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.

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