ANDARŪN, or ANDARŪNĪ (inside), the private quarters of well-to-do houses in contrast to bīrūnī. the public rooms usually reserved for men.

Until quite recently, Persian houses of the affluent, landowners, and wealthy merchants were run as two separate spheres of andarūnī and bīrūnī. The andarūn was the preserve of female members of the family: mother, wife or wives, nurses, nannies, other female servants, and children of both sexes until the age of puberty, at which time the male children were separated from the female and sent to the bīrūnī. Strong, high walls presented an outside face to private residences, but through a door leading into a narrow passageway (dālān)one emerged into one of several large courtyards, planted with fruit trees, shrubs, and flowers, and often containing pools and fountains. The entrance to the andarūn was sometimes indicated by no more than a thick canvas curtain, although in the houses of the truely affluent, eunuchs were posted as guards.

The andarūn consisted of a complex of rooms which served for entertainment, sleeping, and carrying out of daily household chores. It was here that the kitchen, pantry, and storage rooms were located. In contrast to the austerity characteristic of the bīrūnī,the larger rooms were usually richly furnished with carpets, silk-covered cushions, and interior decoration. On occasions such as births, weddings, circumcisions, funerals, and return from pilgrimages, female visitors were entertained in the andarūn,where upon entering, they doffed their veils (rūbandas) and sturdy shoes for silk and brocade dresses and soft, comfortable slippers. Performances were given by musicians and dancers, usually female (but sometimes young Jewish boys). Men, other than immediate relatives, were not allowed into the andarūn, and even physicians would be required to treat an ailing female member from behind a curtain, seeing only the tongue of the mostly-hidden patient. For sending messages to the male quarters, young boys between the ages of twelve and sixteen, called ḡolām bačča in great houses and ḵāna-šāgerd in lesser ones, were hired, sometimes working under the supervision of the eunuch. Once the boys reached adulthood, they were dismissed or else taken on as full-time servants in a different capacity.

Some wealthy men were able to provide separate andarūn for each of their wives, but this was unusual, and intrigues among wives or temporary wives (ṣīḡas), often directed against the husband, were common. In places the andarūn was more often called ḥaram or ḥaram-sarā (šabestān, or moškū in the Šāh-nāma).


S. W. G. Benjamin, Persia and the Persians,London, 1887, pp. 104-05.

E. Sykes, “Domestic Life in Persia,” Journal of the Society of Arts, London, 1902, p. 96.

Idem, “A Talk about Persia and Its Women,” National Geographic Magazine, 1910, p. 857.

J. Morier, Hajji Baba of Ispahan, ch. 28 (a detailed account of life in the andarūnī of the royal physician).

See also Solṭān-Aḥmad Mīrzā ʿAżod-al-dawla, Tārīḵ-e ʿAżodī, ed. ʿA. Navāʾī, Tehran, l355 Š./1976, pp. l2-49 for an account of the lives of Fatḥ-ʿAlī Shah’s wives.

(M. A. Djamalzadeh)

Originally Published: December 15, 1985

Last Updated: August 3, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. II, Fasc. 1, p. 11

Cite this entry:

M. A. Djamalzadeh, “ANDARUN,” Encyclopædia Iranica, II/1, p. 11, available online at (accessed on 30 December 2012).