Chenarestan... In the shade of plane trees

Monday, August 15, 2005

Home of Oriental Plane Tree Part III
Siamak D. Ahi

Veneration of Old Trees

Della Valle’s remarks on relation of Persians and large and old trees is quite interesting;

Persians have “a custom of venerate all large and old trees, Believing that these are the retreat of happy souls whom … they call Pir, Sheikh or Imam…”.

Also J. Chardin states that:
“The Mohammedans devoutly revere trees which seem to have existed for several centuries.”

Veneration of old trees seem to have an ancient tradition in Persia. Xerxes is said to have decorated a beautiful plane tree with golden ornaments during his expedition against Greece. (Herodotus, Polo)

In fact many recorded old planes (Chenars) are located near the shrine of an Emam-zadeh, at or near a masque, a Takieh, an old cemetery, or similar “sacred” places.

For instance the 220 years old (20m high) plane at Emamzadeh Abbas and 140 years old (20m high) plane at Pir Takieh in Sari, northern province of Mazandaran. In Kaagak, a county of Gonaabaad, the 420 years old plane (21m high) is located in front of Masjed-e Baalaa. In Rostam-Kalaaateh, in Gorgan, the 205 years old (30m high) is at old cemetery.

Some of the more venerable of old planes are popularly believed or expected to work miracles, such as curing an illness, finding a good husband for an unwed girl, or ridding a married woman of her cowife.

In order to have their wishes grated, superstitious people (usually women) tie a dakheel (mostly a shred from their chador, scarf, dress and the like) to a nail which they drive well into plate trunk. They may use a nail left by someone whose wish has been granted and untied her dakhil. If there are accessible shoots or twigs on the trunk, the dakhil may be tied on them.

Votive candles may also be lit somewhere on the trunk or, if the trunk base has been hollowed out by age, inside the grotto.

In Tehran, two of the oldest planes still extant at old sanctuary of Emamzadeh Yahya, bear the vestiges of old and recent dakheels.

One plane is now standing outside the premises of Emamzadeh. Known as Chenar-e Sookhteh (burnt plane), for the huge hollow in the trunk base has been charred by the smoke and flame of votary candles and lamps. The entrance to tree grotto was barred later bay a door.

Another miracle-working plane in Tehran, known as Haft Chenar (The seven planes), is located near a small masque in a southwestern district of the city. Tis plane loks like seven independent planes having grown to each other, but tha seven massive trunks have developed from a single enormous base, which is now almost totally buried in ground. The seven-bole plane, signalized by the “sacredness” of the number seven, bears also dakhils, and the small grotto in one of the boles is charred.

The popular veneration for old planes and similar longevous trees like cypresses, may in some cases have created fictitious patron saints for them.

For instance, in connection with the plane of Emamzadeh Saleh, is popularly believed to be the nephew of eight imam, Imam Reza. Hedaaayat has recorded a folktale about origin of that plane.

Within the Arg precinct in Tehran there were a number of old chenars, known as Chenar-e abbasi and popularly but erroneously ascribed to Abbas. According to E’temad-al-saltaneh, they had been planted by the order of Shah Abbas


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