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ANCIENT IRANIAN LITERATURE

Bundahishn


  

 

The Bundahishn, meaning "Primal Creation", also called Zand-agahih (Knowledge from the Zand) is a post-Sasanian account of Zoroastrian cosmogony and cosmology, which reflects ancient Zoroastrian and even pre-Zoroastrian beliefs.[1]

 

Although the Bundahishn draws on the Avesta and develops ideas alluded to in those texts, it is not itself scripture. Unlike the texts of the Avesta, the Bundahishn is in the Middle Persian language.

The Bundahishn survives in two versions, the Great (or Iranian) Bundahishn and a shortened version, the Indian Bundahishn.[2]

 

Most of the chapters of the compendium written after the fall of Sasanian dynasty and date to the 8th and 9th centuries. These portions of the collection are roughly contemporary with texts of the Denkard, another significant text of the Pahlavi literature. A final redaction was not completed until 1178.

 

The Bundahishn is the concise view of the world, and the battle of the forces of Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu for the hegemony of the world, and consist of three main themes: creation, the nature of earthly creatures, and the Kayanians.[3] The compiler does not name individual sources; but claims an encyclopedic knowledge of the Zand, and exemplifies excellently the process whereby treatises on chosen themes were created out of the scriptures.

 

According to Bundahishn the first 3,000 years of the cosmic year, Ahura Mazda created the Farahvashis and conceived the idea of his would-be creation. He used the insensible and motionless Void as a weapon against Angra Mainyu, and at the end of that period, Angra Mainyu was forced to submission and fell into a stupor for the next 3,000 years. Taking advantage of Angra Mainyu's absence, Ahura Mazda created the Amesha Spentas (Holy Immortals), along with the material world, consisting of the sky, waters, earth, plants, the sacred white bull called Parvin, and Q-Mars, the cosmic man. What's more, he permeated his kingdom with truth in order to prevent Angra Mainyu from reaching and destroying it.

 

 

See also: Bundahishn Text (Translation)

 

Bibliography:

Boyce, Mary 'Middle Persian Literature', Handbuch der Orientalistik, 1. Abt., IV. Band, 2. Abschn., LFG.1, p 40-1.

MacKenzie, David Neil, "Bundahišn". Encyclopedia Iranica 4. Cosa Mesa: Mazda (1990), 547-551 (Link).

West, Edward William, "The Bundahishn", in Max Müller: Sacred Books of the East 5. Oxford: OUP (1897). 

 


[1] Many Zoroastrians, especially Iranian Zoroastrians do not consider Bundahishn as a religious text.

[2] Deriving from a different MS. Tradition.

[3] Their lineage and abodes, and the vicissitudes befalling their realm of Eranshahr.

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