All posts by Shervin Farridnejad

Zoroastrian Dualism in Jewish, Christian, and Manichaean Perspective

Volume 96, issue 2 (2020) of Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses is dedicated to the subject of Zoroastrian dualism in Jewish, Christian, and Manichaean perspectives.

Table of Contents

  • Jan Dochhorn: Zu den religionsgeschichtilichen Hintergründen der jüdischen und christlichen Satanologie. Eine Antwort auf John J. Collins, zugleich Sondierungen zum Verhältnis zwischen der Zwei-Geister-Lehre in 1 Q S III,13-IV,26 und dualistischen Konzepten iranischer Herkunft.
  • Benjamin Gleede: More Zoroastrian than Zoroaster? The Problem of Zoroastrian Influence on Manichaeism Illustrated by a Version of the Manichaean Myth Preserved in Severus of Antioch, Titus of Bostra and Theodoret of Cyrus.
  • Nestor Kavvadas: Sasanian Creed or Byzantine Projection? The Zurvanite Myth and Theodore of Mopsuestia’s Contra Magos.
  • Alexander M. Schilling: Ahreman in Armenien. Untersuchungen zu den christlich-orientalischen Zurwān-Texten.
  • Fazel Pakzad: Deus filius temporis? Divine Derivations and the Nature of Zoroastrian Dualism

Iranian Cosmographical World

Panaino, Antonio. 2020. A Walk through the Iranian Heavens: For a History of an Unpredictable Dialogue between Nonspherical and Spherical Models (Ancient Iran Series 9). Irvine, CA: Jordan Center for Persian Studies, University of California, Irvine.

This book by Antonio Panaino discusses the development of the Iranian cosmographical world and its interaction with the Greek, Mesopotamian and Indic civilizations. By undertaking such a study, the author places the Iranian intellectual tradition in perspective vis-à-vis other ancient civilizations and demonstrates the depth and importance of the Mazdean tradition, which was able to absorb and systematize foreign knowledge. Panaino shows the presence of both Aristotelian and Neo-Platonist traditions in the Iranian intellectual scene, though somewhat changed and acculturated to the Mazdean ideas and world-view. Hence, the book is a lively and interesting study of the juxtapositioning of various scientific and philosophical ideas at play in the Mediterranean, Iranian and Indic worlds.

The Bundahišn: a new translation

Agostini, Domenico & Samuel Thrope (eds.). 2020. The Bundahišn: The Zoroastrian Book of Creation. A new translation. New York: Oxford University Press.

The Bundahisn, meaning primal or foundational creation, is the central Zoroastrian account of creation, cosmology, and eschatology. Compiled sometime in the ninth century CE, it is one of the most important surviving testaments to Zoroastrian literature in the Middle Persian language and to pre-Islamic Iranian culture. Despite having been composed some two millennia after the Prophet Zoroaster’s revelation, it is nonetheless a concise compendium of ancient Zoroastrian knowledge that draws on and reshapes earlier layers of the tradition.

Well known in the field of Iranian Studies as an essential primary source for scholars of ancient Iran’s history, religions, literatures, and languages, the Bundahisn is also a great work of literature in and of itself, ranking alongside the creation myths of other ancient traditions. The book’s thirty-six diverse chapters, which touch on astronomy, eschatology, zoology, medicine, and more, are composed in a variety of styles, registers, and genres, from spare lists and concise commentaries to philosophical discourses and poetic eschatological visions. This new translation, the first in English in nearly a century, highlights the aesthetic quality, literary style, and complexity and raises the profile of pre-Islamic Zoroastrian literature.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Shaul Shaked
1: On Material Creation
2: On the Creation of the Lights
3: On Why Creation Chose to Fight
4: On How the Adversary Attacked Creation
5: On the Opposition of the Two Spirits
6: On the Stages of the Battle of the Material Creation against the Evil Spirit
7: On the Likenesses of the Creatures
8: On the Nature of the Lands
9: On the Nature of the Mountains
10: On the Nature of the Seas
11: On the Nature of the Rivers
12: On the Nature of Lakes
13: On the Nature of the Five Forms of Animals
14: On the Nature of Mankind
15: On the Nature of the Birth of All Species
16: On the Nature of Plants
17: On the Mastery of Men, Animals, and Everything
18: On the Nature of Fire
19: On Sleep
20: On Songs
21: On the Nature of Wind, Clouds and Rain
22: On Vermin
23: On the Nature of the Wolf Species
24: On Various Things: How they were Created, and how their Adversaries Came
25: On the Religious Year
26: On the Great Deeds of the Spiritual Deities
27: On Ahriman and the Demons’ Evil Deeds
28: On the Human Body as the Measure of the Material World
29: On the Mastery of the Continents
30: On the Cinwad Bridge and the Souls of the Departed
31: On the Celebrated Lands of Iran, and the Kayanid House
32: On the Glorious Kayanid Palaces, which they call Wonders and Marvels
33: On the Calamities that have Befallen Iran, Millenium by Millenium
34: On Resurrection and the Final Body
35: On the Family and Lineage of Kayanids and on the Lineage of Porusasp
36: On the Chronology of the Arabs of Twelve Thousand Years
Afterword by Guy G. Stroumsa

Turkic-Iranian relationships: Uighur newcomers of the Qočo kingdom

Piras, Andrea. 2019. Khan uiguri del regno di Qočo (850-1250) nelle fonti di Turfan. In Giorgio Comai, Carlo Frappi, Giovanni Pedrini & Elena Rova (eds.), Armenia, Caucaso e Asia Centrale (Eurasiatica 12), 145–161. Venice: Edizioni Ca’ Foscari.

This article firstly deals with a general survey of the Turkic-Iranian relationships, from the VI century onwards, by the point of view of epigraphic evidences and sparse linguistic references within the Indo-Iranian borderlands and Central Asia. Secondly, it focuses on Turkic words (onomastic, epithets, titles) recorded in Middle Persian texts of the Manichean religion, in order to highlight the cultural contacts between the Uighur newcomers of the Qočo kingdom and the local population, both sharing common religious beliefs such as Manichaeism and Buddhism. Given the Manichaean faith of the Uighur élites, the Middle Persian Manichaean texts show an appreciation of the Turkic rulership, attested by the panegyrical tone of many compositions dedicated to the khans and their entourages.

Rethinking the Life of Mani

Gardner, Iain. 2020. The founder of Manichaeism: Rethinking the life of Mani. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Mani, a third-century preacher, healer and public sage from Sasanian Mesopotamia, lived at a pivotal time and place in the development of the major religions. He frequented the courts of the Persian Empire, debating with rivals from the Judaeo-Christian tradition, philosophers and gnostics, Zoroastrians from Iran and Buddhists from India. The community he founded spread from north Africa to south China and lasted for over a thousand years. Yet the genuine biography of its founder, his life and thought, was in good part lost until a series of spectacular discoveries have begun to transform our knowledge of Mani’s crucial role in the spread of religious ideas and practices along the trade-routes of Eurasia. This book utilises the latest historical and textual research to examine how Mani was remembered by his followers, caricatured by his opponents, and has been invented and re-invented according to the vagaries of scholarly fashion.


  • Foreword by Jason BeDuhn
  • Introduction to the Many Lives of Mani: Inter-Religious
    Polemic and Scholarly Controversy
  • Mani’s Background and Early Life: Who Was He and
    What Did He Think He Was Doing?
  • Mani’s Career as the ‘Apostle of Jesus Christ’: His Missions
    and the Community He Founded
  • Mani’s Death: Inter-Religious Conflict in Early Sasanian
    Iran and the Memory of the Apostle
  • Appendix A The Dualistic Basis of Mani’s Thought
  • Appendix B The Community in Late-Antique Egypt and the
    Village of Kellis
  • Appendix C Some Comments on the Manichaean Kephalaia and
    the ‘Jesus-Book’ in the Chester Beatty Codex

Indian storytelling and the romance genre in Persian and Urdu

Khan, Pasha M. 2019. The broken spell: Indian storytelling and the romance genre in Persian and Urdu (Series in Fairy-Tale Studies). Detroit: Wayne State University Press.

The Broken Spell: Indian Storytelling and the Romance Genre in Persian and Urdu is a monograph on the rise and fall in popularity of “romances” (qissah)—tales of wonder and magic told by storytellers at princely courts and in public spaces in India from the sixteenth century to the twentieth. Using literary genre theory, author Pasha M. Khan points to the worldviews underlying the popularity of Urdu and Persian romances, before pre-existing Islamicate rationalist traditions gained traction and Western colonialism came to prominence in India.

In the introduction, Khan explains that it was around the end of the nineteenth century that these marvelous tales became devalued by Orientalists and intellectually colonized Indian elites, while at the same time a new genre, the novel, gained legitimacy. Khan goes on to narrate the life histories of professional storytellers, many of them émigrés from Iran to Mughal-ruled India, and considers how they raised their own worth and that of the romance in the face of changes in the economics, culture, and patronage of India. Khan shows the methods whereby such storytellers performed and how they promoted themselves and their art. The dividing line between marvelous tales and history is examined, showing how and why the boundary was porous. The study historicizes the Western understanding of the qissah as a local manifestation of a worldwide romance genre, showing that this genre equation had profound ideological effects. The book’s appendix contains a translation of an important text for understanding Iranian and Indian storytelling methods: the unpublished introductory portions to Fakhr al-Zamani’s manual for storytellers.

Persianate Art, Culture, and Talent in Circulation

Overton, Keelan (ed.). 2020. Iran and the Deccan: Persianate art, culture, and talent in circulation, 1400-1700. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press.

In the early 1400s, Iranian elites began migrating to the Deccan plateau of southern India. Lured to the region for many reasons, these poets, traders, statesmen, and artists of all kinds left an indelible mark on the Islamic sultanates that ruled the Deccan until the late seventeenth century. The result was the creation of a robust transregional Persianate network linking such distant cities as Bidar and Shiraz, Bijapur and Isfahan, and Golconda and Mashhad.

Iran and the Deccan explores the circulation of art, culture, and talent between Iran and the Deccan over a three-hundred-year period. Its interdisciplinary contributions consider the factors that prompted migration, the physical and intellectual poles of connectivity between the two regions, and processes of adaptation and response. Placing the Deccan at the center of Indo-Persian and early modern global history, Iran and the Deccan reveals how mobility, liminality, and cultural translation nuance the traditional methods and boundaries of the humanities.


Continue reading Persianate Art, Culture, and Talent in Circulation

The Parsi community of India and the making of modern Iran

Marashi, Afshin. 2020. Exile and the nation: the Parsi community of India and the making of modern Iran. Austin: University of Texas Press.

In the aftermath of the seventh-century Islamic conquest of Iran, Zoroastrians departed for India. Known as the Parsis, they slowly lost contact with their ancestral land until the nineteenth century, when steam-powered sea travel, the increased circulation of Zoroastrian-themed books, and the philanthropic efforts of Parsi benefactors sparked a new era of interaction between the two groups.

Tracing the cultural and intellectual exchange between Iranian nationalists and the Parsi community during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Exile and the Nation shows how this interchange led to the collective reimagining of Parsi and Iranian national identity—and the influence of antiquity on modern Iranian nationalism, which previously rested solely on European forms of thought. Iranian nationalism, Afshin Marashi argues, was also the byproduct of the complex history resulting from the demise of the early modern Persianate cultural system, as well as one of the many cultural heterodoxies produced within the Indian Ocean world. Crossing the boundaries of numerous fields of study, this book reframes Iranian nationalism within the context of the connected, transnational, and global history of the modern era.


  • Note on Transliteration and Dates
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1. To Bombay and Back: Arbab Kaykhosrow Shahrokh and the Reinvention of Iranian Zoroastrianism
  • Chapter 2. Patron and Patriot: Dinshah J. Irani, Parsi Philanthropy, and the Revival of Indo-Iranian Culture
  • Chapter 3. Imagining Hafez: Rabindranath Tagore in Iran, 1932
  • Chapter 4. Ebrahim Purdavud and His Interlocutors: Parsi Patronage and the Making of the Vernacular Avesta
  • Chapter 5. Sword of Freedom: Abdulrahman Saif Azad and Interwar Iranian Nationalism
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Religious traditions of the Yaresan

Kreyenbroek, Philip G & Yiannis Kanakis. 2020. “God first and last”: Religious traditions and music of the Yaresan of Guran. Volume 1. Religious traditions (Iranica, GOF III/NF 18,1). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

The Yaresan or Ahl-e Haqq are a relatively large minority group whose religion originates in the border regions between Iran and Iraq. As members of traditional Yaresan communities are becoming more visible in the West, both as diaspora groups and in academia, there is an increasing demand for reliable information about their background. Academic interest is also growing. Recent scholarly publications, however, tend to assume a fundamental knowledge of the Yaresan tradition, which is not easy to glean from existing sources. This is made more complicated by the very real differences between the European world view and that of traditional Yarsanism.
For that reason and because music plays an unusually prominent role in Yaresan observance, it was decided to combine the authors’ work on religious traditions and music respectively in two volumes. In doing so the religious realities of the traditional Yaresan of the Guran region is communicated by quoting extensively from interviews with community members. The first volume also offers a survey of other religious traditions that are thought to have been influential in shaping modern Yarsanism.


Albino, Marcos. 2019. Mittelpersisch namāz ,Ehrerweisung‘. Münchener Studien zur Sprachwissenschaft 73(1). 7–15.

The word namāz “reverence” is first attested in Manichaean Middle Persian and Parthian (namāž). It is survived in New Persian namāz originally denotes a respectful adressing to a socially superior person or to God.