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The Bundahishn ("Creation"), or Knowledge from the Zand

Translated by E. W. West, from Sacred Books of the East, volume 5, Oxford University Press, 1897.

Concerning this Pahlavi text, Mary Boyce has written,

"A much more important and fundamental work of compilation is the Bundahishn ("Creation"), also called Zand-agahih ("Knowledge from the Zand"), which survives in two recensions, the Great (or Iranian) Bundahishn and a shortened version, the Indian Bundahishn (deriving from a different MS. tradition). One of the two great Zoroastrian compilations, this work probably grew through different redactions, from some time after the Arab conquest down to 1178 A.C. (when a few additions were made in imperfect Middle Persian). The last important redaction belongs to about the end of the 9th century. The Bundahishn has three main themes: creation, the nature of earthly creatures, and the Kayanians (their lineage and abodes, and the vicissitudes befalling their realm of Eranshahr). The compiler does not name individual sources; but shows an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Zand, and exemplifies excellently the process whereby treatises on chosen themes were created out of the scriptures. Many passages evidently derive fairly closely from the Middle Persian translation, for an Avestan syntax underlies them and one section consists simply of the translation of the 1st chapter of the Vendidad coinciding (except in small details) with the canonical Zand. Glosses and commentaries provide part of the continuous text, and in these, foreign learning is adduced. There are also a few isolated attempts to bring the work up to date, by the identification of traditional (and even mythical) geographical names with Arabic ones. In the main, however, the absorbing interest of the Bd. lies in the antiquity of its material. Here is preserved an ancient, in part pre-Zoroastrian picture of the world, conceived as saucer-shaped, with its rim one great mountain-range, a central peak thrusting up, star-encircled, to cut off the light of the sun by night; a world girdled by two great rivers, from which all other waters flow; in which yearly the gods fight against demons to end drought and famine, and to bring protection to man. Natural phenomena are speculatively explained; the sprouting of the plants, for example, is ascribed to the mythical Tree of All Seeds growing in the ocean, whose seeds are mingled with water and so scattered annually over all the earth when the god Tishtar brings the rains. Not only is the matter ancient and often poetic, but the manner of presentation, although arid, is of great antiquarian interest; for after the distinctively Zoroastrian account of creation, the speculative learning and legendary history is set out in traditional oral fashion, that is to say, in schematised mnemonic lists: so many types of animals, so many kinds of liquid, so many names of mountains, so many great battles. This is the learning of ancient Iran, as it must have been evolved and transmitted by generations in the priestly schools." (quoted from Mary Boyce, 'Middle Persian Literature', Handbuch der Orientalistik, 1. Abt., IV. Band, 2. Abschn., LFG.1, pg 40-1.)


Chapter 1. Ohrmazd's original creation; the antagonism of the evil spirit; nature of the creatures of the world
Chapter 2. On the formation of the luminaries
Chapter 3. The rush of the destroyer at the creatures
Chapter 4. Goshorun, the primal ox
Chapter 5. The planets and cosmology
Chapter 6. The battle with the sky
Chapter 7. The battle with water
Chapter 8. The battle with the earth
Chapter 9. The battle with the plants
Chapter 10. The battle with the primeval ox
Chapter 11. The nature of the earth
Chapter 12. The nature of mountains
Chapter 13. The nature of the oceans
Chapter 14. The nature of the animals
Chapter 15. The nature of people
Chapter 16. The nature of procreation
Chapter 17. The nature of fire
Chapter 18. The nature of trees
Chapter 19. Regarding fabulous creatures
Chapter 20. The nature of rivers
Chapter 21. Regarding liquids
Chapter 22. The nature of lakes
Chapter 23. The nature of the ape and bear
Chapter 24. The chieftainship of people and animals
Chapter 25. The religious calendar
Chapter 26. Measuring distances
Chapter 27. The nature of plants
Chapter 28. On the evil-doing of Ahriman and the demons
Chapter 29. On the spiritual chieftainship of the regions of the earth
Chapter 30. On the resurrection and future existence
Chapter 31. On the race and offspring of the Kayans
Chapter 32. Pourushasp and Zartosht
Chapter 33. The family of the Mobads
Chapter 34. On the reckoning of years

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