1219 GMT January 20, 2019
The carvings, some of the finest and best-preserved examples of Persian Sassanid era sculptures, include images of the investiture ceremonies of Ardeshir II and Shapur III.
As in other Sassanid symbols, Taq-e Bostan and its bas-reliefs highlight the power, religious tendencies, glory, honor, the vastness of the court, games and fighting spirit, festivities and joy of the Sassanid period.
Sassanid kings chose a beautiful setting for their bas-reliefs along the Silk Road — an ancient caravan route. The reliefs are adjacent to a sacred spring that pours into a large pool at the base of a mountain cliff.
Taq-e Bostan and its bas-reliefs comprise two big and small arches. They illustrate the crowning ceremonies of Ardeshir I and his son, Shapur I, Shapur II and Khosrow II. They also depict the hunting scenes of Khosrow II.
The first Taq-e Bostan relief, and apparently the oldest, is a bas-relief in rock measuring 4.07 meters wide and 3.9 meters high. It includes the figures of four people with swords, helmets, and lotus. The figure standing to the right dons a serrated crown. He has turned to the middle figure and holds out a ribbon-decked royal ring. The middle figure wears a helmet. Behind the middle figure, another figure stands with a halo of light around his head.
Researchers have long debated the identities of the figures in this bas-relief, although most agreed on the identity of the fallen figure ― Artabanus IV, the last Parthian king whose rule terminated in 226 CE. Today, it is believed that the figures represent Ardeshir I and his son Shapur I, stepping over the dead body of Artabanus IV, delighted and intoxicated with victory over their enemy.
This bas-relief depicts the demise of the Parthian dynasty, where Artabanus's figure has fallen under the feet of new rulers.
The smaller arch bears two inscriptions in Pahlavi script and carvings of Shapur II, or Shapur the Great, and his son Shapur III facing each other. The figures of the two kings have been carved in silhouette and each figure stands 2.97 meters tall. Shapur II is on the right and Shapur III is on the left with each figure's hands placed on a long straight sword pointing downwards. The right hand is holding the grip while the left rests on the sheath. Both figures wear loose trousers, necklaces, curled hair, and a pointed beard ending in a ring.
The smaller cave within the arch's vestibule measures 6 x 5 x 3.6 meters. It was believed to have been built during the reign of Shapur III. Some assess the date of its completion at 385 CE. The Pahlavi inscriptions clearly introduce the two figures. The translation of the text of Shapur II and Shapur III respectively reads: This is the figure of the good worshiper, Shapur, the king of Iran and Aniran (non-Iran). Son of the good worshipper of God, Hormizd, the king of Iran and Aniran, divine race, grandson of Nersi, the king of kings.
One of the most impressive reliefs inside the largest grotto is the gigantic equestrian figure of the Sassanid King Khosrow II (591-628 CE) mounted on his favorite horse, Shabdiz. Both horse and rider are arrayed in full battle armor.
The arch rests on two columns that bear delicately-carved patterns showing the tree of life or the sacred tree. Above the arch and located on two opposite sides are figures of two-winged angles with diadems. Around the outer layer of the arch, a conspicuous margin has been carved, jagged with flower patterns. The equestrian relief panel is 4.25 meters high.
There are two hunting scenes on each side of the grotto. One scene depicts the imperial boar hunt, and the other scene shows the king stalking deer. Five elephants flush out the fleeing boars from a marshy lake for the king who stands poised with bow and arrow in hand.
In the next scene, another boat carries female harpists and shows that the king has killed two large boars. The next boat shows the king standing with a semicircular halo around his head and a loose bow in his hand, meaning that the hunt is over. Under this picture, elephants are retrieving the game with their trunks and putting them on their backs. Each hunting relief measures approximately six meters wide and 4.3 meters tall.
The upper relief shows the 19th century Qajar King Fath Ali Shah holding a court session. The depiction was so poorly done that in an effort to mask its inferior quality, color was added to it. The new addition and poor workmanship was even criticized by later Qajar King, Nasereddin Shah.
The beauty and authenticity of Taq-e Bostan site has been spoilt by unwarranted additions. Throughout history, Taq-e Bostan has had a strange attraction for vandals. One of the vandals has etched the name of the former Dutch footballer Ruud Gullit on the underside of the larger arch.
Moreover, tectonic movements of the earth have caused some cracks to appear in Taq-e Bostan, particularly on its ceiling. These cracks are getting wider due to water seeping through the stones.
The province of Kermanshah has a area of 24,641 square kilometers and is located to the west of Iran.
Evidence indicates that this province has been home to human settlements since the Paleolithic and Neolithic ages. Considering the historical monuments found in Kermanshah, it attained the peak of its glory during the Achaemenid and Sassanid eras and was highly regarded by the kings of those times.
In the Islamic period, especially in the Safavid era, it made great progress. This province is inhabited by Kurds, Lors, Arabs and Turks. In addition to the inhabitants of the towns and villages, there are many nomadic tribes throughout the province. The predominant language is Farsi but other languages such as Kurdish, Lori and Azerbaijani are also spoken.
Kermanshah province has numerous historical and natural attractions for tourism. Apart from Taq-e Bostan, it is home to outstanding sites such as Anahita Temple, Tekieh Moaven-ol-Molk, Es’haqvand Rock Tomb, and Bistoun’s inscription — the largest petrograph worldwide.
Bistoun was registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2006. It is an important relic depicting the victories of Achaemenid King Darius.
Kermanshah boasts natural attractions such as the mountains of Perav, Bistoun, Dalahoo, Shahoo and Dalakhani, valleys, jungles and springs.
It is home to lagoons such as Niloufar, Bistoun, Yavari, Hashilan and Harsin.
The long caves of Qouri-Qal’eh and Perav also fascinate visitors. The four-season climate attracts tourists throughout the year.
Kermanshah is renowned as Iran’s India due to its cultural diversity. It is the cradle of mystic music and traditional Iranian musical instrument tanbur (the long-necked, string instrument).
Kilim and giveh (a type of traditional Iranian shoes) are among the most important handicrafts produced in the province.