ŞAHMARAN: The Urban Legend of Turkey

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Şahmaran’s legend is a cultural element that is widely known in Anatolia, especially in Tarsus, in southern and southeastern Anatolia, and is a cultural asset, with its paintings in the hope of bringing good luck and blessings to the houses.

Shahmaran, a Persian word, means “Shah of the serpents” (Shah = king, sultan, mar = snake, maran = snakes). According to the legend, Shahmaran is a creature whose head is a beautiful woman, the bottom is a snake, and lives in the land of the snakes under the earth. With a few different variations, the basic narrative is:

Once upon a time in Tarsus there is a poor young man named Camasb (Yada Jamsab) who lived in the woods. When Camasb and his friends go to the odd day, they discover a cave with a well with honey inside. They lower Camasb to the well. He also sends the girl to the top friends. The friends themselves, who are defeated in their ambitions, share themselves and leave Camasb alone in the well. A helpless hole is seen in the wall of Camasb’s well, and it reaches a secret lane by expanding this hole with its peg.

This passage takes him to the land of the snakes underground. This is a very beautiful place where syrupy waters flow. There are a thousand snake circles around. In the middle of all of them are the milk-white color which is the reign of these snakes, and there is Sahmaran, which is a serpent-shaped female body. Şahmaran loves this man very much. According to a custom, he falls in love with him. Camasb lives in this beautiful underground garden with Şahmaran and snakes for a while (this time varies according to variants). Shahmaran teaches him all he knows about medicines and medicinal herbs. But the young man missed his family and earth. Sahmaran can not withstand his insistence at the end. She warns him not to talk about herself. Time passes by. The young man keeps this secret for a long time. One day the king of Tarsus becomes ill and the treatment of this relentless disease will pass through the Shahmaran flesh. In a way it turns out that Camasb knows where Shahmaran is. Şahmaran caught in her cave and brought to Tarsus. She has been killed in the bath called Şahmaran Hamam. The king who eats his flesh heals. Camasb, who has betrayed Şahmaran’s love in a way, continues to find himself in trouble as a famous physician.

The Şahmaran legend, which carries traces of thousands of years of eastern culture from the Sumerians ‘Gilgamesh Epic to Hittites’ Dragon Elluyanka, is lived as a motif that Anatolian people love and paint their walls with their paintings and even use in their dowry processes. In addition, although the numbers have been greatly reduced, they are still being used as a sub-glass painting technique in our traditional handicrafts, especially in Tarsus.​