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The Protoplast of Man


By: Mansour Shaki


(Gayûmarth, Kayûmarth; Mid. Pers. Gayômart/d, Av. gaya marətan "mortal life," Man. Gehmurd; Ar. Jayûmart), the sixth of the heptad in Mazdean myth of creation, the protoplast of man, and the first king in Iranian mythical history. The particulars of Gayômart's life and death are given somehow differently in Middle Persian books. Our main source of information on this first righteous man is the Bundahišn, of which the essential features are as follows:

Gayômart, like other creations, was fashioned forth to assist Ohrmazd in his fight against the Evil Spirit (Ganâg mênôg; Bundahišn 1a.4). He was created in Êrân-wêz (q.v.), in the middle of the world, on the left bank of the river Good Dâitî, facing the Uniquely-Created Bull (Gâw î êwdâd, q.v.), on the opposite bank. He measured four medium reeds (Zâdspram 2.10) in height and in breadth; he was round and shining as the sun (an anthropomorphic representation; Bundahišn 1a.13), with physical features as men born of his seed. His body was created by Ohrmazd from earth, i.e., through Spandârmad, its divinity and his sperm was fashioned from the light and brightness (zargônîh) of the sky (Bundahišn 1a.13). When creations were placed under the custody of Amahrspands, Ohrmazd took to himself the Holy Man, Gayômart, the pre-eminent element of material beings (az gêtiyân bun; Bundahišn 3.12; cf. mardôm gêtîg pahlom dahišnân "Man the foremost of material creations"; Dênkard, ed. Madan, p. 43). Because the frawahr of Gayômart took upon himself to contend with the Ahriman (q.v.), Ohrmazd conceded to grant him perfection and immortality at the Renovation (frašegird; Bundahišn 1.23-24). On the creation of Gayômart, Ahriman laid low in his awe for 3000 years, till the arch-demon Whore (Jeh, q.v.) came and roused Ahriman from his stupor, promising him to destroy Gayômart and the creatures of Ohrmazd. Commencing the second cosmic stage, the Mixture (gumêzišn), Ahriman attacked the creations and sent Astwihâd (q.v.), the demon of death, to assail Gayômart with Want, Sloth, Lust, and 1000 diseases (Bundahišn 4.19). But his misdeeds were of no avail, since Ohrmazd had brought Sleep in the form of a radiant youth over Gayômart; and Time (i.e., Zurwân) had destined him to live for thirty years (Bundahišn 4.25). In the end, in accordance with the aspect of his horoscope, when the malefic Saturn returned to its exaltation, and Jupiter was in descension, Gayômart succumbed to his injuries and passed away (Bundahišn 6F.7), while his sperm was in two parts purified by the rays of the sun and entrusted for safe-keeping to the deity Nêryôsang and in one part fell upon the earth and was received by Spandârmad, his creator and mother. His seed remained for forty years in the earth, out of which slowly grew the rhubarb plant, the stem of which developed into the first human couple, Mašîa and Mašîânag (Bundahišn 6F.9), the progenitors of all human races, the ten (twenty-five in Bundahišn 14.38) species of mankind (Bundahišn 14.1) that inhabit the Xwanîrah, the central continent of the earth. On Gayômart's passing away, Ohrmazd took his ideal form (êwênag kerb = frawahr) and entrusted it to the sun-station; which ever since shines through the sun. And seven (eight in Zâdspram 3.69) kinds of metal developed from the members of his body. Gayômart the protohuman, with the first human frawahr, is also the first Zoroastrian hero to be raised at the Resurrection to bring about the Renovation (frašegird) in association with Sošyâns, the savior and the last man (Bundahišn 34.6). The cause of Gayômart is safe-guarded by the fire of Warahrân (Dênkard, ed. Madan, p. 538), because the seed of man is said to have originated from fire, not water.

Gayômart as one of the foremost heroes of Zoroastrianism, ranking with Zoroaster and Sôšyans, and being the first to embrace the message of Ohrmazd (Dênkard, pp. 28, 519; tr. de Menasce, chap. 35, p. 50), was ordained by Ohrmazd the first Mazdean prophet to transmit the divine word to men (fradom aštag î az dâdâr Ohrmazd ô mardôm; saxwan abar barišnîh hammôzišn andar axw î astômand fradom gayômart, Dênkard, ed. Madan, p. 313; tr. de Menasce, chap. 312, pp. 298-99). The Dâdestân î dênîg, chapter 63 (tr. West, pp. 197-98), in line with the Bundahišn, recounts the creation and life of the first man, and extols him (2.10) as a man of divine prowess in whose keeping is the whole of creation. In the Frawardîn Yašt (87), his fravaši is celebrated as the first righteous man who embraced the will and commandment of Ahura Mazdâ (q.v.), and from whom developed the family of Aryan lands; and in Yasna 23.2, his fravaši is exalted together with those of the preeminent heroes of Mazdaism such as Zoroaster, Kay Wištâsp, Sôšyâns, and all ancient teachers of the faith. As he had no flock to preach his revelation, the Word of God and prophetical counsels addressed to his mind (mênišn) were subsequently revealed to Mašîa, and through their son, Sîâmak, to mankind (Dênkard, ed. Madan, p. 313). A few philanthropical precepts are also attributed to him: "The praises offered to me would be more favorably received from those who recognize men of noble character (meh) within commonalty (keh), and the low (keh) among the high society (meh), as well as from a brother who would forgive the misconduct of his junior brother" (Pahlavi Yasna 68.22, p. 281). Tabarî also ascribes to him the apothegms: "Pay heed to what is said, not to the speaker. Look up to advice and wise words, no matter who says it. Acknowledge the truth, no matter of what provenance" (Bal´amî, ed. Bahâr, p. 123).

According to the Chihrdâd nask (Dênkard, ed. Madan, p. 688) the original Avestan text had contained an account of the creation of Gayômart in bodily form, the manner of the birth of Mašîa and Mašîânag, and the establishment of monarchy on earth by Hôšang, wherefore his epithet pêšdâd (Av. para-dâta- "the first to establish [sovereignty]"; Yt. 19.26; Yt. 5.21; Pahlavi Vidêvdâd 20.1). Tabarî (I, pp. 147 ff.) and Bal´amî, (ed. Bahâr, pp. 112-28) with more details, recount at some length the creation of Gayômart who is identified as Adam. He is represented as a peaceable and pious primitive king who renders the world prosperous and habitable.

There are various traditions in regard to the sequence of Gayômart's descendant. The Middle Persian books generally give his posterity as: Mašîa (Mašîânag), Sîâmak, Frawâk (Ar. Afrâwâk), and Hôšang (Dênkard, ed. Madan, pp. 231, 613; Bundahišn 14.31, 31.1, 35.4; Zâdspram 7, p. 54), which is followed by Tabarî (I, p. 154). But his translator Bal´amî (ed. Bahâr, pp. 124-25) passes over Frawâk. Iranian legendary history, however, being based on a secular tradition recorded by the Šâh-nâma, derived from the Xwadây-nâmag, refers to Gayômart as the first world king. He is depicted as a prehistoric cave-dweller who brings forth the rite of royalty, founds the Pêšdâdîân dynasty and, clad in leopard-skin, rules over men and beasts by natural disposition. In this version his son, the noble Sîâmak, is killed by Ahriman, whereupon his grandson Hôšang, the second Pešdâdîân king, avenges himself on his father's killers, the demons (Šâh-nâma, ed. Khaleghi, I, pp. 21-25, Moscow, I, pp. 29-31).

The epithet attached to Gayômart is inconsistently reported by Middle and the New Persian materials. The Dênkard (ed. Madan, p. 29; tr. de Menasce, p. 50) refers to him as gil(TYN`)šâh (lit. clay king), but the Pahlavi Aogəmadêchâ (JamaspAsa, p. 85) knows him as garšâh (king of the mountain). The Islamic historians call him variously garšâh or gelšâh (Bal´amî, ed. Bahâr, pp. 12, 113). It is with good reason suggested that gil (gl) may be a misreading for gar (gl; Yarshater, p. 420). In contrast with these readings the Šâh-nâma gives kayšâh, which is an obvious error since kay (Av. kavi) is the title of the kings of the second legendary dynasty, the Kayanids (ed. Khaleghi, I, p. 22, Moscow, I, p. 29).

The Gayômart's creation myth is also cursorily reported by Šahrestânî, the heresiographer, under the sect of Kayûmarthîya (pp. 182-83), characterized as a syncretic doctrine, combining what seems to be popular dualistic beliefs blended with Mazdean account of the first man. Its novel features are creation of Ahriman (Darkness) from an inappropriate speculation of an eternal god (cf. the conception of Ahriman from Zurwân's doubt), and the puerile statement that the ensuing combat between the forces of Light and Darkness comes to a head by the arbitration of the angels, providing that god wholly surrenders the world of mixture to Ahriman for 7000 years, a senseless modification of the 6000. It is evident that the absurd tale lacks the makings of a serious sectarian doctrine. Schaeder (Reizenstein and Schader, p. 238) is justified in disputing the existence of the sect. The parallel Vedic Mârtânda is taken to suggest a common Indo-Iranian myth attempting to explain the origin of man (Hoffmann, p. 100; Boyce, p. 140). In classical Islamic historiography, Gayômard is often associated with Adam. "There is a tradition that Adam chose from among his numerous offspring two sons, Šîth (i.e., Seth, Gen. 4.25) and Kayûmard, and he conferred on them forty cannonical scriptures (sahîfa) to act upon. Šîth was entrusted with the maintenance of the religion, and Kayûmard with the kingdom and worldly affairs" (Ghazâlî, pp. 81-85). The author of Borhân-e qâte´ also knows Kayômart as a son of Adam and the first king (ed. Mo´în, III, p. 1760).



Aogəmadaêchâ, ed. and tr. K. M. JamaspAsa as Aogəmadaêchâ. A Zoroastrian Liturgy, Vienna, 1982. 

Boyce, Zoroastrianism I, index, s.v. Gayô.marətan. Bundahišn, tr. Anklesaria. A. Christensen, Le premier homme et le premier roi dans l'histoire le‚gendaire des Iraniens I, Stockholm, 1917; II, Leiden, 1934. 

Dâdestân î dênîg, tr. E. W. West as Dâdistân-î Dînîk, SBE 18, Oxford, 1882. Dênkard, tr. J. de Menasce as Le troisieàme livre du Dênkart, Paris, 1973. 

Mohammad Ghazâlî, Nasîhat al-molûk, ed. J. Homâ`î, Tehran, 1351 Š./1972. 

Hamza, pp. 10, 12-13, 24-25. 

S. Hartman, Gayômart, Uppsala, 1953. 

K. Hoffmann, "Mârtânda and Gayômart," Münchener Studien zur Sprachwissenschaft 11, 1957, pp. 85-103. 

Abû ´Abd-Allâh MohÂammad K¨úârazmî, Mafâtîh al-´olûm, ed. G. van Vloten, Lyden, 1895, pp. 38-39. 

Maqdesî, Bad` III, pp. 138-39. 

Mas´ûdî, Morûj, ed. Pellat, I, pp. 260-63, 281-82, 323. 

Idem, Tanbîh, pp. 85, 93, 197. Mênôg î xrad, tr. A. Tafazzolî as Mînû-ye kherad, Tehran, 1354 Š./1975. 

M. Mole‚, Culte, mythe et cosmologie dans l'Iran ancien, Paris, 1963. 

H. S. Nyberg, A Manual of Pahlavi I. Texts, Wiesbaden, 1964. Pahlavi Rivâyat, ed. B. N. Dhabhar. Pahlavi yasna and Visparad (Wisprad), ed. B. N. Dhabhar, Bombay, 1949. 

R. Reizenstein and H. H. Schaeder, Studien zum antiken Synkretismus aus Iran und Griechenland, Studien der Bibliothek Warburg 7, Leipzig, 1926, repr. Darmstadt, 1965. Tha´âlebî, Gh, pp. 1-5. D¨. 

Safâ, Hamâsa-sarâ`î dar Èrân, Tehran, 1363 Š./1984, pp. 399-411. 

A. Tafazzolî, Awwalîn ensân wa awwalîn Pâdešâh, Tehran, 1373 Š./1994. "´Ulemâ î Islâm" in Pahlavi Rivâyat, ed. Dhabhar, pp. 449-57. 

G. Widengren, "The Death of Gayômart," in J. M. Kitagawa and C. H. Long, eds., Myth and Symbols: Studies in Honor of Mircea Eliade, Chicago, 1969, pp. 179-93. 

Idem, "Primordial Man and Prostitute: A Zervanite Motif in the Sasanian Avesta," in R. J. Zwi Werblowsky, ed., Studies in Mysticism and Religion, Presented to Gerschom G. Scholem, Jerusalem, 1967, pp. 337-52. 

E. Yarshater, "Iranian National History," in Camb. Hist. Iran III/1, London, 1983, pp. 416-25. 

R. C. Zaehner, Zurvân: A Zoroastrian Dilemma, Oxford, 1955, index, s.v. Gayômart.




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Source/Extracted From: Encyclopaedia Iranica


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