Pahlavi Texts Part IV
12:49 h
This is part IV of the Sacred Books of the East translation of the Pahlavi Texts of Zoroastrianism. There is a legend that after Alexander the Great conquered Persia, a huge amount of Zoroastrian literature disappeared. In this volume West presents what is known about a number of fragmentary Zoroastrian texts, some only known by name, including summaries, digests, and stray quotes from other books.
Pahlavi Texts
Part IV
Sacred Books of the East,
Vol. 37

E.W. West

Contents of the Nasks


ATTENTIVE readers of the Sacred Books of the East have had ample opportunities of becoming acquainted with the Zoroastrian scriptures, so far as these have been preserved by the Parsis. In vols. iv, xxiii, and xxxi they have translations of all the texts extant in the original language of the Avesta, excepting a few fragments which are not yet collected. And in vols. v, xviii, and xxiv they have translations of later Pahlavi texts, showing how faithfully the old doctrines and legends were handed down by the priests of Sasanian times to their immediate successors. But they will also have noticed that the translators of these texts are well aware of the fact that the texts themselves are mere fragments of the religious writings of the Zoroastrians, which owe their preservation to the circumstance that they were those portions most usually committed to memory by the priesthood, such as the liturgy, sacred myths, and ceremonial laws. The object of the present volume is to add to those fragments all the accessible information, that can be collected from Irânian sources, regarding the contents of the whole Zoroastrian literature in Sasanian times.

It has been long known that this literature was contained in twenty-one Nasks, or treatises, named either from the nature of their contents, or from their initial words, and each having one of the twenty-one words of the Ahunavair attached to it as a kind of artificial reminder of their proper order and number while enumerating them. Very brief statements of the contents of each Nask have also been accessible in manuscripts of the Persian Rivâyats, such as those translated in pp. 419-438 of this volume. And the existence of a much longer account of the Nasks in the Dinkard was ascertained by Haug, who published some extracts from it in 1870, when describing several of the Nasks in the Index to the Pahlavi-Pâzand Glossary. He was unable to do more, on account of the defective state of all modern manuscripts of the Dinkard, in which a large portion of the text of the description of the Nasks, in the eighth and ninth books, is missing in various places without any hint of the omissions. These defects were owing to the abstraction of 52 folios of this part of the Irânian manuscript of the Dinkard, after it was brought to India and before any copy of it had been written; and, even now, two of these folios are still missing, as stated in pp. 262, 270. The importance of recovering these 52 missing folios was due to the fact that they contain the text of Dk. VIII, Chaps. VII, 5-XIX, 36, XXXI, 31-XXXVIII, 19, XLIV, 34-XLVI, 5, and Dk. IX, Chaps. I, 1-XI, II, XII, 15-XLVII, 17, or nearly half the text of the two books.

Regarding the early history of the Dinkard there exists a detailed statement in the last chapter of its third book, which can now be translated with greater precision than was possible in 1867, when Haug published its Pahlavi text, with an English translation, in his introduction to the Farhang-i Oîm-aêvak, or Zand-Pahlavi Glossary. In this historical statement it is evident that §§ 1-8 refer to the traditional history of the Zoroastrian scriptures generally, considered as the original source of the information contained in the Dinkard; but §§ 9-13 may be accepted as the actual history of the compilation of the work itself, the facts of which may, very possibly, have all been within the personal knowledge of the writer of the statement. The Pahlavi text of this statement, as preserved in the manuscripts B and K (see pp. xxxv-xxxviii and 2), may be translated as follows:

1. About the Dinkard scripture (nipîk), from the Exposition of the Good Religion, there is this: The Dinkard scripture is a work which is adorned with all wisdom, and a publication of the Mazda-worshipping religion.

2. And, first, the work— which was derived from the good religion of those of the primitive faith, and which was the knowledge revealing the good religion of the prophet (vakhshvar) Spîtâmân Zaratûst, whose guardian spirit is reverenced, and his first disciple through asking and hearing the sane reverenced guardian spirit— is information which is a similitude of enlightenment on every subject from the original light.

3. And those original questions and the decision of the exalted ruler Kaî-Vistâsp to have them written were its origin, and he ordered them to deliver the original to the treasury of Shapîgânand to distribute copies provided.

4. And, after that, he sends a copy to the fortress of documents, to keep the information also there.

5. And during the ruin that happened to the country of Irân, and in the monarchy, owing to the evil-destined villain Alexander, that which was in the fortress of documents came to be burnt, and that in the treasury of Shapîgâninto the hands of the Arûmans, and was translated by him even into the Greek language, as information which was connected with the ancients (min pêsînîgân padvastakŏ).

6. And that Artakhshatar, king of kings, who was son of Pâpak, came for the restoration of the monarchy of Irân, and the same scripture was brought from a scattered state to one place.

7. The righteous Tôsar of the primitive faith, who was the priest of priestsappeared with an exposition recovered from the Avesta, and was ordered to complete the scripture from that exposition.

8. He did so accordingly (ham-gûnakŏ), to preserve a similitude of the splendour of the original enlightenment in the treasury of Shapîgânand was ordered to distribute copies of the information provided.

9. And after the ruin and devastation that came from the Arabs, even to the archives (dîvân) and treasures of the realm, the saintlyÂtûr-farnbag, son of Farukhŏ-zâd, who became the leader of the orthodox, brought those copies, which were scattered on all sides, and new resources, back from dispersion into union with the archives of his residence; and, through observance and consideration for the Avesta and Zand of the good religion, he made the sayings of those of the primitive faith again a similitude of the illumination (fîrôkŏ) from that splendour.