Life of Zoroaster in Persian verse


A 17th-century copy of the Zarātusht nāmah, a poetical account of the life of Zoroaster.

What is the Zarātusht nāmah?

The Zarātusht nāmah was written by Kay Kāʼus ibn Kay Khusraw ibn Dārā, in Rayy (Iran) in the 13th century as part of a deliberate attempt to keep the ‘old’ traditions alive by writing about them in Persian verse. Subsequently copied by Zartusht ibn Bahrām ibn Pazhdū (who is often thought to be the author) in 1278 in Bizhanabad, Iran, it became a favourite work in India and many copies exist, almost all, like the present example, based on a manuscript written by Khusraw Māvandād in the year 853 Yazdegerdi (1483 CE). The text describes the life of Zoroaster from before his birth, his birth, the miracles he performed, his ascension into paradise, his return to earth with the sacred Zend-Avesta and conversion of King Gushtasp, and finally his meeting with the supreme God Ohrmazd (Ahura Mazda).

What do we know about this manuscript?

This copy of the poem was collected for the polymath Thomas Hyde (1636–1703), Professor or Arabic and Hebrew at Oxford University and Librarian of the Bodleian. It dates from the 17th century and includes fifty-nine blank spaces, which were obviously intended for illustrations which were never added.

Folios 9v–10r, depicted here, describe the miraculous birth of Zoroaster, how he was born laughing; how the jealous king of the sorcerers attempted stab him but his hand withered and he was struck with pain and anguish and writhed like a snake. These traditions are found in pre-Islamic Zoroastrian literature, but their presentation here owes much to Islamic literary conventions.

View images of the entire manuscripts via our Digitised Manuscripts website.

Full title:
The Zarātusht nāmah ('Life of Zoroaster')
17th century, India
Kay Kāʼus ibn Kay Khusraw ibn Dārā
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library
Royal MS 16 B VIII

Full catalogue details

Related articles

Zoroastrianism in late antiquity

Article by:
Sacred texts, Zoroastrianism

Ursula Sims-Williams describes the history of the Zoroastrian religion during the Sasanian Empire, its interaction with the Judeo-Christian world and the development of its sacred texts into a written corpus from an oral tradition.

Zoroastrianism from the early modern period

Article by:
Jenny Rose
Sacred texts, Zoroastrianism

Professor Jenny Rose discusses the development of the Zoroastrian religion in the early modern period, exploring the migration of the religion to India and the development of distinctive regional traditions and texts.

Zoroastrianism introduction

Article by:
The British Library

An overview of articles and British Library resources relating to Zoroastrianism.

Related collection items