The Qajar dynasty which ruled over Iran from 1794 to 1925 was one of the most disgraceful eras in Iranian history. From The unthinkable violence and cruelty Mohammad khan Qajar put Iran through in order to become king, to the corrupt governments of later Qajar kings, Qajar dynasty has many stories to be told, which we as Iranians are not proud to tell! Among the stories, one of the very notorious is the Harem of Qajar kings and the beautiful women in Qajar Era. Harem is the residence of the king’s wives. Harems have a long history in Iran(as in many other countries ), it can be dated back to the Sasanian era about 1400 years ago.
Starting from the beginning of the Qajar era, Mohammad khan Qajar had a Harem of 17 very beautiful women, very unusual since he was a Eunuch.( At the age of 11 he was found in private with a married women which resulted in him being castrated ). It is said that he use to be very cruel and abusive of his women in the Harem. The second king of Qajar dynasty was Fathali Shah. It is said that he had 1000 women in his Harem( the exact number is unknown), which included the wives, the sigheh wives( short term marriages) the servants, the dancers and singers.
Harem or Haram sara were usually located in a reclusive part of palace and access to it was strictly guarded. Men were not allowed into harem only the Eunuch (castrated) could go inside, they also managed it. The women which could not exit the Harem freely would spend their days doing handicrafts, sports or toiletry.
Qajar Harem Women
At the time of Naser aldin shah Photography entered Iran, and gladly pictures we taken from inside the harems. Which is maybe why, the Qajar era Harem is such a popular topic. The pictures surprise us greatly because the standard of beauty as that time.
In the Qajar times the beauty of a Qajar Harem women was not about facial beauty but how big she was, the bigger the more beautiful. Beauty according to our modern day standards are not based on size and women of all sizes can be beautiful, but based on the pictures and documents all the women in the their harem were very big sized.Once a foreign merchant asked the king of Iran “why are big sized women considered beautiful?” the king replied:
When you go to the butchers, do you buy bones or meat?
Qajar Harem Women were big figured, besides that having a big double chin was especially beautiful. Also connected eye brows was very fashionable; to the extent that the women would draw on their faces to make their eye brows seem connected. In the pictures it also sees like the women have mustaches, which according to some historians was only drawn on their faces as respect to the king’s mustache!
The story of these Harems may entertain us, but in their own time they took their toll on Iran as country. Some historians blame these harems for keeping the kings from their governing duties. At the times when Europe was developing, industrial were starting, Iranian kings were spending their time in Harems!