Thousand-Year-Old Wedding

Pir-e Shalyar celebrations in Iranian Kurdestan.
October 7, 2010

In the high mountains of Iran’s Kurdish region, a long and winding road leads to the ancient village of Oraman Takht. In the cold depths of winter, an annual festival is held here to commemorate the wedding of a priest named Pir-e Shalyar more than a millennium ago.

The story of Pir-e Shalyar mixes myth with history. It’s widely believed he was a Zoroastrian priest who lived in this area in the early part of the eighth century, a short while after the Muslim Arab invasion of Iran.

Pir-e Shalyar’s legacy is a book of poetry consisting of proverbs, tales and wisdom, which offers an insight into the lives and practices of the people of his time.

According to local lore, Pir-e Shalyar worked miracles and healed the sick. The story goes that some ruler – perhaps the king of Bukhara, or the governor of some far-off region – sent his mute, beautiful daughter to Pir-e Shalyar to see if he could help her. As the girl approached the holy man's home, she regained the power of speech. It is their marriage that the celebration commemorates.

While people in this region embraced Islam over a thousand years ago, they still mark the date of Pir-e Shalyar’s wedding, with Islamic traditions and litany and Sufi practices blended into the festival.

Kian Amani is an Iranian photojournalist who has recently moved to Washington DC.

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