City, Ceremony, Collective Memory A Study on the Relation of Ceremonies and Urban Spaces in Safavid and Qajar Eras



In public ceremonies, some of the deepest collective memories of the city are being shaped. In Safavid era, feasts and funerals; which were either celebration of Iranian old traditions or Shiite rituals, provided some of the most memorable scenes in public life of the city. This has been mentioned frequently in itineraries and travelogues - both Iranians and foreigners. These ceremonies gradually found their proper physical arrangement. In Isfahan, capital of Safavid Empire, a thoughtful design under powerful ruling and prosperous state, resulted in unique places for different occasions. Chahar Bagh Street and Naghsh Jahan square were the urban spaces which were built to celebrate social events and strengthen the national identity of Iranians. In these spaces, places were embedded in surrounding buildings where people, according to their status and class, sat and watched the ceremonies. In Tehran, capital of Qajar Dynasty, spaces with different characters were created due to lack of proper design, will and power. In Fath Ali Shah era, Toopkhaneh(canon) square was built within citadel walls and then, in Naser al-Din Shah era, a new Toopkhaneh square was built in the Dowlat quarter(to the north of the citadel). These two squares were the main urban spaces of the city and ceremonies were held there. If in the first Toopkhaneh square a seat was anticipated for the king to sit and watch the ceremony (similar to the Alighapu Iwan in Isfahan), in the second Toopkhaneh square there was no place for the king in the surrounding buildings and he could watch occasional events from the entrance building of his palace in the adjacent street. In this period, Iranian old ceremonies- except Nowruz- were not celebrated anymore. The main religious feast which continued to be held from Safavid era into Qajar era was Eid Ghorban. In Safavid era, it was celebrated by sacrificing a camel in a square near Julfa and distributing its meat between people, who took the meat and marched in the Chahar Bagh Street. In Qajar dynasty the ceremony was held in front of a royal garden outside the city and was accompanied by European music which was played by western instruments. When city grew, the garden was enclosed in Dowlat quarter. In modern era (Pahlavi period), public ceremonies were eliminated from public scenes and were celebrated in private realms. Thus, urban spaces became a place for passing traffic. In this paper, the spaces which were places of feasts and ceremonies and their physical-spatial characteristics will be compared in Isfahan and Tehran. In particular, the ceremonies of Eid Ghorban and Eid Nowruz, the places where they were celebrated and their transformations will be discussed. This paper shows that by gradual fading of the role of ceremonies in public life of the city and gradual loss of proper and defined space for ceremonies which could bring together different citizens of the city and provide for their participation, the main vehicle for developing collective memory in public life is eliminated and the city is faded from the memories of its residents.