• Wed / 10 March 2021 / 15:54
  • Category: Culture and Art
  • News Code: 99122015756
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Nizami Ganjavi’s Haft peykar, Nowruz rituals

Nizami Ganjavi’s Haft peykar, Nowruz rituals

Tehran (ISNA) - The poet Nizami Ganjavi (1140–1202) is one of the greats of the Persian literary tradition. He is considered the greatest romantic epic poet in Persian literature, who brought a colloquial and realistic style to the Persian epic.

His fame rests on his great Khamse (The Quintuplet), a pentalogy of poems written in masnavi verse form (rhymed couplets) and it has a total of 30,000 couplets. Inspired by epic poets Ferdowsi and Sanaei, he proved to be the first great poet of Persian literature. The first poem in pentalogy is the didactic poem Makhzan al-asrar (The Treasury of Mysteries), the second romantic epic Khosrow o-Shirin (Khosrow and Shirin). The third is his rendition of a famous story in Islamic folklore, Leyli o- Majnun (Leyli and Majnun). The fourth poem, Haft peykar ("Seven Beauties"), is considered his masterwork. The last poem in his collection is the Sikanar or Eskandar- nameh.

Among his works, The Haft Paykar ("Seven Beauties") is one of the great works of Persian literature.  It is an allegorical romance of great beauty and depth, and its central theme of self-knowledge as the path to human perfection is conveyed in rich and vivid imagery and complex symbolism. It tells the story of the Sassanian ruler Bahram V Gur and of his spiritual progress. He is guided towards wisdom and moral enlightenment by the seven tales of love told to him by his brides, the Princesses of the Seven Climes.

Here, on the eve of the New Year, we have tried to examine the reflection of general and special Nowruz rituals in Nizami Ganjavi’s Haft peykar.

Reflection of general and special Nowruz rituals in Nizami Ganjavi’s Haft peykar

For a long time, the people of Iran used to go to greet the growth of flowers and greenery of trees every year with the awakening of nature in spring. And with a symbolic celebration accompanied by ritual prayers, they praised God in order to help the gods to regenerate plants and bless the earth.

This national celebration, called Nowruz, has gone through many ups and downs since the time of Cyrus the Great, but each time it has shown itself to be more victorious than before. Many writers and poets have left valuable works under the influence of this national-popular celebration, In the meantime, Nizami Ganjavi Haft peykar is a large and unique collection of Iranian culture that has expressed the myths and rituals of Nowruz and related traditions in symbolic language. Nizami has artistically recreated the beliefs, myths and plan of Bahram Gour's marriage with seven princesses and has considered the issue of holy marriage and Nowruz. In the first dome, he depicts the myth of Kavous in a symbolic and allegorical language to remind Siavash and the celebration of Farvardin, and then by bringing symbols and signs of general and special Nowruz in the second and seventh domes, he remembers the Iranian ceremonies and traditions of Nowruz.

There is a lot of evidence of the celebration of the beginning of spring in ancient Babylon. On the day of the beginning of the spring, the king went to Marduk's temple -the god of Babylon- and renewed his power by holding the statue of Marduk in his great temple. This ceremony was so important that after his victory over Babylon, Cyrus introduced his son Cambyses as the king of Mesopotamia in the celebration of Nowruz. This festival, which was common among Iranians since the time of Cyrus the Great, was held in Persepolis during the time of Darius I. Of course, there is no direct reference to the celebration of Nowruz in the surviving inscriptions from the Achaemenid period, but a study of the reliefs of Persepolis suggests that there was an annual celebration in Iran that was associated with the change of seasons. In the Parthian era, there is not much evidence of Nowruz; but the documents of the Sassanid era and the Islamic period indicate the widespread establishment of Nowruz in the Sassanid Empire.

Nowruz continued to exist in the Islamic era despite many obstacles, and many writers and poets, under the influence of this great and ancient religion, created unique works and have talked about the roots and how they originated .For example, Ferdowsi's Shahnameh attributed the longevity of this celebration to Jamshid. Khayyam also introduces the founders of Nowruz as Kiomars and Jamshid with a mythical look. Nizami also referred to the traditions of Nowruz and its roots in Haft peykar in code language. This collection is organized in two parts; the first part includes the life of Bahram Gur and his marriage to seven princesses and the second part, with stories from the language of all seven princesses.

The first part of Haft Peykar focuses on the subject of the relationship between Nowruz and holy marriage, and in the second part, there are references to the celebration of Farvardin, general and specific Nowruz.

Signs of Nowruz in the main story

In the first part, Nizami focuses on the life and death of Bahram V, nicknamed Bahram Gur. Bahram enters a closed room while visiting Khornagh Palace and sees the picture of seven princesses, he marries all seven princesses. Then he decides to build seven beautiful domes with a special design and color.

The order to build the domes is issued on the first day of winter and Bahram leaves the last dome at the same time as Nowruz. It is as if Nizami had a special emphasis on the two holy times of Yalda night, "the night of the birth of the sun" and the day of Nowruz, the celebration of rebirth; holy times that have long been considered by the people of this land in ancient beliefs. In honor of these natural events, they held celebrations and prayers and performed things such as marriage or the New Year during these holy times.

According to the signs and symbols in this section, Bahram's marriage to the princesses probably took place based on ancient beliefs in these holy times; because the atmosphere of the story has a kind of spiritual sanctity rather than worldly. The most important signs and elements in this section, probably related to the rebirth and celebration of Nowruz, are: the time of construction of the domes, the marriage of Bahram with the princesses and the ritual death of Bahram.

 The beginning and end time of the story of the seven domes

In the opening verses, Nezami's story beautifully describes the winter season. The end of the story of Haft Peykar is the beginning of spring and Nezami has described it as "the attribute of spring"; these two points are the main key to deciphering Nezami's Haft Peykar.

The first day of winter "Sun of the day" is the birthday of Mehr and the beginning of the Mithraic New Year, which Nizami has described beautifully. Also, by describing spring and repeating the word Nowruz, he has directly referred to the solar New Year and the celebration of rebirth. It is possible that the emphasis on these two important celebrations and these two holy times of the ancient people, in the story of Haft Peykar, is a clever and purposeful application to depict the biggest national celebration of Iranians, Nowruz.

Relationship between Nowruz (celebration of rebirth) and marriage

During the New Year festival, a wedding ceremony of God and a woman was held, followed by a celebration and a banquet. In this celebration, the gods, the ruler and the people of the city all participated together. On such an auspicious day, many marriages took place; because Greek historians have quoted that Iranians usually marry in the spring equinox.

Nizami portrays Bahram as a god for the ritual play of Nowruz celebration and holy marriage. Undoubtedly, the story of Bahram's death in Nezami's language is a show of the sacrificial rite, the performance of which coincides with the season of rebirth; In fact, just as the construction of Khornagh Palace and the death of Senmar is a plan for the narrative of cosmic creation, Bahram's death also accelerates animal, plant, reproductive and blessed life.

Signs of general and special Nowruz in the first, second and seventh domes:

1-The story of the first dome (Farvardingan celebration)

 It seems that Nezami's main theme of the story of the first dome is a re-creation of the myth of Kavous in a new format and the celebration of Farvardin. Nezami tries to recreate these myths in a lyrical form by using several signs related to the myth of Ki Kavous and Siavash and by combining these two myths so that the story space is reminiscent of Nowruz and its marginal traditions. Signs and related elements are: 1- The temptation of demons, the desire to know and the ascension of the hero; 2- The plot of the demons and the remorse of the hero 3- The layers of the sky.

 2-The story of the second dome (General Nowruz)

 The first day of Farvardin is when the sun comes to the first point of Aries and it reaches the first point of spring. It is said that God Almighty created the world on this day and created Adam (peace be upon him) on this day, so this day is called Nowruz. The theme of his dome is related to the narrations and myths of this day, including: 1- The myth of Jamshid and Nowruz; 2- Battle of Nane Sarma; 3- old woman's bowstring

The coronation of the king in Aries is associated with the myth of Jamshid and Nowruz. Nizami has taken advantage of this nature of Bahram, Mitra and Jamshid and has embodied all three gods in the character of Bahram Gore. By using the title of Nowruzi king, Jamshid, Khorshid and the king’s artistry have created a suitable atmosphere for the design of the myth of Jamshid and the creation of Nowruz.

 One of the popular narratives of the transition from the old to the New Year is the story of Nane Sarma (a mythical character in Iranian folklore). She is the wife of Amu Nowruz, the "Uncle Nowruz".

Nizami has equated the character of the old woman in the court of Bahram with Nane Sarma.

In fact, the king played the song of the battle of light with darkness and cold with heat by expelling the old woman from the palace.

Nizami refers to the old woman's bowstring with the use of appropriate and related signs and words. The old woman's bow is her bent back, which becomes more curved due to the cold and reaches the end of its elongation and peak.

The story of the seventh dome (special Nowruz)

The sixth day of Farvardin, Khordad, is called the great Nowruz or special Nowruz. On this day, Jamshid sat on the throne and performed good rituals and said that God Almighty has created you, you should wash and bathe your body in clean water and prostrate and thank him. Important events happened on this day, Nizami referred to some of these incidents by using code language such as happiness and bathe, New Year courier and so on.


Nowruz celebration, which was influenced by the traditions and rituals of the Iranian plateau and Mesopotamian myths, has evolved from a local celebration to a national celebration over time. Many historical and folk tales refer to the connection between marriage and the rebirth of nature. In classical Persian literature, the approaches are to the relationship between Nowruz and Jamshid. In the meantime, Nizami, using the beliefs related to the rituals and the idea of regeneration and renaissance, and with the help of his sharp and creative mind, has referred to the traditions and customs before Nowruz, general and special Nowruz. The first part reminds the story of the relationship between marriage and Nowruz, and the second part refers to the beliefs and traditions of Nowruz by bringing signs and symbols from the Farvardingan celebration and traditions related to the national Nowruz celebration. With the view of a culturologist, Nizami has included many pre-Islamic rituals, beliefs, narrations and myths in this unique collection with the language of code and allegory.


Kamran Talattof, Jerome W. Clinton, Introduction: Nizami Ganjavi and His Poetry

The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica, Nizami, Persian-language poet

 Dr. Julie S. Meisami, English translation of “Haft Paykar ("Seven Beauties") a Persian Romance”, Oxford University

Fozuneh Davani, Mohammad Fesharaki and Mahboubeh Khorasani, Analysis of the reflection of general and special Nowruz rituals in Nizami’s seven domes, University of Isfahan

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