Bakhtiari people

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Costume Bakhtiari.jpg
Costume Bakhtiari
Total population
~1,000,000 (2001)[1]
Regions with significant populations
Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari Province, parts of: Khuzestan, Isfahan, Markazi, Lorestan
Bakhtiari Luri

The Bakhtiari (Persian: بختیاری‎) is a Lur tribe[2] from Iran. They speak the Bakhtiari dialect of the Luri language.[3][4]

Bakhtiaris primarily inhabit Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari and eastern Khuzestan, Lorestan, Bushehr, and Isfahan provinces. Bakhtiari tribes have a especially large population concentration in the cities of Masjed Soleyman, Izeh, Shahr-e Kord, and Andika and the surrounding villages.

A small percentage of Bakhtiari are still nomadic pastoralists, migrating between summer quarters (sardsīr or yaylāq) and winter quarters (garmsīr or qishlāq).[5] Numerical estimates of their total population vary widely.


In Iranian mythology, the Bakhtiaris are considered to be descendants of Fereydun, a legendary hero from the Iranian national epic, Shahnameh.


According to research into NRY markers, the Bakhtiari, as with many other groups in Iran, show very elevated frequencies for Y-DNA haplogroup J2—a phenomenon that is probably, at least partially, attributable to the Neolithic diffusion of early farmers from the Near East c. 8000–4000 BCE.[6][7] The Southwest Eurasian haplogroups F, G, and T1a also reach substantial frequency among Bakhtiaris.[6]


The term bakhtiari can be best translated as "companion of fortune" or "bearer of good luck"[8] The term has deep Persian roots and is the result of two smaller words bakht and yar complied together. Bakht is the Persian word for "fortune" and yar, iar, iari literally means "companion".[8]

The latter designation largely relates to the nature of the tribe's annual "migration". This has to do with the harsh nature of Bakhtiari life and overcoming of countless difficulties that Bakhtiaris have faced in the Zagros ranges. In this sense, Bakhtiaris view themselves as a hardworking tribe, facing numerous obstacles everyday and yet fortunate enough to overcome each of these challenges as a solid unit.[8]

Nevertheless, the origins of Bakhtiaris are ancient and it may have very well been the case that the tribe underwent a series of name changes throughout its history. However it is mostly claimed that the designation "Bakhtiari" came largely into use some time in antiquity.[9]


Constitutional Revolution: In Iran's contemporary history, the Bakhtiari have played a significant role; particularly during the advent of the country's Constitutional Revolution (1905–1907).[10] This event was largely secured through the Bakhtari campaign, which eventually deposed Mohammad Ali Shah Qajar (r. 1907–1909).[11] The Bakhtiari tribesmen, under the leadership of the Haft Lang khans Sardar Assad and his brother Najaf Qoli Khan Bakhtiari- Saad ad-Daula (also referred to as Samsam-os Saltane), captured Tehran and, as a result, saved the revolution.[12][13] These events eventually led to the abdication of Mohammad Ali Shah Qajar (r. 1907–1909) in 1909 and his exile to Russia. This incident secured Saad ad-Daula the position of Prime Minister in the period that followed the abdication of the Qajar Shah. Nonetheless, with Russian backing, the Shah would soon return in 1911 by landing with a coalition of forces at Astarabad .[14] However, his efforts to reclaim his throne would bear no fruit.[14] In this sense, the Bakhtiaris played a critical role in saving the revolution from the Qajar forces.[11]

Pahlavi Period: With the expansion of Bakhtiari influence, urban elites (particularly in Tehran) began to worry in regards to a potential Bakhtiari takeover of Persia's affairs. Prior to this point, the Bakhtiari had largely remained within their own territorial boundaries. The Bakhtiari influence would continue to play an important role within the early 20th century politics of Iran. Reza Shah Pahlavi (r. 1925–1941) made the destruction of the Bakhtiari influence his mission.[15] The existence of oil on Bakhtiari territory further motivated the Pahlavi monarch to undermine the autonomy of the tribe and force its population to adhere to the commands of the central government.[15] Reza Shah Pahlavi would eventually execute a few noteworthy tribal leaders to crush Bakhtiari autonomy and maintain control over the tribe. Amongst the executed Khans was Mohammad Reza Khan (Sardar-e-Fateh), the father of what later became the Pahlavi Prime Minister Shapour Bakhtiar.[16] The latter event was a turning point for Bakhtiari and their rise within Iranian politics.[16]

Tribal structure[edit]

A Bakhtiari nomad family

The Bakhtiari people are mainly from two tribal divisions, Chahar Lang (English: Four Shares) and Haft Lang (English: Seven Shares). Lang word in bakhtiari dialect means "share of tax or inheritance". Due to the harsh nature of their life style, Bakhtiaris have been able to keep their blood lines intact, largely marrying within their own tribe.

Bakhtiaris trace a common lineage, being divided into the Chahar Lang (The Four Shares) and Haft Lang (The Seven Shares) groups, each controlled by a single powerful family. The overall khan alternates every two years between the chiefs of the Chahar Lang and the Haft Lang.

The famous documentary Grass: A Nation's Battle for Life (1925) tells the story of the migration of Bakhtiari tribe from winter quarters in Khuzestan to summer quarters Chahar Mahaal. This film also tells the story of how these people crossed the river Karun with 50,000 people and 500,000 animals. The documentary "People of the Wind" (1975) retraces this same journey, 50 years later. The British documentary series "The Ascent of Man" (1973) in the first part of its second episode, "The Harvest of the Seasons," also shows the Bakhtiari making the annual migration to the summer pastures. This portrayal is not however, particularly positive, using the Bakhtiari as an example of a pre-agricultural tribe frozen in time. As of 2006, the migration still takes place, although the livestock are now transported in trucks, and the shepherds no longer walk barefoot in the snow between provinces.


The Bakhtiari are noted in Iran for their remarkable music which inspired Alexander Borodin.[17]


Livelihood and Dwellings[edit]

Bakhtiari nomads migrate twice a year with their herds for pasture: in spring to the mountains in their summer quarters (sardsīr or yaylāq) and in autumn to valleys and the plains in their winter quarters (garmsīr or qishlāq). The livestock the Bakhtiari mainly raise are goats, sheep, horses, and cattle. However, some Bakhtiari also engage in agricultural occupations and mostly cultivate wheat and other cereal grains. Nomadic Baktiari rely on trading and bartering with nearby villages and populations to obtain products they don't have or are unable to create themselves (like agricultural goods). Temporary dwellings for the Bakhtiari include rectangular tents or brush or wood shelters. These types of dwellings are used when moving their herds around. Recently, some Bakhtiari have urbanized and began to settle in large villages and even in cities.[18]

Language, Gender, and Religion[edit]

A Bakhtiâri dialect speaker.

Shia Islam is the main religion followed by both the nomadic and sedentary Bakhtiaris. The Bakhtiaris are devout and practice the faith piously.[18]

Despite the patriarchal nature of Bakhtiari society, women enjoy a rather high degree of freedom. This was because of their importance in the Bakhtiari economy as weavers in which colorful and stylish designs on carpets made them very popular among buyers. However, after the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the Bakhtiari (along with Iranian society in general) underwent rapid changes so presently, Bakhtiari women don't have the same kind of privileges they had before the revolution.[18]

Famous Bakhtiaris[edit]


  • Fariba Amini. "The first moderate: Shapour Bakhtiar".
  • Ali Quli Khan Sardar Assad and A. Sepehr. Tarikhe Bakhtiari: Khulasat al-asar fi tarikh al-Bakhtiyar (Intisharat-i Asatir) (The History of Bakhtiari). 766 pages. ISBN 964-5960-29-0. Asatir, Iran, 1997. In Persian.
  • Bakhtiari language summary[21]
  • Shapour Bakhtiar. Memoirs of Shapour Bakhtiar. Habib Ladjevardi, ed. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1996. 140 Pages. In Persian. ISBN 978-0-932885-14-2.
  • Soraya Esfandiary Bakhtiary. Le Palais des Solitudes. France Loisirs, Paris, 1991. ISBN 2-7242-6593-9.
  • Ali Morteza Samsam Bakhtiari. The Last of the Khans: The life of Morteza Quli Khan Samsam Bakhtiari. iUniverse, New York, 2006. 215 pages. ISBN 978-0-595-38248-4.
  • Gasiorowski, Mark. Just like that: How the Mossadegh Government was overthrown. in particular bullet point 2 on the role of Soraya Bakhtiari; compare with her account in Le Palais des Solitudes cited above.
  • Arash Khazeni, The Bakhtiyari Tribes in the Iranian Constitutional Revolution, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, 25, 2, Duke University Press, 2005.
  • Pierre Loti. Vers Ispahan. Edition Calmann-Levy, Paris, 1925. 330 pages. Travelogue with Bakhtiari contact. See also Ross and Sackville-West from same period.
  • Elizabeth N. Macbean Ross (1921). A lady doctor in Bakhtiari Land. London: Leonard Parsons. Out of copyright and available at, Travelogue, see also Loti and Sackville-West from same period.
  • Vita Sackville-West. Twelve Days: An account of a journey across the Bakhtiari Mountains in South-western Persia. Doubleday, Doran & Co., New York, 1928. 143 pages. Travelogue, see also Loti and Ross from same period.
  • Bronowski, J. (1973). The Ascent of Man. Chapter Two: The Harvest of the Seasons.
  • F. Vahman and G. Asatrian, Poetry of the Baxtiārīs: Love Poems, Wedding Songs, Lullabies, Laments, Copenhagen, 1995.[2]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Bakhtyari (people)". ethnologue.
  2. ^ Gibb, H.A.R., ed. (1954). "LUR". The Encyclopaedia of Islam. Brill Archive. p. 821. ISBN 978-9004060562. Lur -- an Iranian people living in the mountains in southwestern Persia. As in the case of the Kurds, the principal link among the four branches of the Lurs (Mamasani, Kuhghilu'i, Bakthiari, and Lur proper) is that of language.
  3. ^ "Bakhtiâri". Ethnologue. Retrieved 27 April 2015.
  4. ^ "LORI DIALECTS". Retrieved 27 April 2015.
  5. ^ "BAḴTĪĀRĪ TRIBE". 1988. Retrieved Iranica Online. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  6. ^ a b Nasidze, I., Quinque, D., Rahmani, M., Alemohamad, S. A. and Stoneking, M. (2008), Close Genetic Relationship Between Semitic-speaking and Indo-European-speaking Groups in Iran. Annals of Human Genetics, 72: 241–252.
  7. ^ R. Spencer Wells et al., "The Eurasian Heartland: A continental perspective on Y-chromosome diversity," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (August 28, 2001
  8. ^ a b c [1] Archived January 31, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Garthwaite., Gene R. Khans and Shahs : a Documentary Analysis of the Bakhtiyari in Iran. New York: Cambridge UP, 1933. Print.
  10. ^ "Bakhtiari Family". Bakhtiari Family. Retrieved 2012-10-11.
  11. ^ a b "Constitution". Bakhtiari Family. Retrieved 2012-10-11.
  12. ^ Douglas, William O. "The Bakhtiari Save the Constitution." Strange Lands and Friendly People. Hicks, 2007. 114-20. Print.
  13. ^ Lily Sardarian Bakhtiari. Bakhtiaris and the Constitutional Revolution (A Summary).
  14. ^ a b Donzel, Emeri “van” (1994). Islamic Desk Reference. ISBN 90-04-09738-4. p. 285-286
  15. ^ a b "Oil". Bakhtiari Family. Retrieved 2012-10-11.
  16. ^ a b "Shapour Bakhtiar, Fariba Amini". The Iranian. Retrieved 2012-10-11.
  17. ^ Ullens de Schooten, Marie-Tèrése. (1956). Lords of the Mountains: Southern Persia & the Kashkai Tribe, pp. 113-114. Chatto and Windus Ltd. Reprint: The Travel Book Club. London.
  18. ^ a b c Skutsch, Carl, ed. (2005). Encyclopedia of the World's Minorities. New York: Routledge. pp. 176, 177. ISBN 1-57958-468-3.
  19. ^ Laleh Bakhtiar, "Muhammad", Diane Publishing (1994), 39 pages. ISBN 978-0-7567-7802-6.
  20. ^ Badawy, Manuela (2007-03-24). "Woman re-interprets Qur'an with feminist view". Reuters. Archived from the original on 2007-03-27.
  21. ^ "Bakhtiâri". Ethnologue.
  22. ^ a b "".

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