The Avesta texts fall into several different categories, arranged either by dialect, or by usage. The principal text in the liturgical group is the Yasna, which takes its name from the Yasna ceremony, Zoroastrianism's primary act of worship, and at which the Yasna text is recited. The most important portion of the Yasna texts are the five Gathas, consisting of seventeen hymns attributed to Zoroaster himself. These hymns, together with five other short Old Avestan texts that are also part of the Yasna, are in the Old (or 'Gathic') Avestan language. The remainder of the Yasna's texts are in Younger Avestan, which is not only from a later stage of the language, but also from a different geographic region.
Extensions to the Yasna ceremony include the texts of the Vendidad and the Visperad. The Visperad extensions consist mainly of additional invocations of the divinities (yazatas), while the Vendidad is a mixed collection of prose texts mostly dealing with purity laws. Even today, the Vendidad is the only liturgical text that is not recited entirely from memory. Some of the materials of the extended Yasna are from the Yashts, which are hymns to the individual yazatas. Unlike the Yasna, Visperad and Vendidad, the Yashts and the other lesser texts of the Avesta are no longer used liturgically in high rituals. Aside from the Yashts, these other lesser texts include the Nyayesh texts, the Gah texts, the Siroza, and various other fragments. Together, these lesser texts are conventionally called Khordeh Avesta or "Little Avesta" texts. When the first Khordeh Avesta editions were printed in the 19th century, these texts (together with some non-Avestan language prayers) became a book of common prayer for lay people.
The term Avesta is from the 9th/10th-century works of Zoroastrian tradition in which the word appears as Zoroastrian Middle Persian abestāg, Book Pahlavi ʾp(y)stʾkʼ. In that context, abestāg texts are portrayed as received knowledge, and are distinguished from the exegetical commentaries (the zand) thereof. The literal meaning of the word abestāg is uncertain; it is generally acknowledged to be a learned borrowing from Avestan, but none of the suggested etymologies have been universally accepted. The widely repeated derivation from *upa-stavaka is from Christian Bartholomae (Altiranisches Wörterbuch, 1904), who interpreted abestāg as a contraction of a hypothetical reconstructed Old Iranian word for "praise-song" (Bartholomae: Lobgesang); that word is not actually attested in any text.
The surviving texts of the Avesta, as they exist today, derive from a single master copy produced by collation and recension in the Sasanian Empire (224–651 CE). That master copy, now lost, is known as the 'Sassanian archetype'. The oldest surviving manuscript (K1)[n 1] of an Avestan language text is dated 1323 CE. 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. On the other hand, it appears that the most valuable portions of the canon, including all of the oldest texts, have survived. The likely reason for this is that the surviving materials represent those portions of the Avesta that were in regular liturgical use, and therefore known by heart by the priests and not dependent for their preservation on the survival of particular manuscripts.
A pre-Sasanian history of the Avesta, if it had one, is in the realm of legend and myth. The oldest surviving versions of these tales are found in the ninth to 11th century texts of Zoroastrian tradition (i.e. in the so-called "Pahlavi books"). The legends run as follows: The twenty-one nasks ("books") of the Avesta were created by Ahura Mazda and brought by Zoroaster to his patron Vishtaspa (Denkard 4A, 3A). Supposedly, Vishtaspa (Dk 3A) or another Kayanian, Daray (Dk 4B), then had two copies made, one of which was stored in the treasury, and the other in the royal archives (Dk 4B, 5). Following Alexander's conquest, the Avesta was then supposedly destroyed or dispersed by the Greeks after they translated the scientific passages that they could make use of (AVN 7–9, Dk 3B, 8). Several centuries later, one of the Parthian emperors named Valaksh (one of the Vologases) supposedly then had the fragments collected, not only of those that had previously been written down, but also of those that had only been orally transmitted (Dk 4C).
The Denkard also transmits another legend related to the transmission of the Avesta. In that story, credit for collation and recension is given to the early Sasanian-era priest Tansar (high priest under Ardashir I, r. 224–242, and Shapur I, r 240/242–272), who had the scattered works collected, and of which he approved only a part as authoritative (Dk 3C, 4D, 4E). Tansar's work was then supposedly completed by Adurbad Mahraspandan (high priest of Shapur II, r. 309–379) who made a general revision of the canon and continued to ensure its orthodoxy (Dk 4F, AVN 1.12–1.16). A final revision was supposedly undertaken in the 6th century under Khosrow I (Dk 4G).
In the early 20th century, the legend of the Parthian-era collation engendered a search for a 'Parthian archetype' of the Avesta. In the theory of Friedrich Carl Andreas (1902), the archaic nature of the Avestan texts was assumed to be due to preservation via written transmission, and unusual or unexpected spellings in the surviving texts were assumed to be reflections of errors introduced by Sasanian-era transcription from the Aramaic alphabet-derived Pahlavi scripts.[n 2] The search for the 'Arsacid archetype' was increasingly criticized in the 1940s and was eventually abandoned in the 1950s after Karl Hoffmann demonstrated that the inconsistencies noted by Andreas were actually due to unconscious alterations introduced by oral transmission. Hoffmann identifies these changes to be due in part to modifications introduced through recitation;[n 3] in part to influences from other Iranian languages picked up on the route of transmission from somewhere in eastern Iran (i.e. Central Asia) via Arachosia and Sistan through to Persia;[n 4] and in part due to the influence of phonetic developments in the Avestan language itself.[n 5]
The legends of an Arsacid-era collation and recension are no longer taken seriously. It is now certain that for most of their long history the Avesta's various texts were handed down orally, and independently of one another, and that it was not until around the 5th or 6th century that they were committed to written form. However, during their long history, only the Gathic texts seem to have been memorized (more or less) exactly. The other less sacred works appear to have been handed down in a more fluid oral tradition, and were partly composed afresh with each generation of poet-priests, sometimes with the addition of new material. The Younger Avestan texts are therefore composite works, with contributions from several different authors over the course of several hundred years.
The texts became available to European scholarship comparatively late, thus the study of Zoroastrianism in Western countries dates back to only the 18th century. Abraham Hyacinthe Anquetil-Duperron travelled to India in 1755, and discovered the texts among Indian Zoroastrian (Parsi) 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 (A Dissertation on the Authenticity of the Zend Language, Bombay, 1821). 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. R. Cama Oriental Library in Mumbai, the Meherji Rana library in Navsari, and at various university and national libraries in Europe.
In its present form, the Avesta is a compilation from various sources, and its different parts date from different periods and vary widely in character. Only texts in the Avestan language are considered part of the Avesta.
According to the Denkard, the 21 nasks (books) mirror the structure of the 21-word-long Ahuna Vairya prayer: each of the three lines of the prayer consists of seven words. Correspondingly, the nasks are divided into three groups, of seven volumes per group. Originally, each volume had a word of the prayer as its name, which so marked a volume's position relative to the other volumes. Only about a quarter of the text from the nasks has survived until today.
The contents of the Avesta are divided topically (even though the organization of the nasks is not), but these are not fixed or canonical. Some scholars prefer to place the categories in two groups, the one liturgical, and the other general. The following categorization is as described by Jean Kellens (see bibliography, below).
The Yasna (from yazišn "worship, oblations", cognate with Sanskrit yajña), is the primary liturgical collection, named after the ceremony at which it is recited. It consists of 72 sections called the Ha-iti or Ha. The 72 threads of lamb's wool in the Kushti, the sacred thread worn by Zoroastrians, represent these sections. The central portion of the Yasna is the Gathas, the oldest and most sacred portion of the Avesta, believed to have been composed by Zarathushtra (Zoroaster) himself. The Gathas are structurally interrupted by the Yasna Haptanghaiti ("seven-chapter Yasna"), which makes up chapters 35–42 of the Yasna and is almost as old as the Gathas, consists of prayers and hymns in honour of the Supreme Deity, Ahura Mazda, the Angels, Fire, Water, and Earth. The younger Yasna, though handed down in prose, may once have been metrical, as the Gathas still are.
The Visperad (from vîspe ratavo, "(prayer to) all patrons") is a collection of supplements to the Yasna. The Visparad is subdivided into 23 or 24 kardo (sections) that are interleaved into the Yasna during a Visperad service (which is an extended Yasna service).
The Visperad collection has no unity of its own, and is never recited separately from the Yasna.
The Vendidad (or Vidēvdāt, a corruption of Avestan Vī-Daēvō-Dāta, "Given Against the Demons") is an enumeration of various manifestations of evil spirits, and ways to confound them. The Vendidad includes all of the 19th nask, which is the only nask that has survived in its entirety. The text consists of 22 Fargards, fragments arranged as discussions between Ahura Mazda and Zoroaster. The first fargard is a dualistic creation myth, followed by the description of a destructive winter on the lines of the Flood myth. The second fargard recounts the legend of Yima. The remaining fargards deal primarily with hygiene (care of the dead in particular) [fargard 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 16, 17, 19] as well as disease and spells to fight it [7, 10, 11, 13, 20, 21, 22]. Fargards 4 and 15 discuss the dignity of wealth and charity, of marriage and of physical effort, and the indignity of unacceptable social behaviour such as assault and breach of contract, and specify the penances required to atone for violations thereof. The Vendidad is an ecclesiastical code, not a liturgical manual, and there is a degree of moral relativism apparent in the codes of conduct. The Vendidad's different parts vary widely in character and in age. Some parts may be comparatively recent in origin although the greater part is very old.
The Vendidad, unlike the Yasna and the Visparad, is a book of moral laws rather than the record of a liturgical ceremony. However, there is a ceremony called the Vendidad, in which the Yasna is recited with all the chapters of both the Visparad and the Vendidad inserted at appropriate points. This ceremony is only performed at night.
The Yashts (from yešti, "worship by praise") are a collection of 21 hymns, each dedicated to a particular divinity or divine concept. Three hymns of the Yasna liturgy that "worship by praise" are—in tradition—also nominally called yashts, but are not counted among the Yasht collection since the three are a part of the primary liturgy. The Yashts vary greatly in style, quality and extent. In their present form, they are all in prose but analysis suggests that they may at one time have been in verse.
The Siroza ("thirty days") is an enumeration and invocation of the 30 divinities presiding over the days of the month. (cf. Zoroastrian calendar). The Siroza exists in two forms, the shorter ("little Siroza") is a brief enumeration of the divinities with their epithets in the genitive. The longer ("great Siroza") has complete sentences and sections, with the yazatas being addressed in the accusative.
The Siroza is never recited as a whole, but is a source for individual sentences devoted to particular divinities, to be inserted at appropriate points in the liturgy depending on the day and the month.
The five Nyayeshes, abbreviated Ny., are prayers for regular recitation by both priests and laity. They are addressed to the Sun and Mithra (recited together thrice a day), to the Moon (recited thrice a month), and to the Waters and to Fire. The Nyayeshes are composite texts containing selections from the Gathas and the Yashts, as well as later material.
The Afrinagans are four "blessing" texts recited on a particular occasion: the first in honor of the dead, the second on the five epagomenal days that end the year, the third is recited at the six seasonal feasts, and the fourth at the beginning and end of summer.
All material in the Avesta that is not already present in one of the other categories falls into a "fragments" category, which – as the name suggests – includes incomplete texts. There are altogether more than 20 fragment collections, many of which have no name (and are then named after their owner/collator) or only a Middle Persian name. The more important of the fragment collections are the Nirangistan fragments (18 of which constitute the Ehrbadistan); the Pursishniha "questions," also known as "Fragments Tahmuras"; and the Hadokht Nask "volume of the scriptures" with two fragments of eschatological significance.
Only texts preserved in the Avestan language count as scripture and are part of the Avesta. Several other secondary works are nonetheless crucial to Zoroastrian theology and scholarship.
The most notable among the Middle Persian texts are the Dēnkard ("Acts of Religion"), dating from the ninth century; the Bundahishn ("Primordial Creation"), finished in the eleventh or twelfth century, but containing older material; the Mainog-i-Khirad ("Spirit of Wisdom"), a religious conference on questions of faith; and the Book of Arda Viraf, which is especially important for its views on death, salvation and life in the hereafter. Of the post-14th century works (all in New Persian), only the Sad-dar ("Hundred Doors, or Chapters"), and rivayats (traditional treatises) are of doctrinal importance. Other texts such as Zartushtnamah ("Book of Zoroaster") are only notable for their preservation of legend and folklore. The Aogemadaeca "we accept," a treatise on death is based on quotations from the Avesta.
Angra Mainyu (; Avestan: 𐬀𐬢𐬭𐬀⸱𐬨𐬀𐬌𐬥𐬌𐬌𐬎 Aŋra Mainiiu) is the Avestan-language name of Zoroastrianism's hypostasis of the "destructive spirit". The Middle Persian equivalent is Ahriman 𐭠𐭧𐭫𐭬𐭭𐭩 (Anglicised pronunciation: ). Angra Mainyu is Ahura Mazda’s adversary.Ahuna Vairya
Ahuna Vairya (Avestan: 𐬀𐬵𐬎𐬥𐬀 𐬬𐬀𐬌𐬭𐬌𐬌𐬀) is the Avestan language name of Zoroastrianism's first of four Gathic Avestan formulas. The text, which appears in Yasna 27.13, is also known after its opening words yatha ahu vairyo. In Zoroastrian tradition, the formula is also known as the ahun(a)war.
Numerous translations and interpretations exist, but the overall meaning of the text remains obscure. The Ahuna Vairya and Ashem Vohu (the second most sacred formula at Yasna 27.14) are together "very cryptic formulas, of a pronounced magical character." The Ahunavaiti Gatha (chapters 28-34 of the Yasna), is named after the Ahuna Vairya formula.Ahura
For the fictional character in the Marvel Universe series, see Ahura (comics); for the river, see Akhurian River.Ahura (Avestan: 𐬀𐬵𐬎𐬭𐬀) is an Avestan language designation for a particular class of Zoroastrian angelic divinities.Avesta (locality)
Avesta is a locality and the seat of Avesta Municipality in Dalarna County, Sweden, with 11,949 inhabitants in 2015.The name is first found in 1303 as "Aghastadhum". Aghe is of similar origin as the word å, meaning stream, in this case the Avestafors, a tributary of the river Dalälven. Stadhum was dative plural of a word of similar origin as stead, or farm.Avesta AIK
Avesta AIK is a Swedish football club located in Avesta, Sweden.Avesta Municipality
Avesta Municipality (Avesta kommun) is one of 290 municipalities of Sweden. It is in Dalarna County, in the central part of the country, and its seat is in the town of Avesta.
The municipality in its present size was created in 1967 when the four surrounding municipalities were joined with the then City of Avesta. In 1971 it became a municipality of unitary type.
Avesta borders to the municipalities of:
Hedemora in Dalarna,
Hofors and Sandviken in Gävleborg County,
Norberg and Sala in Västmanland CountyAvestan
Avestan , also known historically as Zend, refers to two languages: Old Avestan (spoken in the 2nd millennium BCE) and Younger Avestan (spoken in the 1st millennium BCE). The languages are known only from their use as the language of Zoroastrian scripture (the Avesta), from which they derive their name. Both are early Iranian languages, a branch of the Indo-Iranian languages within the Indo-European family. Its immediate ancestor was the Proto-Iranian language, a sister language to the Proto-Indo-Aryan language, with both having developed from the earlier Proto-Indo-Iranian. As such, Old Avestan is quite close in grammar and lexicon with Vedic Sanskrit, the oldest preserved Indo-Aryan language.
The Avestan text corpus was composed in ancient Arachosia, Aria, Bactria, and Margiana, corresponding to the entirety of present-day Afghanistan, and parts of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The Yaz culture of Bactria-Margiana has been regarded as a likely archaeological reflection of the early "Eastern Iranian" culture described in the Avesta.
Avestan's status as a sacred language has ensured its continuing use for new compositions long after the language ceased to be a living language.Avestan alphabet
The Avestan alphabet is a writing system developed during Iran's Sassanid era (226–651 CE) to render the Avestan language.
As a side effect of its development, the script was also used for Pazend, a method of writing Middle Persian that was used primarily for the Zend commentaries on the texts of the Avesta. In the texts of Zoroastrian tradition, the alphabet is referred to as din dabireh or din dabiri, Middle Persian for "the religion's script".Gathas
The Gathas () are 17 Avestan hymns believed to have been composed by Zarathusthra (Zoroaster) himself. They form the core of the Zoroastrian liturgy (the Yasna). They are arranged in five different modes or metres.
The Avestan term gāθā (𐬔𐬁𐬚𐬁 "hymn", but also "mode, metre") is cognate with Sanskrit gāthā́ (गाथा), both from the Proto-Indo-Iranian word *gaHtʰáH, from the root *gaH- "to sing".Karl-Åke Asph
Karl-Åke Asph (born February 2, 1939 in Avesta) is a Swedish cross-country skier who competed during the 1960s. He won a gold medal in the 4 x 10 km relay at the 1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck.Kayanian dynasty
The Kayanians, also Kays, Kayanids or Kaianids, or Kiani, are a semi-mythological dynasty of Persian tradition and folklore which supposedly ruled after the Pishdadids, and before the historical Achaemenids. Considered collectively, the Kayanian kings are the heroes of the Avesta, the sacred texts of Zoroastrianism, and of the Shahnameh, Iran's national epic.
As an epithet of kings and the reason the dynasty is so called, Middle 𐭪𐭣 and New Persian کی kay(an) originates from Avestan 𐬐𐬀𐬎𐬎𐬌 kavi (or kauui) "king" and also "poet-sacrificer" or "poet-priest". The word is also etymologically related to the Avestan notion of kavaēm kharēno, the "divine royal glory" that the Kayanian kings were said to hold. The Kiani Crown is a physical manifestation of that belief.Khordeh Avesta
Khordeh Avesta, meaning 'little, or lesser, or small Avesta', is the name given to two different collections of Zoroastrian religious texts. One of the two collections includes the other and takes its name from it.
In a narrow sense, the term applies to a particular manuscript tradition that includes only the five Nyayesh texts, the five Gah texts, the four Afrinagans, and five introductory chapters that consist of quotations from various passages of the Yasna. More generally, the term may also be applied to Avestan texts other than the lengthy liturgical Yasna, Visperad and Vendidad. The term then also extends to the twenty-one yashts and the thirty Siroza texts, but does not usually encompass the various Avestan language fragments found in other works.In the 19th century, when the first Khordeh Avesta editions were printed, the selection of Avesta texts described above (together with some non-Avestan language prayers) became a book of common prayer for lay people. In addition to the texts mentioned above, the published Khordeh Avesta editions also included selections from the Yasna necessary for daily worship, such as the Ahuna Vairya and Ashem Vohu. The selection of texts is not fixed, and so publishers are free to include any text they choose. Several Khordeh Avesta editions are quite comprehensive, and include Pazend prayers, modern devotional compositions such as the poetical or semi-poetical Gujarati monagats, or glossaries and other reference lists such as dates of religious events.Masarna
Masarna are a Swedish motorcycle speedway team based in Avesta, Sweden. The club was founded in 1937 as the Folkare Motorklubb but their first track was not built until 1948. Masarna joined the Swedish second division in 1958 and remained there until gaining promotion to the Elitserien in 1999. They then won their first Elitserien championship in 2000. Masarna were relegated in 2008 to the Allsvenskan after finishing bottom of the Elitserien table although they had already announced their intention to drop a division for the 2009 season.Turan
Turan (Persian: توران Tūrān, "the land of the Tur") is a historical region in Central Asia. The term is of Iranian origin and may refer to a particular prehistoric human settlement, a historic geographical region, or a culture. The original Turanians were an Iranian tribe of the Avestan age.Vendidad
The Vendidad /ˈvendi'dæd/ or Videvdat Avestan: 𐬬𐬍𐬛𐬀𐬉𐬬𐬋𐬛𐬁𐬙𐬀 is a collection of texts within the greater compendium of the Avesta. However, unlike the other texts of the Avesta, the Vendidad is an ecclesiastical code, not a liturgical manual.Yasht
The Yashts (Yašt) are a collection of twenty-one hymns in the Younger Avestan language. Each of these hymns invokes a specific Zoroastrian divinity or concept. Yasht chapter and verse pointers are traditionally abbreviated as Yt.Yasna
Yasna (; Avestan: 𐬫𐬀𐬯𐬥𐬀) is the Avestan name of Zoroastrianism's principal act of worship. It is also the name of the primary liturgical collection of Avesta texts, recited during that yasna ceremony.Zend
Zend or Zand (Middle Persian :𐭦𐭭𐭣) is a Zoroastrian technical term for exegetical glosses, paraphrases, commentaries and translations of the Avesta's texts. The term zand is a contraction of the Avestan language word zainti 𐬰𐬀𐬌𐬥𐬙𐬌 , meaning "interpretation", or "as understood".
Zand glosses and commentaries exist in several languages, including in the Avestan language itself. These Avestan language exegeses sometimes accompany the original text being commented upon, but are more often elsewhere in the canon. An example of exegesis in the Avestan language itself includes Yasna 19-21, which is a set of three Younger Avestan commentaries on the three Gathic Avestan 'high prayers' of Yasna 27. Zand also appear to have once existed in a variety of Middle Iranian languages, but of these Middle Iranian commentaries, the Middle Persian zand is the only to survive fully, and is for this reason regarded as 'the' zand.With the notable exception of the Yashts, almost all surviving Avestan texts have their Middle Persian zand, which in some manuscripts appear alongside (or interleaved with) the text being glossed. The practice of including non-Avestan commentaries alongside the Avestan texts led to two different misinterpretations in western scholarship of the term zand; these misunderstandings are described below. These glosses and commentaries were not intended for use as theological texts by themselves but for religious instruction of the (by then) non-Avestan-speaking public. In contrast, the Avestan language texts remained sacrosanct and continued to be recited in the Avestan language, which was considered a sacred language. The Middle Persian zand can be subdivided into two subgroups, those of the surviving Avestan texts, and those of the lost Avestan texts.
A consistent exegetical procedure is evident in manuscripts in which the original Avestan and its zand coexist. The priestly scholars first translated the Avestan as literally as possible. In a second step, the priests then translated the Avestan idiomatically. In the final step, the idiomatic translation was complemented with explanations and commentaries, often of significant length, and occasionally with different authorities being cited.Several important works in Middle Persian contain selections from the zand of Avestan texts, also of Avestan texts which have since been lost. Through comparison of selections from lost texts and from surviving texts, it has been possible to distinguish between the translations of Avestan works and the commentaries on them, and thus to some degree reconstruct the content of some of the lost texts. Among those texts is the Bundahishn, which has Zand-Agahih ("Knowledge from the Zand") as its subtitle and is crucial to the understanding of Zoroastrian cosmogony and eschatology. Another text, the Wizidagiha, "Selections (from the Zand)", by the 9th century priest Zadspram, is a key text for understanding Sassanid-era Zoroastrian orthodoxy. The Denkard, a 9th or 10th century text, includes extensive summaries and quotations of zand texts.The priests' practice of including commentaries alongside the text being commented upon led to two different misunderstandings in 18th/19th century western scholarship:
The incorrect treatment of "Zend" and "Avesta" as synonyms and the mistaken use of "Zend-Avesta" as the name of Zoroastrian scripture. This mistake derives from a misunderstanding of the distinctions made by priests between manuscripts for scholastic use ("Avesta-with-Zand"), and manuscripts for liturgical use ("clean"). In western scholarship, the former class of manuscripts was misunderstood to be the proper name of the texts, hence the misnomer "Zend-Avesta" for the Avesta. In priestly use however, "Zand-i-Avesta" or "Avesta-o-Zand" merely identified manuscripts that are not suitable for ritual use since they are not "clean" (sade) of non-Avestan elements.
The mistaken use of Zend as the name of a language or script. In 1759, Anquetil-Duperron reported having been told that Zend was the name of the language of the more ancient writings. Similarly, in his third discourse, published in 1798, Sir William Jones recalls a conversation with a Hindu priest who told him that the script was called Zend, and the language Avesta. This mistake results from a misunderstanding of the term pazend, which actually denotes the use of the Avestan alphabet for writing certain Middle Persian texts. Rasmus Rask's seminal work, A Dissertation on the Authenticity of the Zend Language (Bombay, 1821), may have contributed to the confusion.Propagated by N. L. Westergaard's Zendavesta, or the religious books of the Zoroastrians (Copenhagen, 1852–54), by the early/mid 19th century, the confusion became too universal in Western scholarship to be easily reversed, and Zend-Avesta, although a misnomer, continued to be fashionable well into the 20th century.Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism, or Mazdayasna, is one of the world's oldest religions that remains active. It is a monotheistic faith (i.e. a single creator God), centered in a dualistic cosmology of good and evil and an eschatology predicting the ultimate destruction of evil. Ascribed to the teachings of the Iranian-speaking prophet Zoroaster (also known as Zarathustra), it exalts a deity of wisdom, Ahura Mazda (Wise Lord), as its Supreme Being. Major features of Zoroastrianism, such as messianism, judgment after death, heaven and hell, and free will have influenced other religious systems, including Second Temple Judaism, Gnosticism, Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism.With possible roots dating back to the second millennium BCE, Zoroastrianism enters recorded history in the 5th century BCE. Along with a Mithraic Median prototype and a Zurvanist Sassanid successor, it served as the state religion of the pre-Islamic Iranian empires for more than a millennium, from around 600 BCE to 650 CE. Zoroastrianism was suppressed from the 7th century onwards following the Muslim conquest of Persia of 633–654. Recent estimates place the current number of Zoroastrians at around 190,000, with most living in India and in Iran; their number is declining. In 2015, there were reports of up to 100,000 converts in Iraqi Kurdistan. Besides the Zoroastrian diaspora, the older Mithraic faith Yazdânism is still practised amongst Kurds.The most important texts of the religion are those of the Avesta, which includes the writings of Zoroaster known as the Gathas, enigmatic poems that define the religion's precepts, and the Yasna, the scripture. The full name by which Zoroaster addressed the deity is: Ahura, The Lord Creator, and Mazda, Supremely Wise. The religious philosophy of Zoroaster divided the early Iranian gods of Proto-Indo-Iranian tradition, but focused on responsibility, and did not create a devil per se. Zoroaster proclaimed that there is only one God, the singularly creative and sustaining force of the Universe, and that human beings are given a right of choice. Because of cause and effect, they are responsible for the consequences of their choices. The contesting force to Ahura Mazda was called Angra Mainyu, or angry spirit. Post-Zoroastrian scripture introduced the concept of Ahriman, the Devil, which was effectively a personification of Angra Mainyu.Zoroastrianism's creator Ahura Mazda, through the Spenta Mainyu (Good Spirit, "Bounteous Immortals") is an all-good "father" of Asha (Truth, "order, justice"), in opposition to Druj ("falsehood, deceit") and no evil originates from "him". "He" and his works are evident to humanity through the six primary Amesha Spentas and the host of other Yazatas, through whom worship of Mazda is ultimately directed. Spenta Mainyu adjoined unto "truth", oppose the Spirit's opposite, Angra Mainyu and its forces born of Akəm Manah ("evil thinking").Zoroastrianism has no major theological divisions, though it is not uniform; modern-era influences having a significant impact on individual and local beliefs, practices, values and vocabulary, sometimes merging with tradition and in other cases displacing it. In Zoroastrianism, the purpose in life is to "be among those who renew the world...to make the world progress towards perfection". Its basic maxims include:
Humata, Hukhta, Huvarshta, which mean: Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds.
There is only one path and that is the path of Truth.
Do the right thing because it is the right thing to do, and then all beneficial rewards will come to you also.