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Love and Devotion: From Persia and Beyond

Love and Devotion: From Persia and Beyond


Farid al-Din ʿAttar is known for his mystical narratives in masnavi form, especially Mantiq al-Tayr (Conference of the birds).

He was born in Nishapur, a renowned centre of artistic and literary activity in north-eastern Iran. He spent the first part of his adult life dispensing medicinal cures from his pharmacy. His pen name, meaning 'a perfume dealer', is a reference to his former career as an apothecary.

After mystical initiation into a dervish order ʿAttar began writing epics and lyric poems of great narrative skill, to the extent that he was later acknowledged as the greatest Persian Sufi poet of the 12th century.

His work extolled the traditional Sufi virtues of poverty and concern for other social ills, criticising reigning monarchs in his lively commentary on contemporary affairs. His later writing was more explicitly concerned with experiences of the ecstasy, yearning and suffering endured on the Sufi path.

The main story in ʿAttar's 'Conference of the Birds' recounts the journey of 30 birds in search of the Simurgh, a mythical bird regarded by the others as a symbol of Divinity. Within this framework are several short romantic tales.

ʿAttar died in his birthplace of Nishapur around 1221.

Love & devotion in the UK

The Bodleian Libraries is showing its own presentation of the Love and devotion exhibition at the Exhibition Room, Bodleian Library, in Oxford, England, between 29 November 2012 and 28 April 2013.

Learn more about how you can visit this exhibition on the Bodleian Libraries website.


Love and devotion: Persian Cultural Crossroads

This two-day conference held in April 2012 featured distinguished international guests and Australian specialists exploring cultural convergences in literature, the arts and architecture, history and philosophy within Persia's cultural sphere and Europe, from the 11th century to the present day.

For information on keynote speakers & topics discussed, visit our conference page

Visit the exhibition

The Love and devotion exhibition took place from 9 March to 1 July 2012. In-depth information about the exhibits and themes can be found on this website.

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