SOAS University of London

Department of Religions & Philosophies, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

Corpus Avesticum: Digital Yasna

Yasna is the name of the central ritual text of Zoroastrianism, the religion of pre-Islamic Iran. Originally composed in the ancient Iranian language of Avestan between the 2nd and 1st millennia BCE, the Yasna was translated into the Pahlavi language during the first millennium CE. The Pahlavi version in turn served as the basis for a Sanskrit version traditionally ascribed to the Zoroastrian priest Neryosangh Dhaval, who lived around the 12th cent. CE. The Digital Yasna project explores avenues to transform digital images of Avestan manuscripts into computer-readable romanised form using a mark-up language such as XML-TEI P5. The transcription of each manuscript constitutes a separate file that will be further processed for collation and editing.

Individual research projects under this programme

1. Almut Hintze, The Sanskrit Yasna manuscript S1. British Academy Smaller Research Grant (SG111260), Sept 2011–March 2014

This is a project to digitize, transliterate, index, TEI encode and publish online one of the most important manuscripts (MSS) of Zoroastrianism. The MS S1 belongs to a group of MSS in which the Old Iranian (Avestan) text of the Yasna is accompanied by its Sanskrit translation. S1 has 160 folios and is kept at Columbia University, New York. K F Geldner used it in his 1896 edition of the Yasna but its current location has only recently become known to scholars. The present self-contained project will result in the first ever facsimile publication of any Sanskrit Yasna MS. It is the pilot of a larger project in which other MSS of the Sanskrit Yasna will be analysed and made available in the same manner.

2. Leon Goldman, A Study of the Sanskrit Yasna. British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow (pf1200071), Sept. 2012–Aug. 2015

This project is concerned with undertaking the first ever detailed investigation of the Sanskrit Yasna (SY). This project initially involves digitising, indexing, transcribing, encoding and publishing online manuscripts of the SY housed in European and Indian collections. These manuscripts will subsequently be analysed with a view to achieving clarity in three main areas: Firstly, the genealogies of the SY manuscripts; secondly, the types of manuscripts which may have been consulted by the translators responsible for the SY; thirdly, the history of the SY’s formation. This project is concerned with an utterly unstudied part of the complex transmission of the Avesta and is designed to lay the indispensable foundation of and prerequisite for a text-critical edition and translation of the Sanskrit Yasna.

3. Arash Zeini, The Pahlavi Version of the Yasna Haptanghaiti. PhD project 2008–2013 (completed), funded by the AHRC, supplemented by the Soudavar Memorial Foundation and Ouseley Memorial Foundation

This work provides an edition of the MP version of the Yasna Haptanghaiti, a central ritual text of the Zoroastrian religion, occupying chapters 35–41 of the Yasna, with variant readings from nine manuscripts, a translation and commentary on select words and passages. Treating the Pahlavi version of the YH as a text in its own right, the so-called glosses are considered for the first time as an integral part of the text. This study challenges the view according to which the study of the Pahlavi version is subordinate and ancillary to the study of the Avestan version and frames the text instead within the exegetical and historical context from which it emerged. The introductory chapters include an overview of past scholarship and provide a discussion of the manuscripts and perceptions of the Pahlavi version in European scholarship. It is argued that Zoroastrian exegesis of the Avesta exhibits features of Cabezón’s decontextualized scholasticism, a cross-cultural category derived from European Medieval scholasticism.

4. Neda Mohtashami, PhD Student (funded by a Felix Scholarship Non-Indian), Sept. 2013–Aug. 2016: Studies in the Pahlavi version of the Yasna

This project is designed to produce a text-critical edition of the Pahlavi version of the first eight chapters of the 72-chapter Yasna. It entails transcribing the Avestan and Pahlavi text of Yasna 1–8 as it appears in bilingual Avesta-Pahlavi manuscripts. The edition will be based on a fresh collation of the manuscripts. A detailed commentary will engage with the Pahlavi commentators’ interpretation of the Avesta.

5. Mehrbod Khanizadeh, PhD Student (funded by The Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe, supplemented by grants of the Soudavar Memorial Foundation, FEZANA, Houtan Foundation, Kamran Djam Memorial Foundation, Vakhshoori Foundation), Sept. 2013–Aug. 2016: The Avesta and Pahlavi versions of the Hōm Yasht.

This project is concerned with the Pahlavi version of Yasna 9–11, which constitute the Hōm Yašt. The Avestan and Pahlavi text of Chapters 9–11 of the Yasna will be transcribed as it appears in the manuscripts of the Pahlavi Yasna. The thesis will include a text-critical edition of the Pahlavi Yasna of the Hōm Yašt and a detailed commentary on the Pahlavi version of this text.  


Prof Dr Almut Hintze
Zartoshty Brothers Professor of Zoroastrianism

SOAS, University of London
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square
London WC1H 0XG

Telephone: 020 7898 4598