text - Avestan Digital Archive


text - Avestan Digital Archive

As it is well known, a significant part of the manuscripts of the

Zoroastrian long liturgy are accurate descriptions of the different

variants of this liturgy. They include the Avestan text of the

ceremony and directions about how to recite the liturgical texts

and about the actions to perform. These ritual directions, known

as nērangs, are written in different languages depending on the

origin and date of the manuscript, mostly in Pahlavi and Gujarati.

Whereas the Avestan text of the liturgies has got extraordinary

attention, the nērangs have got no attention at all in the West.

They have never been edited and only Darmester has reported

about their contents in his French translation of the Yasna and

Vīsperad. However, Darmesteter’s sources for the nērangs were

not the oldest and most reliable. He used Anklesaria’s edition

(1888) for the Gujarati nērangs and for the Pahlavi nērangs a

collation made by West of the nērangs included in the Pahlavi

Yasna manuscript Pt4, although the expect source for the nerangs

is, of course, the Sade manuscripts.

The main reasons for this lack of attention to the nērangs are two:

1. The rituals described in the manuscripts have been considered

late and no importance has been attached to them. Even when the

ritual character of the Avesta collection was clear as in the case of

Spiegel, the text of the ritual was considered to consist just of a

late ritual assemblage of fragments of the “real” Avesta described

in the Dēnkard and today lost.

2. Furthermore, the neerangs, especially the Pahlavi, the oldest

ones, have remained largely unknown, since they appear in the

Iranian Sāde manuscripts. Only few manuscripts of this type were

known to Geldner and even less were available in European

libraries and only one facsimile was published (the facsimile of


Regarding the second point, today we have discovered many new

Iranian Sāde manuscripts that include the Pahlavi nērangs and we

are publishing some of them in the webpage of the Avestan Digital

Archive. In the handout you can see a list of the Iranian Sāde

manuscripts of the long liturgy we know today (# 1). Thus we are

now in better condition than ever before for studying the Pahlavi

nērangs included in the Iranian Sade manuscripts.

Regarding the consideration of the ritual presented in the

manuscripts as a late creation without interest, Kellens’ article on

the transmission of the Avesta more than 10 years ago has

changed definitively our perspective. But already Darmesteter

(1892: 1.xcii) had tried to prove the antiquity of the ritual

described in the manuscripts on a different basis than Kellens. He

presented three arguments:

1. Firstly, the information provided in the nērangs finds sometimes

correspondence in the scarce ritual information that appears in

the Pahlavi literature. He mentions an interesting parallel

between DD 48.30-32 1 and the nērangs of Y27.4-5 (s. Handout

2). Very interesting is the fact, unnoticed by Darmesteter, that

there is a significant lexical agreement between the DD and the

nērangs. In both texts when the Haoma and the pomegranate

are squeezed, the mortar is struck (with the pestle). As already

noticed by West (1882 170 n. 4), the verb used in the DD for the

1 For my part, I don’t find which the exact ritual correspondance of DD48.30.

action of striking the mortar with the pestle is škābīhēd whose

actual meaning is “is split” and not “is struck”. Actually, the same

verb, škāftan, appears in the nērang of the manuscripts. The DD

does not only describe the same ritual, as already noticed by

Darmesteter, but also uses the same idioms as the manuscripts 2 .

2. Secondly, Darmesteter noticed that the number of the

repetitions of the Old Avestan stanzas prescribed in the 10 th

fragard of Vīdēvdād agrees with the number of repetitions made

in the ritual. The practice of these repetitions is then at least as

old as the 10 th fragard of Wīdēwdād.

3. The third point considered by Darmesteter is the connection

between the nērangs of the manuscripts and the Nērangestān.

He noticed that the Nērangestān includes some nērangs that are

identical to some of the manuscripts. Furthermore, since the

Nērangestān includes some nērangs in Avestan language that

are the Avestan version of some Pahlavi nērangs, he concluded

that there is continuity between the Pahlavi and Gujarati

nērangs of the manuscripts and the Nērangestān and its lost

Avestan original.

Despite the three points made by Darmesteter are incontestable

(although with some restrictions), they have remained totally

unnoticed in the discussion about the nature and transmission of

the ritual Avesta. In following, I’m going to give additional

arguments that confirm the close connection between the Pahlavi

nērangs of the Iranian Sāde manuscripts and the Nērangestān.

2 Furthermore, Darmester didn’t notice that also DD48.33 refers to a well known ritual action in the

manuscripts of the long liturgy: the division of the consecrated milk in three 2 parts exactly like the nērang of

VrS3.13 and N28.44 describe.

Darmesteter was indeed right when noticing that some nērangs of

the Nērangestān describe identical actions as the ones in the

manuscripts. Let me quote just one of the many examples. During

the recitation of 4 Ahuna Vairiio in Y27.3 hōm is pounded (please

from now on, check the comparison table of the handout for each

passage I mention). The action described in the Nērangestān and

in the manuscripts is exactly the same: The zōt pounds the hōm at

the recitation of three words of the Ahuna Vairiio: s íiaōθananąm,

aŋhəuš and mazdāi. By the first recitation it is pounded once each

time, by the second twice and by the third, three times. At the

recitation of xšaθrəmcā of the third Ahuna Vairiio, the pestle is to

be raised to the height of the ears. The Nērangestān quotes an

Avestan passage that contains the same direction: the pestle is to

be raised to the height of the ears. This passage confirms the

similarity between the nērang and the Nērangestān and provides a

good example of the existence of an Avestan version of some

Pahlavi nērangs.

But there are further signs of the close relationship between the

nērangs in the manuscripts and the Nērangestān. There is in the

chapter 28 of the 2 nd fragard of the Nērangestān a description in

Pahlavi of the ceremony celebrated during the ušahin gāh. The

description is not complete: it begins with the paragna and

describes the ceremony with detail till the beginning of the

recitation of the Old Avestan texts (Y27.9) and finishes then with a

description of the Āb-zōhr (Y66). The description of the ceremony

from Y0 to Y27.9 goes in the new edition of Kotwal-Kreyenbroek

from N28.31 to N28.47. A comparison of the description offered in

the Nērangestān with the nērangs of the manuscripts shows that

oth descriptions are based in the same tradition. It is even most

likely that the Nērangestān’s description is based in a similar

description as we find it in the manuscripts.

In the hand-out you find a table in which the Nēangestān is

compared with the nērangs of three Iranian Sāde manuscripts:

F3a for the Yasna, G18b for the Wīsperad and Ave977 for the

Wīdēwdād. In the first column you see the complete text of

N28.31-47 in its original order. In the other three columns all

nērang that appear in these three manuscripts between Y0 and

Y27.9 except the short nērangs indicating which priest have to

recite certain texts. The first fact to notice is the high degree of

agreement between the Nērangestān and the nērangs. They

describe the same ceremony (with some very small variations):

the Avestan texts are the same, the order is the same and the

ritual actions are the same 3 .

The ritual shows some innovations in the manuscripts like the

substitution of the different assistant priests like hāwan,

frabardār, etc., by the raspīg who goes to the place of the

corresponding priest and assumes his function 4 . Furthermore,

there are minimal changes. Just an example: whereas according to

the manuscripts the main priest recites the two final Ahuna Vairiia

of Y0.2 on the way to the zōtgāh and then enters it and recites

there standing Y0.4, in the Nērangestān he recites too the two

3 As for the text, Kotwal-Kreyenbroek suppose that there is an Avestan text that a significant variation

regarding the version extant in the manuscripts. In N28.40 appears the text nəmō. haomāi. mazdaδātāi.

vaŋhuš. haomō. huδātō. They identify it with Y9.16 and suppose that it appears an additional mazdaδātāi in

the Nērangestān. In fact it corresponds to Y11.8, the concluding text of the Hōm Stōd.

4 However, even in the manuscripts we find sometimes direct mention of other auxiliary priest. Thus F3a lets

the frabardār place the parāhom into the right hand of the zōt during the recitation of Y11.10

Ahuna Vairiia on the way , but he does not enter the zōtgāh till

staomī as ̣əm (Y0.6).

Before comparing the nērangs and the Nērangestān, we must be

aware that, although there is a big homogeneity between the

nērangs in the different manuscripts, nevertheless there are

differences between them, even when they are supposed to go

back to the same source. Not all the manuscripts offer the same

quantity of information at each passage. Sometimes some nērangs

do not appear in certain manuscripts, although mostly the nērangs

appear in all of them 5 , as a look to the table allows seeing easily 6 .

Besides, the contents of the nērangs are quite similar. The

differences are minor and concern mostly a somehow different

formulation of the same idea or eventually the addition or

omission of minor details.

The description of the ceremony of ušahina in N28 takes a similar

position as a Sāde manuscript: there is high degree of agreement

with the nērangs, although in this case the differences, especially

in the formulation, are a bit bigger than among the different

manuscripts. To most nērangs of the manuscripts corresponds

indeed an indication in the Nērangestān and vice versa. In fact, I

have found nērangs in 133 passages of the long liturgy between Y0

and Y27.9. Only in 18 passages there are not corresponding

indications in the description of the Nērangestān. Often the

5 Just one example: the nērang indicating that at each recitation of the s íiaoθananąm of the four Ahuna

Vairiio at Y13.7 the knot of the barsom must be moved appear identical in all manuscripts consulted, that

is, the VS manuscripts of the Marzban family (Ave976, ave977, RSPA 230), in the YS F3a (a copy of Mf1)

and in the VrS G18b. It is missing, however, in K4 that goes back to the same source of G18b. Actually G18b

adds the indication that each time incense must be given to the fire too.

6 Thus in Y11.10 all manuscripts prescribe that the raspīg places the parāhōm in the right hand of the zōt, but

only F3a indicates that the zōt has to hold his hand at the beginning of the barsom. The same nērang as in F3a

appears in the N28.43.

omissions are simple indications like the prescription to offer

sandal and incense to the fire (Y3.20, 21, 4.1, 24, 7.25, 8.1, Y10.5,

Y11.11, Y13.7, Y15.1, Y22.8, Y24.12, Y26.11). Such trivial

indications are actually sometimes missing in the manuscripts

too 7 . Notwithstanding, other more significant directions are

missing too in the Nērangestān like the indication that during the

recitation of Y15.2 the zōt has to put the frāgām twigs of the

barsom and his hand on the knot of the barsom.

The differences between the Nērangestān and the nērangs in the

manuscripts regarding the number of nērangs and their positions

are, however, comparable to the differences between different

manuscripts. The only significant deviation is the presence in the

Nērangestān of some digressions and discussions that usually are

missing in the manuscripts as it is advisable in these practical


Furthermore, the nērangs appear in the Nērangestān not only at

the same position as in the manuscripts, but they are too largely

the same. Actually, the phrasing is more similar in the different

manuscripts than in comparison with the Nērangestān. Have a

look, for example, to the directions for the beginning of the homāst

(Y22.1). Evidently the directions are the same, but whereas the

wording is identical in the three manuscripts, in the Nērangestān

is a bit different, whenever sharing the same phraseology.

A good example of the complex relationship between the nērangs

of the different manuscripts and of the Nērangestān is provided by

the beginning of the Srōš Drōn (Y3.1). The VS manuscripts of the

7 Thus in Y3.20 and 21,4.1 and 4.22 the indication appears in Ave977, but neither in F3a nor in G18b. In Y13.7 it

appears in G18b, but not in the others.

Marzbān family do not include a nērang there, but F3a and G18b

do as the Nērangestān does too. The beginning of the nērang is

identical in F3a and G18b:

dlwn W *gwšwdʾk ʾsm W bwd 3 tʾk HNHTWNtn’

drōn ud gōšudag ēsm ud bōy sē tāg be nihādan/be nihišn

“the priest has to place the drōn, the gōšudag and three

pieces of sandal and incense”

They share even the same misspelling for gōšudag. But in the

following, G18b agrees in the details with N28.36. Both mention

that there is no need of frasast “a kind of sacred bread” and both

use the same formulation for the direction of having a look to all

elements that are going to be used in the ceremoy of the Srōš


AP-š PWN *ʾsyšn’ 8 KRA MNDWM-1 BRA nkylšn’

u-š pad āsāyišn har ciš-ē be nigerišn

“He should examine everything calmly”

where both have the same misspelling for āsāyišn. In F3a we find

instead a different formluation which is more frequent in the


hmʾk gywʾk’ sʾcšn’ KRA MNDWM-1 hwp BRA nkylšn’

hamāg gyāg sāzišn har ciš-ē xūb be nigerišn

“He should examine well all the preparatives there”

The Nērangestān inserts there a digression about mistakes in the

recitation that clearly interrupts the nērang in the middle, but

after this digression it continues exactly in the same way like


8 N28.36 adds HD

OD slwšdlwn’ OŠTEN -tn’ wls W *hwmyck blswm KN

pʾhlycšn AMT-s Q̱ DM YAMYTWN-yt ʾ-šʾyt

tā srōš-drōn xwardan wars ud hōmīzag az barsom ōh

pahrēzišn ka abar rasēd ā-šāyēd

“Till the partaking of the drōn, he should keep away the wars

and the hōm from the barsom, (but) if they do come in

contact, it is permissible.”

The formulation in F3a is again different and includes also the

mention of urwarām. Such examples show the complicated

interconnections between the nērangs of the Iranian Sāde

manuscripts and the Nērangestān.

But there is a connection that is clearly closer than the rest. This is

the connection between F3a, a copy of Mf1, and N28. This

connection is even more surprising, for F3a is a Yasna manuscript,

whereas the ceremony described in the Nērangestān is a

Wīsperad of ušahin. Nevertheless, there are many instances in

which the nērangs of F3a are identical to the direction in the

Nērangestān, at least for some parts.

In the comparison table I have marked all passages where there

are striking similarities between both descriptions. Now I’m going

to show you only the most relevant aspects of this connection,

since I do not have time for a detailed comparison.

The directions for Y15.1 are almost identical in F3a and N28.45.

But the most interesting thing is that F3a and N28.45 share not

only the same text, but also a peculiar orthography for the verb “to

raise”. This verb appears in MacKenzie as abrāstan, abrāz-, with

the present stem written with final c. This writing appears in this

passage in G18b and Ave977. The Nērangestān shows the three

times that this verb appears in this passage always a final d

instead a final c. Kotwal-Kreyenbroek correct this form all three

times to abrāzišn. But F3a show also the same reading. Obviously

this is not a mistake of both scribes, but represents the true SWIr

form, while the writing attested in G18b and Ave977 corresponds

to the NWIr form.

Very interesting is Y27.4. We have already mentioned this passage

because of his parallel in the DD. F3a shows the same nērang as

the manuscripts G18b and Ave977: during the recitation four

times of mazdā at̰ mōi the hōm and the pomegranate has to be

squeezed and the pestle struck against the mortar. This direction

is missing in the Nērangestān, but instead we find another nērang

that appears too exactly with same wording in F3a. This passage is

very difficult and Kotwal-Kreyenbroek consider it faulty. They

even believe that the author of the Nērangestān has recognized

the faulty character of the passage and has marked it with the

word ahōg “error” at the end, a procedure without parallels in the

Pahlavi literature. In the Table you can see his edition of the

Nērangestān passage and in #4 of the handout their translation:

sources or at least that the author of the nērang of F3a (that is,

Mf1) used our manuscripts of the Nērangestān as source.

Nevertheless, although the passage remains difficult, Kotwal-

Kreyenbroek’s interpretation is not the only possible. Since the

last work is written in both manuscripts of the Nērangestān and in

F3a as ēk “one” and not as ahōg, I prefer to keep this

reading. A possible interpretation of the passage could be:

“If he strikes his own barsom, then the zōt should strike too

the fire. He should act so that he reaches the three (that is,

hōm, barsom and fire). One is just for hōm and pomegranate.”

The passage remains in any case obscure and the agreement

between the Nērangestan and F3a is even therefore more


Still more interesting are the nērangs in Y24.1 (please, see it in the

comparison table). The beginning in F3a is again the same as in

G18b and Ave977, sharing even some details with Ave977: with

the words ahurāi mazdāi the priest should raise the cup with the

hōm and pomegranate and hold it towards the cup with the

consecrated milk, then N28.46 and F3a continue with an identical

nērang which has been composed in the style of the exegetical


Ẕ NE AYḴ cygwn’ W cnd YHSNN -šn’ ʾ-m LA lwšnk . dʾtwyh

gwpt’ HWE-t gwš bʾlʾ YHSNN-šn’ prʾc OL pyš YHSNN-šn’ AP-š

PWN BRA nkylšn’ ahurāi. mazdāi. haomą. āuuaēδaiiamahī. …

ēn kū ciyōn ud cand dārišn ām nē rōšnag dādweh guft hād gōš

bālāy dārišn frāz ō pēš dārišn u-š be nigerišn.

“It is not clear to me how and how much he should hold (the

cup with the hōm and the pomegranate). Dādweh said that

he should hold it to the height of his ears, hold it to the front

and gaze at it”

Observe that both F3a and the Nērangestān repeat the statement

in the first person: “it is not clear to me”. Both texts continue

obviously the same tradition.

Furthermore, the divergence between the author of the direction

and the opinion of Dādweh shows that the composition of the

nērangs was subject of discussion in a similar way as the

interpretation of the Avestan texts. Only little material has come

to us of these discussions: on one side, the Nērangestān and on

the other, the Sāde manuscripts. The latter, conceived just as

practical guides for the priestly instruction, dispense usually with

the discussion and give just the right prescription. They pretend

indeed to be authoritative guides for the ritual practice and not

reflex of ritual controversies.

In any case, the connection between some nērangs of F3a with the

Nērangestān is closer than the connection between the nērangs of

other manuscripts and the Nērangestān. At the present I’m not

able to choose between the numerous possible explanations for

this relationship. Did the scribe of Mf1, the source of F3a, made

use of the Nērangestān for the composition of his nērangs in the

18 th C.? We cannot exclude it, but the fact that the indications of

the Nērangestān are recorded in F3a only occasionally and that

agreements between the Nērangestān and the nērangs appear also

in other manuscripts, although in a minor degree, seems to

indicate that we have to look for alternative explanations.

Darmesteter recognized that the long liturgy as it appears in the

manuscripts is not a late invention made up with the extant

fragments of the lost Great Avesta, but a ceremony that was

performed this way already in the Sassanian times and probably

earlier. Kellens has shown recently that the structure of the long

liturgy is reflected already in the Yašts. Darmesteter’s assumption

goes, however, further. Even the minimal details of the ceremony

are the same in the Nērangestān and in the Pahlavi literature and

in the description of the manuscripts. Since at least some of these

details appear described in the Avestan nērangs included in the

Nērangestān, this would imply that the ceremony had its actual

shape already at times in which Avestan texts were still

composed. Actually, the Avestan nērangs preserved are few and

we don’t know in which extent the Avestan ceremony did agree

with the details of the ceremony described in the manuscripts.

About the shape of the pre-Sassanian long liturgy we can only

state that it had the same structure and that it shares even some

details with the long liturgy as it appears in the manuscripts.

But for the Sassanian times we can state that the ceremony was

essentially the same that appears in the manuscripts. Two are the

most significant differences: the animal sacrifice described in the

Nerangestan has disappeared from the long liturgy and usually

one auxiliary priest, the raspīg, has assumed the function of the

several auxiliary priests mentioned in tjhe Nerangestan and in the

lityurgical texts of the Avesta. There are additionally changes in

some details, but they are mostly minimal, especially if we

consider the gap of around thousand years between both


Besides, the descriptions of the ceremonies we find in the

Nērangestān, the manuscripts and for some details in the Pahlavi

literature are not independent from each other but continue the

same tradition. The same parts of the ceremony are described in

the different descriptions and sometimes even the wording is the

same. It is obvious that the description of the ceremony of ušahina

in N28 follows a description of the ceremony similar to the

description we find almost thousand years later in the

manuscripts. We don’t know if such descriptions had been already

written down at the time of the composition of the Nērangestān or

were transmitted just orally. The small variations of the nērang

even in manuscripts going back to the same source reveal indeed

an important influence of the orality still in the 17 th C.

The Sāde manuscripts appear thus under a new light. They are the

primary sources of the Avestan ritual and they continue a

tradition that goes back at least to the Sassanian times and might

have its roots even in an Avestan metaritual literature describing

the ritual actions that accompany the ritual text.

Anklesaria, T. D. (1888). Avesta. The Sacred Book of the Parsis, Part 1.

Yasna bâ Nîrang. Bombay, Fort Printing Press.

Darmesteter, J. (1892). Le Zend-Avesta. Paris.

West, E. W. (1882 ). Pahlavi Texts. Part II. Oxford, Oxford University


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