The Rock-Sculptures in Gunduk Cave: 3

From the Book:
The Rock-Sculptures in Gunduk Cave
Taufiq Wahby (1891-1984)
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The carving which we have called the second group (Plate 6) which was not observed by any previous visitors is situated about seven metres away from the group already described. In this there appears a god with two horns, and long hair falling over his shoulders. It seems to me that he has a beard, and that behind him stands an animal, most likely a lion. The god is seated in a chair, wearing a tunic nearly to his feet. His right hand lies on his right knee, and his left hand is raised in front of the face of what might be a wild goat, in the familiar traditional gesture of worship. The wild goat is standing obliquely on its hind legs, and its fore-feet are placed on something hidden beside the god. The head of this wild goot is defaced, but the horn is quite clear. Its left hind leg is also clear and looks like a man's foot. Some lines appear between the god and the goat, branching upwards and sideways. This seems to be a tree. Behind the goat is another smaller animal which also has a horn and may be a young ibex. It is standing upright on its hind legswith its front legs on the back of the other goat. Behind this young goat there is yet another animal which looks like an ass, feeding its young, And behind this is a man with a cap on his head. It is not clear whether this cap is pointed or whether it has two horns, resembling those of the sitting god. This standing man or god wears a tunic similar to that of the sitting god. I think thot in his left hand he is grasping the tail of the female animal and in his right hand a plough. Behind this person there is a crevice in the rock, on the other side of which is another animal which completes the scene. This animal is very much like a lion. On the other side of the ass there are engraved lines which slope upwards and resemble again a leafy tree.

This, I believe, is a spring tableau, later in date than the first group, and represents a more advanced stage in civilization when animals were domesticated and agriculture was practised; when villages were built, and religious creeds established. This relief seems to have provided a background for certain magico-religious ceremonials. The herdsmen and farmers of those days would, perhaps, on special occasions, visit the cove and hold religious celebrations in front of this tableau, clad in sheep and goat skins complete with horns and tails, dancing to the music of the pipe and chanting their incantations. By such ceremonies they would hope to obtain rain, to avoid the severity of winter, to enjoy sunshine, and to ensure that their animals would reproduce and grow, and that their corn would ripen in abundance, and that the trees would blossom and the birds sing.

A parallel for such ceremonials may again be found among the Kurds of the present day. At Sulaimaniyah, for instance, similar rituals are still performed in spring. After preparations by a specially appointed group of persons, on the morning of the appointed day, when all is ready, the people of Sulaimaniyah leave the town and gather in the place of celebration. A king is enthoned, his courtiers and guards are appointed. The king proceeds on an ox, followed by his courtiers amidst the crowd towards the camp where tents are pitched, “diwans” are formed, and cauldrons are set out. Certain individuals masked with sheep and goat skins represent in mime domestic animals throughout the ceremony, which lasts for three whole days.

The chief is implicitly obeyed. He even imposes taxes on persons whether absent or present at the meeting. He continues to enjoy the title of "Pasha" until another similar celebration is held.

In my opinion this celebration, which is nowadays considered recreational, is in fact a commemoration of Fraidūn’s rebellion against the tyrannical Dragon-King, Dhahāk, in which, as we read in Firdausi’s Shahnāma, Fraidūn overthrew Dhahāk and recovered the throne of Iran Fraidūn led his forces to the attack, mounted on a cow.

King Fraidūn and King Dhahāk in the Shahnāma correspond to the heavenly hero Thraētaona and the heavenly dragon Azhi dahāka of whom we read in the Avesta. In the latter, Thraētaona destroys Azhi dahāka, the enemy of mankind, who wishes to prevent the rain from falling and render the earth void of human life and all living things.

It may be useful to give another similar example of such celebrations held among the Kurds. This is called “Samanī Pazān” (the Samanī cooking ceremony), which is one form of the well-known gardens of Adonis. Grain is grown in flat baskets, and having reached a certain height, is cut on a certain day after the feast of the Nauruz or the day of the sun's entry into Aries. Then it is crushed in a mortar and juice extracted, the residue being usually thrown into a running stream. On the evening of the same day people put the juice into a pot and add a certain amount of flour to it. Then it is cooked over a fire. Each family invites its neighbours and friends to a maulud, and at night dances are held around the pot. When the water of the mixture has evaporated and the food (which is naturally sweet) is well cooked, the pot is moved to a room where a tray containing a mirror, some kohl and henna are placed, and the room is closed. People having vows or wishes light candles and stick them round the pot. Nobody is then allowed to enter that room while the ceremony lasts.

At dawn the celebrants enter and uncover the pot, where they profess to detect a hand-print on the food. There is then great rejoicing, for it is believed in Sulaimaniyah that Aishe-u-Fatma has visited them and blessed the celebration, and that she has left the mark of her hand as a sign of her visit. The sacred sweet thus made is then distributed among other people and families. A number of families sometimes band together to hold the ceremony in the house of one of them.

It is hardly necessary to odd that the mirror, Kohl and henna would seem to indicate that the sacred visitor who is to bless the sweet is a female personage . In Iran the lady spirit who visits the samanü ceremony is Ffttimat uz-Zahrâ. She leaves her hand print on the samanil, or the print of her seal or rosary.

This is not the place for a full interpretation of this ceremony. Suffice it to say that we would not be far in the wrong if we identify the lady spirit with Anahita of the Iranians and Ishtar of the Sumerians and Babylonians. In my opinion, therefore, the ceremony dotes back thousands of years, and was held for the purpose of imitating the growth of the corn with the hope of getting better crops by the aid of the deity of fertility Nowadays it is performed by families who desire to increase, or have a vow to fulfil.

In Iran Samanū ceremony is celebrated either on the night between the last day of the outgoing year and the day of the Naurûz, or the night between the day after the Sezdah-ba-dor and the following day.

Sēzdah-ba-dar is celebrated on the thirteenth day of the new year. Now number thirteen is unlucky in Iran. When in counting some things related to life and food, they reach number thirteen, they say "twelve and one". Even among the Kurds this number in situations related to life and food is regarded as unlucky and is called Ziyâda (increment). This provides us perhaps with an explanation of the idea behind the Sêzdah-badar, which literally means "thirteen out". Early on this day people go out on a picnic in the fields taking their food with them and stay till after sunset. This is just for throwing away the bad luk of the previous year, and getting o fresh good luck for the new year. The women take on herb and knot it invoking Sêzdah-ba-dar saying.

Sabza, Sabzi i tu az man,
Zardi i man az tu;
Khushi i tu az man,
Qahr i man az tu.

which means :

O green, your greeness be mine,
My yellowness be yours;
Your happiness be mine,
My worry be yours.

Virgins and young widows invoke Sêzdah-ba-dar saying:

Sâl i d ig a r ,
Khana i shau-har,
Bachcha ba baghal.

which means:

O thirteen out!
the coming year,
(In) the home of the husband,
Baby in arms.