Leyli and Majnun – another interpretation

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This most unusual of “prayer rugs” has previously been interpreted by the Australian artists Hossein Valamanesh and Nasser Palangi.

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The second rug is from Max Allen’s collection. Now, an Iranian visual arts student from Newcastle University, Maryam Rashidi, has offered the following analysis, which adds a further dimension to some of this rug’s more ambiguous dimensions. Follow her text below:

I see the text on the left side of the image differently. The text on the right obviously says “Leyli Majnun” whose stories have been explained to some extent on your website. But on the left, I think it says “Barekat Asheghan Arefan.”… “Barekat” means “blessing” or “bliss” (as explained by others as well)… “Asheghan” means “Lovers” and “Arefan” means “theosophists (or gnostics).

(I think Mr Palangi may have mistaken the word “Arefan” with “Karavan”, which does not seem to make much sense in the context of the image).

In addition, to translate “Leili Majnun” (which has been written on the carpet) into “Leili and majnoon,” we need a “Va (=and)” (in farsi) in between the two names. But this “Va” is missing in the text written on the carpet. So, I am guessing that if we are translating “Leyli Majnun” as “Leili VA (=and) Majnoon,” we perhaps can translate “Asheghan Arefan” into “Lovers VA (=and) Theosophists”. Thus, the text can be translated as something like “Blessings be with Lovers and Gnostics” or, if we relate the texts of the two sides together, the translation could be something like “Leili and Majnoon [were/are] the blessing (or it could perhaps be even interpreted as symbols?) for/of Lovers and Gnostics…

As far as I remember about the story, Leili and Majnun never actually reach each other, except when Leili dies, and then Majnun dies next to her grave and that’s when and where they meet: not in this world (but perhaps after death or in a more positive sense, in the world of “life after death”!). I don’t know how relevant this can be with the interpretation of the image of this particular rug… But I said this, because the image of the “peaked frame” (or Mehrab) (as discussed in the website) can be seen in many Islamic depictions or architecture, as a door/passage to Mecca, and by extension, to God and has a spiritual significance…

Also, the two flags… both of them have in common the colors red and black, but they differ in one colour. The one on the right has yellow and the other one has dark blue… There are some yellow stars on the upper right side of the rug and some yellow flowers on the ground part… the sky colour is the same blue as in the left flag, and of the same blue, there is some seen in the bigger gun!… [Is it possible that] the makers may have intended to connote some racial or political associations with the two colours? Yellow normally is associated with the East and, blue, as I looked up the internet, is normally the colour which represents the more conservative, rightist political parties in the Western world … Also at the top of the Mehrab, there are two arrow-like sections which point to east (the lower one) and west (the one at the top). The flags, however, face each other… I don’t know if this is a way of expressing a hope that the West and the East will eventually (or ever?) make peace?”

Thank you Maryam. The text of the previous post continues below. Hossein writes:

I can help with this particular question. It is a double portrait of very famous love story characters Leyli and Majnun. Majnun which means crazy or mad (a prince?) had fallen in love with Leyli (a princess), and gave up all worldly goods and became a hermit because Leyli did not reciprocate his love. It is said that he sat so long in meditation that all the creatures and animals became familiar with him and the birds nested in his hair! The story goes on and has been mentioned much in Persian and middle eastern poetry.

However, the writing on the top starting from the right says “Leyli Majnun”. The small word on the other side I cannot understand could mean “for” or “in honour of”, then it says “lovers and mystics”.

The image on the right is of Leyli who is sitting on a pedestal / seat and the one on the left is Majnun. I think he has been depicted in this carpet as an emaciated man not unlike emaciated Buddha images (I have seen this image in a number of paintings) and I think the weavers have thrown in a couple of tanks and guns for good measure perhaps to raise the possibility of a sale. It is a fascinating carpet.”

See the other posts concerning the interpretation of these images here.

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