In popular literature the roots of the name ‘Azerbaijan’ have only been traced to as far back as the Old Persian ‘Azar’ meaning ‘fire’ and ‘baijan’, originally ‘payegan’, meaning ‘protector’.

‘Azar Payegan’ has been linked to the ‘Holy Fire Worship’ of Zoroastrianism. Avestan was the language of Zoroastrianism.

‘Azar’, meaning ‘fire’ in Old Persian, is derived from Avestan ‘atar’ which means ‘fire’. Avestan is itself closely linked to Sanskrit. In Sanskrit, ‘agira’ (अगिर), ‘ashira’ (अशिर ), ‘agni’ ( अग्नि ), and ‘ushij’ ( उशिज् ) all mean fire. The Avestan ‘atar’ derives from Sanskrit ‘agira’, just as the Latin ‘igneus’ derives from Sanskrit ‘agni’. 

The Avestan ‘Payegan’ which means ‘Protector’ derives from Sanskrit ‘palaka’ (पालक) which also means ‘protector’. The suffix ‘gana’ (गण) in Sanskrit means ‘a group’ or ‘troop’. ‘Palak-gaan’ in Sanskrit would therefore mean ‘protectors’ or ‘guardians’. In Rigveda ‘groups of gods’ were referred to as ‘devagana’ ( देवगण).

The Sanskrit Inscriptions at ‘Baku Ateshgah’
in Azerbaijan. The first line says, “Shri Ganeshaye Namah’.
The Persian script added later pertains to ‘Fire’ but is grammatically  incorrect.

Here is a look at the name ‘Zororatra’ or ‘Zararhustra’ after whom the ancient Iranian religion was named. The Avestan ‘Zarathushtra’ is often translated as ‘Old Camel’. The Old Persian or Avestan ‘zarant’ meaning ‘old’ is itself derived from Sanskrit ‘jara’ (जर) also meaning ‘old’, and ‘ushtra’ (उष्ट्रmeaning ‘camel’.  Distortions of Sanskrit ‘jara’ and ‘ushtra’ appear in Greek, Latin, Avestan and Persian with the sammeanings.

But Zorausthara has a far more significant translation in Sanskrit. The first syllable of ‘Zarath-ustra’ may well be a distortion of ‘harit’ meaning ‘golden’. In Persian ‘zarat’ also  means ‘golden’ and is derived from Sanskrit ‘harit’ via Avestan. The Sanskrit ‘ash’ (अष्means ‘to shine’. ‘Zarathustra’ then means ‘one who shines like gold’. It   may well have been a name given to ‘Zarathustra’ by his followers in deference of his wisdom and is definitely ore appropriate than the more common ‘Golden Camel’ translation.

The Temple of Surakhani, Azerbaijan
Sanskrit Inscription

Suggested Link:

The Sanskrit-Avestan-Persian link


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