The tragic life-story of King Khusrau Parvez – part 4

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Roj Dae-pa-Din Mah Adar, 1381 Yz.

As the King escaped under cover of darkness, the rebel soldiers entered the palace and began looting and breaking things indiscriminately. Soon the entire palace was in a shambles. The senior leaders arrived and were shocked to see the extent of the destruction, but it was too late. As they searched frantically for the King, all they could find was his favourite Queen Shirin.

Meanwhile the deposed King made his way into the countryside with a trusted assistant and his armour and sword. As the sun made its way to the top of the sky, the King felt hungry but there was no place where he could go. He cut off a part of  his belt which was studded with precious stones and asked his helper to go to the nearby village, sell off the belt and get some bread and water in exchange. As the helper arrived at the village bakery and presented the belt in exchange for food, the miller refused, saying there was not enough bread in his whole bakery to pay for the precious stones. So they together decided to go to a jeweller and sell the belt. One look at the precious stones and the jeweller realized that the ornament could only belong to the King. Soon news of this reached the leader of the rebels and he gathered a large contingent of soldiers and directed them to make their way to the area where the King had taken refuge and to capture him.

As the soldiers arrived at the spot where the deposed King was resting under the shade of a tree, a sudden feeling of guilt attacked them. They refused to capture the King and instead went back to the palace and informed Farrokhzad of their inability to carry out their orders. The infuriated Vazir gathered another small force of his most chosen men and himself took charge and went to the field where Khusrau Parvez lay resting and mulling his fate.

As the soldiers arrived, the King stood up and decided to fight to the end. Farrokhzad knew the King’s strength and determination and hence decided to play a wise trick. Coming in front of the King, he bowed low and addressed: ‘O valiant King, I know you can single handedly dispatch one thousand of these soldiers to their grave, but after that I can order a thousand more! How long will you keep on fighting, my Lord! You can fight men, but today, time and luck have themselves become your enemy! So give up gracefully and let us escort you back to the palace. Who knows, your fortune may turn around when you go there!’

The dejected King realized the wisdom of Farrokhzad’s words, even though they were uttered with an ulterior motive. He gave himself up to the Vazir, and befitting his status, the soldiers put Khosrau Parvez onto a caparisoned elephant and escorted him with dignity and full honour to the palace in front of the new emperor. As father and son faced each other, the weakling Shirooy had a sudden attack of guilt, and contrary to the expectations of the courtiers who expected him to have Khosrau Parvez killed, Shirooy ordered that the deposed King be put under house arrest at a separate palace called Mahrespand in Ctesiphon, with all the luxuries and riches befitting a king.

After putting the deposed King under house arrest, the courtiers now crowned Shirooy as the new Emperor of Iran. But still reeling under the feelings of guilt at what he had done, the first task the new king undertook was to write a long letter to his deposed father. He summoned two of the sweetest talkers of the court, well versed in the diplomatic arts, and dictated a missive to his father, trying to explain the reasons for the palace coup and justifying his own actions. If the deposed King were to accept certain conditions, including becoming a Mazdakite, then he would be pardoned and the new King would also find it easier to rule over the country.

Bearing all this in mind, Shirooy recruited two senior courtiers, called Ashtad and Kharrad Burzin for the delicate mission. In the letter, Shirooy listed several of Khosrau Parvez’s ‘mistakes’ and used these as a justification for usurping the throne. The main reasons, according to Shirooy were:

  1. The murder of his own father, King Hormuz and his two uncles, so that Khosrau Parvez could ascend the throne.
  2. Excessive collection of wealth and riches by taxing the neighbouring countries an unjust tribute
  3. Long periods of service for army officers, such that they were separated from the families for excessive amount of time
  4. The refusal of Khosrau Parvez to hand back to the Caesar, the Holy Cross on which Lord Christ was crucified, which was hidden in his treasury
  5. Unjust taxation of the population, even in periods of famine, which caused hardship and hunger.
  6. The house arrest of Shirooy and his sister for no rhyme or reason.

Having masked the letter in delicate diplomatic terms, the two courtiers were dispatched to the palace of Mahrespand to deliver Shirooy’s message and get an answer from Khosrau Parvez.

Meanwhile, King Khosrau Parvez was kept company by his loyal wife Shirin. Throughout the day, the deposed King would harbour bitter thoughts about the way his fortune had turned for the worse. He remembered the words of the wise astrologers who had foretold these and many other events to him long ago, and which he had laughingly disregarded. Now as news was given to the King that two courtiers had arrived bearing a missive from the new King, Khosrau Parvez sat down on his rich carpet, on which were placed several deep cushions and assumed his regal pose. He held in his hands, a large quince (a royal fruit of the apple family). As the courtiers arrived and prostrated themselves before the King, Khosrau Parvez placed the quince on a cushion and moved a little to straighten his back. The movement caused the apple to fall down the cushion, and roll away to the edge of the carpet.

The courtier Ashtad knelt down, picked up the quince, cleaned it gently and placed it back on the cushion. Seeing this, the King started weeping as he remembered a dream in which the Yazata Sarosh had appeared and warned him about his deposal. With tearful eyes, Khosrau Parvez looked up into the heavens and asked: ‘The fallen quince can be easily picked up and put back in its place, but who can put back a deposed King, whom the Yazads have themselves brought down? Such is the end of my monarchy and my family. Soon the monarchy will end and this country will become a barren desert. Tell me, O calculating courtiers, what have you brought for your old King from the one who calls himself the King?’

The ashamed courtiers saw the sorry state of their real King and could not hold back their own tears. They gently handed over the letter to Khosrau Parvez who read it with moist eyes and a steadily worsening temper. Having finished reading, the King composed himself and demanded that the courtiers listen to him very carefully as he dictated his reply.

Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram