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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Father of Shah Rukh whose barbarous soldiery


It is not for me to go fully into the history of this great city of Zaidan, for so much of it rests on speculation and confused traditions that I would rather leave this work to some scientist of a more gambling disposition than my own; but now that I have described what I myself saw I will add a few historical details which seem correct, and the opinions of one or two other travellers in that region which add interest to the place as well as strengthen my statements. With the many photographs which I took and which are reproduced in this book, I hope that a fair idea of the place will be conveyed to the reader.

The following short historical notes were furnished to me by the Katkhuda (or head village man) of the present village near the Zaidan ruins. I reproduce them verbatim, without assuming any responsibility for the accuracy of the historical dates, but the information about the great city itself I found to be correct.

[Illustration: Arabic Inscription on Marble dug by Author at the City of Zaidan.]

When Shah Rukh Shah was ruler of Turkistan, and one Malek Kutuh-ud-din was ruler of Sistan and Kain, Shah Rukh Shah was engaged in settling disturbances in the northern part of his dominions, and Malek Kutuh-ud-din, taking advantage of it, attacked Herat and plundered it. Shah Rukh Shah, hearing of this, collected an army and marched on Sistan. During this march he devastated

the country, which was then very fertile and wealthy, and captured and dispersed the inhabitants of the endless city of Zaidan--which extended from Kala-i-Fath, to the south (now in Afghan territory on the present bank of the Halmund), to Lash Yuwain on the north (also in Afghan territory on the bank of the Farah Rud), a distance, according to the Trigonometrical Survey Maps, of 86 miles as the crow flies. This would agree with the account given me by the Amir of the extent of the city.

The city of Zaidan was protected by a large fortress at every six farsakhs (24 miles). Each fortress was said to be strongly garrisoned with troops, and had a high watch tower in the centre similar to that which I saw at a distance on the north-east of Iskil, and which has been described in previous pages.

Another historical version attributes the destruction of Zaidan and adjoining cities to Taimur Lang (Tamerlane) or Taimur the lame (a.h. 736-785), father of Shah Rukh whose barbarous soldiery, as some traditions will have it, were alone responsible for the pillage of Zaidan city and the devastation of all Sistan. The name of Taimur Lang is to this day held in terror by the natives of Sistan.

But whether Zaidan was devastated twice, or whether the two accounts apply to the same disaster, it is not easy to ascertain at so distant a date. There are obvious signs all over Eastern Sistan that the country must have undergone great trouble and changes--probably under the rule of Shah Rukh and his successors (a.h. 853-873), after which revolutions seem to have been rampant for some sixty years, until Shah Ismail Safavi conquered Khorassan and the neighbouring countries, founding a powerful dynasty which reigned up to the year a.h. 1135.


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