Hamedan – Sahneh

West Iran

November 2019

My next destination was Hamedan. So I left Mesr desert and from the main transport hub of Isfahan I headed to the west. When I got off from the bus at Hamedan in the early morning, I realized I had come to a totally different region and climate. The weather was freezing cold as Hamedan lies in an elevated region with Alvand mountains which are the part of giant Zagros mountain range in West Iran.

When it feels a little overwhelming to go forward from one place to another, I take my time to rest properly. I was so tired but so lucky at the same time that I was welcomed to the house of my new hosts, the golden girls, the older sisters and mother of my dear friend Behram that I met in Tehran. What a treat it was to be in their peaceful home. I took a long bath and slept almost all day.
Hamadan is an ancient city that was first mentioned in 1100 BC. It was the capital of Medes, first Persian Kingdom. Some examples of the places to visit here are; as archaelogical attractions there is Hegmataneh Hill and the rock carvings in Ganjnameh. As natural attractions there is Ali Sadr Cave. As religious attractions there is ‘The Tomb of Esther and Mordechai’ which has a high importance to Jewish people. And as historical attractions there is the masoleum of Avicenna (İbn-i Sina) who is regarded as one of the most significant physicians, astronomers, thinkers and writers of the Islamic Golden Age and the father of modern medicine.

All these attractions on one side, Hamedan got my attention because of Baba Taher’s tomb (above). Baba Taher -lived in the late 10th century- was one of the great poets and mystics of his time. He is famous for his couplet poems where his love for God, nature and humanity is so evident. His poems still drunkens the readers and lovers of poems. These are some examples from his couplet poems:

I am the ocean poured into a jug,
I am the point essential to the letter.
In every thousand, one greater man stands out,
I am the greater man of this Age!

Everyone thinks of a garden and orchard,
And liberates the heart from the jail of sorrow.
Find a different place and a different land,
Instead of making this ruined house your homeland.

The Age’s grief is our Soul’s portion here,
To free our souls needs magic art.
To all, at last, comes remedy for grief,
Annihilation cures all hearts at last.

I was listening to the translations of the couplets from my host Pervaneh and at the same time getting amazed by the spectacular turquoise dome inside the masoleum. (above) Then three man entered the masoleum and started to play tanbour. The sounds of the tanbour coloured the air when I was highly connected to the mystic feeling of the depths of the poems.

Journeys bring magical encounters. In couple of hours I found myself in the car of this men, on the road to Sahneh where I was actually heading next. Then they helped me to find a home to stay in Sahneh. I just let myself into it and witnessed all the things happening gracefully. They call this synchronicity, when an improbable and a meaningful thing happen in accordance with your conscious or unconscious intention. When you go beyond your ego, there comes the manifestation in which you and your expanded awareness both participate in the same creative process. It enhances your intuitive abilities. It is magical, it is like a gift of the Divine. The more you notice them, they get repeated. This happens to me countless times in my journeys.

So I entered Kermanshah province for the first time and arrived at Sahneh. It is a little town that is at the foothills of beautiful Zagros mountains. The alleys of the town were calm and quite showing me the slow and simple life around. The reason I came here for was the annual ceremony in tribute to Seyed Khalil Alinejad.

Seyed Khalil Alinejad (1958-2001) was one of the greatest spiritual musicians in modern times and he is recognized as one of the best tanbour master ever known. (tanbour: long-necked, string instrument originated in Mesopotamia) He dedicated his life to music, composition, singing and instrument making, as well as to astronomy, poetry and research.
The most important reason for his popularity was his attributes combined with his personality. He was deeply loved for the way he treated others and for his humble life style. He was always pleased to serve with compassion and thought nothing of the rewards of the ordinary world.
He was a disciple and one of the highly influential leaders of Yarsan (Ahl-e Haqq or People of Truth). The Ahl-e Haqq belong to a spectrum of Sufis from the Balkans to Central Asia that have included hymns and the use of stringed instruments as essential regard of their faith. By this way music transcends performance and is the foundation of sacred devotion.
Seyed Khalil Alinejad was murdered at the age of 44 in Gothenburg, Sweeden where he migrated. The cause and the perpetrators of his death have never been identified. Since then big crowds of his devoted fans participate in the anniversary of his death every year at Sahneh, at his hometown where he lived most of his life.

Those days there was a political tension in Iran. Because of the sudden rise of petrol prices (up to three times), there were many protests around the country. Unfortunately many people died. The internet was cut off totally for days and I was having troubles of not being able to reach my family to inform them that I was fine. So there was fear and anxiety in the air because the ceremony would be a communal meeting. Nevertheless in couple of hours hundreds of people gathered in front of his grave for the ceremony (above). It touched my heart to see the love, deep respect, devotion and longing in people’s eyes and attitudes. For hours and hours his lovers, his devotees played his music, sang his songs.

I also paid a visit to Teymoor, one of the great Pirs (sage) of the Ahl-e Haqq people. This is the cave where he lived in deep meditation. They call it ‘murakaba’, the introspection. Caves are exceptional to me especially when I learn that they have been the space for the people who go into deep spiritual practice in solitude. Somehow I know through my direct experience that these spaces accumulate a wise energy that enhances your discoveries in the ultimate. So being in this cave, I let myself into this gift and received the blessings.

My visit to Sahneh gifted me other memorable experiences. By the invitation of my dear hosts I attended the ceremonies of Ahl-e Haqq for two nights. These spiritual ceremonies feature music, singing and dancing in which both women and men participate. Each person is seen as an aspect of God so deserve to be treated in the best way. As people understood that I was a foreigner, they welcomed me so warmly, even making me feel priviledged. Everyone was interrelating with eachother in a highly respectful and loving way which has a deep meaning into it. It is quite hard to put this sincerity into words.
Especially with some people, a glance was just enough for the wisdom and light to pour in between the eyes. I had this connection with the old man who opened his house for these ceremonies with his generous and big heart. When I visit them in the second night I said to him that it was our destiny to meet again. His words were deeply meaningful and wise. He said; “Your name is already written in our heart. You will be always here with us.”
The ceremonies were holding an intensive energy. The music was so powerful with many tanbours, dafs (persian frame drum with many metal ringlets). High Kurdish vocals were strongly vibrating the atmosphere and the hearts. People were going into silent or voiced Zikr (literally means remembrance) which is a form of devotion in which the person is absorbed in the rhythmic repetition of the name of God or his attributes. Soon some people went into trance, crying out loud in the longing and immense love they feel for the Divine.
These kind of ceremonies are opportunities for me to dive deep in my meditations. I generally choose to be physically calm and just sit in a relaxed way with closed eyes as this is my way to connect with the silence within. Not only the energies in the field but also strong and intensive music acts like a soft support. Then the distinction between the real Self and the so-called ‘I’ dies away. I arrive home. Auspicious explorations!

I met this adorable little girl in these ceremonies. I call her ‘The little Buddha’. I won’t forget her unbelievably intimate smile, all inclusive and fully trustful approach and deep and genuine glance. At the same time how talented she was. We played drums and danced together. When I was waving goodbye, I hugged her with my prayers for her well being, always.

Despite that I came right up to the edge of Iranian Kurdistan, the route of my heart was showing another direction. Wishing to come back again to explore this region, I left Sahneh. The musics of my highly talented tanbour player host Farnood Elhami accompanied me on the road to my next destination. Below you can find one of his tanbour partitions I recorded.

Now my direction was showing northeast Iran, Khorasan.

The Author

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