Sculpture of Ferdowsi in front of legends he created in Shahnameh
Sculpture of Ferdowsi in front of legends he created in Shahnameh

Abul-Qâsem Ferdowsi Tusi (or just Ferdowsi) is probably the greatest Persian poet of all time. His book, Shahnameh (The Book of Kings), is known as the book that keeps the Persian language alive. Ferdowsi is celebrated as one of the most influential figures of Persian literature and one of the greatest in the history of literature.

The writing of Shahnameh took 33 years. The Shahnameh is a monument of poetry and historiography, being mainly the poetical recast of what Ferdowsi, his contemporaries, and his predecessors regarded as the account of Iran’s ancient history.

Ferdowsi is one of the undisputed giants of Persian literature. After Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh, a number of other works similar in nature surfaced over the centuries within the cultural sphere of the Persian language. Without exception, all such works were based in style and method on Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh, but none of them could quite achieve the same degree of fame and popularity as Ferdowsi’s masterpiece.

Ferdowsi has a unique place in Persian history because of the strides he made in reviving and regenerating the Persian language and cultural traditions. His works are cited as a crucial component in the persistence of the Persian language, as those works allowed much of the tongue to remain codified and intact.

In this respect, Ferdowsi surpasses Nizami, Khayyám, Asadi Tusi and other seminal Persian literary figures in his impact on Persian culture and language. Many modern Iranians see him as the father of the modern Persian language.

Ferdowsi was buried in his own garden, burial in the cemetery of Tus having been forbidden by a local cleric. A Ghaznavid governor of Khorasan constructed a mausoleum over the grave and it became a revered site. The tomb, which had fallen into decay, was rebuilt between 1928 and 1934 by the Society for the National Heritage of Iran on the orders of Reza Shah, and has now become the equivalent of a national shrine.

Every year on Ordibehesht 25, people gather in the tomb and celebrate his legacy by reading Shahnameh and washing his grave stone.

I’ve reached the end of this great history

And all the land will talk of me:

I shall not die, these seeds I’ve sown will save

My name and reputation from the grave,

And men of sense and wisdom will proclaim

When I have gone, my praises and my fame.