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Zahhak awakens in terror from his nightmare at the birth of Fereydun

December 31, 1523
Mirza Firuz Shah
Ulugh Beg II 1507–1526

Zahhak awakens in terror from his nightmare at the birth of Fereydun



Zahhāk or Zahāk (pronounced [zæhɒːk]) (Persian: ضحّاک‎) also known as Zahhak the Snake Shoulder (Persian: ضحاک ماردوش‎) is an evil figure in Persian mythology, evident in ancient Persian folklore as Azhi Dahāka (Persian: اژی دهاک‎), the name by which he also appears in the texts of the Avesta. In Middle Persian he is called Dahāg (Persian: دهاگ‎) or Bēvar Asp (Persian: بیور اسپ‎) the latter meaning "he who has 10,000 horses". In Zoroastrianism, Zahhak (going under the name Aži Dahāka) is considered the son of Ahriman, the foe of Ahura Mazda.[6] In the Shāhnāmah of Ferdowsi, Zahhāk is the son of a ruler named Merdās. Aži Dahāka (Dahāg) in Zoroastrian literature Aži Dahāka is the most significant and long-lasting of the ažis of the Avesta, the earliest religious texts of Zoroastrianism. He is described as a monster with three mouths, six eyes, and three heads, cunning, strong, and demonic. In other respects Aži Dahāka has human qualities, and is never a mere animal. Aži Dahāka appears in several of the Avestan myths and is mentioned parenthetically in many more places in Zoroastrian literature In a post-Avestan Zoroastrian text, the Dēnkard, Aži Dahāka is possessed of all possible sins and evil counsels, the opposite of the good king Jam (or Jamshid). The name Dahāg (Dahāka) is punningly interpreted as meaning "having ten (dah) sins".[citation needed] His mother is Wadag (or Ōdag), herself described as a great sinner, who committed incest with her son.[citation needed] In the Avesta, Aži Dahāka is said to have lived in the inaccessible fortress of Kuuirinta in the land of Baβri, where he worshipped the yazatas Arədvī Sūrā (Anāhitā), divinity of the rivers, and Vayu, divinity of the storm-wind. Based on the similarity between Baβri and Old Persian Bābiru (Babylon), later Zoroastrians localized Aži Dahāka in Mesopotamia, though the identification is open to doubt. Aži Dahāka asked these two yazatas for power to depopulate the world. Being representatives of the Good, they refused. In one Avestan text, Aži Dahāka has a brother named Spitiyura. Together they attack the hero Yima (Jamshid)[clarification needed] and cut him in half with a saw, but are then beaten back by the yazata Ātar, the divine spirit of fire. According to the post-Avestan texts, following the death of Jam ī Xšēd (Jamshid),[clarification needed] Dahāg gained kingly rule. Another late Zoroastrian text, the Mēnog ī xrad, says this was ultimately good, because if Dahāg had not become king, the rule would have been taken by the immortal demon Xešm (Aēšma), and so evil would have ruled upon earth until the end of the world. Dahāg is said to have ruled for a thousand years, starting from 100 years after Jam lost his Khvarenah, his royal glory (see Jamshid). He is described as a sorcerer who ruled with the aid of demons, the daevas (divs). The Avesta identifies the person who finally disposed of Aži Dahāka as Θraētaona son of Aθβiya, in Middle Persian called Frēdōn. The Avesta has little to say about the nature of Θraētaona's defeat of Aži Dahāka, other than that it enabled him to liberate Arənavāci and Savaŋhavāci, the two most beautiful women in the world. Later sources, especially the Dēnkard, provide more detail. Feyredon is said to have been endowed with the divine radiance of kings (Khvarenah, New Persian farr) for life, and was able to defeat Dahāg, striking him with a mace. However, when he did so, vermin (snakes, insects and the like) emerged from the wounds, and the god Ormazd told him not to kill Dahāg, lest the world become infested with these creatures. Instead, Frēdōn chained Dahāg up and imprisoned him on the mythical Mt. Damāvand[citation needed] (later identified with Damāvand). The Middle Persian sources also prophesy that at the end of the world, Dahāg will at last burst his bonds and ravage the world, consuming one in three humans and livestock. Kirsāsp, the ancient hero who had killed the Az ī Srūwar, returns to life to kill Dahāg. According to Ferdowsi According to Ferdowsi, Zahhāk was born as the son of a ruler named Merdās (Persian: مرداس‎). Because of his Arab lineage, he is sometimes called Zahhāk-e Tāzī (Persian: ضحاکِ تازی‎), meaning "Zahhāk the Tayyi". He is handsome and clever, but has no stability of character and is easily influenced by his counselors. Ahriman therefore chooses him as a tool to sow disorder and chaos. When Zahhāk is a young man, Ahriman first appears to him as a glib, flattering companion, and by degrees convinces him to kill his own father and inherit his kingdom, treasures and army. Zahhāk digs a deep pit covered over with leaves in a path to a garden where Merdās would pray each morning; Merdās falls in and is killed. Zahhāk thus ascends to the throne. Ahriman then presents himself to Zahhāk as a marvelous cook. After he presents Zahhāk with many days of sumptuous feasts (introducing meat to the formerly vegetarian human cuisine), Zahhāk is willing to give Ahriman whatever he wants. Ahriman merely asks to kiss Zahhāk on his two shoulders, and Zahhāk permits this. Ahriman places his lips upon Zahhāk's shoulders and suddenly disappears. At once, two black snakes grow from Zahhāk's shoulders. They cannot be surgically removed, as another snake grows to replace one that has been severed. Ahriman appears to Zahhāk in the form of a skilled physician. He counsels Zahhāk that attempting to remove the snakes is fruitless, and that the only means of soothing the snakes and preventing them from killing him is to sate their hunger by supplying them with a stew made from two human brains every day. At this time, Jamshid, the ruler of the world, becomes arrogant and loses his divine right to rule. Zahhāk presents himself as a savior to discontented Iranians seeking a new ruler. Collecting a great army, Zahhāk hunts Jamshid for many years before finally capturing him. Zahhāk executes Jamshid by sawing him in half and ascends to Jamshid's prior throne. Among his slaves are two of Jamshid's daughters, Arnavāz and Shahrnāz (the Avestan Arənavāci and Savaŋhavāci). Each day, Zahhāk's agents seize two men and execute them so that their brains can feed Zahhāk's snakes. Two men, called Armayel and Garmayel, seek to rescue people from being killed from the snakes by learning cookery and becoming Zahhāk's royal chefs. Each day, Armayel and Garmayel save one of the two men by sending him off to the mountains and faraway plains, and substitute the man's brain with that of a sheep. The saved men are the mythological progenitors of the Kurds. Zahhāk's tyranny over the world lasts for centuries. One night, Zahhāk dreams of three warriors attacking him. The youngest warrior knocks Zahhāk down with his mace, ties him up, and drags him off toward Mount Damāvand as a large crowd follows. Zahhāk wakes and shouts so loudly that the pillars of the palace shake. Following Arnavāz's counsel, Zahhāk summons wise men and scholars to interpret his dream. His hesitant counsellors remain silent until the most fearless of the men reports that the dream is a vision of the end of Zahhāk's reign at the hands of Fereydun, the young man with the mace. Zahhāk is thrilled to learn the identity of his enemy, and orders his agents to search the entire country for Fereydun and capture him. The agents learn that Fereydun is a boy being nourished on the milk of the marvelous cow Barmāyeh. The spies trace Barmāyeh to the highland meadows where it grazes, but Fereydun and his mother have already fled before them. The agents kill the cow, but are forced to return to Zahhāk with their mission unfulfilled.


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Ismail Mazari

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Very good information.


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