(persia digest) - You must have also encountered love. Is it possible to be human and not fall in love? This may perhaps be the most enjoyable experience in life. Love is both the pain and the cure, sweet and bitter, promising and devastating; love involves all of these, but love is not only these. It cannot be defined and interpreted in words. However, we are going to explain the story of love in Iran.
Tehran’s symbol of love
Her name was Yaghut [Ruby], but everyone knew her as the woman in red. Wearing red clothes, red shoes, red socks, and carrying a red bag, she went to Ferdowsi Square in Tehran every day for thirty years and waited there in silence. People believe she fell in love with a young man and made a date to see him, but he never turned up; and this wandering lover waited for him in the same spot every day for years. Yaghut has not been seen for 35 years now. Be that as it may, Tehran never forgot her. To commemorate her, many women wearing red gathered together in a street performance named “The woman in red” in Ferdowsi Square. She has become the symbol of love in Tehran.
Love has always held a special place for Iranians and is highly honored; although, it continues to exist in a different way in contemporary Iran. The girls’ paragons of love were men’s zeal, bravery, and honesty in the past, whilst money talks today. The girls’ modesty, chastity, and kindness were important for men in the past, but now, a girl’s beauty plays a far bigger role when men fall in love. Dr Asghar Keyhannia, a psychologist in Tehran, believes: “As people continued to live with their parents in “extended families” after marriage, and their homes and jobs were also provided by their parents, material possessions were not an important factor when choosing an individual to wed. However, people are now living in “nuclear” families and should provide housing and jobs for themselves, and thus, the effects of money and material things on emotional issues have been highlighted to the extent that Erich Fromm believes that “money can create love.” Nevertheless, it appears that there are still those who care about past paragons.
Another difference is the numerous experiences of falling in love. People in the past might have fallen in love only once in their lifetime, whereas, the frequency with which people fall in and out of love has visibly risen in Iran. Many boys and girls experience loves and separations several times since adolescence, although it can hardly be claimed that they really fall in love. On this, Keyhannia commented to Persia Digest: “Currently, love has three main characteristics: 1) The need for a mate, 2) The need for approval, and 3) The need for sexual relations. Love, therefore, exists in these three senses in Iran.” To the question of why individuals have multiple love experiences in today’s society, he answered: “Some side effects of globalization, such as the negative aspects of social networks, satellite networks, and serials promoting betrayal and love triangles have broken the taboos of betrayal and diversity-seeking. Along with an increasing number of upstarts and women more oriented towards consumerism, people also experience multiple loves.” It appears, however, that love of any quality and entity is still a pleasing experience for the Iranian youth.
Of course, Iran’s youth faces limitations in expressing love. Although Islam highly honors love and affection, it permits it only in formal legitimate relations between husband and wife. Given that Islam is the formal religion of Iran, free relations between boys and girls in public are illegal. Therefore, the young cannot express their love in public or have sexual relations before marriage as in the West.
Keyhannia believes that such limitations have negative effects. The psychologist explained to Persia Digest: “Relations between boys and girls in Iran are considered a taboo that has led to an unhealthy attraction to the opposite sex; a negative resistance has taken shape due to the suppression of this attraction. Hence, these are not based on reasonable norms . They are more emotional or sexual, rather than rational.”
Despite all the constraints, the atmosphere in Iran, especially in Tehran, has been opening up in recent years and the youth can take pleasure in their love stories. Sometimes, young men and women can be seen kissing each other in the parks and cafes of Tehran. One of these romantic parks is Jamshidiyeh in northern Tehran - a popular place for walks in Tehran with its cobbled pathways. The Water and Fire Park, which connects to Taleghani Park with the beautiful, award winning Tabi’at [Nature] Bridge, which is a two-story footbridge, is also another romantic hangout of Tehran’s youth. The Iranian Art Museum Garden, Cinema Museum Garden, Mellat Park, and several historic and stylish modern cafes are other hangouts for romantic dates in Tehran today. As in the West, Iranian youngsters also celebrate Valentine’s Day on 14 February and exchange gifts. Ancient Persians had their own day for love, which had mostly remained obscure until recently due to a lack of promotion by the government and media.
Love in ancient Persia
Arians of ancient Persia had a day dedicated to love called Sepandārmazgān . This day coincides with 24 February in the Zoroastrian calendar and 18 February in the modern Iranian calendar, in which each of the first six months has 31 days. Sepandārmaz is a national term for earth and means spreader, holy, and humble. The earth is the symbol of love because of its unconditional love for everyone. That is why “Sepandārmaz ” was considered the symbol of love and holy devotion in ancient Persia. The suffix “gān” means “celebration,” and thus, “Sepandārmazgān ” means the celebration of the day of women and earth.
Sepandārmazgān was a day for honoring women. On this day, men placed women and girls on a pedestal, offered them gifts, and obeyed them. It was also called the day of mard-guiran [choosing a man] on which women could choose the man of their life of their own free will.
In Iranian beliefs, men enjoy higher virility, thinking ability, and wisdom than women do, and in return, women show more love, chastity, and devotion than men do. Neither one can be successful alone, and can even change the dynamic world into static. Therefore, a man and a woman make sense when they are together, and none of them can reach prosperity singly.
Sepandārmazgān also reminded women of piety and their love for their husbands, as Sepandārmaz was the guardian of the earth and pious women who loved their husbands. Ergo, a mutual understanding grew between men and women on Sepandārmazgān day.
Given that the word “love” in Iranian culture is associated with loyalty and love for the spouse, and women are the symbol of love, Sepandārmazgān reminds us of a pure love based on mutual understanding.
Love in Persian literature
Love has a very high position in Persian poetry and literature. Many Iranian poets and litterateurs have described and praised love throughout their lives. Poets, such as Sa’di and Hafez, composed romantic verses with global reputations. In classical Persian literature, a woman’s pure love (Bijan and Manijeh, and Goshtasb and Katayoun) is shown versus a woman’s impure love (Siavash and Soudabeh), and a man’s pure love (Leili and Majnoun) is stated versus a man’s impure love (Khosro and Shirin). Traditional love (Zal and Rudabeh) is also narrated against forbidden love (Vis and Ramin), and stories of blind love (Vamegh and Ozra).
One of the best-known Persian love stories that turned into a symbol of love in Iranian lore is the story of Khosro and Shirin. The Khosro and Shirin epopee is a romantic verse of the great 12th-century Persian poet, Nezami Ganjavi. It is the story of the love of Khosro-Parviz, the great Sassanid King, for Shirin, an Armenian princess. The story has also been mentioned by other poets, such as Ferdowsi in his epopee, and there are various versions also titled “Shirin and Farhad.” This epic poem has 6150 couplets and it took Nezami sixteen years to compose (1175-1191 CE). In Khosro and Shirin, Nezami Ganjavi describes Persia’s ancient glory, the high value given to women and marriage, and the importance of religious leaders, sages, and artists. The moral and human principles of ancient Persia and the supreme role of human thought and dignity at that time have been shown in the story.
Leili and Majnoun is another 4700-couplet epic by Nezami adopted from an Arabic legend. It is about a young boy and girl falling in love in their madrasa. Their love is unfulfilled and thus becomes the symbol of such a love. Leili and Majnoun has been translated into different languages, including German, French, English, Russian, and Armenian.
Love is stronger than time
In 1972, the skeletons of a couple dating back to 800 BCE were discovered in Hassanlou, Iran. They were hugging each other tightly, as if they had been kissing just before their death. The skeletons were exhibited at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in 1974 and became known as the Hassanlou lovers and the 2800-year kiss.
Renowned Iranian lovers
Of well-known Iranian lovers whose love story traveled beyond time and space to gain national or even international fame, one can name Amirarsalan-e Namdar and Farrokh-Lagha, Bahram and Golandam, Bijan and Manijeh, Khosro and Shirin, Rostam and Tahmineh, Vis and Ramin, and so on.
Romantic Iranian music
Iranian music is intertwined with love. It has been described as melancholic by some musicians as compared to Western music. The instrumentalists of ancient Persia include Barbad, Nakisa, and Ramtin, and contemporary vocalists include Abolhassan Saba, Gholamhossein Banan, Mohammad-Reza Shajarian, Hossein Alizadeh, and Kayhan Kalhor, to name but a few.
Love is the jewel in the crown of Persian art. Painters often chose and painted specific scenes from stories, where the selection and illustration of the scenes were inspired by the whole story. There is a close rapport between Iranian paintings and poetry. The use of romantic subjects has influenced the composition, spacing, and coloring of paintings; rhythms have been reproduced in romantic paintings similar to those in their literary content.
The same style of paintings seen in pre-Islamic murals was replicated by Iranian artists of the Middle Ages and most probably transferred onto paper at the same time. For this reason, Iranian researchers avoid using the word miniature and prefer to use the word painting that implies not the dimensions but the style of the works. The paintings, compiled as albums and manuscripts, were prepared to the taste of courtiers to praise the Kings or to be presented as gifts to the kings and princes of neighboring countries.
Besides colorful themes, simple appearances, and intricate details that have been painted very accurately and elegantly, a feature of Iranian paintings is the undeniable similarity between male and female figures, implying the impact of the Persian language which is genderless, and also the poems associated with the paintings.
Two scenes always seen in Iranian paintings include wine drinking (wine cups and jars are seen on the ground even if not used by the characters in the paintings) and romantic scenes, such as lovers hugging or looking at each other tenderly. Today, painting love in Iran is accompanied by innovations, such as the artist who painted the story of Khosro and Shirin on a manteau (the Islamic wear of Iranian women).
Love in contemporary Iranian literature
A number of contemporary Iranian poets and authors who have written romantic novels or poems include Sohrab Sepehri, Ahmad Shamlou, Nader Ebrahimi, and Fattaneh Haj Seyed Javadi.
Symbol of love in ancient Persia
In Iranian culture, the apple is associated with Sepandārmaz. Interestingly, apples are somewhat similar to the human heart that is currently the symbol of love globally.
Love in Iranian cinema
Like Persian poetry and literature, the Iranian cinema has produced important works of the romantic genre. Some of these significant works are Hamoun by Dariush Mehrjuyi (1989), Leila by Dariush Mehrjuyi (1996), Red by Feredoun Jeyrani (1998), White Nights by Farzad Motamen (2003), and The Girl in the Sneakers by Rasul Sadr Ameli’s (1999).
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