Dr. Behrang Nabavi Nejad: The Simurgh

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SFU Harbour Centre

515 West Hastings Street

Earl & Jennie Lohn Policy Room (7000)

Vancouver, BC V6B5K3

Canada

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Dr. Behrang Nabavi Nejad examines the Simurgh, the mythical bird of ancient Persia, in four illustrated royal manuscripts of the Shāhnāma.

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The Simurgh: Representations and Meanings in Four Royal Manuscripts of the Shāhnāma

The fantastic Simurgh, the mythical bird of ancient Persia, has maintained a significant presence in Persian culture. The visual and textual references to this bird manifest a mysterious and complex symbolism shaped around this super-natural creature in Persian literary sources. The Simurgh evolves from a myth, to the symbol of royalty, to the guardian of Persian kingdom, and finally to represent the Divine. This promotion and transformation are facilitated through the idea of divine protection and kingship inherited from ancient Persia, transforming the representations of the Simurgh into powerful images. The intertextual analysis of the Avestan and Pahlavi references to the Simurgh, and their comparison with the characteristics of the Simurgh in the Shāhnāma, has allowed me to trace the amalgamation of these sources in the Persian national epics. Through a process of literary creativity, Firdausi combines the characteristics of the two mythical birds, Saēna and Vāreghna, to shape the Simurgh in the Shāhnāma. In the light of these sources, the representations of the Simurgh are contextualized in this study. Through a close examination of the representations of the fantastic bird in the illustrative program of four royal manuscripts of the Shāhnāma, I argue for an ideologically charged nature for the representations of this bird in these manuscripts. These manuscripts comprise those produced for the Timurid prince, Muhammad Juki (1444-45), and the three Safavid kings, including Shah Tahmasp (1522-35), Shah Ismaʿil II (1576-77), and Shah ʿAbbas I (1587-97). Thus, I suggest that the presence of the royal, divine, and Iranian glory (farr-i īzadī, farr-i Īrānī), sought for by both rulers and individuals (in this case, the artists of the paintings discussed) in the Persian system of though, charges the representations of the Simurgh in these illustrated manuscripts of the Shāhnāma produced between the fourteenth and the seventeenth centuries.

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SFU Harbour Centre

515 West Hastings Street

Earl & Jennie Lohn Policy Room (7000)

Vancouver, BC V6B5K3

Canada

View Map

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