Sunday, February 17, 2013

Pahlavans & Sakastan 9. Religion

In nine parts: » 1. Introduction » 2. Timur's Account » 3. Lineage & Nation » 4. Thraetaona & Thrita. Keresaspa & Urvakhshaya. Varena, Rangha & Patashkhvargar » 5. Trita, Visvarupa & Ahi in the Vedas » 6. Battles with Dragon-Snakes » 7. Garshasp, Saam & Zal in the Shahnameh » 8. End Times. The Renovation of the World » 9. Religion in Sakastan

Lesser Bundahishn (translated by E. W. West) = LB
Greater Bundahishn (translated by B. T. Anklesaria) = GB
Avesta = Av
Yasht = Yt
Yasna = Y
Vendidad = V

The Land of Sistan and the Proclamation of Zoroastrianism
A.W. Jackson in Zoroaster, Prophet of Ancient Iran (pp. 44-45) points out that Zarathushtra after being rebuffed by Vedvoist the Karap  in the early years of his ministry (Dinkard 7.4.25), went to Sagastan (Sistan) to preach to Parshat-gau (Dk 7.4.31).

A section from Afdih va Sahikih-i Sagastan (Wonders of the Land of Sagastan) reads as follows:
6. King Vishtasp produced the progress of religion first in Sagastan at Lake Frazdan, and afterwards in the other provinces*. There, King Vishtasp held a conference with Zaratusht and Seno, son of Ahumstut of Bust**. This disciple of Zaratusht, Seno, was the first in a long line of disciples, who as part of their discipleship wrote the various Avestan Nasks (books of the Avesta). From this proceeded the family of the good*** with the purpose of keeping the religion of Sagastan progressive and that it may be taught. (Translated by E.W. West and adapted by this author.)

(Notes regarding the above paragraph: *We presume King Vishtasp started this campaign in his home kingdom of Balkh/Bakhdhi and that Sistan came next. **According to A.W. Jackson, Dr. West noted that Bust or Bustig was described by the pseudo Ibn-Haukal as located on the River Hermand, between Ghor and the lake (see Ouseley's Oriental Geography, p. 206). Bust was therefore in Sistan. ***This writer was intuitively reminded of 'Airyaman Ishyo' (Y 54.1) and the men and women who formed the 'family' of Zarathushtra who some writers describe or translate as a 'brotherhood' while others as a group of priests.)

Lake Frazdanava / Frazdan
Sistan-Zabulistan's Lake Frazdanava/Frazdan features prominently in Zoroastrian history and the development of Zoroastrianism. Jackson at page 210 (ibid) states: "The nearest approach in the Avesta to a definite statement regarding Vishtasp's whereabouts is found in two references to places where he offers sacrifice (prayers) for victory in battle over Arejat-aspa (Arjasp) in the holy war of the religion, or when on a religious crusade. One of these sacrifices (prayers) is offered 'on the farther side of the water of Frazdanava*' (Aban Yt. 5. 108, pasne apam frazdanaom) for victory over three unbelievers one of whom is the inveterate foe, Arejat-aspa (Aban Yt. 5. 109, Tathryavantem duzdaenem, Peshanemcha daevayasnem, drvantemcha Arejat-aspam)." (The other two in the Avestan line above are, Tathravant, of the bad law, and Peshana, the worshipper of the daeva. Arejat-aspa is the Arjasp of Ferdowsi's Shahnameh who waged a war against Vishtasp on hearing that Vishtasp had accepted Zarathushtra's teachings. However, unlike Ferdowsi's assertion that Arjasp was a Turanian, the Avesta states that Arejat-aspa was a Hvyaona/Khvyaona.)

(Notes: *According to the Lesser Bundahishn at 22.5, Frazdanava (Lake Frazdan) is in Sistan. Jackson quotes Justi and West as identifying Frazdanava with the Ab-istadah Lake, south of Ghazni. Though Ghazni in part of the upper Helmand basin, it is over 700 km north-east of Zabul. Contemporary authors identify Lake Frazdan with Hamun Lake near Zabul in Sistan. We discuss the two lakes on page 1.)

In some ways it is difficult to identify Ghazni's Ab-istadah Lake with the Lake Frazdanava/Frazdan of Zoroastrian texts. In other ways, since the lake's location is closer  Balkh* - the place commonly said to be King Vishtasp's capital - it would appear to be a more reasonable location for Vishtasp's campaign without the need to wonder what happened in a thousand kilometres of intervening territory between Balkh and Sistan.

(Notes: *Regarding Balkh, medieval Iranian authors Ferdowsi, Dakiki, Yakut, Mirkhond, Biruni and Masudi state that Balkh - founded by Vishtasp's father Lohrasp - was Vishtasp's capital. Biruni states that Balkh was the original residence of the Kayanians and Mirkhond calls Vishtasp's father Lohrasp, 'Lohrasp the Bactrian'. Masudi says Balkh was the ancient Iranian's royal capital. With regard to Zarathushtra, besides Balkh becoming his residence automatically when Vishtasp became his patron and when he became Vishtasp's advisor, there is also a tradition that there was a portrait of Zarathushtra in Balkh. Balkh was also where Zarathushtra was murdered by the Turanians under Arjasp. King Vishtasp (Gushtasp) was engaged in a religious crusade in Sistan and Zabulistan, when the Turanians under Arjasp stormed Balkh, slew Lohrasp in battle before the walls and killed Zoroaster. On hearing the news, Vishtasp returned from Sistan and routed Arjasp and his forces.)

Perhaps both lakes, Ab-istadah Lake and Lake Frazdanava/Frazdan, had some kind of role in Zoroastrian history. Later writers based in a different land and time may have amalgamated events associated with each of the two lakes into a single lake. We can assume that the entire Sistan-Zabulistan region, i.e., the entire Helmand basin was the scene of Vishtasp's campaign as also Zarathushtra's ministry (all with other places in Central Asia).

We had noted at the start of these notes that the Aban Yasht at 5.108 had linked Lake Frazdanava with Vishtasp's campaign translated as 'Kavi Vishtaspa offered a sacrifice (prayers) on the farther side of the water of Frazdanava' or 'Kavi Vishtaspa offered up a sacrifice (prayers) behind Lake Frazdanava'. In the next verse, the Aban Yasht at 5.112-3 states that similarly Zarir, King Vishtasp's valiant younger brother, offered prayers on the farther side of the River Daitya. Yasht 9.29 also has King Vishtasp offering prayers at the Daitya. These prayer offerings included a plea for the ability to overcome Arejat-aspa (see above).

River Daitya
The River Daitya in Airyana Vaeja also features prominently in Zoroastrian history. We do not know if the unity of purpose and the proximity of Lake Frazdanava/Frazdan and the River Daitya in the Aban Yasht's verses suggest a geographical proximity as well. In other words, is the River Daitya geographically close to the Frazdanava? If so, the implications are huge since all manners of deductions flow as a consequence of the equation.

At the outset, the River Daitya is said to flow through Airyana Vaeja (cf. Aban Yasht 5.17 'Airyana Vaeja, by the good river Daitya') and therefore if the River Daitya and Lake Frazdanava are close by geographically, then Airyana Vaeja must be somewhere in the regional vicinity of the lake as well. The Bundahishns describe the River Daitya as "coming out from Eranvej (Airyana Vaeja/Ancient Aryana), and going out through the hill-country" (LB 20.13 and GB 11A.7). The LB adds 'of all rivers the noxious creatures in it are most, as it says, that the Daitya river is full of noxious creatures.'

Religion in the Sakastan (Sistan-Zabulistan)
While Ferdowsi mentions Sistan and Zabulistan almost synonymously, they are neighbouring but separate districts and Zabulistan is not to be confused with the city of Zabul in Sistan. Zabulistan lies to the east of Sistan, upstream along the south bank of the Helmand. It would have bordered the kingdom of Kabul.

Religion in Helmand/Haetumant Basin (Sistan-Zabulistan)
Vendidad 1.13 states: 'The eleventh of the good lands and countries which I, Ahura Mazda, created, was the bright, glorious Haetumant. Thereupon came Angra Mainyu, who is all death, and who spread the evil work of witchcraft. 14. And this is the sign by which it (Haetumant) is known, this is that by which it is recognized at once: where-soever they may go and raise a cry of sorcery, there the worst works of witchcraft go forth. From there they come to kill and strike at heart, and they bring locusts as many as they want.'

Daeva worship in the Zabulistan region was tenacious and continued into the medieval ages. The History of India Told by its own Historians by H.M. Elliot (1869, Vol. 2, p. 172) cites the Jamiu-l-Hikayat of Muhammad Uffi as stating: It is related that 'Amru Lais (878-900 CE) brother of Yaqub Lais and ruler of Kerman and Fars) conferred the governorship of Zabulistan on Fardaghan and sent him there at the head of four thousand horses. There was a large Hindu place of worship in that country, which was called Sakawand/Sakavand* (also called Bahawand or Sajawand. Note the component 'Saka' in Sakawand. According to R.N.Frye it is in the Logar valley between Ghazni and Kabul. According to Warwick Ball in Archaeological Gazetteer of Afghanistan (1982, n. 971) it is in the mountains of Logar Province 15 km south-west of Baraki, which is 70 km south of Kabul to the west of the road to Gardez), and people used to come on pilgrimage from the most remote parts of Hindustan to the idols of that place. When Fardaghan arrived in Zabulistan he led his army against it, took the temple, broke the idols in pieces, and overthrew the idolaters. The History and Culture of the Indian People by R.C. Majumdar, B.V. Bhavan and B.I. Samiti (1969) at p. 113 states: Fardaghan, the governor of Zabulistan region around Ghazni under Amr ibn Layth, plundered Sakawand (Sakavand), a place of pilgrimage to God Zhun, which was within the kingdom of the Shahis. Before the arrival of Islam, a temple of Zhun was also said to stand in Zamindawar on a sacred mountain. The temple had continued to exist in the later ninth century when the Saffarids Yaqub and Amir Lais conquered the area as far as Kabul. The district of Zamindawar was situated on the right bank of the Helmand River to the north-west of Kandahar.

Religion in Kabul
Vendidad 1.9 states: 'The seventh of the good lands and countries which I, Ahura Mazda, created, was Vaekereta*, of the evil shadows. Thereupon came Angra Mainyu, who is all death, and he caused the Pairika** Knathaiti to extol Keresaspa' (*Vaekereta = Gadara (OP)/Kalpul or Kavul (Ph)/Modern Kabul, E Afghanistan & N.W. Indus including Gandhara. **Pairika is a fairy, nymph and seductress. Presumably Keresaspa was seduced by the pairi Knathaiti.)

The Greater Bundahishn at 31.0.17-18 gives us an elaboration: 'The seventh best land created was Kavul of bad shadows - that which is Kavulastan and where the umbrage of the trees is bad for the body. The adversity of a desire for the pariks (paris, i.e. fairies) came to it the most. There too the practice dev-worship which Saam used to perform. There is the sin of walking without the sacred thread.'

Saam/Saama & Rustam(?) Scorn Becoming a Mazdayasni
GB 29.8: As regards Saam (Saama) they say, "He was immortal. At the time when he scorned the Revelation of Mazda worship (i.e. Saam rejected becoming a Mazdayasni)...." The use of the name can cause confusion. The Saam being referred to here is Saama, Keresaspa (Garshasp) grandfather or ancestor. The Pahlavi writers may have confused him with Saam, Zal's father. In any event, both Saam and Zal lived before Zarathushtra's time and therefore the Mazda worship i.e. belief in God, that Saama rejected my have been the pre-Zoroastrian Mazdayasni faith which is a generic term for worshippers of God, perhaps the Ahuras as opposed to the worshippers of the Daevas.

A.W. Jackson who we have cited above, states at p. 212, that Rustam similarly "held out against conversion to Zoroastrianism." Jackson does not give us a reference for this assertion and we feel the reference here is to Rustam becoming a Mazdayasni (as in the case of Saam). If so, Jackson is making an equation between the Zoroastrian Mazdayasni faith and the pre-Zoroastrian Mazdayasni faith.

Pahlavans & Sakastan pages:
» 1. Introduction
» 2. Timur's Account
» 3. Lineage & Nation
» 4. Thraetaona & Thrita. Keresaspa & Urvakhshaya. Varena, Rangha & Patashkhvargar
» 5. Trita, Visvarupa & Ahi in the Vedas
» 6. Battles with Dragon-Snakes
» 7. Garshasp, Saam & Zal in the Shahnameh
» 8. End Times. The Renovation of the World
» 9. Religion in Sakastan

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