Kings of the Peshdadian dynasty
Gayomard was the first king of Iran. He was the first to invent crown and throne. He dwelt at first upon a mountain. He and his entire troop wore leopard-skins, and under him the arts of life began. During his time, food and dress were in their infancy. Men lived on fruit and clad themselves in leaves. The cattle and the diverse beasts of prey grew tame before him; men bent before his throne, as though in prayer.
In the Fravardin Yasht, Gayomard is referred to as the first mortal who communicated with Mazda and subsequently exhorted his subjects to believe in one God – Mazda. From thence started the Mazdayasni belief system.
Gayomard did not have an enemy except, wicked Ahriman, who led by envy tried to seek the upper hand. Ahriman had a son, who was as savage as a wolf and was known as Black Div. He assembled a host of warriors and resolved to win the throne and crown.
Sarosh Yazad appeared before the king and told Gayomard about his foes. When news of that foul Ahriman’s acts reached Siyamak, his heart seethed up with rage. He gathered troops, arrayed himself in leopard-skin, and went to fight. When the two met, they grappled with each other. The horrible Black Div clutched at Siyamak and killed him, thus leaving the army without a chief.
Gayomard was greatly distressed by the death of his son. One year after the death, Sarosh Yazad was sent by God to console the grieving Gayomard. He exhorted Gayomard not to lament, control himself, collect his troops, defeat his foe, and thus relieve the earth of Ahriman. Gayomard took up the battle once again and defeated Ahriman. He reigned for thirty years.
Hoshang, known as haoshyangha in Avesta, is regarded as the son of Siyamak and the grandson of Gayomard. In the Avesta, the title paradhata ‘ancient lawgiver’ is applied to Hoshang, which became peshdad in later speech. Hence the first Iranian royal dynasty, known as Pishdadian dynasty, got its name from the title of king Hoshang.
He was the first to extract iron from rock. He invented smithy, made axes, saws, and mattocks. Next he established the knowledge of irrigation by making canals and ducts. This enabled men to sow, reap and produce whatever he ate. He also had ox, ass and sheep domesticated, paired and turned to good use.
Though Hoshang was not the first to discover fire by friction of rocks, he was the first to recognise the divine glory of God in the fire. He then offered homage to it, and instructed his people to do the same. Hoshang passed away after forty years of wise and benevolent rule.
As soon as Tahmuras (Avesta, takhma-urupi), the son of Hoshang, ascended the throne, he fought against demons and wicked persons, and hence he was called divband ‘the Binder of the Div’. The Avesta and later tradition state that Tahmuras kept the Evil Spirit as his charger and rode him round the earth for 30 years. He invented the art of spinning and weaving, and he taught the people to put on cotton and woolen clothes. He tamed beasts of prey like the jackal and the cheetah, and taught them to obey him. Among the hunting birds he chose to tame the hawk and falcon. He also utilised the rooster to crow at sunrise and wake up mankind.
The demons rose in rebellion against Tahmuras, but they were defeated, and they begged for mercy promising to teach him new and fruitful arts like writing new scripts. Tahmuras passed away after ruling for 30 years.
Jamshid, the son of Vivanghvat, was an illustrious king possessing divine glory Av. khvarena). According to the Avesta, Vivanghvat was the first person to perform the Haoma ceremony, and as a divine gift, illustrious Jamshid was born. During the reign of Jamshid, animals and men were blessed with health and longevity, waters were undrying and plants unwithering. There were neither rigours of cold nor of heat, neither old age nor death nor evil of the demons, and both father and son were moving about as if they both were of 15 years of age.
Ahura Mazda divinely instructed Jamshid to extend the land for human habitation and to cultivate the land for nourishment of men and animals. Jamshid undertook to be the nourisher, protector and supervisor of men and animals. He thrice extended the land southwards and made it habitable and cultivable for happiness and prosperity of men and animals (Vd. 2. 4-20).
Jamshid trained people in the art of making coats of armour for men and horses. He taught them to knead clay and to mould bricks for building houses. He discovered mineral wealth –silver, gold, jewels, and precious stones, extracted scents from fragrant herbs and flowers. During his reign wine was prepared from grape-juice.
Jamshid was a king, but he also considered himself a priest and a prophet. Sarosh Yazad divinely inspired Jamshid to put on the sacred garment Sadra and to tie the sacred belt Kasti thereon in order to ward off the evils. Jamshid did accordingly, and instructed the people to do the same. Jamshid also divided the Iranian people into four professional groups: the priests, the warriors, the agriculturists, and the artisans. He founded the festival of Naoroz, the New Year’s Day, and celebrated it every year in a royal fashion on Roz Hormazd Mah Farvardin.
Ahura Mazda forewarned Jamshid of the impending danger of devastating winter, and divinely instructed him to prepare a refuge for the worldly creations. As inspired and instructed by Ahura Mazda, Jamshid constructed a ‘Vara’ “an enclosure”, and carried therein and protected the best species of men, animals, vegetation, and other creatures and creations of the world against the onslaught of the devastating winter (Vd. 2.22-43), which is a reference to the last Ice Age. The construction of the Vara of Jamshid may be regarded as an event of universal importance, with some modifications to the narration of Manu in the Vedic literature and the account of Noah in Biblical literature. These accounts clearly refer to what is known as glacial epoch or ice age in geology.
Jamshid is credited with an unusually long reign of 700 years. Both Avesta, and later traditions record that Jamshid uttered words of falsehood and arrogance, claimed to be “the Maker of the world”, and demanded that people should honour him as such. On account of this, the Divine Glory (khvarena) departed, and Jamshid fell from his high position. Jamshid wandered from place to place, and was finally killed by his brother at the instigation of Zahak.
It appears that ancient literature, astronomy and modern science have combined in an effort to ascertain, with reasonable certainty, place and age in which king Jamshid must have lived. The ancient accounts of “evil winter, flood, deluge” refer to what is known as glaciation or ice age in geology. In 1903, Bal Gangadhar Tilak in his book ‘Arctic Home of the Vedas’ (pp. 453-458) concluded on the basis of Avesta, Vedic and astronomical evidences that the ancient homeland of the Aryan people was situated near the North Pole or somewhere in the Arctic Circle, which was destroyed by glaciation between 10000 and 8000 BCE, and that between 8000-5000 BCE the survivors of the Aryan race roamed over the northern parts of Europe and Asia in search of lands suitable for new settlements.
On the basis of radio-carbon dating, glaciation took place in the northern latitudes of Europe and America about 11000 years ago (Encyclopedia Brittanica, Vol. 18 p. 905), i.e. about 9000 BCE. This shows that Tilak’s conclusion, based on ancient records and astronomical calculations, agrees amazingly well with the conclusion based on the method of radio-carbon dating.
Since King Jamshid is inseparably connected with the period of ‘evil winter’, and hence with glaciation, it is reasonable to conclude that Jamshid and the kings before him must have lived in the homeland of the Arctic circle, and that King Jamshid must have lived about 9000 B. C.
Zahak (Avesta: azhi dahaka ‘a burning serpent) was a foreign ruler in Iran. According to the Avesta, he was a Babylonian, and in later literature he is known as an Arab.
After defeating Jamshid, Zahak ruled over Iran for a long time. He had peculiar physiognomy and is described as “the burning serpent with three mouths, three heads and six eyes. He practised black art and offered human sacrifices. He was a tyrant who suppressed his people by cruelty and violence, hence people hated him, and wanted to get rid of him.
A blacksmith named Kāveh had eighteen sons, seventeen of whom were taken away by Zahak to feed his snakes, and the last son too was in his custody. Kāveh went to the royal court and requested Zahak to grant freedom to his son as he was his only hope in old age. When Zahak asked him to wrongly testify that he was a good king, bitterly cried out for justice and rose in rebellion.
Kāveh made a war-standard out of his leather-apron by sticking it upon a spear’s point. This standard was known as Drafsh i Kawyani, “the flag of Kāveh.” Under this flag Kāveh collected an army of brave Iranian soldiers to search for Faridun and fight against Zahak. Faridun was destined to be the conqueror of Zahak. In his infancy, he was living with his mother Franak in a secluded place on the Mount Alburz, out of the reach of the soldiers of Zahak. Kāveh searched for Faridun, and they secretly collected a large army, attacked Zahak and overthrew him. Faridun fought with Zahak with a cow-headed mace and seized him, but when he was about kill him, Sarosh Yazad intervened and asked him to tie up Zahak in a crevasse at Mount Damavand.
Faridun (Av.thraetaona) was the son of Abtin (Av. athwya). According to Avesta, Athwya performed Haoma ceremony and as a divine boon Faridun was born to him. Faridun grew up to be a benevolent ruler who made people happy and prosperous.
Before Faridun was born, Zahak had a dream about the child finishing his reign and life. Hence he had all new born children searched and killed. When Faridun’s father was caught and killed by Zahak, his terrified mother Franak took him to a farmer and asked him to protect the child. The farmer’s cow Purmai suckled the child for three years, and the child was raised on its milk. When Zahak came to know of this he sent his soldiers to search for the child, but before that Franak took the child away and entrusted it to a saintly man on Mount Alburz. Zahak was furious on not finding Faridun and he slew the cow.
Faridun grew up to be a young, brave lad of 16 years. With the help of Kāveh he overthrew Zahak and ascended the throne on day Hormazd of month Meher. He instituted the festival called the Jashan of Meherangan and celebrated it as a national festival. This Jashan is celebrated even at present on the sixteenth day Meher of the seventh month Meher.
Faridun had three sons, Salm, Tur and Iraj. He regarded his youngest son Iraj most worthy of the throne of Iran. In his old age, he distributed his kingdom among his three sons. He assigned the countries to the West to Salm; the Eastern countries of Khorasan, Turkestan and China to Tur and the country of Iran to Iraj. Since the most prosperous country of Iran was allotted to the youngest brother, the two elder brothers regarded this as unjust and nursed a grudge against their father and Iraj. This created hatred and enmity, and in revenge Salm and Tur contrived and killed Iraj. The murder of Iraj engendered perpetual hostility between Iran and Turan, which lasted for generations.
Last Days of Faridun:
In his old age, Faridun froomed his great grandson Minocheher to avenge the cruel murder of Iraj. The territories of Salm and Tur were invaded, and in the battles that ensued, they were killed by Minocheher. Faridun passed away peacefully after entrusting the throne to Minocheher.
Minocheher, the son of Iraj, ascended the throne after the death of Faridun. He ruled with wisdom and justice. There was a boundary dispute between Iran and Turan, and consequently war broke out. Instead of fighting, a settlement was arrived wherein the Iranian archer Arakhsh was entrusted to shoot an arrow from the peak of Mount Damavand. The arrow fell on the banks of the Oxus, which thereafter became the boundary between Iran and Turan.
The last kings after Minocheher recorded in the Shahnameh were Navdar, Zav, and Garshasp, after whom the Peshdadian dynasty came to an end.