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Qajar King Paraded Top-Cadre Wives Every Morning: Iraniain Historian Says

8/13/04 Source: Iranian Cultural Heritage News Agency

Famed for having over 1,000 spouses, Qajar King Fath Ali Shah (1797-1834) got his 40 respectable wives parade every morning in a pageant ceremony, noted an Iranian historian and author.

Nilofar Kasra, author of a newly-publish Persian book entitled "Politics and Harem", argues that caste system was prevalent in Qajar courtrooms and wives hailing from affluent families were superior to those with underdog backgrounds. The first group constituted official partners of the harem while the second set just provided lustful kings with temporary leisure.

According to Mrs. Kasra, respectable wives used to parade in front of Fath Ali Shah each morning, queuing behind each other proportionate with of their father's wealth. If they had any request, they would just whisper in his majesty's ears.

"Most women in those harems were young, thus the king would have had them attend special training courses and study books in royal libraries," said Mrs. Kasra. She added the parade was made customary during the reign of Agha Mohammad Khan, founder of the dynasty.

Under the rule of Fath Ali Shah Qajar, once Iran's ruling system and army was introduced to the new European system and the army was equipped with cannons and guns, the martial musical instruments - mainly played in naghareh-khanehs (special centers where naghareh were played) - were also replaced.

The Qajars were a Turkmen tribe that held ancestral lands in present-day Azerbaijan, which then was part of Iran. In 1779, following the death of Mohammad Karim Khan Zand, the Zand Dynasty ruler of southern Iran, Agha Mohammad Khan, a leader of the Qajar tribe, set out to reunify Iran. Agha Mohammad Khan defeated numerous rivals and brought all of Iran under his rule, establishing the Qajar dynasty. By 1794 he had eliminated all his rivals, including Lotf 'Ali Khan, the last of the Zand dynasty, and had reasserted Iranian sovereignty over the former Iranian territories in Georgia and the Caucasus. Agha Mohammad established his capital at Tehran, a village near the ruins of the ancient city of Ray (now Shahr-e Rey). In 1796 he was formally crowned as shah. Agha Mohammad was assassinated in 1797 and was succeeded by his nephew, Fath Ali Shah.

The Qajars revived the concept of the shah as the shadow of God on earth and exercised absolute powers over the servants of the state. They appointed royal princes to provincial governorships and, in the course of the nineteenth century, increased their power in relation to that of the tribal chiefs, who provided contingents for the shah's army.

Under the Qajars, the merchants and the ulama, or religious leaders, remained important members of the community. A large bureaucracy assisted the chief officers of the state and, in the second half of the nineteenth century, new ministries and offices were created. The Qajars were unsuccessful, however, in their attempt to replace the army based on tribal levies with a European-style standing army having regular training, organization, and uniforms.

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