Pomegranate, or anar (anaar انار), has a special meaning in Persian and Iranian culture. It is Iran’s national fruit and has a deep religious and cultural place for Iranians. Pomegranate often symbolizes abundance, blessing, fertility, and immortality. It is commonly included among the “fruits of heaven” میوه بهشتی, together with apples, grapes, and
Pomegranate is native to Iran and eastward up to north India. It is extensively cultivated in the most provinces of Iran, with various colors, sizes, and flavors. It is impressive to see the variety of pomegranate that exists in Iran.
Iran is also known for its quality of pomegranate and is the biggest exporter of pomegranate in the world.
Terms like “gem of Winter” گوهر زمستانی or “Winter’s ruby” یاقوت زمستان often refer to pomegranate in Iran.
Relationship of Fruits with Humans
From the earliest civilizations, our lives have been tied to a forbidden fruit or plant. Adam and Eve were expelled from heaven following the temptation of ‘Satan’ and disobedience to God, by eating the apple.
The concept of “coming out of the soil and returning to the soil” is what we humans identify with. Perhaps this identification has caused man to recognize plants as having a special power and to consider them worthy of sanctity.
Flowers and plants are intertwined with human life, and this to such extent that man cannot be imagined without it. In addition to providing food, flowers and plants, were used as medicine, clothing, cosmetics, and dyes.
In every culture, each flower or fruit brings about its own particular connotation. For example, roses represent beauty or love in many cultures and nations.
“Anar انار” in Persian and Iranian culture can be valued in different levels:
The Meaning behind Pomegranate in Persian and Iranian Rituals
Pomegranate, or anar (anaar انار) has a symbolic meaning in Iranian culture. According to ancient rituals, pomegranate is a sign of fertility because of its abundant seeds. The belief in the sanctity of pomegranates in Iran has been such that you can still see signs of it today.
The beautiful pomegranate festival جشن انار is celebrated every November in many Iranian cities.
In an old Persian tradition, (particularly In small villages) the bride throws a pomegranate on the ground to burst and spread its seeds on the ground. The number of seeds scattered indicates how many children she will give birth to.
Zoroastrians also give pomegranates to their daughters and sons when they get married, wishing them fertility. They also used to burn pomegranate sticks during religious rites.
Pomegranate in Religious Beliefs
Following the development of human beliefs about gods, spirits, life and death, man acquires a mysterious knowledge and realizes the inner power of plants. The power that sometimes makes it praiseworthy and elevates it to the status of divinity and sometimes makes it suitable for magic and sorcery.
The belief in the healing power of pomegranate trees is still common in some areas, especially in farms and countryside villages. Some Islamic shrines or mosques contain pomegranate trees, as these trees are highly respected and are considered sacred. People tie nots (with a string o something else) on their branches, called dakhil دخیل , in the hopes of their wishes coming true.
Pomegranate, or anar (anaar انار) in Persian poetry and Literature
Persian poets and artists used pomegranate (anaar انار) as a metaphor or symbol to express their thoughts and feelings. Because of its intense red color, round shape, and many seeds, pomegranate can be used to manifest a range of metaphors in Persian poetry. Sometimes poets have used pomegranate together or in comparison with apple.
Here are some examples:
Pomegranate in legends and mythology
In Persian fairy tales, the king’s daughter (the princess) emerges from a tree, which is often a pomegranate tree.
Pomegranate has been considered a mythical fruit for humans in many other cultures as well. In Greek mythology it is a symbol of lasting marriage. This fruit is also seen in some famous European paintings. In Chinese ceramic art, pomegranate is a symbol of fertility, abundance, and many children.
“Pomegranate Girl”دختر انار is a play in which a girl is enchanted and lives inside a pomegranate.