Tomb of Esther and Mordechai
Tomb of Esther and Mordechai Tomb in Hamadan is believed to have belonged to the biblical Queen Esther and her uncle Mordechai. The current structure has Islamic architectural elements and is believed to have been built over the original tomb. The tomb had a precious torah parchment and two Monabbat chests coverings the graves. A number of prominent Jewish figures have been buried inside the tomb. There is a also a stucco Hebrew inscription above the tombs. The site is the most important pilgrimage site for the Jewish minority of Iran.
ESTHER AND MORDECHAI TOMB MORE
The mausoleum of Esther and her uncle Mordechai is, historically but not archeologically, amongst the most ancient monuments of the city. The two tombs inside the structure are believed to house the remains of the biblical Esther and Mordechai from the time of Xerxes the Achaemenid king of the 5th century B.C.E.. The building, dating from the early 17th century according to Ernst Herzfeld , bears the traditional features of emâmzâda architecture, and is revered by Muslims and Jews alike, for whom it is a place of pilgrimage. Unfortunately, no archeological research has been carried out to establish whether the graves are in fact those of Esther and Mordechai.
Some scholars have questioned the authenticity of the attribution, and it has been suggested that the tomb may be that of the Jewish queen of the Sasanian Yazdegerd I (399-420), ˆo@šan-dokht, who according to legend is credited with the establishment of large Jewish communities in Isfahan and Hamadân .The mausoleum housed a 300-year old Torah "written in vellum" that was kept in a room next to the grave chamber. The oldest datable material in the mausoleum was the ebony sarcophagus attributed to Esther, which had an inscription carved all over it in Hebrew characters, and which could be dated to the 13th–14th century; but the sarcophagus was destroyed in a fire caused by lit candles that pilgrims had placed on it; the new coffer is a replica of the old one .The shrine reportedly housed a number of valuable ancient relics, including (according to unsubstantiated reports) the crowns of Esther and Mordechai, which have been stolen .
In 1971, as part of the festival celebrating 2500 years of Persian monarchy, the Iranian Jewish Society decided to have the dilapidated shrine renovated; it had been vandalised, robbed, and also used as a burial ground by some influential Jewish families. The plan was to have a new synagogue and a museum presenting "the history of Iranian Jews from Esther to the Pahlavis" attached to the shrine. The museum was never built due to the shortage of funds as well as the demand to have the building ready for the upcoming festival. Many artefacts that were unearthed during the construction were, unfortunately, thrown away.
This site marks the traditional location of the graves of Mordechai and Esther, two cousins who played a pivitol role in the Book of Esther (also known as the Megillah). The saga of Mordechai and Esther form the basis for the Jewish celibration of Purim; hence, the site is of deep historical significance to Iranian Jews and the wider Jewish community.
Mordechai and Esther lived during the rule of Ahasuerus, a Persian king who is also identified as Artaxerxes (possibly Artaxerxes II, who lived from 435 or 445 to 358 BCE).
The Book of Esther records that during a feast in Shushan, the capital, Ahasuerus asks his wife Vashti to display her beauty to the assembled guests. She refuses, and he subsequently removes her as queen. He then orders that the provinces of the kingdom be combed for beautiful girls to be brought before him, so that he may select one as his new queen. One of the women shown to him is Esther, a child being raised by the care of her cousin Mordechai. Entranced, the king selects her as his queen.
Mordechai earns favor in the king's eyes when he catches word of a plot to assassinate the king, but meets resistance from Haman, a newly-appointed prime minister. Mordechai earns Haman's wrath when he refuses to bow down to him in obeisance. When Haman discovers that Mordechai is Jewish, he hatches a plot to execute not just Mordechai, but all Jews in the empire. Haman brings his plan to the attention of the king, who agrees with the decision, not having been told of Mordechai's ancestry. The king advances Haman ten thousand talents of silver as payment, and Haman casts lots to determine which day to execute his plan. He settles on the thirteenth of the month of Adar.
Meanwhile, Esther and Mordechai hear of the plot to exterminate their people. She asks that all Jews in the empire pray and fast for three days together with her. During the night following the fasting, Ahasuerus has difficulty falling asleep and asks that the court's records be read to him aloud to help him sleep. One of the passages happens to mention Mordechai's prior service in uncovering the plot against the king, which Ahasuerus had not been aware of. Surprised, Ahasuerus asks if Mordechai had been rewarded for his service, and is told that he had not. Just at that moment, Haman enters the room and is asked by the king what treatment should be given to a man the king wishes to honor. Thinking that he is the one, Haman instructs the king to mount the man on a royal horse with royal robes while a herald calls out praises. To his embarassment, Haman is asked to provide this very treatment to his enemy Mordechai.
Mordechai's prior service to the king appears to tip the balance in his favor. His cousin Esther is able to declare her Jewish ancestry to the king without fear for her life, and she informs the king of the reasons why Hamadan hatched his plan against the Jewish people. In anger, he orders Hamadan's execution on the very gallows Hamadan had prepared earlier for
Mordechai. However, due to a peculiar feature of Persian law, the prior edict against the Jews cannot be rescinded. The king issues a second decree allowing the Jews to defend themselves as they see fit. When the 13th of Adar arrives, the Jews rise up against their attackers without fear of official sanction. During the battle Haman's ten sons are killed, along with 500 other attackers. In the aftermath, Mordechai is promoted and institutes an annual commemoration of the event which becomes the festival of Purim.
It is not known if the tomb of Mordechai and Esther is the actual site where they were buried. A parallel tradition holds that their bodies were brought to Baram, a site now in Israel, for burial. In any case, the site in Hamadan has been revered for at least eight centuries. Iranian Jews traditionally travel there to read the Megillah each Purim.