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Shahnameh of Ancient Iran Comes Alive in The Saga of The Shahanshas

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Shahnameh of Ancient Iran Comes Alive in The Saga of The Shahanshas
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Item Code: NAN288
Author: Adi F. Merchant
Publisher: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan
Language: English
Edition: 2017
ISBN: 9788172765514
Pages: 289 (31 B/W & 6 Color Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 10.0 inch X 7.0 inch
weight of the book: 780 gms
About the Book

It was evening and the sun was hovering above the horizon. At the northernmost tip of the world, in the then warm Arctic, the Aryan Community had made its abode. Their day’s toil had come to a close and the townsfolk met in the square as always, men and women together; to sing and dance in joy under the light of torches and to raise thanks to Ahura Mazda-filled with the zest of life, lived to the hilt, from time immemorial.

The girls formed a long line, shoulder to shoulder, with arms around one another’s waits, forming a chain which had no end. The men started to clap to the tunes of the street-musicians... The crowd watched entranced. Tall and elegant, and as lovely as a red rose, one girl outshone the rest, just as the moon outshines the stars at night. Her perfectly rounded body twirled to the mesmerizing melody. The crowd was enraptured... suddenly the music stopped, and total silence was heard.

“Who is this flower of the Aryan race?” asked an anonymous voice. She is Noshirwan’s and Havovi’s daughter, Yasmin.

...thus began the Race of the Aryans: the Persians, the Iranians.. 20,000 years ago in an age shrouded in the mystery of Time.... Over 6000 years ago; when “The Shahnameh”, the Book of Kings, which began as an epic, and is now a saga, achieved mammoth proportion.

“The Saga of the Shahanshahs” is truly a Persian odyssey... that will live again the glory of yesterday.

About the Author

Adi Merchant was born in London, England in 1938 to highly educated and qualified Parsi parents. While his father was a successful practising Chartered Accountant, his mother taught History and English at Wilson College, Mumbai.

Brought up in India, he became a prolific reader and also developed a flair for writing from his school and college days. Educated at St. Joseph’s College, a Boarding School in Darjeeling and later, at Campion School in Mumbai, he completed his formal education from The Sydenham College of Commerce and Economics, Mumbai; it is affiliated to the University of Mumbai.

However, it was his passion for writing that drove him toward the field of Advertising, to consolidate his position in this area of creative writing, he pursued a year-long correspondence course in-the 1970s, in Copywriting, after hitching his bandwagon to a reputed ad agency in 1965. Armed with Ws Diploma, he was now ready to take on the world with his writing.

A self-published book, “Haiku: An Ode to Nature”, was well received by discerning readers of this Japanese verse-form. He is currently working on a book of children’s short stories, to be published in the near future.

As a lad, Adi excelled in athletics as well, winning many trophies in middle- and long- distance running, both at school and college. Being very fond of sport, too, he was an avid player of cricket, football, volleyball and hockey, representing his teams at the time.

He has a well-rounded personality, is a devoted husband and father, and a grandfather as well of two adorable little girls. His great sense of humour makes him generally the life of a party. He is a very loyal, caring, supportive and understanding friend, having retained friendships forged at school and college and during his working career as well.


The Shahnameh of Firdausi Toosi, one of the greatest epics of the world, depicts the mythical and historical past of ancient Iran, from the creation of the world, until the end of the royal legacy of Zoroastrianism, and the conquest of Iran by foreign invaders, in the 7th century. The master-poet Firdausi (C. 940-1020), through his portrayal of the political and cultural identity of the Persian empire, has very successfully conveyed one of the most valuable messages for mankind - the message for inculcating humanitarian values. His poetic history of Iran (Persia) is replete with specific preachings for avoiding cruelty, enmity, lying, jealousy, avarice and other vices, and emphatic advice for striving hard for love, care, compassion, justice, order, truth, respect, kindness and other virtues imbued by mankind.

The forceful flow of potent language, the amazing unfoldment of the purport of narration, lively characterization, apt and enchanting descriptions of various personalities belonging to different royal dynasties, and events, and above all, the treasure of time- tested wisdom, and eternal values - all these have made Firdausi’s Shahnameh a true literary role-model for poets of generations to follow, a great source of pursuing serious studies and research in history, culture, sociology, polity, linguistics, poetics and aesthetics, as well as a living monument of its author Firdausi and his multi-faceted genius.

Shri Adi F. Merchant has lucidly rewritten, rather retold, this amazing saga of the Shahanshahs - Firdausi’s Shahnameh, in such a fascinating manner and style, that readers virtually witness the happenings of the events, and live every emotion of the characters. We highly appreciate Shri Merchant’s Herculean task of adapting an astonishing and voluminous literary feat - the Shahnameh. We congratulate and thank him for successfully presenting the said saga of ancient Iran in an impeccable form of writing truly a labour of love.

We convey our sincere thanks to Dr. Ramiyar P. Karanjia, the renowned scholar of Zoroastrianism, and Principal, Dadar (parsi) Athornan Institute, Mumbai, for his scholarly Foreword to this work.

We remain grateful to Dr. D. K. Daftary, the eminent Dental Surgeon, Member of the Council of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, and Chairman, Managing Committee, Bhavan’s Jyotisha Bharati; for kindly introducing Shri Adi F. Merchant’s initial work on the Shahnameh, to the Bhavan’s authorities, and to Shri H. N. Dasturji, Executive Secretary, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, for instantly granting approval for commissioning the task of preparation of complete prose-adaptation of the epic, to Shri Adi F. Merchant, and for sanctioning the publication of this unique work, under the banner of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, which has been promoting Indian culture and education through its multi-dimensional activities including publication of books.

We heartily thank the Bhavan’s Joint Director, Shri P. V. Sankarankutty for carrying out the task of publishing this monumental work and Shri Samir Parekh and Shri Nilesh Parekh of Paras Prints for printing it.

We are sure that this scholarly work will be warmly welcomed by readers, students and researchers, and it will also enrich the present stock of literature based on the Shahnameh.


The Iranian epic, the Shahnameh, contains the history and stories of prehistoric and historic Iran with all their greatness and pettiness, romance and tragedies, heroes and villains, glory and shame.

The Shahnameh, which literally means ‘‘The Book of Kings”, was composed about a thousand years ago by a poet whose real name was Abu Qasim Hasan, but who is better known by his pen-name Firdausi Toosi. The Shahnameh comprises about 60,000 couplets in pure classical Persian, of which about 4,000 are lost to us now. The Shahnameh ranks among the greatest epics of the world along with the Iliad and Odyssey of the West and the Ramayana and Mahabharata in the East.

Considering the vast period that the Shahnameh embraces and the delicacy of its style, it is hardly equaled and certainly not surpassed by any other epic. For the reason, Firdausi is rightly regarded as the Homer of the East.

After the first extensive rendering of the Shahnameh in English more than a century ago by Alexander Rogers in 1907, there have been several English translations and books based on translations. Adi F.Merchant’s work is one such book which lucidly narrates stories from the Shahnameh.

This book, apparently, is especially meant for young readers in the age group of 8-12 years, and for teenagers and adults as well, who are not aware or know very little about our Persian (Iranian) ancestry at the time it was written.

The Shahnameh covers the three main dynasties of Iran - the Peshdaad, the Kayaan and the Sasaan. Of these, the Kayaan dynasty occupies about 55% of the epic poem, while the other two dynasties occupy about 10% and 35% respectively. It is interesting to note that two of the major and historic dynasties, the Achaemenian and the Parthian, are almost overlooked in Firdausi Toosi’s Shahnameh.

The history of the first two dynasties in the Shahnameh is primarily based on the Avestaan and Pahlavi texts and some other books, now no more extant, like the Bastaan Naameh composed during the reign of Nosherwaan Adel and Khuda Naameh by Daancshwar Dehkaan composed during the times of Yazdezard Sheriyar, the last king of the Sasaan dynasty prior to the capitulation of Iran to Islamic conquest and subsequent rule.

The Shahnameh is not just about stories and history, as is generally believed. One has just to scratch the surface and one could unearth a vast treasure trove of wise and philosophical sayings on life. It is said that Guru Gobind Singh, the Tenth Guru of the Sikhs was so inspired by the Shahnameh that the Zafar Naameh, the letter he sent to Aurangzeb, was composed in the metre of the Shahnameh.

Finally, the Shahnameh serves many purposes: It admonishes with its maxims, it entertains with its rhythmic poetry, it educates with its history and religious knowledge, it guides with its evergreen wisdom, philosophy and morph, and, above all, it entertains by its beautiful narration, language and rhyme. It is an unsurpassed repository of Iranian history, heritage and culture.

The author has done well by contributing to this much-needed literary genre. May the book receive the acceptance and success that it so rightly deserves.


In heroic, epic campaigns, which Persian and other historians have collectively called “The Shahnameh” (The Book of Kings), the great emperors, shahs and princes of Iran have waged wars against their perennial enemies of Tooraan, Ind, Chin, Rum and other countries for centuries, if not millennia. These are the chronicles of battles, honour and ancient worlds. Conflicts of such massive proportions of carnage and heroism to dwarf all the other feats on battlefields that ever took place on this planet; including those between the Romans and the Mongols, and the Huns and the Britons - in various combinations and permutations!

The following saga embraces Iran’s dynasties: Pishdaadians, Kaiaanians, Parthians and Sasaanians. It is truly a “Persian odyssey.”

The preparation of this volume has been a work after my own heart for the past 15 years and now I am not so sorry that it is at last finished, because it had been carried forward amid many other distractions, which included other writing commitments as well.

I have entitled my work as a book “The Saga of the Shahanshahs” adventure, thrills and romances being some of the main ingredients. I have intentionally labelled the chapters with a fair sprinkling of crisp subheads thrown in for good measure - to make the work readable, understandable and, above all, enjoyable for all my readers, young, and not-so- young alike.

By working hard at it, I have succeeded, I hope, in bringing to life a good deal of the Old Country with that avidity of interest and zest, which enthusiasm for the subject and that closeness of application, which the years of preparation tend to cultivate. I wish that the time and means at my disposal had been more abundant, but “half a loaf is better than none”, and for this I am thankful to my Creator. I have also tried to reduce the factor of error as far as possible by honing up on the subject, so as to be able to distinguish between fact and far-fetched fiction, and by subjecting my observations to the test of comparison with the history of the country from the earliest times. How far I have succeeded or failed must be decided by those who are competent to judge. I can only plead on my behalf that I have worked conscientiously throughout to make the book as good as I was able; one example of this will be found in the attention given also to illustration. The illustrations that are ordinarily presented I have supplemented by pictures - maps, sketches and photographs - of subjects that are rarely chosen, and I have been able to do this mainly from a collection of photographs and drawings obtained from various sources - old books, travel folders or by friends who have been so very obliging to me. Especially, those acquaintances from Iran, with authentic antecedents.

How little can be done without the aid of one’s predecessors, when writing a book based on historical facts, myths included at times, will be best appreciated by those who have aimed, like myself, at adding a mite to the body of knowledge already existing in the four corners of the world. On that account I have constantly and without hesitation consulted the works of my fellow-labourers in the field during the past 3000 years - from Zarathushtra and Herodotus, through the Arab writers, to modernists such as Browne and Curzon.

There are several respects in which I should have liked to be able to bring the book nearer to completeness, for instance, by including the periods of the Achaemenians and the Medes, but I think I may say with all modesty that some compensation will be found in the suggestiveness of the volume because of the light it throws upon certain historical points which, more so inadvertently, have not been previously clear or even known before. I also believe firmly that many of my readers will welcome a refreshingly new presentation of matters that were, or may have been, familiar to them.

Now, it only remains for me to conclude: I hope my work may find favour with my readers, general and special, for whom the book is written.


  Dedication vii
  Preface xi
  Foreword xiii
  Firdausi’s Invocation xv
  Annexe to Firdausi’s Invocation xvii
  Prologue xix
  Historical Note xxiii
  Acknowledgement xxv
  The Story of Firdausi of Toos xxvii
  Author’s Note xxxv
1 Kaiomars: Founder of the Persian Nation 1
2 Hooshang and Tahmuras: Behold, There Was Fire! 16
3 Jamsheed: He Dared to Play God 10
4 Zohak: Prince of Evil, The Devil’s Pawn 13
5 Faridoon: A Symbol of Justice and Generosity 20
6 Minuchehr: Benevolent and Munificent 33
7 Zal: “Dastaan”, Monarch of Nimruz 38
8 Naudar: An Unjust, Cruel Upstart 52
9 Naudar: A Victory for Sistaan 59
10 Rustam: A Tornado Unleashed 63
11 Kaikobaad: The First Kaianian King 66
12 Kai Kaus: Vainglorious and Foolhardy 68
13 The Haft Khwan of Rustam 70
14 Kai Kaus: The War Against Mazanderaan 77
15 Kai Kaus: Pride Goes Before a Fall 81
16 Kai Kaus: The Tale of Sohrab 84
17 Kai Kaus: Rustam Confronts Sohrab 89
18 Kai Kaus: The Tale of Siawusch 98
19 Kai Khusru: Farood, Son of Siawusch 102
20 Kai Khusru: The Tale of Kaamus of Kashaa 109
21 Kai Khusru: A Tale of Tooraanian Treachery 117
22 Kai Khusru: Demi-god Versus Div 125
23 Kai Khusru: The Story of Bezon and Manizeh 128
24 Kai Khusru: The Battle of The Twelve Rukhs 134
25 Kai Khusru: The Great War With Afrasiyaab 143
26 Kai Khusru: Afrasiyaab Betrayed By The Faghfur 150
27 Kai Khusru: Enter Lohrasp 155
28 Lohrasp: Righteous and Pure 163
29 Gushtasp: Enter Zarathushtra, and The War With Arjasp 174
30 Gushtasp: The Seven Stages of Isfandyar 181
31 Gushtasp: Isfandyar Confronts Rustam 188
32 Gushtasp: The Story of Rustam and Shaghad 199
33 Bahman: Son of Gushtasp the Ill-advised 202
34 Humai: First Queen of Iran 204
35 Darab: Brave, Wise and Generous 208
36 Dara And Sikander: Two of A Kind 210
37 King Khosroes: Divine by Right 219
38 Manes (Mani) Is Born 227
39 Nooshirwaan... and Mazdaak: Tolerant... And Terrible 229
40 “The Year of the Elephant”: The Birth of Prophet Muhammad 232
41 Khusraw Parwiz: The Arab Invasion, and Toward The End of The Last Persian Dynasty 238
42 Yazdigird lll: The Wandering King of Iran 241
  The Shahanshah of Persia’s poets Firdausi Toosi’s Philosophical and Ethical Gems 245
  Epilogue 247
  “Quotations” 248
  “Persian history comes grippingly to life” 249
  Bibliography 251
  About The Author 252


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