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Zoroastrian Heritage

Author: K. E. Eduljee

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Contents

Avestan Texts

Introduction

Avesta Texts & Translations

Gatha Texts & Translations

Organization of the Avesta

System One - Five Sections

System Two - Two Sections

Avesta Contents

Yasna

Visperad

Vendidad

Yasht

Khordeh Avesta

Fragment Including:
Afringan, Gahs & Sirozah

Suggested Prior Reading:

» Overview page: Zoroastrian Religious Texts


Introduction

The Zoroastrian scriptures are called the Avesta and the classical explanations, interpretations and commentaries are called the Zend or Zand. An old edition of the Avesta with Zand interspersed is called the Zend Avesta or Zand Avesta.

The Avesta contains books written in various but related old Indo-Iranian languages, broadly called the Avestan languages. The Zand is written in Middle Persian Pahlavi, the language that preceded modern Persian.


Avesta Texts & Translations

The surviving Avestan texts are available for reading on the web and the following links are to sites that maintain translations and in many cases, the original text in Latin script.

At our site:
» Introduction to the Avesta with some translations by Martin Haug (see Essay III)
At avesta.org:
» Yasna, Gathas, Hom Yasht
» Vendidad       » Visperad      » Yashts
» Khordeh Avesta (Kanga)      » Khordeh Avesta
» Baj      » Gah      » Nyaish      » Afringan      » Sirozeh      » Fragments

Not on-line:
- Yashts (1976), Yasna (1977), Vendidad (1977), Gathas (1978), Khordeh Avesta (1980), Navjote Prayers (1985) Transliterated Avestan texts, translations and commentary by Tehmurasp Rustamji Sethna, mainly self-published, Karachi.


Gatha Text & Translations

At our site:
» Introduction to the Gathas with some translations by Martin Haug (see Essay III)
Available on-line:
At zarathushtra.com: » D. J. Irani translation (pdf)
At zarathushtra.com: » Azargosha translation (pdf)
At zoroaster.com » Maneck Kanga translation
At avesta.org: » Jatindra Mohan Chatterji translation (image files)
At zoroastrian.org: » Ali Jafarey translation
Audio files: » Gathas recited by Kersey Antia

Not on-line:
- The Religion Of Zarathushtra (Arun Naik, Akshar Pratiroop Pvt. Ltd. c. 1980) contains English translations by Dr. I. J. S. Taraporewala.
- The Teachings of Zarathushtra, the prophet of Iran, on How to Think and Succeed in Life transliterated Avestan texts and translations by Tehmurasp Rustamji Sethna (Self Published, 1978, Karachi).

Western or collaborative translations on-line:
- At sacred-texts.com » Mill's translation
- At avesta.org Bartholomae's translation in five parts: » (1) Chapters 28-34,         » (2) Chapters 43-46,         » (3) Chapters 47-50,         » (4) Chapters 51 &         » (5) Chapters 53
- At azargoshnasp.net Helmut Humbach - Pallan Ichaporia translation in four (pdf) parts: » (1) Chapters 27-30,         » (2) Chapters 30-37,         » (3) Chapters 38-46 &         » (4) Chapters 47-53/54.

Western translations not on-line:
- The Gathas of Zarathustra by Stanley Insler (1975, Acta Iranica IV, Leiden: Brill)

Article on Encyclopaedia Iranica Gathas: i) Texts by Helmut Humbach and ii) Translations by William Malandra.


Organization of the Avesta

The Avesta that has survived destruction is organized in different ways.


System One - Five Sections

One system organizes them as five books and miscellaneous fragments - the manner in which they are published in print. And this can vary from one edition to the next, especially in the composition of the Khordeh Avesta selections. The five books are the Yasna (including the Gathas), Visperad, Vendidad, Yashts and Khordeh Avesta.


System Two - Two Sections

Another system divides the Avesta into two sections:

The first section consists of the Vendidad, Visperad and Yasna - texts used in priestly liturgies of the inner circle. The manuscripts are found in two different forms: separately, each with a Pahlavi translation, and together, with chapters of each book intermingled according to the requirements of a particular liturgy. The latter form does not contain Pahlavi translations and is therefore called the Vendidad Sadah (plain).

The second section consists of the Khordeh Avesta - texts for liturgies of the outer circle and those used by both, priest and laity in their daily prayers and activities. Under this system, the balance of the texts not found in the first section are found in this section - texts including the Yashts.


Avesta Contents

Yasna

Yasna (also spelt izeshne in later texts) means service, prayers and dedications - the words of worship (cf. Sanskrit yajna and yana). Priests recite the Yasna as part of the liturgy when performing their priestly duties and functions. The gathas or hymns of Zarathushtra are part of the book of Yasna.


Visperad

The Visperad is recited as part of the liturgy used to solemnize Gahambars (seasonal gatherings and feasts) and Nowruz (New Year's Day). The Visperad is always recited with the Yasna.


Vendidad

The name Vendidad is a later form of Videvdat, which is in turn a contraction of Vi-Daevo-Data, the law against devas or evil. They are the prayers used by priests in purification ceremonies. The Vendidad is also a store of Zoroastrian history.


Yasht

The Yasht (yasht is commonly translated as worship) are hymns dedicated to Zoroastrian ideals together with the related angel (such as the ideals of friendship, the word as bond, and kindness, and the guardian of these ideals - the angel Mithra), and Zoroastrian concepts such as the fravashi. Originally there were thirty Yashts, one dedicated to each named day of the month. Today only twenty one survive. The Yashts are sometimes recited by the laity as prayers on the named day of the month or on an specific occasion (for instance the Farvardin Yasht, dedicated to the Fravashis, is recited during memorials).


Khordeh Avesta

The Khordeh Avesta, or concise Avesta, are selections of the Avesta used by the laity for daily prayers or when performing certain tasks. The Yashts, either in their entirety or selected Yashts, are sometimes included in the Khordeh Avesta since both are recited as prayers by the laity.

Included in the Khordeh Avesta are the baj prayers said before undertaking a task. The baj are also prayers said for the dead on the occasion of a death anniversary. The baj can be recited before eating or drinking when it can be compared to grace said by Christians.

Also included in the Khordeh Avesta are the niayesh which in Persian means prayers - prayers recited in conjunction with gahs. The gahs, in turn, are prayers for the five periods of the day.


Fragments

Included in the Avestan fragments are the afringans which are liturgies of the outer circle - blessings offered during a Jashne / Jashan (thanksgiving) ceremony, and the Siroozeh or Sirozah (also called Siroja Yasht in India), short dedications to the thirty days of the month.

As mentioned above, the gahs are prayers for the five periods of the day.

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Zoroastrian Scripture pages:

» Avesta / Scriptures: Texts, Translations, Content Description

» History: Composition, Transmission, Compilation, Destruction

» Avestan Manuscripts

» Scripture Selections: Choosing the Path

Additional Reading

» Avestan, Iranian, Persian Languages. Scripts

» Site Contents


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