In recent years a number of scholars have proposed more or less detailed schemas of the formation of the Zoroastrian ritual. These schemas offer accounts of the arrangement of the texts in the liturgy, the process of its formation, and even its function from an endogenous perspective. One way or another, they argue that the official Zoroastrian liturgy is an integrated ritual with a coherent text, and that the function of the ritual and the intention behind the arrangement of the texts can be determined by means of philological, literary and comparative analyses. The questions of formation and meaning of the Zoroastrian liturgy these scholars have placed on the agenda are important not only for the study of Zoroastrianism but also for the history of religions and ritual theory. I consider their accounts with respect to the texts they invoke and the methods they use, and show that their arguments suffer from fatal flaws.
The manuscript S1 is one of the chief witnesses to the Sanskrit Yasna, containing the Avestan text of the Zoroastrian Yasna liturgy to chapter 46.19, together with a Sanskrit translation and commentary. This book contains the complete, full-colour set of facsimile images of S1.
An introduction by Leon Goldman provides an overview of the Zoroastrian Sanskrit tradition together with a discussion of the S1 manuscript covering its physical appearance, its age and history, and for the first time, a detailed palaeographic analysis of the Avestan and Sanskrit text.
Between 2006 and 2013 J. Kellens published in five volumes (the last one together with C. Redard) a corrected version of the text edited by K.F. Geldner of the longest and most important Zoroastrian ritual usually known by the name of one of its variants as the Yasna. The text accompanies an experimental translation and both are followed by a commentary. J. Kellens is pioneering in translating and studying, not only the standard daily variant of the liturgy, but also its more solemn version. Furthermore, his work is the first attempt to read the complete text of the liturgy as the coherent text (although produced at different times) of an old and meaningful liturgy, although it has been traditionally understood as a late composition. As it appears in the manuscripts and is celebrated still today in India, the liturgy is the result of a series of conscious interpretations, reinterpretations and rearrangements of older versions. Despite of this, it is a coherent text and ritual in which each section of the liturgy plays a concrete role that J. Kellens has tried to bring to light for the first time. In the present review, I try to highlight the extraordinary importance of Kellens’ new approach to the Zoroastrian Long Liturgy and to expose his main achievements. At the same time, I expose the main weaknesses of this monumental work: 1. its dependence on the text edited by Geldner, which hides part of the ritual variety of the Long Liturgy; 2. the conscious disregard of the meta-ritual information provided by the Zoroastrian tradition about the performance of the liturgy; 3. J. Kellens’s Yasna-centrism that prevents him to recognize the close connections between the Long Liturgy and other minor rituals and the participation within the Long Liturgy of many short rituals that can be celebrated independently.
Alberto Cantera is a scholar of Ancient Iranian Studies and Avestan and Middle Persian Philology and Codicology. He is the director of the Institut of the Iranian Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin.
The Avesta is a collection of liturgical texts considered as their sacred book by the Zoroastrian community. It contains the recitatives of the Zoroastrian liturgies still celebrated in the 17th century, some of them even celebrated until today. The texts integrated in these ceremonies were composed in different places and at different times, and transmitted orally for centuries. The exact date of the fixation of the ceremonies in the shape in which they are presented in the manuscripts and the creation of the different manuscripts is unknown. But today it is proven that even after the creation of the first manuscripts, the transmission of these liturgical texts was the result of a complicated process in which not only the process of copying manuscripts but also the ritual practice and the ritual teaching were involved. The only deep analysis of the written transmission of the Avesta was made by K. F. Geldner as Prolegomena to his edition of the Avesta. Since then, many new manuscripts have appeared. In The Transmission of the Avesta contributions by the main experts in this field are gathered: the oral transmission, the fixation of the different collections, the first writing down, and the manuscripts. Special interest is devoted to the manuscripts. Some contributions of the volume were presented at the correspondent colloquium held in Salamanca, September 2009; others were added in order to make of the volume a comprehensive work on the different aspects of the Avestan transmission.
A newly discovered Yasna manuscript from Yazd, Iran
The newly discovered Avestan manuscript contains an illuminated Yasna ceremony and belongs to the Dinyār family in Yazd, Iran. Prof. Alberto Cantera has already confirmed that the new manuscript is a Yasna manuscript. The only other known Yasna manuscript of a comparable age is kept at the British Library.
Even though the manuscript has no colophon, according to Alberto Cantera it is most probably by the hand of Mihrabān Anōšīrwān Wahromšāh and should be dated around 1630. The scribe’s hand as well as the illuminations also show a close relation to the Vīdēvdād Sāde of the same scribe, dated to 1647 CE / 1016 Y, kept today in the British Library.
The discovery of this manuscript was announced by Dr. Saloume Gholami on Facebook. Prof. Alberto Cantera and his team at the Avestan Digital Archive (ADA) project seek to publish and make the manuscript available publicly.
Yasna manuscripts contain the long liturgical text recited during the daily performance of the Yasna, the central ritual in Zoroastrianism. It was originally composed in the ancient Iranian language of Avestan between the 2nd and 1st millennia BCE. Different types of Yasna manuscripts are available, those transmitted with the Pahlavi translation (i.e. Pahlavi-Yasna), those without a translation (i.e. Yasna Sāde) and those with the Sankrit translation (i.e. Sanskrit Yasna). Among the manuscripts of the Pahlavi-Yasna one can distinguish two lines of transmission, namly the Indian Pahlavi-Yasna and the Iranian Pahlavi-Yasna.