Composed by Nezami Ganjavi in the last decade of the 12th century, the classical Persian masterpiece Haft Peykar is a romanticized biography of Bahram V, who is also known as Bahram-e Gur.

A cast of 22 gave its first performance of “Bahram as Described in the Haft Peykar” on Monday.

“I was deeply interested in working on the character of Bahram,” writer and director Hamed Sheikhi told Honaronline.

“In addition, very little has been said about him; on other hand, my hometown, Rafsanjan, was once called after his name and the region was in his territory,” he added.

The Haft Peykar can be translated literally as “seven portraits”, but also with the figurative meaning of “seven beauties”.

Nezami gives an account of the birth of Bahram, the often-told story of his upbringing at the court of the Arab king No’man and the construction of No’man’s fabled palace, Khoarnaq. 

Reared in the desert, Bahram becomes a formidable huntsman. Wandering through the palace, Bahram discovers a locked room containing the portraits of seven princesses, one from each of the seven climes, with whom he immediately falls in love. 

Bahram’s father Yazdegerd I dies, and Bahram returns to Persia to claim his throne from a pretender. After much palaver, he is recognized as king. 

He rescues his people from a famine. Next Nezami picks up the story of Bahram’s hunting expedition with the loose-tongued slave girl Fetneh, but alters the version known from the Shahnameh considerably. 

Here the girl is not put to death, but eventually pardoned, and the king learns a lesson in clemency. The king sets out in search of the seven princesses and wins them as his brides. 

He orders his architect to construct seven domes to house his new wives. The craftsman tells him that each of the climes is ruled by one of the seven planets and advises him to assure his good fortune by adorning each dome with the color associated with the clime and planet of its occupant. 

The princesses take up residence in the splendid pavilions. The king visits each princess on successive days of the week. Each princess regales the king with a story matching the mood of her respective color. These seven beautifully constructed, highly sensuous stories occupy about half of the entire poem.

Nowadays, groups of artists are calling on their colleagues to shut down their activities in support of the unrest underway in the country.

“In my opinion, it is wrong to halt performances; we must not allow theaters to be shut down,” Sheikhi said.

“During the COVID pandemic, if our group and several others had not refused to cease their theatrical activities, all theaters would have closed down as the Independent Theater and Hamun did. Now Ahura and Divar-e Chaharom are on the verge of shutting down,” he lamented.

He said that it is vital that theater continues living its life, and added, “As stage artists have a powerful medium like theater, it is not appropriate for them to use social media to sympathize with people or to offer a critique.”

“I ask my stage artists not to let theaters be left abandoned because theaters are places for dialogue,” he noted.