JĀRČI, a public crier, announcer or herald, derived from the Mongol jar (proclamation, announcement) and certainly also related to the Turkish yar as in yarliḡ (Mo. jarlig), meaning decree or order (Doerfer, pp. 277-78; see also explicitly in Naṭanzi, pp. 310, 322: jār farmudan). The term jār is first encountered in the manual by Hendušāh Naḵjavāni, in a context denoting ‘summons to service’ (e.g., p. 16). In the Persian sources of the 15th century concerning Timur’s conquests and the subsequent Timurid period, the compound jār rasānidan/rasāndan is found with the meaning ‘to order, summon,’ chiefly in a military context (see examples in Doerfer, loc. cit., also e.g., Ḥasan b. Šehāb, pp. 32, 116, 119). The term jārči is perhaps used in the late 14th century by Zayn-al-Din (p. 122) but little can be learned from the context.
Jārčis are found listed among the members of the private household (ḵāṣṣa) at the review of troops carried out by Solṭān Ḵalil in Fārs in 1476, with the imputed role of ‘announcers;’ in this case, however (as also in Samarqandi, p. 713), the role of shouting orders (jār) is assigned to the muster-masters (tovāčis) rather than to the jārčis (Minorsky, “Review,” pp. 154, 160, 161, idem, Tadhkirat, 36). However, the jārčis certainly had their own established position, at least by the end of the 15th century (Fażl-Allāh b. Ruzbehān Ḵonji Eṣfahāni, p. 242). Both tovāčis and jārčis had a role in mustering and mobilizing the troops at the beginning and the end of the Safavid period (Ḵoršāh b. Qobād, pp. 7, 101; cf. Naṣiri, pp. 223, 258, 305; Floor, p. 242), although Floor considers that the office of tovāči-bāši had given way, by the 1640s, to the jārči-bāši.
Criers or heralds naturally have a role in both civilian and military capacities. Evidence of their existence is best documented in the Safavid period, at the end of which jārčis are described as attached to several different departments of government, but always with the same essential function of shouting loudly (be āvāz-e boland). Thus the jārčis of the household guard (kešik), who came under the authority of the master of ceremony (Ešik-āqāsi-bāši), shouted out the names of the permanent guards of the royal household on duty every night, to be recorded by the royal guard record keepers (kešik-nevisān; Mirzā Rafiʾā, pp. 24, 102). Under the same authority, the jārčis are described as public announcers of the Divān (Minorsky, Tadhkirat, p. 47), thus presumably proclaiming orders and decrees issued by the government (cf. Floor, p. 243, citing Kaempfer, Am hofe). Jārčis announced the taxes on staple foodstuffs every week and also shouted warnings to the people to remain indoors when the Shah rode out attended by the ladies of his harem (Doerfer, p. 279, citing Chardin and Olearius, respectively). The jārči-bāši, at the head of several jārčis, was enrolled among the senior cavalrymen in charge of arsenal (qurčis) and was in attendance at the Shah’s stirrup whether on journeys or in audience. At camp (ordu), during the more general roll call of the great qorčis than the reviews conducted by the Shah himself or the qorči-bāši, his duty was to shout out to each of the soldiers in turn to come for inspection, who was then paid his specified wages on the approval of the qorči-bāši (Mirzā Rafiʿā, p. 120).
In a military context, jārčis were attached to the musketeers, under the jurisdiction of the commander of the musketeers (tofangči-bāšis) (Mirzā Rafiʿā, p. 26, Minorsky, Tadhkirat, p. 48; Floor, p. 184), and also to the artillery (tup-ḵāna), under the authority of the cannon commander (tupči-bāšis) (Mirzā Rafiʿā, p. 32; Minorsky, p. 51; Floor, p. 196), and in each case their payments were endorsed by the viziers of the respective departments (Minorsky, pp. 73-74). In these roles, their duty was presumably to shout orders to the troops, with powerful voices to carry over the din of battle (cf. Floor, p. 266). Evidence of these roles is relatively abundant also for the period of Nāder Shah’s campaigns (see e.g., Marvi, pp. 137, 172, 265, 292, 565, 594, 917, etc.).
G. Doerfer, Die mongolische Elemente im Neupersischen, Wiesbaden, 1963.
Willem Floor, Safavid Government Institutions, Costa Mesa, CA, 2001.
Ḥasan b. Šehāb Yazdi, Jāmeʿ al-tawāriḵ-e Ḥasani, ed. Ḥ. Modarresi Ṭabāṭabāʾi and I. Afšār, Karachi, 1987.
Hendušāh Naḵjavāni, Dastur al-kāteb II, ed. ʿA. ʿA. ʿAlizādeh, Moscow, 1976.
Fażl-Allāh b. Ruzbehān Ḵonji Eṣfahāni, Tāriḵ-e ʿālamārā-ye Amini, ed. John E. Woods, London, 1992.
Ḵoršāh b. Qobād al-Ḥosayni, Tāriḵ-e ilči-e Neẓāmšāh, ed. M. R. Naṣiri and K. Haneda, Tehran, 2000. Moḥammad Kāẓem Marvi, ʿĀlam-ārā-ye Nāderi, ed. M. A. Riāḥi, 3 vols., Tehran, 1985.
Vladimir Minorsky, “A civil and military review in Fars in 881/1476,” BSOS 10, 1939, pp. 927-60.
Idem, Tadhkirat Al-Muluk. A manual of Safavid Administration, ed. and tr. V. Minorsky, London, 1943.
Moʿin-al-Din Naṭanzi, Montaḵab al-tawāriḵ-e Moʿini, ed. J. Aubin, Extraits du Muntakhab al-tavarikh-i Mu’ini (Anonyme d’Iskandar), Tehran, 1957.
Moḥammad Ebrāhim Naṣiri, Dastur-e šahriārān, ed. M. N. Naṣiri Moqaddam, Tehran, 1994.
Mirzā Rafiʿā Anṣāri, Dastur al-moluk, in I. Afšār, ed. Daftar-e tāriḵ I. Majmuʿa-ye asnād o manābeʿ-e tāriḵi, Tehran, 2001, pp. 477-651.
ʿAbd al-Razzāq Samarqandi, Maṭlaʿ-e saʿdayn II, ed. ʿA.-Ḥ. Navāʾi, Tehran, 2004.
Zayn-al-Din, Ḏayl-e Tāriḵ-e gozida, ed. I. Afšār, Tehran, 1993.
Originally Published: December 15, 2008
Last Updated: April 13, 2012
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Vol. XIV, Fasc. 6, pp. 58-581