ESFANDĪĀR KHAN BAḴTĪĀRĪ, ṢAMṢĀM-AL-SALṬANA, SARDĀR(-E) ASʿAD (b. mid-19th century, possibly in 1260/1844; d. 1320/1902), important leader of the Baḵtīārī tribe (q.v.) in southwestern Persia and grandfather of Queen Ṯorayyā.

Esfandīār Khan was the the eldest son of Ḥosaynqolī Khan, the first and great īlḵānī of the Baḵtīārī, and Bībī Ḵānom. As the eldest son of the īlḵān and one of his favorites, along with ʿAlīqōlī Khan Sardar Asʿad II, Esfandīār served his father in a variety of administrative roles in Baḵtīārī affairs. He also had diplomatic and military responsibilities on behalf of the Qajar dynasty. He held the ranks of sarhang (1285/1869) and sartīp (1291/1874) of the Baḵtīārī cavalrymen (savārs) in Nāṣer-al-Dīn Shah’s army and in Masʿūd Mīrzā Ẓell-al-Solṭān’s militia.

After his father was killed by Ẓell-al-Solṭān in 1299/1882, Esfandīār was appointed īlbegī while his uncle Emāmqolī was īlḵānī, and then in 1895, Esfandīār was appointed īlḵānī of the Baḵtīārī and at the same time was probably entitled Ṣamṣām-al-Salṭana. From 1897 until his death in 1320/1902, however, he was generally known by the title Sardār(-e) Asʿad. This division of power between the īlbegī headed by Esfandīār and the Hājī Īlḵānī headed by Emāmqolī, and then their respective heirs, was to last until the 1930s and was to have important consequences for the whole of southwestern Persia in the context of the discovery of oil and the history of the Constitutional Revolution (q.v.).

When Esfandīār died the title of Sardār Asʿad was bestowed on his most important brother, ʿAlīqolī Khan, and his earlier title of Ṣamṣām-al-Salṭana was granted to another brother Najafqolī Khan, both of whom were to play critical roles in the Constitutional Revolution. After 1895 particularly, Esfandīār Khan was the most important Baḵtīārī leader and played the dominant role in the tribal area, including the distribution of power and administration there, the tribe’s relationship with Tehran and Isfahan, and the development of the Baḵtīārī road that linked the Persian Gulf and Ḵūzestān with Isfahan and thereby Tehran. In addition, he held major land holdings in southwestern Persia.

Esfandīār married four times: to Bībī Setāra (I), Bībī Ḵātūnjān, Bībī Setāra (II)—all of whom were Baḵtīārī—and to Bībī Masadat, an Arab woman from Ḵūzestān. He fathered ten sons and six daughters who lived to maturity; most notably, Moḥammad-Jawād Sardār Eqbāl and Nāṣer-qolī Monaẓẓem-al-Molk.



Bāmdād, Rejāl I, pp. 120-22, 442.

G. R. Garthwaite, Khans and Shahs: A Documentary Analysis of the Bakhtiyari in Iran, Cambridge, 1983.

(G. R. Garthwaite)

Originally Published: December 15, 1998

Last Updated: January 19, 2012

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