Persian Panda

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A young Panda

There have been legends of the Persian Panda, or "Sacred Bears", living in the far north-eastern valleys of Persia, or even further east in the Hindu Kush mountain range (south west Himalayas), since ancient times (long before the human race, in fact). The sacred bears are described as having black and white fur and eating only a vegetarian diet. However, their presence has never been fully substantiated, perhaps because of the high reverence in which they are held (or maybe just because they hide a lot). Because of their sacred nature, no local people would ever have tried to hunt or capture them (the locals are usually waaaaaay too stoned to hunt anything, anyway - Luckily - since all their hunts end with serious injuries to the hunters). The inaccessibility of these high mountains, with their impassable heights and many hidden valleys, also must have helped to keep them safe.

The earliest written reference to the "sacred bears" is in the sixth century BCE by Scylax the explorer. Scylax had been sent by the Emperor Darius I of Persia to explore the ancient land of Gandhara, (today southern Afghanistan and the Punjab region), and trace the Indus river to the sea. During his extended time in Gandhara, Scylax "learned" of the hidden valley and travelled there to discover and write about it's population of sacred bears. The Emperor however, was fairly sure that Scylax wrote this "story" to cover up his long & unexplained absence and blatant overuse of the royal gold (still the sacred bears story was a good one and saved Scylax from a fate worse than death).

Persian Panda were considered sacred because they had chosen to eat only vegetation to avoid killing and eating other animals. The people of Gandhara believed that being vegetarian showed a great capacity for compassion and therefore indicated a high level of enlightenment in the sacred bears. However, there have always been disquieting rumours of secret night-time feasts held by rambunctious bands of sacred bears. Suspicion has been aroused by the sheer number of sheep which tend to go missing around the time of these feasts. Supporters of the sacred bears point to the strong empirical evidence against these obviously false and heretical theories: "Awwwww, look at them - they look completely innocent, don't they...?"

Ahmad ibn Rustah Esfahani, the famous 10th century Persian explorer, tells of travelling a long way east through the mountains and of eventually discovering the hidden sacred valley. There he saw numerous Panda bear living in peace and harmony with all other living things. He described the valley as lush green and full of birds, butterflies and all manner of life, surrounded by high barren mountains. He believed that it was the original Garden of Eden (which has always been described as being in the East). His wife was known to wonder (often, loudly and bitterly - and usually just before a major fight broke out involving rolling pins and loose teeth) why he had spent so much time in his "Garden of Eden"???

In ancient myths and legends, the Persian Panda is the embodiment of universal love. Legends describe how, after the creation of all living things, the Creator had a great deal of love left over. He poured all of this into one last perfect creation, the Persian Panda. According to the legends, this is why anyone who sees a Panda can only feel love for it. Well, that was Ahmad ibn Rustah Esfahani's only excuse, he claimed "it wasn't his fault, the Creator made them that way..."