original ‘true’ Rose looks quite different from the multi-layered Rose
we are used to admiring. The bulky ovary, the “rose hip” has on its rim
five sepals, which alternate with five petals. This arrangement is
common to all roses. In many ‘cultivated’ types the stamens in the
middle of the flower have become petal-like, too, creating multiple
layers. In its early young stage the single layer of delicate petals are
well laid out in a circular row but in a fully mature Rose the Petals
become thick and broadened, thus overlapping each other (as in the
over 5,000 years China and Persia had remained
the documented habitat of the naturally
fragrant varieties freely recurrent in bloom
and the only ones that bore yellow flowers.
The elegant single layered Iranian Rose growing in the Rose fields of
Qasmar, near Kashan, possesses such an exquisite and heavenly perfume it
is nurtured and grown entirely for its nectar. Such was the
legendary resplendence of the fragrance of the Rose water - Gool Ab that
the nectar itself, by its very name, became the Rose. Indeed, the
time-honoured extraction from the blossoms in these Rose fields in
mid-Spring is witnessed by thousands of tourists. Even the harvesting of
the flowers is a delicate process done before sunrise to obtain the most
exquisite aroma in the maximum quantity. The photo shows all three
colours in the same rose - deep red, bright pink and pure white,
although commonly found in the fields are also Roses exclusively red (gool-e-sorkh),
pink (gool-e-surati) or white (gool-e-sefid).
velvety texture of the undulating petals in these shades of white to
pink to red is likened to a rosy cheeked blushing complexion of a
beautiful Iranian lady. Many a bard has likened the blooms to signify
deep admiration, amorous joy, bashfulness, embarrassment… , indeed, the
very symbol of life.
allure represents the passion of living and the thorns, the difficulties
one has to endure to reach that state. Such aesthetic tastes glorified
in poetic couplets were posted on the palace gates of the Sassanian
Emperor, Khusru the Great (531-579 BCE) at a time when Europe was still
subservient to the Roman occupation. English history as taught in
Schools and universities had not yet ‘begun’ and the Renaissance in
Europe was still to occur 1,000 years later.
Sassanian portrait would be deemed inadequate without a rose held
delicately between index finger and thumb. Of significance, too, is a
lone single layered rosette carved in the gable end of the entrance, the
only decoration on the tomb of Cyrus the Great (599-529 BCE) shown in a
sketch executed by the visiting envoys of Queen Christina of Sweden in
1638. Now, only the lower end of the rosette remains as the trace. The
Iranian tradition of Rose water mixed with saffron as ink is still
commonly used for writing charms and romantic verse.
twist, the turn of thy hair
- tell me, what be the reason?
Thy inebriated eyes’ distant stare
me, what be the reason?
…though rose petals have not been scattered …
thy rose scented
…tell me, what be the reason.
- Jalal ud din Rumi
‘Gardens of Persia’ by Penelope Hobhouse;
Photo by Jerry Harpur, San Diego, 2003