AHURĀNĪ, feminine deity of the waters. A complete yašt, hidden in the Yasna as chapter 68, is dedicated to her. (Similar cases are: Y. 9-11, the Hōm Yašt and Yašt 57, the Srōš Yašt.) Ahurānī is not one of the “official” yazatas and has no day in the calendar—possibly because Arədvī Surā Anāhitā, another deity of the waters, holds the water-related function in the pantheon of the Younger Avesta. The zaotar officiant in the Zoroastrian yasna rite offers Ahurānī milk and butter (Y. 68.2). She represents the water in all appearances: lakes, sources, rivers, snow, and rain (Y. 68.6). She is invoked beside the cosmic ocean Vourukaša. She brings fertility, offspring, immortality, and peace. She enlightens thought, speech, and acts (Y. 68.4). Another important passage relating to Ahurānī is Y. 38.3-5, where the waters are invoked as “milking cows” (agənyā-). Ahurānī is created by Ahura Mazdā (Y. 38.4).
The name Ahurānī is derived from Ahura with a feminine suffix -ānī, which denotes “wife, mate, companion” of the bearer of the base word (cf. tištryaēinī- “stars near the star Tištrya” or OI. Varuṇānī “wife of Varuṇa”). If Ahurānī is an old pre-Zoroastrian deity, the word does not necessarily refer to Ahura Mazdā. In this case Ahurānī “wife or wives of the Ahura(s)” may give an important hint at the original nature of the Ahuras (Indo-Ir. *asura-) as opposed to Indo-Ir. *daiva- “god” (lit. “heavenly one”). Generally modern research sees in Indo-Ir. *Vouruna the *Asura whose functions are transferred to Ahura Mazdā. So the waters as “Ahura’s wives” (ahurānī) are the historical parallel to the varuṇānī “Varuṇa’s wives” in the Rig veda.
J. Narten, Acta Orientalia Neerlandica, Proceedings of the Congress of the Dutch Oriental Society, Leiden, 1971, pp. 120ff.
For the suffix -ānī, see W. Meid in IF 62, 1956, p. 278.
Cf. M. Boyce, Zoroastrianism I, p. 51.
Originally Published: December 15, 1984
Last Updated: July 29, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 7, p. 688
B. Schlerath, “AHURĀNĪ,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/7, p. 688; an updated version is available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/ahurani-feminine-deity-of-the-waters (accessed on 28 March 2014).