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The Avesta /əˈvɛstə/ is the primary collection of religious texts of Zoroastrianism, composed in the otherwise unrecorded Avestan language.

Quotes about the Avesta[edit]

  • “It must be emphasised that the process of polarisation of relations between the Ahuras and the DaEvas is already complete in the GAthAs, whereas, in the Rigveda, the reverse process of polarisation between the Devas and the Asuras, which does not begin before the later parts of the Rigveda, develops as it were before our very eyes, and is not completed until the later Vedic period. Thus, it is not at all likely that the origins of the polarisation are to be sought in the prehistorical, the Proto-Aryan period. More likely, ZarathuStra’s reform was the result of interdependent developments, when Irano-Indian contacts still persisted at the dawn of history. With their Ahura-DaEva ideology, the Mazdayasnians, guided by their prophet, deliberately dissociated themselves from the Deva-Asura concept which was being developed, or had been developed, in India, and probably also in the adjacent Iranian-speaking countries… All this suggests a synchrony between the later Vedic period and ZarathuStra’s reform in Iran.”
    • Helmut Humbach: The Gathas of Zarathushtra and the Other Old Avestan Texts, Part I: Introduction, Texts and Translation by Helmut Humbach (in collaboration with Josef Elfenbein and P.O. Skjærvø), Carl Winter, Universitätsverlag, Heidelberg (Germany), 1991. Quoted in Talageri, S. (2000). The Rigveda: A historical analysis. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • “The fact [is] that Avestan geography, particularly the list in Vd. I, is confined to the east,” ...[this list is] “remarkably important in reconstructing the early history of Zoroastrianism”. ...
  • [The horizon of the Avesta] “is according to Burrow, wholly eastern and therefore certainly earlier than the westward migrations of the Iranian tribes.” ...
  • [the attempt to transpose the geography of the Avesta from Afghanistan to western Iran] “was doubtless due to different attempts made by the most powerful religious centres of western Iran and the influential order of the Magi to appropriate the traditions of Zoroastrianism that had flourished in the eastern territories of the plateau in far-off times. Without a doubt, the identification of RaYa with AdurbAdagAn, more or less parallel with its identification with Ray, should be fitted into the vaster picture of the late location of Airyana VaEjah in ADarbAyjAn.” ...
  • “With VarAna and RaNhA, as of course with Hapta HAndu, which comes between them in the Vd. I list, we find ourselves straight away in Indian territory, or, at any rate, in territory that, from the very earliest times, was certainly deeply permeated by Indo-Aryans or Proto-Indoaryans.” ...
  • [the Avesta reflects] “an historical situation in which Iranian elements exist side by side with … Aryan or Proto-Indoaryan (elements)”. ...
    • G. Gnoli. Zoroaster’s Time and Homeland: A Study on the Origins of Mazdeism and Related Problems by Gherardo Gnoli, Instituto Universitario Orientale, Seminario di Studi Asiatici, (Series Minor VII), Naples, 1980. Quoted in Talageri, S. (2000). The Rigveda: A historical analysis. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • To point to the list of words common to the Avesta and viii [of the Rigveda] with its group, and say that here is proof positive that there is closer relationship with the Avesta, and that, therefore, viii after all is older than the books which have not preserved these words, some of which are of great significance, would be a first thought. But this explanation is barred out by the fact that most of these Avestan words preserved in viii, withal those of the most importance, are common words in the literature posterior to the Rik. Hence to make the above claim would be tantamount to saying that these words have held their own through the period to which viii (assuming it to be older than ii-vii) is assigned, have thereupon disappeared, and then come into vogue again after the interval to which the maker of this assumption would assign ii-vii. This, despite all deprecation of negative evidence, is not credible. Take, for instance, udara or uṣṭra or meṣa, the first is found only in viii., i., x.; the second in viii., i.; the last in viii., i., ix., x. Is it probable that words so common both early and late should have passed through an assumedly intermediate period (of ii.-vii.) without leaving a trace? Or, again: is a like assumption credible in the case of kṣīra, which appears in the Iranian khshīra; in RV. viii., i., ix., x.; disappears in the assumedly later group ii.-vii.; and reappears in the AV. and later literature as a common word? Evidently, the facts are not explained on the hypothesis that the Avesta and RV. viii. are older than RV. ii.-vii. We must, I think, suppose that the Avesta and RV. viii. are younger than RV. ii.-vii.; or else that the poets of viii. were geographically nearer to the Avestan people, and so took from them certain words, which may or may not have been old with their Iranian users, but were not received into the body of Vedic literature until a time posterior to the composition of ii.-vii."―[....] viii with the General Books and post-Rik literature agrees with Avestan as against the early family books" "[....] viii joins the later Avesta to post-Rik literature and the other General Books.
    • About the relative date of the Avesta and Rigveda. HOPKINS 1896a: Prāgāthikāni. Hopkins, Edward W. pp. 23-92 in JAOS (Journal of the American Oriental Society), Vol. 17. (HOPKINS 1896a:80-81) quoted in [1] Quoted in Talageri, S. G. (2010). The Rigveda and the Avesta. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • “Not only in grammatical structure and vocabulary, but also in literary form, in certain metres like the TriSTubh and in a way GAyatrI, there is resemblance between the Avesta and the Rgveda. The fact is usually mentioned in good manuals. But there is a peculiarity about these points of resemblance which is not so commonly known: It is the eighth MaNDala which bears the most striking similarity to the Avesta. There and there only (and of course partly in the related first MaNDala) do some common words like uSTra and the strophic structure called pragAtha occur. … Further research in this direction is sure to be fruitful.”
    • J.C. Tavadia, Indo-Iranian Studies: I by J.C. Tavadia, ViSva Bharati, Santiniketan, 1950. Quoted in Talageri, S. (2000). The Rigveda: A historical analysis. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • “Two Young Avestan texts contain lists of countries known to their authors, YaSt 10 and VidEvdAd, Chapter 1. The two lists differ considerably in terms of composition and are therefore most probably independent of one another. Both lists contain only countries in northeastern Iran.” ...[All these places are] “located to the east of the Caspian Ocean, with the possible exception of Raga”.
    • P. Oktor Skjærvø, in The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia: Language, Material Culture and Ethnicity edited by George Erdosy (Papers by Michael Witzel and P. Oktor Skjærvø), Walter de Gruyter, Berlin-New York, 1995. Quoted in Talageri, S. (2000). The Rigveda: A historical analysis. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • “H. Oldenberg showed that in spite of the genetic closeness of religious beliefs, the Vedas and Avesta differ considerably, and that in the Avesta many of the heroes play opposite roles to their counterparts in the Veda.” (p.183)
    • Elena Kuzmina, Origin of the Indo-Iranians (Brill, Leiden). quoted in Elst, Koenraad (2018). Still no trace of an Aryan invasion: A collection on Indo-European origins.

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