1. The poet known to the world as Firdausi Toosi was born Abul Qasim Hasan Mansur in about 935 AC in the village Shadab in the ancient city of Toos in the province of Khorasan. His father was Fakhruddin Ahmed bin Farrokh. Though Firdausi was a Muslim by birth, he had in-depth knowledge of Farsi and Pahlavi languages, Iranian history and Avestan texts through their translations.
2. He composed the Shahnameh, “Book of Kings” comprising 60,000 Persian couplets containing the history of the Peshdad, Kayan and Sasan dynasties. Though the beginning of the Shahnameh was done much earlier, it was predominantly composed and finished in the court of Sultan Mahmud of Gazni, over a period of about 35 years.
3. When Sultan came to know about the young poet’s poetic prowess and historical knowledge, he invited him to Gazni. Firdausi presented before the Sultan his previously written compositions of Faridun and Zohak. On hearing the beautiful couplets, the Sultan exclaimed that he had transformed his court into Firdaus (the Arabic word for paradise). It is from this incident, that the great poet got his pen name Firdausi. Some scholars also believe that the poet’s grandfather was a keeper of Gardens (in Arabic even a garden is referred to as Firdaus) and hence his pen name Firdausi.
4. In those times, people were generally known from the place they hailed. Since Firdausi came from the city of Toos, he was known as Toosi. However, when the Sultan asked why his city was called Toos, Firdausi had an answer to that, owing to his deep knowledge of Iranian history. He said that the city was named after Toos, a great Iranian warrior, who unknowingly disobeyed King Kaekhushru, and then afraid to face the king, hid in a place for several months. This place later came to be known as Toos.
5. Firdausi’s later life story is heart rending. He passed away in 1020 AC, a totally heart-broken, shattered and bitter old man. In 1934, the late Reza Shah Pahlavi, had a splendid memorial erected near his tomb to mark the spot where the mortal remains of the great poet were buried nearly a thousand years ago.