Persia/Chapter 27

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Persia, Part 4 by Frederic Shoberl
Chapter V.—Funerals and Tombs,

CHAPTER V.

FUNERALS AND TOMBS.

The Persians inter their dead with the same ceremonies which are practised by other Mahometan nations.

Though religion forbids graves to be covered with any structure whatever, yet the ostentation of the great has violated this precept, and left the observance of it to the very lowest class, who have only a piece of stone set up vertically at the end of the grave, with a moral inscription, or a passage from the Koran. The tombs of the poorer sort of people are built with bricks, with a small piece of marble at the head for the epitaph. Stone lions and rams rudely sculptured are very frequently seen in Persian burial-grounds, and are placed over the tombs of soldiers or those famed for their courage. The rich have over their tombs small cupolas resting on four pilasters. The largest and most considerable are called takieh, and are built over the remains of holy and learned men. Around these and such like monuments, are in general to be seen collections of minor tombs; for it is a received opinion, that those who are buried in the vicinity of a holy personage will meet with his support at the day of resurrection. The Persians, however, do not take the same care of their dead as the Turks. Their tombs are trampled on; paths frequently lead right over them; and epitaph, tomb-stone and all, are often carried away to be used as materials for building. The terrace which supports the gardens and buildings of the Bagh Jehan Nemah, at Shiraz, is almost entirely composed of tomb-stones; and at Ispahan, sepulchral inscriptions are often seen on the surface of a wall.

Mourning lasts forty days at the utmost. Black is not the livery of sorrow: that colour is abhorred by the Persians. They express grief, and mark the state of mourning, by sighs and moans, by abstaining from food for eight days, and by wearing garments of a brown or pale colour, adapted to the state of the mind. For ten days, their friends pay them frequent visits, and afford them all the consolations in their power. On the ninth, they take them to the bath, have their heads shaved, and supply them with new clothes. Here ends the full mourning: but their lamentations continue till the fortieth day; and they renew them twice or thrice a week, always at the hour when the deceased expired.

The grief of the women is more strongly expressed, and of longer continuance. Endowed by nature with keener sensibility than the other sex, and left by the death of a husband in a state of forlorn widowhood, to which they are generally doomed for the rest of their lives, they mourn for many months, paying daily visits to the grave, watering it with their tears, rending their garments, imposing on themselves bodily mortifications, and, in short, setting no bounds to the expression of their sorrow.