trois ans à la cour de Perse, Paris, 1906.
Mahdīqolī Hedāyat Moḵber-al-Salṭana, Ḵāṭerāt o ḵaṭarāt, Tehran, 1329 Š./1950, pp. 121-23.
W. Litten, Persische Flitterwochen, Berlin, 1925.
J. Polak, Persien. Das Land und seine Bewohner, Leipzig, 1865, I, pp. 379ff.
C. Serena, Hommes et choses in Perse (1877-78), Paris, 1883, pp. 231ff.
(Dj. Khaleghi-Motlagh, Ḥ. Farhūdī)
Originally Published: December 15, 1988
Last Updated: December 15, 1988
This article is available in print.
Vol. III, Fasc. 7, pp. 730-737