St. Behanan (Mar Behanam) was the prince of a country called ‘Asoor’. Traditionally, the king and the people of Asoor were ‘fire worshipers’. The king of Asoor – father of St. Behanan – Senharib was no exception. But he and the royal family were worried about a kind of leprosy which had affected the princess Sara.
In A D 361, Julian (Julian the apostate) became the emperor of Rome. He hated Christians and tried to eradicate Christianity from his empire. Many Christian monks who lived in monasteries near river Tigris fled away. One among them was Mar Mathai, who went to Persia and lived in a mountain. He was a godly man and many people used to visit him, especially to be healed by him.
One day, prince Behanan had gone to hunt and saw a large deer. He followed it, but could not catch it. Following the deer, he reached the valley of the mountain were Mar Mathai lived. They had to camp in the valley and during that night, Behanan had a dream. In the dream, an angel told Behanan that there is a saint living on the peak of the mountain and that he shall show him the way to eternity.
St. Behanan, his sister Sara and 40 Sahadas
Prince Behanan followed the words of the angel in the dream and climbed the mountain in the morning. He reached the place of Mar Mathai and there he saw the deer that he had followed the previous day. It had a Cross on its forehead. Mar Mathai introduced the prince to the word of gospel and told him that anyone who believed in Jesus, the Son of God, shall live for ever. The prince invited Mar Mathai to his country and told him about the illness of his sister.
Mar Mathai started for Asoor, but did not enter into the town. So, Behanan brought his sister to the saint. He spoke to the princess about Jesus and the miracles that he had done. She believed in the gospel and decided to get baptised. She was baptised by Mar Mathai. When she got out of water, everyone were wondered to find that her illness was cured.
The prince Behanan and some people along with him believed in Jesus Christ and requested Mar Mathai to baptise them. Mar Mathai baptised them and warned them about the sufferings they would go through in the hands of the King and the fire worshippers. They stated that they were happy to die for Jesus Christ.
King Senharib tried to persuade his son and daughter to denounce Christianity, but in vain. Due to the disturbances they had faced, Behanan, Sara and their fellow Christians decided to move to the place of Mar Mathai. But the king sent his soldiers who intercepted them and killed all of them. The prince and the princess died with a prayer to the Lord not to count the sin on their parents but to guide them to the true faith.
After some time, the king became ill and started hurting himself like haunted. So, Mar Mathai was brought to Asoor again. The prayers of the holy man healed the king,who believed in Jesus and was baptised along with his family and countrymen. Thus the prayer of St. Behanan was heard. The king helped Mar Mathai to build a church and monastery at his place.
A memorial of martyrdom (Martyrium) was built to respect the faith of St. Behanan, princess Sara and the 40 sahadas who died with them. Later, a church was also founded here in their name.
There are pictures in Niranam Church, which depicts the scene of Prince Behanan reaching the monastery of Mar Mathai and seeing the deer with a cross on its forehead. Though the Orthodox Church celebrates the feast of St. Behanan on the 10th of December, for some reason, the feast is celebrated on 27 th of December at the Niranam Church.