Monday, September 13, 2010
Tomb of Daniel
The Tomb of Daniel is the traditional burial place of the biblical prophet Daniel. Various locations have been named for the site, but the tomb in Susa, Khuzestan, is the most widely accepted. The Book of Daniel mentions that Daniel lived in Babylon and may have visited the place of Susa, but the place where he died is not specified; the tradition preserved among the Jews and Arabs is that he was buried in Susa. Today the Tomb of Daniel in Susa is a popular attraction among local Muslims and Iran's Jewish community alike.
The surrounding landscape today is a desolate plain beside a meandering river with a central hilltop where an armed fortress palace or citadel once stood in all its glory. The tomb is a building surmounted by a pineapple cone in white plaster and it is clearly of no great antiquity. The premises have two courtyards, which are surrounded with chambers and porches. The mausoleum is located at the end of the second courtyard, which has rooms in three side of courtyard for a nights stay of pilgrims. In this mausoleum, the sepulchre below the tomb is an old yellow colored stone devoid of any inscriptions. The ceiling of the mausoleum has beautiful mirror works with light apertures on eight sides under the dome. The foundations of the mausoleum are old but thick and strong. The upper section of eastern side of mausoleum is adorned with tile works. The dome of is hexagonal in shape and erected on a circular base.
According to the Biblical book of Daniel, at a young age Daniel was carried off to Babylon where he was trained in the service of the court under the authority of Ashpenaz. It is also written that Daniel became famous for interpreting dreams and rose to become one of the most important figures in the court and lived well into the reign of the Persian conquerors. The time and circumstances of Daniel’s death have not been recorded, however, tradition maintains that Daniel was still alive (and approximately 100 years old) in the third year of Cyrus the Great’s ascension to the throne of the Persian Empire.
During the Sassanid age, the city had had a large Christian community, who in the seventh century offered resistance against the Arab invaders. Nevertheless, the city was captured. While they were sacking the town, they discovered a mummy that was buried with a seal of a man standing between two lions, which was immediately taken to be a reference to the Biblical prophet Daniel. Although Caliph Umar ordered its destruction, the conquerors decided to venerate Daniel in Susa.
The earliest mention of Daniel’s Tomb published in Europe is given by Benjamin of Tudela who visited Asia between 1160 and 1163. In the façade of one of its many synagogues he was shown the tomb assigned by tradition to Daniel. Benjamin declares however, that the tomb does not hold Daniel's remains, which were said to have been discovered at Susa about 640 CE. The remains were supposed to bring good fortune and bitter quarrels arose because of them between the inhabitants of the two banks of the Choaspes River. All those living on the side on which Daniel's grave was situated were rich and happy, while those on the opposite side were poor and in want; the latter, therefore, wished the bier of Daniel transferred to their side of the river. They finally agreed that the bier should rest alternately one year on each side. This agreement was carried out for many years, until the Persian Shah Ahmad Sanjar, on visiting the city, stopped the practice, holding that the continual removal of the bier was disrespectful to the prophet. He ordered the bier to be fastened with chains to the bridge, directly in the middle of the structure; and he erected a chapel on the spot for both Jews and non-Jews. The King also forbade fishing in the river within a mile of Daniel's bier. According to Benjamin, the place is a dangerous one for navigation, since godless persons perish immediately on passing it; and the water under the bier is distinguished by the presence of goldfish.
A somewhat similar account is given by 10th century Arab chronicler Ibn Hawqal. Acording to him during the time of Abu Mousa Ashoari a coffin was found, said to contain the bones of Daniel the Prophet. The people held it in great veneration and in times of distress, famine or droughts brought it out and prayed for rain. Abu Mousa Ashoari ordered that the coffin be encased with three coverings and submerged it in the river so that it could not be viewed.