In the Romances of Alexander, Alexander the Great seamlessly seeks the Fountain of Eternal Life in his long and famous quest from Macedonia to India.
Once he was travelling in a mysterious Land of Darkness where he was given a special companion called Khezr. The companion was carrying a basket of provisions to sustain the long journey across this unknown dark land. Khezr was walking ahead of Alexander on a rocky terrain when he stumbled upon a rock and spilled the basket. Two dry salted fish which he carried in the basket fell on the ground and instantly a fountain of water sprung from the ground. The fish became alive in this pond of water.
“When Khezr saw his fish resurrect in these miraculous waters, he bathed therein and so received the gift of Eternal Life. Ever since that day, the immortal Khezr has guarded the Fountain of Life and the Mighty King Alexander had no option but to resign himself to inevitable death.”
It is since believed that spring arrives when Khezr walks on the earth and green grass spurs under his feet as he passes by, and wherever his stick touches, water springs from the ground in abundance.
In the illustrations of the book of Alexander, “ Khezr is wearing a brown outer robe –symbolizing the human ‘mortal coil’ – covering his inner green tunic –symbolizing his inner, immortal soul. In Sufi language, Khezr signifies human beings’ inner potential to attain spiritual immortality, even in the midst of this lower world of Death and Darkness.”[i]
[i] Farîd-od-Dîn ‘Attâr (1146-1221). The Canticle of the Birds. Translated from the Persian by Afkham Darbandi and Dick Davis. Paris: Diane de Selliers, Éditeur, 2013. p.110.
Picture: Harvard University, Department of Islamic Studies
Illustration: Artist unknown, end of the 15th century. Folio from the Book of Nezâmi. Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC.