Sunday, July 7, 2024

Shah Nematollah Vali Shrine

The Shah Nematollah Vali Shrine (آرامگاه شاه نعمت الله ولی) is a historical complex, located in Mahan, Kerman province, which contains the mausoleum of Shah Nematollah Vali, the renowned Iranian mystic and poet. Shah Nematollah Vali died in 1431 aged over 100. In 1436 a shrine was erected in his honor 35 kilometers southeast of Kerman and became a pilgrimage site; with the attention of successive rulers contributing various additions over the centuries. The shrine complex spans 32,000 square meters and consists of four courtyards, a reflecting pool, a mosque and twin minarets covered with turquoise tiles from the bottom up to the cupola.

The earliest construction is attributed to the Bahmanid ruler Ahmed I Vali who erected the sanctuary chamber in 1436. Shah Abbas I undertook extensions and renovations in 1601, including reconstruction of the tiled blue dome, described as one of the most magnificent architectural masterpieces in old Persia. During the Qajar period the site was particularly popular, necessitating the construction of additional courtyards to accommodate increased numbers of pilgrims. The minarets also date from this period. The small room where Nematollah Vali prayed and meditated contains plasterwork and tile decorations. The complex is also famous for its tilework and seven ancient wooden doors.

Entering from the street entrance, one first passes through the Atabaki courtyard, built through contributions from Ali Asghar Khan Atabak, the chancellor of Nasereddin Shah. It contains porticos around it and a large pool at its center. 

Next up is the Vakilol-Molki courtyard, courtesy of Mohammad Esmaeil Ebrahim Khan Nouri, Vakilol-Molk. The structure displays a Mongol type of architecture (of the Ilkhani and pre-Safavid periods) and its porch pertains to the Isfahani mode of architecture.There is a polygonal pool in the middle of the courtyard, which is usually adorned with geraniums. After Mohammad Ismail Khan died, his son, Morteza Gholi Khan, added two minarets and a portico to the complex. 

On the upper part of the entrance corridor is the Shah Nematollah Museum (where various types of armor and swords and a unique piece of cloth which once covered the tomb are being kept) while a bookshop is located to the north.

Once past the Modirol-Molki portico, is the shrine with its dome-shaped arch which is split into 11 sections, adorned with paintings and has two shells. 

In the middle of the arch, there is a zarih which is 3.4 meters long and 2 meters wide. On the marble stone covering of the tomb, there is a Quranic verse surrounded by the names of the 12 Shia Imams. 

On the southwestern side of the portico behind the shrine is the Chelleh Khaneh, a small space with walls adorned with poetry in various colors where Shah Nematollah Vali spent 40 days and nights worshipping God. Chelleh Khaneh was completely damaged during a flood in 1932 but was later reconstructed.

Continuing from the shrine is the Shah Abbasi portico which was built in 998 AH under the rule of Shah Abbas I. The names of 12 Shia Imams have been written at the entrance of the portico in relief inscription. Further ahead is the Mirdamad courtyard (also known as Shah Abbasi courtyard) which was reconstructed under the rule of Nasereddin Shah. Finally there is the Hosseiniyeh courtyard which contains the Mohammad Shahi minarets standing on the western side of it. 

The minarets are 42 meters high and were built under the rule of Mohammad Shah Qajar. They were damaged in an earthquake in 1981. This courtyard is connected to Motevallibashi House (currently a hotel) by a bridge which was destroyed in a flood in 1932.

On January 6th, 1932 the Shah Nematollah Vali Shrine was registered as one of Iran’s national relics with the registration number of 132.