MAYADANAWA

Mayadanava and Beyond

Zoroastrian Gatha: an interim Revelation in context of Avestan/Vedic and early Aryans’ religious blunder

By Dr.P.R.Palodhi

While Abrahamic monotheism was revitalizing the religion of God, a different development was taking place in early Aryans’ religion. This especially reflected in the context of Indo-Iranians who composed two great scriptures known as Persian Avesta and Hindu Rig Veda; and called themselves Aryans (Airya/Airyanin the Avesta and Arya/Aryan in the Vedas). Primitive Aryans had intriguing kinship with mysterious race of gods which continued to prevail in their languages: devas in Sanskrit (daevas in Persian), theos in Greek,deus in Latin, dewas in Lithuanian, dia in Irish, duy in Cornish, and diews in old Prussian etc. When a section of Indo-Iranians began to worship their cherished devas by denying or even defiling the Creator God – again a religious conflict became obvious. In this context an interim Revelation came by raising Persian Prophet Zoroaster within among the Indo-Iranians. Prophet Zoroaster exalted by glorifying the Name of God that was waning due to waxing of their deva-worships.

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First O AHURA MAZDA, that I perform all deeds with Right, of the beneficent  Spirit, with wisdom of Good Thought, So I may serve the Soul of the Creation” (Yasna, 28.1). [The root of the word ‘Ahura‘ (Asura in Vedic) is √Ahu / Asu – meaning   ‘giver of life’ in both traditions [1]; and Mazda in Persian means: Supreme Wise/ Master.]

Prophet conveyed what God revealed as regard the ‘root cause’ behind religious conflicts between pro-God and pro-deva factions within among Indo-Aryans: Now, these two primeval Spirits (Manyus) who are known as skilful twins, they both in thought and in word, and in deed are – one Wise and the other Evil; and out of these two, indeed, the spiritually wise chose aright discernibly, not the evil one”. “When these equally placed opposites (Manyus) met together (in a hostile manner) in the beginning, ‘SAT’ (Truth that shall exist) and ‘ASAT’ (Falsehood that shall not exist) were formed…” (Yasna 30: 3-4). [The word ‘Sat‘ is derived from the root √As from Asu; opposite is ‘Asat‘].

Similar reminder came again in Qur’an: (6: 112-113): ‘Likewise God has appointed unto every prophet an adversary – devils of mankind and jinn who inspire in one another plausible discourse through guile. If thy Lord willed, they would not do so; so leave them alone with their devising”. “That the heart of those who believe not in the Hereafter may incline thereto, and that that they may take pleasure therein. And that they may earn what they are earning’.

In both Bible and Qur’an – the mention of Zoroastrianism remained tacit. Bible mentioned Zoroastrian ‘Cyrus the Great’ as Shepherd of Lord and his anointed Messiah (Ish. 44:28; 45:1); the name of Cyrus occurs 23 times, Darius 25 times, Xerxes 30 times, Artaxerxes  15 times, Medes and Media for 21 times. The Qur’an reveals waning and waxing of prophet Zoroaster’s Light in connection to those who say ‘we believe in God’ – without really believing; and make mischief on earth by saying ‘we only put things aright’ (Q, 2: 10-11). Then Qur’an goes to reveal: Their parable is like the parable of one who kindled a fire, but when it had illuminated all around him, God took away their light  and left them  in darkness – they do not see‘ (Q, 2:17). Though Persian Prophet Zoroaster is the most obscure of the Abrahamic line of Prophets, yet Zoroastrian history adds another dimension in humanity’s quest for religious truths by unveiling some mysteries of the Aryans’ bygone past.

A. PERSPECTIVE OF ARYNAS’ ORIGIN: 

(i) Pre-historic antiquity: Revelations in Bible and Qur’an are basically focused upon generations after Adam, and not the pre-Adamic races – some of which continue to exist and many of whom have exalted as gods and goddesses in the post Flood world. The ancestral roots of the Aryans go into those races of gods – as we know from proto-Aryan folklores, Persian Avesta and particularly in Indic Vedas via mythopoetic obscurantism of god (deva), man (manava) and demons (danava). Though these are myths but myths cannot rise without ‘footholds’ upon truths – which become apparent when myths in diverging traditions bank upon some common mentions. In Vedic theology, ‘Vivasvant‘ married Saranyu, the daughter of his brother Tvashtar, and gave birth to twins: Yama (son) and Yami (daughter) from Saranyu. Then Vedic seers carved a mythical birth of Manu from Saranyu’s replica Suvarna (Brihaddevata 7/1). Now in context of these mentions, Mallory [2] noticed that: the proto-Aryan ‘yem‘  (twine) underlines the name of a god common to the Indo-Iranians (Indic Yama; Avestan Yima), Norse ‘Ymir‘, German ‘Tuisto‘ (Vedic Tvashtar), Celts ‘Emuin‘ – all curiously meaning ‘Twine‘ – who becomes a progenitor of mankind in their exegeses. In Norse Aryan mythology, their version of mankind is formed from remains of a giant whose name, ‘Ymir‘, has also been derived from proto-Indo-European word for ‘twine’. According to Roman sources, Tacitus in his Annals and Histories informed how the early Germans were descendants ofMannus and Tuisto, the latter of which again means twine. Among the Celts we have a tale relating to a myth in which Macha gave birth to ‘emuin‘ (twine), again derived from ‘yem‘. ‘Analysis of all these tales indicates that these proto-Indo-Europeans believed that behind origin of mankind (of their version) the progenitors were both ‘man’ (Indic Manu, German Mannus) and ‘god’ called ‘Twine’, the latter of which was sacrificed and carved up by his brother to produce mankind’.

Shahnameh mentioned: in the early centuries of Aryan migration to Iran the first kingdom established in Balkh and it was called ‘Jam‘ or ‘Yimaa‘ (also meaning as ‘sea, Ocean’). Zend Avesta related a story in which Yima vanquished the “daeva worshippers” of Varena. This takes us to Vedic god Varuna under whose friendship once Vedic Aryans hoped to dwell for hundred years and who rules the realm of the blessed dead at the top of the universe “as long as days and dawns shall endure,” as a stanza puts it (RV, VII. 88. 4).’ Varena is usually identified with the Old Persian Varkana, the Hyrcania of the Greeks which was located southeast of the Caspian Sea. Malcom’s ‘History of Ancient Persia’ posits that for 2598 years some four dynasties ruled over Persia (name was different) from Yima Vivanghao (Yama Vaivasvant in Sanskrit) in whose time the Deluge commenced, i.e., in 9844 BC. In connexion to word ‘Yima‘, the rule of these four dynasties ended therefore in approximately 7200 BC. By this time, Kai Vishtaspa became ruler of Persia. Sage Kaksivan (RV I. 122: 13) speaks of one Istasva. This king is supposed to have ruled for 120 years, and so his period can be fixed to about 7100 BC. The Avestan book of Vendidad starts with a list of sixteen nations (Chapter 1, 1-16), the first being Airyanem Vaejo.

vendidadnations.jpg

Airyana Vaeja. Vendidad Nations

The Vendidad, and indeed the entire Avesta, does not mention Persia or Media. This was because Persia and Media became nations after the Avestan canon was closed [3]. We become dependent more on Vedic accounts because there is an inexplicable gap in history of Mazdaism after the closing of the Avestan canon and the start of Median and Persian history (800 BC).

Brahminical myths suggest that Rig Vedic people were primarily descendants of Manu and gods likeTvashtarVivasvant, and Yima – and also from marriage between sage Kashyapa (Persian: Kashaf, a descendant of Brahma of Hindu myth) and thirteen daughters of Vedic god Daksha’s (from line of Agni in MBh) – who become the mother goddesses behind the procreations of devas (gods), daityasdanavas,manavas (humans). Among these daughters, Aditi was the prime mother-goddess of Vedic devas. Rig Veda sings the praise of Aditi: ‘Aditi is the sky; Aditi is the air; Aditi is all gods…; Aditi is the Mother, the Father, and Son; Aditi is whatever shall be born.’ (Rig Veda, I. 89.10). Another daughter Danu was the mother of various men including danavas, gifted with great strength and vigour (among them were the great asuras). In fact, the term ‘Danu‘ or danava appears to form the substratum of Indo-European identity at the base of the Hellenic, Illyro-Venetic, Italo-Celtic, Germanic and Balto-Slavic elements. And intriguingly the names of the main rivers Don, Donets, Dnieper, Dniester and Danube – have come from the Indo-European word Danus (Damos in Latin and Greek). The northern Greeks were called Danuni; the Celts called themselves “Tuatha De Danaan“; Irish epic tells the struggle between the Children of Domnu, representing darkness and evil, and the Children of Danu, representing light and good. Vedic people called descendants of goddess Danu as danavas (an inimical people like dasyu) who were generally enemies of the Vedic people and their gods. Hailing from Su-Danus, Prophet Zoroaster denounced Vedic devas – hence deva-asura split later became more obvious. Vedic apathy for danavas points to the fact that, just as the split between deva – asura or arya – dasyu/dasas (dasas i.e. servant of God) reflects the split between the Vedic Hindus and the Persians, likewise the deva – danava split reflects an even earlier division between the proto-Indian Aryans and the proto-European Aryans. Similar to Vedic pantheon, its Greek, Germanic etc counterparts, continued with the clans of anthropomorphic deities as well as deified natural phenomena. And like the wars between devas and asuras in Vedic, there had been Germanic clashes between “wealth mongering Vanir” and “warlike Aesir” races of gods.

(ii) Primordial Conflicts between Mazda & deva worshippers in Persian scriptres: Persian source [3] informed the beginning of God worship in Aryans as against deva worship which Indic Vedas always tried to promote. From Persian Avest (verse 13.87 of the Farvardin Yasht) & Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh we come to know that God worship in Aryans began from the time of the first Aryan king Gaya Maretan whose line descends as follows:

Gaya Maretan → Siyamak → Hushang → Tahmuras → Vivaghant (Sans: Vivasvant)

Arenavachi      Sanhavachi      Yima (Jamshid)    Abtin

                                                                                                        (After Flood)                 

                                                                                                                                  —–

                                                                                                                                     ↓  

                                                                                                       Feridoon (Thraetaona)

Gaya Maretan and his people were the first ‘Mazdayasn‘ meaning Mazda worshippers, the worshippers of God. Alongside in the Avesta’s Aban (Avan) Yasht (5.94), we read of the Daevayasni, the daevaworshippers. In Vendidad’s chapter 19, the Daevayasni are juxtaposed against the Mazdayasni. Unlike the invisible, non-anthropomorphic, and non-iconic Mazda (meaning Supreme Wise God), devas are represented and worshipped as idols or graven images. The kingdom of Gaya Maretan was attacked bydivs led by Ahriman’s son and killed Gaya Maretan’s son Siyamak. After a bitter period of mourning, Gaya Maretan assembled a large army led by his grandson Hushang, and Mazda worshippers then defeated thedeva worshippers in a second battle. While this second battle established the Mazdayasni as the dominant religious group, the two groups continued to live together in close proximity.

According to the Zend Avesta, Yima, son of Vivanghvant (Vivasvant in Vedic), was given charge over the earth to maintain it, and when men had filled it to capacity; he was given charge to making it bigger. The ancient Avestan name for King Jamshid was Yima-Srira or Yima-Khshaeta, meaning Yima the radiant. His abode was Airyanem Vaejah. The Vendidad tells us that in the first part of his reign, legendary King Jamshid (Yima) had doubled the extent of his lands to accommodate a population increase. He was calledYama in the Hindu Vedas: “Yama was the first who found for us the route. This home is not to be taken from us.Those who are now born, (go) by their own routes to the place whereunto our ancient forefathers emigrated.” (Atharva Veda xviii.1.49 & Rig Veda x.14.1). The Hindu reverence for Yama (King Jamshid) grew at the same time when he lost favour with the Mazdayasni (predecessors of the Zoroastrians); it is recorded that King Yima lost his grace, grew too proud and thought himself a god. The Vedic verses appear to state that the lands Yima acquired became part of the permanent home of the Hindus. Following Jamshid’s loss of grace, the vassal kings and lords of Airyana Vaeja withdrew from the court of Jamshid and Airyana Vaeja. A hundred years later, weakened by internal dissention, Airyana Vaeja was invaded by an evil foreign king, Zahak (Azi Dahaka in the Avesta). That event marked the end of the first tragic epic cycle in Aryans’ God worship and also the end of the first part of Pishdadian royal rule. The foreign domination supported by the deva worshippers lasted for a thousand years until their liberation by Feridoon. At the end of the Jamshidi (i.e. Yima era), dominance would shift to the deva worshippers, after which it would move back and forth between the two groups.  Nevertheless, until, their separation into the nations of Iran and India, they did coexist, possibly within a community or in adjacent communities.

(iii) Trāyastriṃśa devas and the asuras: Let us have a look into another story that scholars have [4] unveiled from the bygone history: It is the Trāyastriṃśa world, on the peak of Mount Sumeru, where theasuras formerly lived in with the other gods (devas) of that world. By using their knowledge of the plants (producing wine) devas initially could fool the asuras. When Śakra (a name of Indra) became the ruler of that world, the asuras celebrated by drinking a lot of Gandapāna wine, a liquor so strong that Śakra forbade the other gods to drink it. Weakened by their drunkenness, the asuras could not resist when Śakra had the whole lot of them thrown over the edge of Trāyastriṃśa into what would become the asura-world at the base of Sumeru. A tree grows there called Cittapātali; when the asuras saw it blossom, they saw that it was different from the Pāricchattaka (Sanskrit: Pāriyātra) tree which had grown in their old home, and they knew that they were dispossessed. They now meditated on war. In armor and weapons, they climbed up the steep slopes of Sumeru “like ants”. Śakra set out to meet them, but was forced to retreat because of their numbers. Passing through the forest where the garudas live on his flying chariot, Śakra saw that his passage was destroying the nests of the garudas and ordered his charioteer Mātali to turn back. When the pursuing asuras saw Śakra turn about, they felt certain that he must be coming back with an even larger army, and they fled, ceding all the ground they had gained. Despite their many wars, there was eventually a partial concord between the Trāyastriṃśa devas and the asuras. This came about because Śakra fell in love with Sujā, daughter of the asura chief Vemacitrin. Vemacitrin had given Sujā the right to choose her own husband at an assembly of the asuras, and she chose Śakra, who had attended disguised as an aged asura. Vemacitrin thus became Śakra’s father-in-law. Traditionally inherited records thus unveil many events of bygone antiquity.

B. THE HISTORIC ARYANS & ARRIVAL OF THE PERSIANS

Scientific investigations could trace back Aryan’s origin to a common ancestor in Eurasia some 6000 years ago who occupied region around Dnieper river on the west and the Ural on the east. In later course of history, Aryans had established their settlements in northwestern Iran from about 2000 BC and that the Kassites and Mitannis had their rules between 1700 BC and 1400 BC. The other two peoples of the same race that successively rose to great powers during first millennium BC were the Medes and the Persians. So close was their racial affinity that the Biblical and classical writers generally use their names as alternative terms. The Medes or Mada are first mentioned by their names in the Assyrian inscriptions in the ninth century BC. Origin of the Persian goes back to Neo-Elamite period; it is characterized by a significant migration of Iranians to the Iranian plateau. Assyrian sources beginning around 800 BC distinguish the ‘powerful Medes’, i.e. the actual Medes, and the ‘distant Medes’ that would later enter history under their proper names, (Parthians, Sagartians, Margians, Bactrians, Sogdians etc). Among these pressuring tribes were the Parsu, first recorded in 844 BC as living on the  southeastern shore of  Lake Urmiah near Caspian Sea, but who by the end of this period would cause the Elamites’ original home, the Iranian Plateau, to be renamed Persia proper.

We must draw attention to the Persians who proclaimed their Aryan heritage. Within among Indo-Aryans there had been a Semitic line belonging to Prophet Abraham’s lineage (from his wife Katurah) that went east ward (Gen, 25: 6); they apparently lost Semitic identities but impregnated Aryan races with the Prophetic purports. Semitic character of Old Persian inscription was proved beyond doubt by Rawlinson [5]. But we find that the Achaemenian Persian Kings (700 – 330 BC) repeatedly proclaimed their Aryan heritage. This is aftermath of the cultural syncretism which has a parallel in India’s context. Pre-Vedic Saivites (adherent of monotheism) once had protracted religious battles against polytheist Vedic adversaries [6]; the origins of both Saivism and Vaisnavism lay out side system of Vedic religion, but after cultural syncretism they are so tuned in Vedic fold that now they have no identity beyond the terms of Vedic Aryans. But present Y-chromosome study is unveiling the existence of Semitic lineage in India’s religious tradition.

(i) Situation before Zoroaster: All Aryan tribes in very ancient time showed great respect for the dead and they carefully distinguished man from the gods (Rig Veda, X: 56, 4); but later depiction of devas has obscured truth by mystifying them as the powers of Nature: the wind, fire water, sky, sun, earth, and a host of personifications. Beside Vedic gods, MithraBaal,AttisAdonisBacchus and Horus etc were various conceptions of the sun-deity, which received worship respectively from Persia, Babylon, Syria, Palestine and Greece, which continued beyond the time of Zoroaster. As Aryans were plunging into paganism, some worshipped Mazda God from the time of the first Aryan king Gaya Maretan (Farvardin Yasht, 13.87). The old religion of the Magi, the elite priestly caste of Media in north-west Iran believed in the whole pantheon of supernatural beings – daevas, who had fallen from grace because of their corruption of mankind. There are clear indications in the Avesta that the religion of the Medes and Persians before Zoroaster’s time agreed in most respects with the Indian Aryans and in a less degree with the beliefs of the Aryans in general. Herodotus tells us that the Persians in his time worshipped sun, moon, sky, earth and water (i, 131). And many Persians worshipped ‘fire’ as another son of Ahura Mazda. Especially the ‘Avestan’ and ‘Vedic’ heritages inherited a common tradition of ‘fire worship’ (and in this context relevant point is that the ‘Jinns are created from fire’). Rig Veda begins: ‘Agnimile Purohitam‘ (Laud Agni the chosen priest); and Sam Veda begins: ‘Agno a yahi beetoey greenano habyo datoye‘ (O Agni come for our pleasure…). The sacred thread (Av. Aivyonhana/ Sans. Upavitam) around the body plays important part in both traditions, and so do charms, mantras, worship rituals and the thirty three gods (Mitra/MithraSoma/HomaIndra andAgni) etc, are common to both early Indo and Perso Aryans. The ancient Persians’ 26th of the ‘Haoma Yasht’ states that God has given a natural star-studded girdle (it is actually the Milky-way) or the ‘belt of Orion’ – this is Haoma to Persian & Soma of the Indians; which has turned into presiding deity of the Vedic theology. Thus the procreative powers received excessive adorations that ultimately led to utter religious corruptions: equating devas with Supreme God by self-fancies, setting terms of worship and imposing caste system for their personal gains.

C. ADVENT OF PROPHET ZOROASTER:

In above mentioned background, Persian Prophet Zoroaster was raised within among Indo-Persian line of Su-Danus descending from sage Kashyapa. In Hindu mythologies, Kashyapa (Persian: Kashaf) is the son of Marici who is again amongst the six mind-born sons (manas-putra) of Brahma (Hindu ‘Brahma’ has striking similarity with Prohet Abraham which Jesuits have pointed at first. This will be discussed in another article). He is known to have born in Mazar-I-Sharif, which is now in Afghanisthan. Zoroastrian Mazda-Worship is known as Mazdayasni Ahura-Tkaesha (Farvardin Yasht’s verses 89 & 90). Prophet Zoroaster’s religion was a continuation of Abrahamic monotheism in Aryan world. Early Magis used to call Zarathrustra as ‘Ibrahim Zardusht‘ (see: d’Herbelot’s ‘Bibliotheca Orientalis’, 1697). Zoroastrian scripture Dasatir-14 has mention of Abraham and prediction about coming of the Final Prophet (i.e. Muhammad) [7]. He arrived to restore the Abrahamic monotheism i.e., ‘submission to the Supreme God’ and shunning the worship of false gods and wayward religiose cults that equate infinite God with His own finite creations. After A. H. Anquetil Duperron’s publications (1771) based on original manuscripts collected from Parsees of India, we come to know more about their scripture. Let us reflect to the Zoroastrian Gatha (Sassanian period) possessed by the Indian Persees from where we could trace out common roots of Abrahamic religion with regard to Adam and the Satan Iblis (as mentioned in Qur’an) in mutilated forms (Yasna 30-6):

 ‘Ayắ (of these two Manyus) nōit (not) әrәš (properly) viṣyātā (discriminated)

Daēvā-cinā (Deva race from) hyaṯ (because) Īṡ (Cupid) Ādәbōmā (?).

Pәrәsmanәṉg (those in contact) upā-jasaṯ(weakened together).

[Īṡ and Ādәbōmā existed in a mutilated form.  Īṡ has been translated as Cupid i.e. Satan who deceives. (In Qur’an he is Iblis). Ādәbōmā is not a form of verb, had it been a verb it would have been dәbhāmā.Geldner has noted many variants in its texts which show that there were doubts and differences of opinions about the origin of this word. Source:Ardeshir Framji Khabardar, p. 247] [1]

Prophet Zoroaster came with a message to a nation whose adoration was centered on ‘fire’. And later, Prophet Muhammad came with the Universal message to the world of polytheism that worshipped everything in nature – the sun, the moon, the stars, water, air, trees and so forth. There has been a misconception about Zoroastrians that they are worshipers of sun, instead of God. True Zoroastrians did not equate sun with God; Prophet Zarathrustra was ordained with a task of establishing a solar observatory on an island on Helmand Lake in Eastern Iran in order to establish the correct time of the Spring Equinox. It was used to measure the exact time of NoRuz, the Persian New Year, which would be the equivalent of an astronomically precise Easter. Since very ancient time Indo-Europeans are known to observe in the spring the New Year, NuRoz (means New Day). As to the Winter Solstice, the Indo-Europeans celebrated a Yule tide festival at mid winter. The early followers of Zarathrustra, or perhaps even Zarathrustra himself used to observe a Mid Winter Gahan Bar, but either because of a renewal of the early tradition, or for other reasons, it got mixed up with the Yule tide and became what is now   known asYalda. These festivals were concentrated on studying preaching and singing the Gathas for ‘Five Gathas Days’.

In spite of the decline of Persian Empire and eventual near-extinction of Zoroastrianism, so great was this religion’s vitality and so appealing were many of its conceptions and precepts that much of Zoroaster’s creed lives on in the religions of Israel and Christ. According to Max Mullar, if the western march of the Persian Empire had not been stopped at the decisive battles of Marathon and Salamis, Zoroastrianism would have been the prevailing religion of Europe and the Americas. 

(i) Time of Zoroaster’s Gatha: In Atharva Veda (XV: 6-12) we find a mention of Gatha. But any mention of Veda or other Hindu books are absent in Zoroastrian scriptures. This shows that Gathas are of an earlier date than the Sanskrit Vedas. Persian Avesta and Indic Vedas were evidently written long after Abraham when pictorial languages of the old world had already well developed into alphabetic languages. The meter of the Gatha hymns is historically related to the Vedic Tristubh-Jagati family of meters. Hymns of these meters are recited, not sung. Language and poetry in metrical structure are the common traits of Hindu Vedas, Iranian Gathas and Greek lyrics, but unknown to the ancient pictorial languages of Mesopotamians and Egyptians. We are thus acquainted with old Vedic related three dialects of ancient Persian: (i) a special form of Cuneiform inscription; (ii) the Gathic part of Yasna, and (iii) the remaining portion of Avesta.

When Zarathrustralived, the clans of Indo-Iranians or Persians did not have the same script that we find in their later scriptures; for many centuries their religious works were handed down orally. Estimates of antiquity of Zoroastrianismvary widely depending upon the source used. Extensive work of Mary Boyce [8] on the history of Zoroastrianism dates time of Zoroaster between 1400-1000 BC; ‘The Bundahisn’ or Creation, an important text within religion cites the time of Zoroastrianism as 258 years before Alexander’s conquest of Persia in 330 BC (i.e., 588 BC). But   again Xanthus of Lydia, a historian of 500 BC put him 600 years before Xerxes (486-465 BC) which would take him back to 1100 BC. Archaic language of Gatha is no way suggestive of 600 BC; rather it suggests the antiquity more than 1000 BC. Iranian proper names and place-names start being mentioned in the cuneiform documents of Assyria and Babylonia in the 9th century BC. Median, spoken by the tribes who founded the first Iranian empire (673-549 BC), is only scantily and indirectly known.

(ii) Formalization of scripture: The Gathas (Gāθās) of Zoroaster are the most sacred texts of the Zoroastrian faith which but lack original languages of the Prophet. The ancient Indo-European Gathic language is long extinct. But from what we know of the Zoroastrian scripts, it could have been done long after that the Sassanians (560 AD) canonized Avesta into 21 nasks in Pahlavi language. When the Yasnaswere collected during the Sassanian period some confusion crept in to the order of Gatha either due to ignorance or by some other causes. After they learnt writing through the native Elamites, Assyrians and Babylonians, Persians inheriting Zoroastrianism through the Midian sources have compiled Avesta during the Achaemenian period (550-330 BC). Achaemenian Empire was devastated by Alexander (321 BC); afterwards scattered records of Avesta texts were recollected by the Parthians (250 BC). The theocratic Sassanian Empire (651 AD) collapsed and only after 10th century AD the Avesta has been reshaped into more than six books. Zoroastrian doctrine exists via later age traditions of Zend Avesta and the sectarian Dasatir. The earliest part of Zoroastrian teachings is Gatha. The 17 hymns of the Gathas consist of 238 verses, of about 1300   lines or 6000 words in total. They were later incorporated into the 72-chapter Yasna (chapter: ha or had, from the Avestan ha’iti, ‘cut’), which in turn is the primary liturgical collection of texts within the greater compendium of the Avesta. The Gathic ‘Staota Yesnya’, the Divine messages of Prophet Zarathrustra have remained greatly in tact in between the chapters – because every generation of priests have had it well in memory. The Gatha of Zoroaster is   presumed to have begun from 28th Yasna. The 17 hymns are identified by their chapter numbers in the Yasna, and are divided into five major sections: Ahunavaiti Gatha, Ushtavaiti Gatha, Spenta Mainyu Gatha, Vohu Khshathra Gatha, and Vahishto Ishti Gatha. The six books are:

1) Yasna (veneration) – with 72 haiti (chapter):

2) Vespered (all- festivals);

3) Yashts  (venerated);

4) Vendidad (Vi-daevo-data i.e. law against daevas – evil deities);

5) Herbadistan & Nirangistan (book of priests and rites);

6) Fragments;

7) Khordeh Avesta (smaller Avesta, a book of daily prayers).

J2_175_Y_28_1.jpg

Yasna 28.1 (Bodleian MS J2)

(iii) Separation of Mazdaism and Vedism after Zoroaster’s teachings: The Avestan and the Vedic heritage have descended from sage Kashyapa – hence they own a uniquely common root. The earliest hymns in the Zoroastrian Gathas use the six-line Mahapankti meter, which is also found in the RigVeda.Aum prayer of Veda is Ahuna prayer of Avesta (Vedic: a-u-m; Persian: a-u-n) – that we know as Hindus’ sacred Gayatri or Omkar Mantra. In 7th stanza of 29th Yasna, Ahura Mazda clearly gives reference to ‘Ahuna‘ prayer. It says: Ahura joined Asa (Divine Law) and composed Ahuna mantra for the world to keep it in order. Then Spenta Mainyus (Holy mind) gave it to the Soshyantas (Prophets) and inspired them to translate in this material world. ‘Tat savitur varenyam’ (Sanskrit) means same as ‘Yatha ahu vairyo’(Avestan). Notably, ‘ahu‘ of Avesta is replaced by ‘savitur‘ in Vedic. In present Veda (RV: III.62) one from the four lines of scared Gayatri Mantra could be traced, which has been used in chanting for devas (Indra-Varuna, Brihaspati, Pusha, Savita, Soma, Mitra and Varuna) rather than a real prayer of AUM i.e. to the Lord of this world and world beyond. In fact deva-centric Vedic heritage never accepted Avestans’ God-centric essence of AUM prayer; hence till today there is no uninamity in Vedic tradition as regard the meanings of AUM.

Zoroastrian tradition maintained that (Kabardar) [1] deva and masakya clans were responsible for introducing evils among their kinsmen Su-Danus and harassed them with black magic. Eduljee [3] informs: in the chapter 32 of the Gathas, Zarathushtra speaks about the daeva as evil and the lie (Yasna.30.6). In Yasna  32.3 Zarathushtra states:”At yush deava vispaongha akat manangho sta chithrem.” (But all you daeva are the progeny of wicked thoughts). The Shahnameh has listed in nine principle vices calleddivs: 1. Az – greed; 2.Niaz – desire; 3. Khashm – wrath; 4. Rashk – envy. 5. Nang – dishonour; 6. Kin – vengeance; 7. Nammaam – tell-tale; 8. Do-ruy – two-faced; and 9. Napak-din – heretic

In Gatha (Yasna 32) we find that Prophet had to face great opposition from deva clan for revealing the Divine message. Despite the fact that both Indo-Aryan ‘Rig-Veda’ and Perso-Iranian ‘Avesta’ evidently knew ‘Asura’ as the highest God (R.V: 1, 35:7; 3, 29:14; 5, 41:3; 10, 10:2; 10, 67:2 etc) – the Vedic heritage gradually began to reject both Supreme God Asura and His followers (Zoroastrian asura clans) – and started vilifying Asura as demon; thus Vedic god Agni (RV. VII. 13. 1) and also Indra (RV. VI. 22. 3)  turned into asura slayers, but again these devas (e.g. Varuna) were also equated with  Asura. The trends of Rig Vedic hymns clearly showed that deva clan rejected prophetic wisdom of Zoroaster and willfully embraced deva-worship via syncretism with the Supreme God. In Gatha (Yasna 30: 7) Prophet declared that: ‘The Cupid (Satan) had enticed deva people and had thrown them in the pit of vice; and made them weak and dull that they joined the side of Angra Manyu (i.e. evil spirit); and were incapable of judging between Good and Evil’.In retaliation we find in Veda: ‘O, Lord of prayers, Brihaspati, O Indra, with thy hot bolt split through Asura’s men. As thou of old didst smite with daring fury – so smite today, O Indra, that fell fiend’ (RV. I, 131).And Zoroastrian Gatha, Yasna (32: 3) writes: ‘Your kindred, O ye devas are seeds from the mind of polluted; who praise unto you most offers, with deed of the lie deceiveth; Advanced your stratagems are, renowned in the sevenfold earth.’ 

After Prophet Zoroaster, in later course of Aryans’ history we found two significant changes – one with the Indo-Iranians and other in the Greek contexts. We know about the great respect felt for Zoroaster by the certain Greeks, especially Pythagorean and Platonic schools, when Aristoxenus (the most eminent of the Aristotle’s pupil) during 320-300 BC wrote about Zoroaster as their ultimate source of wisdom [9]. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle’s works helped mankind greatly to distinguish between the ‘Divine Goodness’ and the cults of demigods through examination of human thought process. Assyrians and Persians were assimilated into Christianity and Islam; in sharp contrast, religion of devas continued to flourish in Indian Vedism. After schism with Zoroastrians, Brahminical Hinduism invented heresy via false etymology by taking ‘A’ of Asura as primitive; the word Sura (opposite of Asura) was coined for ‘god’; in ‘Ramayana of Valmiki.’ (1.44, 22-23): the gods (Suras) drank wine (sura), while the others, who refused to drink the wine, became Asuras. This is also explicit in Sankaracharya’s gloss (Sankara on Chandyagya Upanishad (1.2.1): “The gods, called devas because they shine forth (div); the demons are opposed to the gods and are called Asuras because they delight in (ra) of life (Asu).” Encycl. Brit. [10] writes: ‘To Vedic mere aesthetic pleasure (rasa) was supreme God and any of who was enjoying it perfectly – became God to others. This idea of god-hood has become quite explicit in AV (X.8.44): ‘akamodhiro namrtahsvayambhu rasen trpto na kutase anonah.’    

CONCLUDING REMARK:

In Zoroastrian context we have seen: how religious darkness creeps in under the auspices of angra mainyu after God takes back the Light – that was given to them before. The Divine Inspiration has been stopped after the death of Prophet Muhammad. And till God resumes it again with the second coming of Prophet Jesus – scripture bearers (Sabians, Judeo-Cristians and Muslims) have to cope with the dark powers of angra mainyu that always tend to jeopardize Prophetic Truth by steering – primarily from“within” the tradition and secondarily from outside.

References:

1. Ardeshir Framji Khabardar. 1951. New lights on the Gathas of Holy Zarathustra, (Bombay). [This book deals with all the stanzas of the seven Yasnas of Ahunavaiti Gatha and their translation in English and Gujarati prose and Gujarati verse, together with their transformation in the pre-Vedic written language with full notes, explanation, grammar etc, and Vedic time meanings in English and Gujarati of every word and its  Vedic form. Also deals with the origin of the Mantric speech in the Gathas, the definition of Ashoi in the Gathas, the Astrological foundation of the Gathas and their philosophy, the birth-era of Asho Zarathushtra and its remote antiquity, a glossary of Gathic words found in the Vedas, the peculiarities of Avestan alphabet and the principal difference between Gatha and Sanskrit phonology, and with copious notes in regard to the deep and vast researches made in respect of the Zarathushtrian religion.]

2. Mallory. J.P, 1991. ‘In the search of Indo-Europeans‘, p. 140. (Thames and Hudson)

3. Zoroastrian Heritage (by K.E. Eduljee) [http://www.zoroastrianheritage.com/]

4. [Textual Sources for the Study of Hinduism (Textual Sources for the Study of Religion) ISBN 0226618471 Ch.3-4, pp.53-71 University Of Chicago by Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty; 2. Herrenschmidt, Clarisse & Kellens, Jean (1993), “*Daiva”, Encyclopaedia Iranica, vol. 6, Cosa Mesa: Mazda, pp. 599-602; 3. Hale, Wash Edward (1986), ÁSURA in Early Vedic Religion, Delhi: Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass; 4. Insler, Stanley (1993), “Review: ÁSURA in Early Vedic Religion by Wash Edward Hale”, Journal of the American Oriental Society 113 (4): 595-596; 5. Thieme, Paul (1960), “The ‘Aryan’ Gods of the Mitanni Treaties”, Journal of the American Oriental Society 80 (4): 301-317]

5. Rawlison, H.C. 1846/7-9. The Persian cuneiform inscription at Behistan, deciphered and translated. JRAS 10; i-lxxi, i-349 (chapters 1-5); 1850a. Note on the Persian inscriptions at Behistan. JRAS 12: i-xxi.; (Rawlinson, Henry (1847) “The Persian Cuneiform Inscription at Behistun, decyphered and translated; with a Memoir on Persian Cuneiform Inscriptions in general, and on that of Behistun in Particular”, The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, vol. X).

6. Bhattacharya. B. 1993. ‘Saivism and the phallic world‘, vol.I (p. 94); vol.II, p. 297. (Munsiram Monoharlal Pub, India)

7. Vidyarthy, A.H. 1990. Muhammad in world scriptures, pp.45-46, (Adam Publisher, Delhi)

8.  Mary Boyce. A History of Zoroastrianism, Vols. 1-3, (E.J. Brill, Leiden) 1975-1991; and Barnabe Brisson. p. 188, ‘De religion Persarum principatu.’

9. Mary Boyce. 1991. A History of Zoroastrianism volume three: Zoroastrianism under   Macedonian and Roman Rule, pp. 363 – 370.

10. Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1974, Vol.I, p. 161

11. http://en.wikipedia.org/wki/File

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