Kawa the Blacksmith is probably the most famous Kurdish legend and tells the story of Kurdish New Year (Newroz – pronounced Nah-Roos) and the birth of a nation. As with most legends, there are variations in the telling. The basic story is outlined below…King Zohak, ruler of the land of Mesopotamia, is tricked by the evil demon Ahriman and cursed with two large black snakes, which grow from his… shoulders. Zohak is wracked with terrible pain, a pain that will only go away if the snakes are fed the brains of children. As children are snatched from the surrounding towns and villages to feed the snakes’ hunger, the sun refuses to shine and the land becomes cold and desolate.Kawa the Blacksmith is blessed with seven children, but gradually they are taken from him until only one child remains. Consumed with anger and grief, he goes to the villagers and tells them that he is going to Zohak’s castle to plead for his child’s life. If his pleading fails, then he will attempt to kill Zohak with his mighty blacksmith’s hammer. If he succeeds, he will light a fire on the highest point on the mountain and then the villagers will know he has triumphed. If no fire can be seen, then he will have failed.Kawa’s pleading with Zohak is all in vain, and he is forced to strike a blow with his hammer, killing King Zohak and breaking Ahriman’s evil curse. He then climbs to the top of the mountain and lights a huge bonfire.
The villagers see the fire and light another, which in turn can be seen from the next village where they light another, and another and another, until there are fires burning throughout the land. As the people celebrate, the fire and smoke cleanse the air of the last of Ahriman’s evil and finally the sun returns to the sky.
DIFFERENT VERSIONS OF THE STORY
In some versions of the story, Kawa (or Kaveh, as his name is also spelled) had seventeen children, and in some versions he lived for 2500 years. Zohak (whose name is also spelled Dehak, Dehaq and Zuhak) is sometimes said to have ruled for 3000 years, and some versions claim that he is evil himself, not just tricked by Ahriman.
Some versions of the story say that Kawa substituted the brain of a sheep for the brain of some, all or the last of his children and that Zohak’s snakes could not taste the difference, and that, from that day onward, the children who were spared were taken and hidden in the mountains. Here the children were trained by Kawa to fight against Zohak’s rule.
When the mountains housed a mighty army of children, Kawa lead them to Zohak’s castle to overthrow the tyrant and end his evil once and for all.
Whether Kawa defeated Zohak alone or with an army, one thing always remains the same, his triumph over Zohak brought a new sun to the sky, and people celebrate this in the festival of Newroz, the Kurdish new year, which is celebrated on 21st March every year. His victory also marks the start of the Kurdish calendar (the year 2008, for example, is 2708).
Today, the festival of Newroz is celebrated in many other countries outside of Kurdistan. For example, Iran, Afghanistan, parts of the Middle East, as well as in the former Soviet republics of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan,Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan all celebrate Newroz. It is also celebrated by the Zoroastrian Parsis in India and Pakistan as well by certain Iranic inhabitants in Pakistan’s. It is called Nevruz in Turkish and Sultan Nevruz in Albanian. In the Kurdish language, Newroz means New Day.