Sepandārmazgān (Persian: سپندارمذگان) is a Zoroastrian festival. This day was dedicated to SpəntaĀrmaiti (Avestan for "Holy Devotion", Spandārmad in Middle Persian, Persian: سپندارمذ Spendārmad or Sepandarmaz), the AmeshaSpenta who was given the domain of "earth". The date of the festival as observed in the Sassanid era was on the 5th day of the month Spandarmad. According to the testimony of al-Biruni, the festival was dedicated to women, and was still flourishing in parts of in his day (Ghaznavid era, 11th century).The observation of this festival has been revived in modern Iran, where it is mostly set on the 29th day of Bahman in the Solar Hejri calendar introduced in 1925, corresponding to 18 February. The modern festival is a celebration day of love towards mothers and wives.
Descriptions of this festival are given in medieval historiographical sources such as Gardizi, Biruni and Abu al-Hasan al-Mas'udi.According to Biruni, it was a day where women rested and men had to bring them gifts. In the section about Persian calendar, Biruni writes in his (The Remaining Signs of Past Centuries) that:“ On the 5th day or Isfahdmah-Roz (day of Isfand), there is a feast on account of the identity of the names of the month and the day. Isfandarmah is charged with the care of the earth and with that the good, chaste, and beneficient wife who loves her husband. In the past times, this was a special feast of the women, when the men used to make them liberal presents. This custom is still flourishing in Ispahan, Ray, and in other districts of Fahla. In Persian it is called Mardgiran) ” Furthermore, Biruni notes that on this day, common people eat sun-raisins, and pomegrante seeds. According to Gardizi, this celebration was special for women and they called this day also "mard-giran" (possessing of men).
Modern revivalThe revival of the festival dates to the Pahlavi dynasty, advocated by EbrahimPourdavoud as "Nurse day" (روز پرستار) in 1962.The date of the modern festival is the 29th of Bahman (18 February), due to the reorganization of the Iranian calendar, once by Omar Khayyam in the 11th century, and once again in 1925.
Thousands of Iranians observe the celebration day of love, affection and earth, Sepandarmazgan, every year as it is traditionally a day on which the Earth is adulated and women are venerated. It is celebrated on the 29th of Bahman in the Persian calendar, which corresponds to February 18 in the Gregorian calendar. The Zoroastrian tradition is named after Sepandarmaz, Earth Guardian Angel, which is the symbol of passion, friendship and modesty. The day of Sepandarmazgan dates back to as early as the 20th century BC when the Great Persian Empire was on the throne. On the occasion of Sepandarmazgan, women and girls are held in the highest regard and men and boys are supposed to express their affections for their beloved by presenting pussy willows or gifts. In ancient Persian culture, mother is symbolized by Sepandarmaz or earth. Earth — like a mother who loves all her children alike — embraces all creatures and loves them the same. Spread beneath our feet, Earth is thus the symbol of humbleness and passion.
Throughout the history of Persia, both men and women used make-up, wore jewellery and coloured their body parts. Moreover, their garments were both elaborate and colorful. Rather than being marked by gender, clothing styles were distinguished by class and status. Women in modern Iran (post 1935 "Persia") are of various mixes and appearances, both in fashion and social norm. Traditionally however, the "Persian woman" had a pre-defined appearance set by social norms that were the standard for all women in society. For example, the observations of a late Qajar era orientalist read:"The Persian ladies' hair is very luxuriant and never cut. It is nearly always dyed red, or with indigo to a blue-black tinge. It is naturally a glossy black. Fair hair is not esteemed. Blue eyes are not uncommon, but brown ones are the rule. A full moon face is much admired, and a dark complexion (termed Namak) is the native idea of the highest beauty. The eyebrows are widened and painted until they appear to meet, and color is used freely in painting the faces."
Pre-Islamic IranArcheological excavations at Shahr-e Sookhteh "Burnt City," a prehistoric settlement in the Sistan-Baluchistan province of southeastern Iran, has revealed that the women of the 4th-3rd millennium BCE community maintained a high level of socio-economic status. Of the seals discovered in graves there, 90% were in the possession of women, who in turn made up over 60% of the population. The distribution of the seals, which as instruments of trade and government represented economic and administrative control, reveals that these women were the more powerful group in their prehistoric society.
"The position of woman in ancient Persia was apparently in nowise inferior to her standing in the Vedic times of early India. As among other oriental nations, however, submission to her lord and master is taken for granted, and the woman who is 'obedient to her husband' comes in for a special meed of praise in the Avesta and elsewhere; but it is perfectly evident, as a rule, there was not that subjection which results in loss of personality and individuality.” The early Achaemenid-era Persepolis fortification and treasury tablets refers to women in three different terms: mutu, irti and duksis.The first refers to ordinary (non-royal) women; the second to unmarried members of the royal family; and the last duksis to married women of royalty. Such differentiated terminology shows the significance of marital status and of a woman's relationship to the king. The tablets also reveal that women of the royal household traveled extensively and often personally administered their own estates.The queen and her ladies-in-waiting are known to have played polo against the emperor and his courtiers.The only limits on the extent of the authority exercised by the king's mother were set by the monarch himself.
In the tablets, "non-royals and the ordinary workers are mentioned by their rank in the specific work group or workshops they were employed. The rations they received are based on skill and the level of responsibility they assumed in the workplace. The professions are divided by gender and listed according to the amount of ration. Records indicate that some professions were undertaken by both sexes while others were restricted to either male or female workers. There are male and female supervisors at the mixed workshops as evident by the higher rations they have received with little difference in the amount of rations between the two sexes. There are also occasions where women listed in the same category as men received less rations and vice versa. Female managers have different titles presumably reflecting their level of skill and rank. The highest-ranking female workers in the texts are called arashshara (great chief). They appear repeatedly in the texts, were employed at different locations and managed large groups of women children and sometimes men working in their units. They usually receive high rations of wine and grains exceeding all the other workers in the unit including the males.“ In addition, pregnant women also received higher rations than others. Women with new-born children also received extra rations for a period of one month.
A few experts claim that it was Cyrus the Great who twelve centuries before Islam, established the custom of covering women to protect their chastity. According to their theory, the veil passed from the Achaemenids to the Hellenistic Seleucids. They, in turn, handed it to the Byzantines, from whom the Arab conquerors inherited it, transmitting it over the vast reaches of the Arab world.The Sassanid princess Purandokht, daughter of Khosrau II, ruled the Persian empire for almost two years before resigning. Also, during the Sassanian dynasty many of the Iranian soldiers who were captured by Romans were women who were fighting along with the men.Persian women are depicted in many masterpieces of Persian paintings and miniatures. These are often used as sources to "trace through the sequence of women's fashion from earlier periods". Drawing a Persian girl dressed in colors with Persian wine at hand has been a favorite style for portrayingAt the Battle of Ctesiphon (363) the victorious Roman soldiers prized young Persian women, seizing them as war booty.
Iranian women as dancers were highly regarded in China. During the Tang dynasty bars were often attended by Iranian or Sogdian waitresses who performed dances for clients. Poets like Li Bai flirted and wrote about them in their poems. Whirl dances were often performed by these girls. Some of these blue-eyed and blond-haired Persian and Greek girls danced in bars and clubs in China during this period.During the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period (Wudai) (907-960), there are examples of Chinese emperors marrying Persian women.The young Chinese Emperor Liu Chang of the Southern Han dynasty had a Persian lover in his harem. He nicknamed her Mei Zhu, which means "Beautiful Sow"(美豬). Liu liked the Persian girl (Mei Zhu) because of her brown skin color, described in French as "peau mate" (olive or light brown skinned). He and the Persian girl also liked to forced young couples to go naked and played with them in the palace. and he favored her by "doting" on her. Multiple women originating from the Persian Gulf lived in Guangzhou's foreign quarter, they were all called "Persian women" (波斯婦 Po-ssu-fu or Bosifu). From the tenth to twelfth century, Persian women were to be found in Guangzhou, and in the twelfth century large numbers of Persian women lived there, noted for wearing mulitiple earrings and "quarrelsome dispositions".
It was recorded that "The Po- ssu-fu at Kuang-chou make holes all round their ears. There are some who wear more than twenty ear-rings.” Descriptions of the sexual activities between Liu Chang and the Persian woman in the Song dynasty book the "Ch'ing-i-lu" by T'ao Ku were so graphic that the "Memoirs of the Research Department of the Toyo Bunko (the Oriental Library), Issue 2" refused to provide any quotes from it while discussing the subject Liu had free time with the Persian women by delegating the task of governing to others.The Wu Tai Shï says that 'Liu Ch'ang [劉鋹, Emperor of the Southern Han dynasty reigning at Canton, about A.D. 970]. "was dallying with his palace girls and Persian [波斯] women in the inner apartments, and left the government of his state to the ministers.” The History of the Five Dynasties (Wu Tai Shih) stated that- "Liu Chang then with his court- ladies and Po-ssu woman, indulged in amorous affiurs in the harem“. A family of Iranian descent in China was known for the three polymaths it produced, one of them was a woman. Their ancestors adopted the suname Li when they moved to China. She was a poet and her name was Li Shun-Hsien (Li Shunxian), she was known for being beautiful, and had and older brother named Li Hsün (Li Xun) who wrote a book on drugs of foreign lands, and a younger brother Li Hsien (Li Xian). They lived at the court of the royal family of Former Shu in Chengdu (modern day Sichuan). Li Shun-hsien also was a poet. Their family had came to China in 880 and were a wealthy merchant family. Li Hsien dealt with Daoist alchemy, perfumes and drugs.Of the Chinese Li family in Quanzhou, Li Nu, the son of Li Lu, visited Persia in 1376, married a Persian girl, and returned to Quanzhou with her. Li Nu was the ancestor of the Ming Dynasty reformer Li Chih.
The Pahlavi Shahs were the rulers of Iran between 1925 and 1979 and they introduced many reforms concerning women's rights. An example of an early reform introduced by Reza Shah was the 'forced unveiling of women by a special decree on 8 January 1936 which, as the name suggests, involved the police force pulling the hijab away even from religious women, by force.’ Women's involvement in society in general increased. Iranian women increasingly participated in the economy, the educations sector and in the workforce. Levels of literacy were also improved. Examples of women's involvement: women acquired high official positions, such as ministers, artists, judges, scientists, athletes, etc. This improvement in the position of women became so ingrained that the conservative Islamic revolution could not completely undo it. Under Reza Shah's successor Mohammad Reza Shah many more significant reforms were introduced. For example in 1963, the Shah granted female suffrage and soon after women were elected to the Majlis (the parliament) and the upper house, and appointed as judges and ministers in the cabinet.’. In 1967 Iranian family law was also reformed which improved the position of women in Iranian society. It was included in the civil code and was designed to protect wives, children and female divorcees. The general thrust of the reforms were to promote equality between men and women in society.The Family Protection Laws of 1967 and 1973 required a husband to go to court to divorce rather than simply proclaim the triple talaq of "I divorce thee" three times, as stipulated by traditional sharia law. It allowed a wife to initiate divorce and required the first wife's permission for a husband to take a second wife. Child custody was left to new family protection courts rather than automatically granted to the father. The minimum age at which a female could marry was raised from 13 to 15 in 1967 and to 18 in 1975.
Under Reza Shah's successor Mohammad Reza Shah many more significant reforms were introduced. For example in 1963, the Shah granted female suffrage and soon after women were elected to the Majlis (the parliament) and the upper house, and appointed as judges and ministers in the cabinet.’ In 1967 Iranian family law was also reformed which improved the position of women in Iranian society. It was included in the civil code and was designed to protect wives, children and female divorcees. The general thrust of the reforms were to promote equality between men and women in society.The Family Protection Laws of 1967 and 1973 required a husband to go to court to divorce rather than simply proclaim the triple talaq of "I divorce thee" three times, as stipulated by traditional sharia law. It allowed a wife to initiate divorce and required the first wife's permission for a husband to take a second wife. Child custody was left to new family protection courts rather than automatically granted to the father. The minimum age at which a female could marry was raised from 13 to 15 in 1967 and to 18 in 1975.
The official women's day in Iran is on the birthday of The Prophet's daughter Fatimah. In ancient times, the 29th of Bahman (18 February) was considered Persian women's day and many people still celebrate this day. History of the celebration dates back to Zoroastrian tradition. International Women's Day is also celebrated by Iranians specially by people involved in Persian women's movement.Since the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, the Iranian government requires women to wear loose-fitting coats or cloaks such as the chador in public, as well as a headscarf that covers the hair. Something loose must be worn to cover the body in order to avoid exposure to men who are not mahramThe ordinary headscarf is called rusariروسري in Persian. A type of head covering common among students and government employees is the maghnaehمغنعه. The maghnae is a "wimple-like head covering", black in color, that is "usually required on college campuses and at other public institutions" in Iran.
Over the past two centuries, women have played a prominent role in Persian literature. Contemporary Iranian poets include SiminBehbahani, ForoughFarrokhzad, ParvinEtesami. SiminBehbahani has written passionate love poems as well as narrative poetry enriched by a motherly affection for all humans.Behbahani is president of The Iranian Writers' Association and was nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature in 1997.Contemporary authors include SiminDaneshvar, ShahrnushPârsipur, MoniruRavânipur and Mina Assadi to name a few. Daneshvar's work spans pre-Revolutionary and post-Revolutionary Iranian literature. Her first collection of short stories, Âtash-e khâmush (Fire Quenched), was published in 1948. It was the first collection of short stories published by a woman in Iran. In 1969, she published Savushun (Mourners of Siyâvash), a novel that reflected the Iranian experience of modernity during the 20th century. It was the first novel published by a woman in Iran. Daneshvar was the first president of the Iranian Writers' Association. ShahrnushPârsipur became popular in the 1980s following the publication of her short stories. Her 1990 novel, Zanânbedûn-e Mardân (Women Without Men), addressed issues of sexuality and identity. It was banned by the Islamic Republic. MoniruRavânipur's work includes a collection of short stories, Kanizu (The Female Slave), and her novel Ahl-e gharq (The People of Gharq). Ravânipur is known for her focus on rituals, customs and traditions of coastal life.
Perhaps Qamarol-MoloukVaziri was the first female master of Persian music who introduced a new style of music and was praised by other masters of Persian music of the time. Several years later, Mahmoud Karimi trained women students— ArfaAtrai, SoosanMatloobi, FatemehVaezi, MasoomehMehr-Ali and SoosanAslani—who later became masters of Persian traditional music. Soodabeh Salem and SimaBina developed Iranian children's music and Iranian folk music respectively.Innovations made by Iranian women are not restricted to Persian music. For instance, Lily Afshar is working on a combination of Persian and Western classical music.Googoosh is one of the most famous Iranian singers. Her legacy dates back to pre-Revolutionary times in Iran, where her fame reached heights equivalent to Elvis Presley or Barbra Streisand. She really became iconic when after the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran she was forced to become silent and lived unheard of for more than 20 years. In 2000, she emerged out of Iran, where female rights are still restricted, and in an extraordinary turn of events toured the world. However, her comeback was denounced in Iran and she is since unable to return to her country. She fears arrest in the event she does return and she is currently living in Los Angeles, California in exile among thousands of other Iranians.
In Persian literature one can find references to women as far back as Pre-Islamic times. In some cases, women are mentioned as the potential force behind the failure or success of men. For example Dehkhoda states that "women are the taste of life”), but then warns that some Men may find this taste too strong to bear.In verse, Sa'di rephrases this as:A bad wife in a man's home,can bring hell down to this Earth.The honorable, obedient and noble woman,can turn the vagabond into a king.But many texts elevate the status of women in their writings by using the word ladyinstead of womanin their verses, whether narratives or anecdotes. For example in Ferdowsi'sShahnameh one reads:Kissed the earth at her feet he did, the great hero.Called onto her he did: "oh highest of all the ladies“.
Numerous examples from other poets can be seen as well:It is a tradition of the free to bring Norouz giftsfor the lady of our royalty.---KhaqaniHave you not heard that dust turns into goldby the work of the Man and the Lady of the House?---NaserKhosrowAnd many creators of classical verse and prose were women themselves as well. One can mention QatranTabrizi, RabiaBalkhi, Táhirih, SiminBehbahani, SiminDaneshvar, ParvinE'tesami, ForoughFarrokhzad, Mahsati and Mina Assadi in this group to name nine of them.