SSS 23. King Hormazd IV (579-591) (Part 2)

Behram Chobin

When Mehrān came, he addressed the king, “My lord, I am the courtier who was sent by your father to go to China to select your mother. At that time, the king of China had an astrologer predict the future of his daughter. He had predicted that you will being the king and in your reign a huge army of King Saveh would attack you and a young warrior known as Chobin would defeat the enemy.”

As he finished speaking, old Mehrān’s life left his body. It was as if he was staying alive just to give the king this message. The king announced a search for Chobin whose physical features were aptly described by Mehrān. Farrokhzād, the supervisor of the royal stables, immediately recognized the warrior as Behram Chobin, son of Gushasp, the chieftain of the provinces of Barda and Ardabil.

The king immediately summoned Behram Chobin. The king saw in him all the traits described by Mehrān. Behram was informed about all that had transpired, and was given a position in the king’s court. He was asked whether he would lead an army against Saveh, to which Behram readily agreed. He said, “I am not afraid of the huge army. I believe one should never give up without trying. Its only if one makes an effort that God can help us. I will never give up, fight till my last breath, and try to always return victorious.”

The king and the entire court got a new lease of life at Behram’s motivating words. The king appointed him the commander and asked him to select the army.Behram selected three fearless warriors as commanders under him. Then he selected an army of only twelve thousand soldiers in which there was a battalion of forty year old sword wielding soldiers.

The king was perplexed by his choices and asked him, to which he replied, “O wise king! I have studied warfare and have come to the conclusion that the ideal number of soldiers in an army is twelve thousand. Beyond that, the army is difficult to control. In my study of history, I have seen that great Iranians like Rustom and Asfandyar always took an army of twelve thousand soldiers and have been successful.

“Next, about my choice of forty years old soldiers, I have learnt through my experience that this age is the best age for soldiers when they are not only strong but also more experienced, faithful, contented and worldly wise. They never run away from the battle, but fight till the last breath.” The king was impressed at the replies of Behram.

Behram Chobin takes on Saveh

The following day Behram set off for the war against Saveh with an army of twelve thousand soldiers. At his request a scribe by the name of Mehrān was sent to record notable happenings.

After Behram left, one of the senior ministers cautioned the king about Behram’s brash and blunt attitude, but the king was too impressed by him to notice anything negative. He was relieved that he had someone to take on the might of the army of the powerful king Saveh of China.

However the minister’s warning kept on rankling the king, so he dispatched a spy to find out how Behram was faring. The spy found him to be very arrogant, ambitious, strict and ruthless. He reported this to the king, which made him very anxious and insecure. He called Behram back, but he did not come saying it was inauspicious to return, and moreover it would boost the morale of the enemy king.

When king Saveh came to know about Behram, he sent a messenger trying to bribe him and buy him off, but Behram was faithful to his king. King Saveh’s army proceeded to attack and Behram’s army was preparing to face the attack. Behram chose a strategic narrow valley so that Saveh’s huge army could not get into it.

King Saveh found Behram to be very brave and talented. He again sent a messenger offering Behram, the lordship of a province and his daughter in marriage if he deserted the Iranian army. He also offered him the crown of Iran and Rome, in future, after he would defeat them.

Behram replied to him that his offers were too late, and that it just showed that now he was scared of him. He gave him an ultimatum of three day to surrender, otherwise he would attack him. In the evening, both the armies retreated back to their camps.

That night Behram had a dream in which he saw himself defeated at the hands of king Saveh, and when he seeks help from the Turanians, he is turned down.

In the morning, a spy came and reported to Behram about the huge army of king Saveh. He compared the enemy army to a buffalo and Beharm’s army to an ant. Such was the difference in their respective sizes.

However, Behram was confident of his strategy. He had walls built on both the sides of the battlefield and warned his commanders and soldiers that if anyone tried to flee, he himself will end their lives.

 The war begins

When the war started, king Saveh first used his sorcerers to frighten Behram’s army. Evil magicians with snakes and pythons in their hands, made illusory black clouds appear in the sky, from which arrows rained. Behram told his soldiers that as this was an illusion, not be afraid of it and go straight ahead. The soldiers did as they were told and they were not harmed. Behram’s army came over their fears, stormed into Saveh’s camp and destroyed a large part of his army.

Saveh now employed his fleet of elephants which came storming towards Behram’s army. The soldiers were terrified, but Behram counselled and pacified them by asking them to aim their arrows at the trunks of the elephants. This would make the huge beasts bleed profusely and lose their bearings. The soldiers did accordingly, and the mighty elephants, terrified on seeing their bleeding trunks, lost their minds and started running helter-skelter, destroying their own soldiers. The Iranian army followed the decimated Turkish army and lent a deadly blow to it.

When Saveh saw this sight he was terrified and started running away. Behram followed him, and as soon as he got an opportunity, he shot a poisoned arrow at Saveh, and the lifeless body of the Chinese king fell on the ground. Ninety percent of his army was killed. Behram’s victorious army cheered their commander with shouts celebrating his prowess and bravery, as he had decimated an army which was more than a hundred times the size of his army, without losing a single warrior.

Behram sent an emissary to king Hormazd with the news of his victory, and also sent the severed heads of Saveh and his younger son Fagfur to the king as a proof of his victory. The thrilled king immediately thanked God and handsomely rewarded Behram with gifts of land and gold.

The king distributed one lakh Dirham among poor people, servants and soldiers. He even sent money for fire temples and its priests for celebrating festivals. He set up a separate amount to re-habilitate war torn areas. He exempted the poor from paying taxes for four years.

On the other end, Parmudeh, the elder son of Saveh, was distraught and fuming at the news of the defeat and death of his father. He gathered an army of one lakh soldiers and marched towards Iran.

The king immediately informed Behram not to return to Iran, but to take an army to counter the forces of Parmudeh. The two armies camped near Balkh. Parmudeh decided to perpetrate Shab-e-khun “attack at night”. Behram came to know of this and he emptied his army from the camp. When Parmudeh’s soldiers attacked, the camp was empty. The bewildered Chinese soldiers were surrounded. A terrible battle took place in which a huge mountain of dead-bodies was assembled. This place came to be known as Behram-tal “the hillock of Behram”.

Parmudeh sent a message of surrender to Behram, and hid inside the strong fort of Āvāzeh. Behram agreed to take his request to his king. King Hormazd was very happy that the new king of China had agreed to surrender to him.

Behram Chobin loses favour

King Hormazd forgave Parmudeh, who getting a sense of freedom behaved arrogantly with Behram. This offended Behram, and he had Parmudeh whipped and hand-cuffed. Yazad-goshasp, one of his junior commanders advised him against doing such a thing. He told Behram that since Parmudeh had already been forgiven by the king, his action was like contempt to the king. Behram realized his mistake and freed Parmudeh.

Then Behram asked the scribe to make a list of all the treasures in the Fort of Avazeh and send it to the king. When the list was being made, Behram liked a few things, which he kept for himself. This too was noticed by Yazad-goshasp.

Parmudeh reached Iran and was well received by king Hormazd. The king also received the treasures from Parmudeh loaded on more than a hundred camels. All this made the king very happy, but when he came to know about Behram’s behavior with the king of China whom he had forgiven, he became very upset with him.

King Hormazd signed a Treaty of Friendship with Parmudeh, and sent him back with great dignity and a lot of gifts. When Behram came to know of this he was terrified. He went to meet Parmudeh on the way, but he completely ignored him and did not even accept his gifts.  Behram did not know what to do. He hid in a place in the city of Balkh.

Women’s clothes for Behram Chobin

The king was very angry at Behram. In order to spite him and show his dissatisfaction, he sent him women’s clothing and women’s paraphernalia like spindle as a gift to indicate that he was not worth manly pursuits. Behram donned these ladies garments and went out in public. When people saw him like that, he narrated to them how he was wronged by the king, just because of his minor mistakes. The Iranians were very upset with their king for giving such horrible treatment to a brave and honourable commander who had saved his throne.

One day, Behram went for a hunt along with Yazad-goshasp, Kharrade-barzin and Yalan-sineh. While following an onager he stumbled upon a beautiful palace in the forest, and went in. Kharrade-barzin followed him without his knowledge. In the palace, a beautiful queen was seated on the throne. She welcomed Behram, had a feast in his honour and while he was returning she told him that he was destined to be the king of Iran and Turan and that he should get what is rightfully his. Determined and motivated by these words, an ambitious Behram returned to Iran.

Behram prepared a gold and ivory throne for himself in his palace and sat on it. His commanders realized that he was about to rebel. They realized that they would not be safe with him and hence at night Yazad-goshasp and Kharrade-barzin tried to flee. Yazad-goshasp was caught, and was afraid that he might lose his life, but Behram forgave him.

Kharrade-barzin managed to flee and reached king Hormazd’s court where he reported Behram’s change of attitude and narrated all that had transpired in the past few days. After hearing him out, the king was almost certain that Behram was being misled by Ahriman, the Evil spirit. He presumed that the onager was a demon in disguise, the palace was created as an illusion from a magician’s house and the queen was a sorceress, sent by Ahriman to instigate Behram.

The king was told, and he too realized, that great damage had been done on account of the spinning wheel and women’s clothes he had sent to Behram, which had strongly hurt the brave warrior’s self-esteem.

The strange gift for the king

After some time Behram sent a wooden trunk as gift to the king. In the trunk swords were kept, but their hilts were twisted. When the king asked the meaning of this, he was told that the head of Behram and his other soldiers had gone against the king.

The king, in reply to this, broke all the swords into half, packed them in the same wooden trunk and sent them back to Behram. When Behram inquired the meaning of this, he was told that the king wanted to convey that whoever’s head would turn against the king, that head would be severed from the body. Behram and his entire army became very upset with the king. They also came to know that it was Kharrade-barzin who had revealed all the details about Behram to the king.

Behram’s sister Gordiyeh

Behram now turned to his council of commanders and asked what they should do. Behram had a sister by the name Gordiyeh. She overheard the talk and counselled his brother not to rebel against the king. Behram’s other advisors were also against the suggestion of rebellion, because in Iran, since Peshdadian times, only a person who a descendant of the royal lineage could become the king.

However the commander Yalan-sineh continued instigating Behram to rebel, and it had the desired effect. Behram sought the help of Parmudeh, and asked him to forget the previous rivalry. The king of China agreed to this. He gave him an army and the mastery of certain provinces.

Poisoning the king about Khushru Parviz

Behram then thought out a wicked plan to poison the mind of the king against his son Khushru Parviz. He issued coins in the name of Khushru Parviz and asked his people to circulate it in such a way that they come to the attention of king Hormazd. Once Behram knew that king Hormazd was aware of the coins, he informed him that his son was planning to overthrow him. He also mentioned that he personally would prefer Khushru Parviz as a king, and that he would be faithful to the son but not to the father. 

Behram was hoping that king Hormazd would start having doubts about Khushru Parviz, and have him killed, which would pave the way for Behram to easily defeat the ageing king Hormazd and takeover the throne of Iran.

Behram’s plan had the desired effect. On seeing the coins, the king was furious at his son. Without consulting him, the king jumped to the conclusion that his son was planning a rebellion. He asked his advisor Ain-Goshasp to bring an end to Khushru Parviz’s life.

Khushru Parviz flees

One of the guards of the king, who had overheard the conversation, was a well-wisher of Khushru-Parviz. He went to the prince and cautioned him about the plan hatched to take his life. Khushru Parviz immediately fled the palace and went to Azarbaizan. When the courtiers and commanders came to know of this, they were disgusted with the king.

Some of the courtiers like Bādān, Piroz, Pilzor, Estāy, Khanjast, Sam and Asfandyar went to Khushru Parviz and pledged their support to him. They assured him that they will fight in his favour if the king tried to do anything to him. They went and took an oath at the Atash-kadeh of Azar Goshasp to always be loyal to the prince.

When the king came to know about the prince’s escape and the courtiers defecting him, he became very angry. He imprisoned Khushru’s maternal uncles Gastaham, Bandui and some other relatives, suspecting them of complicity in his escape.

King Hormaz then asked Ain-Goshasp to go to Behram and ask him whether he was willing to serve the king. If he agreed than he would be given a province. However if he was keen on a rebellion, then he would challenge him, and fight the person bearing the message, that is, Ain-Goshasp.

Ain-Goshasp and the prisoner

Ain-Goshasp went with an army to Behram. He took with him as an aide, a prisoner who was known to him, and who had requested him to secure his release. Reluctantly the king agreed. On the way, an astrologer told Ain-Goshasp that he would be murdered by the released prisoner.

Terrified, Ain-Goshasp wrote a letter to the king to re-imprison the prisoner, and sent the letter with the prisoner himself, telling him that it was an urgent message for the king. On the way the prisoner got curious, opened the letter and read it. He was shocked when he read that the letter was indeed a trap for him. Enraged, he went back to the camp and killed Ain-Goshasp. Then he went to Behram and informed him about all that had transpired.

Behram was angry at him as he had killed an innocent man who had come to offer him a hand of friendship from the king. He ordered the prisoner to be hanged. The small army under Ain-Goshasp got scattered like a herd without a shepherd.

End of king Hormazd IV

When king Hormazd came to know about this, he was extremely heart-broken. On the one hand he feared Behram and on the other hand he was anxious about Khushru Parviz. He stopped going to court and lost interest in life. News about this spread all around.

Taking advantage of the anarchy, many prisoners broke out from the state prison. These included Khushru’s maternal uncles Gastaham and Bandui, who led a revolt against the king and decided to bring Khushru Parviz on the throne. They stormed into the palace, snatched the crown of king Hormazd. They did not kill him, but blinded him and left him writhing in pain. When Khushru Parviz received the news of his father’s deposition, he was saddened as he had liked him, and was always willing to serve him. People had created misunderstanding between them and so he had to flee in order to save his life. Gastaham asked him to come back to Iran and rightfully claim his throne.

SSS 22. King Hormazd IV (579-591) (Part 1)

Hormazd IV on a silver coin

A ruthless king

Hormazd IV was the son from one of the queens of King Nosherwan, who was the daughter of the Turkish king Khan Disabul. Hence Hormazd IV was also known as Turk-zād “born of a Turk.” He resembled his mother in stature and features.

For a few years he ruled wisely and nobly, but after that he became arrogant and ruthless. He mindlessly punished the elders and seniors in the court, since he suspected that they were more devoted to his late father than to him, and hence may betray him some day.

He first imprisoned and then executed the two senior-most ministers Buzorg-meher and Yazad-goshasp and their younger protégé Māh-āzar, all of whom had faithfully served king Nosherwan. When a minister by the name Zardusht tried to help Hormazd IV, even he was killed by asking him to eat food laced with poison.

Hormazd openly asked his junior ministers to give false evidence against the senior ministers, so that in the eyes of his subject he could paint them as traitors. In this evil scheme, a timid minister Behram, son of Āzar-mehān was roped in. He was asked to give false evidence for senior minister Simāh-barzin. However, Behram’s conscience did not allow him to betray his colleague and he openly confessed that the king had asked him to give evidence wrongly.

The king was first ashamed, but then became furious. He imprisoned both and had them killed after a few days. However, before dying, Behram told the king about a secret letter written by his father Āzar-mehān and kept in the treasury of the late king Nosherwan, in which it was written that king Hormazd will rule for twelve years and then there will be a revolt after which a relative of his wife will blind and kill him. King Hormazd was terrified by this letter.

Change of heart

The thought of the letter kept tormenting Hormazd IV. Moreover, on account of his killing spree, a time came when no wise and senior minister was left in his court. He king spent his time in his capitals at Istakhra, Ctesiphon and Esfahan. He now stopped the killing of the senior ministers, partly because of the letter and partly because he had already killed most senior ministers. Gradually he became god fearing and just.

Hormazd IV had a son called Parviz who was very dear to him. He also called him Khushru, the fortunate. In his kingdom, he had a rule that if a horse strays into a filed, the tail and the ears of the horse would be chopped off and the farmer be given ten times the compensation for the destruction. Once, Khushru’s favourite horse strayed into a field and inspite of Khushru’s repeated pleas, the king had its tail and ears chopped off and gave the farmer tenfold compensation.

After a few days, a local chieftain took a bunch of grapes from the vineyard without paying the price. When the vineyard owner came to know of this, he followed the chieftain and threatened to complain to the king. The chieftain was so scared that he removed his bejeweled waistband and gave it to him. The above incidents reveal that now the king had become very strict and just.

Attack from all fronts

Right since occupying the throne, king Hormazd IV had to face formidable military situations as four enemy kings attacked him on from all the four sides. He was at wit’s end as to how to deal with them.

The Roman emperor Tiberius’s general Maurice attacked and invaded Iran from the west upto Media and Ctesiphon. Hormazd was able to defeat them in Armenia. In 581, Maurice returned to Rome to occupy the throne, but the war continued inspite of Hormazd’s plea for peace.

In 589, the mighty king of China Khakan Saveh attacked the king from the east through Herat with huge Turkish and Turanian armies. The Turko-Hephthalites attacked North eastern Iran, and taking advantage of the situation, the Arabs attacked from the South.

At Ctesiphon, King Hormazd IV convened an urgent meeting and summoned all his ministers for guidance. The ministers first chastised the king for slaying all his senior ministers, and then drew up a plan of action, to contend with the four enemies.

They told him to return the Roman provinces so that the Roman king would stop his attack. Then they advised their king to attack the Hephthalite king, as his army was small. Seeing this, the Arabs would retreat, and then the king would just have to concentrate on the mighty Chinese army of Saveh. The king followed the plan, and it worked effectively.

Now, only king Saveh’s army had to be dealt with. King Hormazd was contemplating how to get about that, when Nastuh, a courtier, approached him and said, “O great king! My father Mehrān Setād who is a very old man wants to reveal a secret to you.” King Hormazd was very anxious to know the secret, so he sent a palanquin to get Mehrān to his palace.

(To be continued…..)

SSS 21. King Khushru / Cosroe I, Nosherwan Ādel (531-579) (Part 7 – last)

War with the new Caesar

One day, king Noshirwan received the news of the death of the Roman Caesar. Immediately he sent an ambassador to the Caesar’s son offering him condolences and wishing him success as the new Caesar. He also  mentioned that he had asked for prayer that prophet Christ’s blessings be with him, and assured him of military help, if he may need it.

The new Caesar, however, did not treat the ambassador with due respect. In his reply he stated that he did not need the Iranian king’s sympathy. He further stated that he suspected that the sympathy was false and was expressed so that the payment of taxes may continue as before.

When king Nosherwan received the reply, he was very unhappy. He vowed to avenge this insult and never to support the Romans again. He immediately set up an army and attacked Rome. When the Caesar came to know of this he also sent an army. The two armies met near Sakila (Syria) at the fort of Aleppo. The Iranian army captured the fort in no time. Thirty thousand Roman soldiers were captured. As king Nosherwan went to the battle ground to inspect it, he got the message that the ambassador of the Roman Caesar along with forty Roman philosophers had come to see him. The wise men apologized to the king about the immature behaviour of their Caesar. They agreed to pay him as much tax as he wanted. King Nosherwan ended the war and returned to Ctesiphon.

Nosherwan’s lasting legacy : Tāq-i-Kasrā / Aywān-i-Kasra

The Tāq-i-Kasrā also known as Aywān-i-Kasra, is a majestic palace built by Noshirwan around 540 CE. It is the only surviving remains of the Sasanian majesty in Ctesiphon, now near Baghdad. The arched aywān hall, open on the front side, and the throne room behind the arch are almost 100 feet high.

Today, the main portico of the audience hall, is all that is left of the structure. It is known as the Arch of Ctesiphon, and is the largest single-span free-standing arch/vault of unreinforced bricks in the world. It is considered one of the Wonders of the World, in Iraq.

The ruins of Tak-iKasra, as it stood about 100 years back
An artist’s visualization of the original Tak-i-Kasra  

The king looks for an heir

When the king was seventy four years old, he realized that it was the due to select an heir. He had six sons, of which Hormazd was the eldest.

He called his wise men and asked, “O Wise ones! I depend on you to secretly find out if Hormazd is fit enough to be the next king, and would he be kind and compassionate towards his subjects?” The wise men started investigating in earnest and reported every activity of Hormazd to the king.

Then the king called upon his council of ministers, headed by Buzorg-meher, to test the prince. Several philosophical and practical questions were asked to which the prince gave satisfactory replies, and he was chosen as the successor to his father. In his last will and testament, king Nosherwan declared his decision to give the crown and the throne to prince Hormazd. He gave admonitions to the prince which would help him run the empire. Then, the king gave an elaborate description as to how he should be consigned to the Dakhma, how his body should be prepared for the final journey.

Dreams about Prophet Mohammad

King Noshirwan spent his days in seclusion and prayers. About a year after his declaration of his heir, he had a dream as he slept after his night prayers. In the dream, he saw a brilliantly shining child come out at night and happily climb a very tall staircase having forty steps, which was nearby. When he reached the top, his brightness lighted up the whole world, except the palace of the king.

A brilliantly shining child at night happily climb a staircase with forty steps, and reaching the top, his brightness lighting up the whole world

In the morning, a startled Nosherwan woke up and narrated the dream to Buzorg-meher. After pondering for some time, the wise sage said, “O great king!There is deep meaning underlying the dream. After about forty years, a man will emerge from among the Arabs, who will cause great disruption among the Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians. The entire Iranian empire will be shaken. This man will be remembered for centuries.

The next night he dreamt that his entire palace came crashing down on him, amidst shouts “The emperor’s palace has crumbled down.” Startled, the king got up and immediately called Buzorg-meher. On narrating the dream, he was told that it conveyed that the child he saw in his dream had already been born.

After a few days, king Noshirwan king passed away after a long and illustrious reign of forty eight years. Buzorg-meher grieved for a long time after his king’s death. His body was prepared for the final journey, and he was consigned to the Dakhma, as per the instructions given by him when he had handed over the throne to his eldest son Hormazd IV.

SSS 20. King Khushru / Cosroe I, Nosherwan Ādel (531-579) (Part 6)

Hakim Barzuy goes to India

King Nosherwan deeply appreciated talents of all kind, whether it be learning, wit, oratory or valour. He made it a point to keep people with various kinds of talents in his court. One such person was an aged hakim (a herbal medicine man) by the name Barzuy. One day, he told the king that in his studies he had come across an Indian book wherein was stated that a special type of dazzling grass grew on a mountain in India. If a medicine was prepared by a knowledgeable person from that grass, it had the power to make a dead man alive. He sought permission to go to India with a few of his men to get that grass. Noshirwan told him, that though this did not seem probable, he may go. He further asked him to visit the court of king Rai as an emissary of the king of Iran so that he can get all the possible help, especially the services of a good local guide. Then the king sent Barzui with three hundered camel loads of gifts to India.

When Barzuy reached India, the Indian king was overwhelmed by the Iranian king’s generosity, and promised to give him all the possible help. He offered him a decent place to say and an honorable place in the court. The following day he asked some people knowledgeable in herbs, medicines and healing to go to the mountains and help Barzuy.

The group collected many herbs. They grinded and made a paste of each herb at a time and tried the same on corpses with a hope of bringing them alive, but none of them worked. Finally Barzuy was frustrated. He accepted defeat and realized his folly. He asked to be taken to the wisest person in India, and the group led him to a wise old man. The wise man, smiled on hearing Barzuy’s story and said that he himself had been misled by the book which he had referred to.

The book of Kalileh

The wise man told Barzuy that the medicine book he had read should not be taken literally, as, like many spiritual books it too was allegorical. The herb mentioned in the book was a symbol for knowledge, and the mountains symbolisedfar away places. The herbs being away on a mountain meant that knowledgeable men preferred to stay far away from people. The corpse was an analogy for an ignorant man. Rubbing a corpse with herbs making it come alive meant that if knowledge was imparted to an ignorant person, he will become learned, which is allegorically referred to as coming back to life.

The wise man further said that when the Persian medicine book referred to the herb which made dead men alive, it was actually referring to the book of wisdom called Kalileh, which was in the Indian king’s Treasury. Barzuy, was highly impressed by the wise men’s explanation, and thanked him.

Barzuy then went to the king and requested for the book of Kalileh from his treasury. The king was reluctant to give the book, but he allowed him to read the book in the presence of his minister. Every day Barzuy would read parts of the book, memorise the same and then write it down in his letter to his king. Thus bit by bit, he passed the whole book to Iran. After his work was done, Barzuy decided to return. The king bestowed on him many precious gifts. Barzuy then set off from Kanauj to Iran.

In Iran, the king was very happy with Barzuy, as he had learnt a lot from the book, and this knowledge was beneficial to the body as well as the soul. Then he asked him to take whatever he wanted from the treasury. Barzuy just took a royal robe. The king was surprised at his choice.

Then Barzuy requested the king, that whenever anybody would decide to make a book from the excerpts sent by him in the letters, that person should mention his name too. Later on, a book in Pahlavi language was compiled from the information in the letters, and its first chapter the name of Barzuy was mentioned. Later the book was translated into the Arabic language in the reign of king Nasr. In the reign of Sultan Mahmud the book was re-written in rhyme.

Buzorg-meher is imprisoned One day the king, along with Buzorg-meher and some other courtiers went for a hunting expedition outside Madayan. After the hunt, the two of them were alone and relaxing. At that time the string of a jewelled arm-band of the king snapped and fell on the ground. Immediately a big bird swooped and picked up the arm-band. Buzorg-meher who was awake witnessed all this and realized that his bad days were approaching. Fear writ large on his face. Just then, the king woke up, and saw his fearful face. Assuming that he was guilty of some misdemeanor, he impulsively ordered that Buzorg-meher be taken under house arrest.

Bird coming down and swooping the king’s fallen arm band. Buzorg-meher watching in fright. (Illustration by Mrs.Katie Bagli)

Several weeks passed, and the king started missing his favourite minister. However since he himself had punished him, he felt helpless. It so happened that a new servant waiting on the king put hot boiling water on the king while washing his hands, which angered the king. When the servant came to serve Buzorg-meher in his house, he was looking very distressed, and so Buzorg-meher asked him the cause of his anxiety. He narrated all that had transpired. Buzorg-meher then taught him the correct way to serve the king.

When the servant again served, the king was highly impressed and inquired as to who had taught him. The waiter confessed that Buzorg-meherhad guided him. The king felt sorry for what he had done to Buzorg-meher, and asked the servant to go to Buzorg-meher and ask him how he was. Buzorg-meher cryptically replied that presently his position was much better than that of the ruler of the country. This angered the king and he ordered Buzorg-meher to be imprisoned in a dark cell.

After some days, the king again asked the servant to inquire with Buzorg-meher about his well-being. This time, Buzorg-meher replied that he was happier than the king. The king was furious and asked Buzorg-meher to be locked up in a small cage surrounded by nails and spears, so that he could not move or sleep.

This caused great suffering to Buzorg-meher. However, when the king again sent the servant to ask Buzorg-meher about his condition, he replied that his days were better than those of the king. When the king heard this he became pale. He selected a wise courtier and sent an executioner with him to convey to Buzorg-meher that if he again replied in a displeasing manner, the executioner will behead him.

Then theinstructed the wise courtier to ask Buzorg-meher why he said that his condition was better than that of the king. Buzorg-meher replied, that he had said so because it would be easier for him to embrace death as he had nothing to lose, whereas the king, if faced with death, had everything to lose, and hence he considered himself more fortunate, as death can come to anyone at anytime. When the reply was conveyed to the king, he realized the wisdom in Buzorg-meher’s words and released him from the house arrest. Buzorg-meher had become very pale and lean, on account of the sufferings.

Challenge in a locked box

Once the Kaisar sent his ambassador with a letter, gifts and a locked box to the Iranian king, challenging his wise men to guess the content of the locked box. If they were successful, he would continue sending taxes and gifts. But if they were unsuccessful, than he would stop giving taxes and an assurance from the Iranian king that he will not attack Rome. The king asked for one week and then consulted his priests and courtiers about the challenge. None was able to guess the contents of the box, and so in the end the king had to seek Buzorg-meher’s help.

He sent for Buzorg-meher,informed him about the locked box and asked him to help guess its contents. He even sent a horse and new clothes. Buzorg-meher decided to help his king, but on account of being under house arrest for a long time he had almost lost his eye-sight.

While going to the palace, he requested a wise man to sit next to him and describe anybody who passed their way. They first came across a beautiful woman. Buzorg-meher told the young men to ask her whether she was married. She answered in the affirmative and added that she was also pregnant. Then they went further and encountered another woman, to whom the same question was asked. She answered that she was married but childless. As they proceeded, they came across a third lady, to whom the same question was asked. She answered that she was unmarried and did not intend to marry.

Buzorg-meher then went to the king. On being asked about the locked box, he said, “O great king! Gather all your courtiers and the Roman ambassador, and I will reveal the secret of the locked box.” After the people gathered, he continued, “With the spiritual power that God has bestowed on me, I have been able to know the contents of the locked box without touching it. The box contains three pearls. One with a hole in it, the second half pierced and the third without a hole.”

The Roman ambassador opened the box, and removed another box from it. In this box, wrapped in a silk cloth were three pearls, exactly as described by Buzorg-meher. The king was very happy with the outcome. However he was also very sad at the way he had treated this great man. Getting courage from the king’s behavior, one of the servants who had seen the black bird snatch away the king’s arm-band at the hunting scene narrated the incident to the king, establishing Buzorg-meher’s innocence. The king became all the more repentant for wrongly judging and punishing such a holy and faithful person.

(To be continued ………. Part 7 – last)

SSS 19. King Khushru / Cosroe I, Nosherwan Ādel (531-579) (Part 5)

Several weeks passed, and the king started missing his favourite minister. However since he himself had punished him, he felt helpless. It so happened that a new servant waiting on the king put hot boiling water on the king while washing his hands, which angered the king. When the servant came to serve Buzorg-meher in his house, he was looking very distressed, and so Buzorg-meher asked him the cause of his anxiety. He narrated all that had transpired. Buzorg-meher then taught him the correct way to serve the king.

When the servant again served, the king was highly impressed and inquired as to who had taught him. The waiter confessed that Buzorg-meher had guided him. The king felt sorry for what he had done to Buzorg-meher, and asked the servant to go to Buzorg-meher and ask him how he was. Buzorg-meher cryptically replied that presently his position was much better than that of the ruler of the country. This angered the king and he ordered Buzorg-meher to be imprisoned in a dark cell.

After some days, the king again asked the servant to inquire with Buzorg-meher about his well-being. This time, Buzorg-meher replied that he was happier than the king. The king was furious and asked Buzorg-meher to be locked up in a small cage surrounded by nails and spears, so that he could not move or sleep.

This caused great suffering to Buzorg-meher. However, when the king again sent the servant to ask Buzorg-meher about his condition, he replied that his days were better than those of the king. When the king heard this he became pale. He selected a wise courtier and sent an executioner with him to convey to Buzorg-meher that if he again replied in a displeasing manner, the executioner will behead him.

Then theinstructed the wise courtier to ask Buzorg-meher why he said that his condition was better than that of the king. Buzorg-meher replied, that he had said so because it would be easier for him to embrace death as he had nothing to lose, whereas the king, if faced with death, had everything to lose, and hence he considered himself more fortunate, as death can come to anyone at anytime. When the reply was conveyed to the king, he realized the wisdom in Buzorg-meher’s words and released him from the house arrest. Buzorg-meher had become very pale and lean, on account of the sufferings.

Challenge in a locked box
Once the Kaisar sent his ambassador with a letter, gifts and a locked box to the Iranian king, challenging his wise men to guess the content of the locked box. If they were successful, he would continue sending taxes and gifts. But if they were unsuccessful, than he would stop giving taxes and an assurance from the Iranian king that he will not attack Rome. The king asked for one week and then consulted his priests and courtiers about the challenge. None was able to guess the contents of the box, and so in the end the king had to seek Buzorg-meher’s help.

He sent for Buzorg-meher,informed him about the locked box and asked him to help guess its contents. He even sent a horse and new clothes. Buzorg-meher decided to help his king, but on account of being under house arrest for a long time he had almost lost his eye-sight.

While going to the palace, he requested a wise man to sit next to him and describe anybody who passed their way. They first came across a beautiful woman. Buzorg-meher told the young men to ask her whether she was married. She answered in the affirmative and added that she was also pregnant. Then they went further and encountered another woman, to whom the same question was asked. She answered that she was married but childless. As they proceeded, they came across a third lady, to whom the same question was asked. She answered that she was unmarried and did not intend to marry.

Buzorg-meher then went to the king. On being asked about the locked box, he said, “O great king! Gather all your courtiers and the Roman ambassador, and I will reveal the secret of the locked box.” After the people gathered, he continued, “With the spiritual power that God has bestowed on me, I have been able to know the contents of the locked box without touching it. The box contains three pearls. One with a hole in it, the second half pierced and the third without a hole.”

The Roman ambassador opened the box, and removed another box from it. In this box, wrapped in a silk cloth were three pearls, exactly as described by Buzorg-meher.

The king was very happy with the outcome. However he was also very sad at the way he had treated this great man. Getting courage from the king’s behavior, one of the servants who had seen the black bird snatch away the king’s arm-band at the hunting scene narrated the incident to the king, establishing Buzorg-meher’s innocence. The king became all the more repentant for wrongly judging and punishing such a holy and faithful person.

The game of Chess

Once when Nosherwan was in his court, he was told that an ambassador from king Rai of Kanouj in India had come with a thousand camel loads of gifts, and was waiting to see him. The envoy was immediately ushered in. He offered salutations to the king and showed him the gifts, which included gold, silver, jewels, musk, amber and swords.

Among the gifts was a chess board with a message from king Rai asking the Iranian king to unravel the game, the purpose of each piece – pawns, knights, bishops, rooks, queen and king, their places and their movements.

If he was able to unravel the game, then he would have to play it with the Indian emissary. If the Iranians won, they would be considered cleverer than the Indians and he would continue paying the taxes. But if the Iranians were not able to understand the game, then not only would he stop paying the taxes, but the Iranians would have to pay them taxes as they would have proved superior in intelligence.

Then the emissary set up the chess board and kept the pieces on it. On one side were white pieces made of ivory and on the other side were brown pieces made of wood.  He further said that this board resembled a battlefield and the pieces signify different types of soldiers in the battle. The king told the emissary that he needed a week’s time and on the eighth day they would meet to play the game. The king then called all his ministers and courtiers, and kept the chess board and pieces before them. They tried several methods but were unable to unravel the game, which greatly disappointed the king. Then Buzorg-meher went to the king and asked him not to worry. He took the responsibility to unravel the game. He spent a day and night with the game, succeeded in unraveling its mystery, and then went to the king with the good news.

Buzorg-meher playing chess with the Indian ambassador. Illustration by Mrs. Katie Bagli

Buzorg-meher set up the chess board with the pieces and then summoned the Indian emissary. They started playing the game by moving the pieces. The emissary was amazed at the skills of Buzorg-meher, which almost seemed magical. He accepted the greatness of the Iranian king. Nosherwan was immensely happy and he handsomely rewarded Buzorg-meher.

The game of Backgammon

Buzorg-meher then asked for some time and created another board game called Nard (backgammon). He made a board resembling battle-field with mountains and plains, and created unique pieces for the game, which had to be played with two dices. He then explained the game to his king who was immensely happy.

The Iranian king asked Buzorg-meher to go to the king of Kanouj with the game of Nard and ask him to find a learned Brahman (Hindu priest) to unravel the game, just as he had unraveled this game through a wise Mobed (Zoroastrian priest). He further sent two thousand camel loads of gifts to the Indian king under the condition that if somebody from his kingdom was able to unravel the game, he could keep the gifts. But if nobody was able to solve it, then it had to be returned with equal gifts from India.

Buzorg-meher reached India, and explained to the Indian king the events that had transpired. The king became anxious. After entertaining the Iranian envoys, he sent the game to the wise people asking them to unravel it. For eight days they tried without success. On the ninth day Buzorg-meher approached the Indian king who admitted his inability to have the game solved. Buzorg-meher showed them the way to play the game. The king and his courtiers were very impressed. Buzorg-meher returned with 2000 camel loads of gifts and advance taxes.

The origin of the game of Chess

The Shahnameh now goes on to explain how the game of chess came into being. It states that once there was a successful and much loved Indian king named Jamahur, whose capital was at Sandal city. Jamahur passed away when his son Gav was still very young. Jamahur had an idol worshipping brother named Māy in Dambar.

The seniors of the court went to Dambar requesting Māy to come to Sandal and be the king, to which he relented. He married the queen who was the mother of Gav. When Gav was five years old, his mother gave birth to a second son who was named Talhand. However, after some time Māy too passed away.

The wise men of the kingdom made the queen the interim ruler till her sons grew up. When the sons grew up, they fought with each other to become the king. Their mother and wise men of the court counseled them to amicably settle the issue, but the brothers, especially Talhand, was bent on a war. Gradually Gav saw the futility of war and tried to explain to Talhand that they could equally divide the kingdom and both could rule over their respective parts peacefully. However, Talhand did not agree and declared a war. Even after the declaration of the war, Gav sent a messenger to Talhand requesting him to see reason and not seek a war. However Talhand declined, which greatly disappointed Gav.

Both the brothers came into the battlefield and instructed their soldiers not to harm their brother if he was captured.  In the battle that ensued, Talhand’s army was decimated, but Gav, instead of capturing his brother asked him to flee. Talhand fled to safety but even then, instead of thanking his brother, told him that he waited for an opportunity to destroy him. Hearing this, Gav lost sympathy for Talhand. His advisors too told him to finish him off once and for all.  Gav once again challenged Talhand to a war, this time near a sea, barricaded by a gorge towards the land side. It would be a fight till finish. Both the armies met near the sea. Both the brothers were on elephants.

Two brothers on elephants with armies behind, the sea on one side and gorge on the other. Illustration by Mrs. Katie Baglis

The war was fought with heavy casualties on both the sides. Talhand was killed on his elephant. Gav was heart-broken at his brother’s death and grieved a lot. When the news reached their mother she too was steeped in grief. She wanted to immolate herself, but Gav stopped her from doing that. She was very angry at Gav for killing his brother, but Gav explained and assured her that neither he nor any of his soldiers were responsible for his death, as he had died on his elephant without a wound on his body.

Gav asked his advisors to think about the best way to convince his mother. The advisors hit upon the idea of creating a board with one hundred checks on which was depicted the sea, the water, the gorge and the two armies. Pieces were made, half from ivory and the other half from wood to depict soldiers, the king, his minister, horses, camels and elephants. Their various moves were also fixed.

Through this game, it was demonstrated to the mother that Talhand had died not because anybody attacked him, but because he was surrounded on all sides and had nowhere to go. She was much relieved and her grief was quite subdued. She kept on looking at the game of chess as a means of consolation till her death. Thus the game of chess was created by a son to convince his grieving mother that he was not at fault in killing her other son.

(To be continued …… Part 6)