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  Afghanistan During Avesta
By Afghanland.com: Avesta Scripture also known as ZEND-AVESTA, sacred book of Zoroastrianism containing its cosmogony, law, and liturgy, the teachings of the prophet Zoroaster (Zarathushtra)or Zardusht as Afghans call him. The extant Avesta is all that remains of a much larger body of scripture, apparently Zoroaster's transformation of a very ancient tradition. The voluminous manuscripts of the original are said to have been destroyed when Alexander the Great conquered Persia. The present Avesta was assembled from remnants and standardized under the Sasanian kings (3rd-7th century AD).

The Avesta is in five parts. Its religious core is a collection of songs or hymns, the Gathas, thought to be in the main the very words of Zoroaster. They form a middle section of the chief liturgical part of the canon, the Yasna, which contains the rite of the preparation and sacrifice of haoma. The Visp-rat is a lesser liturgical scripture, containing homages to a number of Zoroastrian spiritual leaders. The Vendidad, or Videvdat, is the main source for Zoroastrian law, both ritual and civil. It also gives an account of creation and the first man, Yima. The Yashts are 21 hymns, rich in myth, to various yazatas (angels) and ancient heroes. The Khurda Avesta (or Little Avesta) is a group of minor texts, hymns, and prayers for specific occasions.

Zend-Avesta literally means "interpretation of the Avesta." It originally referred to the commonly used Farsi  translation but has often been used as the title of Western translations.

The Language

According to Afghanland.com, The early history of the religion and the personality of the prophet Zoroaster are still matters of dispute. It may be inferred from Zoroaster's own statement (in Yasna 33, 6) that the prophet was a member of the priestly caste. It is thought that his homeland was in Eastern Iran, or possibly in the Afghan mountains and in was an ethnic Pashtun. The prophet's dates are still much disputed. The older view was that he lived circa 1000 B.C. but according to more recent opinion, which is steadily increasing in favor, he lived at the beginning of the Achaemenid period: this is based on a reference to a prince and patron of Zoroaster in the Gathas who was called Vishtaspa (Hystaspes). From the identity of the name with that of the father of Darius I it is inferred that they were one and the same person.

The most complicated problems are those connected with the translation of the Avesta and with the interpretation of its contents. It is probably true to say that it is the most difficult religious document in existence, that every attempt at translation also involves an interpretation, and that nowhere is the saying "traduttore - traditore" so applicable as here. It is certainly an exaggeration to say that in many places in the Avesta we are still at the stage of spelling out the letters and that some translations are no more intelligible than the original text.

These difficulties are due to the state in which the language of the Avesta has come down to us. With this in mind the French philologist Meillet has called the Avesta "un champ de ruines."

The Avestan language was written in a phonetic script running from right to left which was probably developed from Aramaic characters. It is an old Iranian dialect the local name for which is not known and which scholars have called (Old) Bactrian, Old Median, Zend and finally Avestan. It is quite distinct from Old Persian, the language of the Achaemenid inscriptions, which was written in a simplified cuneiform script. Of the modern Farsi dialects dari is probably the nearest to Avestan.

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