There are seventeen of the hymns, grouped in five divisions, each group taking its name from the opening words; thus Ahunavaiti, Ushtavaiti, etc. Inserted in the midst of the Gathas is the Yasna Haptanghaiti (the Seven-chapter Yasna) consisting of prayers and hymns in honour of the Supreme Deity, Ahura Mazda, the Angels, Fire, Water, and Earth. This selection also shows a more archaic type of language, and stands next to the Gathas in point of antiquity. Its structure though handed down in prose, may once have been metrical. Extensions to the Yasna ceremony include the texts of the Vendidad and the Visperad.

But in the seventh century, with the rise of Islam, the Avesta gave place in Persia to the Koran; Ormuzd sank before Allah; and Zoroaster yielded to Mohammed. These two archetype copies, mentioned in the Dinkard, the Artā-Vīrāf, and the Shatrōihā-i-Airān, were to serve as the standard priestly codes of Vishtāspa’s realm. The faith was to be promulgated throughout the world in accordance with the teaching of these. There is likewise a tradition (see Dk., references above) to the effect that one of these original copies came into the hands of the Greeks and was translated into their tongue. Support for this tradition may perhaps be found in the Arabic lexicon of Bar-Bahlūl , according to which the Avesta of Zoroaster was composed in seven tongues, Syriac, Persian, Aramean, Segestanian, Mervian, Greek, and Hebrew.

V. W. Jackson, Index Verborum of the Fragments of the Avesta, New York, 1901, repr. In addition to the complete texts, more than twenty groups of fragments are known (cf. AirWb., pp. viii-x). 9 where Druuāspā, the goddess who ensures the health of horses, is extolled with formulas borrowed from Yt. 5, enumerating the prestigious sacrificers of the past. 1-8 which serve as introduction to a section called StaotaYesniia, which extends to Y.

14 to Vərəθraγna relates the ten incarnations in which the deity appeared to Zaraθuštra (1-28); enumerates the powers that he bestows on Zaraθuštra in return for his cult (31-33); describes the magic of a particular feather which makes invulnerable in fighting (34-46); and ends with a praise (47-64). Four Āfrinagāns (A.) “blessings” which are recited respectively in honor of the dead, at the five epagomenal days which end the year, at the six feasts of seasons, at the beginning or the end of summer. Five introductory chapters (Intr.), quotations from different passages of the Yasna. II. The Visprad (Vr.) “ all the patrons” (from Av. vīspe ratauuō), composed of twenty-four sections , supplements the Yasna with invocations and appeals to the patrons (ratu-). This article was most recently revised and updated by Brian Duignan.

  • Support for this tradition may perhaps be found in the Arabic lexicon of Bar-Bahlūl , according to which the Avesta of Zoroaster was composed in seven tongues, Syriac, Persian, Aramean, Segestanian, Mervian, Greek, and Hebrew.
  • Rask also established that Anquetil-Duperron’s manuscripts were a fragment of a much larger literature of sacred texts.
  • All the manuscripts of the Pahlavi Visprad derive from K7a .
  • Abraham Hyacinthe Anquetil-Duperron travelled to India in 1755, and discovered the texts among Indian Zoroastrian communities.
  • IV. The Sīrōza “thirty days” enumerates the deities who patronize the thirty days of the month.

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But it shared the fate of the Persian monarchy, it was shattered, though not overthrown, by the conquest of Alexander and fell consequently into neglect under the Seleucid and Parthian dynasties. With the accession of the Sassanian dynasty it met with a great revival. The kings of the house of Sassan were zealous believers and did everything in their power to spread the faith as a national creed, so that its prosperity rose again to the zenith. The heresy of Mazdak for a moment imperilled the union of the Zoroastrian Church and State, and Manichaeism, that menace of early Christian orthodoxy, also threatened the ascendancy of the Iranian national faith, which was really its parent.

A still earlier Syriac manuscript commentary on the New Testament by ‘Ishō’dād, bishop of Ḥadatha, near Mosul , similarly speaks of the Avesta as having been written by Zoroaster in twelve different languages. As for the other archetype copy, which seems to have been the principal one, the direct statement, again of the Pahlavi treatise Dînkard, says that it was burned by Alexander the Great when he invaded Iran. The manuscripts that contain only the Avestan text are called sāda “pure.” The Vidēvdād sāda family contains the entirety of the texts recited during the liturgy of the visprad, i.e., the Yasna enlarged by the formulas of the Visprad and followed by the Vidēvdād.

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One of the most interesting is the thirteenth, or Farvadīn Yasht, on the worship of the spirits (“fravashis”). The doctrine of the ancient Persian faith, which this Yasht contains, has been brought by Paul de Lagarde into connection with the Purim festival. Another Yasht (Yt. 19) is in praise of the kingly glory (“hvarenah”), the halo, sheen, or majesty which surrounds and protects the king as a mark of divine favor (compare Moses’ shining face, Ex. xxxiv. 29). The Vendīdād, in twenty-two chapters, is an Iranian Pentateuch, and it contains numerous parallels of interest to the Biblical student.

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Summaries of the various Avesta texts found in the 9th/10th century texts of Zoroastrian tradition suggest that a significant portion of the literature in the Avestan language has been lost. Only about one-quarter of the Avestan sentences or verses referred to by the 9th/10th century commentators can be found in the surviving texts. This suggests that three-quarters of Avestan material, including an indeterminable number of juridical, historical and legendary texts, have been lost since then.

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Avesta Krylbo is 15 minutes’ walk from the city center. But you don’t need to walk, since all the buses within Avesta municipality are free to use. The modern manuscript H4 , which probably influenced K40, gives an independent version of Yt. 10 and appears to agree with the now unknown manuscript Jm2 that Darmesteter used. A few more fragments are listed by Schlerath, Avesta-Wörterbuch, pp. viii-ix, ; see also A.

The language of the Avesta is best designated simply as Avestan, not as Zend, for the reasons given in the beginning of this article. Nor is Old Bactrian a desirable term, since it is by no means proved that the language of the Avesta was spoken in ancient Bactria. The Avestan language is an Indo-Germanic tongue and belongs more specifically to the Iranian group, the other members being the Old Persian of the cuneiform inscriptions, the Pahlavi, and Pazend , and the later dialects, New Persian, Kurdish, Afghan, etc. The Avestan speech is very closely related to Sanskrit; in fact, we are able to transpose any word from one language into the other by the application of special phonetic laws.

The younger Yasna, though handed down in prose, may once have been metrical, as the Gathas still are. According to the book itself the Avesta represents a direct revelation from Ahuramazda to Zarathushtra. The sacred text (Vend. xxii. 19) mentions “the Forest and the Mountain of the Two Holy Communing Ones”—Ormuzd and Zoroaster—where special intercourse through inspired vision was held between the Godhead and his prophetic representative on earth, as between Yhwh and Moses on Sinai. According to a tradition preserved in the Pahlavi writings (Dk. Bk. 3, end, quoted by West, “Sacred Books of the East,” xxxvii., Introd. 30-32), the Avesta itself was committed to writing at the instance of King Vishtāspa, whom Zoroaster converted to the faith and who became Zoroaster’s patron. The king’s own prime minister, Jāmāspa, had a hand in the redaction as scribe, and Zoroaster’s mantle descended upon him, so that he succeeded the great priest in the pontifical office on the latter’s death (Dk. iv. 21; v. 34; vii. 5, 11).

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R. Cama Oriental Library in Mumbai, the Meherji Rana library in Navsari, and at various university and national libraries in Europe. Hoffmann has been in the center of the renewal of an adequate philological approach to the Avesta. His critical investigations have resulted in his delineating convincingly the history of the formation of the canon and in his establishing an important point of methodology, namely that the extant Avesta is not that of the authors but that of the Sasanian diascevasts.

The Yashts (yeshti, “worship by praise”), of which there are twenty-one, are hymns in honour of various divinities. These hymns are for the most part metrical in structure, and they show considerable poetic merit in certain instances, which is not common in Avesta. They are of especial interest historically on account of the glimpses they afford us of the great mythological and legendary material in the folklore of ancient Iran used so effectively by Firdausi in his great epic of the Persian kings, the “Shah Namah”. The Yashts (from yešti, “worship by praise”) are a collection of 21 hymns, each dedicated to a particular divinity or divine concept.

The Extant Avesta.The Yasna—a liturgical work, comprising seventy-two chapters—contains texts used by the “dastūr,” or priest, in connection chiefly with the sacrifice of “haoma.” In the midst of the Yasna the Gāthās are inserted. For theologians the Gāthās are the most interesting and important part of the Avesta; but at the same time they are by far the most difficult. The testimony of the Mazdean religious tradition is often incoherent and can not be taken literally; it must necessarily be confronted with the results of modern scholarship, which leads to the following picture of the different stages of the formation and transmission of the Avestan texts. The Vendidad, unlike the Yasna and the Visparad, is a book of moral laws rather than the record of a liturgical ceremony.


While every effort has been made to follow citation style rules, there may be some discrepancies. Please refer to the appropriate style manual or other sources if you have any questions. We’ve created a new place where questions are at the center of learning. Avesta has a humid continental climate with sizeable seasonal differences, although much less than would be expected for an interior climate north of 60°N. Being situated at the foot of the higher areas to its west, summer temperatures are warm because of the relatively low elevation of around 100 metres above sea level. Precipitation is quite high by standards of Sweden’s areas closer to the Baltic Sea, which renders the possibility of heavy snowfall in winter.


Abraham Hyacinthe Anquetil-Duperron travelled to India in 1755, and discovered the texts among Indian Zoroastrian communities. He published a set of French translations in 1771, based on translations provided by a Parsi priest. Anquetil-Duperron’s translations were at first dismissed as a forgery in poor Sanskrit, but he was vindicated in the 1820s following Rasmus Rask’s examination of the Avestan language . Rask also established that Anquetil-Duperron’s manuscripts were a fragment of a much larger literature of sacred texts. Anquetil-Duperron’s manuscripts are at the Bibliothèque nationale de France (‘P’-series manuscripts), while Rask’s collection now lies in the Royal Library, Denmark (‘K’-series). Other large Avestan language manuscript collections are those of the British Museum (‘L’-series), the K.

It is similarly used by the Parsee priests to denote the Pahlavi version and commentary, but not the original scriptures. Whether the term Avistak, which is the Pahlavi form of the word Avesta, has the meaning of “text”, “law”, is not absolutely certain. Some scholars interpret it as “wisdom”, “knowledge”. Much had been lost through Alexander, it was claimed; but the number of texts that were still extant was nevertheless considerable, and they represented the ancient Avesta fairly well. The canon was divided into twenty-one nasks, or books. These again were subdivided into three classes, each comprising seven books.

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Only with the invention of the cuneiform Old Persian script would it have been possible to codify the religious texts. However, there is no evidence that the Achaemenids actually did this. Thus, until the beginning of our era, at least, the liturgical texts of Mazdaism could only have formed the subject of an oral tradition preserved by theological schools such as that of Eṣṭaḵr, of which the tradition was not entirely forgotten. It is clear that the writers of the Pahlavi books shared our ignorance of the prehistory of the What is Avesta. However, we can concede that it does preserve the memory of a real break in the religious tradition, or of its splitting into sects, as a result of the absence of a unifying political power after the Greek conquest.

It is on this point that the testimony of the Dēnkard and the Ardā Wirāz-nāmag is obviously the most based on legends and so the least trustworthy; there never was an Avesta set down under the Achaemenids and destroyed or dispersed by the Greek invaders. The Avestan texts can not be dated accurately, nor can their language be located geographically. Its phonetic characteristics prove with absolute certainty only that this is not the dialect of Pārs/Fārs.


The Bundahišn probably contains material from the Čihrdād and Dāmdād (see Darmesteter, ibid., pp. xivf.). The Avestan texts described above have reached us in a version that is, if not complete, at least continuous. They were edited by Geldner in his monumental edition of the Avesta. The entire Avesta, including all the fragments known to him, was translated into French by James Darmesteter. Fritz Wolff, basing himself on the dictionary by Bartholomae, translated into German Geldner’s corpus, with the exception of the Gāthās, which had been translated by Bartholomae himself. As a rule, Wolff is more reliable than Darmesteter, whose translation follows the Pahlavi version.

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