Qohrud i. Historical Geography


QOHRUD, mountainous river, village, and district, with attractive architectural monuments; on a caravan station from Kashan to Isfahan.

i. Historical geography 

The district is in the Karkas chain and is clearly named after its river (from kōh-rōd “mountain river”). First mentioned in the 11th century Maḥāsen-e Eṣfahān (Māfarruḵi, p. 17), Qohrud was signified three centuries later as a source of a river and as a caravan station (Mostawfi, pp. 67, 184), the two attributes for which it has been known ever since.

The river. Mostawfi also states that Kashan received its water partly from a river that flows down from Qohrud and Niāsar (rud-i ke az Qohrud o Niāsar āyad) and identifies the source of the Qohrud river as the hills of Niāsar and Qamṣar (Mostawfi, pp. 67, 221-22, tr. 72, 214). The Qohrud river stretches northward for about 38 km. It rises at the elevation of 2,350 m (under the Kolāh-barfi peak) and flows down through the mountainous settlements of Qohrud (elev. 2,330 m), Javinān (2,100 m), and Golestāna (1,700 m), reaches the piedmonts at Gabrābād (renamed Moslemābād by the Islamic regime), and flows onto the plain of Kashan (950 m) with the name Šāhāb; the excess water, if any, pours into the salt lake (Kalāntar, p. 103; Jaʿfari, II, pp. 84-85; III, passim).

The river became perennial thanks to the dam on its upper reaches. Band-e Qohrud, or Band-e ʿAbbāsi, was built in 1010/1601, in the reign of Shah Abbas. Blocking the valley from side to side, the stone construction stored the water and was regulated by a sluice. The band was one of several historical dams (see BAND) in the mountains south of Kashan that were built to supply the Kashan district with water during the summer months. Negligence in the ensuing centuries caused the dam’s reservoir to be filled with sediment; the dam fell out of use after the flood of 1956 (Eskandar Beg, tr. p. 537; Tavernier, p. 6; Curzon, II, p. 17; Kalāntar, pp. 11, 60-62, 103; Browne, pp. 202-03; ʿAbd-al-Bāqi, apud Allahyār Ṣāleh’s notes in Kalāntar, p. 464-65; Sercey, pp. 229-30; Goblot).

The district and village. Situated at N 33° 40', E 51° 25', the village Qohrud has been designated as a qaria  (Māfarruḵi, p. 17; Kalāntar, p. 10), a deyh “village” (Mostowfi, p. 184), a bourg “large/market village” (Comte de Sacy, p. 229), and a “village” or “typical Persian mountain hamlet”  (Curzon, II, p. 18). Qohrud must have gained in importance in the 14th century or a little earlier, as testified by Mostawfi, and as suggested by the establishment dates of its mosques (see below). It was under the Safavids, however, that Qohrud became nationally known for its water supply and caravansary.

The village owes much of its significance to the transit route that passed though it. Mostowfi records 8 farsaḵs from Kashan to Qohrud (now 45 km) and 6 farsaḵs from Qohrud to the next caravan station, Wāseṭa (also spelled Asṭa/Ušta in the footnote; Mostawfi, p. 184, tr. 175).  Halfway between Kashan and Qohrud, where the flat plain leads to rocky gorges, stood the Gabrābād caravansary. Qohrud village lies 9 km south of Qamṣar, towards the head of the Qohrud pass (gardana; at 2,700 m), often blocked by snow in the winter, after which the road runs downhill toward Jowšaqān. Many European travelers passed through Qohrud on their way south from Tehran, along a road that traversed Kashan—Qohrud—Soh—Murcaḵᵛort, before reaching Isfahan (Browne, pp. 208-13). This road is now obsolete in favor of the two modern highways round the Karkas chain (Siroux, pp. 20-21, and Plate 2; cf. Schwarz, VII, p. 929, n. 16).

Qohrud was on the border between Kashan and Isfahan and belonged to the latter in the later Qajar period (Kalāntar, pp. 11, 40-41). Under the Pahlavis, Qohrud (also listed as Qoh; Edāra, p. 304, no. 53) was the chef-lieu of a rural district (dehestān) of the same name in Qamṣar sub-district (baḵš), Kāšān district (šahrestān), which belonged initially to the province of Māzandarān but later passed on to the Markazi and Isfahan provinces. According to the 1996 census, Qohrud was a rural district of Qamṣar sub-district, with a population of 1,823 and 1,007 for the dehestān and its center, respectively. Qohrud’s hamlets included Javinān, Qazāʾān, and Haza, with 315, 326, and 8 souls, respectively (Markaz, p. 6), while Bonrud, Jahaq, Tetmāj/Totmāj, and Zanjānbar/Zangunbar constitute other settlements of Qohrud. In addition to the Qohrud river, six qanāts supplied the water for irrigation of this sardsir “cool climate” district, which produced fruits, grains, potatoes, and roses, supplemented by handicrafts (Razmārā, pp. 218-19).

The agreeable climate, terraced orchards, and charming houses straggling up the steep hillsides have elicited a few words of praise from many European visitors since the 17th century (Chardin, I, 216; cf. Dieulafoy, p. 212; Curzon, II, p. 18; Brown, p. 186), with the exception of Comte de Sacy (p. 229), who described Qohrud as “miserable” in his 1839-40 visits. Lithograph paintings of the village can be found in Flandin. Qohrud has preserved certain old traditions, such as building short walls around houses (Siroux, op. cit.).

Monuments. As one expects from a caravan station, Qohrud has a Safavid caravansary. This splendid construction has a plan (56.5 by 51.5 m) typical of the rural caravansaries, but with unique characteristics necessitated by the topography and climate or imposed by its unknown master architect, who is surmised to have lived in the reign of Shah Abbas the Great. The caravansary exhibits masterful engineering, with due attention paid to water supply, sewage, and heating, coupled with aesthetic elements integrated into the architectural whole. Opening to the north, the caravansary is situated on a steep slope, and has thus been cut into the rock at one edge. Nevertheless, the building has sustained severe water damage from snowmelt and much of the brick has been re-used by the villagers (Siroux, p. 142 and Plate 11f; Flandin, IV, Plate 87).

Two mosques survive in Qohrud from as early as the 14th century. Neither is prominent in terms of architectural sophistication, as they represent the functional construction preferences of the region, yet they possess peculiar lustrous tiles decorated with interesting inscriptions, including verses from the Šāh-nāma. In his detailed study of the mosques, Oliver Watson construes a connection between Qohrud and Kashan in terms of pottery production. Qohrud has indeed been an important center of ceramic production in central Persia (Pope and Acherman, III, p. 1655) and may have been the source of cobalt that potters used to produce blues (cf. Wulff, p. 163; cf. Curzon, II, p. 519). Watson also established that one of the mosques apparently belonged to the Shiʿis, while the other was possibly used by Sunni villagers. This finding is particularly important in the context of the religious dichotomy of Kashan before the coercive imposition of Shiʿism under the Safavids: while the city of Kashan was a Shiite center, her villages were Sunnite (Mostowfi, p. 68).



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(Habib Borjian)

Originally Published: February 25, 2011

Last Updated: February 25, 2011