Madi Jahangir * – There are two gates. I entered the yard from the right gate where old men were sitting on the stairs and staring at my camera. Though I assume they were staring at my camera from when I was photographing Lahijan’s grand mosque on the side of the square. Upon entering the Chahar Padshahan (Four Kings), I found myself walking on the stone tiles in between them the green grass had grown. Chahar Padshahan consists of two buildings. There is a newer structure with blue ceramic artworks similar to that of typical mosques in Iran. But the shorter building on the left looks much less new and much more Gilani style of architecture: Wooden structure, white plaster walls, clay roof tiles and ancient cafe house style of paintings here and there.
Weather in Gilan province is very humid throughout the year. Also in the past, it was very difficult to bring any construction materials to Gilan due to being locked in the Alborz mountain range forcing the people to use the local materials. Stones were too heavy and rare and the stone structures could not resist the extreme humidity. On the other hand, wood was cheap and plentiful and the clay tiles could cover the roof, not only protecting the building against the shower-like rainfalls but they were even lighter than stone and could be easily replaced if damaged.
Chahar Padshahan however, has a slightly different structure. The old building is rectangular shape, contains several rooms, each has doorways to the terrace and another door inside, to connect the rooms to one another. Four Lahijan’s great men are buried there, two of whom were the rulers of Biehpish. (1) They were from Kiyaei dynasty, rulers of a lost kingdom which had Lahijan as the historical capital.
Gilan is historically part of Iran however for the same reason of being locked by Alborz mountain range, the local rulers of the region were not much under influence and control of the Iran’s central government. In the ancient time until the Safavi domination of Gilan and long before the Iran’s provincial divisions into the current state, Gilan was divided by the Sefidrud River into eastern and western regions. The river’s eastern side was called Biehpish (Gilaki: This side of river) and the western side Biehpas (Gilaki: Other side of the river). (2)
For a period of time, Sadat-e Kiyaei ruled the Biehpish area and established a government in Lahijan as their capital. Kiyaei rulers were followers of Zaidi branch of Shi’ite Islam whom later reverted to Ithna Ashariyeh Shi’ism, the current dominant Islamic sect in Iran. They are called Sadat for being descendants of prophet Mohammad who fled Abbasid oppression against Prophet’s household. Under their rule, they gave asylum, supported and cherished Shah Ismaeil Safavi, the founder of Safavi dynasty when he was a child and played a very important role in establishment of Safavi empire, one of the strongest kingdoms that reunited Iran (Persia) after centuries of division. (3)
It is surprising that how the events have been connected to each other from past to present and perhaps to future. Nowadays, Chahar Padshahan (often called Meydan too) is one of the main seven districts in Lahijan’s old city and is often crowded in the month of Moharram, only when the special ceremonies are being held for the martyrdom of Imam Hossain a.s. Other than that, there are few visitors who pay respect to the tombs or come to hold daily prayers in the mosque.
Upon me exiting Chahar Padshahan, the sun was almost down. I took so many photos inside the shrine until the key holder of the place told me that I am not allowed to do more shooting. I recited Fatiha for the kings and watched over the calligraphic texts and paintings once more. Most of the paintings are related to Qajar era but the building itself was built upon order of Shah Abbas Safavi. The most amazing parts are the tombs themselves, showing off a type of art that Gilanis are master of: the amazing wooden artworks with so much detailing.
The tomb of the Four Kings is a regular shrine similar to many other shrines in the country. But maybe not, for being a reminder of a great period of Iran’s history, in which my hometown, the current small, peaceful and quite city of Lahijan, has once played an important role.
(3) Essays in Arabic Literary Biography: 1350-1850, Page 38