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Avesta, Zoroastrian scriptures


see ZoroastrianismZoroastrianism
, religion founded by Zoroaster, but with many later accretions. Scriptures

Zoroastrianism's scriptures are the Avesta or the Zend Avesta [Pahlavi avesta=law, zend=commentary].
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Avesta, city, Sweden


(ä`vəstä'), city (1990 est. pop. 16,860), Kopparberg co., S central Sweden, on the Dalälven River. Aluminum and high quality steel are manufactured there. Formerly a copper mining and refining center, Avesta was the seat of copper minting in Sweden from 1644 to 1831.



the collection of the sacred books of Zoroas-trianism, a religion that was widespread in antiquity and in the early Middle Ages in Iran, Central Asia, Azerbaijan, and Afghanistan. It is still used in religious services by the Par-sis in India. The written text of the Avesta, based on age-old oral tradition, was codified in the third through seventh centuries under the Sassanids into 21 books, or nasks. Not more than one-fourth of this text has survived.

The Avesta is known in two editions, or variants. The first is a collection of liturgical fragments from various books of the Avesta, and the second consists of the Vendidad, a compilation of religious and legal precepts; the Vispered and Yasna, liturgical hymns; the Yashts, hymns to the Zoroastrian deities; and the Little Avesta, prayers. The oldest part of the Avesta—the Gathas (hymns)—is the section of the Yasna ascribed to the prophet Zarathustra (Zoroaster). In contrast to the Gathas, the other parts of the Avesta are called the Younger Avesta. All parts of the Avesta, especially the Yasna and the Yashts, contain many elements of mythology.

Most contemporary scholars think that the Avesta appeared during the first half of the first millennium B.C. in one of the regions of Central Asia or in the neighboring territories of northwestern Afghanistan and northeastern Iran. The Younger Avesta, which also includes the Yashts, reflects the process of the fusion—commonly thought to have begun in the fifth century B.C.—of the teachings of Zoroaster, developed by his followers, with beliefs and rites of old tribal cults that were alien to the preaching of this prophet and of religious systems that were unorthodox from the point of view of Zoroastrianism and were widespread in the territories of the Achaemenian, Parthian, and Sassanid states of Iran.

The Avesta underwent accretions and changes in many areas that were settled by Iranian peoples. Thus it is the common monument of many peoples and is important for the study of their history, their social and political institutions, their mode of life, culture, religious beliefs, folklore, and literary traditions. The Avesta has preserved some artistic passages, principally of a mythological nature. They contain many poetical figures and some elements of initial rhyme as well as assonances and alliterations. The hymns of the Gathas are fully versified in five different syllabic meters. The Avesta was first translated and published in a European language (French) in 1771 by Anquetil-Duperron. It has given rise to a vast scholarly literature.


Avesta. Die heiligen Bücher der Parsen. Edited by K. F. Geldner. Volumes 1–3. Stuttgart, 1886–95.


Avesta: Die heiligen Bücher der Parsen, übers. auf der Grundlage von Chr. Bartholomae’s altiran. Wörterbuch. Edited by F. Wolff. Reprint. Berlin, 1924.
Die Gathas des Awesta. . . . Translated by Chr. Bartholomae. Strasbourg, 1905.
The Hymns of Zarathustra. With introduction and commentary by J. Duchesne-Guillemin. [Boston,] 1963.


Braginskii, I. S. Iz istorii tadzh. nar. poezii. (Translations from the Avesta). Moscow, 1956.
D’iakonov, M. M. Ocherk istorii drevnego Irana. (Bibliography.) Pages 343–45, 360–63.
Duchesne-Guillemin, J. La religion de Viran ancien. Paris, 1962.
Widengren,G. Die Religionen Irans. Stuttgart, 1965.



book of teachings of Zoroaster. [Zoroastrianism: Leach, 97]


a collection of sacred writings of Zoroastrianism, including the Songs of Zoroaster