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The Gāhāni Avesta

The Gāhāni texts which comprise about one-sixths of the existing Avesta consist of the following sections:

i. The Gāhān (or the Gāthas): This part of the Avesta is the oldest existing Iranian literary work which most Iranologists believe was composed in the first Millennium BC. The term “Gāhān” is the plural of the word “gā”, meaning “song” and this is the oldest part of the Avesta and consists of seventeen hymns that are interspersed between the Yasnās (28-34 and 43-51, 53). The Gāhāni hymns which are believed to have been composed by Zoroaster himself are the most difficult texts that have so far been written and even their translations into the Pahlavi language do not help much in understanding them very clearly because, owing to the time lapse, these texts were difficult and beyond the understanding of even the Zoroastrian mobeds during the Sassanian period.

The Gāhāni hymns are syllabic in nature and from the point of structure, they are similar to the Vedic hymns. Some linguists believe that in spite of a certain degree of phrasal and grammatical ambiguity as well as a complexity of language, the lofty beliefs of Zoroaster can be witnessed in these rich religious hymns that had been composed in order to express illuminative humane thoughts.

ii. The Yasnā Haftās: This section which is also known as the “Seven-Chapter Yasnās” (Yasnā 35-41) is the second oldest part of the Avesta after the Gāhān and is in prose form.

iii. The Supplications of Yasnā 27: This section comprises the texts of the famous Zoroastrian supplications like the “Ahu Navar”, the “Ashem Vohu”, and the “Yangahe Hātam”.

* source: Zarshenas , Zohreh " Iran Entry " The Great Islamic Encyclopedia . Ed. Kazem Musavi Bojnourdi.Tehran: The Center of Great Islamic Encyclopaedia , 1989-, V.10 , pp.558

 

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