GAYŌMART (Gayūmarṯ, Kayūmarṯ; Mid. Pers. Gayōmart/d, Av. gaya marətan “mortal life,” Man. Gehmurd; Ar. Jayūmart), the sixth of the heptad in Mazdean myth of creation, the protoplast of man, and the first king in Iranian mythical history. The particulars of Gayōmart’s life and death are given somehow differently in Middle Persian books. Our main source of information on this first righteous man is the Bundahišn, of which the essential features are as follows:

Gayōmart, like other creations, was fashioned forth to assist Ohrmazd in his fight against the Evil Spirit (Ganāg mēnōg; Bundahišn 1a.4). He was created in Ērān-wēz (q.v.), in the middle of the world, on the left bank of the river Good Dāitī (see DAĪTYĀ), facing the Uniquely-Created Bull (Gāw ī ēwdād, q.v.), on the opposite bank. He measured four medium reeds (Zādspram 2.10) in height and in breadth; he was round and shining as the sun (an anthropomorphic representation; Bundahišn 1a.13), with physical features as men born of his seed. His body was created by Ohrmazd from earth, i.e., through Spandārmad, its divinity, thus of the next-of-kin marriage of father and daughter, and his sperm was fashioned from the light and brightness (zargōnīh) of the sky (Bundahišn 1a.13). When creations were placed under the custody of Amahrspands (see AMƎŠA SPƎNTA; ELEMENTS), Ohrmazd took to himself the Holy Man, Gayōmart, the pre-eminent element of material beings (az gētiyān bun; Bundahišn 3.12; cf. mardōm gētīg pahlom dahišnān “Man the foremost of material creations”; Dēnkard, ed. Madan, p. 43). Because the frawahr of Gayōmart took upon himself to contend with the Ahriman (q.v.), Ohrmazd conceded to grant him perfection and immortality at the Renovation (frašegird; Bundahišn 1.23-24). On the creation of Gayōmart, Ahriman laid low in his awe for 3000 years, till the arch-demon Whore (Jeh, q.v.) came and roused Ahriman from his stupor, promising him to destroy Gayōmart and the creatures of Ohrmazd. Commencing the second cosmic stage, the Mixture (gumēzišn), Ahriman attacked the creations and sent Astwihād (q.v.), the demon of death, to assail Gayōmart with Want, Sloth, Lust, and 1000 diseases (Bundahišn 4.19). But his misdeeds were of no avail, since Ohrmazd had brought Sleep in the form of a radiant youth over Gayōmart; and Time (i.e., Zurwān) had destined him to live for thirty years (Bundahišn 4.25). In the end, in accordance with the aspect of his horoscope, when the malefic Saturn returned to its exaltation, and Jupiter was in descension, Gayōmart succumbed to his injuries and passed away (Bundahišn 6F.7), while his sperm was in two parts purified by the rays of the sun and entrusted for safe-keeping to the deity Nēryōsang and in one part fell upon the earth and was received by Spandārmad, his creator and mother. His seed remained for forty years in the earth, out of which slowly grew the rhubarb plant, the stem of which developed into the first human couple, Mašīa and Mašīānag (Bundahišn 6F.9), the progenitors of all human races, the ten (twenty-five in Bundahišn 14.38) species of mankind (Bundahišn 14.1) that inhabit the Xwanīrah, the central continent of the earth. On Gayōmart’s passing away, Ohrmazd took his ideal form (ēwēnag kerb = frawahr) and entrusted it to the sun-station; which ever since shines through the sun. And seven (eight in Zādspram 3.69) kinds of metal developed from the members of his body. Gayōmart the protohuman, with the first human frawahr, is also the first Zoroastrian hero to be raised at the Resurrection to bring about the Renovation (frašegird) in association with Sošyāns, the savior and the last man (Bundahišn 34.6). The cause of Gayōmart is safe-guarded by the fire of Warahrān (Dēnkard, ed. Madan, p. 538), because the seed of man is said to have originated from fire, not water.

Gayōmart as one of the foremost heroes of Zoroastrianism, ranking with Zoroaster and Sōšyans, and being the first to embrace the message of Ohrmazd (Dēnkard, pp. 28, 519; tr. de Menasce, chap. 35, p. 50), was ordained by Ohrmazd the first Mazdean prophet to transmit the divine word to men (fradom aštag ī az dādār Ohrmazd ō mardōm; saxwan abar barišnīh hammōzišn andar axw ī astōmand fradom gayōmart, Dēnkard, ed. Madan, p. 313; tr. de Menasce, chap. 312, pp. 298-99). The Dādestān ī dēnīg, chapter 63 (tr. West, pp. 197-98), in line with the Bundahišn, recounts the creation and life of the first man, and extols him (2.10) as a man of divine prowess in whose keeping is the whole of creation. In the Frawardīn Yašt (87), his fravaši is celebrated as the first righteous man who embraced the will and commandment of Ahura Mazdā (q.v.), and from whom developed the family of Aryan lands; and in Yasna 23.2, his fravaši is exalted together with those of the preeminent heroes of Mazdaism such as Zoroaster, Kay Wištāsp, Sōšyāns, and all ancient teachers of the faith. As he had no flock to preach his revelation, the Word of God and prophetical counsels addressed to his mind (mēnišn) were subsequently revealed to Mašīa, and through their son, Sīāmak, to mankind (Dēnkard, ed. Madan, p. 313). A few philanthropical precepts are also attributed to him: “The praises offered to me would be more favorably received from those who recognize men of noble character (meh) within commonalty (keh), and the low (keh) among the high society (meh), as well as from a brother who would forgive the misconduct of his junior brother” (Pahlavi Yasna 68.22, p. 281). Ṭabarī also ascribes to him the apothegms: “Pay heed to what is said, not to the speaker. Look up to advice and wise words, no matter who says it. Acknowledge the truth, no matter of what provenance” (Balʿamī, ed. Bahār, p. 123).

According to the Čihrdād nask (Dēnkard, ed. Madan, p. 688) the original Avestan text had contained an account of the creation of Gayōmart in bodily form, the manner of the birth of Mašīa and Mašīānag, and the establishment of monarchy on earth by Hōšang, wherefore his epithet pēšdād (Av. para-dāta- “the first to establish [sovereignty]”; Yt. 19.26; Yt. 5.21; PahlaviVidēvdād 20.1). Ṭabarī (I, pp. 147 ff.) and Balʿamī, (ed. Bahār, pp. 112-28) with more details, recount at some length the creation of Gayōmart who is identified as Adam. He is represented as a peaceable and pious primitive king who renders the world prosperous and habitable.

There are various traditions in regard to the sequence of Gayōmart’s descendant. The Middle Persian books generally give his posterity as: Mašīa (Mašīānag), Sīāmak, Frawāk (Ar. Afrāwāk), and Hōšang (Dēnkard, ed. Madan, pp. 231, 613; Bundahišn 14.31, 31.1, 35.4; Zādspram 7, p. 54), which is followed by Ṭabarī (I, p. 154). But his translator Balʿamī (ed. Bahār, pp. 124-25) passes over Frawāk. Iranian legendary history, however, being based on a secular tradition recorded by the Šāh-nāma, derived from the Xwadāy-nāmag, refers to Gayōmart as the first world king. He is depicted as a prehistoric cave-dweller who brings forth the rite of royalty, founds the Pēšdādīān dynasty and, clad in leopard-skin, rules over men and beasts by natural disposition. In this version his son, the noble Sīāmak, is killed by Ahriman, whereupon his grandson Hōšang, the second Pēšdādīān king, avenges himself on his father’s killers, the demons (Šāh-nāma, ed. Khaleghi, I, pp. 21-25, Moscow, I, pp. 29-31).

The epithet attached to Gayōmart is inconsistently reported by Middle and the New Persian materials. The Dēnkard (ed. Madan, p. 29; tr. de Menasce, p. 50) refers to him as gil(TYNʾ)šāh (lit. clay king), but the Pahlavi Aogəmadēčā (JamaspAsa, p. 85) knows him as garšāh (king of the mountain). The Islamic historians call him variously garšāh or gelšāh (Balʿamī, ed. Bahār, pp. 12, 113). It is with good reason suggested that gil (gl) may be a misreading for gar (gl; Yarshater, p. 420). In contrast with these readings the Šāh-nāma gives kayšāh, which is an obvious error since kay (Av. kavi) is the title of the kings of the second legendary dynasty, the Kayanids (ed. Khaleghi, I, p. 22, Moscow, I, p. 29).

The Gayōmart’s creation myth is also cursorily reported by Šahrestānī, the heresiographer, under the sect of Kayūmarṯīya (pp. 182-83), characterized as a syncretic doctrine, combining what seems to be popular dualistic beliefs blended with Mazdean account of the first man. Its novel features are creation of Ahriman (Darkness) from an inappropriate speculation of an eternal god (cf. the conception of Ahriman from Zurwān’s doubt), and the puerile statement that the ensuing combat between the forces of Light and Darkness comes to a head by the arbitration of the angels, providing that god wholly surrenders the world of mixture to Ahriman for 7000 years, a senseless modification of the 6000. It is evident that the absurd tale lacks the makings of a serious sectarian doctrine. Schaeder (Reizenstein and Schader, p. 238) is justified in disputing the existence of the sect. The parallel Vedic Mārtāṇḍa is taken to suggest a common Indo-Iranian myth attempting to explain the origin of man (Hoffmann, p. 100; Boyce, p. 140). In classical Islamic historio graphy, Gayōmard is often associated with Adam. “There is a tradition that Adam chose from among his numerous offspring two sons, Šīṯ (i.e., Seth, Gen. 4.25) and Kayūmard, and he conferred on them forty cannonical scriptures (ṣaḥīfa) to act upon. Šīṯ was entrusted with the maintenance of the religion, and Kayūmard with the kingdom and worldly affairs” (Ḡazālī, pp. 81-85). The author of Borhān-e qāṭeʿ also knows Kayōmart as a son of Adam and the first king (ed. Moʿīn, III, p. 1760).



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G. Widengren, “The Death of Gayōmart,” in J. M. Kitagawa and C. H. Long, eds., Myth and Symbols: Studies in Honor of Mircea Eliade, Chicago, 1969, pp. 179-93.

Idem, “Primordial Man and Prostitute: A Zervanite Motif in the Sasanian Avesta,” in R. J. Zwi Werblowsky, ed., Studies in Mysticism and Religion, Presented to Gerschom G. Scholem, Jerusalem, 1967, pp. 337-52.

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(Mansour Shaki)

Originally Published: December 15, 2000

Last Updated: February 3, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. X, Fasc. 3, pp. 345-347

Cite this entry:

Mansour Shaki, “GAYŌMART,” Encyclopædia Iranica, Vol. X, Fasc. 3, pp. 345-47; online edition, 2000, available at (accessed on 23 November 2015).