Religious Texts

Religious TextsThe Avesta is the collection of the sacred texts of Zoroastrianism. Although the texts are very old, the compendium as we know it today is essentially the result of a redaction that is thought to have occurred during the reign of Shapur II (309–379 CE). However, some portions of the collection have been lost since then, especially after the fall of the Sassanid empire in 651 CE, after which Zoroastrianism was supplanted by Islam. The oldest existing copy of an Avestan language text dates to 1288 CE.

The most ancient of the texts of the Avesta are in an old or Gathic Avestan. The majority of the texts are however from a later period: most are probably from the Achaemenid era (648–330 BCE), with a few being even younger. All the texts are believed to have been transmitted orally for centuries before they found written form, and in existing copies, the Avestan language words are written in Din dabireh script, a Sassanid era (226–651 CE) invention.

The various texts of the Avesta are generally divided into topical categories, but these are by no means fixed or canonical. Some scholars prefer to place the five categories in two groups, one liturgical and the other general.

The Yasna, the primary liturgical collection includes the Gathas, which are thought to have been composed by Zoroaster himself.

The Visparad, a collection of supplements to the Yasna.

The Yashts, hymns in honor of the divinities.

The Vendidad, describes the various forms of evil spirits and ways to confound them.

Shorter texts and prayer collections, the five nyaishes("worship, praise"), the siroze ("thirty days") (see Zoroastrian calendar) and the afringans ("blessings"). Some of these fragments are collected in the Khorda Avesta, the "Little Avesta", which is the collection of texts for daily lay (as opposed to priestly) use.

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