Image: Wikipedia

The Dastaan is the oldest form of oral storytelling, dating back to medieval Iran. At least as early as the ninth century, it was a widely popular form of story-telling. Dastangos practised their art not just for the public, but in royal palaces as well. They told tales of heroic romance, gallant princes, evil kings, demons, magicians, Jinns, divine emissaries, tricky secret agents called ayyārs, and beautiful princesses who might be humans or Paris (fairies).

The Dastaan comprises five key features that distinguish it from other forms of literature: razm (war), bazm (elegant gatherings), husn o ishq (beauty and love), ayyari (trickery), and tilism (enchantments). They had no specific religious, or social purpose, and existed only for storytelling. Dastangos provided elaborate rhyming prose at high points in the story, especially when describing gardens, nights, women, or battlefields, and inserted verses from well-known poets, and in general catered to the tastes of their listeners. Unfortunately, the art of Dastangoi died out with the advent of the novel, and technological revolution, with the last great Dastango of Delhi dying in 1928. One of the oldest Dastaans is the Dastan-e-Amir Hamza, existing in 46 volumes.

“Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.”

-Sue Monk Kidd