Mem û Zîn Analytical Study*: IV – 2 (3): Newroz celebration of tradition, beauty, universal love

By Dr Kamal Mirawdeli:

Love and Existence: Analytical Study of Ahmadi Khani’s Tragedy of Mem û Zîn’

Part IV, Chapter Two (Part 3): Analytical reading of Mem û Zîn as a tragic drama

The setting, and atmosphere: Newroz celebration of tradition, beauty, universal love

The actual drama starts with the scene of Newroz  (471 ff) when, in a formal national day of celebration, every Kurd in Jezire, in line with  ‘a sacred custom’, goes out to nature to celebrate the sacred divinely-ordered cyclical renewal of nature, life and love.

The choice of Newroz is a brilliant strategic success as it brings together all the three levels of meaning- divine, national and philosophical. Newroz means ‘New Day’, it falls on 21 March and signals the onslaught of spring, the season of maximum vitality, lushness and beauty of nature in Kurdistan.  It is the time when God clearly unveils why He has created nature and the world to enjoy revealing His treasure of secrets and wonders and His own desire to be loved through the loving of His beautiful creations. It is a divine occasion and celebration of life. But nature is lifeless without man: without human gaze, beauty, passion, labour and love. Civilization, history and endless progress are the product of the endless and evolving interaction of man and nature. Thus Newroz is also a national occasion for the people who historically from ancient times (Zoroastrian times) have created this festival as a national day of collective response to the wonders of nature and joys of human togetherness.

Newroz as celebration of beauty and love

And in particular it is the celebration of universal beauty: the physical/spiritual beauty of nature and man. Beauty attracts and enchants; and passion is the immediate response. For Kurds, Newroz is the occasion when beauty is a market of love. To meet the opposite sex and find fiancés:

And going out to the plains and hills                                                                   

Was to make the wisher and the wished                                                           

That is both the lover and the beloved                                                              

Both groups meet each other                                                                                     

To find a suitable and equal fiancé for themselves.

Newroz is a gift of the beauty of nature and an exhibition of human beauty of both girls and boys. Khani sees love of beauty and human love as a spiritual necessity and a universal entitlement equally sought by everyone, the poor and the rich and the young and the old alike.

There is no one, whether [religious men such as] Shekh and Mala,

Or princes, dervishes, the rich and the poor

There is no one who lacks desire for beauty

There is no one who does not wish to meet a lover.

Finally, after his earlier characterization and introduction of his heroes: the Mîr, Mem, Zîn, Stê and Tazhdin, and specially his strong stress on the beauty of the two sisters and the two distinctive young men who may have chance to try their luck with them, Khani uses Newroz brilliantly for his dramatic plot. If not by necessity, then definitely Newroz provides the best reasonable, logical and desirable possibility for the potential lovers to meet. In the traditional societies it is only through social events that men and women could have any chance to meet publicly, flirt and seek love.

Khani’s introduction to Newroz

Given this huge significance that Newroz has, as we indicated above, and given Khani’s astonishing professional self-consciousness about his strategic choices and structures, he is not satisfied to introduce Newroz just as a simple customary annual national celebration where the lovers might casually meet. No, his triple-text strategy is much more complex and ambitious than this.

So he starts his launching of the Newrozian scene with a philosophical introduction of the season and the occasion at the same time. (471-485) He starts first with his metaphysical discourse. He explains how God with the power of his creativity, has brought the universe and all the things in the world into the ‘exhibition of existence’ and ‘brought them to the outlook of perception.” (474) Then he adds his own philosophical outlook:

The wisdom is that all these (elements of creation) are all active

Some walk on feet, some travel riding                                                              

Some are slow; some are fast                                                                                

Some are close; some are remote                                                                        

Some are makers; some are made                                                                      

Some are accidental; some are destined                                                          

Some are writers; some are teachers                                                                 

Some are singers; some are slaughterers                                                         

Some are sun-worshippers; some are night-illuminators                             

Some are entertainers; some are upsetters                                                    

Some are fairies like Zîn                                                                                         

Some are customers like Mem                                                                        

Some are Mîrs; some are Ministers                                                                  

Some with natural movement reach the point of spring,                           

Renew the year for us                                                                                           

When the time reaches the fine climate.

Then, with these changes and contrasts of natural change and movement in the background, Khani moves to the second level of his presentation of Newroz, the national level which for its validity he depends on tradition and for its vitality depends on the continuity and custom of the people who keep the tradition.

The traditional custom of sacred Newroz

Newroz is not separate from natural renewal, and natural rebirth is not separate from the divine order and the necessity of existence, therefore Newroz is sacred in all its procedures and manifestations. The custom of annual celebration itself becomes a sacred custom. It is more so because it is the celebration of beauty and love. He writes later:

The cycle of universe with a sacred line                                                      

Marked again the day of Newroz                                                               

According to this Sacred Custom                                                                          

The civilians and the military together left the bazaars, palaces and homes

Khani does not only, as we have explained in detail, acknowledge, through his own statements, the using of the story of Mem û Zîn, as a pre-text, but he also gives clear indication within the course of the story as to what elements come directly from the national tradition. He gives this information by using local storytellers to present the traditional elements of his pre-text. As we mentioned above, in his introduction of the Mîr and other characters, he quotes a narrator. And here before he says anything about Newroz as a traditional Kurdish national day, he introduces his Kurdewarî discourse by saying:

The ancient aged wise man

Related the matter to us in this way;

Then in every-day language of the storyteller he talks about Newroz as a national traditional celebration. When he starts, the ancient aged man himself refers to a more ancient “custom of early times” showing the deep historical roots of Newroz which according to the Kurds go back to Pre-Islamic Zoroastarian celebrations. The old man says:

It was the custom of earlier times

When the knight of the East

Would arrive in the month of March

That is, when it had attained the cycle of the New Year

From every corner and place

No one would stay at home

They would all leave their homes

Even the old and the disabled

When the day marked Newroz

They would all revere that Sacred Time

Would turn the plains and rivers to picnic areas                                        

Would transform wild places and mountain sides to flowerbeds

Especially single men and unmarried women                                              

Those rare diamonds                                                                                           

Would all dress up and get smart                                                                        

They were free to flirt to the full desire of their hearts                                  

But not with the aim of deception and seduction                                          

[But] For (marriage) according to religious law and customs (484-484- 494)

Then the old man explains the main purpose of these public picnics and general celebrations:

Because their aim of picnic-making and outdoor parties ,(seyran)

Of going to mountains and plains,

Was that the wanting and the wanted

That is both parties, the lovers and the loved,

Each group would see each other

And meet a person compatible with them. (495-496)

Here the role of the storyteller ends. He conveys factual cultural information about the Kurds and their way of life. His language is down-to-earth, ordinary and justified truth. For this custom is still living and rife. Newroz of the story will start soon and these words would be buttressed by another year of sacred celebration.

Khani’s third introduction to Newroz

Now, Khani, the author, comes back to offer yet another introduction to Newroz. But this time it is to this year’s Newroz which is already happening in the drama as an uninterrupted historical and semantic continuation of the words of the wise old man. Khani again stresses the sacredness of Newroz both as a historical custom and as a living celebration of life, beauty and universality and sacredness of love:

The cycle of universe with a Sacred Line

Marked again the day of Newroz

According to this Sacred Custom

The civilians and the military together left the bazaars, palaces and homes

As if they were teams of bandits and robbers,

Row after rows strode towards the hills and plains

Organised picnics in groups

Diverse people, kids and elderly,

No one stayed in the city at all.

Some went to mountain gardens riding

Some went as groups in large numbers

Some as pairs of friends and some alone

The aim of Khani in stating these details is to show the equality of opportunity for entertainment, participation and love that Newroz and Kurdish way of life offers to every single person in society irrespective of status, age, physical health or social status and wealth. It is also a clever consideration of the element of dramatic spectacle in his plot. Khani wants the reader to see and experience, if not on stage, then with his mind’s eye, the groups of Kurds, young and old, in their best dresses leaving the city and going to mountains, on horses, on foot, as groups, as pairs, as single lonely men. But this is not enough for achieving a sensual spectacle befitting this majestic occasion. Khani offers more to our eyes and hearts:

The ladies and lasses rose up

Filled the meadows with flowers

The fairies made the paradise their home

They were unveiled, modest and active

Girls, teens and adults

Pretty-haired with beauty spots

Pure virgins with hard round protruding breasts

Beautiful un-bearded boys and adults                  

There were people whose complexions were the cloth of joy

There were those whose sights were the substance of beauty

They were showing off their goods to one another

Appreciating their length and width

Some in this bazaar were customers of love

Some were both selling beauty and buying it.

Boyish and girlish teens, and adults

Hundred-year old men, aged and immature

According to tradition and known customs

They celebrated the New Year in their favoured places. (504-512)

This is a fantastic spectacle again stressing the universality of public participation and equal inclusiveness that would make it normal to see people from the highest ranks, such as members of the royal family, government and army, to the most common and lowest ranks of people.

* ‘Love and Existence: Analytical Study of Ahmadi Khani’s Tragedy of Mem û Zîn’ by Dr Kamal Mirawdeli is published by the Khani Academy in association with authorhouse, uk. The hard cover, soft cover, or the electronic edition of the book can be ordered from:


One Response to Mem û Zîn Analytical Study*: IV – 2 (3): Newroz celebration of tradition, beauty, universal love
  1. nancy
    January 25, 2014 | 00:59

    What a beautuful season for a reason to love. So heart felt and cunning made my heart feel at awe and wish I had come from a place where I could experience this type of customs

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