Tang e Chogan gorge
Just beside the ancient city of Bishapur, there are six bas reliefs of Sassanid Kings in Tang e Chogan gorge.
Just 130 km to the west of Shiraz and in the walking distance of the ancient city of Bishapur, you can enter a gorge, where a seasonal river passes, and find some astonishing bas reliefs of the 3rd and 4th centuries. Memorials of Sassanid kings and their achievements, in some ways similar to the ones in Naqsh-e Rostam and Naqsh-e Rajab near Persepolis and Taq-e Bostan in Kermanshah, but distinctive in another way. But that is not all! There is also the giant 6 meters high statue of Shapur I (241 – 272), the second Sassanid king, inside a cave 800 meters higher than the river bed which has no equivalents in Iran!
Three of these ancient bas reliefs are amongst the biggest ones of their types, more than 30 square meters and containing more than 30 bodies in each one, only comparable to Khosrow II bas relied in Taq-e Bostan of Kermanshah. (you can also read more about Kermanshah and its attractions)
By entering the Gorge from Bishapur, you can find two bas reliefs on your right (the southern side) and four others on your left (northern side).
The Right Bas Reliefs of Tang-e Chagan Gorge
The first bas relief on your side is just on the side of the road and unfortunately has suffered the most from damages through time and the top half is almost destroyed. This bas relief is the symbolic coronation of Shapur I, receiving the reign of power and kingship from Ahuramazda (the God). Here unlike the similar scenes we see in Naqsh-e Rostam or other places, it does not portray exactly the same time he became king as we saw Philip, the Roman emperor, kneeling in front of Shapur and Gordian III killed under Shapur’s horse. As these events had happened later than his coronation, we clearly see a manifestation of his achievements in power.
The second bas relief, is the best preserved one amongst the six and portrays the glorious victory of Shapur I versus three Roman emperors; Gordian III’s (238 – 244) corps under his horse’s feet, Valerian (253 – 260) captivated, and Philip the Arab (244 – 249) kneeing and kneeling and asking for peace and to bring back the body of the deceased young emperor. The courtiers and soldiers in the motif is really eye-catching.
The Left Bas Reliefs of Tang-Chogan Gorge
The first bas relief on the left bank is the most crowded bas relief amongst all others of Sassanid era (224 – 642). There are 115 different persons in this motif showing the ultimate victory of Shapur against Roman Empire and the Iranian army as well as the Roman high rank officials presenting gifts to the Iranian king.
The second bas relief in Tang-e Chagan gorge illustrates Bahram II’s victory over Arabs of the desert and Arab sheikhs, accompanied by Iranian generals, paying tribute to Bahram II (274 – 293) and presenting him horses and camels.
The third bas relief portrays Bahram I (271 – 274)receiving the divine reign of kingship from Ahuramazda (the God). This motif is potentially the most artistic among all other Sassanid bas reliefs. The details are amazing. You can see the wrinkles of their trousers and the blood veins on the horses feet and all proportions are harmonious.
The last bas relief in Tang-e Chogan gorge depicts Bahram II (or maybe Shapur II) sitting on his throne, in front-on portrait, Iranian generals and soldiers standing on his right side, and the captivated rebellions are brought to him by Sassanid soldiers on his left.
To reach the statue of Shapur I, you should continue in the gorge 5 more kilometers and arrive in the village of Kashkuli. There you have two options; to climb up the mountain that is faster but harder, or take the longer but easier route by the stairs up to the cave. It takes around one hour or 1 hour and half, but when you reach the cave you see it was worth it! You will see the great king standing in front of you gloriously.
The sculpture of Shapur I had been made out of a natural rock in the cave, but during the next millennium and as a result of powerful earthquakes had collapsed on the ground before being (somehow) repaired and installed again by the army in 1957.
So why is this gorge called Tang-e Chogan? Tang-e means gorge in Persian and Chogan means polo as it is believed that the king and Iranian generals used to play polo game in some parts of this gorge. The other important note is why Shapur I was so serious about illustrating his victory over the Roman emperors? The answer is simple, it was a critical and turning point at least until many decades later in the relations between Iran and Rome (East and West). First killing an emperor in the battle field, then having the next one come for peace and paying a high amount of ransom, and a few years later captivating emperor Valerian in a decisive victory in the battle of Edessa and imprisoning him for the rest of his life. This was absolutely something not to let history forget!
You can visit both Tang-e Chogan gorge and the ancient city of Bishapur, with Marcopolo Iran Touring fully guided Journey through Capitals 12 Day Tour or contact us via Incoming@iranmarcopolo.com or +98 21 88 17 08 99 for more information.