BAGINA, BAGINAPATI, reconstructed Old Iranian words. The first designates a temple housing a cult image (from baga- “god,” “image of a god” + suffix -ina- “belonging to”); the second, the master of such a temple.

The form and meaning of both words are obvious from their descendants in various Middle Iranian languages: Parthian (loanword in Armenian) bagin “pagan sanctuary” (the early Arm. historians list seven baginkʿ, two of which stood in Bagaran and Bagawan; in a Christian context; also “altar set before a pagan image”), bagnapet “chief of the temple”; Pahlavi bašnbed, “idol-priest”(once in a Manichean polemical text); Bactrian *βaγənpat (in Middle-Indian inscriptions from Mathura: bakanapati-, vakanapati-, designating an official in charge of an image-temple established by the Kushan emperors); Sogdian vaγn (βγn-) “temple housing statues of gods,” in Christian context “altar”), vaγnpat (βγnpt-) “priest” and in a Buddhist context “sorcerer” (hence βγnptʾnch- “sorceress”).

In Sasanian Iran these words fell into disuse, no doubt as a result of the policy of the State church to impose fire-worship as the only lawful form of the Zoroastrian cult.

This development did not take place in Sogdiana, where at the time of the Arab conquest vaγnpat and muγpat “magus” are still attested as distinct offices, as shown by the archive documents found at Mt Mugh. This duality is confirmed by the accounts of the conquest, which mention side by side “idol-temples” and “fire-temples.” Judging from the place-names ending in -faḡn or -baḡn which can be gathered from the Medieval sources, image-sanctuaries had been widespread in Sogdiana as well as in neighboring Ustrushana, Farḡāna, and Čāč, including in rural areas. The first element of the toponyms seldom provides a clue to the identification of the gods once worshipped in the temples (Smirnova’s attempts [1971] must be used with caution). It can be assumed that most of them belonged to the Iranian pantheon; but Shaivite intrusions or influences are also to be considered, and one place-name, Sanjarfaḡn (next to Samarqand), shows that the name vaḡn was eventually applied to Buddhist cult-places also (sanjar < Sanskrit saṃghārāma “Buddhist monastery”), despite the pejorative use of cognate words in Sogdian Buddhist literature.



H. W. Bailey, BSOAS 14, 1952, pp. 420-23.

V. V. Barthold, Turkestan down to the Mongol Invasion3, London, 1968, pp. 120-33.

Idem, “Istoriya kul’turnoĭ zhizni Turkestana,” 1927, repr. in Sochineniya II/1, Moscow, 1963, p. 215.

M. Boyce in Studies in Judaism in Late Antiquity 12 (= Studies for Morton Smith at Sixty), Leiden, 1975, IV, p. 99.

Idem, Zoroastrianism II, Leiden and Cologne, 1982, pp. 227-29.

F. Grenet, Abstracta Iranica 7, 1984, no. 129.

W. B. Henning, BSOS 8, 1936, pp. 583-85.

Idem, BSOAS 28, 1965, pp. 250-52.

V. A. Livshits, Sogdiĭskie dokumenty s Gory Mug II: Yuridicheskie dokumenty i pis’ma, Moscow, 1962, pp. 111-13, 170-71.

N. Sims-Williams, The Christian Sogdian Manuscript C 2, Berliner Turfantexte 12, Berlin, 1985, pp. 61-62.

O. I. Smirnova, Strany i narody Vostoka 10, Moscow, 1971, pp. 90-108.

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(F. Grenet)

Originally Published: December 15, 1988

Last Updated: August 22, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. III, Fasc. 4, pp. 415-416