The Shahnameh of Ferdowsi and Iranian Identity

The Shahnameh of Ferdowsi and Iranian Identity

The Shahnameh of Ferdowsi and Iranian Identity








On February 19, shortly before the spread of the Novel Coronavirus in India, an exhibition entitled "The Shahnameh of Ferdowsi and Iranian Identity" was held at the India International Center, New Delhi by the Noor Microfilm International Centre in collaboration with Parzor Foundation, the Embassy of Islamic republic of Iran and IIC Delhi to celebrate the 70th year of Indo-Iranian diplomatic, historical and cultural relations.


The deep cultural relationships between the two nations of Iran and India date back thousands of years. The nations of Iran and India have always had a vast amount of ethical and spiritual affiliations which are clearly reflected in different forms of arts and culture, including poetry, music, and various sciences. The depth and significance of these connections and the dimensions of these relationships are so profound that even the existing political and social mishaps have not been able to undermine and damage the cultural links between the people of these great nations.


Based on the historical evidence from Iran and India, these two countries had deep relationships even before the entry and formation of the Aryan Tribes’ civilization. In the Post-Islamic Era, the common cultural relationships between Iran and India became so intimate that many Iranian scholars, artists, and craftsmen immigrated to India and helped make the civilization of the great India one of the greatest civilizations in the world at that time. Historic monuments such as the Taj Mahal and the palaces and mansions of the shared Indo-Iranian civilization indicate the depth of the relationships.


One of the greatest and deepest fields of common relations between Iran and India is language and literature. The Persian (Farsi) language dominated over much of the Indian land and over the hearts of its people for over seven hundred years. Scholars wrote books in Persian; poets wrote poems in this language and the letters and correspondence of the kings were in this language.

Among the many Iranian poets who influenced the literature and culture of the Indian subcontinent and gained outspoken fame, Hakim Abol-Ghasem Ferdowsi is at the forefront of the list. The main reason behind this claim is the hundreds of manuscripts and printed versions of the Shahnameh in India. Reciting the Shahnameh has been a favorable activity amongst the Iranians and Indians for centuries and many manuscripts have been written in various families. Iranian and Indian artists have made great efforts in way of producing Shahnameh books. Calligraphers, portraitists and gilders of courts and scientific centers focused on Shahnameh as a significant epic and hundreds of Shahnameh books have been written and gilded by Iranian and Indian artists.


Following in the footsteps of great Indian and Iranian writers and artists, in 2001, the Noor Microfilm International Centre, an institute for protection and publishing of the Islamic written heritage in India, began to produce World’s largest contemporary illustrated manuscript of Shahnameh in collaboration with Indian artists to keep the dying art of calligraphy and miniature painting alive in India.


This book has 470 pages and each page has a different gilding design and 44 miniature pages. It is 90 cm long and 50 cm wide and weighs 60 kg and is placed in a box made of Ivory.

Apart from calligraphy, the rest of the artwork is done by Rajasthani artists, so traces of this style can be identified in these paintings.


The miniature paintings were done by a group of Hindu painters from Rajasthan under the supervision of Vinod Kumar Sharma and its gilding work was done by Mumtaz Ali.

Its production has lasted for six years and its calligrapher is Shamim Ahmad Bijnori from Uttar Pradesh, India.

 The miniature paintings are fusion of Iranian, Islamic and Indian influence. The combination of all these created something new and unique style.


Along with the world handwritten largest contemporary Shahnameh, Noor Microfilm International Centre made further efforts in way of reviving the works of great Persian poets and artists.

In this exhibition, in addition to the unveiling of the world's largest Shahnameh, paintings taken from the illustrated books of Haft Orang of Jami, a 15th century poet, as well as Khamseh of Nizami Ganjavi, a 12th century Poet were exhibited.


Also, in order to introduce the contemporary Iranian miniature style, works of the great Iranian artist of the present century, Mahmoud Farshchian, which were performed by Indian artists, were displayed.