In the literature and mythology of ancient Persia Lake Hāmun occupied, along with the Helmand/Hirmand River, a position of particular importance (Bartholomae, p. 9), especially in Zoroastrian eschatology (Nyberg, pp. 304-5). The Hāmun is mentioned frequently in the Avesta, where it appears with the name Kąsaoya-. In Yašt 19 (66-69) the xᵛarənah- (see FARR) of the Kavis is mentioned in connection with the “Helmandic"Kąsaoya (Kąsaēm haētumatəm), where nine rivers flow together, and with the mountain Ušī.δam (cf. Uši.dam and Uši.darəna in Yašt 1.28, 19.2; cf. Yasna 1.14, 2.14, 22.26), probably to be identified with Kuh-e Ḵᵛāja, the mountain that rises about 150 m above the Hāmun basin. In Yašt 19.92 and in Vidēvdād 19.5 there are references to the birth of the saošyant- astvaṱ.ərəta from its waters, where, according to tradition, the seed of Zoroaster was preserved in order to impregnate the three virgins mentioned in Yašt 13.142, mothers of the three saošyants (Yašt 13.62, 13.28; Dēnkard 7.8.1 ff.; cf. Boyce, Zoroastrianism I, p. 285).

In the Pahlavi texts the Hāmūn is called Kayānsīh (Bundahišn 13.16), reflecting the name of the Kayanid dynasty. These texts preserve echoes of the Avestan traditions about the Hāmūn, both in regard to the connection with the birth of the Saošyant (Pahlavi Sōšyans) from the seed of Zoroaster and to the nine rivers that empty into it (Bundahišn [TD2], pp. 220, ll. 6-15, 89, ll. 6-11); they also provide the additional detail that the convergence of the waters at that point was the work of Frāsiyāv (Av. Fraŋrasyan, New Pers. Afrāsiāb, q.v.), a theme that has been studied thoroughly by Josef Markwart (pp. 11 ff.). It should be noted in this connection that the free-flowing waters of Sistān were considered among the beneficial deeds of Manūščihr (Dādistān ī Mēnōg ī xrad 27.41-44) and one of the signs of the restoration (cf. appendix to Ayādgār ī ǰāmāspīg, in Messina, pp. 80, 123).

In the Pahlavi treatise Abdīh ud sahīgīh ī Sagestān (2) the Kayānsīh is mentioned as one of the wonders of Sistān. The sacred character of the Hāmun is certainly extremely ancient (Christensen, p. 5) and continued to survive after the advent of Islam.



Christian Bartholomae, Zarathuštras Leben und Lehre, Heidelberg, 1924.

Arthur Christensen, Les Kayanides, Copenhagen, 1931.

Wilhelm Geiger, Ostiranische Kultur im Altertum, 2 vols., Erlangen, 1882; repr. Aalen, 1972; tr. Darab Dastur Peshotan Sanjana, Civilization of the Eastern Iranians in Ancient Times I: Ethnography and Social Life, London, 1885; II: The Old Iranian Polity and the Age of Avesta, London, 1887.

Gherardo Gnoli, Ricerche storiche sul Sīstān antico, Rome, 1967.

Idem, Zoroaster’s Time and Homeland: A Study on the Origins of Mazdeism and Related Problems, Istituto Universitario Orientale, Naples, 1980.

Idem, The Idea of Iran, Rome, 1989.

Ernst Herzfeld, “Zarathustra Teil V: Awestische Topographie,” AMI 2, 1930, pp. 49-98.

Idem, “Sakastan: Geschichtliche Untersuchungen zu den Ausgrabungen am Kūh ī Khwādja” AMI 4, 1932, pp. 1-116.

Idem, Iran in the Ancient East: Archaeological Studies Presented in the Lowell Lectures at Boston, London and New York, 1941; repr. Tehran, 1976.

Josef Markwart, Wehrot und Arang, ed. Hans Heirich Schaeder, Leiden, 1938.

Giuseppe Messina, Libro apocalitticao persiano Ayātkār i Žāmāspīk, Rome, 1939.

Henrik Samuel Nyberg, Die Religionen des alten Iran, tr. Hans Heinrich Schaeder, Leipzig, 1938.

(Gherardo Gnoli)

Originally Published: December 15, 2003

Last Updated: March 6, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. XI, Fasc. 6, pp. 647-648