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A Z, Iran Culture & People
Last Updated: October, 2009

Caucasians: The indigenous population of the Caucasus region in southeastern European Russia , including Armenians, and Georgians amongst others.

Chahar Mahal & Bakhtiyari: A province in Iran in the central Zagros area. It borders Isfahan, Boir Ahmadi & Kuhgiluya and Luristan provinces.  It is inhabited by many Bakhtyari, but has a mixed population including, Kurds and Turkish speaking groups and Persians.

Chahar Shanbeh Suri ( Jumping Over the Fire):  This festival originally has been a purification rite and part of an ancient ancestor cult. It is one of the most popular national festivals in Iran. It is celebrated on the last Tuesday of the year. At sunset, all Iranians will jump over bon fires and continue festivities with music, feasts and celebrations.

Chaldiran Battle:  In 1514, the Ottoman ruler Sultan Selim I, launched a battle against Shah Ismail I. He won in a decisive victory and Iran lost control of eastern Anatolia. Chaldiran is located in northeast of Lake Van in eastern Anatolia (the Asian part of Turkey).

Chamishkazaklu: A Kurdish group from Anatolia and Caucasia. They were resettled by Shah Abbas the Great in northern Khurasan in the early 1600s.

Chorasmia (Khwarazm): An ancient Persian province, the area is located in present day Uzbekistan, and has been on and off part of the Iranian territories. In the Avestan Gathas it is the country where its’ king protects Prophet Zoroaster.

Dailamite: An Iranian group occupying the Dailam region in Caspian area. They resisted both Arabs and Turks for centuries.

Drangiana (Sakastana, > Sistan): Home to the ancient Iranian tribes Sarangians or Drangians, it occupied modern Sistan in eastern Iran. Under the Greek occupation, the Sacae nomadic tribes of Central Asia invaded it constantly, and eventually gave their name Sacastane (Sistan) to the region.

Dravidian languages: A family of around 23 languages that is unrelated to any other known language family. Presently the Dravidian languages are spoken in India and Sri Lanka. The name also applies to the peoples of south and central India, and north Sri Lanka.

Elam: The coastal regions along the northern shore of the Persian Gulf, from what is now Kuwait to the Straits of Hurmuz. The ancient kingdom of Elam with Susa as its capital was the earliest urbanized center in Iran, and has been inhabited extensively from 3300 BC.

Farah Diba (Pahlavi): Muhammad Reza Shah’s third wife. She played a major role in
the cultural and political life of Iran. She was the first queen in Middle East to participate extensively in public affairs and became a role model for other First Ladies in the area. She was publicaly crowned and appointed regent by the parliament. This was the first time a woman was officially granted such a position.

Fars (Parsua): The ancient province inhabited by Persians who gave their name to the area that comprises present day Fars. The geographical boundary contains a series of steps leading from the Persian Gulf to the central deserts of Iran.

Feast of Sacrifice (Id-e Qorban): It is one of the most important Muslim festivals. It concludes the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca. It lasts for three days and Arabs call it Id al-Adha. The festival involves slaughtering animals such as ram or cow commemorating Ibraham's (Abraham) willingness to obey God by sacrificing his son. The story is very similar to the same story in Bible with Ishmael being sacrificed instead of Isaac.

Fedai- Khalq (the Organization of the Iranian People's Feda’i Guerillas): The independent underground militant group was an amalgamation of two leftist groups in 1971 in Iran. They expressed no loyalty to the Soviet Union. After the Islamic Revolution they split into two groups. Most of their leaders and many activists were executed and many more went into exile. They emerged outside Iran in 1983 and formed the Iranian People's Democratic Party in exile.

Gilaki: A northwestern Iranian dialect, Gilaki is spoken in the Caspian area, particularly Gilan. It is related to other dialects in the Caspian mainly, Mazandarani, Gorgani, and Taleshi. None is written and all are widespread in the region. .

Gillites: An Iranian group inhabiting modern province of Gilan. Like other groups in the Caspian region, they resisted Arabs and Turks for a long time. They are the ancestors of modern Gillaki people.

Georgia: It is located between the Black and Caspian Seas and borders Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Turkey.  It declared independence in 1991 from the Soviet Union.

Ghilzai Afghans: A major tribe in Afghanistan. Their leader Mahmud Ghilzai attacked Iran in 1722 and ended the Safavid rule.

Guklan: A Turkmen tribe, originally from central Asia. They are Sunni and their language closely resembles other Oghuz related groups and is related to Azerbaijani, Crimean Tartar and Turkish. They live close to the border with Russian Turkmenistan.

Guardian Council: Composed of clergy, the group has the power to veto all legislation passed by the parliament. The council has 12 members, six are appointed by the supreme leader, and the rest is elected by the parliament, but they are nominated by the Supreme Judicial Council (clergy).
Gulistan treaty:  The treaty was signed between Russia and Iran in 1813. It ended the war of 1804. According to the treaty, Iranians lost many territories west of Caspian, including Georgia and parts of Azerbaijan in southern Russia.

Gurani: A Kurdish group who live in both Iraq and Iran. The name applies to both a group and a language related to Kurmanji. They are mentioned as the fourth largest Kurdish group in the 16th century. Gurani is closely related to Zaza, both languages are Northwestern Iranian in origin and both groups do not consider themselves to be Kurds. They are mainly Ahl i Haqqi.

Gypsies: The Iranian Gypsies are known as Koli and Luli. They originally migrated towards Europe from a region between India and Iran in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. They have been nomadic for centuries and were involved in making handicrafts such as baskets and sieve-making and some iron work. There are very few Gypsies in Iran and they are not recognized as a special group.

Hanafi Sunni: One of the four schools of law in Islam. It is named after its 8th century founder Abu Hannifa. It is considered one of the more liberal schools of law and traditionally it is non-hierarchical and decentralized. It is the official sect in Turkey.

Hawraman: A Kurdish group speaking Zaza/Gurani language. They live both in Iran (West Kurdistan) and Iraq. They are mostly Ahl-i Haqqi and some are Sunni. In 1996, their population is reported to be close to 80,000. Half live in Iran.

Hazara: The group is mainly concentrated in Afghanistan, but a small group lives in Iran as well. They are assumed to be from Mongolia. Most moved from Tansoxiana in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. They are pastoral nomads, mainly Shiites and speak a dialect of Persian.

Hijrat: The term applies to Prophet Muhammad’s departure into exile, from Mecca to Medina. The date this departure took place (622 AD), became the beginning of the Muslim lunar calendar.

Hurrians: Arriving from the highlands of Anatolia with their own language, they
established themselves at the foothills of the Zagros region by 2400 BC. They created the kingdom of Mitanni.

Hyrcania (Hyrcana, Gorgan): Meaning the country of the wolves, present day Gorgan is located on the southern shores of the Caspian Sea. With other Caspian kingdoms it became an Iranian stronghold during the Islamic period with many pro-Iranian dynasties resisting the Arab conquest for centuries.

Imam jom'eh:  A title assigned to the senior clergyman in charge of the Friday Prayers at the main mosque in each county. Formally appointed by the Qajar and Pahlavi kings, at times, they were too powerful and their appointment was only a formality and a sign of recognizing their prominence. They still exist and have become very involved in the politics of the country.

Imam Zaman: The twelfth Shi’i imam, who is assumed to be hidden, and will appear towards the end of the time to save the world. The idea is very similar to the concept of the last Zoroastrian savior Saoshyant. Imam Zaman (the Time Lord), has the title Mahdi meaning, “divinely guided one” and is expected to appear when the world is in its most corrupt state.

Irani Zoroastrians of India: Zoroastrians who immigrated to India in the eighteenth century from Iran. They have maintained their contact with the Iranian Zoroastrians.

Ismaili: Supporters of Ismail the 7th Shi’i Imam. After the death of the sixth Imam, a division occurred amongst the followers. Ismaili supported the eldest son of the deceased Imam. Currently, most are followers of Agha Khan, and are scattered around the world.

Jamshidis: A small minority Sunni tribe in north-eastern Iran. They are primarily concentrated in Khurasan. They speak mainly Persian with some Turkic (Aimaq) vocabulary. The Aimaqs are originally from Mongolia and many Jamshidis still have the same Mongolian features.

Jizya; A capitation tax prescribed in Quran, and applied to non-Muslims only. Applicable in accordance with the subjects’ capacity, the tax became a major reason why many non-Muslims adopted the new fate. 

Kalhur Kurds: A major Kurdish tribe in Iran. They are mentioned as a major group from sixteenth century. They acquired dominance in the nineteenth century Iran.

Khamseh confederation: Khamseh means five in Arabic and was a powerful confederation of Arab, Iranian and Turkish tribes in Iran in the nineteenth century.

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