Taq-e Bostan, a Must-see on Traveling to Iran

The historical architecture of every nation is the mirror of its history, art, and culture. The Sassanid inscriptions in different places of Iran manifest the glory and grandeur of Sassanid dynasty. They tried to flaunt their power and splendor by inscriptions and relics on the mountains located on main ways such as Silk Road where could attract all passersby’s attention. Taq-e Bostan in Kermanshah province is one of the most magnificent Sassanid rock reliefs displaying the power of Sassanid kings to the posterity. It is a must-see on Traveling to Iran narrating one of the most sublime parts of the history of Iran carved on the stone.

Taq-e Bostan, the Sassanid rock relief in Kermanshah

Taq-e Bostan- a site with a series of rock reliefs carved on a mountain near a spring streaming into a pool at the base of the mountain in Kermanshah– consists of a rock relief and the two rock-cut arches one of them larger than the other. The larger arch is 9 m high. According to most Iranologists, it dates back to Khosrow II (around 4th century AD). This relic gives a lot about the beliefs, religious tendencies, clothes, and jewels of Sassanid era. It shows the coronation of the Sassanid king. The king is standing on a platform, his left hand on his sword and his right hand is stretching toward Ahura Mazda on his right hand side. Ahura Mazda is giving a beribboned ring to the king. On his left hand side, Anahita is standing while keeping the jar of water in her left hand and another beribboned ring in her right hand.

There are two winged female angels on both opposite sides of the arch each has a ring in one hand and a bowl in the other. At the front of the arch, the sacred tree or the tree of life is finely carved.

At the bottom, there is a figure of a man riding on a strong horse. Some Islamic historians believe that the figure is showing Khosrow Parviz over his horse named Shabdiz. The relief is about 4 m high.

The large arch in Taq-e Bostan, Kermanshah

On the sidewall, the royal hunting scenes have been inscribed. The king is hunting the deer while three lines of women are standing politely behind him. The last line is showing the female musicians. The mahouts are trying to direct a herd of deer to the hunting ground and some cameleers are carrying the prey over camels. The relic presents the process of hunting in three episodes: preparation for hunting, hunting, and the end of hunting. On the left wall, the king is chasing the boar.

The Sassanid king is hunting
The Sassanid king is hunting

The smaller arch, with 5 m high, is showing the figures of Shapur II and his son, Shapur III. They are standing while facing each other and their hands are on their swords. There are also two inscriptions in Pahlavi and Middle Persian languages on the upper part of the back wall identifying both kings.

The smaller arch in Taq-e Bostan

On the right side of the small arch, there is another relic (the oldest in Taq-e Bostan approximately 4 m high) depicting the coronation of Ardashir II (379-383 AD). He is taking a beribboned ring from his predecessor Shapur II or Ahura Mazda on his right. On his left, the god Mithra is standing on a lotus flower keeping Barsam (a plant used in religious rituals) in his hand. A defeated enemy, who is believed by most experts as the Roman king named Julianus Apostata- killed by Ardeshir II in 362 AD. – is laid under the feet of Ahura Mazda and the king. Some experts also say he may be Artabanus IV, the last Parthian king.

The rock relief of Ardashir II in Taq-e Bostan

As it was mentioned before, all these relics can show great details about the clothes and jewels used by the kings and people in Sassanid era. As an example, the king riding over the horse is wearing colorful clothes decorated with woven golden threads and geometrical shapes. At the scene of boar hunting, the king’s clothes are ornamented with the figure of the Simurgh. All the kings depicted on the reliefs are wearing the necklace and earrings. Their clothes consist of a knee-length coat, long loose folded pants, and a belt around their waists. They have bushy hair, eyebrows, and beard. There are many details carved on their thrones too. The clothes of the entourage are decorated with the figures of plants and birds.

The large arch in Taq-e Bostan, Kermanshah

Traveling to Kermanshah, you can kill two birds with one stone! Not only can you visit Taq-e Bostan, a must-see that no one should miss on his or her travel to Iran, but also you can visit Bisotun, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Moreover, do not forget about going to the traditional restaurants to try Dandeh-kebab!

4.5/5 - (2 votes)

Introduction of Kermanshah

As the capital of Kermanshah province, it’s situated in western Iran. Kermanshah is the principal city in this region, and also one of the tourist Attractions in Iran. With an altitude of about 1200 m above sea level, it has a moderate and mountainous climate. According to 2006 census, the population of this city was about 950400. The language mostly spoken in Kermanshah is Kurdish.

The average annual precipitation and relative humidity in this region is to the extent that mountain slopes and plains are mainly covered with woods and pastures, and in some areas dry farming is applied. The average annual temperature is about 14 C there.

Lying within the Zagros chain, and providing natural shelters and caves were the reasons which made Kermanshah a proper settlement for humans in Stone Age. Archaeological excavations prove that prehistoric people used to occupy this area. The discovered objects dates back to at least 200000 years ago.

A major part of the city’s prosperity depends on agriculture. But there are also some other factors like food processing, constructional materials, and local handicrafts like kilim or carpet weaving, cotton-shoe making (Giveh), leather works, etc. Kermanshah is a center of Iranian and Kurdish traditional music. It’s been the homeland of prominent figures in literature, art, history, science, and politics.

Major industrial installations in this city include sugar refinery factories, oil refinery, petrochemical complex, cement factory, and a citric acid plant which is the only one throughout the Middle East.

This city is also well-known because it’s related to a legendary Persian love story. The story narrates a tragic romance between Khosrow II (the last king of Sassanid Empire), Shirin (Khosrow’s lover), and Farhad (a stonemason who was in love with Shirin).

This city has a lot to offer as a tourist attraction.


History of Kermanshah

Pre-Islam Era

Kermanshah has been always the link between Iranian plateau and the Mesopotamia throughout its history. In the fourth millennium BC, the region currently known as Kermanshah province, was one of the most important centers of trade and commerce with Mesopotamia. There were also many conflicts and wars between these two nations. Therefore, this region used to be the center of various Iranian and Mesopotamian civilizations and governments for centuries.

During Buyid period, some miner Kurdish dynasties rose in the areas around Kermanshah. It had a military and economic importance in Saljuq period. The reason was its location at the intersection of a great highway linking the city to major trade areas inside and outside of the Iranian Plateau. And, it was one of the major cities as well as one of the dynastic capitals in Sassanid period. This glorious city was also the summer resort for Sassanid kings.

Post-Islam Era

In 640 A.D., after the Arab invasion of Iran, Kermanshah was occupied and destroyed completely by Arabs. The population decreased, and its residents moved to another city. About a decade later, people rebuilt the city at the bank of Qarasu river.

During the reign of Abbasid caliphs, it was an important city because of its strategic location. In 1220 A.D., after Mongol invasion of Iran, Kermanshah was badly damaged again.

  • Safavid Period

In the early Safavid period, due to Iran’s conflicts with Ottoman, ruling Kermanshah was a complicated situation. At times, Ottomans could defeat Iranians and rule over the city. But some other times, they were defeated by Iranians and left its ruling to Iran. But from the reign of Shah Safi, the sixth king of Safavid dynasty, to the end of Safavid period, the city was enjoying a period of peace and prosperity.

  • Afsharid Period

Benefiting from artillery attributed to Nader Shah, the founder of Afsharid dynasty, Kermanshah gained a military significance. Such condition made the city a battlefield between Nader Shah and Ottomans.

Because of its artillery, Kermanshah was the focus of attention after the death of Nader Shah. There were many conflicts over the takeover of the city among those who sought power, and it was Karim Khan Zand, the founder of Zand dynasty, who won.

  • Zand Period

In 1753 A.D., Karim Khan invaded Kermanshah, destroyed and evacuated it completely so that, for nearly 10 years, there was nothing called Kermanshah. Then, in 1762 A.D., the city was revived in the southwest of the former location, and Allahqoli Khan (from Zanganeh family, a local Kurdish tribe) ruled there as the governor.
Kermanshah enjoyed a short period of peace due to having Allahqoli Khan as its most powerful governor. But after the death of Karim Khan, he claimed the throne, and this led the city toward civil conflicts once again. Throughout Zand period, Zanganeh family governed Kermanshah most of the time.

  • Qajar Period

In 19th century, Kermanshah experienced a progress in terms of commercial and strategic significance. The city was flourishing. It also had a political and social importance to the government.

The appointment of Mohammad Ali Mirza, the sixth king-to-be of Qajar dynasty, as the governor of Kermanshah was one of the best things happened to the city. He started urban planning and caused the city to develop greatly. For instance, he Constructed caravansaries and accommodations for merchants, and build a new fortress.

There were two major reasons which made Kermanshah a critical area for The Qajars. First, their relationship with Ottomans in Iraq. And second, making it secure for the pilgrims so that they could go to Iraq and visit the Shiite’s shrines there. Qajar kings managed to restore relative security in this region.

  • Contemporary Period

Kermanshah played an important role in Constitutional Revolution in Iran. It was a movement from 1905-1911 for establishing a constitutional regime in which the people of this city were actively involved.

In the late World War I, Kermanshah was seized by Ottoman Forces. Also, during World War II, Great Britain forces seized the city and it remained occupied until the end of the war.

Kermanshah played a major role in Islamic Revolution of Iran in 1979 as well. It was one of the resistance centers against Pahlavi regime. It was among the cities of Iran which underwent a lot of damage during the eight-year war of Iran and Iraq (1980-1988).



Bistoun’s inscription at Bisotun – which dates to 522 BCE, lies some 1300 meters high in the mountains. The site is a UNESCO World Heritage site and has been attracting visitors for centuries. The Behistun inscription is in old Persian cuneiform. What the Rosetta Stone is to Egyptian hieroglyphs: the trilingual inscription (in Old Persian, Elamite and Akkadian) was crucial in the decipherment of the script. The relief above the inscription depicts Darius facing nine rebels who objected to his crowning. At the king’s feet lies Gaumata. The location of this important historical document is not coincidental: Gaumata, a usurper who is depicted as lying at Darius’ feet, was a Medean and in Achaemenid times Behistun lay on the Medea-Parsa highway. Behistun is also notable for three reliefs at the foot of the hill that date from the Parthian era. Among them is a Hellenistic-era depiction of the divinity Bahram as the Greek hero Hercules, who reclines with a goblet in his hand, a club at his feet and a lion-skin beneath him. Because it lies on the route of an ancient highway, this life-size rock sculpture may reflect Bahram’s status as patron divinity of travelers.

Taghe Bostam The rock reliefs at Taq-e Bostan lie four miles north-East of Kermanshah, where a spring gushes from a mountain cliff and empties into a large reflecting pool. One of the more impressive reliefs, inside the largest grotto (ivan), is the oversized depiction of Sassanid king khosrey the second (591-628 CE), who appears mounted on his favorite charger, Shabdiz. Both horse and rider are arrayed in full battle armor. There are two hunting scenes on complementary sides of the ivan: one depicts an imperial boar hunt and the other depicting the king stalking deer. Elephants flush out the boar from a marshy lake for the king who stands poised with bow and arrow in hand while he is serenaded by female musicians following in other boats. These royal hunting scenes are narrative murals in stone are count among the most vivid of all Iranian rock reliefs. The Taq-e Bostan reliefs are not limited to the Sassanid era. An upper relief depicts the 19th century Qajar king Fath-Ali shah holding court.