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Nimrouz: The Middle of Ancient World

November 8, 2005


Reza Moradi Ghiasabadi
Translator: Babak Salehian

Nimrouz land (Sistan/ Zarang/ Zavolestan) has a deep and long bond with Persian (Iranian) astronomy and calendar. It’s different names come from its astronomical applications. The name of “Zabol/ Zavol” had relation with sun reaching to zenith and it’s measurement as the origin for day and night and the word “Mezvaleh” which means sun index came from the same root. It seems that the word “Zarang” (in Achaemenid cuneiform script: “Zaraka”) has a relation with “halt” and “time” and the most important of all, the word “Nimrouz” roots from the ancient belief and wisdom that the “Nimrouzan” line or the meridian passes through this region.

To describe this phenomenon more, it should be said that like today, the ancient people needed a meridian which for calendar and geographical measurements, which was normally conformed to the middle of the world, that is, the middle of known (explored) habitats. Sometimes this conformity was sometimes done to “ojin” region in India (in Pakistan now), city of Babel at Mesopotamia, and as Master Parviz Zokaei has quoted (Farhang Magazine, Fall 1988, Page 125) sometimes conformed to a meridian passing through “Ostonavand” fort in north of Garmsar. The later meridian with geographical latitude of 52.5 Eastern Degree is the meridian considered as the official origin of the country now. (The public wrongfully thinks that the original meridian passes through the city of Tehran.)

One of the most interesting and wonderful locations chosen by ancient people as the meridian has been Sistan or Nimrouz. Today’s knowledge has proven that Nimrouz is exactly in the middle of the eastern part of earth and it’s distance to Kuril trench Islands in Pacific Ocean (farthest eastern habitat) is 90 degrees and it’s distance from west to Azores Islands in Atlantic Ocean (farthest western habitat) is 90 degrees, too. In other words when sun reaches the middle of the sky in Sistan, it is setting in the east of the world and is rising in the west of the world. That is, when the whole world in daylight, it is the noon or Nimrouz (middle of the day) in Sistan. Choosing this place as meridian has been based on accurate scientific facts in a way that we have no knowledge on methods of doing this accurate measurement. Considering the much vastness of this 180-degree span, it seems that the measurements have been done using unknown astronomical computations and not geodesy and land surveying methods.

In addition to being a sign of achieving required knowledge, choosing Sistan as the middle of the world, shows that perhaps geographical and calendric measurements were international even at that time and there had been a need for choosing a point as the origin to be accepted by people of other countries.

Later, the Arabic word “Nesf-ol-nahar” was coined from the word “Nimrouz/Nimrouzan”, which is exactly its translation, both of which mean Meridian. Due to our less attention to our national knowledge and culture the use of Sistan as the logical origin of global meridian has changed during the past two centuries and was taken to the city of Paris and then to Greenwich in Britain.

There are several references introducing Sistan as the Meridian of the world, two of which are mentioned herein. The first one is Tarikh-e Sistan (The History of Sistan) from eleventh century A.C., where it has been quoted that: “World’s scholars have divided the world into the sunrise and sunset at noon, and its limits are the sunrise in shortest day in the east to sunset in longest day in the west and this science is proved by arithmetic”. (Tarikh-e Sistan, unknown writer, edited by Ja’far Modarres Sadeqi, 2nd printing, Tehran, 2004, p.10, in Persian). Another reference which is in fact the oldest reference for registration of the meridian of the world is Mehryasht of Avesta, which is composed as: “He, whose very long arms catches the unfaithful, overthrows him, even if he is in East of India, in West, or in the middle of this earth, on outfall of Arang River. Arang River is Syrdarya or Sayhoun River, the outfall or estuary of which in Aral (Kharazm) Lake is exactly at meridian line (about 61 degrees of today’s measurement).

In addition to this, Nimrouz land has another surprising feature, that is, presence of Hamoun Lake and Khajeh mountain in the middle of it. This lake and the single rock mountain in the middle of it are as a small sample of world. As all lands in the world are located in the middle of surrounding sea, Khajeh mountain is in the middle of Hamoun Lake in the middle of the earth.

This lake and mountain have been dear and propitious place for Persians (Iranians) since ancient times and has been mentioned with much respect in Avesta and many Persian writings, and this respect still exists in special ceremonies done by locals on the top of the mountain. The presence of many holy places, tabernacles, and superb names show the continuation of glorification of this mountain.

Writer believes that in ancient times many solar (sun) calendars and buildings had been constructed at top of this mountain, which had been the origin for calendar and chronography in about three to four thousand years ago. Although writer’s research on this issue has not been completed yet, but some structures have been found which are related to calendar and determination of sunrise and sunset points in the beginning of each season of the year.

Nimrouz: Middle of Ancient World

Reza Moradi Ghiasabadi
Translator: Saam Sheykh-ol Eslami

Nimrouz land (Sistan/ Zarang/ Zavolestan) has a deep relation with Persian (Iranian) astronomy and calendar. It is different names is because of it is different usages. Name of “Zabol/ Zavol” had relation with reaching sun to zenith and it’s measurement of day offspring and the word “Mezvaleh” which means sun indicator came from that origin the word “Zarang” (in Achaemenid cuneiform script: “Zaraka”) seems have relation with halt and time and the most important one is Nimrouz. That came from this believe which meridian crosses this place.

For describing this phenomenon we should say that ancient people like other people needed a meridian which is needed for calendar and its measurements. Mostly they used middling line of world, which is middle of the living part of world. For example sometimes “ojin” at India (today’s Pakistan) or Babel at Mesopotamia.

One of the most interesting parts that ancient people have chosen as meridian is Sistan or Nimrouz. Today’s knowledge shows that Nimrouz is exactly meridian of eastern part of earth and it’s distance till Kuril trench Islands at pacific ocean (last eastern living part of world) is 90 degrees and it’s distance from west till Azores Islands at Atlantic ocean is 90 degrees. In other words when sun reaches meridian at Sistan at east we see sunset and at west is sun rising in other word all world has light or is day. Choosing this place as meridian was based on scientific facts that we don’t know they did it at old days. According to the distance of this 180 degree place they used mathematical methods instead of geodesy.

Choosing Sistan as meridian of old world not only shows their knowledge but also means there was an international measurement system for longitude and latitude so as a result an era for this measurement was necessary which different countries and people accept it .

After some while word Nimrouz changed to an Arabic form “Nesf-on nahar” which both means Meridian.

There are to many references that had introduced Sistan as Meridian. First one is Tarikh-e Sistan from eleventh century A.C.: “Worlds sages divided world according to sun rising on sun setting and line was named meridian and it’s limit from east sunrises at shortest day and from west sunsets at longest day and this is approved by scientific mathematics”. (Tarikh-e Sistan, writer unknown, edited by Ja’far modarres sadeqi, 2nd printing, Tehran, 2004, p.10, in Persian).

The other reference which is oldest writing that had talked about meridian is Mehryasht at Avesta which is written: “Whom which with high long hands catches the unfaithful rises him no matter it is east at India or west or at downfall of Arang river at the middle of world. Arang river is Syrdarya river which it’s downfall is at Aral  (Kharazm) lake is exactly at meridian (61 degree of today’s measurement).

Nimrouz land has another specialty and that is Hamoun lake and Khajeh mountain at the middle of it. This lake and mountain in the middle of it is like a little sample of world like the lands which are surrounded by water. khajeh mountain is in the middle of water.
This lake and mountain was always a dear place for Persian (Iranian). In Avesta and a lot of Persian writings we sea respect for them and still local people like them and do special ceremonies on top of khajeh mountain a lot of holy places and special names shows their importance.

Writer believes at ancient time there were a lot of solar calendars at top of this mountain which belong to three or four thousand years ago although writer’s researched about this idea has not finished but some buildings has found that shows they were related to calendar sun rising and sun setting from each season.

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