i. The Village
Nešalj is located in Niāsar Rural District, Niāsar District, Kashan Sub-Province, Isfahan Province. The name has also been spelled Nešlaj (Moṣāheb, III, p. 3029; Bolukbāši, p. 36; SCI, 1969, p. 47). The unmarked form نشلج has led to an acclaimed popular etymology, on account of the near-homograph نثلج, reconstructing the word as noh-ṯalj “nine-snow” and interpreting it as having nine months of snow every year (see inter alia Bonyād-e farhang-e Kāšān); a more tenable conjecture would consider an Iranian derivation for the toponym, invoking a prefix, *ni- “down” or *niš- “out, sit” and a root such as *rak- “arrange,” commensurate with the prominent ridges and gorges that surround Nešalj (Figure 1).
The village is situated 27 miles (43 km) west of Kashan, standing two miles south of the Kashan-Delijān highway, at lat 33°59′ N, long 51°4′ E and 6,625 feet (2,020 m) elevation above sea level, on the foot of Mt. Mārāhang and Siāh Armak, mostly on the shaded slopes.
Nešalj enjoys mild climatic conditions with snowy winters and cool summers, with an average annual rainfall of 8 inches (200 mm). The water is drawn from three subterranean channels (qanāts), as well as several springs, and is partly stored into the five water reservoirs of the village. The villagers cultivate cereals and practice horticulture, notably raising almonds and walnuts. The traditional crafts were taḵta-kaši (sole-making) for men and giva-čini (see GIVA) and carpet weaving for women (Razmārā, p. 303). The village is famous for its rosewater (golāb), extracted in spring, as done in other villages of Kashan. The population of Nešalj grew from 467 individuals in 1296/1879 to approximately 1,000 individuals in the 1940s (Razmārā, p. 303) to 1,260 individuals in the 1960s (Statistical Center of Iran [SCI], 1969, Šahrestān-e Kāšān, p. 47) and to 2,168 individuals, corresponding to 663 families, according to the decennial census of 2006 (Statistical Center of Iran). However, as is the case with many other villages of central Iran, a large number of the reported residents stay in their home village only in summers.
Nešalj has a distinct appearance when compared to the neighboring villages. Its compactly built texture on grade makes optimum use of topographic and climatic conditions. This peculiar natural and architectural landscape has been a source of tourist attraction, including hikers, who camp in Nešalj as an outpost before setting off for the Domir (locally Dumey Ar “Ar peak,” also known as Ardahāl) summit, at 11,364 feet (3,465 m), which separates Nešalj from Qālhar in the south. ʿAbd-al-Raḥim Kalāntar Żarrābi (pp. 16, 43) cites the two major overlooking summits as Šir-āʾin and Mār-āʾin (locally, Širayn and Mārayn). The water released by the rapidly melting snow of the surrounding peaks in the spring exposes Nešalj to deluges; the flood of 23 May 2012 caused significant destruction. Notable quarters of Nešalj are Pāleza, Kuče pon (pāʾin), Čāl Ḵunegā, Dar(e)deh (Majidi, p. 35), Poranda, Gomba, Dam-e-rēza, Gažvoruma, Vaḵmaja, Suseyun, Pal, and Zēr-poraz (Ḥalvāči, 2014, p. 19).
The village hosts three sanctuaries bound to the tombs of Shiʿi saints: the emāmzādas (or boqʿa, ziārat) of Bibi Roqia, daughter of the Second Imam, and Ḵadija Solṭān (also known as dād ʿarus) and Šāhzāda Esḥāq, children of the Sixth Imam; they all attract the pious on religious holidays such as Ramażān, Ḡadir Ḵomm, and ʿĀšurā. Another venerated boqʿa, situated a mile north of Nešalj, is Qadamgāh, attributed to a certain Šāh(zāda) Ṭāher-ʿAli. Its structure is made from raw brick and stands on a square plan of 1,183 ft2 (110 m2) topped by an oval dome (Figure 2); this is typologically an extended čahārtāq of the type found in the relics of the fire temples in the nearby Niāsar and Ḵorramdašt (for which, see Godard, p. 42; Narāqi, pp. 38-44, 46-47). Qadamgāh was registered as late as 2005 as a national treasure (no. 14165) in the Directory of National Monuments (Fehrest-e āṯār-e melli; see IRNA, 2015).
A tradition that binds Nešalj to Kashan is Esbandi, held on the eve of the month Esfand, as counted on the old agricultural calendar, corresponding to February the 14th. Besides the customs of spreading Haft Sin, sending gifts to the fiancées, rewarding the carpet weavers with annual bonus, and mardgirān (see KASHAN vi. The Esbandi Festival), which were commonly held throughout Kashan districts, Nešaljis had their own way of making the Esbandi soup (āš); they would gather ingredients of the dish to be cooked on a scheduled date on a cliff in Darband-e Nazād, located some two kilometers from Nešalj (Enjavi, pp. 98-99). Since Enjavi’s documentation in the 1960s, Esbandi seems to have been entirely forsaken in Nešalj; a surviving relic is a scorpion amulet (roqʿa-ye každom) intended for repulsing noxious creatures, as shown in Figure 3.
Other reported feasts were Dar-e Ḡār held on the 7th day of Farvardin; the feast of Ebn Moljam on 27 of Ramadan, involving setting fire to his effigies (Ḥalvāči, 2014, p. 18); and Humbābāʾi in the evening of 15th of Ramadan, when children played treat and trick by going door to door and singing songs in praise or curse of the house owner (interviews). Contrary to an endemic view among local intellectuals that relates Humbābāʾi to either the Sumerian epic of Humbaba or the Avestan ritual plant Haoma, the name simply reproduces the melodic coda hum-bābā, repeated after each stanza of the song.
Jomʿa-ye Nešaljihā. The Friday of the people of Nešalj is among the most celebrated holidays of the village. It is observed annually one week after the culminating Friday of the Qālišuyān festival held in the neighboring Mašhad-e Ardahāl. The Friday of the Nešaljis commemorate the seventh day for the martyrdom of Šāhzāda Solṭān-ʿAli, who is claimed to have been aided in his battles against the oppressors by the pious inhabitants of Nešalj. The latter afforded to the sacred cause three hundred martyrs, of which seven are believed to be buried in Nešalj. The story further relates that, as the people of Nešalj were late in joining the burial of the Šāhzāda, they decided to have a ceremony on the seventh day (Bolukbāši, 1964, p. 37; idem, 2000, pp. 63-66). Subsequently, on the Friday of the Nešaljis, early in the morning, the villagers congregate in the square (meydān) of the village and form a sizable procession that walks five miles, in some two hours, to Ardahāl. Upon reaching the holy shrine of Šāhzāda Ḥosayn therein, the Nešalji pilgrims perform a set of religious rites comparable to those held on ʿĀšurā, namely sina-zani, nawḥa-ḵvāni, naḵl-gardāni, and šabih-ḵvāni, the most imposing being an elaborate taʿzia (Shiʿi passion play), which attracts tourists besides the pilgrims. A vibrant festival marketplace is held in the plain of Ardahāl, partly carried over from the previous week during the Qālišuyān festival. As the evening approaches, the convoy sets off for Nešalj, with a stop by the aforementioned Qadamgāh, for blessing. Maḥmud Ruḥ-al-Amini (pp. 181-82) reports that the Nešalji Friday is especially popular among the newly wed couples.
The Friday of Nešaljis immediately follows that of Qālišuyān, which is held on the Friday closest to the 17th day of the seventh month of the Iranian calendar (Mehr), but based on the pre-modern agricultural calendar (see CALENDARS), which reckons every month as 30 days (as opposed to the current calendar that counts 31 days for the first six months of the year). The Nešalji Friday is thus calculated to be the Friday closest to the 204th day after Nowruz (i.e., 6 months × 30 days + 17 days + 7 days = 204 days); hence, counting by the formal calendar of Iran, the Nešalji Friday was held on 21 Mehr 1391 Š./2002 (that is, 6 × 31 + 21 = 207 days after Nowruz), 18 Mehr 1393 Š./2004 (= 204 days after Nowruz), and 17 Mehr 1394 Š./2015 (= 203 days after Nowruz).
Moḥammad-Taqi Beyk Arbāb, “Ketābča-ye tafṣil-e aḥwālāt-e dār-al-imān-e Qom,” ed. Ḥosayn Modarresi-Ṭabāṭabāʾi, Farhang-e Irān-zamin 22/1-4, 1977, pp. 17-66.
Idem, “Ketābča-ye tafṣil-e ḥālāt o nofus o amlāk-e dār-al-imān-e Qom,” ed. Ḥosayn Modarresi-Ṭabāṭabāʾi, Farhang-e Irān-zamin 22/1-4, 1977, pp. 151-206.
ʿAli Bolukbāši, “Qālišuyān,” Honar o mardom, ser. no. 19, Ordibehešt 1343 Š./1964, pp. 32-37.
Edāra-ye āmār o saršomāri (Wezārat-e kešvar, Edāra-ye koll-e āmār o ṯabt-e aḥwāl), Ketāb-e asāmi-e dehāt-e kešvar I, Tehran, 1950.
Sayyed Abu’l-Qāsem Enjavi Širāzi, Jašnhā va ādāb o moʿtaqedāt-e zemestān I, Tehran, 1973.
André Godard, “Les monuments du foe),” Āthār-é Īrān 3/1, 1938, pp. 7-82.
ʿAbbās Ḥalvāči Nešalji, Afsānahā-ye Našalg, Qom, 2014.
ʿAbd-al-Raḥim Kalāntar Żarrābi (Sohayl Kāšāni), Merʾāt al-Qāsān, ed. Iraj Afšār as Tāriḵ-e Kāšān, 3rd ed., Tehran, 2536/1977.
Masʿud Keyhān, Joḡrāfiā-ye mofaṣṣal-e Irān, 3 vols., Tehran, 1921-22.
Ḡolām-Ḥosayn Moṣāḥeb, ed., Dāyerat-al-maʿāref-e fārsi, 3 vols., Tehran, 1966-95.
Ḥasan Narāqi, Āṯār-e tāriḵi-e šahrestānhā-ye Kāšān o Naṭanz, Tehran, 1969.
Ḥosayn-ʿAli Razmārā, ed., Farhang-e joḡrāfiāʾi-e Irān (ābādihā) III: Ostān-e dovvom, Tehran, 1950.
Maḥmud Ruḥ-al-Amini, Āyinhā va jašnhā-ye kohan dar Irān-e emruz: Negareš o pažuheš-i mardomšenāḵti, Tehran, 1997.
[SCI] Statistical Center of Iran (Markaz-e āmār-e Irān), Village Gazetteer/Farhang-e ābādihā-ye kešvar XIV: Ostān-e Markazi: Arāk, Tafreš, Ḵomeyn, Sāva, Qom, Kāšān, Garmsār, Maḥallāt, Tehran, 1969, p. 47.
Idem, National Census of Population/Saršomāri-e ʿomumi-e nofus o maskan, decennial 1956-2006, quinquennial since 2011.
Online sources (accessed 6 October 2016).
Bonyād-e farhang-e Kāšān, “Rustā-ye Nešalj: Behešt-i dar ḥāšia-ye kavir,” at . http://www.kashanica.com/index/heritage/heritagedetail/53.
Google Earth, at google.com/earthindex.html; consulted 15 November 2015.
[IRNA] Islamic Republic News Agency (Ḵabargozāri-e Jomhuri-e Eslāmi), “Āṯār-e tāriḵi-e Qadamgāh-e Šāh Ṭāher-ʿAli Nešalj-e Kāšān maremmat šod,” 8 Āẕar 1394 Š./2015, at http://www3.irna.ir/fa/News/81858504/.
Originally Published: October 10, 2016
Last Updated: October 10, 2016Cite this entry:
Habib Borjian, “TITLE,” Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2016, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/neshalj-01-village (accessed on 20 October 2016).