An Epic Tragedy

In the past 9 months, I have met some colorful people in Afghanistan.  They have appreciated my interest in their culture, history, and philosophy.  As such, they provide me insights and stories you don’t read about in a book or newspapers.  Over numerous cups of tea I find out some interesting stories or a sneak peak about their personal lives.  These personal details are cultivated by developing a relationship and gaining trust of the individual you mentor and many cups of green tea.  I must point out that the tea leaves are green, but the tea served is a urine color yellow. It wouldn’t be so bad, but they serve the tea in a transparent glass.   Even though I am not a big tea (chai) drinker, it’s customary to drink a cup of chai when offered by your host so they won’t be offended.

Last night while interacting with some Afghan soldiers on duty, they took an interest in a book I was reading.  The book is a historical and pictorial guide of Afghanistan.  One soldier was eager to show me how much English he knew.  He would find a passage and then read it aloud to me.  His pronunciation and enunciation was fair and I commended him on his reading abilities.  Although he could pronounce the words, the meaning and context eluded him.  An interpreter was visiting from Kandahar and he helped to translate the meaning.

While perusing through my book, he stopped at a page showing a village in Badakhshan Province.  This is when I learned about an unfulfilled love tragedy or perhaps folklore that is still told today.  The poem was first recorded by a 12th century poet.  In the town of Baharak, there is an empty irrigation canal.  The legend begins with Fahrad, a stone-cutter, who fell in love with Princess Shirin after only seeing her once.  But because he wasn’t from royal blood, there was no way he could marry the princess.  Fahrad would spend whole days in the mountains without food and played music on his flute in praise of the princess.

The King heard rumor of Fahrad’s sentiment for his daughter.  So he made a proposal to his daughter.  Since Fahrad was of common birth, he would have to accomplish a task such as that no other man could do.  Fahrad would have to dig a canal in the rocky land that was 6 lances in width (approx. 60 ft), three lances deep (30 ft), and forty miles long.  After this was done, Fahrad could marry his daughter.

Farhad immediately went to work on the canal.  He worked for many years on it and the princess would find him at night propped up by a shovel.  She also noticed he would cut her figure in the rocks every 6 yards.  Farhad finished the canal and the last task was to dig a well that would sprout a fountain that would feed the canal with water.  He was half way through with the task, when the King consulted his advisers.  They come up with a plan to discourage Farhad.

An old woman visited Farhad and announced the princess had died.  Farhad was so distraught; he cut his head with his sharp spade and died under the carved image of his lover.  His blood was the only liquid that touched the canal.  Princess Shirin learned of the evil plot and ran to the mountains to the same spot where Farhad had died.  She too inflicted a fatal wound to her head.  No water ever flows into the canal, but the two lovers are entombed forever in the same grave.

Ironically while reading the daily Afghan paper (English version), I discovered that the National Solidarity Programme of the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development is constructing a micro hydro power project, five safe water reservoirs, and cleaning an irrigation canal in Badakhshan province.  Perhaps now, Farhad’s canal will flow water.


2 Responses

  1. […] sentiment for his daughter. So he made a proposal to his daughter. … View post: An Epic Tragedy « Afghanistan My Last Tour Share and […]

  2. This is why I wish the war would be negotiated to an end, and hostilities cease.

    There is so much knowledge and culture present, and I, for one, would like to travel there and see the things and meet the people you have described.

    To travel the old Silk Road, and see these things, and to recognize what this country has contributed, that would be an excellent journey.

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