The Migration of Parsis to India 9: The Battle of Qadissiyah

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Roj Ava Mah Tir, 1385 Yz.

16th November, 636 dawned as any other day in history. The two armies faced each other. The expectations and nervous energy was palpable as over 60,000 Iranian troops – infantry, cavalry and a special elephant regiment from India jostled to form the precise order of battle. The river Ateeq lay behind them. The 45,000 infantry and 15,000 cavalry was deployed in four divisions, each about 150 metres from the other. The battle front stretched nearly 4 kilometres long. Each division had 8 elephants leading the charge. The right wing of the army was commanded by veteran general Hormuzan, the right centre by Jalinus, the rear by Piruzan, and the left wing by Mehran.

Over near the west bank of the river, on an elevated plane, seated under a gilded canopy was the commander of the army and the second most powerful man in Persia – the illustrious general Rustam Farrokhzad. By his side flew the famous and legendary Drafsh-e-Kaveyan – the Kavayani Zando – originally the piece of leather apron hoisted on a spear by Kaveh, when he revolted against the unjust rule of Zohak many thousands of years ago. From that time, the humble sign of freedom and rule of Just Law had been added and emblazoned with millions of precious stones, sewn into fresh silk folds. The flag was too heavy to carry by any one person and a special regiment of ace soldiers guarded the flag with their life – it was the symbol of Ancient Iran and her many dynasties.

The Muslim army was about 36,000 strong was divided on tribal and clan lines to ensure loyalty and coordinated fighting. The army was divided into four divisions – each pitted against the Iranian division.

As the day broke and the armies readied together, Rustam Farrokhzad wore a double suit of armour and seated in his elevated canopy gave the signal for the battle to begin. By tradition, the first battles were fought between single opponents from each side, nobles pitted against the other to try and destroy the morale of the general army. Once noon had crossed and a number of Iranian heroes had destroyed their Muslim counterparts and vice versa, the full-fledged battle began.

In typical Persian fashion, the battle began with a hail of arrows from the Iranian side which caused utter confusion and disarray in the Muslim ranks. This was further exploited by the use of the elite elephants – an animal never before seen by Arabs. As the trained fierce elephants led the charge, their trumpets blowing loudly and the archers seated on top letting fly a hail of arrows, there was mayhem on the field as the Muslim attack and defence was routed. There were heavy casualties on their side.

The Muslim military strategists watching the battle from the rear realised that the maximum damage was being caused by the elephants. They sent word out to the front, advising the soldiers to try and cut the leather straps which held the girdles of the howdah atop the elephants on which the archers were seated. After many unsuccessful tries and numerous deaths, the Muslims succeeded in cutting the girdles of some elephants and the Persian elite division had to retreat.

Now full-fledged battle started, with Rustam Farrokhzad himself entering the fray and displaying some amazing bravery in numerous duels. Seeing their commander fight like a hero motivated the entire Iranian side to fight ever more fiercely. As dusk fell and the armies retired, the first day clearly belonged to the Iranians.

On the second day the Muslim side tried very hard to surround and kill Rustam Farrokhzad with the hope that his death would plunge the entire army into disarray. But the valiant general fought back and despite the lack of elephants on the second day, the Iranian side inflicted heavy casualties, although suffering some themselves.

On the third day, the elephants who were now fresh from a day’s rest were pressed back into battle with some good results. The Muslim army fell back against the charge. Saad bin Abi-Waqqas now devised an ingenious stratagem. He instructed his men to cut off the trunks of the elephants so that they would become uncontrollable due to the pain. The plan worked. As the elephants’ trunks were cut, they roared in pain and turned on their own side, running through the ranks and causing untold damage to the Iranian side. In this chaos, the Muslim army launched a major offensive and the Iranian side suffered major losses. The battlefield was strewn with the bodies of fallen Iranian soldiers.

As dusk fell and the battle stopped, the Iranian nobles sent out men to collect the bodies of all the slain warriors. Being highly religious, the Iranian army officers decided that they would use the Aiwisruthrem time to clean themselves and then offer Sarosh Patet in the name of the fallen soldiers. Throughout the army, cries of ‘Gaomez, Gaomez’ rang out. The Iranians were asking for Taro to perform the Kusti and to apply on to the bodies of their fallen comrades.

As the cries of ‘Gaomez’ reached the ears of the Muslim side, they wondered what was happening. Here the cursed Mazdakites, the turncoats, born of half-Iranian and foreign blood, who bore intense hatred for the Emperor and all that Iran stood and who had bled the country dry by their internecine warfare and palace intrigues, who fought on the Iranian side but whose loyalties lay on the other, informed the Muslims that the Persians would lay down all weapons through the night and sit down to pray for their fallen comrades. This, they advised, would be the right time to attack them!

Ignoring the sacred rules of war, the Muslim side mounted a night offensive. As the battle weary Iranians discarded their armour and washed their bodies with Gaomez and began to offer Sarosh Patet for their comrades, the Muslim army fell on them like a pack of wolves. Even though they fought back, the damage inflicted was colossal. Thousands of Iranian soldiers were massacred even as they chanted the Sarosh Vadi and Patet.

The Muslims retreated back to their camp and rested for a few hours before the sun rose and the fourth day of battle began. The Iranians were exhausted from fighting the night ambush and from the wounds suffered earlier. They were shocked that an army would disregard the rules of war and mount an attack in the night. Yet they mounted their offensive. The fighting raged fiercely. Both sides seemed evenly matched.

Then, slowly but steadily, the wind began to pick up. As the desert sand began flying, the wind direction moved in such a manner that the sand began to get into the eyes of the Iranian army. In a few minutes, the sandstorm was a raging tempest. As the Iranian soldiers shielded their eyes against the fine sand which got into everything, their eyes, their necks, their armour, the Muslims, much used to the ways of the desert and with the wind behind them, began the wholesale slaughter. It was a massacre of giant proportions.

Rustam Farrokhzad took refuge from the sandstorm beside a camel which was loaded with arms and weapons. In the melee, someone cut the girdle of the camel and the heavy load of weapons slid from the back of the camel on to the head of the illustrious Rustam Farrokhzad. He was paralyzed from the waist down and the fallen hero was hacked to pieces by the victorious Muslims. As the news of the death of Rustam Farrokhzad spread, the already disorganized army was demoralized and turned tail.

The Muslims now concentrated on the elite guard around the Drafsh-e-Kavayani. Despite a fierce fight and many great personal battles, one by one, the elite guard were massacred. the heavy flag, bedecked with millions of precious stones and jewels fell to the ground and was snatched up by a Muslim Zerar bin Kattab who sold this priceless heirloom of Iran for 30,000 Dinars. The purchaser cut the Drafsh into many small parts which were them put on sale in the weekly bazaar at Medina. The main part of the flag was taken to Caliph Umar who ordered it burnt.

The battle of Qadissiyah was over and the Persians were routed. The beginning of the end of the empire had started.

Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram



  1. Kainaz,  November 25, 2015

    Very thought provoking and wonderful account i was mesmerised could u think or wrting a book perhaps it would be wonderful to have a book that our future generations and rest of world would also love to read .

  2. Burzin  January 9, 2016

    Dear Mobed Saheb Hathiram, reading this has truly made me emotional. We sitting here in our cosy homes cannot even imagine what out great ancestors went through during those tumultuous times.

    I have heard that the Muslims had used our Avestan nirangs to turn the tide of war against us. Could you share the background on that?

    Also do Muslims have their own equivalent of the Paav Mahal? The reason I ask is t that it seems to be too strong in todays times when adherents of all other faiths are moving away from religions, Muslims are moving more and more towards their religion.