Nizami Ganjavi Azerbaijani – The Seven Beauties – Haft Paykar

Posted: 16 October 2011 in Nizami Ganjavi

A pre-Islamic story of Persian origin, it was dedicated to the ruler of Maragha, ‘Ala’ Al-Din korp Arslan. It is the story of Bahram V, the Sassanid king, who is born to Yazdegerd after twenty years of childlessness and supplication to Ahura Mazda for a child. The Haft Paykar is a romanticized biography of the Sasanian Persian empire ruler Bahram Gur. His adventurous life had already been treated by Ferdowsi in the Shahnama, to which fact Nezami alludes a number of times. In general, his method is to omit those episodes that the earlier poet had treated, or to touch on them only very briefly, and to concentrate on new material. The poet starts by giving an account of the birth of Bahram Gur and his upbringing in the court of the Arab King No’man and his fabled palace Khwarnaq. Bahram whose upbringing is entrusted to Nom’man becomes a formidable huntsman. While wandering through the fabled palace, he discovers a locked room which contains a depiction of seven princesses; hence the name Haft Paykar (seven beauties). Each of these princesses is from the seven different climes (traditional Zoroastriani-Islamic division of the Earth) and he falls in love with them. His father Yazdegerd I passes away and Bahram returns to Persia to claim his throne from pretenders. After some episodes he is recognized as King and rescues the Persians from a famine. Once the country is stable, the King searches for the seven princesses and wins them as his brides. His architect is ordered to construct seven domes for each of his new brides. The architect tells him that each of the seven climes is ruled by one of the seven planets (classical planetary system of Zoroastrian-Islamic world) and advises him to assure good fortune by adorning each dome with the color that is associated with each clime and planet. Bahram is skeptical but follows the advice of the architect. The princesses take up residence in the splendid pavilions. On each visit, the king visits the princesses on successive days of the week; on Saturday the Indian princess, who is governed by Saturn and so on. The princesses names are Furak (Nurak), the daughter of the Rajah of India, as beautiful as the moon; Yaghma Naz, the daughter of the Khaqan of the Turks; Naz Pari, the daughter of the king of Khwarazm; Nasrin Nush, the daughter of the king of the Slavs; Azarbin (Azareyon), the daughter of the king of Morocco; Humay, the daughter of the Roman Caesar; and Diroste(wholesome), a beautiful Iranian princess from the House of Kay Ka’us. Each princess relates to the king a story matching the mood of her respective color. These seven beautifully constructed, highly sensuous stories occupy about half of the whole poem. While the king is busy with the seven brides, his evil minister seizes power in the realm. Bahram Gur discovers that the affairs of Persia are in disarray, the treasury is empty and the neighboring rulers are posed to invade. He clears his mind first by going hunting. After returning from hunt, he sees a suspended dog from a tree. The owner of the dog, who was shepherd, tells the story of how his faithful watchdog had betrayed his flock to a she-wolf in return for sexual favors. He starts investigating the corrupt minister and from the multitude of complains, he selects seven who tell him the injustice they have suffered. The minister is subsequently put to death and Bahram Gur restores justice and orders the seven pleasure-domes to be converted to fire temples[38] for the pleasure of God. Bahram then goes hunting for the last time but mysteriously disappears. As a pun on words, while trying to hunt the wild ass (gūr) he instead finds his tomb (gūr).
Ritter, in his introduction to the critical edition describes it as: the best and most beautiful epic in New Persian poetry and at the same time . one of the most important poetical creations of the whole of oriental Indo-European literature. The Haft Paykar is considered the poet’s masterpiece. Overall, in this masterpiece, Nezami illustrates the harmony of the universe, the affinity of the sacred and the profane, and the concordance of ancient and Islamic Iran.

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