Ages of Prosperity

4 edition • 1713

of pre – Islamic Ideal Kings, Kayumars and Djamshid, in Two Miniatures

A theme of “ideal king” as personalization of universal Good is deeply rooted in the states of oriental civilization. Zoroastrian didactic andarzes (sermons) contain advice on wise state policy and regulations on high aristocracy behaviour, which influenced some fields of Arab literature, in particular, on adab. By the VIII c. in the Caliphate, the needs in books interpreting the matters of state governing had grown.

This caused growth of attention to the literature of Pehlevi andarz, what found reflection in works of Ibn al-Mukaffa, Baihaki, Ibn Quteiba and others (1, p.21; 2, p.28) and promoted emergence of huge complex of literature in a form of ethic treatise, thoughts on rights and obligations of state men including “Siradj al-muluk” (“Light of Kings”) of Abu Baqr at-Tartush, “Edification for Kings”, “Canons for Viziers” of Abu-l Khasan al-Mavardi (the XI c.), “Pure gold of Edification for Kings” of Abu Khamid al-Gazali (the XII c.), “Siyasat-name” of Nizam ul-Mulk (the XII c.) and others. Development of the concept of “ideal king” involved philosophers, chroniclers, poets, in particular Firdowsi, Tabari, Bal’ami, Nizami, Amir Khusrou Dihlavi, Sharafaddin Ali Yazdi Djami, Navoy and others. The main reason of emergence and further progress of this genre was the necessity to govern the huge and multinational state (especially after the Caliphate establishment) as well as numerous administrative problems. Therefore, policy became a subject of “edifications for kings”, the policy that was experienced by all kings in the world both Muslim and “infidels” and which aimed to “general advantage”. Unlike Islamic lawyers basing on the Koran and Sunna, the authors of “Edifications” strongly recommended to gain from known political history, including non-Muslim (1, p.23, 28 – 29). Proofs for this orientation can be found in bibliography to “Edifications”. For example, Ibn al-Azrak pointed out three sources: “divine laws”, “behaviour and thoughts of wise men” and “biographies of kings” (1, p.24). In the literature of the Shuubid period, which supported the movement for reviving of greatness and glory of pre-Islamic traditions among educated peoples conquered by the Arabs, it was realized in the use of mythological and epic subjects preserving legendary version of history based on the activity of pre-Islamic kings and exploits of heroes who actually had no obstacles.

Firdowsi in the poem “Shah-name” glorified idealized mythological characters, in particular, the first ten kings of Iran in order to remind about greatness of pre-Islamic history of the country and consolidate peoples in their struggle for state independence. The poet thought that actually equitable shah should equally concern both about his ministers and warriors and ordinary people, that social equity and strong state would consolidate the people before enemies and disasters. Mythological section of the poem begins with description of reigning of the first ten kings (genre – biography of kings) – Kayumars, Khushanga, Tahmuras, Djamshid and others. Characters of these mythological kings (3, p.10) typologically are identical with myths, popular with many peoples, about the primo-man and primo-king who first granted cultural values to the people. A line of such characters drew attention of artists-miniaturists. The poem “Shah-name” is ascribed to be the first (4, р. 79; 5, р. 50; 6, р. 107) among the miniaturists and customers. One of such personages – primo-man and primo-chief, Kayumars, reigning the state during 30 years, embodied the utopian ideal of equitable king, hero who allayed nature, granted good and won evil. Kayumars drew attention of Tabari, Firdowsi, Mas’udi, Saalibi, he is among the personages of many legends (7, p. 32), Persian and Eastern Iranian fairytales. According to the legend, living on a mountain (a sign of closeness to gods, blessing and holiness of a king and his reigning), he was the first who had set the order on the land, gave crafts to the people, taught them cooking, sewing of clothes from skins and led them out the caves to mountain villages under the sunlight. Even animals and birds felt exclusive abilities of the king.

From many miniatures on this subject we are taking one of the most interesting, a miniature created by famous Sultan-Mukhammad (“Shah-name”, New York, Metropolitan Museum, fol. 20) in 1522 – 1525 in Tebriz. The miniature “Reign of Kayumars” (8, р.17) exposes fantastically beautiful mountain landscape with fine plays of bright precious stones of rocks in blue spar, manganese-chrysalit-nephrite, turquoise and opal colours. Mountains are soaring, merging with gold of the sky and open a blossoming lawn in the middle. On its perimeter, according to titles, are sitting and standing numerous friends and servitors. One of them, sitting on the right and closer than others may be a priest, and the other, sitting lower to the left are, probably, patriarchs and community leaders, are turning with attention to shah Kayumars dominating in the composition. He is sitting in oriental posture with bent and stretched aside knees on a central rock as on a throne; his hand is rising up in a gesture of thinking. The prime priest, sitting on the nearest rock, is attentively looking at the pointing gesture of Kayumars’s right hand towards him and expresses his reply. Three mature man of lower rank and sitting lower and a group of homagers, of differentt nationalities, with light and dark colour of skin, locating in semi-circle around, are following their talk with interest and devotion. All of them wear fur caps, getting conical up and clothes from light brindled fur of consimilar cut. The motif of friendly relations between wild animals and people presenting there exposes full harmony of the ancient people living.

On the flowering lawn in the middle are pasturing together wild lions and roedeer, boars and jackals. In a lower right corner, a young man squatting on his hams is holding in the hands a lion cab whose mother-lioness is resting beside them. Two men taking, one – a duck and another – a roedeer on their shoulders are walking with these gifts up to Kayumars. Around, brooks are splashing, springs are bursting forth and even small water fall is falling, as a symbol of blessing land. Waterfall – a kind deity of water – “Aurvat” (directly: health), blossoming and plenty of flora symbolizes prosperity of the country and benefic influence of good forces “ahura” – the kind deity of plants “Amartat” (“Vital Energy” – “Deathless”) and deity of the earth (“Spenta Armaiti” – “Wholesome devotion”). Especial attention of the characters gives evidence for boundless love of homagers for their patron – shah. Everything around is glorifying dreamlike prosperity, peace and harmony in the society. If to look attentively at the contours of rock, there become visible fantastic profiles and faces, and all together – nature, people and animals form universal integrity of Life. Champagne, almost colourless light eradiation around Kayumars, repeated in colours of clothes on the people means holiness of the king and his link with spiritual (pure) world.

Combination of flowering spring trees and dry trunks of saksauls without leaves, popular in medieval miniature in the period of its blossom, as if points out that kind matters of Kamayurs civilized the wild life and brought prosperity and welfare. This miniature, in generalized and idealized form, fixed that blessed period of the perfect world when wise governing brought social harmony and where the people, living in abundance without evil and envy, with love and trust accept patron advice and guides of the king. Here is obvious a ritual of king worshiping, the picture of public exultation as a result of realization of ethic Zoroastrian “triad”, later taken by Sufism – “unity of kind thought and kind word” (from shah), and “kind action”(realization of his orders by servitors). The picture exposes the ideal king and results of his activity. Benefactions of Kayumars on the earth upraised him in the grateful memory of the people in centuries.

From the XI c. historiographic interpretation of a person was transforming towards reducing of its significance, ideas about personal abilities were changing. It can be illustrated by the mythological portrait of another hero – Djamshid-Iyma whose name is connected with a myth about “the Gold Age” (“Yasna”, ch. IX, p.77) from “Avesta”. He also presents in “Shah-name” along with the other mythological kings and is remarkable with his “Promethean” struggle against forces of evil. “Bright, rich in herds, the best among the born. Sun-like among the people” (7, p. 33 – 34), Djamshid, for his 900 – year reigning, had done great exploits and actions for the benefit of the people, which later came into legends and tales, chronicles and literature. According to legends, Djamshid extended the irrigated lands in three, at his time the population became numerous, cattle and bird stock increased, crops and trees multiplied. He built a city walled. He made people and animals deathless, plants and water – perennial to give to everyone “non-fady food”. At his reign, the heat, cold, diseases, envy, senility and death left the country… Djamshid won evil spirits and made them to work hard instead of the people. However, he forgot the God in his self-pride, lost the contact with the people and finally felt for delusion of Iblis. The luck lost him and he disappeared under the ground. The Gold Age had finished. In this way was pointed out the dangerous, for the ideal king, feature – delusion, separation from the people and dereliction of God.

However, Djamshid’s deeds had not been forgotten and got reflection in painting, illustrations in some historical chronicles, in the epos “Shah-name” and others. In particular, let’s take a variant of this subject in the manuscript “Tarikhi Tabari”(“The History of Tabari”) from 1478 – “Djamshid is teaching the people in crafts” (res. Chester Bitty, Col. 2 – 9, ill. 476A). Unlike the illustrator of the Tebriz copy of “Shah-name”, Mukhammad Sultan, the artist of “Tarikhi Tabari” exposed only one but the bright aspect of Djamshid’s activity, as if reducing the significance of his contribution in culture.

In the miniature, on a background of typical, of that time, landscape – a grassed lawn framed by hills and flowering trees on its perimeter- in the center, on a throne with a high back is sitting the young king in a crown of the Temurid style and typical clothes. By a commanding gesture of the stretched hand, he is addressing to a craftsman sitting before him and working, probably, a right-angled metal sheet. At the lower part of the miniature, in front of the throne there are a few groups of craftsmen making different operations. Since at the Gold Age the most value prescribed to agricultural works, wheat cultivation, cattle-raising and medicine, a cult of iron, smith craft and manufacture of tools, the miniature exposes two men forging metal. An old woman is spinning at the wheel. A bearded man, standing nearby a loom, had already woven a few pieces of white fabric. At the middle, a man nearby an oven is burning the fire with bellows, and three teenagers are engaged in some auxiliary operations. On the ground, there is a saddle (?), may be unfinished yet, and some instruments. Four young men in turbans and costumes, typical of the time of the artist, (the fifth man is sitting nearby the throne on a stool), listening and looking at the work with attention, are exchanging their ideas. Two adult men with admiration are listening to Djamshid. On the heads of the craftsmen there are small caps, conical upward. Our attention is drawn by Islamized interpretation of the subject typical of the time where the miniature was created: white turbans on the heads of young servitors, white shawl of the woman-spinner rolled tightly around the head and dropping onto shoulders.

The respect to the active labour of all kinds (from “Avesta”) was typical of the Zoroastrian period. No wonder, that the artist had known this feature of Djamshid’s activity best of all and chosen it for his composition. Firdowsi could catch and transmit difference in understanding of the rank and potential of the both mythological personages – Kayumars had no obstacles in his striving to help to the people and establish social prosperity, as for Djamshid, he faced such obstacle in a name of Iblis and delusion provoked by him. In the miniature it was reflected in a location of Kamayurs on the highest point of the scene, at a distance from the people looking at their king with blank awe, and Djamshid, as closer to earth interests and accessible for the bait, occupies the place among the other characters.

Such “equalizing” of pre-Islamic kings with members of Islamic dynasties give evidence for the understanding of general social laws and realistic approach to the laws of governance. The heroes and leaders of the past in generally fantastic and poetically idealized form reflected actual history of humankind being in its struggle against acts of God, for the fire, metal, land reclamation, irrigation, animal domestication, development of cattle raising etc.

Utopian idea of “the ideal king” had been saving its vitality for the following centuries, threading the works of many poets, philosophers, teachers of the Islamic period including Rudaki, Nizami, Ibn Sino, Saadi, Amir Khusrou Dihlavi, Djami and Navoy and finding its reflection in the cycles of miniatures.

Author: Elmora Ismailova

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