BAHMAN-NĀMA, epic poem of about 9,500 lines recounting the adventures of Bahman son of Esfandīār (q.v.). The earliest mention of Bahman-nāma is in Mojmal al-tawārīḵ (ed. M.-T. Bahār, Tehran, 1318 Š./1939) which gives the author as Īrānšān b. Abi’l-Ḵayr (pp. 92, 463). The name is difficult to read and Bahār suggests the alternative form Īrānšāh, which has been accepted by most scholars. Mojmal al-tawārīḵ (p. 2) also mentions an Aḵbār(-e) Bahman which may be a different version of this tale. Majmaʿ al-foṣaḥā (I, pp. 110, 494) mentions a Bahman-nāma by Jamālī Mehrījerdī, a contemporary of Lāmeʿī Gorgānī (b. ca. 414/1023-24) but only a few scattered verses of this remain (see S. Nafīsī, “Jamālī Mehrījerdī,” Āyanda 1, 1304 Š./1925, pp. 589-95). From references to historical events, and dedications to both Nāṣer-al-Dīn Maḥmūd b. Malekšāh and Ḡīāṯ-al-Dīn Moḥammad b. Malekšāh, it seems highly likely that Īrānšāh b. Abi’l-Ḵayr wrote and revised Bahman-nāma between 485/1092-93 and 501/1107-08. Summaries of the story of Bahman can be found in Mojmal al-tawārīḵ, pp. 53-54, and in Malekšāh Ḥosayn Sīstānī, Eḥyāʾ al-molūk (ed. M. Sotūda, Tehran, 1344 Š./1966), pp. 40-45. The earliest known manuscript is in the British Museum (C. Rieu, Supplement to the Catalogue of Persian Manuscripts in the British Museum, London, 1895, no. 201, dated 800/1397-98). Other manuscripts are in the Bodleian (Cat. Bodleian, no. 2544, undated), the Bibliothèque Nationale (Blochet, Cat. Bib. Nat., nos. 1192-93, 10th/17th cent.), and the British Museum (Rieu, Supplement, no. 197, dated 1252/1836-37). A lithographed edition was published in Bombay in 1325/1907-08.
The story, in summary, is as follows: Bahman, at the behest of Rostam, marries Katāyūn (or Kasāyūn), daughter of the king of Kashmir. Katāyūn is accompanied by a youth Loʾloʾ who is secretly her lover. She persuades Bahman to place Loʾloʾ in charge of the army and the treasury, whereupon Loʾloʾ bribes the army to revolt against Bahman. Bahman flees to Egypt where he marries Homāy, daughter of the king of Egypt, raises an army, and returns to Iran. There he regains his kingdom and banishes Loʾloʾ. Meanwhile, Rostam and his brother Zavāra have been killed by the king of Kabul. Bahman mourns Rostam’s death and then sets out for Sīstān to take vengeance on Rostam’s descendents.
Bahman and Farāmarz, who is now the ruler of Sīstān, fight three times and Bahman is defeated each time. Bahman wins the fourth battle and Farāmarz flees. Bahman conquers Sīstān, takes Zāl prisoner, and pursues Bānū Gošasp and Zar Bānū (daughters of Rostam) to Kashmir where he captures them. Farāmarz is killed in India and Bahman gains control of all the lands that Farāmarz formerly held. At this point, he sets out to destroy the tombs of Rostam and his ancestors. Āḏar Borzīn son of Farāmarz appears with an army to fight Bahman, and is captured. Bahman visits the tombs of Garšāsp, Narīmān, Sām, and Rostam, and at each tomb he receives a precious gift and a message from the deceased urging him to be merciful. As a result he proceeds to Sīstān where he forgives Zāl, frees him and Rostam’s daughters, and rebuilds the palaces and cities there. He sends Āḏar Borzīn to the north of Iran.
In the north, Āḏar Borzīn meets Rostam-e Ṭūr, known also as Rostam-e Yak-dast (Malekšāh Ḥosayn Sīstānī, Eḥyāʾ al-molūk, ed. M. Sotūda, Tehran, 1344 Š./1966, p. 43), Rostam-e Ṭūr Ṭabarī (ibid., p. 44), and Rostam-e Ṭūr Gīlī (Mojmal, p. 54). Together they raise an army to challenge Bahman. Bahman sends a daughter of Rostam to fight Āḏar Borzīn. After a series of battles Bahman and Āḏar Borzīn make peace. At the end of the story Bahman installs his daughter Homāy on the throne and he himself is devoured by a dragon while on a hunting expedition.
The present Bahman-nāma should not be confused with a Bahman-nāma written by Nūr-al-Dīn Ḥamza b. ʿAbd-al-Malek Āḏarī Ṭūsī (d. 866/1461-62), which is a versified history of the Bahmanid sultans of the Deccan.
Ḏ. Ṣafā discusses the date of composition of Bahman-nāma in his “Bahman-nāma,” Āmūzeš wa parvareš 14, 1323 Š./1944, pp. 136-43.
For discussions of Bahman-nāma in the context of Persian epic poetry, see Ḏ. Ṣafā, Ḥamāsasarāʾī dar Īrān, Tehran, 1333 Š./1954, pp. 289-94, 538-42.
Idem, Adabīyāt II, Tehran, 1339 Š./1960, pp. 363-64.
M. Molé, “L’épopée iranienne après Firdōsī,” La Nouvelle Clio 5, 1953, pp. 377-93.
Rypka, Hist. Iran. Lit., pp. 162-66.
R. ʿAfīfī, “Bahman-nāma,” Āyanda 8, 1361 Š./1982, pp. 773-79.
(W. L. Hanaway, Jr.)
Originally Published: December 15, 1988
Last Updated: August 24, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. III, Fasc. 5, pp. 499-500