Poetry has always played a determining role in Persian culture. For centuries, Iran has been home to some of the most influential and inspiring poets in the world. The history of Persian literature dates back to over two-and-a-half millennia. So, the impact of Iranian poets on the literature of both the East and the West is undeniable. Persian poesies cover many themes related to love, divine mysticism and life. They can inspire everyone from any culture.
Among the most famous Iranian poets is Baba Tahir. Also known as Baba Taher or Baba Taher Oryan Hamedani, he was one of the 11th-century Persian poets. Baba Tahir is one of the oldest Iranian poets. His date of birth and death is still unknown to the historians.
Persian writer and poet Hedayat, claims that he predeceased Ferdowsi, the author of Shahnameh. He refers to one of Baba Tahir’s poems: “I am that sea and have come into a bowl; I am that dot and have come into a letter; in every thousand one straight-as-an-alef (alef-qadd) appears; I am that straight one, for I came in a thousand.” Others refer his date of birth to a Zoroastrian belief. According to this belief, every thousand years a spiritual leader will appear. Baba Tahir is claiming to be such a leader, having been born in A.D. 1000(i.e., 391 A.H.).
What we know for sure is that Baba Tahir was born and lived in Hamedan city. His title, Oryan, means naked. Some believe people called him Oryan because he may have been a wandering mystic and dervish. Besides, the followers of highly-respected Sufis used the title Baba for them. Historians suggest that he was a contemporary of Ferdowsi and Avicenna. He was also an immediate ancestor of Omar Khayyam.
During his lifetime, great changes were occurring in the development of literature and art in Persia. At that time, Persian poets were receiving great respect and they could express their ideas. Elwell-Sutton, the British scholar of Persian culture writes: “Baba Tahir is the first great poet of Sufi love in Persian literature. In the last two decades, his do-baytis have often been put to music”.
Baba Tahir is best known because of his do-baytis. Do-bayti is, in fact, a quatrain composed in a simpler meter in comparison to the standard rubai. It is a famous style for popular verse. Iranians recite Baba Tahir’s poems, accompanied by a traditional musical instrument, setar.
His poetry is unique is his kind, as it is in the Hamedani dialect of the Persian language. This very ancient style of poetry is known as Pahlaviat. Baba Tahir’s do-baytis consist of the local dialect of that period. It is close to the dialect spoken at present by the Jews of Hamedan. In his poems, Baba Tahir talks about love and mysticism rather than philosophical themes. Today, you can see most of his poems translated into other languages.
As Baba Tahir lived in Hamedan, his tomb is also located in this city. His mausoleum is on a hill on the north-western part of the city. Today, the tomb is in the center of a rectangular square with the same name in Hamedan. An 8000 square meters beautiful lush area surrounds this structure. The tomb has a turquoise-colored dome in the form of an octagonal prism. If you look up from the inside of the tomb, the roof is also beautifully tiled. The design of this part is striking. Inside the tomb, you will see 24 of his poets, inscribed with beautiful Persian calligraphy.
The architecture of the tomb is also unique. It was constructed for the first time during the Seljuk period. But it underwent many reconstructions after that. During these reconstructions, archeologists found a tile tablet from the 7th century AH. There are verses of the Quran written in Kufic script on this turquoise tile. It is now held in the National Museum of Iran. The original octagonal structure dates back to the 12th century. In Reza Shah’s era, another brick structure was constructed over his grave. Finally, in 1970, the famous Iranian architect, Mohsen Foroughi, designed the current structure.
The actual tomb tower is on an octagonal base, 25.30 meters higher than the street level. The eight pillars of the tower, the tombstone, the floor, and the steps are all made of granite. The main building has a set of prisms with holes to let the light in. The architectural style of the tomb is a combination of 7th and 8th-century’s Iranian architecture as well as the modern style.
Other famous Iranian figures such as Mohammadaben Abdul Aziz and Maftoun Hamedani are buried beside the tomb of Baba Tahir in the surrounding areas.