The Avesta is the collection of Seven Primary Texts books of ‘Zoroastrianism’ the ancient religion of Iran, then called Persia. The etymological origins of the word ‘Persia’ are unclear though it is known that the most ancient form of the name ‘Persia’ is ‘Parsa’. The name is probably of Sanskrit origins and of Indian coinage. In India ‘Persia’ was known as ‘Paras’ (परस्) which means ‘further’, ‘away’ or ‘beyond’. In Indian mythology ‘Paras’ represents a precious touchstone that transformed any metal that it came in contact to gold. ‘Para’, in ancient Sanskrit also means ‘transcendental’ or ‘magical powers’.

1. Book I of the Avesta is called ‘Yasna’. ‘Yasna’ is derived from Sanskrit ‘Yagya’ (यज्ञ) which means the ‘Holy Fire Worship’. The Yasna also includes the ‘gathas’. The word ‘Gatha’ comes from Sanskrit ‘gatha’ (गाथा) which means ‘hymns’ or ‘verses’.

2. Book II is the ‘Visperad’ and is a supplement to the ‘Yasna’. It contains the rituals and the liturgical code of the Yagna . The Avestan word ‘Visperad’ has been decoded as ‘Visspe Ratavo’, meaning ‘prayer to all patrons’.

The Yasna and the Visperad, like the Hindu Yajur-Veda, encode the ‘vidhi’ (विधि) or the method of the ritualistic ceremony and fire worship The ‘Visperad’ is never recited without the ‘Yasna’ which points to the fact that the ‘Visperad’ were the hymns that were chanted as the ‘Yasna’ (Avestan) or Yagna (Sanskrit), or ‘Offerings to the Holy Fire’ (English), were made.

‘Visperad’ may be decoded with the help of Sanskrit as follows: ‘Perad’ is a distortion of Sanskrit ‘Parida’ (परिदा) which means ‘an offering of devotion’. The first syllable ‘Vis’ may have entered into Avestan from Sanskrit ‘Vidh’ (विध्) which means ‘Honour a God with’. The Sanskrit ‘Vidh-Parida’ would then translate as ‘Honour a God with offering of Devotion”.

3. The IIIrd Book is the ‘Vendidad’ and is generally accepted to be a corruption of the Avestan ‘Vi-Daevo-Data’, which if decoded with the help of Sanskrit means ‘Given Against the Demons’. In Sanskrit ‘Videva’ (विदेव) means ‘those who are not Devas or Gods’ that is equivalent to ‘Demons’. ‘DatA’ means ‘giver’ in Sanskrit.

The name ‘Vendidad’ is therefore interpreted as a ‘method to confound the demons’. But that has a negative connotation (which may originate from the fact that the Rig Vedic ‘Sura’ or Devas’ were considered as ‘Demons’ in the kingdoms of Central Asia).  Besides, in Sanskrit, ‘Vedeva’ (विदेव) does mean ‘hostile to Gods’. However, unlike the ‘Yasna’ the ‘Vendidad text is not universally revered, and some have argued that the ‘Venidad’ was either written much later than the ‘Yasna’ or else distortions were introduced into the original ‘Vendidad’ texts. 

It is also said that though the language of Vendidad is Old Avestan, the religious concepts enumerated in there are not. The original meaning of the name ‘Vendidad’ may then have had much more to do more with Sanskrit ‘Vandana’ (वन्दना) which means ‘the act of praising’ or ‘Vandita’ (वन्दित) which means ‘One who is praised or revered like God’ to the rather dark ‘Vi-deavo-data’ meaning ‘Given against the Demons’. 

4. The IVth  book is the ‘Yasht’, the name derives from Avestan ‘yesti’ which means ‘to venerate’, and is a book of 21 hymns. ‘Yasht’ may be derived from any of these Sanskrit words – ‘Yachati’ (यच्छति) which means ‘offer’ or  to ‘give’, Yacha (याच्) to ‘ask for’ or ‘request’, ‘Yacha’ (याच्य) ‘making a humble request’ and so on.

5. The Vth book is the ‘Sriroza’ which means ‘Thirty Days’ in Avestan. In the Hindu tradition, the concept of Thirty Gods exists as ‘TridashGuru’ (त्रिदशगुरु). The ‘Sri’ in ‘Sriroza’ is a distortion of Sanskrit (त्रिंश) ‘trinsh’ or ‘Trinshat’ (त्रिंशत्) both meaning ‘thirty’.

6. The VIth Book is the ‘Khordeh Avestan’, which means ‘Small Avestan’. ‘Khordeh’ is derived from Sanskrit ‘Kriduh’ (कृधु) meaning ‘small’.

To read about the Sanskrit connection to the name ‘Zarathustra’ and ‘Azerbaijan’ click here.

Suggested Link:
Ancient Indian Colonies of the Far East – Dr. R. C Mazumdar


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