Tuesday, April 22, 2014

S is for Sandalwood

And here we are once again, meeting one of Nizami's Seven Wise Princesses (for those of you keeping track, we have just visited the Red Pavilion, and the Green, Ebony and Blue ones before her). S stands for Sandalwood. The color of sandalwood can range from dark reddish-brown to neutral beige hues, through a series of different softer shades of brown. In addition, sandalwood is a scented tree, often used in many Eastern cultures, which is probably why the Thursday pavilion is called the Sandalwood Pavilion, rather than just plain Brown.

The Chinese Princess (actually the text calls her "Chinese Turk" and in some translations "Tartar") in the Sandalwood Pavilion tells Bahram Gur the following story:

Once upon a time two men, called Good and Bad, traveled together across a desert. After a while Good ran out of water, and as the day grew hot he begged Bad to give him some from his own. Bad would not take any of the jewels Good offered as payment, claiming that water was life, and life deserved something more important. Finally he got desperate Good to offer his eyes in exchange for water. After giving him a drink, he carved his eyes out, stole the jewels, and left Good in the desert to die.
Fortunately for Good, a Kurdish tribe happened to pass by, and the chief's daughter found him. She put his eyes back and healed his wounds, and the Kurds took him in, slowly nursing him back to health. He married the girl that saved his life, and started a family of his own. One day he came across a sandalwood tree, and gathered some leaves, knowing they could cure many diseases. He kept the medicine a secret until he heard that a king nearby had a daughter on the verge of death; healing the daughter, he received her hand in marriage as a second wife. Healing with sandalwood proved to be a lucrative business: He did not only end up with three wives (two of them princesses he saved and one that saved him), he also became a king in his own right, and ruled over a country for many years. One day Bad showed up to pay the court a visit, not knowing who the king was; when he found out he begged for forgiveness, and Good forgave him for his crime.
The Kurdish father-in-law, however, did not. When Bad left the court, he followed him, and cut off his head.
The story ends with stating that Good, when he became king, wore sandalwood-colored clothes only, and decorated his palace with the soft colors of the sandalwood, to remind himself and everyone of the healing power of the tree, and the adventures he lived through.

If you are keeping count: Two more princesses coming up before the end of the month (White and Yellow). Stay tuned!


  1. I love this: "Sandalwood ... rather than just plain Brown" :)

  2. Those are pretty descriptive names, you know exactly what you're getting with those two protagonists :) I think it's a little off that Good forgave Bad, but Bad still ended up dead, kinda negates the whole forgiveness thing.
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  3. Sandalwood smells so nice too! Like many Indians I use sandalwood incense quite a lot and feel that its perfume also carries a healing, calming effect. Maybe that's how Good too got his ability to forgive Bad despite what he did :) A good story!

  4. Never thought of sandalwood as a color, but I love the smell!

  5. Well both Good and Bad definitely lived up to their names.

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  6. I didn't know it could cure illnesses. Do you know what kind of illnesses it was used for back then?

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  7. This is so creative. I enjoy my visits here. I love the names good and bad. Straight, too the point.

  8. What a fun story about Sandalwood. I've never heard this story. Funny, I never think about it as a color, nor of healing. I LOVE the scent, so only think of it as candles and incense. Thanks for a nice post about this lovely plant.

  9. So many princesses :) I'm loving these stories. Have to wonder the moral of the tale though because Bad still ended up with his head cut off.
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  10. When I saw sandalwood, the "earthy, musky" scent immediately came to mind...

    I love the story about Good and Bad. It provides a basic understanding of the two concepts.