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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 35

Chapter XVI


He Reigned Ninety-Nine Years

How Bahman sought Revenge for the Death of Asfandiyar

Whenas Bahman sat on his grandsire's throne
He girt his girdle round him, oped his hands,
Bestowed a donative upon the troops,
And granted many a march and many a province.
He held a conclave of the men of wisdom,
The great men, and the officers of state,
And thus he said: "Ye all, both old and young,
Whoever hath an understanding mind,
Wot of the slaying of Asfandiyar,
Of fortune's changes both for good and ill,
Of Rustam's deeds while yet he lived and those
Of Zal, the sorcerer, that ancient man.
Now Faramarz in public and in private
Desireth naught but vengeance on ourselves,
While my head acheth and my heart is full,
And I too think of nothing but revenge
Two warriors - Nush Azar and Mihr-i-Nush -
Have given up their lives so wretchedly !
By that same token too Asfandiyar -
A man without a peer in all the world -
Was slaughtered in Zabulistan. The beasts
Of prey and chase went wild with grief for him.
Yea, for the slaughter of Asfandiyar
The pictures in the palace weep for woe,
And for the blood of those our noble ones,
Our youths and gallant cavaliers withal.
No man that springeth from pure stock will leave
His finest jewel lying in the ditch,
But will come forward, like Shah Faridun
(And while such men exist all will be well)
Who made Zahhak, in that he slew Jamshid,
To cease among the warriors of the world.
For vengeance Minuchihr led from Amul
A mighty host 'gainst Tur and valiant Salm,
Invaded Chin, took vengeance for his grandsire,
And levelled earth up to the hills with slain.'
When Kai Khusrau escaped Afrasiyab
He made the world run river-like with blood.
My sire avenged the slaying of Luhrasp,
And like achievements should be told of me.
In vengeance for his father, Faramarz
Exalted to the shining sun his head,
Marched on Kabul, required revenge for Rustam,
And levelled to the dust its fields and fells.
No man could recognise the land for blood
They made the horses trample on the slain.
More call have I to take revenge whourge
My steed against the elephant and lion,
Because thou wilt not see amongst earth's heroes
Another horseman like Asfandiyar.
What are your views? What answer do ye give
In this regard? Strive to advise me well."
Thereat the assembled loyal lieges cried:-
"Thy slaves are we and have fulfilled our hearts
With love toward then. Then art more, instructed
Than we about the past and mightier. .
Do whatsoe'er thou wilt so long as fame
And Grace divine accrue to thee thereby.
No one will disobey thee; who will dare?"
Bahman, thus answered by his host, grew keener
For vengeance and made ready to invade
Sistan. This settled, the assembly rose.
At dawn the drums beat and the sky grew ebon
With dust of troops whereof there marched along
Sword-wielding horsemen five score thousand strong.

How Bahman put Zal in Bonds

Now when Bahman,was drawing nigh the Hirmund
He choose him out an envoy, one of rank,
Entrusted to him various messages,
And sent him on to Zal, the son of Sam,
To say: "My lot is bitter in the world
Through what hath happened to Asfandiyar,
And through the vengeance owing for Nush Zad
And Nush Azar - two loved and high-born princes.
I mean to ease my heart of this old grudge,
And make the rivers of Zabul run blood."
The messenger arrived and gave the message
To Zal, whose heart grew wed to pain and grief,
And he returned this answer: "If the Shah
Is thus concerned about Asfandiyar,
Then let him know that what was was to be,
And that the matter filled my heart with anguish.
Thou wast thyself exposed to good and ill,
And hadst from me all profit and no loss.
Now Rustam swerved not from thy sire's commands,
But, as thou sawest, bare a loyal heart.
Thy sire, that great and noble prince, was fey,
And thereupon waxed over-bold. The lion
And dragon of the wood can not escape
The clutch of Fate. Thou must have heard, good sooth,
What deeds of valour Sam, the cavalier,
Accomplished in the past, and thus porsevered
Down to the days of Rustam, who then drew
The trenchant scimitar and wrought with valour
Before thine ancestors in times of strife
Withal he was the humblest of thy nurses
As well as of the mightiest of thy host.
Now miserably hath he passed away,
And all Zabulistan is full of tumult.
If now thou wilt forbear to war with us,
Wilt think upon our case considerately,
Wilt come and, putting vengeance from thy heart,
Enchant our land with loving kindliness,
I will present to thee upon thy coming
Sam's wealth, brocade, dinars, his golden girdles,
And golden harness, for thou art the Shah;
The nobles are thy flock."

He gave the envoy
A steed, dinars, and many other gifts.
Now when the noble envoy reached Bahman,
He told what he had heard and seen with Zal.
Bahman, the fortune-favoured, when he heard,
Rejected the excuse, was very wroth,
And reached the city with an aching heart,
With vengeful thoughts and sighs upon his lips.
Then Zal, the son of Sam the cavalier,
Attended meanly by two horsemen, went
To meet Bahman and, coming to the presence,
Alighted from his roadster, did obeisance,
And spake thus, saying : " Wise and prudent Shah !
Deign to regard us with the eye of wisdom.
By all the services that we have paid,
And by our care for thee when thou wast young,
Forgive us, speak no more about the past,
Be great and seek not vengeance for the slain."
Enraged with Zal, whose hopes were foiled, Bahman
Put him forthwith in fetters, heeding not
What minister or treasurer might say.
Then from the halls of Zal, the son of Sam
The cavalier, they loaded up the camels
With money and with jewels in the rough,
With thrones and tapestries, whate'er there was,
With golden tissue and with golden crowns,
With silvern tissue and with belts and earrings.
They took the Arab horses trapped with gold,
The Indian scimitars with golden sheaths,
The prisoners and sacks of drachms, of musk,
And camphor, aid the treasures more or less
That Rustam had collected by his toil
From Shahs and chiefs. Bahman delivered all
Zabulistan to pillaging and then
Gave crowns and purses to his mighty men.

How Faramarz fought with Bahman and was put to Death

At Bust, upon the frontier, Faramarz,
In dudgeon for his grandsire, steeped his hands
In vengeance, gathered troops, marched 'gainst Bahman
And oft recalled the wars of matchless Rustam.
When news of this had reached the monarch's ears
He raged upon the throne of king of kings,
Packed up the baggage, called the troops to horse,
Marched to the burial-place of Rustam's race,
And tarried there two weeks. Then with the din
Of trumpets and of Indian bells the mountains
Shook to their cores, heaven bathed the world in pitch,
And from that pitch the arrows showered like hail,
While at the clash of ax and twang of bow
The earth out-quaked the sky. Three days and nights
Upon that field steel swords and maces rained,
And clouds of dust collected overhead.
Upon the fourth day there arose a storm
Thou wouldst have said: " The day and night are on
The blast was in the face of Faramarz.
The world-lord joyed and, following up the dust
With trenchant sword, brought Doomsday on the foe.
The men of Bust, the warriors of Zabul,
The gallant swordsmen of Kabulistan,
Had not a horseman left upon the field,
No chief was left of all those men of name,
For one by one they turned their backs in flight,
And shamefully deserted Faramarz.
The battlefield was heaped up mountain-like
By slain struck down pell mell from both the hosts.
Albeit with a paltry band of heroes
Right bravely Faramarz still faced the foe,
Himself a lion and a lion's whelp,
With all his body hacked by scimitars,
Until at length that noble warrior
Was ta'en by brave Ardshir who carried him
Before Bahman. That vengeful monarch gazed
Upon him for a while but would not spare,
Bade rear a gibbet and hung Faramarz
Alive thereon, his elephantine form
Head-downward. Then in wreak, with arrow-rain,
Bahman, that famous Kaian, had him slain.

How Bahman released Zal and returned to Iran

Now noble Bishutan, the minister,
Was sorely troubled by this butchery,
And rising in the world-lord's presence said:-
"Just monarch I if revengement was thy due,
And 'twas thy heart's desire, that wish of thine
Is perfected in loss. Cease to enjoin
Raid, slaughter, turmoil, strife. Approve them not,
Refrain thyself, fear God, and think of us.
Consider well the turns of fortune's wheel,
How it exalteth this man to the clouds,
And putteth that man into sorry plight.
Thy sire, that world-lord and the army's Lustre,
Did he not go Nimruz-ward for a bier,
And did not Rustam too when at Kabul
Go to the chase and perish in a pit?
While thou dost live, O king of pure descent!
Vex not a man of birth, for if the son
Of Sam, the son of Nariman, shall cry
Against his bondage to the great All-giver,
Thou wilt be pinched, successful as thou art,
When he appealeth to the Omnipotent.
To Rustam, warder of the Kaian throne,
Who used to gird his loins for every toil,
Thou vast indebted for this crown and not
To Shah Gushtasp or to Asfandiyax.
Trace downward from the days of Kai Kubad
To those of Kai Khusrau of holy rede;
All owed their greatness to his scimitar,
And held the mightiest his inferiors.
If thou art wise release Zal from his bonds,
And turn thy heart back from the evil way."
The Shah repented of those deeds of his
When he had heard the words of Bishutan.
A proclamation issued from his court:-
"Ye paladins, ye just and upright men !
Make preparations for returning home,
And keep from pillage and from massacre."
He bade them to release the feet of Zal
From bonds and give him much good counselling.
They built a charnel-house to hold the slain,
Such was the rede of righteous Bishutan.
When Zal returned from prison to his palace
His noble spouse wept o'er him bitterly,
And cried: "Alack thou brave, heroic Rustam,
Thou scion of the hero Nariman !
When yet thou wast alive who recognised
Gushtasp as Shah? But now thy hoards are sacked,
Zal hath been captive, and thy son slain vilely
By showers of arrows ! Oh ! may none e'er see
Another day like this, and may the earth
Be void of offspring from Asfandiyar."
Now tidings of this matter reached Ballman,
As well as glorious Bishutan, who grieved
For her; his cheeks grow wan at her complainings.
He spake thus to Bahman: "0 youthful Shah,
As 'twere a new moon in the midst of heaven !
At daybreak lead thy host forth from this land,
For matters here are grave and troublesome.
May evil eyes be distant from thy crown,
And may thy whole time be a festival.
The king of kings should stay not long beneath
The roof of Zal, the son of Sam the hero."
Whenas the hills became like sandarach,
And when the sound of drums rose from the courtgate,
The monarch led the array from Zabul
Toward Iran - the country of the brave.
He rested, sat rejoicing on the throne,
And ruled the world by precedent and justice.
Great was the largess that the poor received,
And many men rejoiced in him or grieved.

How Bahman married his own daughter Humai and appointed his Successor

Bahman possessed one lion-taking son,
on whom he had bestowed the name Sasan;
He had withal a daughter named Humai,
Considerate, accomplished, and discreet.
They used to call her by the name Chihrzad
Her father's greatest joy was seeing her.
He took her for his wife, which in the Faith
That thou call'st olden was a goodly deed.
Humai, that heart-refreshing shining Moon,
In course of time grew pregnant by the Shah.
Now when six months had passed she 'gan to ail,
And he, at seeing this, fell sick himself,
And, prostrated with suffering, summoned her.
He summoned too the nobles and the magnates,
And, seating them where great men use to sit,
Thus said: "This chaste Humai hath had small joy
Of this world, and I leave her crown, high throne,
The host, the treasure, and preeminence.
She shall be my successor in the world,
She and the babe withal that she shall bear,
For, whether it shall prove a son or daughter,
It shall succeed to crown and throne and girdle.
Sasan, on hearing this, was all astound
His heart was darkened by his father's words,
And, like a pard, in three days and two nights
He journeyed from Iran abroad in shame,
And reached in haste the town of Nishapur
In dudgeon and an alien from his sire.
He asked a lady of high rank in marriage,
But kept himself down level with the dust,
Withheld the secret of his Kaian birth,
And spake to no one of his quality.
His chaste wife bare to,him a holy son,
Whose steps were happy and whose birth was blest,
A son to whom he gave the name Sasan,
And died anon. Whenas the child grew up,
And saw his home a prey to poverty,
He tended for the king of Nishapur
The herds that roamed at will o'er plain and mountain,
And was for long the herdsman of the king
His dwelling was on height and wilderness.
Now turn I to Humai to tell her case
When she, Bahman deceased, assumed his place.

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