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The Shahnameh or Shah-nama (Persian: شاهنامه‎ Šāhnāmeh, "The Book of Kings", Hindi: शाहनामा) is a long epic composed by Persian poet Ferdowsi between c. 977 and 1010 AD and is the national epic of the Iranians. Consisting of some 60,000 verses,[1] the Shahnameh tells mainly the mythical and to some extent the historical past of (Greater) Iran from the creation of the world until the Islamic conquest of Persia in the 7th century.

Ferdowsi started writing the Shahnameh in 977 A.D and completed it on 8 March 1010.[2]

It is based mainly on a prose work of the same name compiled in Ferdowsi's earlier life in his native Tus. This prose Shahnameh was in turn and for the most part the translation of a Pahlavi (Middle Persian) work, known as the Xvatāynamāk ("Book of Kings"), a late Sassanid compilation of the history of the kings and heroes of Persia from mythical times down to the reign of Khosrau II (590–628). The xvatāynamāk contained historical information on the later Sassanid period, but it does not appear to have drawn on any historical sources for the earlier Sassanid period (3rd to 4th centuries).[3] Ferdowsi added material continuing the story to the overthrow of the Sassanids by the Arabs in the middle of the 7th century.

The first to undertake the versification of the Pahlavi chronicle was Abu-Mansur Daqiqi, a contemporary of Ferdowsi, poet at the court of the Samanids, who came to a violent end after completing only 1,000 verses. These verses, which deal with the rise of the prophet Zoroaster, were afterward incorporated by Ferdowsi, with acknowledgment, in his own poem. The style of the Shahnameh shows characteristics of both written and oral literature. Some claim that Ferdowsi also used Zoroastrian nasks, such as the now-lost Chihrdad as sources as well.

Many other Pahlavi sources were used in composing the epic, prominent being the Kārnāmag-ī Ardaxšīr-ī Pābagān, which was originally written during the late Sassanid era and gave accounts of how Ardashir I came to power which, because of its historical proximity, is thought to be highly accurate. Besides, the text is written in the late Middle Persian, which was the immediate ancestor of Modern Persian. Hence, a great portion of the historical chronicles given in Shahnameh are based on this epic and there are in fact various phrases and words which can be matched between these two sources according to Zabihollah Safa.[4]

According to one account of the sources, a Persian named Dehqan in the court of King Anushehrawan Dadgar had composed a voluminous book in prose form, known as Khoday Nameh. After the fall of the Iranian Empire, Khoday Nameh came into the possession of King Yaqub Lais and then the Samani king Nuh ordered the poet Daqiqi to complete it, but Daqiqi was killed by his slave. Ferdowsi obtained the book through a friend and it was brought to the notice of Sultan Mahmud Ghazni.[5] The Sultan was making a collection of ancient chronicles of Persia and ordered Ferdowsi to complete the book.[6]


The Shahnameh is a monument of poetry and historiography, being mainly the poetical recast of what Ferdowsi, his contemporaries, and his predecessors regarded as the account of Iran's ancient history.

The work is of central importance in Persian culture, regarded as a literary masterpiece, and definitive of ethno-national cultural identity of Iran.[7]It is also important to the contemporary adherents of Zoroastrianism, in that it traces the historical links between the beginnings of the religion with the death of the last Zoroastrian ruler of Persia during the Muslim conquest.

Jat people in Shāhnāma

Main article: Jat people in Shāhnāma

External links


  1. Lalani, Farah (13 May 2010). "A thousand years of Firdawsi’s Shahnama is celebrated"
  2. Khaleghi-Motlagh, Djalal (26 January 2012). "Ferdowsi, Abu'l Qāsem i. Life". Encyclopædia Iranica
  3. Zaehner, Robert Charles (1955). Zurvan: a Zoroastrian Dilemma. Biblo and Tannen. p. 10. ISBN 0819602809
  4. Safa, Zabihollah (2000). Hamase-sarâ’i dar Iran, Tehran 1945.
  5. Mazda-Yasni and Zoroastrian Tales (Book Two) as retold by Kuku S. Shabbir. Bombay: Aruna Publishers. p. 3. ISBN 81-85684-06-5.
  6. Mazda-Yasni and Zoroastrian Tales (Book Two) as retold by Kuku S. Shabbir. Bombay: Aruna Publishers. p. 3. ISBN 81-85684-06-5.
  7. Ashraf, Ahmad (30 March 2012). "Iranian Identity iii. Medieval Islamic Period"