The Hamun/Helmand River Basin of Zabulistan-Sakastan
Extracts from the Autobiography of Tamerlane/Timur/Timour
(I Am Timour, World Conqueror translated by Babur Rashidzada p. 101-8)
As Timur narrates: "Two days after the Yazd caravan's departure, another caravan of camels entered Badamishk." The convoy released their camels to graze and then prepared a meal which they sat down to eat."They were seven men, a father and six sons." "Their physique and their manner of feeding was so strange that I went up to them and asked the father, who had a long white beard, "Where are you from?" The man answered, "We are from Zabulistan." I asked, "Was Rustam from your race?" The old man said, "Yes." Then he patted his son's backs and said, "These are all Rustams!" I'm considered a tall man, but when I stood next to the old man and his sons, I found myself short. They were so tall that when they stood next to a camel, their heads were parallel to the camel's hump. They were so powerful that when they decided to load their camels and leave, they didn't sit the camels down but lifted the loads up."
"I was assured they were of the race of Rustam, the great gladiator (pahlavan) of Ferdowsi's Shahnameh, and was assured that Rustam must have been a powerful man like them. Even though the old man and his sons weren't more than seven people, they didn't have the slightest fear of my army (whose camp they could see). It was as if they saw my soldiers and me as ants. When their caravan was ready to leave, I asked, "Dear fellow, are only you and your sons tall, or is everyone in Zabulistan tall like you?" The old man said, "Everyone is tall in Zabulistan, it is the country of Iranian men" (i.e., the Sistanis/Zabulis are Iranian (Aryan).
"...since I had entered Khurasan, I hadn't heard anyone mention the name Iran until that day."
(After setting out from Qa'in in southern Khorasan) "One day, before the afternoon, a mountain appeared in the east. When we got close to it, we saw that it was black. The guides said, "This is Black Mountain add it is the beginning of Zabulistan's soil." I remembered that Ferdowsi has mentioned mentioned Black Mountain in his poetry and has said that the mountain is located on the border of Zabulistan."
(We presume the Black Mountain referred to by Timur is the black basalt Kuh-e Khajeh meaning 'Mountain of the Lord', now an archaeological site containing Zoroastrian era and later ruins. Khajeh would have been Khvajeh in Middle Persian and is associated with the modern word Khoda. Kuh-e Khajeh is located 30 km SW of the town of Zabol in Iran's Sistan province. It forms an island in the middle of Lake Hamun-e Helmand which some identify as Lake Frazdan where a coming saviour Hushedar (or Khushedar) will be born cf. Bahman Yasht 3.13. LB 22.5 states that Lake Frazdan is in Sagastan.)
|Black Mountain or Kuh-e Khajeh near Zabol in Sistan, Iran|
Fire Temple Courtyard
Image Credit: Hamid-Golpesar at Flickr
|Kuh-e Khajeh in the background with Parthian-Sassanian era ruins in the foreground.|
Image credit: Atousa at Trekearth
"Sometimes a call was heard, and the guides explained that it was the call of the Zabuli naval travellers and when are in ships or barges, they communicate with each other through special sounds. There voices were so loud that they could communicate from one side of the river with others who were on the other side of the river in ships, barges, or on the opposite banks. When I heard the sounds of the naval travellers from close by, they sounded to me like the call of Rustam. I said to myself, 'Rustam of Zabul must have called in the same manner.'"
"I stopped at the side of the Hamun River and decided to send an envoy to the Amir of Zabulistan... I watched with amazement as a group riding on cows approached from afar. The cows were galloping like horses.... An old man who had a white beard... shouted, 'I am Garshasb (Garshasp), the descendant of Gudarz, the chief of Zabulistan! Who is Amir Timur?'"
The party dismounted. "Those who were next to me bit their fingers in amazement because the men's figures were so tall that one would think they were the progeny of giants, not humans. All had long beards, but the difference was that some had white beards, while others had black, and some grey. Their clothing was a long garment, and they had thrown one end of the garments over their left shoulder."
The king of Zabulistan invited Timur to his palace. "We headed towards the city, galloping away from the Hamun River. There were grasslands everywhere, and it was evident that Zabulistan was a fertile and green region. The city I saw was extensive, and on subsequent days, I noticed a great number of Indian clothing in the city, and it was evident that the city was in continuous commerce with Hindustan. Garshasb was very hospitable towards me and tried to make it very pleasant for me."
(We note that a frequent observation by Timur was regarding trade. He had seen caravans from Yazd and Kerman in the west as well as evidence of trade with India in the east.)
"On the second day, ...he (Garshasb) took me outside the city. We arrived at a fortress that was in ruins. He said to me, 'Rustam was born into the world here.' I asked him if he knew at what point in time Rustam came into the world in that fortress. The man said, "Rustam was born in this fortress fifteen hundred years ago." After we saw the ruined fortress, he took me towards a mountain and said, "This is a mountain that Rustam would climb during his youth and battle with falcons."
(There are very few hills in the vicinity of Zabul other than Black Mountain or Kuh-e Khajeh which has ruins said to date back to ancient times and reputed to be the fort of Saam, Rustam's grandfather. Timur is writing this story in his late sixties and may have forgotten some of the details. On the first occasion he might have seen the mountain from a distance and on the second occasion approached it from a different direction.)
"Because Garshasb, the Chief of Zabulistan, knew that I enjoyed Ferdowsi's poetry, he used every opportunity to recite one of Ferdowsi's poems. ...I saw thousands of Rustams in Zabulistan. ...One of the things that amazed me was that I found out that one could harvest three times a year in Zabulistan because the weather is warm and the water plentiful."
"Amir Garshasb took me on a boat and gave me a ride around the Hamun River (Likely Hamun Lake) and said, "In the time of Rustam, the breadth of this river (lake) was more than what you see now. Little by little, the Hamun River is shrinking. Parts that are under water change into land, and perhaps in another thousand years, this river will dry up and our descendants might not see it." (A prescient observation. Today, the lake periodically dries up entirely.)
"I asked the Chief of Zabulistan, "Is it possible that I hire some of the tall and strong men of Zabulistan and create a force with them?" The Chief of Zabulistan said, "Amir Timur, you are my guest, and it is mandatory for the host to accept the requests of his guest, but I cannot accept this request because the inhabitants of this land will not become soldiers to a foreign army. If I ask them to become your soldiers, they will not accept. This is Iran, and from the time of Rustam until now, the men of Iran are accustomed to becoming soldiers only in Iran's army, and they will not take part in any foreign armies."
Pahlavans & Sakastan pages:
» 1. Introduction
» 2. Timur's Account
» 3. Lineage & Nation
» 4. Thraetaona & Thrita. Keresaspa & Urvakhshaya. Varena, Rangha & Patashkhvargar
» 5. Trita, Visvarupa & Ahi in the Vedas
» 6. Battles with Dragon-Snakes
» 7. Garshasp, Saam & Zal in the Shahnameh
» 8. End Times. The Renovation of the World
» 9. Religion in Sakastan