Manifestation of water purity in Sa’adi Shirazi’s Tomb

Document Type : Research Article



The holy sites in Iran have mostly been established near mountains, fountains or trees as memorials of old Iranian beliefs which were mostly based on naturism and originated from ancient beliefs in Mithra and Anahita.  Some of those holy sites changed their function after the advent of Islam in Iran and became shrines of religious figures. Nevertheless, they continue to preserve the signs and symbols of holiness as prevailed in ancient beliefs.     Among the sites where signs of water purity are dominant is Sa’adi’s Tomb where the “Fish Pond” is a place for manifestation of water purity and where the common belief in this natural element is rooted.  Many stories and narratives have been told about the importance of this pond and there are ceremonies held to this respect which were attributed later to ‘Sheikh Saadi’ and the holiness of his tomb. The fish pond at Saadi’s Tomb is one of the headsprings of Saadi’s Aqueduct which is one of the most watery and the oldest aqueducts in Shiraz. The old name for this aqueduct was “Pahndej” (wide fortress), the name of which was changed to Saadi aqueduct after building the Tomb next to it. The reason for calling this place “Pahndej” was the existence of the ancient fortress near the aqueduct. This fortress was one of the oldest residential places in Shiraz. Historical narrations have referred to physical and metaphysical features of this aqueduct where rituals and ceremonies were practiced in relation to the fish pond – rituals that have continued so far. This article assumes that the ceremonies concerning this aqueduct suggest the continuance and relevance of beliefs existing with respect to the holiness of the water. This originates from ancient religions and their point of view about water. As it was mentioned earlier, people in Shiraz have special beliefs about Saadi’s aqueduct and its physical and metaphysical properties. Also, they consider the fish pond as the symbol of holiness of this aqueduct and attribute its fish to Sheikh Saadi and avoid fishing there. With respect to the hypothesis proposed in this article and understanding the geographical-historical roots of this area, these beliefs together with the ceremonies and their relation to ancient Iranian culture have been analyzed (Table 2). The ceremonies related to this aqueduct and water element have been split into 4 general categories: holiness of fish, attribution of water to great religious men, washing (ablution) during special days and seeking abundance and fertility, each of which is realized along with a series of ceremonies and customs. A point worthy of reflection here is the adjustment of the time of conducting these ceremonies to ancient festivals celebrations. As an example, on the first day of the calendar month of Tir, people in the city would go to this aqueduct and wash their bodies for a week. This ceremony was synchronous with the day “urmazd” performed with the pouring of water. On the other hand, those beliefs prevailed after the advent of Islam in this area to the degree that they can be seen today, as well.  It is believed that people took a bath in this water pond to draw in good luck, poured water on their heads and prayed for their demands to be answered. This ritual was taken into Islam and continued after the advent of Islam until today. Therefore, in describing and analyzing the historical events concerning this issue, the authors have been able to establish a significant relation between the ruined parts of the old fortress “Pahndej” near the Tomb and historical roots of ancient ceremonies which have continued to the contemporary time. According to the authors, this relation originates from the holiness of water in old times. This is a cross-sectional field study.