Yazdegard (the First) was one of the later kings of Sasanian Iran. When he assumed the throne in 399 AC, he was very kind, but later he became excessively cruel. Seven years into his reign, a son was born to him on the Zoroastrian New year day, who was named Behram. Astrologers predicted a great future for him.
The courtiers did not want the young prince to pick up the cruel nature and habits of his father. They suggested that the young prince be sent to a capable teacher elsewhere. The king liked the idea and sent messengers to Rome, India, China and the Arab countries to scout for a suitable teacher.
Kings of many countries came to Iran to get the privilege to take the future king of Iran under their tutelage. One such king was Manzar from Yaman. Yazdegard was most impressed by him and so he entrusted Behram to his care.
When young Behram was seven years, he went to the king and said, “Sir, I believe my days of playing are over. You should start my education in the arts and skills of being a king.” Impressed by the child’s boldness, Manzar replied, “Young man, you still need to wait some more for that, as you are not deemed old enough for this training. Now is still your time to play and enjoy.”
Behram immediately responded, “Do not estimate me by my size. I may look small, but my intelligence is that of a grown up man. I am made of different matter. Don’t make me lazy. Time once lost never comes back.”
Manzar was now thoroughly convinced that time had come to commence the young prince’s education. He started Behram’s education under three of the best teachers. By 18, Behram had acquired all the knowledge necessary for a young prince. He desired a horse for himself. He selected a horse from a hundred horses and trained the horse himself.
One day Behram went for a hunt with his friends. On the hunt, they came across a male and a female deer. Behram asked his friend, “Which of the deers should I shoot, the young female or the aged male.” The friend said, “O brave prince, it does not behoove a lion heart like you to shoot deer. But if at all you have to shoot a deer, shoot it artistically. First shot the male in such a way that he loses his antlers and looks like a female. And then make the female look like a male. When the female starts running you delicately graze an arrow near her ear, so that she lifts her leg to scratch it. When she lifts her leg you shoot another arrow to sew together her ear and her hoof.”
Behram used to carry two headed arrows with him. With one of this arrow he shot the male deer, removed his antlers, and made him look like a female. He lodged two arrows into the female’s head and made her look like a male. Then, with another arrow, he grazed the ear of the deer, and as she lifted her foot to scratch her ear, he shot another arrow and sewed the ear with her foot. His friends were amazed at this extraordinary feat.
After some time, Behram expressed his desire to see his father, for which Munzar made preparations. He gave several precious gifts and asked his son Noaman to escort Behram to his father. Soon, the two reached Estakhra.
Ministers went to receive Behram. Yazdegard was overjoyed to see his tall and well built son after a long time. He made Behram stay in a special palace. Both the father and son met regularly and a month passed. However, Behram was not happy with his father’s behaviour towards him and his companions.
Once when Behram was waiting at the court for his father, he dozed off on account of tiredness. The king was very angry at this. He stripped off his royal privilege and sent him to prison. One year passed in prison, without the son seeing the face of his father. Then, Behram was released. Behram was missing Munzar. Immediately that night he took a few trusted soldiers and returned to Yemen. Some time after this the ageing Yazdegard passed away.
Prominent paladins like Gastaham, Kāran, Milād, Ārash and Parviz met to select the new king. Since king Yazdegard was not liked by most people, the noblemen decided not give the throne to any of his sons, especially Behram who was perceived to be like his father. Many royal relatives started claiming the throne and the nation went into a state of anarchy. Finally the Mobeds and wise men decided to appoint Khushrav, a mature nobleman from the royal family, as the next king.
Behram came to know about his father’s death, and went into grief. When he came to know the court’s decision of ignoring his claim to the throne, he was very angry. With Munzar he decided to attack Iran to claim his right. The neighbouring countries of Rome, China, Turkestan, Arabia, India and Makran got a whiff of the problems in Iran and started preparations to attack it.
When the court in Iran came to know of Behram’s plans, they were afraid. They sent a messenger to Munzar saying that he was an ally and should not attack Iran. Munzar, after consultations with Behram replied, that it was their behaviour that had incensed them into preparing for an attack. If they were agreeable, Behram would come to Iran with an army to claim his throne. Even he did not want war, and the matter could be sorted out amicably. The messenger went back with this encouraging response. The Iranians agreed for a meeting.
Behram and Munzar arrived in Iran and met the Iranian wise men, elders and noblemen. Half of them were in favour of Behram as the king and the other half were in favour of Khushrav. Behram assured the noblemen that that he was not cruel like his father. In fact, he himself was a victim of his father’s wrath and hence had taken refuge with Munzar.
Behram thought about a sporting offer to avoid war and bloodshed. The person claiming the throne would have to take the crown from an ivory throne guarded by two ferocious lions on each side. The claimant would have to fight the lions, sit on the throne and wear the crown.
The following day Behram invited the noblemen to hear him out. He told them about his sporting offer. He explained to them that he was different from his father, that he will be just, kind, caring and considerate to his subjects. The noblemen were impressed and agreed to his offer as they saw a win-win situation in this offer. If Behram were to be killed, they would be happy to get rid of him. If he won, he would have proved his valour and nobility.
Preparations were made for the challenge. A place was selected in a forest where an ivory throne was kept and two lions were tied to either side of the throne on which the royal crown was kept. Behram and Khusrav went to the forest. When Khusrav saw the lions he told the minister that the person who has demanded the throne should go in first. Behram accepted the proposal. The minister tried to caution Behram and asked him to think twice before risking his life. Behram was firm about his decision. He washed himself, prayed to God and sought His help for success.
Behram proceeded towards the throne with a huge Gorz in his hand. One of the lions freed himself from the chains and rushed at him. Behram swung his Gorz and the ferocious lion fell lifeless. Then he went to the chained lion and with one blow of the Gorz ended his life. Then, he sat on the throne and placed the crown on his own head. Immediately Khusrav went to him, offered salutations and accepted him as the king of Iran. In the year 419 AC, Behram the Fifth became the king on roj Sarosh of mah Adar. He was fondly called Behramgur as he was excessively fond of hunting gur (onager). As soon as he assumed the throne, he wrote off the debts of all Iranians. The whole nation was very happy with this generous gesture. He also forgave all those whom his father had exiled and asked them to return. He gave generous gifts to priests, noblemen and commanders.