CONTEMPORARY  IRANIAN ARTIST SHADY ESHGHI

THE  STORY OF THE  CYPRESS  


Sarv depicted in a Persian miniature painting

"There is a true account related to the Cypress tree of Zoroaster which has been elaborated upon through the ages by the Iranian psyche only to give birth to a national tragedy. This in turn has been a source of inspiration for many a poet and writer in the history of Persian culture and literature. According to historians, the prophet Zoroaster planted two Cypress trees as good omens, both of which grew to amazing heights. After the Islamic invasion of Iran, the Arabic Caliph “Al-Mutavakkal” who now ruled over Persia, heard of these trees. The description of the Cypress tree’s beauty and grandeur was so intense that the Caliph wished to see it, but unable or unwilling to leave the throne, he ordered his governor to cut down the tree and bring back all its trunk and branches, carefully wrapped in felt to ensure against further damage on the road. Master carpenters would then be ordered to reassemble the pieces so he would be able to see the tree's beauty up close. This event has not only been recorded by historians, but has also been given precise indications describing the tree’s dimensions and the methods used for bringing it down.

As the story goes, the size of this massive tree was so great that ten thousand sheep were able to rest in its shade, while the number of birds and wild beasts living among its branches were impossible to be taken into account. A highly skilled master carpenter was called upon whom had created a specific saw for bringing this massive tree down.

Upon hearing the Caliph's selfish intention to cut their beloved Cypress, Iranian Zoroastrians who revered the tree as sacred pleaded to the Caliph's men asking for their mercy, yet their strenuous efforts were left in vain.

When the beautiful Cypress of Zoroaster finally hit the ground, it created a shock-wave so intense its tremors were felt in far out villages. All night long, bystanders heard massive groups of birds crying , mourning its loss ."(1)

However, the Cypress of Zoroaster was never forgotten by Iranians, and its memory grew even stronger and deeper with each passing day. During the course of centuries the Sarv (Cypress) grew ever more popular gaining innumerable qualities and attributes due to its nature and form. Persian poets described the movement and poise of their beloved as “Cypress-like”, comparing the elegant motion and enchanting body of a beauty to that of the Sarv, attaching its lithe motion to beauties walking by.

Persian artists were also enchanted by the movement of the  Sarv (Cypress) bending to the ground and springing back upright when facing harsh winds, comparing it to the non-withering courage of national heroes.  Poets and artists both attached meanings such as truthfulness, righteousness and youth to the Sarv.  Ever the forerunners for advocating free thought in Iran’s long history, Persian poets adopted the Sarv as the Iranian symbol for freedom.  Positive attributes such as sincerity were attached to its evergreen nature, while other attributes such as barrenness were interpreted as liberty and male virility.  Persian miniaturists chose the Sarv and Boteh as one of their most revered themes and together with architects, stucco-makers and tile-makers adorned their creations utilizing its form.  Persian women wove colorful rows of Boteh between their hand made textiles and carpets as well as other handicrafts in honor of the Sarv.

From pre-Islamic rows of upright Cypresses adorning the walls of Persepolis, to later bending Boteh's remaining from Islamic periods, one realizes the eternal role the Sarv has played on the Iranian psyche.  Artists depicted the unbreakable Sarv behind miniatures of brave national heroes and saints.  Rug weavers threaded bright knots of silk around its shape in brilliant Persian rugs adorned with its symbol, the Boteh.  Goldsmiths welded precious metals and stones to form its shape hanging on the chest of some beloved beauty.  Illustrators illuminated sacred manuscripts adorned by the Boteh in Eslimi knots, and women used it in embroideries to accentuate their body.  From silverware and glassware, to woodwork and glazed tiles, from silk rugs to textiles, and carved stones to bricks, the story of the Cypress of Zoroaster carried on in the Iranian subconscious, springing back upright with the passing of each storm, resisting all submission, forever remaining the untainted spirit of Iran.