Bahram Gur went out hunting on his camel with his favourite slave girl, Azada, sitting behind him, playing her harp. They found a group of onagers (wild asses). Azada challenged Bahram Gur to demonstrate his skills as a hunter through a series of daring feats, including pinning an onager’s hoof to its ear with one arrow.
Bahram Gur shot a stone at the onager’s ear. As the onager raised its foot to scratch its ear, Bahram Gur fired an arrow that pinned the onager’s foot to its ear.
Instead of praising the king, Azada became tearful and accused him of cruelty. Bahram Gur was overcome with rage and threw Azada to the ground, then rode his camel over her.
This adventure story is from Firdausi’s Shahnama (‘Book of Kings’), the longest poem ever written by a single person (almost 60,000 couplets).
The character of Bahram Gur is based on a real king of ancient Persia.
The story inspired other poets to retell it. In Nizami’s version the girl is called Fitna, and in Amir Khusrau’s poem she is called Dilaram.
The story shows the serious consequences that result when a slave does not show respect to royalty.
On a hunting trip, the slave girl Fitna challenged Bahram Gur to the difficult task of shooting an arrow to pin the hoof of an onager (wild ass) to its ear. When he succeeded, Fitna attributed his achievement to practice rather than skill. He became angry and ordered an officer to kill Fitna.
Fitna convinced the officer to spare her, and she was secretly taken away to the officer’s estate where she could hide and work as a servant. Each day Fitna carried a calf up and down the palace steps to build up her strength. As the years passed, the animal grew. One day Bahram Gur visited the estate and saw Fitna carrying a bull up the stairs.
Bahram Gur was impressed by this feat and realised that Fitna was right – skills are perfected through practice. Bahram Gur and Fitna were soon married.
This is another version of the ‘Bahram Gur and Azada’ story from Firdausi’s Shahnama.