The Conference of the Birds Background

The Conference of the Birds Background

"Conference of the Birds" is an epic philosophical poem written by Persian and Sufi thinker Attar. The poem consists of more than 4500 lines.

In the poem birds arrange a meeting during which they have to decide who will be their king. After all the disputes a hoopoe invites them to find a legendary simurg to offer him this title. Hoopoe, considered to be the wisest among other birds, heads a group of thirty birds, and each of them symbolizes the certain sin that interferes with a person to attain enlightenment. These birds go in searching of the Simurgh’s home and they must overcome seven valleys.

The poem ends with the fact that they find this home, which turns out to be a large lake; looking at the lake water, birds see their own reflections in it.

The name of the poem is based, in some way, on a word game: "Simurg", the name of the legendary bird of Iranian mythology, consonant with the Persian si morgh, that means "thirty birds". The poem is characterized by a large number of the short didactic stories woven into the main story and a deep symbolism: thus, the image of each bird embodies a human sin (such as the nightingale is identified with the amorous passions, parrot - with the searches of the immortality fountain rather than seeking to know God, the peacock – with a devil-worship); seven valleys, which the birds have to cross, are associated with the seven senses that a person, according to the teachings of the Sufis, must overcome for understanding the true nature of God. The ending of the poem is also connected with the Sufi teachings: according to Sufism God doesn’t exist in the form of some external substance or separately from the universe, He is reflected in the summation of all that exists.

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