DĀDESTĀN (dād “law,” with the formative suffix -stān), a Middle Persian term used with denota­tions and connotations that vary with the legal, reli­gious, philosophical, and social context. As a legal term it has four referents. First, it refers to civil law, as distinct from dād (canon law) or kardag (tradi­tional orthodox law). This distinction is attested in Syriac translation, where dēnā (dādestān) is defined as civil law and nāmosā as canon law (Sachau, p. 13). The term also refers to a legal decision or judgment. A third meaning is case or lawsuit. Finally, the term can also mean equity or lenity (in the juridical sense; Mādayān, I, p. 36; cf. Perikhanian, p. 105, where it has been misunderstood).

Dādestān was also occasionally used in the sense of “canon law,” as in dādestān ī dēn ī Māzdēsnān (the canon laws of the religion of the Mazdā worshipers). In the Dēnkard (3.286; ed. Madan, I, pp. 295-97) dādestān was used in the sense of moderation and cosmic order, an equivalent to the paymān (mean). The paymān (or dādestān) is represented as the power of the cosmic order through which the Renovation (frašegird) will be brought about at the end of time (Zaehner, pp. 250-53). Personified as Mēnōg ī Dādestān, the genius of order, in association with Mihr, Zurwān, and Srōš, it opposes diabolical crea­tures and governs the material creation (Mēnōg ī xrad 7.15; Dēnkard, ed. Madan, I, p. 206; Zaehner, p. 132). Dādestān frequently occurs in close connection with kār (beneficial deed, Vd. 21.4); in the Greater Bundahišn (chap. 1), it commonly designates justice (e.g., dādestānīg dādwar, a just judge). The term may also denote a story, circumstance(s), or events (NPers. dāstan). It occurs in the sense of opinion in jud­-dādestānīh (disagreement), hamdādestānīh (agree­ment), and hamdādestānōmandīh (concord), the last an attribute of the creatures of Ohrmazd (Bundahišn, tr. Anklesaria, 1.39). It also appears as an element in many juridical compound terms: weh-dādestānīh (preemption, preferential right, optimo iure), dādestān­brād (-xwah, -pus, -duxt) “brother-(sister-, son-, daugh­ter-) in-law” (Perikhanian, glossary, s.v.).



A. Perikhanian, Sasanidskiĭ Sudebnik, Mātakdān i Hazār Dātastān (The Sasa­nian code of law, Mādayān ī hazār dādestān), Yerevan, 1973.

E. Sachau, ed. and tr., Syrische Rechtsbücher III, Berlin, 1914.

R. C. Zaehner, Zurvan. A Zoroastrian Dilemma, London, 1955.

(Mansour Shaki)

Originally Published: December 15, 1993

Last Updated: November 10, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. VI, Fasc. 5, pp. 549-550