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Monday, 18 December 2017 05:53

Traces of Zoroastrianism in Azerbaijan

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Veliyev Elnur Rashid, Doctor of Philosophy in history, Senior Scientific Researcher of the" Archeologic services " Department of the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography of the National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan

(Key words: Zoroast, Mazdaism, Avesta, Ahura Mazda, Ardvi Sura, Ardvi Sura, Sarasvati Sura Ardvi, Anahita Ahriman Angra Mainyu,Hormuzd,Spenta Manyu)

Study of Zoroastrianism is of great importance in terms of material and cultural heritage research of Azerbaijan, Iran, Central Asia and other East nations. Zoroastrianism traditions left an imprint on the minds of the East nations.

In the first centuries of the first millennium BC, elements of fire - worship, Mazdaism, Zoroastrianism and even positions of Zoroastrian Mazdaism existed in Western provinces of Atropathene which represented a part of Western Media.

Zoroastrianism predominated in Atropatena and related religious and philosophical doctrines, Avesta itself influenced the Jewish religion, initial Christianity, a number of representatives of Greek philosophical ideas. Zoroastrianism and its sacred book – Avesta played an important role under the Median Empire, Achaemenid period, stages of Atropatena reign, as well as 3-4 centuries following the Arab conquest. It was the very period a lot of Zoroastrian literature patterns were written in Pahlavi language. Afterwards Zoroastrian ideas have a profound effect on Mazdakites and Babakits ideology.

Zoroastrianism interpenetrated into the spiritual world of the Azerbaijan people. Traditions of our nation, particularly Novruz holiday is directly linked to Zoroastrianism.

Zoroastrianism spang out in the period of early genesis of statehood and turned into an ideology of the same period. It struggles for political unity based on change of lifestyle of the people, victory of agricultural labor and domiciled cattle breeding. Zoroastrianism opposes mass bloody sacrifice ceremonies and rejects worship of gods.

Since the beginning of the İV century, notwithstanding that the Zoroastrianism was oppressed by the Christianity representatives, it could maintain its stand. In spite of the fact that Christianity rose to a level of the official state religion, different sects of Zoroastrianism protected by the Sassanids were very strong. Sassanids slightly mitigated their Caucasus policy after official victory of Christianity in Eastern Rome, though their goodwill to the Christianity sect representatives had the character of a formal approach (1, pp.218-219).

Zoroastrian religion derived its name from its founder, the prophet Zarathustra ( Zoroaster ). Avesta being a corpus of the Zoroastrian sacred texts represents the main source to study Zoroastrianism. French scholar Anquetil Dyuperron was the first who familiarized the Europe with the contents of the Avesta in the XVIII century. Barthold called this period the most important one for ancient Iran studies.

Zoroastrianism sees the main goal of the world process in the victory of good over evil.

Avesta which survived to our days consists of three major books: Yasna, Yashts and Videvdat. Extraction of prayers from the Avesta forms the so-called Minor Avesta (Hurd Avesta) - a collection of prayers which Zoroastrian needs in everyday life.

Yasna consists of 72 chapters of which 17 are Ghats - hymns of Zoroaster and seven chapters, the so-called Yasna of seven chapters, a part of the Yasna that is closest to the Ghats by language and time of origin.

Ghats – hymns of prophet Zoroaster are the oldest part of the Yasna. Ghats are written in verse and divided into five groups of poetry.

Yashts are of great interest. Their total number is 21. This is a collection of divine hymns praising the gods of the Zoroastrian pantheon, including gods that existed among the ancient ancestors of the Iranian tribes. A value of Yashts is, in particular, that they reflect the Iranian myths and legends. Many of these stories were later used in a lovely poetic work of Ferdovsi " Shahnameh " (" Book of Kings ").

Yashts contain excerptums that differ by meaning, origin and time. Yashts are composed of hymns of later origin along with excerpts from ancient mythological poetry pre-zoroastrian period. Although Yashts as a whole were created later than Ghats, many sections of Yashts relate to more ancient period and date from the early – mid of I millennium BC

Hymns to the gods in Yashts begin with a hymn to Ahura Mazda and his ghosts - helpers - amshaspands. One of the most revered yazats - Mithra ( Mihr) - god of the agreement, defender of order, it is scary for perjurers and punishes people for lie.

Yasht 5 sings beautiful goddess Ardvisura Anahita. Fravashi always existed in Zoroastrian pantheon, even before creation of the human being. They accompany human all his life and after his death become the guardians and patrons of the soul. Fravashi help people get water, food, improve soil fertility and get good yields, promote procreation and family welfare. They come to the aid of a person in difficult moments. During holidays, the Zoroastrians provide food and even clothing to fravashi, as it is believed that they feel cold in the after world. According to legend, in the Day of Judgment fravashi should protect righteous Zoroastrians.

The only one of twenty one books of the Avesta that existed under the Sassanids (III-VII centuries BC)k - the book Videvdat was kept in apparent good order and condition. Videvdat is primarily a code of laws on ritual purity, permissible and forbidden, on the rules of religious purification in case of contact with a corpse. Videvdat includes the stories of ancient Iranian mythology, cosmological and geographical representations of the Zoroastrians.

Zoroastrian doctrine found its expression in confidence to supreme god Ahura Mazda. Monotheistic idea is typical for this religion, however, Zoroastrianism religion turned monoteist religion later (specifically, in the early Middle Ages during Sassanids).

Mythic images that exist in religious outlook of ancient Aryans was embodied in the Avesta : Faravashı, Asha Dasna, Mitra, Vertraqna, Havarna Rashnu, Vayu, Quesh Urvan, Sraosha Ardvi - Sura Anahita. etc. Mythic images, customs, traditions, epic heroes, legends were continuing to exist after formation of Zoroastrianism. Most of these images, customs,traditions and religious rites are still attributed to" hindiran " unity period to which the Iranian tribes and their ancestors joined.

Sassanid shakhs which converted Zoroastrianism into the state religion in the early Middle Ages directed the Caucasian peoples to cultural and ideological assimilation.

Archaeological materials are the most obvious example of written sources.

From this point of view we will try to conduct comparative study of toreutics, griffin, seal samples with the patterns of material culture of the other close neighboring countries related to relevant period. Toreutics of the samples were obtained in two ways. First one was discovered by chance, while the second one were obtained as a result of excavations conducted over recent years.

Jug found from Baku deservea a special attention. Gilted silver jug not big in sizes is similar to Sasanian bottles by its decorative design. Its height is 19 cm, width - 10 cm. On the jag Four rombs iare engraved by plant – like strips. In the rombs cock, pheasant, grass-eating eagle and Phoenix bird are depicted. On the top gap, between the rhombs six- cornered stars in the saucer-shaped circle, and on the lower part small animal pictures are drawn. On the intersections flower pictures are placed.

Within Sassanid toreutics there are a number of similar jugs related VI- VII centuries. Type of Jug from Hermitage colection jug, jug found in the Kurgan region, as well as the jugs stored in the British Museum and the Museum of Tehran are similar to jugs found in Baku. In all cases we are witness of silver gilt jugs made of the same material. All of these jugs are almost of the same size, at the same time the pictures onto them are subject to single regularity. As a rule, such type of jugs are without handles. Only decorative design join them. Drawings, ornamental circles, rombs or egg-shaped circle are peculiar to late Sassanid toreutics. [1, p.72]

It should be noted that various themes engraved on the jugs, serious legitimization of old traditions in massive Sassanid toreutics, investor or hunting scenes are distinct from each other. Here we come across the animals, birds, martial arts, hunting scene, vintaging and naked images women dancing on some jugs.

According to a number of researchers, these themes are closely related to the cult of Dionysus and Anahita widespread through Sasanian Iran. Picture with Dionysus scenes is observed with Novruz holiday (equinox, held on March, 21 and 22, start of agricultural activities) and Mehrigan ( arrival of autumn, end of harvest. I think it would be pertinent to talk about the Novruz holiday. The Azerbaijani people established its varicoloured holidays related to early farming, cattle-breeding perceptions. [ 1, p.69 ].

Novruz holiday is one of our greatest holidays of our Azerbaijani people. It is celebrated every year on March, 20 - 22. Novruz is the holiday arisen thanks to farming, harvest abundance beliefs. This holiday is considered to be one of most ancient holidays of the Middle East and Asia nations.

" Avesta " is about six seasonal holiday. One of the above is a holiday called hamaspamaedaye celebrated on the occasion of great summer holiday that covers seven months starting from the day when night becomes equal to day. This word is interpreted as equinox, thaw period in between hot and cold period, a day of creation of human being from the viewpoint of Zoroastrian religion. According to the above religious faiths this seasonal holiday of the people was linked to day of creation of human being, day of the birth of Zoroaster and etc. issues.

According to legend narrated in the " Shahnameh " work by Ferdowsi, children of Iran and Turan Keykavus and Sayavush came to the Afrasiyab’s land. Afrasiyab welcomed him, gave him his daughter and became a friend of Sayavush. Sayavush built Bukhara fence in the Afrasiab’s country as a keepsake. However, the enemies upset relations between Sayavush and Afrasiyab. Afrasiyab killed Sayavush and threw him out onto Bukhara fence. Zoroastrians buried him at the entry of Eastern gate. A lot elegies arose among the people in honor of Sayavush " Master of the Zoroastrian ". According to the mentioned elegies which came down to us, the day of the Sayavush’s funeral was called Novruz and celebrated as a holiday every year [ 3, p.237 ].

Nevertheless, Novruz holiday has nothing in common either with six- holidas described in "Avesta", or Islam. Since, Novruz originated lonf before Zoroastrianism and Islam. Novruz is a holiday which arose due to farming and harvest abundance faiths.

Futher, Novruz was celebrated as a holiday throughout the vast areas. For example, sources indicate that celebration of Novruz holiday became a ceremony during the Achaemenid period ( 558 - 330 B.C. ). As Zoroastrians tried to link Novruz with their customs and traditions, they display such initiatives later. There were the attempts to link Novruz holiday with various historical and legendary personalities such as legendary Iranian shakhs - Kayumars (Gayomartan in Avesta), Jamshid and others.

Due to the fact that Zoroastrianism became the state religion during Sassanian period, a national spring holiday was celebrated as a public and state holiday during the mentioned period more solemnly. Sassanid state recognized Novruz an official state holiday.

As regards Dionis holiday ( Ta Dionysia ) in VI - IV centuries BC there were the holidays celebrated in honor Dionis in Athens, Ancient Greece.

As to Anahita, it should be noted that Anahita hold a specific place in the pantheon of gods. Information related to Anahita were noted in the Ardvi - Sura of Avesta ( Yasht V ) – the section dedicated to Anahita. She is described as a goddess of sacred waters. Her abode is among the stars. She is strong, brave and destroy all evil forces by moving in her chariot. Ahura Mazda entrusted Anahita with caring for all living creatures. All the gods appear before Anahita, request her for majesty, wealth, richness. Anahita ensures a productivity of nature and living creatures, protecs herds and pastures. She was a stately girl with gold crown, earrings decorated with stars and necklace. Anahita differs from all other women with thin body, wide chest, beautiful breasts, white hands. Her body is covered by a dress sewn with golden threads at the feet. Such image in Avesta shows that author of Yasht saw statue of Anahita and could make picture by looking at her [ 2, p.173, 3, p.143 ].

As noted above, this cult hold a specific place in Avesta (Yashts). Thus, the songs was dedicated to Avesta ( Yasht V ) ( " Ardvisura - Yasht " or " Aban - Yasht"). The cult replaced the cult of ancient Iranians "Harahvati - Ardvi - Sura". Afterwards they adopted this cult under the name of the cult of Anahita. Then, the cult was called Harahavati Ardvi Sura by the ancient Iranians, and Sarasvati Sura Ardvi by the ancient Indians [ 4, 6, 761 ]. However, Anahita looks like the goddess of abundance and beauty spread in the Middle East since ancient times, and represents an equivalent to the such type of goddesses related to origin of water. (Ardvi Sura etc.).

Emergence of the "mother " and "grandmother" words is associated with this goddess ( Anahita).

As is obvious this proper noun ( i.e. Anahita ) is out of line with an origin of any Indo- European languages, and as we noted above, they did not have such a cult. Most likely this cult was transferred to the Iranians from the Magians of Media and spread afterwards by the Achaemenids.

Under the Fravartish Media kingdom ( 675-653 BC ) the cult of the old gods was restored. Most likely, during religious reforms Xerxes made attempts to abolish the cult of old gods and the aforesaid cult as well. His name was first mentioned in Haxamanishi scripts under Artaxerxes II reign ( 404-359 BC ), and it was the Haxamanishi period when the cults flourished. She was expressed in "Little Avesta " as the goddess of water as well as acted as patron saint for the Iranian heroes, shakhs Kavi and Paradata. Under Seleucid and Parthia period the antique culture of Iran spread over each side. As a result of the synthesis of ancient and eastern mythology Demetra and Kibel goddeses were identified with different earth-goddesses.

Under the Kartir Anahita symbol did not exist in the Iranian art. So then, starting from the fourth century, under the reign of second Shapur and his chief sacrificer Aturpat Mahraspand Anahita cult began to spread widely and various colors, fruits, pigeon, pomegranate and other images fall on period. As mentioned in the Avesta, Anahita was expressed as water, love, earth -goddess. However, in parallel with as a result of further religion reforms role of Anahita as patroness goddess of heroes and warrior was held down.

Thus, the religious texts of the Avesta came down to us from the period of reign of Mazdakites. It can be assumed that Avesta was canonized through three stages ( Kartir, Aturpat and last Mazdakites version). these canons are likely to reflect various layers [ 5, p. 97 ].

It should be noted that prophet Zoroaster rejected Mithra, Veretragna and other old hindiran ( ahura and deva ) gods along with Ardvi - Sura - Anahita.

Under reign of first Sassanids Anahita as a goddess of war and victory embodied Iran queens in iconographic manner. Bahram II assigned Kartir to a position of chief sacrificer for Anahita temple which he patronized. Following heavy events occured in Iran 70 - 90s of III-rd century, this goddess became religious faiths of the Iranian dynasty again. Probably this is the very reason why 30 years after death of Kartir Shapur II deemed it necessary to renew the Temple of Anahita. ( " Denkart " contains an information regarding above). More likely chief sacrificer of Shapur II Aturpat gave preference to her not as goddessof water, plants, but queen goddess being a symbol of power having changed her character. This, in turn, was reflected in the changes in the iconography and symbolism [5, p. 97].

The only goddess goddess Anahita, which are described in a similar way to people 's appearance at all times. While iconographies related to first Sassanid period embodied Anahita queens, it was depicted similar to images of Mithra and Ahura Mazda shakhs.

These images are also known from Sassanid money and investur reliefs. However, alike images are the traditionally known from as early as Hakhamanishy period. These images has nothing in common with Zoroastrianism. These images represent the attributes of power adopted not literally, but symbolically. Since the early days of their reign Sassanids launched " iconoclasm" campaign and forbad divine image. Interestingly, while Ahura Mazda, Mithra and Anahita were illustrated on the reverses of the Sassanids money (on the side of money with a value indicated) in the beginning of the III century according to the iconography laws, illustrated ikonaqrafik, since the fourth century they were illustrated more clearly than before. Since the end of the IV century these images begin to lose their meaning [ 6, p.58 ].

Since that period Anahita was worshiped as the patroness of the dynasty as well as goddess of victory and war. Anahita temple located in Instahir turned into one of the main holy temples of Sasanids. It should be noted that only the kings belonged to the higher ranks of the sacerdotalism. However, as a result of subsequent religious reforms Anahita’s role as a goddess of water, mother, fertility, vegetation, family strengthened. However, in parallel with that her function of patroness of the previous heroes and soldiers was reserved. Under reign of Khosrov II ( 591-628 ) a cult of Anahita was put into the forefront due to substantial change in the dogmatic laws of Zoroastrianism. This period featured with intensive competition between Zoroastrianism and Christianity. At the time Anahita was identified with the blessed Virgin Mary.

Anahita was always known in Azerbaijan folklore as the goddess of water and earth, that is as Nahid. Azerbaijan folklore is rich in this respect. Source of many characters and world- views covered by Avesta needs to be sought in the folklore of Atropatena, Albania and non -Iranian speaking peoples living in Central Asia. Nevertheless, this is the joint culture synthesized by Iranians which cannot be isolated. Avesta also relates to the kind of monuments in terms of the content. Due to the role of many nations in its formation, each of them has moral right to consider each of them as their own monument.

Archaeological excavations carried out in the territory of Azerbaijan prove our assumptions to be true. It should be noted that most frequently they make attempts to link Anahita ( Nahid ) image and a number of mythological image with Hindiran mythology.

Unfortunately, such approach is typical to a number of archaeologists. As a rule mythological images in all mythologies to some extent are similar to the social psychological "role".

Images on the jug found in Baku cover images of various birds. Bird images in the Sassanid art were created based on benignancy motives.

An image of rooster is a symbol of Shraosa which protects people from satanic host [ 7, p.119 ]. Avesta was used in Shraosa under " obedience " meaning. It was called Shraos in Middle Persian and Surush in modern Persian language. In “ Gatas” it was expressed under religious obedience " meaning. Generally, it should be noted that attitude both to animals and birds in the" Avesta " are double. Thus, while Ahriman(Angra Mainyu) inflicts misery to the human beings he created, those created by Ahura Mazda are mentioned in terms of of good deeds.

Rooster was one of the Zoroastrian pets from this point of view. According to " Bundahish" rooster was created to fight with the divs being the forces of Ahriman(Angra Mainyu). According to the religious faiths crowing rooster in the morning demonstrates a struggle against the Ahriman(Angra Mainyu). It awakens those who sleeping, thereby prevents the dream div of Ahriman(Angra Mainyu) putting about the laziness and inertia from winning a victory over the people.

According to the faiths of Zoroastrians for their beliefs ("Bundahis" 82, 2) rooster and dog help angel protect the world from evil of divs at nights. In the Middle Ages people used to adhere the belief that evil can not move closer to the house [ 8 p.57].

Videvdat ( 18 ) describes Shraosa as Ahura Mazda’s good news messenger " beating the alarm ", a holy bird ( rooster). Yasna ( 57.2 ) fables: Shraosa performs the duties to protect the believers from bad thoughts, satanic host, and punish divs mercilessly at night. It hunt them away with cudgel. Most likely, according to legend spreading during Hellenism and Shraosa and Rashnu as a brother-in-arms of Mitra toghether with him stand on the Cinvat bridge and render justice over the souls of people. In Middle Persian sources Shraosa sees off soul of deceased people to eternity. According to Avesta the prophet Zoroaster performs this duty himself [8, p. 98 - 119].

We encounter with Rooster image at later Sassanid toreutics. They were also carved gemmae and at the same time on the rock. Pheasant image is widespread in Sasanid art. A tape was depicted mostly on the throat or nib. One may encounter them on Gemmae, Seals and fabrics [ 1, p.74].

Scene where eagle pulls apart the grass-eating animals is more widespread in Sassanid art. Besides, this image can be found in the information related to earlier periods. Parthian seals found in Nisa may serve as an example. According to X. Bumer, this topic passed to the Parthians, and later to Sasanids. Scene where eagle pulls apart a grass-eating animal is traditionally observed in the fall or spring [ 1 p 75].

Such theme in Sassanid toreutics can be seen on the bowl discovered in the Ufim treasure, plate in the Perim art gallery as well as on the jug in the Hermitage museum. Jug in the Hermitage museum, is more similar to the one discovered in Baku [ 1 p75 ].

Finally, Phoenix bird illustrated in the center of the jug discovered in Baku in the mythology of Iran, Central Asia and Azerbaijan is depicted as symbol of kindness, and at the same time a grand, magic bird able to travel a long distance in a blink of an eye being zoomorphic image. According to Avesta Phoenix bird dwells at the top of a tree grown in the middle of the sea, while according to " Shakhnameh" – on the peak of Elbrus mountain. In Azerbaijan and Arabic folklore Elbrus is considered " Gaf “ mountain. Phoenix bird called Emerald bird in Azerbaijan fairy tales ( " Simnar’s tale, " Malik Mammad’s fairy tale, " etc. ) is known as a creature which helps a hero, beat off the dark forces in every book with its participation.

Famous “Malik Mammad’s fairy tale” ends with Malik Mammad’s victory over his treacherous brothers with the help of Phoenix bird, that is to say the good wins the evil with the help of Phoenix bird.

In general, it should be noted that the good and the evil as the main poles of "Avesta" ’s philosophy, ( Ahura - Mazda and Ahriman (Angra Mainyu) fought between an abstract concept. As an example of the above, " Avesta " says ( Yasna 30):

" In the beginning, two twin angels - good and bad thought, deed and behavior emerged. Benevolent people, but not malevolent chose right one ( good ) between these two angels [ 2, p130 ]. "

As is seen from above, they ( good and bad ) are not anthropological concepts an understanding. Good and evil is a thorough moral and psychological aspect existing in the human consciousness. Their positive and negative aspects declare themselves in good thoughts, words and deeds of the people.

According to " Avesta" an abode of Ahura Mazda is situated at the holy Berezant mountain renowned with the name Elbur in ancient Pahlavi language, and with the name Elbrus in contemporary Persian language as well as in our native language. According to the myth, this mountain considered to be the mother of all mountains of the Earth climbs to join the heavens. According to the Avesta, " neither night, nor gloom, cold, hot wind, deadly diseases exist here”. This mountain has several peaks. Peak named “Tahir” among them is considered to be a center of the world. The sun, the moon and the stars are revolving around the same peak. Holy Vourukasa Sea is situated on the slopes of this mountain, which according to many scientists is the Caspian Sea, [ 26, Nq5, 1945 ].

Similarly, the location of the Anahita water source is typically allocated on the Hukayra considered to be a peak of the Hara Berezant mountain. The water of Anahita flows through Hukayra peak and runs into Vourukasa Sea. Hara Berezant ( hara, Haraiti ) was expressed in Avesta as "High Hara", and as Haraburz in the Middle Persian. Haraburz is associated with Elbrus mountain range in the north of Iran in the Middle Persian Zoroastrian cosmology [ 10, p. 305, 307, 308 ].

In general, Phoenix bird deserves high attention from the etymological point of view. Those who translated Shahnameh into English tried to explain its such complex name through its real description. According to K.V. Trever an etymology of the word Simurg( Phoenix bird) should be explained by the word ayina ( adenak ) - " image", " dog", and the last part by the word murv or mereyo "bird". Such pronunciation of the name saena mevo, sen murv forms a unity with the appearance of Phoenix. As noted above, " Avesta " features a dual attitude to animals [ 11, p.25]. This is due to a dualism exiting in Avesta. Animals created by Ahura Mazda and Ahriman (Angra Mainyu) are implied there. Good animals fight with satanic host as well. So, Shraosa, Paridar ( rooster ) scares and drives off Ahriman (Angra Mainyu) by crowing early in the morning. ( " Videvdat " 18.14-29 " Bundahisn" 19.33 ), while the dog threatens Ahriman (Angra Mainyu) by its look. ( " Videvdat " 8.16-19 ).

Finally, it should be noted that the Zoroastrianism left great many marks in the spiritual culture of Azerbaijani people. There are the researches with regard to this. We can obtain an information about the specific period of our history under study based on information of the written sources. Zoroastrianism - related material culture patterns obtained till present forms some scientific database in the above field. No doubt, discovery of Zoroastrianism - related monuments during archaeological excavations conducted in Azerbaijan will allow to reveal new scientific facts in this area.

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