Sekandar Sees the Speaking Tree

Sekandar Sees the Speaking Tree

The desert road led to a city, and Sekandar was relieved when he heard human voices there. The whole area was one of gardens and fine buildings and was a place to delight any man. The city’s noblemen welcomed him, calling out greetings and showering him with gold and jewels. “It is wonderful that you have come to visit us,” they said. “No army has ever entered this town, and no one in it has ever heard the name of ‘king.’ Now that you have come our souls are yours, and may you live with bodily health and spiritual serenity.” Sekandar was pleased by their welcome and rested from the journey across the desert. He said to them, “What is there here that’s astonishing, that should be inquired into?” A guide said to him, “Victorious king, there is a marvel here, a tree that has two separate trunks together, one of which is female and the other male, and these splendid tree limbs can speak. At night the female trunk becomes sweet smelling and speaks, and when the daylight comes, the male speaks.” Sekandar and his Greek cavalry, with the nobles of the town gathered around, listened and said, “When is it you say that the tree speaks in a loud voice?” The translator replied, “A little after day has disappeared one of the trunks begins to speak, and a lucky man will hear its voice; in the dark night the female speaks, and its leaves then smell like musk.”

Sekandar answered, “When we go beyond the tree, what wonders are there on the other side?” The reply was, “When you pass the tree there is little argument about which way to take, as there is no place beyond there; guides say it is the world’s end. A dark desert lies ahead of you, but no man is so weary of his own soul as to go there. None of us have ever seen or heard that there are any animals there, or that birds fly there.” Sekandar and his troops went forward, and when they came near the speaking tree the ground throbbed with heat and the soil there was covered with the pelts of wild beasts. He asked his guide what the pelts were, and who it was that had skinned so many animals in this way. The man answered, “The tree has many worshippers, and when they come here to worship, they feed on the flesh of wild animals.”

When the sun reached its zenith Sekandar heard a voice above him, coming from the leaves of the tree; it was a voice to strike terror and foreboding in a man. He was afraid and said to the interpreter, “You are wise and mean well, tell me what the leaves are saying, which makes my heart dissolve within me.” “O king, favored by fortune, the leaves say, ‘However much Sekandar wanders in the world, he has already seen his share of blessings: when he has reigned for fourteen years, he must quit the royal throne.’” At the guide’s words Sekandar’s heart filled with pain, and he wept bitterly. He was sad and silent then, speaking to no one, until midnight. Then the leaves of the other trunk began to speak, and Sekandar again asked the interpreter what they said. He replied, “The female tree says, ‘Do not puff yourself up with greed; why torment your soul in this way? Greed makes you wander the wide world, harass mankind, and kill kings. But you are not long for this earth now; do not darken and deaden your days like this.’” Then the king said to the interpreter, “Pure of heart and noble as you are, ask them one question: Will this fateful day come in Greece; will my mother see me alive again, before someone covers my face in death?”

The speaking tree replied, “Few days remain; You must prepare your final baggage train. Neither your mother, nor your family, Nor the veiled women of your land will see / Your face again. Death will come soon: you’ll die / In a strange land, with strangers standing by. The stars and crown and throne and worldly glory / Are sated with Sekandar and his story.”

Are sated with Sekandar and his story.” Sekandar left the tree, his heart wounded as if by a sword. When he returned to his camp, his chieftains went into the town to collect the gifts from the town’s nobility. Among these was a cuirass that shone like the waters of the Nile and was as huge as an elephant skin: it had two long tusks attached to it and was so heavy it was hard to lift. There was other armor, as well as fine brocade, a hundred golden eggs each weighing sixty man, and a rhinoceros made of gold and jewels. Sekandar accepted the gifts and led off his army, weeping bitter tears as he went.

Continue Reading

Pard-e Khane by Bahram Beyzai

Pard-e Khane

Pard-e Khane by Bahram Beyzai is a play about the miserable life of Sultan’s wives in harem who plot to assassinate him. At the royal playhouse inside the heavily guarded royal harem, a number of women, also wives of Sultan, are responsible for entertaining the sultan with play-acting. They are prisoners who know different art and above all art of acting.

Pard-e Khane Bahram Beyzai
Pard-e Khane in Sultan’s Harem

Pard-e Khane: The deaf, the dumb and the blind

Pard-e Khane begins with a story of arresting three men at night in a bazaar. Happy to capture the thieves, sheriff surprises to find them disabled; a deaf, a blind and a dumb. After telling what miseries they have endured, the sheriff asks for the godless wrongdoer. The blind replies,

The killer you are seeking is, Less than a God, but above the people; A head upper than the heads and a master of masters; His power is from gold and his gold from power; He who destroyed our village brick by brick; His simple brick layers are now under the brick.

Sheriff says that “these words are only fit for the conqueror of the epoch, whom I am his lest servant”. It is better no to let him, Sultan, to hear these bunch of lies. All of a sudden a curtain is drawn and the head of eunuch, Sandal, with is heavy large stick appears and asks to stop the play.  

Sadgis is Leaving Pard-e Khane

Sandal breaks the news that, Sadgis should wrap of her stuff for she is swapped with a fourteen-year-old girl, Nosal, of Sultan’s former enemy and today’s friend. Upon hearing the news, her health begins deteriorating and as a result she passes out. In the meantime, Sandal also reveals that three men breach into the Sultan palace with the intention of murdering him. They are about to be killed. The wives insist on killing them instead of the eunuchs from the sultan and sultan agrees.

Nosal and Rika Jan

Nosal, the soon-be-bride of the sultan appears pale, agitated and scared. She quickly recognizes the three men; his father, brother and fiancé, Rika Jan. In an improvised act, she picks up the dagger and plunges it into Rika Jan’s heart so he could not see her misery. They are buried outside in the yard. Later on Goltan washes her body and soul from the illness and the haunting dream of her fiancé’s death.

Bahram Beyzai plays
Nosal in white dress in Goltan’s arms

Sultan’s Secret Letter and Assassination Plot

Goltan gather pard-e Khane members to tell them a bitter truth. In a royal sealed letter, the sultan commands to kill all the wives provided that he loses the battle and killed. Stunned to hear that, the members of Pard-e Khane decide to hatch an assassination plot against sultan. The plot is this: since the new bride does not undergo a body search upon her wedding night, Nosal could carry a dagger beneath her cloth and kill the sultan as he killed his fiancé. All agree to swear upon it except Nosal. She is too frightened to murder the sultan.    

Death of Sogol, Kafor and Shadi  

The eyes of sultan inform that a stranger from outside has entered the harem. He finds his way inside in disguise; wearing woman’s cloth. As Sandal was describing the punishment waiting for the lawbreaker, Kafor the eunuch grows pale and Sogol passes out. The former is beheaded and later is killed. Sultan sends a Narenj, bitter orange, to Shadi as a sign of call up to sultan’s chamber. She refuses to go because of her monthly menstruation. However, Sandal proves it wrong as he writes down the date. Sultan orders to put her in a fire and demands that women wash themselves in the water heated by the burning of the body of her. No one did it but Goltan.

Last act: Conquering Sultan

The sultan asks the member of Pard-e Khane to play the conquering act of Sultan up on a wedding night within fourteen days. However, he changes his mind and one night appears in harem and demands the play. Goltan demands real sword, spear and archer to enhance the believability of the play and sultan agrees. She further asks the sultan to participate in a play by pretending to die to see the real and unreal servants. The king accepts and the women stab him one by one. After revealing the Sultan’s letter to all, Goltan urges the harem members to spread the word that the Sultan dies of natural death. They are free to leave the harem. “Beyond these wall is a road, even in darkness.

Pard-e Khane Playhouse Members

Goltan: formerly known as Bidokht (Daughter of God) is an orphan whose mother died in Harem when she was only five. Although, Goltan is the chief trainer of royal wives, she has never seen anything beyond the walls. She is the master of musical instruments, calligraphy, dancing, polo, archery, poetry and astrology. She has a four-year-old kid who she has never seen. Sultan names her Goltan (To have a body like flower).

Pard-e Khane - Persian play

Nosal: is called Ghazal. She is fourteen-year-old girl whom the enemy of the Sultan, Ghanom Khan, bestows to Sultan as a peace offering. She kills his beloved, Rika Jan, with a dagger. Since she is young and new, she is named Nosal.  

Sadgis: formerly known as Gisou Khanoum (A lady with longhair) sent to the Sultan’s ex-enemy as a peace gift. She was the wife of a castle keeper in borderline. Sultan sent her husband into a war. In the middle of battle, sultan sent a letter to either step down from your position or divorce your wife. He chooses to keep his position.

Reyhan: formerly known as Taban Khanoum (Shinning lady) was a princess. The sultan attacked their castle and took her a present.

Nargol: formerly known as Golnar (Flower of fire) was a Zoroastrian who was given by mobeds to Sultan to stop harassing and killing them. The Sultan inverse her name from Golnar to Nargol.   

Loli: formerly known as Tavous (Peacock) was taken to harem by accident. While she was stealthily peeking at the sultan’s army over the wall, she was noticed by the guard. They took her to marry the Sultan. Once she felt blue, she began to sing. So, the sultan named her Loli, singer.

Asal: formerly known as Kheir Banoo (Blessing Lady), she was married and had a kid. While they were guest in a village, some guards approached and asked his husband who has enjoyed the prima nocta, droit du seigneur. They took her as a wife to the sultan. Her nuptial night sweetened the sultan, so she was named Asal, sweet honey.  

Tatar Khanoum: formerly known as Yakhma Khanoum confessed that she herself wanted to be sultan’s wife. She told herself that the musketeers of Circassian would sell me one day, so it was better to live where there are foods and blessing. In order to do so, he tricked the guards by showing herself instead of her sister.

Shadi (literally means happiness): formerly known as Chagal Banoo (Beautiful Lady) was deceived by an old haggard. An old lady appeared on her door and praised her beauty. She was supposed to marry to a Pahlavan. But, she was wrong. The man, the doorman of the sultan’s palace, sold her for a piece of fabric. Thanks to Sultan’s happiness, she was named Shadi.  

Ilnaz: formerly known as Khonbas Khanoum (Bloodshed stopper) was a woman who stopped the bloodshed between the nomadic tribes. The nomadic tribes rebel against the Sultan, but they failed. His bother, the chief of the tribe gave her as a present to stop the war. He named her Ilnaz, beauty of tribe.  

Sanam: formerly known as Tondar Khanoum (Tornado Lady) was a Christian princess who was taken as a hostage to stop Georgians from attacking the sultan kingdom. She knew how to use sword and horse. She was agile and sportive. Now, the fire of her heart is gone out, so she turned into a statue, an idol.

Pard-e Khane Play Review

Pard-e Khane, like most works of Bahram Beyzai, centers around women and their miserable position in male-centered society of Iran. They play according to the given role.  In here, women are not only victim of oppressive power of Sultan, but also prisoners of a theater play. Interior world of Pard-e Khane is a world where women are just passing players from one show to another, or from one harem to another one. In fact, the acting and playing never ends. Pard-e Khane, in Foucauldian discourse, is a panopticon where wives are constantly watched and controlled by eunuchs in order not to think about the outside world let alone to escape. However, this very act of playing could be used as a useful tool shifting power. This is what Bidokht did successfully. The liberation of women, in this play, is achieved through the art, the art of acting. Through acting, an unreal representation of real world, the wives kill the “Less than a God, but above the people” to liberate themselves from the panopticon-like harem to enter the real world outside.

Continue Reading

Gojastak Abalish

Gojastak Abalish

Gojastak Abalish or Gizistag Abalis is an apologetic treatise between Adurfarnbag, a Zoroastrian and a heretical Zandiq, Abalish. Abalis puts seven questions to Adurfarnbag about Zoroastrian doctrine which he answered truthfully and satisfactorily. Each answer puts a gentle smile on the face of Islamic ruler, Al-Ma’mun, who was an ardent supporter of science and knowledge.

Who is Abalish?

The eponymous antagonist of the text is Abolish or Abalis, a dweller in Istakhr, Fars Province. The name, according to scholars, is not Persian. However, as the title says, he is “accursed” or Gojastak. Gojastak, has previously used for Ahriman or evil and Alexander, The Great. The latter is called Gojastak because he burnt holy books of Zoroastrianism when attacking Persian in 330 B.C.

Gojastak Abalish
Persepolis On Fire by Peter Connolly

One day Abalish, formerly a follower of Mazdeism, stepped into a fire temple in Istkahr in order to practice Baj or Waj, whispering prayer before and after a meal. But, he was wan not treated respectably and forced to leave the holy place. Feeling humiliated, he traveled to Baghdad to ask the Caliph for judgment. 

Who is Adurfarnbag?

On the other hand, Adurfarnbag or Azarfarnabag is the protagonist; defender of Zoroastrianism. Adurfarnbag, the son of Farroxzadan or Farrokzadan, is the first author of Zoroastrian compilation, the Dēnkard, Encyclopedia of Mazdaism. He is remembered and praised as leader of Mazdaism in 9th century because of his thorough knowledge of theology and religion in books such as Shkand-gumanig Vizar, Dadestan-i Denig, Zand-i Vohuman Yasht and Shayest Na-Shayest.

Gojastak Abalish Debate Topic

Like other Pahlavi texts, Gizistag Abalis’s topic is related to religion. Abalish targets some of the pillars of Zoroastrian beliefs such as dualism and its implications (Fire and Water, Punishment and reward); reason to worship fire which is weak in essence and needs care and ritual and custom (use of cattle urine, gomez, for ritual purification and use of the sacred girdle (kustig).

Initiation ceremony (navjote) showing the adoption of the white undervest (sudreh) and the chord (kusti)

Dispute in the Caliph’s Court

The debate between Azarfarnabag and Abolish took place in court of Al-Ma’mun (786 –833). Probably the time of debate goes back to late period of his reign, after the death of his astute Persian Vizir, Al-Fadl ibn Sahl in Sarakhs, 818. The reason is that before this period he was busy quelling civil unrest in Islamic land. According to the text, the debate took place before Al-Ma’mun and other religious leaders; Islamic, Christian and Jewish.

Other Versions of Story

Talking about the history is a tricky thing. While scholars agreed upon the event of Gojastak Abalish, Abol Ma’li, a theologian in 11th century, narrates a similar debate story where Islamic Jurists convinced the heresy of the Zoroastrian. As a result, Al-Ma’mun issued the order to kill him.

Gojastak Abalish
Al-Ma’mun and his Persian Vizir, Al-Fadl ibn Sahl in Velayat-e Eshgh TV Series (2000)

Al-Ma’mun’s enthusiasm for religious debate was also cited by the great Arab Historian, Al-Masudi, in Meadows of Gold and Mines of Gems. Knowing the fact that the dominant discourse of then was Islamic, it was not surprising and almost probable that the account has undergone radical alteration. One of the most famous debate in Shiite world has happened between the eighth Imam of Twelver Shiites, Imam Reza and other religious leaders. The story was narrated by Ibn Babawayh, the most important Shiite scholar in 10th century. In his account, Imam Reza debates with high ranking leaders of Exilarch, Catholicos, Sabians, followers of Zabuur and arch-mobed of Zoroastrianism and wins. We are not sure,but this version could be the Islamized version of Gojastak Abalish.

Gojastak Abalish Translations

Gojastak Abalish was originally written in Pahlavi, middle Persian language.  Homi F. Chacha, an Indian Parsee translated the book into English with the title of “Gajastak Abâlish” in 1936. In addition, Prods Oktor Skjaervo also translated the book into English.

Continue Reading

Arda Viraf Book

Book of Arda Viraf

Arda Viraf is a dream journey of Zoroastrian religious man into Heaven and Hell in Sassanid Era. Arda Viraf is father of spiritual journey in the world.

Who is Arda Viraf?

The antagonist of the book is called Arda Viraf whose name is open to debate. The first part of his name “Arda” has otherworldly connotation, however some defines it “trustful or righteous”. The same thing goes for the second part, too. On the one hand, some believe that his name is Arda Wiraz as once mentioned in Avesta; and on the other hand, some say his name is Viraz according to Pazand and Sanskrit language. To make it more complex, the anonymous writer introduces him as Veh Shabur with seven sisters/ wives who is among the top ranking Mobeds (Zoroastrian religious men is called Mobed). That’s all said in the text. There is no historical record of such a man in ancient Persian history. It might partly disappeared because of many rewriting and altering after the fall of Sassanid Empire.

Mobed in Chak Chak
Two Mobeds in Chak Chak, Yazd

Author and Time of Writing

Arda Viraf is written by an anonymous author. The date of writing the text is unsettled. But, historical names in the book cause the scholars to estimate the date of the writing the book to Sassanid Empire (224 to 651). The author begins his book with introducing Zartosht, Zoroaster, and 300 years of purity and faith toward Zoroastrianism. Then the evil-doer Alexander, the Roman, invaded Persian (330 BC) and burnt the holy books of Avesta and Zand, written on cow-skins with gold ink safe kept in Stakhar Papakan (Cube of Zoroaster).

Cube of Zoroaster Shiraz

Cube of Zoroaster, Naqsh-e Rostam

Alexander’s death brought confusion to Iranshahr and “religions of many kinds, and different fashions of belief, and skepticism, and various codes of law were promulgated in the world”. According to late books written on Persian History, we now know that this “confusion” period refer to Parthian Empire (247 BC – 224 AD) who was famous for religious tolerance. It was Adurbad Maraspandan, the famous minister of Shapur II (309-379 CE) who brought the glory of Zoroastrianism back to Iran again. Another historical name mentioned in Arda Viraf book is Veh Shapur, the famous Mobed in the time of Khosrow I (531-579 CE). These names enhance the chance fixing the date of writing to Sassanid Era.

Shapur II
Taq Botan Rock-relief -Shapur III and Shapur II

Spiritual Journey

According to this Middle Persian text, Arda Viraf as chosen out of seven other righteous men. He embarks on this journey wholeheartedly despite his wives’ disapproval. After drinking a mixture of wine, mang (Indian Cannabis), and Haoma (Divine plant in Zoroastrianism), his soul went from the body to Chinvat Bridge and come back after seven days and nights. While his soul was roaming around, his seven sisters reciting Avesta sitting on Persian Carpet next to ever-burning Fire. After coming back from afterlife, he asked for food and wine. Then he began telling his vision of heaven and hell.

Vision of Heaven and Hell

Arda Viraf vision of heaven and hell is similar to otherworldly visions of monotheistic religion. In aromatic heaven, he can “taste immortality and pleasure eternally’. The heaven is a home to devotees of Zoroaster and his book. There are three categories of heaven dwellers, Star, Moon and Sun. The author names “Gayomard (Keyumars), Zartosht, Kai-Vishtasp, Frashoshtar, Jamasp, and other well-doers and leaders of the religion” as well.

Paradise in Arda Viraf

The wanderer again walks on Chinvat Bridge to enter hell where a dreadful river runs beneath it. In this part, the author lists the sins and punishments of evil-doers in a grotesque way. Here are some most frequent sins in hell: disrespect to four elements known as Akhshig, adultery, cruelty to animals, False judgement, sorcery, backbiting and telling lies. It is important to note the anti-feminism perspective of author in the book which could be in Abrahamic religion as well.

Arda Viraf Book
Punishment for sinners who didn’t wear Zoroastrian Girdle

Persian Divine Comedy

Dante completed his Divina Commedia (Divine Comedy) in 1320 in Italy. Divine Comedy, one of masterpiece of world literature revolve around the vision of afterlife in Christianity. Dante takes a journey to Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise by help of great ancient Greek poet, Virgil. Dante’s belief in Holy Trinity made him divide the afterlife world into three section; while duality in Zoroastrianism made Arda Viraf see the afterlife in two sections; heaven and hell. Both books represent the established religion of their given time by the religious authorities; Mobed Mobadan in Zoroastrianism and Pope in Christianity.

Dante's Inferno Gustave Doré
Dante’s Inferno by Gustave Doré

One can say that Arda Viraf is a forerunner of spiritual journey to after world in world literature which Divine Comedy is the par excellence. 

Arda Viraf and Mi’raj

Arda Viraf Journey and Mi’raj journey by Islamic Prophet Muhammad share certain similarities. First, both travelers are introduced as chosen person and prophet in holy texts. Muhammad, like Arda Viraf, goes on night journey, both physical and spiritual, on the back of a white winged beastlike horse called Buraq to heaven. His journey to heaven is called Mi’raj, literally means “ascending”.

Ascent of Muhammad to Heaven from the Khamseh of Nizami

Muhammad is accompanied by Archangel Gabriel, while Arda Viraf has two companies; Sraosha or Srosh the pious and Adar the angel. Muhammad meets Adam, Abraham, Noah, Moses and Jesus in his journey, however, the Zoroastrian messenger never meet Zoroaster. In both of these divine voyage, the visitors narrate their vision of heaven and hell to confirm the common belief of afterlife. Whereas the Zoroastrian version was marginalized throughout the history, the Islamic account of night journey, nearly 400 years after Arda Viraf, were praised lavishly in literature and painting, particularly Persian Miniature. The shining example of Mi’raj illustration is in Khamseh of Nizami in 16th century.

Adaptation: Ardaviraf Report

Arda Viraf Report is a play by Bahram Beyzai. In his adaption, Arda Viraf meets the pantheon of characters from Persian history and mythology.

Continue Reading

Senmar Sacrificing Session by Bahram Beyzai

Senmar Sacrificing Session, written by Bahram Beyzai in 1998, is a play narrating the tragic story of Persian- Roman architect who built Khawarnaq.

Building Khowarnaq by Kamal ud din Behzad
Building Khowarnaq by Kamal ud din Behzad, kept in British Museum, London

The play starts with some black-worn men bumping into a corpse. They surprisingly realize that the corpse belongs to Senmar. The renowned Persian-Roman Architecture who was assigned by the sultanate of al-Hirah, al-Nu’man I ibn Imru’ al-Qays, to build a palace in a desert. While they were talking to each other disparaging the wisdom and knowledge, Senmar rose and began telling his story.

I, Senmar, rise to recount my fall

As I was falling, I was close to Heaven rather than earth

In that unbelievable instance, Between Heaven and Earth-

To the air stripping away beneath me

And the world that opens his mouth under my feet

Yes, between the two worlds, I was counting the bricks

That I pieced them together with my hands

And each brick thousand times

In terror ask with wide open mouth: Why? Why? Why?

The ruler of al-Hirah ordered to fall Senmar from the palace he himself built. Al-Nu’man, who has been ruling the al-Hirah for some times, thinks to build a palace for himself. Tired of being sultanate of sands, he dreams of having a palace paralleled with the Sassanid Persian King, Yazdegerd I in Ctesiphon. He confessed his inability of architectural knowledge, while he boasted his craftsmanship in weaving tents made of Camel’s hair.

The arrival of the Persian King in the upcoming winter propelled Al-Nu’man to hide his inferiority and show his glory.

Are we less than Persia?

They are the Lords of the world and proud of it

Lest they look at us as inferiors!

Illustration of Senmar by Baran Sedighian

Senmar promised Al-Nu’man to build better palace than Persian kings, called “Khawarnaq”. Senmar demands golds for the palace, but Al-Nu’man could not bring himself to pay such a large amount of golds and workers. Seeing the sultan’s stinginess, he asked people help. Each who cuts a Cedar could keep the branches. Each who makes hundred bricks can take ten for himself. Infuriated by his shrewdness, Al-Nu’man accused Senmar of wasting and dedicating his resources to peasants.

He asks Senmar’s reward for building Khawarnaq that reputation has already spread throughout the realm. He replied “nothing”. He offers his own camel, his best horse, seventy of his best goats and above all his youngest daughter to Senmar. However, it was in vain. He refused all.

Senmar: I build this building for the sake of building.

One day Al-Nu’man dashed into the working place like wild cow seeing red withering with pain of his last dream. He dreamt that his father appeared in his palace asking to show the vast desert and the cedars which were used for making the palace. He felt humiliated by his father’s reproachful eyes for losing his long kept heritage. Senmar proposed stop working on Khawarnaq; however, Al-Nu’man’s eyes couldn’t let go of this magnificent palace. the situation went ugly when the elders of the tribes and courtiers reproached him for choosing a stranger over his own tribe member and warning him against Senmar’s popularity over himself. Khawarnaq belongs to Senmar who won people hearts, not Al-Nu’man. Meanwhile, Senmar fell in love with his youngest daughter at a first sight and now Khawarnaq was an excuse for staying close to her, despite her absence.

Senmar's Sacrificing Session Bahram Beyzai - The Seven beauties
Senmar felling in love with Al Nu’man’s youngest daughter

Once he tried to leave al-Hirah to visit his sick father, but Al-Nu’man broke his legs out of fear of losing him forever. With broken legs he couldn’t ride a horse to Rome. The next group who couldn’t tolerate Senmar’s progress and success were al-Hirah’s local architectures. They openly criticized the sultan’s decision, choosing Senmar as the architect, as belittling Arabs before the Persians. After all, he has no Arab blood in his body. They even warned him of building more magnificent palace than Khawarnaq for someone else after finishing his task in here. Maybe for Persian king.

Oscillating between keeping his heritage or seeking new palace, he finally ordered to kill Senmar by throwing him off his own building. After his death, Al-Nu’man slowly came to himself and realized his mistake. He stood against the elders to defend Senmar’s endeavor to make seven-domed palace out of this barren land. Al-Nu’man accused them of laziness and idleness.

Human cannot stop thinking and working

Khawarnaq is our endeavor fulfilled

Is it not better to know us by endeavor rather than idleness?

Senmar's Sacrificing Session Play Bahram Beyzai
Senmar’s Sacrificing Session illustration by Baran Sedighian

Khawarnaq shows what could have been built before

But we didn’t.

You hold a mirror before our idleness

In this mirror, we are only braggers

Who haven’t moved an inch for a century!

Senmar draws Al-Nu’man’s attention to the pictures on the walls of Khawarnaq where a man is depicted under an elephant’s feet. He prophesied that a sultan of your sons will pay for my blood in future. The play ends with arrival of King of Persia and Al-Nu’man hearing of the elephants’ trumpet.

Continue Reading

Seljuk Station by Bahram Beyzai

Seljuk Station by Bahram Beyzai - The Seven Beauties - Ebrahim Barzegar

Seljuk Station is a screenplay written by Bahram Beyzai in 2000. In this screenplay Beyzai focuses on the life a French woman searching for fertility.   

Where is Seljuk Station?

Seljuk Station is an gas station in an ancient city of Ephesus, three kilometres southwest of present-day Selçuk in İzmir Province, Turkey. The city used to be one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League during the Greek era, but later on after invasion of Seljuk Turks in 12th century, its name changed into Seljuk. Seljuk city is one of the top tourist attractions of turkey filled with archeological sites particularly Temple of Artemis. 

Who is Cybele?

Cybele or Artemis was the goddess of fertility in ancient Greek. The Cybele Statue in Ephesus Museum is a small statue in a sarcophagus-like shape with two animals (Stags) next to her feet. Her multi breasts emphasize her fertility and potency of giving birth.

Seljuk Station Plot

Isabel and Francois were travelling to Ephesus to adopt a child in a war-stricken village of Turkey on Isabel demand, since she is infertile. On the way to Istanbul, in the early morning, on a gas station in Seljuk district, Isabel got off the bus to use the toilet, while Francois was asleep in the bus. Two young boys teased her by occupying the toilet before her. When she left the toilet, her eyes caught the glimpse of the store next to gas station and stepped toward it. All of the sudden, she realized that the bus was moving. She ran after the bus, but it was in vain.

Left alone in gas station, she tried to get help from the locals. However, no one understood her. No one spoke French. She tried English and luckily, one spoke back. One tried to give her a ride in his car but the local warned her against it. He was notorious for being womanizer. Wrapped in blanket giving by the owner of the local shop, she sat on the ancient plinth close to the station, hopelessly.

While she was alone, she began to think about her husband behaviors and attitude toward her resolution: adopting a child. The situation began to go awry as her fears turned into nightmares. Her emotion became over her so much that she even blamed her husband for being left alone. Suppressed voices of unconscious welled up and made her had a second thought about her life.

Meanwhile, her husband, François, attempted to back for her with all difficulties. Isabel constantly dreamt Francois was coming back with a child, but it was a pipe dream. When finally, he came back, Isabel made up her mind and got on another bus and left him. She could not bear the situation anymore. The modern East where all the magic was gone disillusioned her. Along with that, she realized that her husband has prevented her to achieve her goal. 

Seljuk Station Review

Bahram Beyzai , as usual, uses a historical place or historic moment as a jumping board for his narrative. In “Seljuk Station”, Beyzai excavates into the life of French couple visiting the magical East to adopt a child. According to Francois, he is not going to adopt a child from a Germany, Italy and Russia because they are the child of Nazism, Fascism a Communism, respectively. He was against the Turks or Kurds too; however, Isabel talked him into it.

Isabel was desperate to have a child. She taught that East was the same thing she had read in books and stories. But once, she was there, it became dawn on her that she was wrong. The modern East has lost its charmed taste. This disillusionment was paralleled with reevaluation of her husband and her life with him. Her nightmares were nothing but her wishes and fears. Wishes for a child. Fear of being raped. Dreaming of uniting with her husband plus a child captured her body and soul to the verge of nervous breakdown.

Similar to all other Beyzaie’s screenplays or plays, the female protagonist made an important decision that is rebelling against the status quo and made her free of all the masculine shackles.

Quick Facts about Seljuk Station

  • Full Title: Seljuk Station
  • Author: Bahram Beyzai
  • Type of Work: Screenplay
  • Genre: Drama
  • Language: Farsi (Some English Sentences)
  • Time and Place Written: 2000
  • Date of First Publication: 2000
  • Publisher:  Roshangaran Publication
  • Point Of View: Third Person
  • Tone: Straightforward
  • Setting (Time): Circa the publication
  • Setting (Place): Ephesus, Turkey
  • Protagonist: Isabel
  • Major Conflict: Isabel attempts to adopt a child in Turkey
  • Rising Action: Isabel missed the Bus to Istanbul
  • Climax: Isabel got on the bus alone and left her husband
  • Themes: knowing the truth about her life; Pregnancy is impossible; Huge gap between her and her husband, The magical East is gone
  • Motifs: Nightmares and dreams, Smoking, Road
  • Symbols: Cybele Statue
Continue Reading