ESMĀʿIL KHAN BURBUR, high ranking military official under the Qajars (b. Rāhjerd, ca. 1800; d. Bam, ca. 1888).

Esmāʿil Khan was the elder son of Ḥosayn Solṭān and ʿAziza Ḵānom from Shiraz. He was also variously known as Qarāčorlu, Bātmānqelij, Āb-anbāri, and Hamadāni (Fasāʾi, I, pp. 770-71; Burbur, pp. 26-29).

Around the year 1802, Ḥosayn Solṭān, the father of the infant Esmāʿil, faced a serious revolt by the local population in his own estate of Rāhjerd, in the district of Hamadan (not to be mistaken with the town of the same name halfway between Arāk and Qom; see Razmārā, p. 201 and map). Ḥosayn Solṭān fled the revolt to seek help from Tehran, but lost his life at Vafs. In order to cut off the long-established Burbur lineage of the domain, the two-year-old infant Esmāʿil, who had been found unattended one day outside the ancestral castle, was seized and thrown into the nearby Qara Čāy stream by the hostile villagers. He was fortunate to have been saved by the kadḵodā (headman), who urged ʿAziza Ḵānom and the children to leave the estate owing to the intense local animosity towards the family. She accepted, and they went to Hamadān, where Esmāʿil lived until his early twenties (Burbur, pp. 6-8).

With the advent of the 1820 war between the Ottoman Sultan Maḥmud II and Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah Qajar (Mikaberidze, I, p. 694), Esmāʿil Khan, who was of large stature and great physical strength, was recruited into the army of ʿAbbās Mirzā Qajar, crown prince and governor of Azerbaijan (Burbur, p. 10). In the early months of the second round of Russo-Persian wars of 1826-27, ʿAbbās Mirzā attacked the Russian forces in Ṭāleš, Qarābāḡ, and Armenia, captured Ganja, Lankarān, and Šervān, and laid siege to Baku (see RUSSIA i. Russo-Iranian Relations up to the Bolshevik Revolution). In these battles, Esmāʿil Khan showed great courage for which he obtained the rank of vakil-bāši (sergeant major). In another battle of the same war, Esmāʿil Khan, who was fighting alongside the crown prince, saved him from certain death; in consequence he was promoted to the rank of solṭān (chief of tribal contingent; see ARMY v. Qajar Period) and personal adjutant under the direct command of the prince. From here on, his progress in the military ranks was rapid.

At the outset of the invasion of Tabriz on 24 October 1827, ʿAbbās Mirzā was in Tehran, while his family remained in Tabriz. Esmāʿil Khan, managed to rescue the family of the crown prince, including the ten-year-old Firuz Mirzā (later Noṣrat-al-Dawla Farmānfarmā) and take them safely to Tehran. This further solidified his position as a trusted confidant of the crown prince (Burbur, pp. 10-11). In recompense, he was promoted in rank to sartip (lieutenant general) and commanded ʿAbbās Mirzā’s personal guards accompanying the crown prince in all displacements, including Khorasan, Yazd, and Kerman (Moḥammad Shah’s farmān, August 1838; Burbur, p. 11; see also ʿABBĀS MIRZĀ QAJAR).

Esmāʿil Khan was by now a prominent and highly respected military figure, and he continued his career even after the death of ʿAbbās Mirzā and Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah. In the unsuccessful 1838 siege of Herat by Moḥammad Shah, he commanded both the royal guards and a cavalry regiment of 700 of the Qarāčorlu Turkish-speaking tribe of Kurdish origin (Burbur, p. 12; see also KURDISH TRIBES), because of which he has been at times erroneously recorded as Esmāʿil Khan Qarāčo(r)lu (Fasāʾi, I, pp. 770-71). After the Herat episode, he returned to Tehran and was appointed by Moḥammad Shah as nāẓem-al-eyāla (regional commandant-general) of Kerman Province (Moḥammad Shah’s farmān, July 1838). At the beginning of the reign of Nāṣer-al-Din Shah, and at behest of Firuz Mirzā Noṣrat-al-Dawla, and of his minister Manučehr Khan Moʿtamed-al-Dawla, Esmāʿil Khan was also made regional commandant-general of the province of Fārs (Nāṣer-al-Din Shah’s farmān, January 1887; Burbur, p. 12).

Several years of satisfactory high-ranking military service under three shahs enabled Esmāʿil Khan to have some of the ancestral domains reinstated. Moḥammad Shah bequeathed to him the estate of Ḵoluzin in appreciation of services rendered during the siege of Herat (Moḥammad Shah’s farmān, July 1838), and re-established by royal decree the ownership of the former family estates of Rāhjerd, Āb-anbār, and Uč Tepe (ʿAbbās Mirzā’s farmān, June 1833; Nāṣer-al-Din Shah’s farmān, January, 1887; for the localities, see Markaz; Razmārā, pp. 2, 27 and map). In the 1840s Esmāʿil Khan also redeemed the family estate of Kordḵord (now Eslāmābād) from ʿIsā Khan Beglarbegi Qajar for the sum of thirty-six thousand tomans where he constructed the fortification of a large castle (see BURBUR CASTLE).

Esmāʿil Khan married twice; his first wife, from Hamadān, gave birth to two sons, Farajallāh Khan and Naṣrallāh Khan. His second wife, Qajar Āḡā, from the Qajar ruling family, gave birth to two sons, Ḥasan and Ḥosayn, and four daughters. In the reign of Nāṣer-al-Din Shah, Farajallāh Khan the yāvar (brigadier) headed the Bahārlu gunners (possibly of the Burbur sub-tribe in the Bahārlu confederacy) and became known as the šir-e tup-ḵāna “lion of the gunnery” (Burbur, p. 15). Farajallāh Khan had three sons and three daughters. His second son ʿAbdallāh Khan Majd-e Neẓām and his children were also known as Qarāčorlu because their grandfather (Esmāʿil Khan) had at one time commanded the Qarāčorlu cavalry contingent (Burbur, p. 16).


The royal decrees (farmāns) cited in the text are by courtesy of the heirs to Noṣratallāh Khan Burbur (Boorboor), Minnesota, U.S.A., and Tehran.

Ḡolām-ʿAli Burbur (Moʿtamed-al-Solṭān), Zendagi-nāma wa tabār-nāma-ye šāḵa-ʾi az il-e Burbur, Isfahan, 1975.

Mirzā Ḥasan Fasāʾi, Fārs-nāma-ye nāṣeri, ed. Manṣur Rastagār-Fasāʾi, 2 vols., Tehran, 2009.

Markaz-e Āmār-e Iran, Saršomāri-e ʿomumi-e nofus o maskan, Tehran, 2006.

Alexander Mikaberidze, “Ottoman-Iranian Wars (18th-19th Centuries),” in Alexander Mikaberidze, ed., Conflict and Conquest in the Islamic World: A Historical Encyclopedia I, Santa Barbara, Cal., 2011, pp. 692-95.

Ḥosayn-ʿAli Razmārā, Farhang-e Joḡrāfiāʾi V, Tehran, 1949.

(Dariush Borbor)

Originally Published: January 1, 2000

Last Updated: December 8, 2014

Cite this entry:

Dariush Borbor,"ESMĀʿIL KHAN BURBUR," Encyclopædia Iranicaonline edition, 2014, available at (accessed on 08 December 2014).