the first and second of three commentaries on the Old Avesta, extant in a Pahlavi resume in book nine of the Dēnkard, the third being the Bag nask.


SŪDGAR NASK and WARŠTMĀNSR NASK, the first and second of three commentaries on the Old Avesta (the five Gāthās [Gāθās] and Yasna haptaŋhāiti), extant in a Pahlavi resume in book nine of the Dēnkard, the third being the Bag nask. They are three of the 21 nasks (parts of the Avesta), which, according to Dēnkard book eight, constituted the Avesta in the ninth century CE. All three contain 22 fragards, corresponding to the traditional division of the Gāthās into 17 sections (hāitis), the Yasna haptaŋhāiti (as per the Avestan manuscripts, its seven hāitis are treated as a single unit and called Yasn; cf. Nērangestān 18.3, ed. Kotwal and Kreyenbroek, p. 101, n. 343), and four fragards on the four sacred prayers (Ahuna vairiia, Aṣəm vohū, Yeŋˊhē hātąm, and Ā airiiə̄mā išiiō). In addition, the Sūdgarhas a brief introduction (Dēnkard 9.1.1-2), the Warštmānsrhas an introductory fragard on the birth and life of Zoroaster (Dēnkard 9.24), and the Baghas a final fragard with quotations from the Pahlavi Gāthās on the future existence (Dēnkard 9.69).

The fragards are called by the Pahlavi forms of the names of the Avestan hāitis (e.g., Xwadmēd for Xᵛaētumaitī hāiti = Yasna 32; Kamnamēz for Kamnamaēzā hāiti = Yasna 46), but Yasna 28 (Ahiiāsā hāiti) is named after its introductory text (Yasna 28.0), the (archaizing) Young Avestan Yānīm manō (thus also in Wizīdagīhā ī Zādspram 28.3, ed. Gignoux and Tafazzoli, pp. 92-93). The Young Avestan Yasna 42 (between the Yasna haptaŋhāiti and the second Gāthā) and Yasna 52 (between the third and fourth Gāthās) are not included (Molé, pp. 142-43, arguedthat this shows a traditional awareness of the structure of the Old Avestan corpus).

Whether there were complete Avestan nasks is uncertain; the only text with an extant Avestan original is the last fragardof the Warštmānsr nask, the Ērmān fragard (commenting on the Ā airiiə'mā išiiō= Yasna 54.1), which is the translation of the so-called Fragment Westergaard 4.1-3. This suggests that at least some of the fragards were based on Avestan originals.

The style is terse and best described as a “table of contents”; most sections are introduced by the preposition abar(“about, regarding”) and are often followed by ud ēn-iz kū(“and [it says] this also”), introducing additional explanations (cf. West, 1892, p. xlvi). The Sūdgar is more expansive in its interpretation of the Old Avesta than the Warštmānsr and Bag nasks, which, at least at times, follow the Pahlavi Gāthās closely, whereas the Sūdgar often draws on material from the Vīdēvdād and the Yašts.

Sūdgar may mean “the benefit-maker,” but swtyklyhy> = sŭd(ī?)garīh in the Pahlavi Psalter renders Syriac “supplication” (see Andreas and Barr, p. 54). In the Zand ī Wahman yasn(1.1) and the Persian rivāyats (Dhabhar, 1932, pp. 2-3) it is called Stūdgar or Istūdgar, “the praise-maker,” by popular etymology (Cereti, p. 171). In Dēnkard 8.1.12, the Sūdgar is listed as thefirst of the gāhānīgnasks (Gathic nasks), and its contents and style are briefly described in Dēnkard 8.2.2-4. The nasks are listed in the same order in the Persian rivāyat of Bahman Punjya (Dhabhar, 1932, p. 1), but in the Pahlavi Wizīrgird ī dēnīgand thePersian rivāyats of Kama Bohra, Narimān Hoshang, and Dastur Barzoji, it is listed second, with the Stōt yašt (Av. Staota yesniia)listed first (Dhabhar, 1932, pp. 1-2).

The name Warštmānsr refers to the working/composing (varz-) of a mąθra (cf. Yasna 45.3 mąθrəm varəšəṇtī “[those who] shall work a mąθra”; Yasna 3.4 gāθanąmca sraoθrəm huuarštå mąθrå “and the recitation of the Gāthās, the well-wrought mąθras”). In the Persian rivāyats it is called Wahišta-mānsar “the best mąθra” by popular etymology (ibid., 1932, p. 3). In Dēnkard 8.1.12, the Warštmānsr is listed as the second of the gāhānīg nasks, and its contents and style are briefly described in Dēnkard 8.3.1-5, where it says (8.3.4), “whatever is said in the Gāθās, then in the Warštmānsr something is said about it.”

Manuscripts. Dēnkard 9 is found in six published manuscripts. The only complete manuscript is J5 (copied in 1865 from B, now in Bombay; Jamasp Asa and Nawabi, 1976b), but it is modern and less reliable than the others (e.g., AMT = ka “when” is typically used for MNW= “who, which”). The three oldest, but incomplete manuscripts are DH (copied in 1577, now in Bombay; ed. P. K. Anklesaria), K43b (copied in 1594, from DH, nowin Copenhagen; ed. Christensen), and B (copied in 1659,now in Bombay; ed. Dresden; see DĒNKARD). The remaining two modern manuscripts are D10a (copied from Bin 1868, now in Bombay; ed. Jamasp Asa and Nawabi, 1976a) and MR24II (= Meherji Rana; copied in 1893 to fillthe lacunae of B, now in Navsari; ed. Dresden).

DH (and K43b) and B represent two separate manuscript traditions (evidenced by variant readings and divergent text in certain parts), but both go back to the Baghdad manuscript copied by Māhwindād in 369A.Y./1020 CE, whose colophon (the oldest in Pahlavi literature) is preserved in B (Sanjana, 1928, XIX, pp. 95-100; see the translation in West 1892, pp. xxxiii-xxxiv).

The Sūdgar naskis missing in B and D10a, except the end of the 10th and all of the 11th fragard (cf. West 1892, pp. xxxvi-xxxvii). The Warštmānsr naskis missing in B and D10a, and K43b has only the first eight fragards (West relied upon K43b, and his translation is therefore incomplete). Only the first half of the first fragard (Ahunwar) is preserved in MR24II.

Editions and translations. The only complete editions of the two nasks are those of D. M. Madan (1911, pp. 787-818 [Sūdgar], and pp. 818-72 [Warštmānsr]) and D. P. Sanjana (1922, XVII, pp. 1-65 [Sūdgar], pp. 66-98 [Warštmānsr], and 1926, XVIII, pp. 1-57 [Warštmānsr]). The only complete translation is that of Sanjana (1926, XVII, pp. 1-50 [Sūdgar], pp. 51-75 and XVIII, pp. 1-42 [Warštmānsr]). E. W. West’s translation of the Sūdgar (1892, whose paragraph numbering is used here) is complete (pp. 172-226), but that of the Warštmānsr(pp. 226-303) is lacking a portion of the 10th-11th and 14th fragards (Dēnkard 9.33-34, 37). Dresden provides concordances for manuscripts B, MR24II and K43b, and the editions of Sanjana and Madan.For concordances of all the published manuscripts and editions of Dēnkardbook 9, see Vevaina; also see TABLE 1.

Contents. The Sūdgar contains numerous references to characters and events from the mythological narratives found primarily in the Young Avestan yašts (Menasce, p. 1175; cf. Darmesteter, pp. CIII-CIV). Many passages have parallels in other Pahlavi texts and the Persian rivāyats; for instance, in the section on the Ahunwar, the number of times the prayer is to be recited in particular circumstances is listed as “nine when one wishes to throw seeds into the earth, ten when one wishes to release the male animals [into the females], eleven when one goes to seek a wife” (Dēnkard 9.2.11-13); similar texts about how many times to recite the Ahunwar are found in the Pahlavi Supplementary Texts to the Šāyest-nē-šāyest (e.g., 19.9: “corn will ripen in nine months,” cf. West, 1880, p. 392; ed. Kotwal, pp. 76-81) and the Persian rivāyat of Bahman Punjya (tr. Dhabhar, 1932, pp. 9-10).

The remuneration of priests is frequently hinted at, e.g., “he who goes according to the law of the demons, is going over to the demons, or has committed deceit is like a wealthy person who gives nothing to a worthy supplicant” (Dēnkard 9.4.2 on the Yeŋ'hē hātąm), and “he who gives something to Zoroaster’s disciples, his fee/salary [mizd] and reward [pādāšn] are just as if you gave something to Zoroaster (himself)” (Dēnkard 9.13.9 on Yasna 43). Another frequent theme in both the Sūdgar and the Warštmānsr is the rise of heresy (ahlomōγīh), e.g., “regarding the complaint of the spirit of the Gāθās that, when a herbed or dastur dies away from home and the body of that man does not return to his own land, for that reason, in the land of his birth, there will oppression by heretics” (Dēnkard 9.6.2 on Yasna 29).

Anachronistic interpretations are found in both the Sūdgar and the Warštmānsr. In the exegesis of Yasna 31 (Tā və' uruuātā hāiti) in the Sūdgar (Dēnkard 9.8.1-7), the four ages of mankind are described as the golden age, in which Ohrmazd (Ahura Mazdā) revealed the dēn (“religion”) to Zoroaster; the silver age, in which Wištāsp received it from Zoroaster; the age of steel, in which Ādurbād ī Mahraspandān (lived 4th century CE) was born; and the age mixed with iron, when heresy is confused with religion, sovereignty, goodness, and virtue weaken, and character and wisdom deteriorate and disappear from Iran. The same description is explicitly cited from the “Stūdgar” in chapter one of the Zand ī Wahman yasn (Cereti, pp. 139, 149). In the exegesis of Yasna 46.7 in the Warštmānsr(Dēnkard 9.39.13), it is suggested that the Avestan text is about the characteristics of the fiend, the cripple Mani (3rd century CE) and the evil people who are his Hearers (niyōšāg) and the beating, which came upon him from the lord of the land (dahibed).

A famous passagein the Warštmānsr is the exegesis of Yasna 30.3 on the twin “spirits” (mainiius), where the demon Arš says that Ohrmazd and Ahriman were two brothers in one womb (Dēnkard 9.30.4-5). Here, this view (often ascribed to “Zurvanism” by Western scholars) is repudiated in favor of the separate origin of light and darkness. A similar statement is found in a Manichean polemical hymn (see Skjærvø, pp. 245; cf. Henning, pp. 50-51),and the doctrine is critiqued in greater detail in the Armenian Christian theologian Eznik of Kołb’s “Refutation of Sects” (4th-5th centuries CE; cf. Zaehner, for other polemics against Zurvanism).

A unique ritual interpretation is found in the exegesis of Yasna 50.1-11 in the Warštmānsr (Dēnkard 9.43.7). Here, the three steps taken by the priest(zōt) when libating the waters (see ĀB-ZŌHR) at the beginning of the Ābān niyāyišn are interpreted as the three steps through good thoughts, words, and deeds from the earth, via the star, moon, and sun stations (pāyag) up to paradise (garōdmān; this is also the path of the soul after death, cf. Mēnōy ī xrad 7.8-12, tr. West, 1885, pp. 29-30, ed. T. D. Anklesaria, pp. 39-40 [6.8-12]; Ardā Wirāz-nāmag 7-10, ed. Gignoux, pp. 53-56, 161-63). In the modern Yasnaritual, these three steps are taken during the recitation of Yasna 64.3-4 = Yasna 50.7-8(the Ātaš niyāyišn) before the beginning of Yasna65 (the Ābān niyāyišn);Yasna 50.8 contains the statement “with the steps (pada-) that are renowned as those of the milk libation (īžā-),” which evidently prompted the exegesis (cf. West, 1892, pp. 292-93, see p. 293, n. 1-2; Darmesteter, I, pp. 400-1, for further details on the ritual actions of the officiating priest; and Windfuhr, pp. 30-31, on related matters).



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(Yuhan Sohrab-Dinshaw Vevaina)

Last Updated: January 7, 2010