The migration of the Zoroastrians from Iran to India: Qiṣṣah-‘i Sanjan (Story of Sanjan)


The Qiṣṣah-‘i Sanjān is a poetic retelling of the migration of Zoroastrian refugees from Iran and their settlement in India.

What does the Qiṣṣah-ʼi Sanjān narrate?

The high priest (dastur) Bahman Kay Qubad of Navsari, completed this poem of 432 verse couplets in 1599 CE. His story is based on ‘the lore of priests and ancient sages’ and encompasses the history of the Zoroastrian community from the days of Zoroaster up to the late 15th century. Though now seen as primarily mythical and poetic in form and content, the story of the migration of Zoroastrian refugees from Iran and their settlement in India, can be regarded as perhaps the most important ‘historic’ narrative in Parsi Zoroastrian literature. It begins at the time of Zoroaster’s conversion of King Vishtasp, and briefly recalls events that led to the ‘fall’ of Iran to Muslim Arab invaders and the death of the last Sasanian king Yazdegerd III in 651 CE. It then describes the Zoroastrians’ long journey of flight from persecution – lasting more than a hundred years, from their homes to the mountains, then to Hormuz on the coast of Iran followed by a sea voyage to refuge on the Island of Dib off the coast of India. In the late 8th century, they were granted some land by the local Hindu ruler on the mainland at Sanjan in Gujarat. They set up home and were permitted to consecrate an Atish Bahram fire temple, which they called the ‘Iranshah’. The second half of the poem describes significant events in the migrants’ history in India, their battles against Muslim enemies and the progress of their sacred fire ‘Iranshah’ until to its establishment in Navsari around 1479 CE.

What do we see here?

The two pages illustrated here cover a period of 115 years, from the death of Yazdegerd in 651: ‘From that time forth Iran was smashed to pieces!’, to the Zoroastrians’ long sojourn in the mountains and their fleeing to Hormuz. There the dastur looks into his astrological tables and announces: ‘At last our life is finished here…’ and they embark upon their sea journey to India.

The manuscript belonged previously to Sir John Malcolm (1769–1833), who had acquired it from Jonathan Duncan, Governor of Bombay (1756–1811) who was sent it in 1810 by Dastur Ka’us of Surat.

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

Full title:
Qiṣṣah-‘i Sanjān (Story of Sanjan), by Bahman Kay Qubad
1738, India
Kayqubād, Bahman
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library
Add MS 27268

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