Airyana Vaējah

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AIRYANA VAĒJAH

AIRYANA VAĒJAH . According to Zoroastrian belief, Airyana Vaējah (Av.), or Ērān-vēz (MPers.), is the name of the homeland of followers of the Good Religion. In Iranian cosmology Airyana Vaējah is found at the center of the world, in the central region known as Khvaniratha, the first of the seven parts (karshvar) into which the earth is divided. Airyana Vaējah is the setting for the principal events of Zoroastrian sacred history: the history of Gayō-maretan, the first human; of Gav-aēvō-dāta, the uniquely created bull; of Yima, the first king; and later of Zarathushtra (Zoroaster) himself.

Although Airyana Vaējah (lit., "the Aryan expanse") is of a mythical and legendary nature, attempts have been made to assign it a definite location. During the Sasanid period, for instance, it was thought to be in Azerbaijan, the area from which Zarathushtra was believed to have originated. More recently, some scholars have maintained that the original Airyana Vaējah must be placed in Khorezm, but this thesis is supported only by tenuous arguments. It is probable that at the time of Zarathushtra, Airyana Vaējah corresponded, in the minds of Iranian tribesmen, to the region that they actually occupied: the Hindu Kush or the area immediately south of it, which is part of the Airyō-shayana, the "seat of the Airya," mentioned in the Avestan hymn to Mithra (Yashts 10.1314).

Airyana Vaējah was first and foremost the home of Zarathushtra and his religion. It was accordingly the best of all lands. The first chapter of the Vendidad places it first in the list of the sixteen lands that were created by Ahura Mazdā and that were threatened by the countercreation of Angra Mainyu. In this text its mythical nature is evident. The fact that a cold winter in Airyana Vaējah is said to last ten months is to be explained by the mountainous nature of the land of legend and not, as some have maintained (Marquart, 1901), by the climate of Khorezm.

See Also

Iranian Religions.

Bibliography

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Gnoli, Gherardo. Ricerche storiche su Sīstān antico. Rome, 1967.

Gnoli, Gherardo. Zoroaster's Time and Homeland. Naples, 1980.

Gnoli, Gherardo. The Idea of Iran. Rome, 1989.

Herzfeld, Ernst. Zoroaster and His World. Princeton, 1947.

Marquart, Josef. Ērānšahr nach der Geographie des Ps. Moses Xorenac'i. 2 vols. Berlin, 1901.

Munshizadeh, Davud. Topographisch-historische Studien zum iranischen Nationalepos. Wiesbaden, 1975.

Nyberg, H. S. Irans forntida religioner. Stockholm, 1937. Translated as Die Religionen des alten Iran (1938; 2d ed., Uppsala, 1966).

Witzel, Michael. "The Home of the Aryans." In Anusantatyai. Festschrift für Johanna Narten zum 70. Geburtstag, edited by Almut Hintze and Eva Tichy, pp. 283338. Dettelbach, 2000.

Gherardo Gnoli (1987)

Translated from Italian by Roger DeGaris