The Alpamysh, part 17: the Saints come to the rescue

Karajan awakes three days later to discover his son’s betrayal. Can he and the injured Baychobar win the race for Barchin?

Blue-eyed Central Asian Buddhist monk, with an East-Asian colleague, Tarim Basin, 9th-10th Century CE (Wikipedia).

Karajan awakes three days later to discover his son’s betrayal. Can he and the injured Baychobar win the race for Barchin?

The Alpamysh makes several references to the “Saints”. Sometimes these figures are identified explicitly, as in the case of al-Khidr (“Hizir”); most of the time, simply as a collective. Who could these individuals have been in reality?

Central Asia has had a long and complex religious history. Its oldest spiritual genetics reach back to shamanism and Zoroastrianism, but there is also a heavy strain of Buddhism as well. This latter strain dates back to the ancient Greek kingdoms in Oxus, Bactria, the Khyber Pass, Gandhara and the Punjab. Hence, it is probable that the “saints” are, in fact, the bodhisattvas of Buddhist lore, in particular monks who had perfected the spiritual disciplines and subsequently ascended to nirvana, from which position they could assist and guide those still on earth trapped in the cycle of birth, death and re-birth. The bodhisattva notion would take on Islamic garb in the form of the Sufi pir.

This photograph is of a sandalwood panel representing the Five Transcendental Buddhas of the Vajrayana Pantheon of Buddhism. It has purportedly come out of Tibet but was probably carved somewhere in the Silk Road in Central Asia. Photograph from the Bulletin of the Asian Institute.

Three days passed. Karajan’s heart was heavy. He jumped awake. When he looked around, what he saw took his mind away.

He was alone in the field. It had been three days since the Kalmaks left. The dung of their horses was drying.

He got up like lightning. But because his arms and hands were tied like a ram, he fell down, sprawling. He realized he was tied up, restrained. He crawled and uprighted himself, then searched for Baychobar.

Karajan spotted something dragging on the ground. He got close, and discovered Baychobar lying on his back as the Kalmaks had left it. Baychobar’s four hooves were [kicking at the air]. He could not get hold of the horse, his hands being tied. He said:

“My color faded seeing the select horse;
I ran it without failing to put forth the effort.

“[They] drove four nails into four hooves;
I became a prisoner, became last [i.e., in the race.

“If I die, the camel will be orphaned;
he who serves his friend will be admitted to heaven.

“Four nails were driven into four hooves;
if I am a Muslim, I must succeed.

“Roses that bloom in the spring garden;
alas, my friend’s Kungrat lands of Baysun!

“Four nails were driven into four hooves;
where are you, the protector saints of my friend?

“I made the horse’s blanket out of manat;
the lion days of my youth are being wasted!

“Four nails were driven into four hooves;
may the bones of those who committed this treachery be exposed!

“I have erred in my heart;
I implore the aid of anyone.

“Four nails were driven into four hooves;
you, the protector saints of the Chobar, Yilkici Ata, listen to this lament at this time!

“I am imploring God;
for those who know, the Day of Reckoning is near.”

[Then he stopped to listen], and he heard a voice crying “God!” When he understood [what he heard[ and looked, [there they] were, the good servants of God! The kalendars wear yende, praising God, wearing klah. [They] appeared with a dispatch, like Hizir.

They came near Karajan. He gave the greetings of God and received like greetings. The Seven Saints gave their hands to Karajan.

With a burning desire, Karajan, with the strength of a lion, grabbed Chobar, who was lying in the pit. He got Chobar onto its feet. A batir is but a small minded child: Karajan had forgot that there were nails in Baychobar’s hooves.

The Seven Saints, trusting him to the prophets, pet [Baychobar’s] forehead and said [to it]:

“May we be sacrificed to you;
— our auspicious stars above, sunny days are longed for Karajan —
our lamb, may your path be open, may Hizir be your companion;
leader of your people, our tiger, our leading tiger,
may you be free from dangers;
ruler of his lands, sultan, be safe our child.”

[And then to Karajan, they said:]

“May your horse’s path be open;
,ay you live without worry;
may the fateful Baychobar come first in the contest.
Barchin, our dear child,, may be a match to the Sultan;
God created them for each other: Barchin for the Sultan!
May you be honored.”

Forty Saints prayed and left. Karajan set out on his way. The batir whipped [the horse], [shouting], “May I be sacrificed to your eyes Baychobar!”

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