SSS12. King Behram V, Behram-gur (419-439) (Part 4, concluded)

King Behram V, Behram-gur – The brave, daring, dashing, adventurous, ace hunter, warrior king (Part 4, concluded)

Seven questions

After Behram had left for Azarbaizan, an ambassador of the Roman Kaizar had come to visit king Behram.  The acting king Narseh met him and asked him to wait till the return of the king. After Behram returned, a minister reminded the king that the Roman ambassador, who was an old and dignified man, was still in the palace, waiting to see him. The following day the king summoned him and explained the reasons for the delay in seeing him.

The ambassador replied that he was highly impressed at the way the Iranian nation was functioning and prospering. He then conveyed that the Kaizar had sent him to ask seven questions to the king and his wise men. The king summoned his court and the ambassador asked the questions, to which the ministers answered:

Q 1. What thing is always inside?

Answer: Air

Q 2. What thing is always outside?

Answer: Sky

Q 3. What is always above?

Answer: Heaven

Q 4. What is always below?

Answer: Hell

Q 5. What is limitless?

Answer: God

Q 6. What is useless?

Answer: Attempting to go against the will of God

Q 7. What has many names and which rules the world?

Answer: Intelligence

The Ambassador was highly impressed by the replies. The king was also very happy, and rewarded the ministers. Later in the day, one of the ministers asked the ambassador “What harmful work makes us cry and what beneficial work helps man reach a high position?” To this the ambassador replied, “A task wisely done always leads us to a high position and work done with immaturity makes one cry.” The minister did not agree with this answer. He said, “The death of an innocent man should make us cry and the death of an evil person helps the world to progress.” The ambassador appreciated the minister’s explanation.  Then the king gave the ambassador several gifts and he returned to his native land.

Indian king Shangal

One day the minister informed king Behram that Shangal, the king of Kanouj in India, was demanding taxes from the provinces of Sindh and China, which were under Iranian authority. The minister warned the king that if Shangal was not checked he would be a threat to Iran and his throne.

The king decided to tackle the problem in his own way. He himself decided to visit India, disguised as an ambassador from Iran, calling himself Burzu. He asked his minister to have a letter written to Shangal which he himself would deliver. The minister ordered a letter to be written on a silken cloth in the Pahlavi language, in which he advised Shangal to act wisely and not in a way which may be harmful to him. He asked him to accept the authority of the Iranian king and pay him taxes through the envoy who was coming to him.  With this letter, Behram left incognito for India, with a few trusted noblemen.

In the court of Shangal, Behram was given due respect as the envoy of the Iranian king and was made to sit on a golden chair. When Shangal asked him to speak, he started singing praises of his king. Then he handed over the letter to Shangal, who was annoyed at reading it. He started talking about his might, power and wealth and said that he would never bow to Iran. He even threatened to behead the ambassador who had brought the letter.

Behram requested him not to get excited. He put an offer before him, that if anybody from his kingdom could win against him either in a debate or in mace-duel, he should not ask for any taxes from Iran. Shangal did not agree with the offer, but nevertheless asked Behram to stay at his palace.

In the festivities that followed, Shangal saw Behram’s prowess in wrestling, archery and polo, and was highly impressed. However, doubts started creeping in his mind as he did not expect an ambassador to be such an accomplished person. From his looks and prowess, Shangal observed that the ambassador may either be a close relative or a brother of the king. Upon asking, Behram responded in the negative. He asked to be allowed to go to Iran, to which Shangal declined.

Struck by Behram’s looks and prowess, Shangal desired to keep him back in Kanouj as his advisor and a commander. He asked his ministers to get to know him better. Upon inquiries, Behram introduced himself as Barzu and clarified that he was loyal to his own king and had no intentions to serve another king. The answer was conveyed to Shangal who was very disappointed.

Behram fights a wolf and an Azdah

Shangal tried to test Behram further. In a forest next to his kingdom lived a gigantic ferocious wolf, which even scared lions. Shangal asked Behram to slay the wolf and free his kingdom from its harassment.

Behram asked for a guide and set out to slay the beast. The guide left after showing Behram the hiding place of the beast. Soon the gigantic wolf emerged and Behram started shooting arrows at it. After some time, the wolf lay injured. Behram went near it and slew it with his sword. Then he ordered the soldiers to carry the dead beast to the king. The king organized a party to celebrate this heroic feat. However he did not want Beharam to return to Iran. He feared that such a formidable person in Iran would be a great threat to him. So he entrusted him one last mission, that of killing an Azdah. Behram took up the challenge. He went with a guide and thirty trusted men. He first injured the Azdah with poisoned arrows and then fell him with his sword.

King Behram V killing the Azdah

Shangal did not expect Behram to succeed. He felt his warriors were no match for Iranians. The thought that Behram would return to Iran and talk about his success depressed him. He decided to have Behram killed. He asked his courtiers, who guided him not to kill the ambassador as it would reflect very badly on them and invite the wrath of the Iranians.

Shangal cooked up another plan to dissuade Behram from returning to Iran. The following day he called him in privacy, offered him the hand of one of his daughters and promised to make him his successor. Behram considered this as his only option of a safe return to Iran.  He agreed to marry on the condition that the king let him select his most beautiful daughter. The king agreed, and so Behram selected princess Sapinud and married her. Seven days of festivities followed.

When the king of China came to know that Shangal had become too friendly and given his daughter in marriage to an Iranian ambassador who had done heroic deeds, he sent a letter to the ambassador praising his valour and requested him to be his guest. He further assured him that he would let him return to Iran whenever he would like. Behram declined this offer.

Behram returns to Iran

Sapinud loved Behram and pined for him all day. One day, Behram revealed to her his intention of running away to Iran and asked her whether she would be willing to accompany him. Sapinud readily agreed and assured him that she will not reveal this secret to anyone. She suggested that in a few days there will be a big celebration where Shangal and other courtiers would go. He should refrain from going by feigning illness, and then in the dark of the night they would flee. The plan worked, and so, on the day of the celebrations, Behram and Sapinud bought a boat from Iranian merchants, and set sail into the sea.

When Shangal came to know of this, he followed them, and soon caught up with them. When he rebuked them for their unfaithfulness, Behram revealed his identity as the king of Iran, which pacified Shangal. After giving promises to be friends and supporting each other, the two kings went to their respective kingdoms.

Behram was welcomed by his sons Yazdezerd and Narseh, his ministers and the Iranian people. He assured his subjects of impartial justice and asked them to approach him fearlessly whenever they needed his help. He then visited the Adar Gushasp fire temple and did a lot of charity to priests and poor people.

Shangal approaches Behram

Now with his daughter married in Iran, Shangal decided to visit Behram, to see the workings of the great and powerful king as well as to meet his daughter. He sought permission from Behram who readily sent him an invitation.

Shangal set off for Iran with his army, lots of gifts, and 7 ally kings from Kabul, Hind, Sindh, Sandal, Jandal, Kashmir and Multan. However he did not inform the king of China about his visit. When Shangal neared Iran, Behram went with his army to receive them. Both of them met warmly and then Behram brought Shangal and his retinue to the palace, where a sumptuous feast was organized.

There was a very emotional meeting between Shangal and his daughter Sapinud, where both cried their hearts out. He gave her the gifts that he had brought for her. Shangal was highly impressed with her magnificent palace, ivory throne and lavish lifestyle, which was much superior to her native place.

Then Shangal and Behram went for a hunt. They returned after almost a month. After some more lavish feasts, Shangal prepared to return to India. Before leaving, he declared that Behram be made the king of Kanouj after him. He handed over his written declaration to his daughter and left for India with loads of gifts from Behram.

Behram and Theodosius II

In 421 CE, Behram demanded the repatriation of all those Christians who had fled from Persia to Byzantium. The Roman emperor Theodosius II rejected this proposal, which led Behram to declare a war, which was fought from Nisibis to Armenia. However, this war was short lived, and no decisive result was reached on either side.

Then Behram signed a 100 year peace treaty with Theodosius II in 422, allowing freedom of worship to Christians and Zoroastrians on both sides. This treaty brought much needed peace to both the sides.

Astrologers had predicted Behram’s life to be of sixty three years. At the age of forty, Behram asked his ministers to calculate how many years the wealth in his treasury would last. After elaborate calculations he was told that the treasury would last at least for another twenty years. Behram was relieved at this. He declared that henceforth no taxes should be charged either to Iranian or non-Iranian people. Among the many beneficial reforms that he introduced, one was to ensure that all lazy people were made to work. There was happiness all around in his land.

One morning, when Behram did not come out from his room, his son Yazdezerd went to see and was shocked to see the lifeless body of his father on the bed.  Behram ruled for 33 years. Historical accounts attribute King Behram’s death to either an accident in which he fell in a quicksand or drowning in a river, his body never being found. Some accounts also maintain that the king was murdered by some priests and nobles and his body disposed off.  

However his end, the reign of king Behram will always be remembered as a time of peace and heroism. The kingdom mourned the death of their king for forty days after which his son Yazdezerd II assumed the throne.

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