Story of Sultan Mahmud, slave Ayaz inspires Iranian board game

August 10, 2020 - 18:26

TEHRAN – Story of the Ghaznavid Sultan Mahmud and his Turkish slave Ayaz has inspired a board game produced by Iran’s Institute for Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults (IIDCYA).

The game titled “Ayaz & Friends” has been designed by Emad Arghand for children above seven. It is played by two or four people and helps the player improve their ability in solving a problem, reasoning and predicting. 

The game is played in two stages, during first of which the players collect pieces bearing various Persian letters with which players will make words and phrases in the second stage. The winner is the player who can make the most words and phrases with the letters. Negative points are considered for those letters remaining unused.   

Mahmud Sebuktegin, mostly known as the Ghaznavid Sultan Mahmud, was the first fully independent ruler of the Turkish Ghaznavid dynasty, who reigned (998-1030) over what had become by his death a vast military empire stretching from northwestern Persia to Punjab in India and from Chorasmia and the middle stretches of the Oxus River to Makran and the Arabian Sea shores.

Abul-Najm Uymaq Ayaz was favorite Turkish slave of the Ghaznavid Sultan Mahmud, whose passion for Ayaz is a recurrent theme in Persian poetry.

Information about Ayaz’s life is very scarce, his real personality being hidden behind a veil of tales. As the chief royal cupbearer, he enjoyed Mahmud’s trust and probably was given some important assignments. After Mahmud’s death, Ayaz refused to join Mohammad, the designated heir to the throne, and together with two other prominent men and most of the palace slaves left Gazni to join Masud, the rival claimant, in Neyshabur.

Ayaz continued to enjoy favor in Masud’s reign. Ahmad Hasan Maymandi recommended Ayaz for the governorship of Ray, a prestigious and hazardous post, but the sultan decided otherwise on the ground of his inexperience. Later in Masud’s reign, however, Ayaz was appointed governor of Qosdar and Kerman.

In Persian literature, much has been written about Ayaz’s good looks and his qualities of valor, shrewdness, sincerity and loyalty. Farrokhi, one of Mahmud’s court poets, panegyrized Ayaz in a qasida, describing him as valiant, brave and handsome. 

Sultan Mahmud’s relationship with Ayaz had many parallels in the category of royal love for a slave, but this one was presented in Persian literature as something different and exceptional. 

Nezami Aruzi, Attar, Rumi and several other Persian poets have made allusions to the story of Mahmud’s relationship with Ayaz in their works.

Photo: A box of the Iranian board game “Ayaz & Friends”.