Did Zoroaster exist ?

Recently Oktor Skajervo, Prof.Pirrat among others have doubted the existence of Zarathushtra. Almost a hundred years ago Darmesteter did the same after Parsis in Bombay when he visted them laid prostate at his feet same as Skjervo was invited and applauded recently in New York by FEZANA, WZO and ZAGNY (Parsi Associations) when he spoke on the Gathas whose composer, our prophet Zarathushtra he strongly denied

In the Gathas the only person mentioned who speaks to Ahura Mazda is Zarathushtra so a probable connection is established, namely that
the person of Zarathushtra is the speaker or creator of the verses, for we are talking of poetry.

The question arises, did Zarathushtra compose the verses of the Gathas, or did another person compose hymns of praise to his mentor or teacher? In either case a person must have existed who was called Zarathustra in the Avesta. Some like Skajervo may claim that Zoroaster was a made up name given to a spirit or a deity, but that does
not change the need to find a human being who composed the Gathas since the verses hardly just wafted downfrom the sky.

There has been a controversy over the authorship of the works of Shakespeare, some claiming that Marlowe or another person wrote some or all of them. But generally the plays and poetry are assigned to
Shakespeare. Let us proceed similarly with Zarathustra,about whom many more legends have accumulated than about Shakespeare.

Using an Aristotelian syllogism, a person is the author of the Gathas; Zarathushtra is a person; therefore Zarathushtra is the author of the Gathas. Or if one objects to the word author, then the
object may be substituted for author of.

If we continue to analyze the Gathas some probable conclusions may be drawn. The language of the Gathas is very close to the Sanskrit of the Rigveda, such that they could be termed related dialects. The
Rigveda is generally dated at least a millennium B.C.so the Gathas should be similarly ancient. How ancient is a matter of dispute since one language might have been more conservative than another, conserving archaic forms in the vocabulary and grammar.

Some scholars have given the date of Zarathushtra, hence also the Gathas, as the time of Cyrus or even Darius in the sixth century B.C. Most likely, however, Zarathushtra composed and preached his Gathas in a language his contemporaries understood rather than a long defunct
tongue which was not meant to be understood by those around him. Consequently most likely the Gathas belong to a period of time closer to that of the Rigveda than to the time of the Achaemenids.

No one disputes the assertion that the Gathas were composed in an eastern Iranian language and milieu.

Some scholars have narrowed the focus of a spotlight on a region where the Gatha tongue was at home, and that large area where Zarathushtra was born, preached and died has been designated as extending from Sistan through Herat, and even to Balkh, to use more recent geographical terms rather than ancient names. This geographical area has been favored over Central Asia (mainly contemporary Uzbekistan) because we have no Middle Iranian linguistic remains from that area,whereas texts in the Sogdian, Khwarazmian and Bactrian languages do exist and not one may be called a descendant of either dialect of the Avesta, i.e. the Gathas and the Younger Avesta.

The remains of those languages, however, are at least a thousand years
later than the presumed date of the Avestan tongue,and many changes may have occurred in that long period of time.

We already have ventured into the realm of conjecture and uncertain information, but a hope remains that archaeology some day may reveal clues that will clarify the picture of Zarathushtra and the rise of the religion generally after him called Zoroastrianism today. No longer can one propose that the religion is much later than the date given above, as James Darmesteter did over a century ago. and whose feet were kissed by the Parsis of that era in Bombay.

Additions or changes to the rites, rituals or doctrines of the
Zoroastrian religion obviously were made, and some may be traced in later writings. Scholars investigate phases of the history of the religion, while believers are comforted by the long existence of the faith.

While one may debate many questions of the long history surely the existence of Zoroaster would be difficult to deny.

Dr Pallan Ichaporia, D.Phil., PhD.
Mainz University, Germany

7 comments

  • Mr. Oktor Skajervo has been spreading this totally pointless argument in his lectures. I met him in a symposium in Toronto. I found him to arrogant even to listen to comments. A genuine scholarly mind does not behave like that. One might have issues against a topic. But here, he totally denies the existence of Zarathushtra. OK, let us ask Mr Oktor Skajervo, did ‘somebody’ compose those veses called Gathas? That ‘sombody’ we call Zarathushtra. If You want to suggest a different name, we can look at it. But for god’s sake there was a person who composed those verses. Find another name for him or her. What is your problem Mr. Oktor Skajervo?

  • I hope Mr. Oktor Skajervo who calls himself a scholar goes and educates himself. I met him in a symposium in Toronto. It was immediately known to me back then that his claims are the results of his extreme lack of knowledge. By his own logic we may also doubt Mohammad or Christ or Moses or any others for that matter. I hope he is an honest researcher and he is not claiming that based on some other considerations (!). If he is not, I suggest him to go and read more. I think he has a long way to go. He is free to write any invalid materials he wants but most of the scholars in the word so far have said exactly opposite. Good luck Mr. Oktor!

    • DID “ZOROASTER” AT ALL EXIST?

      Two Western Scholars at Gatha Colloquium of 27th, 28th June 2009 Expressed Doubt!

      Max Muller and Darmesteter Did So a Century Ago – But It Was a Scholastic Secret.

      The WORST has happened at New York on 27th and 28th June 2009, the days on which a pompous “Gatha Colloquium” was held.

      The boastful title was “Gatha Perceptions: from Past to Future” and the Gathas were described as “the actual words of Prophet Zarathushtra surviving in 17 hymns”. The names of 5 “scholars”, one Muslim and four Parsis, who were and are, in fact, conversion fanatics were announced as speakers alongwith seven Western university and /or academic scholars. It was declared that this was a ten years “chance to learn about the fundamentals of our religion” – a religion that was supposed to have been brought by Zoroaster.

      BUT what actually happened at the colloquium was a tragedy of all tragedies, a disaster of all disasters and the funniest of all funs.

      Two of the Western academicians Oktor Skajevero and Pirrat are reported to have openly doubted the existence of Asho Zarathushtra.

      This is reported by one Dr. Pallan Itchaporia at some “http://Zoroastrians.net/2009/07/07/ did Zoroaster – exist/#comment – 2703”. He has tried to refute the proposition: Zoroaster did not exist. This your humble writer KND, having dabbled in “the law of the land” (a famous expression of our “high” priests) for more than half a century, can boldly say (with a wink of the right eye) that Shri Pallon’s refutation is worse than the original proposition. It does not refute. The refuting arguments can well be turned around to support the proposition.

      Who this Dr. Pallon is, is another interesting story. Presently I just say that at several such foreign conferences and colloquiums in the past, he has posed and declared himself to be a follower, if not a disciple, of Kaikhusro Irani and Ali Jafri, the two conversion fanatics of GAC (Gatha Alone Cult) who, I am confident, were the star performers in the June 27-28 2009 Gatha Colloquium. I have personally seen this satellite-behaviour’ of Shri Pallon in a 1993 Gatha Conference at Croydon, Surrey, near London. All along, the satellite was seen revolving round the said main GAC planets, physically as well as intellectually.

      It is clear that the failure of the Western Studies to present and explain Zoroastrianism to the world has now reached its climax, when the very existence of Zoroaster is declared as DOUBTFUL openly in the presence of the famous conversion fanatics of our times. Did He exist? Why talk about “conversion” into the Religion of Zoroaster when there was nobody of that name in the history of mankind? Oh! I wait with much relish for the reactions of the august members of the Gatha Alone Cult (GAC) to the propostion: “No Zoroaster” (hereinafter “no-Z”)! How longingly I look forward to the reactions of the Parsi scholar dasturs (vada or chhota) and scholar priests, as also the so-called orthodox or not-so-orthodox or liberals or libertines, or reformists, whether genuine or pseudo or fake, to this no-Z!

      Bernard Shaw in his drama “Doctor’s Dilemma” proved in his masterly style that the medical profession is a huge conspiracy. They hide their damaging secrets. In the present times, all vocations do so – from medicine to mobedic including academic and scholarlism. Many paradigms were thrown out by the WS, which were quite atrocious and hush-hushed by the Parsi scholars. One of such secrets was “no-Z”. It is at least 115 years old. It was spoken on 23rd November (23/11) (cf. 9-11 & 26-11) 1893 by Prof. F. Max Muller (1803-1900) in a very very learned lecture delivered as the President of “the Society of Historical Theology” at Oxford, and recorded in a very very learned Volume I of his “Recent Essays and Addresses” in 1867 followed by several reprints and editions, the last available being 1914 edition by Longmans, Green & Co. London. In 1920’s the Book used to be presented as an award to the distinguished students of the then “Sir Jamshedji Jeejeebhoy Zarthoshti Madresa” over the signature of its Secretary Jivanji Jamshedji Mody!

      What did Max Muller, the able and formidable Editor of the famous “Sacred Books of the East” (SBE) speak and write in his aforesaid Lectures and Essays on the subject of “no-Z”? Pages 469 to 492 of the aforesaid 1914 Edition carry his 23-11-(1893) lecture under the title “On the Proper Use of Holy Scriptures”. On page 474, the following weighty words appear:

      “The ancient Persian religion is ascribed to Zarathushtra, and has sometimes been classed as an individual religion. But among critical scholars Zarathushtra has long been recognised as a purely mythical name, and all that tradition tells us about him is now acknowledged to be of very late origin.

      We can certainly recognise in the Avestic religion the working of an individual spirit, and of a personal will opposing itself to opinions and customs that prevailed before him and around him, but we have no longer any right to call Zoroaster the author, still less the writer of the Avesta, not even of its most ancient parts, the so-called Gathas, which if Prof. Darmesteter is right, would in their present form not be older than the first century of our era.”

      Mark the words “long been recognised”. Also note, you have no right to call a mythical figure by name Zoroaster the wirter of even the Gathas, which are not older than 100 AD as opined by Prof. Darmesteter.

      Who was this Darmesteter? He was an erudite European Scholar, Philologist, Etymologist, and Linguistic translator of Avesta Scriptures. Max Muller’s SBE volumes contain Darmesteter’s translations of Vendidad (vol iv) (1879) and “Sirozahs-Yasts and Nyais” (1882). He assigned the first century as the date of the Gathas because he thought that the whole Avesta was written during the period of Neo-Platonic literature. He considered the religious allegories of the Gathas to resemble those of Philo. (Plato – 427 to 347 BC; and Philo – 20 BC to 4 AD). The whole WS is a story of guesswork, speculation, conjecture and surmise. All is theorisation emerging from the conjecturing mind of different “scholars”, who go on disputing each others’ theories, views and opinions. Some of them are seen to change their own views! Most unfortunately the erudite Darmesteter did that.

      The article on page 2 of the last issue of this humble Parsi Avaz sets out the fascinating story of the emergence of the Western Studies (WS) in the 19th century. There was a “battle of methods”, described, a bit inaccurately, as Pahalvi v. Sanskrit. Sanskrit front wanted to discard Pahalvi. Pahalvi front contended that just sanskrit without Pahalvi would not work. Darmesteter belonged to the latter front. BUT, alas, he changed his views at the end of his life. The situation is aptly described by John H. Waterhouse, an ardent seeker of truth from the comparative study of Religions, in his Book “Zoroastrianism” (London, The Epworth Press – 1934). He writes:

      “So able a man as the late J. M. Robertson endeavored to prove that Jesus, the Buddlha and Zoroaster, among many others, never lived. It is unnecessary to say more on this than to point out that Robertson’s attempt to dismiss Zoroaster has not affected those who are versed in Iranian scholarship. Only one scholar of distinction, as far as the present writer is aware, has shared the view that Zoroaster was a myth. That great Orientalist, James Darmesteter, after spending long years of study on the Avestan literature, at the end of his life changed the views he had so ably defended, and proclaimed that belief in the historical character of Zoroaster was a mistake. It was unfortunate that this scholar did not live to read the arguments of the opposition, or adequately to explain his thesis.” (Page 11-12, Chapter I: “Zoroaster Himself”.)

      Mark the words: “myth”, “mistake”.

      * * * * *

      So, the pompous colloquium on Gathas has, as usual, resulted in a greater fiasco than the previous ones. The conversion fanatics were told at point blank range: “no Z”!

      The erudite Savant Khurshedji Cama has, in his Gujerati “Life of Zarathushtra – Based on Avesta”, given numerous references on the Divine Status of Asho Zarathushtra from Avesta Scriptures, including the Gathas. To deny Him is to deny the whole Avesta.

      The whole Avesta and numerous Pahalavi writings vibrate with the Truth that Zarathushtra is one of the ‘Yazata’s of Ahura Mazda. Khshnoom Nikiz-e-Vehdin Vol. I by Framroze Chiniwala gives a grand collection of such references.

      It is time for WS and GAC to close down their shops.

      We the faithful Parsis do not care about the theological gibberish of the WS.. For us, Asho Zarathushtra exists in our hearts. We are conscious of His presence in each of our breaths.

      We pray: may You ordain, oh Ahuramazda! That the Oxfordian and American theologions get out of their dense cloud of confusion.

      – K. N. Dastoor.

      PARSI AVAZ Vol. 1/4 – July-Aug.-Sep. 2009

  • Shakespeare is thought to have led a group of writers, all who contributed to the plays along with him, they are too many to have been the work of one man-but ,as to Zarathustra, I have always believed that he really did exist, the Gathas are very personal in style and they present you with a good descriptive vision of him by reading them-he seems to stand living in front of you, no matter which translation you read, you can experience this-I have read quite a few in English and at least one in Swedish too-at least this is my opinion.

  • I believe that the Greeks never met the real Zarathushtra. In stead, they knew of the Zoatars referred to as the Zoroaster by the Greeks. So the scholars are trying to date various Zoatars over time and not the real prophet.

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