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Zoroastrian Heritage

Author: K. E. Eduljee





The epic

The Poet Ferdowsi


Writing & Books

Oral Tradition

Ferdowsi's Sources

Khvatay-Namak / Khodai-Nama

Achaemenian Era Book of King - Basilikai Difeterai


Other Legends

Ferdowsi's Original Work Lost

Differences in Shahnameh Copies

Reconstruction of an Authoritative Shahnameh

English Translations

Spelling of the Names

Resources-Persian Text


Ferdowsi's Manuscript

Earliest Surviving Manuscript Copies Known

Recent Manuscript Discovery in Beirut

Illuminated Manuscripts

Great Mongol/Demotte Manuscript

Bayasanghori Manuscript

Tahmaspi/Houghton Manuscript

Elation, Regret & Hope

Shahnameh's Characters

The Heroes - Story in Brief

English Translation

W = Warner & Warner
A = James Atkinson
Z = Helen Zimmerman

1. Prologue W

2. Creation W

3. Gaiumart W

3. Kaiumers A

4. Hushang W

5. Tahmuras W

6. Jamshid W

7. Zahak W

3-7. Shahs of Old Z

8. Faridun W

9. Minuchihr, Sam, Zal, Rustam W

10. Naudar W

11. Zav W

12. Kai Kaus 1 W

13. 7 Courses of Rustam W

14. Kai Kaus 2 W

15. Kai Kaus 3 W

16. Warriors W

17. Suhrab W

18. Siyawush W

19. Kai Khusrau 1 W

20. Kai Khusrau 2 W

21. Farud W

22. Kai Khusrau 3 W

23. Rustam W

24. Rustam's Exploits W

25. Bizhan W

26. Gudarz W

27. Great War W

28. Passing of Kai Khusrau W

29. Luhrasp & Gushtasp W

30. Gushtasp & Zardhusht W

31. Asfandiyar's Seven Stages W

32. Asfandiyar W

33. Asfandiyar's Fight with Rustam W

34. Rustam & Shaghad W

35. Bahman W

36. Humai & Darab W

36a. Humai & Darab A

37. Darab & Dara A

38. Sikandar A

Satire on Sultan Mahmud A

The Heroes - Story in Brief


The Characters

Locale - Sistan

Pahlavans & Their Role


Zal Woos Princess Rudabeh

The Birth of Rustam

Rustam's Horse Rakhsh

Rustam Meets Princess Tahmina

The Tragedy of Sohrab

Page 6

Chapter 6

Jamshid Reigned Seven Hundred Years

The Greatness and Fall of Jamshid

Jamshid, the mighty son of Tahmuras,
Full of his father's maxims, girt himself,
Succeeded to his glorious father's throne,
And wore in kingly wise the crown of gold.
His girdle was the Grace of king of kings,
And all the world obeyed him, contests ceased,
The age had rest, and bird and div and fairy
Were his to bid, the world took added lustre,
Through him the throne of Shahs was glorified.
"Mine is the Grace," he said, "I am both king
And archimage, I will restrain ill-doers
And make for souls a path toward the light."
He first wrought arms and oped for warriors
The door of fame. His Grace made iron yield;
He fashioned it to helmets, hauberks, breastplates,
And coats of armour both for man and horse.
His ardent mind achieved the work and made
Good store in fifty years. Another fifty
He spent on raiment fit for fight or feast;
And made of spun and floss silk, hair and cotton,
Fine fabrics, cloth of hair and rich brocade.
He taught to spin and weave, and when the stuffs
Were made he showed men how to full and sew them
Then to the joy of all he founded castes
For every craft; it took him fifty years.
Distinguishing one caste as sacerdotal
To be employed in sacred offices,
He separated it from other folk
And made its place of service on the mountains
That God might be adored in quietude.
Arrayed for battle on the other hand
Were those who formed the military caste;
They were the lion-men inured to war -
The Lights of armies and of provinces -
Whose office was to guard the royal throne
And vindicate the nation's name for valour.
The third caste was the agricultural,
All independent tillers of the soil,
The sewers and the reapers-men whom none
Upbraideth when they eat. Though clothed in rags,
The wearers are not slaves, and sounds of chiding
Reach not their ears. They are free men and labour
Upon the soil safe from dispute and contest.
What said the noble man and eloquent?
"Tis idleness that maketh freemen slaves."
The fourth caste was the artizans. They live
lay doing handiwork - a turbulent crew,
Who being always busied with their craft
Are given much to thought. Jamshid thus spent
Another fifty years and did much good,
For each man learnt his place and others' too.
He bade the foul divs temper earth with water
And taught them how to fashion moulds for bricks.
They laid foundations first with stones and lime,
Then raised thereon by rules of art such structures
As hot baths, lofty halls, and sanctuaries.
He searched among the rocks for stones whose lustre
Attracted him and came on many a jewel,
As rubies, amber, silver, gold. Jamshid
Unlocked their doors and brought them forth by spells.
He introduced the scents that men enjoy
As camphor, genuine musk, gum Benjamin,
Sweet aloe, ambergris, and bright rosewater.
Next leechcraft and the healing of the sick,
The means of health, the course of maladies
Were secrets opened by Jamshid : the world
Hath seen no other such discoverer.
He crossed the sea in ships. For fifty years
His wisdom brought to light the properties
Of things. These works achieved, Jamshid ambitioned
Rank loftier still, and by his royal Grace
Made him a throne, with what a wealth of gems
Inlaid! which when he willed the divs took up
And bare from earth to heaven. There the Shah,
Whose word was law, sat sunlike in mid air.
The world assembled round his throne in wonder
At his resplendent fortune, while on him
The people scattered jewels, and bestowed
Upon the day the name of New Year's Day,
The first of Farwardin and of the year,
When limbs repose from labour, hearts from strife.
The noble chieftains held a festival,
Called for the goblet, wine, and minstrelsy,
And ever since that time that glorious day
Remaineth the memorial of that Shah.
Thus things continued for three centuries,
And all the while men never looked on death;
They wetted not of travail or of ill,
And divs like slaves were girt to do them service;
Men hearkened to Jamshid with both their ears,
Sweet voices filled the world with melody,
And thus till many years had come and gone
The royal Grace shone brightly from the Shah
His ends had been attained, the world reposed,
And still new revelations came from God,
Men saw but goodness in their king, the earth
Served him, he reigned - a monarch with the Grace.
One day contemplating the throne of power
He deemed that he was peerless. He knew God,
But acted frowardly and turned aside
In his ingratitude. He summoned all
The chiefs, and what a wealth of words he used!
"The world is mine, I found its properties,
The royal throne hath seen no king like me,
For I have decked the world with excellence
And fashioned earth according to my will.
From me derive your provand, ease, and sleep,
Your raiment and your pleasure. Mine are greatness
And diadem and sovereignty. Who saith
That there is any great king save myself?
Leechcraft hath cured the world, disease and death
Are stayed. Though kings are many who but I
Saved men from death? Ye owe me sense and life
They who adore me not are Ahrimans.
So now that ye perceive what I have done
All hail me as the Maker of the world."
Thereat the archmages hung their heads, perplexed
To answer and God's Grace departed from him,
The world was filled with din, the Court deserted,
None who desired renown stayed in his presence.
For three and twenty years the empty portal
Told of the crime that equalled him with God,
Brought on disaster and o'erturned the state.
How saith the seer, the man of Grace and wisdom?
"King though thou art serve God. Great fears oppress
The heart that is devoid of thankfulness."
Day darkened to Jamshid, he lost the Grace
That lighteneth the world, and though with tears
Of blood he sought for pardon Grace was not,
And dread of coming evil was his lot.

The Story of Zahhak and His Father

One of the desert spear-armed Bedouins
Of noble birth then lived - a virtuous king,
Just, highborn, generous, and hight Mardas,
Who sought his God with reverence and sighs,
He kept a thousand head of all milch cattle,
Goats, camels, sheep, and kine - a gentle breed -
With Arab steeds, all timid beauties they,
And grudged the milk to none. He had a son
Whom much he loved - Zahhak, a gallant prince,
But hasty. People called him Biwarasp.
Ten thousand is " biwar " in ancient Persian,
And he possessed ten thousand Arab steeds
With golden equipage - a famous stud.
Most of his days and nights he spent on horseback
Engaged in superintendence not in war.
One day Iblis approached him as a friend
And led his wits astray. The youth gave ear
With pleasure and all unsuspectingly
Gave to Iblis heart, reason, and pure soul,
And heaped the dust on his own head. Iblis
Exulted seeing that the youth was snared
And gulled the simpleton with specious words,
Thus saying: "I could tell thee many things
Known to myself alone."
The youth made answer :-
"Tell me at once, my worthy monitor! "
Iblis replied: "First promise, then my story."
The guileless youth swore as Iblis dictated
"Thy secret shall be kept, thy bidding done."
Then said Iblis: "Great prince? shall any rule
Here but thyself? What profiteth a sire
With such a son? Now hearken to my redo
The lifetime of this ancient potentate
Continueth, thou art shelved. Seize on his court
And goods. His place will suit thee, thou shalt be
King of the world if thou durst do my bidding."
Zahhak looked grave; to shed his sire's blood grieved him.
He said: "Not so, suggest some other course:
This cannot be."
"Then thou," Iblis rejoined,
"Art perjured and wilt still be despicable,
Thy father honoured."
Thus he snared the Arab,
Who asked: "What must I do? I will obey."
Iblis replied: "Leave me to scheme. Thy head
Shall touch the sun. I only ask thy silence;
No help need I, myself am competent,
But keep the sword of speech within the scabbard."
Now in the palace was a jocund garth,
And thither used Mardas to go at dawn
To bathe him ere he prayed, without a slave
To light him on his way, The wicked Div,
Intent on ill, dug in the garden-path
A deep pit, masked and made it good with boughs.
Ere dawn the Arab chieftain hied him thither
And, as he reached the pit, his fortunes fell;
That good man tumbled, broke his back, and died.
He ne'er had breathed a cold breath on his son,
But cherished him and lavished treasure on him,
Yet that abandoned youth respected not
His father, but conspired to shed his blood.
I heard a sage once say: "Though fierce in strife
No son will dare to take his father's life;
If such a crime should seem to be implied,
Seek for the reason on the mother's side."
Vile and unjust Zahhak thus seized the throne,
Assumed the Arabs' crown and governed them
For good or ill.
Iblis encouraged thus
Began again and said: "Since thou hast turned
To me, and gained thy heart's desire, come pledge me
Thy word once more to do as I require;
And then thy realm shall spread throughout the world,
Birds, beasts, and fishes shall be all throe own."
When this was said he set about to use,
Most marvellous' another kind of ruse.

How Iblis Turned Cook

Then as a youth well spoken, clean, and clever,
Iblis went to Zahhak with fawning words,
"Let me," he said, "who am a noted cook,
Find favour with the king."
By appetite
Seduced, Zahhak received and welcomed him,
So that the monarch's faithful minister
Gave to Iblis the royal kitchen's key.
Foods then were few, men did not kill to eat
But lived on vegetals of all earth's produce;
So evil-doing Ahriman designed
To slaughter animals for food, and served
Both bird and beast. He fed the king on blood
To make him lion-fierce, and like a slave
Obeyed him. First he fed his lord on yelk
To make him strong; he liked the flavour much
And praised Iblis, who said: "Illustrious monarch!
For ever live! To-morrow I will serve thee
So as to please thee well."
All night he mused
What strange repast to proffer on the morrow,
And when the azure vault brought back again
The golden Gem he hopefully presented
A meal of partridges and silver pheasants.
The Arab monarch ate and his small wits
Were lost in admiration. On the third day
Iblis served lamb and fowl, and on the fourth
A chine of veal with saffron and rosewater,
Musk and old wine. Zahhak when he had tasted,
In wonder at his cook's ability,
Said: "Worthy friend! ask thou my recompense."
He answered? Live, O king! in wealth and power.
My heart is throe, thy favour my soul's food;
Yet would I ask one boon above my station
'Tis leave to kiss and lay my face and eyes
Upon thy shoulders."
Off his guard Zahhak
Replied? I grant it; it may do thee grace."
Iblis received permission, kissed and vanished.
A marvel followed - from the monarch's shoulders
Grew two black snakes. Distraught he sought a cure
And in the end excised them, but they grew
Again! oh strange! like branches from a tree.
The ablest leeches gave advice in turn
And used their curious arts but all in vain.
At length Iblis himself came hurrying
Dight as a leech. " This was thy destiny,"
He said; " cut not the snakes but let them live.
Give them men's brains and gorge them till they sleep.
It is the only means, such food may kill them."
The purpose of the foul Div shrewdly scan
Had he conceived perchance a secret plan
To rid the world of all the race of man?

How the Fortunes of Jamshid Went to Wrack

Thereafter tumult, combating and strife
Arose throughout Iran, the bright day Bloomed
And men renounced Jamshid, who when his Grace
Was darkened turned to folly and perverseness.
Pretenders started up, on every march
The disaffected nobles levied troops
And strove. Some set forth for Arabia,
For they had heard? There is a monarch there -
An awe-insiring king of dragon-visage."
Thus all the discontented cavaliers
Went to Zahhak and offered fealty,
Saluting him as monarch of Iran.
The king of dragon-visage came like wind
And donned the Iranian crown, collected troops -
The bravest of Arabia and Iran -
And having seized the throne of Shah Jamshid
Slipped on the world as 'twere a finger-ring.
Thus fell Jamshid. Pressed by the world's new lord
He fled, surrendering crown, throne and treasure,
Host, power and diadem. The world turned black
To him, he disappeared and yielded all.
He was in hiding for a century,
But in the hundredth year the impious Shah
Appeared one day beside the sea of Chin.
Zahhak clutched him forthwith, gave him small respite,
And sawing him asunder freed the world
From him and from the fear that he inspired.
Long was he hidden from the Dragon's breath,
But there was no escaping in the end,
For fortune whirled him like a yellow straw
And both his throne and greatness passed away.
What better Shah was ever on the throne,
And yet what profit could he call his own
From all his toils? His seven centuries
Brought him great blessings and calamities.
What need hast thou then for a length of years?
The world will keep its secrets though fur food
It give thee sweets and honeycomb, and rude
Ungentle voices banish from thine ears.
Wilt thou then say? Its love is spent on me,
In every look affection is expressed? "
Wilt thou confide therein caressingly
And tell it all the secrets of thy breast?
'Twill play with thee a pretty game indeed
Anon, and cause thy wretched heart to bleed.
My heart is weary of this Wayside Inn:
O God! release me soon from toil therein.'

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