KANGDEZ (Kangdež; erroneously Gangdež in several editions of the Šāh-nāma), lit. “Fortress of Kang,” a mythical paradise-like fortress in Iranian folklore. There are different and often contradictory descriptions of Kang, Kangdež and several similar place names in Pahlavi literature and the epics of the Islamic period (foremost, the Šāh-nāma of Ferdowsi; also extracts in the works of Masʿudi, Ṭabari, Ṯaʿālebi, Biruni, and others). The Avesta attests to a certain region named Kaŋha-: in the Ardvisur Yašt (Yt. 5; see ĀBĀN YAŠT), the Iranian hero Tūsa asks Anāhitā to overcome Tūiriias at the “most important door ” (“pass” or “castle”?) Xṣ̌aθrō.sūka (“illumination” or “benefit of the kingdom”) in the “high, pious” Kaŋha- ( Yt. 5.54, g-h). The sons of Vaēsaka (of the Tūiriia nation) pray to Anāhitā to defeat Tūsa at the same “door” ( Yt . 5.57, c-e). Aṇtarə.kaŋha- “inside Kaŋha” appears in the Avestan list of mountains ( Yt. 19.4, f). The place-name can be probably etymologized as “cauldron” (Vedic kaṁsá). Kang of the later tradition is generally taken to be the name of the same place (evident through the parallels between Yt. 19 and Bd . IX, 3); however, the latter form is more likely to be a transcription (possibly adjusted according to certain realia of the Middle Iranian period; see below) rather than a direct continuation of Av. Kaŋha-.

The Pahlavi texts mention Kangdiz as being founded by Siyāvaxš (Pers. Siāvoš, Šāh-nāma : also Siyāvaxš; Dk . VII, 38; Bd . XXXII, 5; DMX XXVII, 57; ZWY VII, 19-20), which was conquered for Ērānšahr by Kay Ḵosrow ( Bd . XXXIII; DD 90 [= 89], 4). In the eschatological view, Kangdiz is said to be the abode of Pēšōtan, son of Vištasp, and Xwaršēdčihr, son of Zarathushtra, with their righteous army before the final battle against Ahriman and his creatures (Bd . XXXIII, 28; Dk . VII, 5, 12; ZWY, VII, 19-20; in Dk . IX, 15, this information is ascribed to the lost Sudgar Nask of the Sasanid Avesta). This latter use of Kangdiz (on this, see Boyce, pp. 61 ff.) was apparently left unmentioned in texts of the Islamic period, while the legend of Siāvoš and Kay Ḵosrow is presented in the Šāh-nāma in great detail.

Siāvoš, having fled from Kay Kāvus to Afrāsiāb in Turān, is granted a pleasing piece of land, where he erects the castle Kangdež (Šāh-nāma , ed. Mohl, 12d 1683 ff.; in some other texts, the construction of Kangdež is attributed to Kay Kāvus, Kay Ḵosrow, or Jamšid (Jamšēd); see Monchi-zadeh, pp. 238-39). The region is rich in water and game, knows neither the frost of winter nor the heat of summer, and is 30 farsaḵ long and wide; within its walls, the city (called variously Kang-e Siāvoš/Siyāwaxš, Siāvošgerd/ Siyāwaxšgerd, and Kangdež) has buildings made of marble, stone, and cement as well as other materials, and meadows with flowers. The combination of urban structures and gardens within the city walls, the absence of heat and frost, as well as several (usually seven) walls or buildings made of different materials is a characteristic description of towns in Iranian lore (see Monchi-zadeh, pp. 237 ff.).

Siāvoš lives in this city before being cunningly killed by Afrāsiāb. Kay Ḵosrow, the son of Siāvoš, swears revenge on Afrāsiāb, and, having ascended the throne of Irānšahr, organizes a series of expeditions against Turān. Afrāsiāb, finally defeated, escapes to Čin and from there sails to Kangdež (13g 1732 ff.). Kay Ḵosrow, in his turn, organizes a naval expedition to Kangdež (13g 1947 ff.) and after a six-month-long voyage reaches it, but Afrāsiāb has already secretly escaped. Kay Ḵosrow resides in Kangdež for one year and then sails back to Iran through Turānian territory. Kangdež of the later episode is identified with Yamakoṭi, the legendary easternmost town of the Indian oecumene (Monchi-zadeh, pp. 245-51; the same location of Kangdiz is found already in Bd. XXIX, 10).

Apart from Kangdež, the Šāh-nāma mentions two other mythical castles with similar names: Kang-e Dožhuxt (or Dožhuxt-Kang) and Kang-e Behešt (or Behešt-Kang), the residences of Żaḥḥāk (ed. Mohl, 5, 342; 6, 998, 1006) and Afrāsiāb (13g 915 ff.) respectively. Kang-e Dožhuxt, lit. “accursed Kang,” is a re-etymologization of (Kuuiriṇta-) Dužita-, the abode of Aži- Dahāka- in the Avesta (Yt. 15.19). It is associated with Jerusalem in the Šāh-nāma and with Babylon in the Bundahišn ; the latter identification is based on an incorrect understanding of Bawri , the “beaver land” in the Avesta, as Bābul , that is, Babylon (see Monchi-zadeh, p. 238). Kang-e Behešt, lit. “paradise Kang,” is located somewhere in Turān, beyond Čāč; it was captured by Kay Ḵ osrow (13g 1310) during his war against Afrāsiāb. Probably this town may be related to the existence of a nomadic kingdom centered in the central Syr Darya region from the 2nd century BCE onwards; it was known to the Chinese as Kangju (Markwart, pp. 26-27). In later times, this name was shortened to Kang, a designation of the Samarqand (Samarkand) kingdom. The Old Turkic Käŋü Tarban, the name of the Otrar region, is probably also derived from Kangju (Czeglédy). Moreover, the heroes of the wars against Afrāsiāb have Parthian rather than Persian names and thus probably reflect events occurring during the Arsacid dynasty (Yarshater, p. 572). In certain texts, Kangdež acquires features of other fortresses of Iranian mythology and epics: Yimaʾs Vāra (Biruni, pp. 303-4 [= Ar. p. 157]; also Boyce, pp. 62-63) and the Dež-e Ruyin “Brazen fortress” of the Turānian king Arjāsp (Tafaẓẓoli; Russell, pp. 105 ff).


[Bd. - Greater (Iranian) Bundahišn] B. T. Anklesaria, tr., Zand-akasih, Iranian or Greater Bundahishn , Bombay, 1956.

Biruni, tr. E. C. Sachau, Alberuniʾs India , London, 1888.

Mary Boyce, “On the Antiquity of Zoroastrian Apocalyptic,” BSOAS 47/1, 1984, pp. 57-75.

K. Czeglédy, “Old Turkic Historical Geography (Kängü-Tarban and Firdausiʾs Kang),” in K. Vatsyayan et al. eds., Proceedings of the Twenty-Sixth International Congress of Orientalists, New Delhi, 4-10th January 1964 , New Delhi, 1968, pp. 83-85.

[DD - Dādestān ī Dēnīg ] E.W. West, tr., Pahlavi Texts II , Sacred Books of the East 18, Oxford, 1882.

[Dk. - Dēnkard,] E. W. West, tr., Pahlavi Texts V , Sacred Books of the East 45, Oxford, 1897.

[DMX - Dādestān ī mēnoḡ ī xrad ] A. Tafażżoli, tr., Minu-ye Ḵerad , Tehran, 1975-76.

H. Humbach, “Zur Textgeschichte des jüngeren Avesta,” Münchener Studien zur Sprachwissenschaft . Heft 3, 1953 (1958), pp. 73-79.

J. Markwart, A Catalogue of the Provincial Capitals of Ērānshahr , ed. G. Messina, Rome, 1931.

Davoud Monchi-zadeh, Topographisch-historische Studien zum iranischen Nationalepos , Wiesbaden, 1975, esp. pp. 185 ff.

J. Russell, “Zoroastrianism as the State Religion of Ancient Iran,” Journal of K.R. Cama Oriental Institute  53, Bombay, 1986, pp. 74-142; repr., James R. Russell, Armenian and Iranian Studies , Cambridge, Mass., 2004, pp. 65-133.

A. Tafaẓẓoli, “Dež-e Ruyīn,” in EIr. VII/4, 1995, p. 350.

E. Yarshater, “Afrāsiyāb,” in EIr. I/6, 1984, pp. 570-76.

[ZWY] Carlo G. Cereti, The Zand ī Wahman Yasn. A Zoroastrian Apocalypse , Serie Orientale Roma LXXV, Rome, 1995.

(Pavel Lurje)

Originally Published: December 15, 2010

Last Updated: April 20, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. XV, Fasc. 5, pp. 498-499