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Padlock and padlock industry in Iranian Traditional Culture

By: Parviz Tanavoli
Safety and Guarding are the main reasons to produce padlocks. In history whenever a building was made by men surely there would be a door or a box that demands a padlock. So there would be a good variety of door padlocks and box padlocks and in Iran, the same routine continued and padlocks were one of the most important features related to concepts of safety and security. The door of a house, a shop, a caravanserai, or the gate of a city, there would be a padlock for each of them.

As a matter of fact, everyone who is familiar with Iran's padlock industry would be interested in their types of use. With the exception of talismanic and iconographic padlocks, most of the padlocks had security purposes usually used for the doors of houses, malls, or boxes. Aside from rustic houses, each traditional home had several doors that usually were made from thick wood and were featured by a wooden bolt lock. Those doors had several types. The rich would decorate their entrance door with different types of Tent-nails and would apply an elaborated wainscot on it.

The rich would decorate their entrance door with different types of Tent-nails

while just two simple wainscots would be usually used by the poor. All the entrance doors had two wainscots, a cyclic and light one for women and a heavy and Solid one for men. So the people inside the house would be aware of the stranger's gender that was knocking on the door out there and if the sound would related to a man, they would wear a scarf to open up the door. Rustic people would often live! in the castles with huge and heavy gates and tent nails on. Inside the castle, the rustic house would appear and each of them had a single door. Each of the houses had one or two rooms without doors and just separated by curtains or carpets. In contrast, most of the urban house's rooms featured doors, padlocks, and a chain hanging above the doors. Also, padlocks were used for boxes and cases. Most of the boxes were made of wood and decorated with lots of different motifs.

Old Sandoghche a good location for storing various objects

In the past years, each house had a closet and inside the closet, some boxes were kept. The boxes were used for keeping all the clothes, curtains, nuts, etc. People, who had no closet, would put a box instead to decorate their houses. Finding some metal wainscots with key holders refers back to the usage of built-in padlocks by Iranian people in the last years. Also, there was a type of little box called Sandoghcheh. With a noticeable variation, the one which was specialized for the wedding was the best-designed sandoghcheh among all that every bride should take to her husband's house. The wedding Sandoghcheh would be filled with brides' jewelry and makeup accessories with lots of precious metal ornamentals on the padlock. The cashier box (Sandoghcheh Dakhl) was so different from wedding sandoghcheh (sandoghcheh aroos). It was just a big bowl for the coins that the sailor would take from customers after they would pay for stuff there. Of course, that was a matter of time. The bank-note was not released yet and the time that the merchants would do their transactions with drafts and stock-jobbery. They usually had attractive engraved little boxes with themselves. For sure the boxes had some padlocks. Most of the time animal-shaped or little padlocks were used for this purpose.

Talismanic and iconographic padlocks in the folkloric belief
In the Iranian cultural beliefs, padlock is a feature or a symbol against disasters and reaching to wishes and beyond every idea or belief, there would be a specific padlock. One of these padlocks is apotropaic padlock (Ghofle Nazar). On these padlock surfaces, lots of amulets, benedictions, and religious writings would be engraved. The padlock would be hung on the lock owner's clothes or would be hung by a ribbon on his or her chest. These padlocks usually were made from metal or silver that in folkloric belief had special meanings and the power of the amulets and benedictions would increase the impressions of the padlocks, although the prayer writer was an important factor. These padlocks were not made for guarding purposes actually they had iconographic aims and were designed for inner desires of ideologues.

Holy shrines, Mosque, Drinking fountain
For most of the people being in a religious place have two aspects; showing respects and demanding a wish to come true. In the holy shrine of Imams (Peace Be Upon Them) and their family members, there is a tomb or netted window (Zarih) that reaching to it is the first step to the wishes to come true. With this clutching into the netted window of the tomb and sticking heads and faces to the tomb and crying, they believe that they would reach to their wills. During all of these actions, the people would hold the padlock in their hands for the closest position to the holy Imam. Made from metal and silver, these padlocks have healing effects for patients. Except for the padlocks, ribbons and cotton ropes would be hanging everywhere on the netted window of the tomb. Most of the pilgrims would tie their clothes instead of padlocks to the netted window and in expression, they would tie a Dakhil to the window. For this intention, the green ribbons are for sail everywhere around the shrine. In the small villages and regional tribes where there would be no shrine, a single tree would be holy and repay the shortage.

These kinds of trees that usually grow on the lope of a mountain or in a desert would be noticed as a holy object after they would be seen in a night dreaming of a respectful believer and people would pray knotting ribbons into its branches. Mosques and drinking fountains are two other places conceptually related to padlocks. Although a mosque has no netted window there is a chain on the top of the mosque's entrance door that sometimes would be used by pilgrims. The function of the chain that would be called expansion chain or graph chain originally is to ascertain the borderline between outside and the mosque. But there would be lots of examples for the situation that people have tied their vowed padlocks to the chain. Emad-o-doleh mosque in Kermanshah is one of the mosques with plenty of vowed padlocks on the chain.

Locking to specific places to get wishes

Drinking fountain actually is a place for presenting drinkable water and usually would be installed on a shelf of a wall of a crowded passageway. In the Drinking fountains, we would be often confronted with a symbolic metal hand; a separated hand of Hazrate Abolfazl (PBUH). In front of the collection, there would be a window suitable for fastening vowed ribbons and padlocks. The passengers who passed across the drinking fountain would vow or pray after they drink some water there.

Moharam Martyrdom, Allam, Nakhl, Mourners, the Padlock Locker
Most of the Moharam martyrdom customs would be executed in the first 10 days of the month. On the 10th day of Muharram, Ashura, we would confront the peak of this mourning. The mourners (who show their profound grief and sorrow by beating their breasts with their hands and their shoulders with chains) would move on foot from mosque to mosque in the streets carrying a good number of religious sings while mourning. Every regional place would have a separated and independent group and sign for itself; these groups of mourners would finally gather together in the center of the city. Watching the mournful crowd carrying several religious signs that would be decorated with green, red and black clothes and colorful feathers would impress everyone's feelings. In some regional places near a desert, a small pavilion, representing Imam Hussein's (PBUH) pavilion or holy shrine, would be accompanied with a large wooden sign that would a symbol of his dead children. This sign moves al toward the crowd. Nakhl is the other feature would be made from wood and is a cypress-shaped icon with a structure like a netted window. The poor would tie a piece of cloth to it (Figure 1). After the ending of the mourning, the signs and Kotal be brought back to the mosques or the original places and they would keep them in a special place The signs that would be exposed to the eyes of the beholders are believed to have healing impressions (Figure 5).

Iran's Muharam ceremony

Date-palm would do the same function in Yazd and the villages around the city because of their netted window shape. In addition to the groups of breast-beaters and chain-beaters, there would be some groups that would experience sort of serious labor in the mourning of Imam Hussein (PBUH); the straight poniards-beaters and the padlocks-beaters. During the night, the padlocks-beaters would pierce their bodies and then thrust some pointed instruments such as metal sticks or arrow-heads into their bodies; these actions would make the observers sad and so impressed much more than the other activities in the mourning. Their actions made people weep and wail all the time. The padlocks-beaters would not sleep until the next morning when they would join the other groups. Their injured pierced bodies symbolized the Holy Abolfazl's body in such a day that had beard lots of arrow-heads into his body. The padlocks-beaters custom is abolished these days. Apart from some photos and painting in Ganj Ali-Khan bath in Kerman, there is no trace for this costume. There is a close relation between the types of knotting and locking Fastening a piece of cloth or ribbon into a netted window or a tree or a sign is nothing but making a relationship, a relationship the devotee and the preceptor. The devotee would cut a piece of his /her clothes and would tie into the netted window or the tree just to show his/ her in front of his/her Imam or superior. On the other hand, the devotee would keep his majesty into his/her mind this way. The other padlock or a knot interpretation is a connection. Lots of refractory patients would tie a padlock or a knot to the netted window for their wishes. The knot one side of the cloth or rope to their foot or hand or neck and the other side would be fastened to the netted window and they would not leave up the position until cure. These images were everywhere around a shrine graves. But knotting or having wishes should be much older than we could ever think about it because Iranian traditionally had a strong tendency to making groups even in non-religious cases like "Sizdah-bedar” custom that they would tie the grass in this day that is common-place in everywhere in Iran. The origins of this custom would be before the advent of Islam and even older times.

The other meaning and the function of a padlock is captivity. From the time, mankind began to fight when quarrel and violations spread on the earth, enemy's captivation and the padlocks consequently would be the next steps to finalize the process. The captivated man just like a prisoner was one of his/ her owner possessions and padlocks were the basic equipment for preventing the escaping issue, Padlock and chains were not only used for prisoners or captivated persons but also includes criminals. This custom was commonplace until Mashruteh era in Iran began. One of the captivity padlocks samples that usually would be used for the horses and the mules is famous to "Najv".