Alan Williams, The Re-placement of Zoroastrian Iran: A New Reading of the Persian Qesse-ye Sanjan of Bahman Key Qobad Sanjana (1599)


In Zoroastrian literature there is a single document that explains why the world’s largest Zoroastrian community is located in India, not Iran. It is the Persian Qeṣṣe-ye Sanjān, written in India in 1599 by a Zoroastrian priest. In this study I address the question of what exactly the Qeṣṣe-ye Sanjān is: I offer a new reading and analysis. I conclude that it functions as a myth of rite de passage, and that it serves not as a chronicle but as a religious poem that resolves a number of anxieties that must have troubled Zoroastrians living as a minority community, away from Iran. It resolves the problem of the loss of Iranian sovereignty by enthroning a new monarch, in the form of the Iran Shah ("King of Iran") āteshbahrām fire. Moreover, vengeance is taken for the ignominy of the defeat of Zoroastrian Iran by "Islam": any residual sense of shame for the loss of Iran is thus purged and the symbolic re-placement of the old, fallen Iran is achieved.