BABR-e BAYĀN (or babr, also called palangīna), the name of the coat which Rostam wore in combat. It was fire-proof, water-proof, weapon-proof, dark-colored, and apparently hairy, because Rostam when wearing it is said to have looked as if he had “sprouted feathers” (Šāh-nāma, Moscow ed., II, p. 89 v. 244, III, p. 188 v. 2880, IV, pp. 200 vv. 1354-56, 281 vv. 1118-19, 286 vv. 1888-89, 319 v. 6).
Before going into battle, Rostam put on first a zereh (tunic of lightweight chainmail), then a jowšan or gabr (suit of thick armor made of iron plates), and lastly the babr-e bayān (Šāh-nāma IV, p. 202 v. 1404). According to the Šāh-nāma, the babr-e bayān had been made out of the skin of a leopard (palang) and was therefore also named palangīna (IV, p. 200 vv. 1354-55, p. 286 vv. 1888-89); this is confirmed by a description of the coat in a Sogdian text (E. Benveniste, Textes Sogdiens, Mission Pelliot III, Paris, 1940, pp. 134-36).
The first component of the name must therefore obviously be the noun babr (tiger). Ferdowsī also used babr, and in two passages (III, p. 224 v. 3417, IV, 52 v. 695) the full name babr-e bayān, with the meaning of “tiger.” For the second component bayān various etymologies have been suggested (see Maḥmūd Omīdsālār, “Babr-e bayān,” Īrān-nāma 3, 1362, Š./1983, pp. 447-58); but since the word does not mean anything in Persian and is not found in Pahlavi, none of the suggestions is convincing. Ferdowsī (III, p. 224 v. 3417, IV, p. 52 v. 695) himself evidently took bayān to have the same meaning as `īān, i.e., “fierce” or “raging.”
In a different account which has come down to us (Asadī Ṭūsī, Loḡat-e fors, s.v. babr-e bayān), the coat is said to have been sent from heaven (see also akvān-e dīv). According to still another account by an unknown poet and inserted in a manuscript of the Šāh-nāma (British Library, ms. Or. 2926, fols. 112b-115a), Rostam, when fourteen years old, slew a dragon known as Babr-e Bayān in India. The dragon used to come out of the sea one day every week. Rostam made a coat for himself out of its skin and called the coat babr-e bayān. Similar accounts are found in oral folktales current among the Iranians and also the Mandeans and in some of the Persian epic literature (see aždahā ii); in all of them the animal is described as coming from the sea, dwelling in India, and possessing an invulnerable hide.
The last of these three accounts appears to be the oldest; and the more plausible explanation of the word bayān is as a place-name. Most probably the place was the Indian city of Bayāna, which lay at a distance of some 70 km from the Yamuna river (the parallel tributary of the Ganges). It is also noteworthy that early geographers mention a town named Bayān on the Tigris in Ḵūzestān (e.g. Eṣṭaḵrī, pp. 88, 89; Moqaddasī, pp. 53, 114, 134, 419; Ḥodūd al-ʿālam, tr. Minorsky, pp. 139, 214); and that, in the Greek legends, Hercules strangled a lion, being unable to slay it in any other way because its skin was invulnerable, and subsequently wore the skin of this creature, called the Nemean lion from the place where it was slain, as a coat over his shoulders.
According to the Farāmarz-nāma (Bombay, 1324/1906, p. 294 v. 6), the babr-e bayān passed after Rostam’s death to his son Farāmarz.
See also Sh. Shahbazi, “Babr-e Bayān-e Rostam,” Āyanda 13, 1366 Š./1987, pp. 54-58.
J. Ḵāleqī-Moṭlaq, “Babr-e Bayān (rūyīntanī wa gūnahā-ye ān),” Īrān-nāma 6/2, 1366 Š./1988, pp. 200-27.
F. Wolff, Glossar zu Ferdosis Schahname, Hildesheim, 1965, pp. 115, 203.
M. Bāqerī (Sarkārātī), “Babr-e bayān,” Āyanda 12/1-3, 1365 Š./1986, pp. 6-19.
Originally Published: December 15, 1988
Last Updated: August 19, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. III, Fasc. 3, pp. 324-325