Sayri Guli Lola (The Tulip Stories), a new short documentary directed by Sharofat Arabova
and produced by the State Tojikfilm Institution, has been completed this July. The film traces
the echoes of the ancient festival of Tajik people named Sayri Guli Surkh or Sayli Lola, the
festival of a red tulip. It was celebrated widely in Bukhara, Khujand, Isfara, Asht,
Kanibadam, Mazar-e-Sharif, and other cities. Sadriddin Aini, the classic Tajik writer,
dedicated a poem about the public gathering in celebration of the red flower, that traditionally
took place around the Sufi Bahaouddin Naqshbandi’s Mazar, in his memoirs of the 19th
Much earlier, the red tulips served a metaphor of an innocent death of
Siyavash, featured in Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh (The Book of Kings). Siyavash, the legendary
Iranian prince, along with his army, faced death with a fortitude because he refused to
involve in another battle with Afrasiab, the king of Turan. When he fell in the field, the red
tulips grew up out of his blood drops. Many ethnologists agree on the point that Siyavash is a
personified image of the Nature dying in Winters and reviving in Springs. The nature coming
alive was followed by the celebrations of the Nowruz, the Persian New Year (March 21st),
initiated with the Gulgardoni ritual, the welcoming of the early Spring by the bouquets of the
first flowers. The celebration continued in the Tulip festival celebrations in April-May.
The film about the roots of the Tulip Festival, revived from 2018 in Tajikistan, is a hybrid
documentary film that mixes the observatory approach, the usage of found footage, and the
visualization of the pre-recorded folk music (mavrigi, falak styles) of Sufi nature via the
scripted scenes about Layla and Majnun.
Thereby every following song in the film continues
unfolding the plot: it starts with the arrival of Lolachi, the Tulip pluckers, in the field early in
the morning and ends at sunset on the creation of the traditional willow tree decorated with
the plucked tulips, symbolizing the Tree of Life.
The film director aimed to surpass the informativeness of the literary text, focusing on the emotional side of the music and structuring the film as a poetic video essay. The film appeals to the archaic symbols of the Tajik culture, like the Sogdian priestesses of Anahita who were holding the tulips and pots in the early medieval art; the water as a representation of Anahita, the Goddess of water and fertility; Ashaglon, the ritual of bringing the rain, that directly relates to the agricultural works and the circle of life; the seasonal purification by fire as a symbolic replay of Siyavash’s story and his trial by the bonfire. Thereby the main Avestan symbols, like fire, earth, water, a tree, and air are reflected in the film. It narrates about a deep relation between the intangible and material culture of Tajik people and Nature.