ČAKĀVAK (Mid. Pers. čakōk).

i: The lark.

ii: A melody in Persian music.

i: The Lark

Of the nineteen species of lark (family Alaudidae, order Passeriformes) recorded by Hüe and Étchécopar for the Near and Middle East (pp. 465-93) twelve species are represented both in Iran and Afghanistan, with five more only in Iran (see also Scott et al., pp. 227-­38, who have arbitrarily assigned the literary term čakāvak to all the nine genera in the family).

Persian sources usually equate čakāvak variants čakāva, čakāv, and čakūk/čakok; cf. Mid. Pers. čakōk) with Arabic qobbara/qonbara and/or abu’l-malīḥ (see, e.g., Loḡat-e fors, ed. Dabīrsīāqī, pp. 99, 102, 169; Zamaḵšarī, I, p. 470; and Borhān-e qāṭeʿ, ed. Moʿīn, II, p. 650); the Turkish equivalent is given as qazlāq (Tonokābonī, p. 694, s.v. qonbara); ḡezlāq (Schlimmer, p. 24, for the crested lark); etc. (see also Schapka, s.v. ḡazlāḡ). The earliest known definition of the čakāv(ak) in Persian sources is probably Asadī Ṭūsī’s (d. 465/1072-73; Loḡat-e fors, p. 169): “A bird the size of a sparrow, having a crest on its head; it emits a sweet cry; called qonbara in Arabic.” According to Qazvīnī (d. 682/1283; ed. Wüstenfeld, p. 422; Cairo ed., p. 283), the qonbora builds its nest on “three sticks on a tree” (in Wüstenfeld’s ed.: “three twigs of the grapevine or the like with broad leaves”) interwoven “with a kind of extremely delicate weed” into “an intricate small basket which is inimitable by man”; Qazvīnī, however, must be referring to a bird other than a lark, because, according to ornithologists, larks are land-dwelling birds, making their nests usually in a small hollow of the land or in a hole that they dig in the ground.

Other Persian names recorded for the lark include the obsolete `ūla (Borhān-e qāṭeʿ, s.v.; cf. Gīlakī čūlī/čūlə “skylark” in Maṛʿašī, p. 173, and in Pāyanda, p. 190), jal(ak) (obsolete, but probably still in use in the Persian dialect of Mašhad; see Moʿīn, Farhang-e fārsī, s.v. jal, in Afghanistan: “jal: a sweet-singing bird,” Afḡānīnevīs, s.v.; in Qazvīnī, ed. Wüstenfeld, loc. cit.: jalū), ḵūl (in Maydānī, p. 360), and kākolī (lit. crested)—a current name that would logically refer to all the crested species of lark (see pls. xv and xvi in Hüe and Étchécopar) but that seems to have designated only the species Galerida cristata L. termed čakāvak-e kākolī by Scott et al., p. 237) with the most conspicuous crest (cf. Manūčehrī, below).

All the indigenous species of lark are songbirds (ibid., p. 227). This is exactly the feature for which the čakāvak is noted in classical Persian poetry (cf., e.g., Manūčehrī, p. 19 v. 281, where the čakāv “plays” the melodies Ganj-e gāv and Ganj-e bād[-āvard] at dawn; for actual quotations, see Dehḵodā, s.vv. čakāv, čakāvak and čakāva). Ornithologists remark that male larks gener­ally deliver their courtship songs in flight or while hovering in the sky (cf. the Eng. name skylark for Alauda arvensis L.). This peculiarity is referred to by the 6th/12th century poet Sanāʾī Ḡaznavī who, when exalt­ing God on behalf of some birds, says: “Look at the lark up in the air [to see] what it says [in thy praise] . . .” (quoted by Eqbāl, p. 507). In addition to allusions to the čakāvak’s sweet, rich, and sustained songs, the tuft of feathers that characterizes particularly the Galerida cristata has been occasionally pointed out (cf. Manūčehrī, op. cit., p. 187 v. 2339).

On the whole, various species of larks are abundant in Iran (see Scott et al. for individual species), although they are not protected birds (see Sāzmān-e Ḥefā­ẓat-e Moḥīṭ-e Zīst, p. 6). The oldest reference to larks as a table delicacy in Iran is in the Pahlavi text about King Ḵosrow and his page (ed. Unvala, pp. 18-19), where the lark (čakōk) is mentioned along with the pheasant, partridge, bustard, and a few others as “the finest and the most savoury” fowls. A much later reference to lark flesh is in Tonokābonī (fl. 1077-1105/1667-94; loc. cit.), who recommends the ingestion of roasted larks as “removing the colic, diuretic, and suitable for people having bladder ailments” (for this kabāb and other medicinal properties attributed to lark flesh, see also ʿĀqīlī Ḵorāsānī, pp. 712-13, s.v. qonbara).


ʿA. Afḡānīnevīs, Loḡāt-e ʿāmīāna-­ye fārsī-e Afḡānestān, Kabul, 1340 Š./1961.

ʿA. Eqbāl Āštīānī, “Šarḥ-e yak-ī az qaṭaʿāt-e Sanāʾī,” Amūzeš o parvareš 9/5, 1318 Š./1939-40, pp. 9-21.

M.-Ḥ. ʿĀqīlī Ḵorāsānī, Maḵzan al-adwīa, Calcutta, 1844.

F. Hüe and R. D. Étchécopar, Les oiseaux du Proche et du Moyen Orienṭ . . ., Paris, 1970.

Manūčehrī Dāmḡānī, Dīvān, ed. M. Dabīrsīāqī, 4th ed., Tehran, 1356 Š./1977.

A. Maṛʿašī, Vāža-nāma-ye gūyeš-e gīlakī . . ., Rašt, 1363 Š./1984.

Abu’l-Fatḥ Aḥmad b. Moḥammad Maydānī Nīšābūrī, al-Sāmī fi’l-asāmī, photostat. repr. of a ms. dated 601/1204-05, Tehran, 1345 Š./1966.

M. Pāyanda Langarūdī, Farhang-e Gīl o Daylam . . ., Tehran, 1366 Š./1987.

Zakarīāʾ Qazvīnī, ʿAjāʾeb al-maḵlūqāt wa garāʾeb al-mawjūdāt, ed. F. Wüstenfeld, Göttingen, 1848-49, Beirut, 4th ed., 1970.

Sāzmān-e Ḥefāẓat-e Moḥīṭ-e Zīst/The Department of the Environment, Ḵolāṣa-ī az moqarrarāt-e šekār o ṣayd dar sāl-e 1354, Tehran, 1354 Š./1975.

D. A. Scott et al., Parandagān-­e Īrān/The Birds of Iran, Tehran, 1975. U. Schapka, Die persischen Vogelnamen, Ph.D. dissertation, Julius-Maximilians-Universität, Würzburg, 1972.

Moḥammad-Moʾmen Ḥosaynī Tonokābonī (Ḥakīm Moʾmen), Toḥfat al-moʾmenīn (Tohfa-ye Ḥakīm Moʾmen), Tehran, n.d. [1360 Š./1981?]. J. M. Unvala, ed. and tr., The Pahlavi Text “King Husrav and His Boy,” Paris, n.d. Abu’l-Qāsem Maḥmūd b. ʿOmar Zamaḵšarī, Pīšrow-e adab/Moqaddamat al-adab, ed. M.-K. Emām, 2 vols., Tehran, 1342 Š./1963.

(Hūšang Aʿlam)

ii: A Melody in Persian Music

References to Čakāvak as title of a melody (Pers. navā, Ar. laḥn, naḡma, etc.) are found in classical Persian lexicons and poetry, e.g., Manūčehrī, p. 231 v. 2770). It was probably part of the musical heritage of the Sasanian period (see Eqbāl, p. 29; it does not figure, however, among “the thirty sweet laḥns” which, accord­ing to Neẓāmī Ganjavī, in Ḵosrow o Šīrīn, pp. 126-29, the Sasanian musician Bārbad selected for a special royal audition “from the one hundred dastāns which he knew in instrumental music”).

Later references to Čakāvak as a melody integrated into a larger musical grouping or system (Ar. maqām, Pers, dastgāh) are found, e.g., in the Bahjat al-rūḥ (Joy of the soul), a musical treatise in Persian by ʿAbd-­al-Moʾmen b. Ṣafī-al-Dīn (ca. 10th-11th/16th-17th cen­turies), and in the Boḥūr al-alḥān, also in Persian, composed in 1322/1903-04 by Forṣat Šīrāzī (d. 1339/1920): In the former, Čakāvak is presented as one of the two gūšas (melodies) of the šoʿba (branch, subdivision) called Rakb, itself part of the Kūčak (small, minor), which is reported to be one of the twelve musical maqāms “according to the ḥokamāʾ [philos­ophers]” (see the circular diagram in the Pers. text, p. 93; Eng. tr., typewritten text, p. [44]); in the latter, which deals with the relationship of traditional Persian music with prosodic meters, it is mentioned (p. 24) as one of the āvāzes (vocal songs, q.v.) of the Homāyūn (lit. “august”)—one of the seven dastgāhs best known and most often performed in the author’s time.

In contemporary Persian art music, the full radīf (range, repertory) of which comprises twelve dastgāhs, each with its own repertory of gūšas, Čakāvak and Naḡma-ye čakāvak (Lark’s song) constitute, respectively, the seventh and eighth gūšas of the Homāyūn (see Zonis, p. 85 etc.; Ḵāleqī, pp. 14-15; Mallāḥ, p. 120; Barkešlī, Gāmhā, p. 132, and La musique traditionnelle, p. 49, both including a partial notation of Čakāvak; complete transcription of Čakāvak and Naḡma-ye čakāvak in western musical notation is provided by Maʿrūfī, pp. 5-7).

For a music sample, see Čakāvak.



ʿAbd-al-Moʾmen b. Ṣafī-al-Dīn, Bahjat al-rūh, ed. H. L. Rabino de Borgomale, Teh­ran, 1346 Š./1967; ed. and tr. by H. L. Rabino de Borgomale, photocopy of the typewritten text, 1943.

M. Barkešlī, Gāmhā o dastgāhhā-ye mūsīqī-e īrānī/Les gammes et les systèmes de la musique iranienne, Tehran, 1355 Š./1976.

Idem, La musique tradi­tionnelle de l’Iran, Tehran, 1973.

ʿA. Eqbāl Āštīānī, “Mūsīqī-e qadīm-e Īrān (mūsīqī-e ʿaṣr-e sāsānī,” in Majmūʿa-ye maqālāt, ed. M. Dabīrsīāqī, Tehran, 1350 Š./1971, pp. 27-32.

Forṣat Šīrāzī (Forṣat-al-Dawla), Boḥūr al-alḥāṇ . . ., ed. M.-Q. Ṣāleḥ Rāmsarī, Tehran, 1367 Š./1988.

R. Ḵāleqī, Mūsīqī-e īrānī, Tehran, 1364 Š./1985.

Ḥ.-ʿA. Mallāḥ, Manūčehrī Dāmḡānī o mūsīqī, Tehran, 1363 Š./1984.

M. Maʿrūfī, Radīf-e haft dastgāh-e mūsīqī-e īrānī/Les systèmes de la musique traditionnelle de l’Iran (Radif), avec transcription en notation musicale orientale, Tehran, 1973.

Neẓāmī Ganjavī, Ḵosrow o Šīrīn, ed. Ḥ. Pažmān Baḵtīārī, Tehran, 1343 Š./1964.

E. Zonis, Classical Persian Music. An Introduction, Cambridge, Mass., 1973.

(Hūšang Aʿlam, Hūšang Aʿlam)

Originally Published: December 15, 1990

Last Updated: December 15, 1990

This article is available in print.
Vol. IV, Fasc. 6, pp. 649-650