Ferdowsi lives on in Tus
Photo Blog by Preethi Nallu
"How shall a man escape from that which is written; How shall he flee from his destiny?"
It is this ethereal quality of Ferdowsi's words that rendered him the title of Iran's most coveted national poet. Even today, primary school textbooks name Ferdowsi Tusi as a national hero for his work that purportedly helped preserve Farsi as a distinct language.
Ferdowsi's most well known work is the 990 chapters and 60,000 verse long Shahnameh or the Book of Kings that relays legends, tales and historical anecdotes from primordial times to the age of Zoro-Astrian emperors to the Arab conquest of Iran in the 7th century CE. The author spent 30 years, a majority of his writing career, to complete the book.
Along with reviving the beauty and sophistication of the Persian language, Shahnameh documented history that had been passed on primarily through an oral tradition for centuries. The voluminous piece helped establish Farsi as the primary language of literature and poetry in the courts of rulers across the Indo-Iranian region. This in turn was the beginning of the gradual evolution of Urdu as a unique blend of Farsi, Arabic and Sanskrit that was later developed on the Indian sub-continent.
By the time Ferdowsi completed his epic piece in 1010 CE, Eastern Iran was under the rule of the Turkic mamluk Ghaznavid Dynasty that was promulgating Arabic as the primary language. Serving as the foundation for modern Farsi, Ferdowsi's work appeared at a pivotal time in the history of the language.
Although not modest, he was accurate in stating, "the Persian language is revived by this work."
According to narratives of tour guides in Tus, as with most great poets, Ferdowsi spent his last years in his home town, yearning for acknowledgement and sorrowful over having spent a majority of his life on work that might never attain the respect it deserved. Despite the lack of recognition and patronage from the kings whilst he was still alive, Ferdowsi's work would immortalize him, albeit posthumously .
His status as a national hero continues to reside in the minds of Iranians and inside the mausoleum built to commemorate his life and work in Tus.