VAEΘĀ, a short Avestan text with Pahlavi translation; each Avestan sentence is followed by its Pahlavi translation and sometimes with additional explanatory glosses. Vaeθā took its name from the first words of the text: vaeθā daēniiå māzdaiiasnōiš ahurahē mazda mraō  “the knowledge of the Mazdayasnian religion, Ahura Mazdā said.” The text represents a fragment of the Nikātom Nask (one of the dādīg “law-related” nasks; for a list of the nasks, see AVESTA, Table 1), according to a note in Persian, in manuscript B, used by James Darmesteter  (1886, p. 183) and also in ms. F8bis (Humbach and Jamaspasa, pp. 12, 58). 

The text has the following sections: questions on religious conduct and disposal of the dead; parallels to some quotations found in Frahang ī ōīm; questions regarding intercourse between a Zoroastrian man and a non-Zoroastrian woman, children born from that relation, and the question of their inheritance; supplementary note on atonement and repentance; a collection of incomplete Avestan quotations from the Pahlavi Vidēvdād; supplementary quotations taken from the Avestan Vidēvdād; rituals pertaining to the fourth day; conversion to Zoroastrian religion from other faiths; the five watches (gāh) of the day; the formula/prayers recited before and after passing urine.

Vaeθā is preserved in two principal manuscripts from the nineteenth century, one of which has an interlinear Persian translation. (See list of all manuscripts in Humbach and Jamaspasa, eds., 1969, pp. 11-16.) These were found at Navsari by Martin Haug, who undertook a tour in Gujarat between 1863 and 1864 and examined several of the Parsi libraries; one manuscript is in Avestan, and the other is in Avestan with Pahlavi translation (Haug, 1878, p. 46). When Darmesteter was in India, Dastur Peshotan Sanjana brought to his attention the existence of Vaeθā (Kotwal, 1966, Preface, p. i), and he published a portion of it (Darmesteter, 1886). 

Another portion of the text is preserved in a nineteenth-century manuscript in the Munich State Library—one of those collected by Haug  (M35 in Geldner, 1896a, p. x). The Vaeθā fragment that it contains was identified by Karl Geldner as related to, but not identical with, Darmesteter’s text; Geldner made note of the text in his other 1896 review of manuscripts (1896b, p. 9, with n. 8).   

Edgard Blochet made a copy of the whole text for Darmesteter from a manuscript in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris (ms. Supplément Persan 1216; Blochet, 1900b, pp. 68 ff.; see Kotwal, 1966, Preface, p. ii; Humbach and Jamaspasa, 1969, p. 12). He studied and translated into French, but did not edit, the entire text of Vaeθā (Blochet, 1900). Christian Bartholomae in a 1901 article transcribed the Munich fragment and its heading (which contains the attribution “nask” applied to the text), noted correspondence with part of Blochet’s translation, and briefly discussed points of script and word formation. He subsequently cited the fragment in his 1904 Altiranisches Wörterbuch as Fragment Bartholomae (FrB; AirWb., p. xxvi).  

At that time the text was treated as an authentic fragment. All eight manuscripts of the text (E20, F3, F8, F54, F55, T34, T38, T64) held at the Meherji-Rana Library at Navsari were attributed to the nineteenth century based on a dated colophon or on general evidence. 

Later, B. N. Dhabhar described the text as “a modern production written in very incorrect Avesta and with equally incorrect Pahlavi” (1923, p. 147).  F. M. Kotwal, after the examination of the Navsari manuscripts, came to the conclusion that the work as a whole was a nineteenth-century forgery; and he sent a handwritten copy of it to W. B. Henning, who concurred with his opinion (Kotwal, 1966, Preface, p. iii, n. 10).  Kotwal then edited the text of Vaeθā from the eight Navsari manuscripts and published it (Bombay, 1966). 

However, in the view of Helmut Humbach and Kaikhusroo M. Jamaspasa (1969, p. 16), who published a new edition of the text, the origins of Vaeθā might reach back beyond the eighteenth century. Humbach and Jamaspasa collated many more manuscripts, which were not available to Kotwal, and based their edition on the two undated manuscripts T38 and F54.  In their edition, the Avestan and Pahlavi versions appear in transcription, with a facsimile of manuscript T38 at the back of the book. 


C. Bartholomae, “Arica XIV,” Indogermanische Forschungen 12, 1901, pp. 92-150, sec. “92. Ein Vaeθā-Fragment,” pp. 101-2.

Idem, Altiranisches Wörterbuch, Strassburg, 1904.

E. Blochet, “Le Vaētha. Fragment inédit de l’Avesta avec commentaire pehlvi. Traduction française annotée,” Revue de linguistique et de philologie comparée 33, 1900a, pp. 87-99, 187-97.

Idem, Catalogue des manuscrits mazdéens (zends, pehlvis, parsis et persans) de la Bibliothèque Nationale, Besançon, 1900b.

J. Darmesteter, “Une page Zende inédite,” JA, 8ème Série, 8, 1886, pp. 182-86.

B. N. Dhabhar, The K. R. Cama Institute Catalogue, Part II, Classified Catalogue of Printed Books and Manuscripts, with Supplement and Indexes, Bombay, 1923.

Idem, Descriptive Catalogue of all Manuscripts in the First Dastur Meherji Rana Library (Navsari), Bombay, 1923.

K. F. Geldner, ed., Avesta. The Sacred Books of the Parsis I, Stuttgart, 1896a.

Idem, “Awestalitteratur,” in Grundriss der Iranischen Philologie, Fasc. II/1, Strassburg, 1896b, pp. 1-53. 

M. Haug, Essays on the Sacred Language, Writings and Religion of the Parsis, 2nd edition, edited and enlarged by E. W. West, London, 1878 (3rd ed., 1884; 4th ed., 1907).

H. Humbach and K. M. Jamaspasa, trs., Vaeθā Nask; An Apocryphal Text on Zoroastrian Problems, Wiesbaden, 1969 (reviewed by P. Khoroche, BSOAS 35/1, 1972, p. 200).

F. M. Kotwal, Editio Princeps of the Vaeθā with Transcription of the Pahlavi Version, Bombay, 1966 (reviewed by M. Boyce, BSOAS 30/3, 1967, pp. 698-99).

(Mahnaz Moazami)

Originally Published: December 8, 2014

Last Updated: December 8, 2014

Cite this entry:

Mahnaz Moazami, "VAEΘĀ," Encyclopædia Iranicaonline edition, 2014, available at (accessed on 08 December 2014).