Tombs of Esther & Mordekhai
This resting place of two biblical figures, Esther and Mordekhai (Mordecai), has been considered a holy place for Jews since thousands of years ago. It is recorded that 50,000 Jews were living in Hamadan when Esther and Mordecai were buried there. This shrine has been one of the reasons for the inhabitation of Jews in Hamadan, and it is still a pilgrimage for them. At the end of each year, Jewish pilgrims come to this mausoleum to celebrate the feast of Purim (14th of Adar). The main purpose of this feast is to commemorate the day when their Jewish ancestors were rescued from a horrible massacre by Esther and her uncle, Mordecai.
Esther was a Jew who became the queen of Iran in the court of Xerxes. The original name of Esther (meaning star) was Hadse. She was named so because of her unparalleled beauty, equaling that of a star. Esther’s uncle was a warden in the Achaemenid court in Susa. Xerxes’s minister, Haman, planned a sinister plot to massacre the Jews but Mordecai got informed before the execution of this plan. So, he stopped this conspiracy using his niece’s influence in the court of Xerxes. From that time, Esther and Mordecai have become iconic saviors for Jews and their story is depicted in details in the Old Testament.
The current building of their mausoleum has a simple and humble structure mainly constructed of stone and brick. The structure is oriented toward the east (Jerusalem) and dates back to the 13th century. Entering through the low opening, you will step into the first room with a low ceiling. The interior walls are inscribed in Hebrew, bearing the names of those who had visited the mausoleum. The plasterwork on top of the walls is among the striking features of the building. The inscriptions on the wall give an account of the ancestors of Esther and Mordecai. A few steps down, you will enter the oldest part of the building (according to Ernst Herzfeld). This is the main hall of the mausoleum containing a 12-meter-high dome chamber that holds two coffins made of oak. The southern tomb is attributed to Esther, which is older, and the other one to Mordecai. The coffin is inscribed with passages from the Esther Book and the names of physicians who commissioned the restorations of the mausoleum in 1309 AD. The tombs are covered with fabrics donated to the mausoleum by believers who have wished for the realization of an intention through this giving away. The flanking room on the right side of the dome chamber is filled with chairs and used for praying.