Roj Aneran Mah Tir, 1383 Yz.
“Badu goft kay maadare nik-khub;
Na bogzinam in raah bar aarzooy
Chunin aamadam baksh az roozgaar
To jaano tane bazenhaar daar!
Rostam said to his mother: ‘O mother of mine, full of virtues! I have not embarked on this expedition of my own accord. But it is written in my fate that I have to do this deed, so why worry? Entrust my safety in to the hands of the Lord!’
As Rostam made the preparations to depart to Mazandran using the perilous Haft Khan route, there was great consternation in his family. His mother was very worried that he would never return. She pleaded with him to not take up this expedition. But the memorable lines of Firdausi, recited by Rostam to his mother show the mysterious working of nature. Many times in the Shah Nameh, King Kai Kaus is shown as somewhat proud and haughty, always wanting his way. His refusal to listen to his advisors and proceed towards Mazandran may seem like an act of folly.
But our Master, Ustad Saheb explained that Kai Kaus was no ordinary person. After all, he was also the holder of the Kayanian Khoreh. Such exalted souls are not entrapped by worldly desires or by flattery. Their sole aim in life was to control the onslaught of Daevayasni powers and prepare the path for the advent of Prophet Zarathushtra. Even though the predecessors of Kai Kaus had made admirable progress in controlling the spread of Daevayasni, the province of Mazandran had failed them all. No one could enter this province where the fiercest and most powerful practitioners of the dismal science resided. Hence Kai Kaus, using his Kayanian Khoreh decided that with Rostam in his full strength and with time on his side, it was an opportune moment to attack Mazandran.
Although the King failed and was captured by the Sapeed Dev, this very act of Kai Kaus propelled Rostam to take up arms and approach Mazandran. In doing so, Rostam was killing two birds with one stone. The short route to Mazandran – the Haft Khan was full of different practitioners of Daevayasni who would not allow anyone to pass through that route. The other route was much longer, taking nearly six months to pass. By Rostam’s passing through the Haft Khan, not only were the Daevayasnis of this route neutralized but also the shorter route would become open even for normal trade. The second objective was of course to defeat the Daevayasni Masters of Mazandran and to destroy their headquarters.
Now Rostam rode Raksh at great speed, covering the distance a normal person who cover in two days in one. Firdausi gives a great description of not only the bravery and valour of Rostam but also gives minute details of his journey with some very beautiful and poetic lines which bear repeating here. As Rostam felt hungry he decided to hunt for his favourite repast – a wild ass. As he spied one in the forest, Firdausi writes…
Kamande Kayani beyandaakht shir,
Bakham andar aavarad gure delir;
Kashido beyafgand gure aan zamaan,
Beyaamad barashchun hezbare zeyaan;
Ze paykaane tir aatashi barforukht,
Baru khaaro khaashaako hizam besukht;
Azaan pas ke bitasho bijaanash kard,
Barran aatashe tiz byaaransh kard;
Bekhurdo beyandaakht dar ustakhaanash,
Hamin bud digo hamin bud khaanash!
The Brave Lion threw his kingly lasso and caught the wild ass. He drew fast the lasso and threw the ass to the ground and like a fast cheetah jumped off his horse. Using the tip of his metal arrow he lit a fire with twigs, thorns and bushes. He then respectfully killed the ass and roasted it whole on the fire. He ate it all and threw the bones far away. The wild ass was his cooking vessel and it was his dining plate too!
Now satiated, Rostam freed Raksh and then lay down on the grass with his sword under his head and without a worry in the world, went off to sleep. As he slept and Raksh kept watch a very large lion who resided in that part of the forest saw them and decided to make a meal of them. As it approached them, Raksh stood up on his hind legs and attacked the lion with his front hoofs, repeatedly striking the lion and then bit him on the neck. After some struggle the lion was killed by Raksh. When Rostam awoke he saw what had happened and scolded Raksh for not awaking him. He then massaged Raksh’s back, sat down for some prayer and then started o the journey ahead. In this manner the first of the seven obstacles was tackled.
Now as they continued, the landscape changed. From the fresh verdant jungle, the road now became a barren desert. The sun was scorching hot and the sand on the ground burned their feet. Both horse and rider were severely sun-burnt and exhausted due to lack of water. As both seemed on the verge of death, Rostam sent up a prayer to God. He requested for help since he was on a mission to rescue Kai Kaus and was working for the good side of Nature. As the day progressed matters became worse. Suddenly from the haze, Rostam saw a ram walking away in the distance. He immediately surmised that it was a message from God and was meant to lead him towards the water. Staggering from thirst and exhaustion, Rostam goaded on Raksh and followed the ram till they suddenly came upon a spring of water. Rostam offered grateful thanks to His Creator and drank deeply from the fresh water. As he looked around he saw that there were no footmarks of the ram or any other animal and hence concluded that the ram was sent specially for him by God.
Rostam then lifted the saddle off Raksh and bathed him in the stream. He then hunted a wild ass and had his dinner and lay down to sleep. In this way, the second obstacle of the Haft Khan was crossed. Firdausi writes here some memorable lines which are applicable to all of us:
Bajaai ke tang andar aayad sakhun,
Panaahat bejoz Paak Yazdaan makun!
Ke harkas ke az Daadgar yak Khoday,
Bepichad kheradraa nadaarad bajaay!
(O reader,) Whenever you face any difficulty in your work, then ask for help from the Pak Yazdaan! Because one who turns his face away from God the Creator, he must surely be lacking in wisdom and intelligence!
Before going off to sleep, Rostam warned Raksh not to fight with any animal or Dev nor make any friends. Soon Rostam was fast asleep and Raksh stood guard over him till it was midnight.
Now a huge dragon, measuring some 80 yards from head to tail saw the two of them and decided to attack. As Raksh saw the dragon he stamped his fet and swished his tail until Rostam awoke. Just as he awoke the dragon hid himself. Rostam was a bit irritated that Raksh had awakened him without any cause and went back to sleep. As he slept the dragon reappeared and Raskh again awakened his master. But the sly dragon hid himself and Rstam could not see it. He became angry on his worse, warning him that he would walk it alone to Mazandran if he was disturbed again. The third time the dragon appeared and Raksh delayed awakening his master out of fear of being shouted at. Finally when the dragon was really close he stomped his feet and Rostam awoke. This time though, Rostam saw the dragon’s form in the darkness before he could escape. He picked up his sword and began fighting with the dragon. Raksh too joined in the battle and using his powerful teeth bit the dragon in his body, tearing off his skin. This pain distracted the dragon giving enough time for Rostam to use his sword and chop off its head. After finishing off the vile animal both Rostam and Raksh bathed in the stream and cleansed themselves. Rostam then sat down to pray and offered thanks to the Creator for leading him successfully through the third obstacle. Now they rode on further.
They rode fast through the day and just as the sun was about to set they came across a most beautiful grove of trees. Firdausi describes the scene most fancifully:
Chu chashme tazarvan yaki chashme did,
Yaki jaaye zarrin barash pur nabid;
Yaki dhorme bearyaano naan as barash,
Namak-daano richaal gerad andarash!
He saw there a stream of water glistening like a partridge’s eyes, whereupon lay a decanter of wine, made of pure gold. A roasted lamb with nan, along with a salt sprinkler and some pickles lay there.
Rostam marvelled at the feast laid out for him (though it was not) and began to partake of it merrily. Well satiated, he saw a tambourine lying there and picking it up began to sing the praise of God in a most melodious voice. Now the picnic had been laid out by some sorcerers who lived in that area. When they saw Rostam and heard him take the name of God, they slunk away. But there lived there another sorceress who was not too afraid of Rostam. The od hag disguised herself as a beautiful maiden and went to Rostam, in the hope of seducing and then getting rid of him.
As she approached Rostam with fluttering eyelids and whimpering sighs, Rostam marvelled at her beauty and filled a goblet of wine and offered it to her, toasting the Pak Yazdaan for her beauty. But ere Rostam took the name of God and the damsel’s disguise vanished and she reverted back to her ugly form. Immediately Rostam took his lasso and caught her and taking his dagger cut her into two pieces. In this way the fourth Haft Khan was cleared.
[to be continued…]
Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram