PhD, Professor of History
Nizami's Khamsa, Tabriz, 1481 AD.
AESTHETIC IDEAL OF THE ORIENT
All people want to be beautiful, healthy, cheerful and happy. However, beauty is not only what pleases our eyes, ears or sense of smell. Often, beauty is perfection. As a rule, good verses, superb music, brilliant scientific theories, and the canvases of talented artists are perfect. Experiencing these things gives us pleasure. A very good move in chess or a successful pass in football may also be called "beautiful". When a scientist successfully and effectively proves a theory, colleagues say: "It is beautifully formulated!"
Cleanliness, beauty and elegance are considered to be the main attributes of culture, whereas slovenliness, external and internal unattractiveness shows a person’s disrespect -- not only to himself, but also to the community in which he lives. A slovenly man knows that his shabby appearance can ruin other people’s moods. But he usually thinks: "I don't care about others. Their mood is their problem." Isn’t this an indication of egoism?
Therefore, a person’s aspiration for internal and external harmony, cleanliness and beauty is not only his own personal business, but also, to a certain extent, his awareness of others and his duty to the community.
High aesthetic ideals and the philosophy of beauty comprised the essence of ancient Eastern civilization. Since ancient times, people living there have cared very much about their appearance. For instance, they made beautiful clothes and cosmetic utensils.
In the 3rd millennium BC in Southern Azerbaijan, there lived a warlike people named the Quti, who conquered Babylon and all of Mesopotamia.  The bronze sculpture of the Quti king that was found in an archeological excavation in Mesopotamia tells us what the ruler of that ancient epoch looked like. The king wore a turban and false beard, whereas his natural beard and moustache were be cut short. This style corresponded to the Middle Eastern trend of that time, which was accepted in the courts of kings and high-ranking courtiers. Like the Babylonians, the Quti leaders rubbed themselves with fragrant balms, and used various types of incense such as frankincense, myrrh, rose oil and laurel oil.
The nobility of the ancient Azerbaijani states of Mannai (9th-7th centuries BC) and Media (8th-6th centuries BC) dressed with exceptional grace. Ancient figures and bas-reliefs, images on vessels and records of ancient Greek historians confirm this. Later on, the Persians, Armenians and other neighboring peoples adopted the style and cut of the Median clothing, as well as the Median incense and hairstyles.
Greek historian Strabo (about 63 BC-30 AD) wrote: "Royal garments... were passed to the Persians from the Medes. The look of their clothes proves the rightness of this statement. Such articles of clothing as the tiara, kitara, felts, tunics with sleeves and trousers are convenient for such [mountainous and comparatively] cold countries like Media, but are not suitable for the southern districts [like Persia]... However, as people say, Medes are [also] the primogenitors of customs of the Armenians" .
As stated above, ancient Azerbaijanis were able to make aromatic compounds (perfumes, lotions and balms) out of rose oil and other fragrant plants. Strabo wrote that at the beginning of the 1st century AD, the inhabitants of Northern Azerbaijan (Caucasian Albania) placed aromatic plants in special glass vessels and exported them to the Roman Empire .
It is known that Cleopatra of the Ptolemy dynasty (the Greek rulers of Egypt) set the standard for feminine beauty. However, few people know that this empress was connected with Azerbaijan through the ties of a close relationship. In 34 BC, Alexander, the son of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra, became engaged to Iotapa, the daughter of Ardavazd I, the king of Atropatena (the ancient name of Azerbaijan).  Thus, Cleopatra was the mother-in-law of an Azerbaijani princess. As to Cleopatra’s beauty, ancient historians wrote that she was charming rather than really beautiful.
Aspiration for an aesthetic ideal was not limited to beautiful clothing and expensive incense. It was considered that a person, and also everything that surrounded him, should be beautiful. "Avesta", the ancient book of the Azerbaijani Zoroastrians (1st millennium BC), says that a human being should constantly improve himself and the world in which he lives.
Throughout his entire life, a faithful person should cultivate and improve his land and decorate it with green plants. He must also maintain cleanliness and order in his home and strictly keep up his personal hygiene. Untidiness, a sloppy appearance and the neglect of the norms of hygiene were considered to be a great sin.
According to ancient beliefs, everything beautiful and clean was patronized by Hormazd (or Ahura Mazda, the God of Good), while everything ugly and dirty was ruled by Ahriman (or Angra Mainyu, the God of Evil). .
Dirt, illness, rust, mold, stink, withering, rotting and everything that spoils our world is created by the hands of Ahriman and his malicious spirits. Therefore, everybody was obliged to increase beauty and reduce disharmony. Man was involved in the struggle against the forces of evil .
Incense and cosmetics were used not only to improve external attractiveness, but also for religious purposes. In order to achieve ritual cleanliness, ancient Azeris applied aromatic oils and ointments made of frankincense, myrrh, rosemary, hyssop, cassia, cinnamon, nard and other plants. Cypress, with its fragrant needles, was considered the tree of the prophet Zarathustra (Zoroaster). The dispersion of oils was also thought to purify the air and provide protection from evil spirits.
Turks (Oguzes and Kipchaks), the ancient inhabitants of Azerbaijan, widely used herbs from the steppe. According to ancient Turkic beliefs, all fragrant flowers were created by Tangry, the Supreme God of the Blue Sky. The Goddess of Herbs and Trees, Oleng, was his wife. Oleng was also considered to be the patroness of physicians. Each year, at the beginning of spring, the Turkic peoples held solemn festivals in honor of this goddess and burned fragrant herbs such as wormwood.
Ancient Turkic legends say that the souls of all children emerge in flowers and are then moved to their mothers' wombs. In a 7th-century legend, an old man named Gorgud says: "I was created in a flower...moved to my mother's body, and born with the assistance of the gray-eyed Angel" .
The ancient Turks not only admired beauty and enjoyed the aromas of fragrant flowers, but also used them to treat diseases and injuries. One scene that describes how fragrant flowers were used to heal a wounded lad comes from the ancient Azerbaijani epic "Dada Gorgud" (Grandfather Gorgud), a compilation of legends that were written down during the 11th century, but contain stories that can be traced back to the 6th and 7th centuries: "Forty shapely girls ran, gathered flowers from the mountains, mixed them with mother's milk, rubbed this mixture on the wounds of the youth and left him with the healers" .
Even before the introduction of Islam in the region, the cult of beauty and harmony served as the basis for ancient Azerbaijani culture. Islam, which spread there at the end of the 7th century, brought a new ideology and aesthetic views. Even though Islamic monotheism had a tremendous influence, the continuity of the development of Azerbaijani culture was not broken.
Azeris, having assimilated the religion that came from distant Arabia, preserved their national character, aesthetic ideals, ancient legends, traditions and customs, including the ancient holiday of Novruz Bayram with its colorful dramatized performances, sports and games, costumes, masks and makeup. Monotheism added a new spiritual core to Azerbaijani culture and consolidated it even more.
In both ancient pre-Islamic and medieval Muslim Azerbaijan, beauty and harmony were considered to be the criteria of perfection. The aristocrats (including the shahs, khans, sultans, their courts and deputies) were the basic consumers, keepers and sponsors of the aesthetic ideal. Beauty was understood to be not only the external attractiveness of a person, but also their skill at behaving correctly and beautifully in society. In addition to learning such sciences as history, logic, mathematics, religion and law, the young representatives of the aristocracy were taught calligraphy, graceful manners, table etiquette, the correct selection of incense and the use of cosmetics. In the training of boys, considerable time was devoted to riding and martial arts as well.
The ability to speak beautifully, compose verses, and quote from the classics was considered to be ideal for the young aristocrat. For example, the great Azerbaijani poet Nizami Ganjavi (1141-1203 AD) describes how the young prince Khosrov was taught rhetoric and the ability to express ideas beautifully:
High spiritual culture was formed at the palaces of the kings and nobility. In areas where the patrimonial aristocracy was destroyed, such as during wars or revolutions, good manners and refined taste were forgotten. As a result, expensive clothing and cosmetics disappeared, good poems and pictures were not created anymore, high art descended to the level of everyday craft, and singers and musicians ceased to perfect themselves.
The aristocracy was the main consumer of expensive, labor-intensive, highly artistic products. Shahs, khans and sultans bought expensive incense, works of art and clothing. They ordered poems and books on science and philosophy. They spent huge amounts of money for all these things and did not expect any profit in exchange. Kings generously remunerated the talented poets and artists who created magnificent works of art for a narrow circle of very rich, idle people. High art did not depend on the conditions and requirements of the market. Indeed, feudal absolutism gave rise to the Golden Age of literature, music and fine art.
"Beauty, beauty and once again beauty! " Such was the basic motto of ancient and medieval Azeri culture, which was completely based on an aesthetic ideal. The great Azerbaijani poet Muhammad Fuzuli (1502-1562 AD) declared: "The whole world, having turned into a night butterfly, flies towards the candle of Beauty!” .
Take a look at the 14th-17th century miniatures drawn by outstanding Azerbaijani artists like Kamaladdin Behzad, Sultan Muhammad and Sadig bey Avshar. They represent a hymn to the beauty of the world. In these pictures, we see beautiful kings and queens surrounded by gallant courtiers and attractive servants. One can also see glamorous palaces with magnificent gardens, and picturesque places full of beautiful animals, flowers and trees, which are also perfect. Even the divs (vicious monsters) shown in miniatures have a peculiar attractiveness.
The world represented in Azerbaijani miniatures is the ideal world of beauty. However, it would be erroneous to believe that this world was a fantasy that existed only in the works of ancient miniaturists. Thousands of Azerbaijani architects, gardeners, designers, perfumers, tailors, craftsmen, poets, musicians and artists worked to create and realize this ideal.
Nizami colorfully describes the unusual beauty of the Shah's palace erected by the talented architect Simnar:
Ancient Eastern poetry, with its genres of "gazal" and "rubai", is also a bright symbol of beauty. The poetic collections of many Eastern poets were named "Gulistan" (The Rose Garden). This is meant not only a metaphor. Each line of poetry by Nizami, Hafiz, Saadi, Hayyam, Khagani, Fuzuli, Navoi and other great poets of the East “smells sweet”, thanks to its extraordinarily beautiful rhymes, images and story. For example, the outstanding poet of Azerbaijan Nizami Ganjavi eulogizes the beauty of a mountainous valley covered with blossoming meadows and a forest with fragrant herbs, trees and bushes:
Discrimination against women and religious fanaticism were never intrinsic to Azerbaijani society. Women were considered to be the most charming and captivating creatures living on this planet. The poets and artists of the East tirelessly glorified the beauty of women.
For example, medieval Azerbaijani miniatures are decorated with captivating images of the Shah's wives and daughters, maids-of-honor and servants. As a rule, women are presented in graceful dresses, with open faces, and no chadors [veils]. The basic images of these pictures are as follows: a rest or walk in a garden, a conversation with one’s beloved, a picnic in a picturesque place and love scenes. Sometimes, one can see light traces of cosmetics (blush, antimony or powder) on the women’s faces.
Following ancient national traditions, the women from many Turkic tribes and clans of Azerbaijan (Oguzes, Kipchaks, etc.) did not wear the chador. According to Nizami, the Kipchak elders responded in the following way to the governor who had called women to hide their faces under the chador:
Traditional Muslim women who wore the chador also tried to be attractive and beautiful, and took care of their beauty. Women of that time used various aromatic ointments and types of incense such as amber, musk, rose oil and spermaceti. They dyed their hair with henna, basma, a decoction of walnut shell and other natural dyes. There were various kinds of cosmetics. For example, some aromas were intended for little girls, others for young girls or for older women. Let me quote some verses from the great Nizami Ganjavi, who glorified woman's beauty and compared it to the spicy aroma of fragrant plants:
As distinct from Nizami, another famous Azerbaijani poet, Molla Panah Vagif (1717-1797 AD), glorified feminine beauty in a more natural, simple style. Vagif celebrated not "the ideal belle", but rather a real woman:
While glorifying women’s beauty, Oriental classics did not forget to admire the beauty of the world in general. The majority of the poets were followers of Eastern mysticism (Sufism) and believed that the world was created by God in accordance with ultimate beauty and harmony.
According to Sufism, each human being is an integral part of the universe and an embodiment of supreme divine forces. Having realized this, the human becomes stronger, and his soul perfects itself and approaches God. To achieve spiritual harmony and become closer to God, mystics used magic spells, intellectual exercises, dances, singing, music and aromatic herbs. The Azerbaijani Sufi philosopher Shihabaddin Suhravardi (died in 1191 AD) wrote: "People involved in spiritual exercises sometimes use gentle melody and pleasant aroma... As a result, they acquire the ability to feel the spiritual light... Further, this ability turns into a habit and becomes stronger." 
At the end of the 10th century, a group of Shiite philosophers named Ikhvan As-Safa (Brothers of Purity) developed a science concerning the conformity between music and the elements of nature, including animals, plants, minerals and color. They said that musical instruments were similar to medicinal plants and fragrant spices. The tar was compared to healing, fragrant saffron; the nagara to cloves and ginseng; the ud to valerian; the ney to lemongrass and the zurna to strong coffee.
BEAUTY AND GOOD MOODS
What is happiness? Each thinker and philosopher answers this question in his own way. One says: "Happiness means service to fatherland." Others believe that "Happiness is attained in successful marriage" or that "Happiness is found in interesting work." A medieval Azeri proverb says: “There are three types of unhappy people in the world: the strong who are subordinate to the weak; the clever who work under the leadership of fools; and the generous who are forced to beg from misers.”
There are countless other definitions of happiness and unhappiness. All people are different. What may inspire one person could be uninteresting or even extremely unpleasant to another. Nevertheless, all of the happy people in the world have one common feature -- usually, they laugh or smile and are in a good mood. The medieval writer Abu Osman al-Jahiz (775-869 AD) wrote: “Laughter is the first benefit that a child feels after birth. Laughter makes him feel good. Laughter promotes good health and increases blood, which is the source of the baby’s strength and happiness” . Hence, it is not a mistake to say that happiness is a condition of extreme satisfaction and the triumph of the human soul. The more often we are in a good mood, the happier we feel.
What is necessary for being in a good mood? Three factors play an important role: the beauty of our surrounding environment, our external attractiveness and the harmony of our inner world. To be in a good mood, we must be surrounded with things that please our eyes. People who live in dirty, poor conditions often suffer from depression. On the contrary, a beautiful countryside or urban landscape, as well as a clean and comfortable condition in the home, promotes a good mood.
The psychological state of a person is also directly associated with his appearance, clothes, hairstyle and type of perfume. Untidiness and negligence in dress may be indicative of low self-esteem, and sometimes, even of nervous or mental disease. Depressed people usually do not care about their external appearance. They are absorbed in themselves, and therefore may come to work uncombed, unwashed and badly dressed. On the contrary, people who are in a cheerful mood usually take care of their appearance and try to make a positive impression on the people around them.
One’s appearance often determines one’s own mood. As a rule, a person who is neatly dressed feels stronger and more self-assured than an individual who is dressed in rags. The same thing can be said about hairstyle and perfume. Having a well-groomed hair and face, pleasant lotion, eau de cologne or perfume raises one’s self-esteem and mood. A person who senses his own attractiveness is always more cheerful and happy than a person who realizes he is unattractive. Therefore, those who aspire for happiness and spiritual harmony should take care of the purity and beauty of both body and soul.
The aroma of certain perfumes directly influences one’s psychological state. For example, some scents make us more active; others soothe us or awaken romantic feelings. The correct selection of these scents can help an individual skillfully control his or her mood.
Spiritual beauty and internal harmony also play a principal role in maintaining a good mood. Sincerity, kindness and love beautify the human soul. On the contrary, rage, envy and lies corrupt and spoil it. "Kind Thought, Kind Word, Kind Deed!" Such was the moral code of the ancient Azeris as formulated in the sacred book of the Zoroastrians, “Avesta” (1st millennium BC).
BEAUTY AND HEALTH
Beauty is not only external and internal attractiveness, but also health. Since ancient times, Azeris have treated various diseases with a number of aromatic substances: flowers and spicy herbs, amber, musk, antimony, tutiya (black dye for eyelashes), henna, basma and other cosmetics. These compounds were widely applied for preventive purposes as well.
Medieval barbers (hairdressers) acted as doctors as well. Bathhouses, in turn, served as both beauty parlors and clinics. A famous 11th-century book known as "Gabusnama" states, "Since architects began to erect buildings, they have not created anything better than bathhouses" .
Medieval Azerbaijani bathhouses usually offered services such as bathing and massage with the application of aromatic oils. Each bathhouse had a staff of masseurs for this very purpose. The massage alleviated physical and mental tiredness and improved circulation.
Aromatic oils were also used in the treatment of various diseases. For example, thyme ointment was applied for rheumatism, and ointment with henna or onions was used for herpes. The staff of each bathhouse included a barber who cut and shaved the customers, and then applied henna, basma or other dyes to their hair.
After a bath and a massage, visitors to the bathhouse could have a rest and relax in a special room where they would drink tea with fragrant herbs that included mint, thyme, marjoram, rose petals, cardamom or cloves. The customer could also order sweets, dinner or a hookah. Stays in the Eastern bathhouse were so pleasant that some people would spend all of their free time there; some even used to sleep there. As a rule, once people left the bathhouse, they felt rejuvenated, attractive, healthy, strong and energetic.
The medieval Azerbaijani bathhouse was a very beautiful architectural object. Usually, it was a stone building with arches, domes and beautiful gates. The inner part of the bathhouse consisted of several large halls with pools. Several large medieval bathhouses have remained in Baku until the present time. They include the Haji Gayib Bathhouse (15th century AD) and the Gasim bey Bathhouse (17th century AD). In medieval times, the same bathhouse functioned as the men's bathhouse one day, and the women’s bathhouse the next.
BEAUTY AND CAREER
One's external appearance plays an important part in his or her professional career. The ability to make a favorable impression on colleagues, customers and business partners is an important aspect in the success of any business. “Gabusname”, a 11th-century Persian book that was very popular in medieval Azerbaijan, points out that “a doctor must always be neat, well dressed and scented, in order to impress a patient favorably” .
Untidiness does not befit humans. An ancient Azeri proverb says: “Poverty comes from God, but dirt and untidiness come from a lack of culture.” Body odor, an unwashed face, messy hair, or a slipshod style of dress indicates not only that person’s neglect of his own appearance, but also negligence in his business. People may think: "Perhaps this individual cares as little about his duties as he does about his own appearance. It’s better not to deal with this person." Plus, being in the company of a dirty, badly smelling individual is extremely unpleasant. Therefore, tidiness and cleanliness are not only an indication of one's health, but also of a person's career success.
According to an old Azeri anecdote, Molla Nasraddin (a comic character from Eastern folklore) once visited a feast organized by a rich friend. Hundreds of guests were invited. All of them were wearing very expensive clothes. Only Molla Nasraddin was wearing very old, torn and dirty clothes. The servants did not pay any attention to him, and the Molla was left without food and drink. He got angry and left the party. The next time, he came in wearing very expensive, clean clothes. The servants immediately brought him refreshments, roasted meat and fragrant pilaf. Molla took a handful of rice and poured it into his sleeves. “What are you doing, sir?” the servants asked. “You have brought this pilaf not for me, but for my clothes. Let them eat it!” the Molla answered.
At the same time, each profession has its own style of clothing. For example, according to modern ideas, the external look of a businessman should not be bright or flashy. Accuracy, modesty, cleanliness and elegance are ideals in the business dress code, in terms of not only clothes, but also cosmetics and perfume. Likewise, medieval Azeri merchants wore well-fitting, relatively modest garments. Their clothes were not as colorful as the clothes of the aristocrats and landowners.
The type of clothes also depended on the age of the man. An 11th-century author wrote: “Young people may put on very bright and funny clothes, but the older people must be more moderate.” 
HARMONY WITH NATURE
"The doctor treats, but nature heals,” the ancient Romans said. They were right. A human being is an integral part of nature. He or she consists of the same particles that make up plants, animals and minerals. Therefore, our organism assimilates natural medicines and cosmetics more easily than it does artificial medications.
Medieval Azerbaijani thinkers pointed out the close ties between human beings and nature as early as 700 years ago. For example, Mahmud Shabustari (1287-1320 AD) proved that people, plants, animals and minerals have a common origin: "Know that when the primary particles united, minerals came into existence. Then, out of minerals appeared plants, out of plants—animals, and out of advanced animals—the human being... There are many intermediate links between animals and a man, but the main link is a monkey, all organs of which are similar to the parts of the human body" . This Sufi mystic from Tabriz stated these ingenious ideas almost 600 years prior to Charles Darwin!
Nasraddin Tusi (1201-1274 AD), the founder of the scientific center and observatory in the city of Maragha, Southern Azerbaijan, also stated that humans have a close relationship with animals, plants and minerals .
The ideas presented by great thinkers of the past have become even more necessary today, in this era of scientific and technical progress. It is pernicious for a human being to be completely isolated from nature, to live in an artificial world of high-rises, asphalt, metal, motor vehicles, artificial food additives, ersatz meals, chemical cosmetics and medicines.
Over the last few decades, many Westerners have exhibited a tendency to "return to Nature". Ecologically pure natural cosmetics and medical preparations from herbal products have gained increasing popularity. Now, many cities have allocated space for parks and gardens, and people try to foster a love for nature in their children. Humans can remain healthy both mentally and physically only if they live in a natural environment.
Recently, some physicians have used a new treatment method called hypotherapy, which treats nervous diseases by putting patients in contact with animals. Scientists have noticed that cats, dogs and other pet animals are able to soothe the human nervous system.
Physicians of the medieval East attached great importance to intercourse with nature. To relieve physical and mental fatigue, they recommended that their patients walk in the garden and inhale the scents of flowers and herbs. Today, this is called aromatherapy. Patients were also advised to listen to the singing of birds and the bubbling of a brook or fountain, or to look at a picturesque landscape.
Medieval aristocrats who suffered from headaches would often visit flower gardens. They sat in the shadow of the peach trees, or in front of the rose or jasmine bushes, or nearby picturesque beds of violets, and then inhale the scent of the fragrant flowers. Thus, according to Haji Suleyman Gajar Iravani (18th century AD), the scent of these plants cured headaches. A 15th-century Turkish book miniature represents Sultan Mehmet II the Conqueror smelling a violet flower that he holds in his hands. This is how the sultan battled his headaches.
Azerbaijani people have ancient traditions in the fields of medicine, aromatherapy and beauty treatment. During the Soviet period, much of the ancient culture of Azerbaijan was replaced with Soviet culture. Aristocrats and intellectuals were arrested and persecuted. Many Azeris forgot who they are and where came from. Fortunately, the rich heritage of our ancestors is not completely forgotten in modern Azerbaijan. Despite the hardships of the country’s transition from socialism to capitalism, Azeris are working to explore their past, history and traditions. Lately scientists, publishers and businessmen of Azerbaijan have been trying to revive the valuable legacy of the past.
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H O M E* ANA SƏHİFƏ * ДОМАШНЯЯ
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