Arash the Archer

Arash the Archer (Erekhsho khshvivi-ishush – Tir Yasht para 6)


“Once when he (Afrasiyaab) attacked Iran, he was defeated by Minochehr. As the victor, Minochehr suggested to Afrasiyaab a way to demarcate the boundaries between Iran and Turan. In Iran, lived an archer named Eresh. He was considered the best archer in the whole of Iran and Turan. He was no ordinary mortal. He was in communion with Meher Yazad. It was decided that Eresh would shoot an arrow and the place where the arrow fell would become the boundary between the warring countries. Afrasiyaab readily agreed to this condition. On the appointed day, Eresh climbed Mount Demavand early morning, and with the power of Maanthravani, shot an arrow. It was afternoon when the arrow fell at a certain spot near the river Vohun. This became the new boundary between Iran and Turan.” (1)

(1) : Iran Ni Tavarikh (16) – Lecture series by Late Adi Doctor Saheb that was chronicled by Hanoz Mistry. The article appeared in Dini Avaz Vol. 23 No. 2.


The basic story of the bowman runs as follows: In a war between the Iranians and Turanians over the “royal glory” (khwarrah), the General Afrasiab has surrounded the forces of the righteous Manuchehr, and the two sides agree to make peace. Both reach an agreement that whatever land falls within the range of a bow-shot shall be returned to the Manuchehr and the Iranians, and the rest should then fall to Afrasiab and the Aniranians. An angel (in al-Biruni it is ‘Esfandaramad’, i.e. the Amesha Spenta Spenta Armaiti, in Middle Persian called ‘Spendarmad’) instructs Manuchehr to construct a special bow and arrow, and Arash is asked to be the archer. Arash then fires the specially-prepared arrow at dawn, which then traveled a great distance (see below) before finally landing and so marking the future border between the Iranians and the Aniranians.


In Talebi and Bal’ami, Arash is destroyed by the shot and disappears. In al-Tabari, he is exalted by the people, is appointed commander of the archers and lives out his life in great honor. The distance the arrow travels varies: in one it is thousand leagues (farsakhs), in another forty days walk. In several, the arrow traveled from dawn to noon, in others from dawn until sunset. A few sources specify a particular date for the event. The Middle Persian Mah i Frawardin notes the 6th day of the 1st month (i.e. Khordad of Frawardin); later sources associate the event with the name-day festivities of Tiregan (13th of Tir) “presumably” provoked by the homonymity with the Yazata Tir or tir “arrow.” (Tafażżolī 1987, p. 266)


The location from which Arash fired his arrow varies as well. In the Avesta (which does not mention places in Western Iran), it is Airyo.khshaotha, a not-further identified location in the Middle Clime. Islamic-era sources typically place the location of the shot somewhere just south of the Caspian Sea, variously in Tabaristan (Tabari, Talebi, Maqdesi, ibn al-Athir, Marashi); a mountain-top in Ruyan (al-Biruni, Gardēzī), Amul fortress (Mojmal), Mount Damavand (Balami) or Sari (Gorgani). The place the arrow landed is variously identified as ‘Mount Khvanvant’ in the Avesta (likewise an unknown location); a river in Balkh (Tabari, al-Atir); east of Balkh (Talebi); Bactria/Tokharistan (Maqdesi, Gardizi); the banks of the Oxus River (Balami) or Merv (Mojmal). According to al-Biruni, it hit a nut tree between “Fargana” and Tabaristan “in the furthest reaches of [Greater] Khorasan.”


The name Arash remains one of the most popular names among Iranians.


Courtesy: Jimmy Tavadia

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