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)