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The Gathas of Zarathushtra (Hymns in Praise of Wisdom)

Item Code: NAK573
Author: Piloo Nanavutty
Publisher: Mapin Publishing Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 1999
ISBN: 9781890206093
Pages: 173 (6 B/W and 5 Color Illustrations)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.5 inch x 7.0 inch
Weight 420 gm
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Book Description
About the Book

The words of Zarathushtra. Prophet of Ancient Iran, have come down to us across the centuries through The Gathas, sseventeen hymns which he composed and which embody the core of his faith, zarathushtra's manthra-vani has powerful resonances and Zoroastrianism. The world's oldest revealed religion has had great influence on the philosophy and theology of many religions that followed.

Piloo Nanavutty has both the scholarly training and the felt experiences of a lifetime with which to correctly interpret this ancient text. Her translation, The Gathas of Zarathushtra: Hymns in praise of wisdom is in straightforward idiomatic English. Keeping as close as possible to original text. While the commentaries provided elucidate the doctrinal allusions.

For the first time ever The Gathas are being published with relevant illustrated material to emphasise and explain the text. For the first time too. Background provided by the Story of Creation is examined and a page from an unpublished manuscript at the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, is reproduced to help comprehension.

Vedic parallels are emphasised to aid comparative studies of these two ancient Aryan traditions. The brief Suggested Reading emphasises cotemporary research, while a list of Centres of Excellence would be invaluable for those readers who wish to search further.

An ideal book which bridges the dividing line between layperson and scholars. The Gathas by Piloo Nanavutty is a must for every parsi home, libraries and researchers working on the Zoroastrian tradition.


About the Author

Piloo Nanavutty (Mrs. PN Jungalwalla) graduated from Girton College. Cambridge, taught at the Universities of Bombay and Delhi and was principal, Janki Devi College, Delhi University. She has travelled widely and lectured extensively on Zoroastrianism as well as the mystical tradition in many parts of the world. Her published works on the Zoroastrian religion created a reawakening among the Parsi Zororoastrian community and include The Songs of Zarathushura (1952) Fravarance (1959). The Parsis (1977) and a Series for Children.

She brings to her research a rigorous academic and critical faculty as well as felt experience a combination which is as unique as it is useful. Her work in the sacred tradition of literature and philosophy uses cross-references from Both East and West, the Vedas, the Sufi mystics, the Greeks and the Neoplatonsts for her philosophy of life is all inclusive, searching for the Truth wherever it may be found.



I am delighted by the request of Puloo Nanavutty (Mr. P. N. Jungalwalla) asking me to write the Foreword to her book, The Gathas of Zarathushtra, Hymns in Praise of Wisdom. I take this opportunity to pay my humble tribute to the great Zoroastran tradition which has made the Indian rainbow resplendent for more than a thousand years.

The Gathas unfold Zarathushrta's vision with a vibrant and poetic resonance. Each hymn enshrines the distilled essence of his total dedication to Ahura Mazda, embodiment of life and wisdom. The prophet of ancient Iran extols the divine attributes which form the core of this faith. These are: Vohu Mana, Good Mind, unique in the history of world religions: Asha (Vedic Rta), Truth and cosmic order : Kshathra (Vedic Kshatra,) Power sovereignty; Armaiti, (Vedic Armaiti), Devotion based on Right mindedness, not thoughtless devotion; and the twins Haurvatat, (Vedic Sarvataf), Perfection, and Ameretat, (Vedic Amrutatat), Immortality. In the Gathas, as in the Vedas, the sun is the symbol of truth and wisdom. Fore is an Gathas, as in the Vedas, the sun is the symbol of truth and wisdom of Truth and wisdom. Fire is an emblem of the divine, and is the symbol of Truth and wisdom. Fire is an emblem of the Divine, and is the sacred witness at all ceremonies, Zoroastrian and Vedic. The many faceted symbol of Gaush Urva/Geush Urva, which many be translated as the soul of the Cow or Bull of Earth is explained in depth in this study.

Zarathushtra describes himself as a Manthran, preacher of the Manthra (Vedic Mantra), the Sacred Word of Power. He claims to be an ereshi, (Vedic rishi), who foresees "what will or will not be"

I am confident that this publication will be conducive to collaborative research by Avesta and Vedic Scholars in common pursuit of understanding and interpreting the ancient roots of our civilization.

The book is illustrated by images collected from varied sources. The introduction, Commentaries, Translation with Glossary, Bibliography and index will help the common reader to enjoy the Gathas and perceive their relevance to our daily life.



The Gathas are devotional songs composed in intricate verse by Zarathushtra or Zoroaster as the Greeks named him, Prophet of ancient, Iran. Zarathushtra is believed to be the first in human history to have founded a religion based on the ethical values of Truth and Justice named Asha (Vedic Rta) in the Gathas. He preached on Supreme God, Ahura Mazda, Lord of life and wisdom, to be worshipped in thought, word and deed for the protection and evolution of Man and Nature. His followers are called Zoroastrians in the west and Zartoshtis in the East. These last include the Parsis of India and the Zartoshtis of Iran.

Although the religion taught by Zarathushtra is considered the most ancient of the revealed religions, it is the least known. This is due to various reasons. Out of a vast literature divided into 21 Nasks or Divisions, seven books on Religion, seven on statecraft and seven on Medicine, which once existed under the Sasanians (226-651 AC) only one fifth survives, and that too is incomplete, with many book missing. The invasion of Iran by Alexander the Great in 330 BC, resulted in the deliberate destruction of many religious texts, and the death of many learned priests. When Alexander died in 323,forty years of turmoil followed. Eventually, after the Battle of lpsus (301 BC,) the Persian empire was divided into three monarchies: The Macedonian in Europe; the Ptolemaic in Egypt and the Seleucid in Asia.

The Seleucids were followed by the Parthian Arsacids (160 BC-225 AC). The Greeks were evicted by the Parthian Arsacids in 150 BC after which there was a revival of the Zoroastrian religion. King Valkash, generally identified with the Arsacid king vologese I ordered a search for all the surviving portions of the scattered Avesta, or the Sacred Scriptures of the Zoroastrians, and had these as well all the players of the oral tradition recited by heart for centuries, written down. About this time, the Royal Seal affixed to official documents begins to have the Pahlavi Arsacid script on one side and a Zoroastrian fire Altar on the other. A large number of these seals can be examined in the magnificent collection housed in the British Library, London.

The good work started by king Valkash was continued by the kings of the Sasanian Dynasty the final reduction of the Avesta being completed sometime in the sixth century.

The second invasion of Iran by the Arabs was even more disastrous than that of Alexander. At the Battle of Nihavand (641 AC), the last Iranian King, yazdegird III, field to Merv where he hid for ten years before he was discovered and assassinated by one of his own generals. The collapse of the Sasanian Empire was complete. Not only were fire Temples destroyed, religious texts burnt, Zoroastrian Priests Killed, but in due course, Arabic replaced the Persian language. those who still clung to their ancient faith hid in mountain caves and remote desert areas. Finally, About the middle of the tenth century a few migrated to India and settled there forming the community of the Parsis, people from Pars or Fars in Southern Iran.

It is not known exactly when Zarathushtra lived or when the Gathas were composed. The Greeks considered him a very ancient prophet and placed him around 6000 BC, considered untenable. Yet some starling facts are revealed by a 115 member international team of scientists examining the mummified body of "the iceman of Tyrol" discovered by German tourists on the 19th of September, 1991. The iceman and his belongings are dated c.5300 BC, late Neoliithic or Copper Age. A "Sophisticated" Copper axe was found beside the frozen figure. Till recently it was held that copper and zinc were mined c. 3500 BC, iron ore C.1000 BC, yet these discoveries pre-date the mining of copper by two thousand years. The veteran archaeologist, Paul G. Bahn, in his recent study on prehistoric Art, asserts that iron oxide was discovered in South Africa and Australia C. 4500050000 B. C in Hungary C. 30000B. C. and much later in France and Portugal




Acknowledgments 10
Foreword 11
Introduction 12
The Legend of Gaush Urva, The Creations Story 63
Gatja Ahunavaiti: The Gatha of Free Choice 68
The Lament of Gaush Urva: Text Ys 29.1-11  
Commentary Ys.28-1-11 71
Zarathushtra at Prayer; Text  
Commentary Ys. 30.1-11 76
The Origin of Evil; Text  
Commentary Ys. 31.1-22 81
The Choice Text  
Commentary Ys. 32.1-16 89
Zarathushtra's Dedication, I: Text  
Commentary Ys. 33.1-14 96
Zarathushtra's Dedication, II: Text  
Commentary Ys. 34.1-15 101
Zarathushtra's Dedication, III: Text  
Gatha Ushtavaiti: The Gatha of Supreme Bliss  
Commentary Ys. 43.1-16 107
Zarathushtra Attains Enlightenment: Text  
Commentary Ys. 44.1-20 114
Questionings: Text  
Commentary Ys. 45.1-11 121
The Twin Mentalities and the Sacred word: Text  
Commentary Ys. 46.1-19 126
Zarathushtra's Trials: Text  
Gatha Spenta Mainyu: The Gatha of The Sacred Spirit  
Commentary Ys. 47. 1-6 133
Commentary Ys. 48.1-12 136
The Conquest of the Lie. I: Text  
Commentary Ys. 49.1-12 140
The Conquest of the Lie, II: Text  
Commentary Ys. 50.1-11 144
Zarathushtra Communes with the divine powers: Text  
Gatha Vohu Khashathra: The Gatha of Divine Sovereignty; Striving Towards the Spiritual Goal 148
Commentary Ys. 51.1-22  
Striving Towards the Spiritual Goal: Text  
Gatha Vahishtoishti: The Gatha of Fulfilment  
Commentary Ys.53.1-9 154
The Marriage of Pouruchista: Text  
Airyema Ishio Prayer Ys.54.1 and 2 159
Commentary Ys.54.1 and 2  
Glossary 163
Brief Bibliography 167
Index 169

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