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In search of lost meanings
Part 4: Band and Vand -- Reappraisal


May 12, 2005

In my prepubescent years I roamed Darband, Pasqaleh, Abshar Dogolou and Shirpala in the company of my father, to whom on the anniversary of his passing this May I dedicate this piece. Thank you, sir, also for patiently breaking your stride mid-mountain so that I can savor the cherries at Haft Hoz, the hot potato with salt at the river's edge in Pasqaleh and clip golpar at Shirpala. I also dedicate this essay to Bahman Khan Nassehi whose scientific training as a mountaineer taught us to look less than roaming goats and more like seasoned hikers.

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The word “band” in connection with a “mountain” setting occurs predominantly in north-central and eastern Iran. The word “vand” in relation to mountain settlements predominates in west-central Iran.

There is a village named Fara in the Savadkuh region south of Qaemshahr in Mazandaran: The mountain associated with this locality is called Pishkuh. The word “pish” has the same meaning as “far” (near) and thus the place-name Faravand is explained in reference to its later name of Pishkuh.

In the Asadabad district of southwest Hamadan one finds Siravand, fifteen miles east of Nahavand is Shiravand, and four miles south of Nahavand is Davand; all three locales are described as “kuhestani” (mountainous), naturally.

In the Helian region of the Shahabad township (formerly Harunabad), thirty-five miles southwest of Kermanshah, one finds the mountainy locales called Saglavand and Shahbazvand, each within a few miles of a third place called Zahervand. The other mountainous locations fitting the bill in Kermanshahan include Zanginavand, fifteen miles west of Kermanshah and less than a mile south of Nirvand; Valkehvand and Sayehvand, both in the Sanjabi region; Sorkhvand and Doustvand. The mountainy village of Darvand is located four miles northwest of Kermanshah.

South of Kermanshah, near Khorramabad, one finds Fardivand, a mountainous locale thirteen miles south on the Khorramabad-Andimeshk road. West of Khorramabad, near Ilam, is Farkhinavand, a mountainy village on the road to Bijunvand. Kulivand is a collection of villages in the Khorramabad region, and lies between Kachkan and Sefidkuh mountains. Garvan, Sarkesh, Galehnab, Vagheer, and Darehzard mountains dominate Aytyvand region in the same district.

Sagvand is a mountainous village district in the Khorramabad region; it lies at the foot of Baluman Mountain and boasts many more mountains around it. Because a clan named Sagvand is associated with Sagvand and other parts of Khorramabad, it is tempting to conjecture that the place received its name from the clan. However, this likelihood shrinks in the face of another Sagvand occurring in the plains of Dezful and inhabited by the Lur tribe.

A greater number of the vand-toponyms occur in west-central Iran (Kordestan-Kermanshahan-Lorestan), raising the distinct possibility that “vand” may have been a relic from Median times, growing weaker as it spread farther east from western Iran. Elsewhere in the areas not immediately abutting west-central Iran, one finds near Miyaneh, in eastern Azarbaijan, the mountainous village Davand.

In the north of Iran two toponyms illustrate the interpretive versatility of the suffix “vand” to suggest an etymological connection between a place-name and the mountains. In the northeast of Semnan reference is made to a place called Ahouvan, a scene framed by mountains. The name may well be regarded as an equivalent of Deer Mountain, where “ahou” means “deer.” In the mountainous region of Savadkuh south of Qaemshahr, a location bears the name of Vandachal. The place-name Vandachal therefore describes a place that is a mountain village in the hollow.

The case of Nahavand demonstrates clearly, as a general rule, the suffix “avand” or “vand” in Iranian place-names cannot always explain itself as a “vessel” or a suffix of attribution to a clan or tribe. In view of the findings of this essay, it is proposed here that the Iranian Academy of Sciences (Farhangestan-e Ulum) re-evaluate the significance of “avand” and “vand” as a locative suffix denoting a “settlement with a mountain character.” Furthermore, the meaning of “band” should be revised in the Persian lexicon to give the word a stature equal to “kuh,” mountain.
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Guive Mirfendereski practices law in Massachusetts (JD, Boston College Law School, 1988). His latest book is A Diplomatic History of the Caspian Sea: Treaties, Diaries, and Other Stories (New York and London: Palgrave 2001)

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