|Home > Articles > Woman in The Gathas and The Later Avesta|
IN THE GATHAS AND THE LATER AVESTA
"We venerate the righteous woman who is good in thoughts, words, and
deeds, who is well-educated, is an authority on religious affairs, is
progressively serene, and is like the women who belong to the Wise God.
"We venerate the righteous man who is good in thoughts, words, and
deeds, who knows well the religion he has chosen, and who does not know blind
"It is these people who, with their actions, promote the world
though righteousness." (Aiwisruthrem Gah 9 and Vispered 3.4)
Much has been said and written about man and woman.
Some tell the truth. Others
are empty claims. While enough has been written about ascendancy of man, much
more through might than right, to his present position in the human society, the
role of woman has not been depicted the way it should be.
The reason is obvious: man is the author of most of the statements!
These statements show that woman has been from the lady paramount of
society to a mere chattel at home. While
"mother" has been acclaimed by some to be the highest source of love
and the best training for progress, "woman" has been accused by others
of the being the cause of the downfall and the origin of pollution.
Even on the eve of the 21st century when women are said to have won
complete equality with men in advanced countries, comparative statistics of
women holding high positions in administrative and other key posts is sadly very
low. On the other hand, a glimpse
of publicity stunts still show her no more than a showy object exploited for
Turning to fully comprehend the position of woman in the Avesta, we
better first have a look at the topographical position of the land where the
Zarathushtrian religion rose, spread, met other religions, and had its worst
setbacks. It is the Iranian
Plateau. It is a vast highland with
an average height of 1220 meters (4000 feet) above the sea level.
It has rings of mountains, green valleys, and bleak deserts.
It lies between the Caspian Sea, the Aral Sea, and the plain on the
north, the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean on the south, the Indus Valley and
the Pamirs on the east, and the Mesopotamian valley on the west.
It has had three major religious changes: Pre-Zarathushtrian,
Zarathushtrian, and Islamic. Our
subject covers the first two.
Pre-Zarathushtrian period has two phases:
Pre-Aryan beliefs and the Aryan cult.
Archaeological evidence shows that the pre-Aryan or
indigenous civilization was mostly confined to proto-town settlements located at
distances all over the plateau. The
people of these settlements were generally self-sufficient, yet they maintained
trade links with each other. The
trade network between Mesopotamia and Indus interlaced them all together in cult
and culture so much so that the only Dravidian language of the ancient Indus
civilization, north of Tamil, Telegu, and Kannada, is "Brahui".
It is now languishing in eastern Iran and western Pakistan, a proof that
once upon a time, natives of at least the eastern part of the Plateau shred a
common language with the inhabitants of the Indus valley civilization.
Women dominated religion and society in central and eastern parts of the
Plateau, but were themselves dominated by patriarchal cult of male priests in
western parts. Here they were reduced to serve the male priests and pilgrims as
temple prostitutes, remnants of which one finds in the so-called "Devadasis"
of southern India. Cult
prostitution has its own story in the ancient Mediterranean region.
However, temple prostitution meant going to temples only during the
period they could sexually serve men. Menstruation
kept them away from going to temples and participating in the "holy
rite", an act which is the main source of the menstrual taboos still
observed by many tradition-bound communities.
Passage of time has exaggerated once the natural absence from attending
their temple "duty" of sensually entertaining priests and pilgrims, to
the much "abhorred uncleanliness" of
the menstrual period and segregation
of later days when the real reason for not attending temple services were
forgotten and fables were woven to justify the segregation.
The Aryan mass migration changed the entire plateau.
Pastoral and agricultural in profession and superior in number, strength,
and speed, but not in settled civilization, these people soon spread over all
the available virgin lands. They
seem to have bypassed and generally circumvented old settlements because we have
no stories preserved by the Aryans of their conquest, occupation, and
subjugation of non-Aryans. The
change brought in a gradual Aryanization of the entire population through
assimilation. It is obvious that
they were influenced by the natives too, particularly in the field of town
settlement, civilization in which they were far advanced than the pastoral
Aryans. Many customs, especially
those brought in by women married to newcomers, were adopted without any evident
opposition. Some of these customs
are reflected in their paraphrased version in Avesta in the
The Avesta has no creation myth to tell how the first man and woman were
created. It simply says that Ahura
Mazda, created among other things, the living world of mankind and other
animals. Therefore, the earliest
mention of woman is made when Yima Khshaeta (King Jamshid of the Persian epics)
was divinely warned of the coming ice age spell and was directed to lead a group
of 1900 "men and women" of the greatest, best, and finest species
along with cattle, sheep, dogs, birds, and blazing fires inside a specious cave
complex and save themselves (Vendidad 2.1-43).
Archaeology has shown that human beings survived the cold spell, which
covered parts of Eurasia between 8,000 to 12,000 years ago, by taking shelter in
caves and fire kept them warm.
But a casual mention cannot give us a true picture of women in the
ancient Indo-Iranian society. However,
the high regard in which female deities were held and other Avestan and Vedic
evidences show that women enjoyed a fairly high position in the moderately
It is with the advent of Zarathushtra that the position of woman in
society emerged clear. The Gathas
and supplementary texts in the Gathic dialect are explicit on the subject.
The famous stanza of the "choice of religion" gives equal
rights to both: "Hear the best with your ears and ponder with a bright
mind. Then each man and woman, for
his or her self, select either of the two (the better and bad mentalities).
Awaken to this Doctrine of ours before the Great Event (of Choice) ushers
in (Gathas Song 3 = Yasna 30, stanza 2). To
those who make the right choice and join the Good Religion, he says: "Wise
God, whoever, man or woman, shall give me what You know to be best in life --
rewards for righteousness, power through good mind -- I shall accompany him and
her in glorifying such as You are, and shall, with them all, cross over the
sorting bridge." (Gathas Song 11 = Yasna 46, stanza 10).
Yet in another stanza he lauds: "The Wise God knows best any person
of mine for his or her veneration done in according with righteousness.
I shall, on my part, venerate such persons, passed away or living, by
their names, and shall lovingly encircle them."
(S 16 = Y, st 22). It is
this stanza which is later paraphrased in the famous Yenghe Hatam formula, also
in a late Gathic dialect: "The
Wise God knows better every man and woman among the living for his or her
veneration done in accordance with righteousness.
We, on our part, venerate such men and women."
Furthermore, the Gathas present an inspiring message for the wedding
couple. Of his three sons and three
daughters, Zarathushtra selected his youngest daughter Pouruchista to give his
advice and blessing. He wanted her
to have a person "who is steadfast in good mind, and united with
righteousness and with the Wise One" and advised her to "consult him
with your wisdom," and be
progressively serene and munificent. She
assured her father that would "emulate and choose" him
in such a way that her act would be an honor for the father, the husband, the
settlers, and the family. "As
a righteous woman among the righteous people," she committed herself to
wisely serve the Good Religion more than ever.
Pouruchista moved her father to leave an ever-fresh word for all the
wedding couples. "These words
I speak to the charming brides and to you, bridegrooms.
Do bear them in mind. Comprehend
them with your conscience. Master
the life which belongs to good mind. May
you each win the other through righteousness."
Zarathushtra tells them to remain united and to strengthen and promote
the universal fellowship of the Good Religion. (S 17 = Y 53, sts 3-7)
The last blessing given by Zarathushtra near the end of his successful
mission of 47 years put the finishing touches to his divine task: "May the
desired Fellowship come for the support of the men and women of Zarathushtra,
for the support of good mind, so that the conscience of every person earns the
choice reward -- the reward of righteousness -- a wish regarded by the Wise God.
The Haptanghaiti of seven short "yasnas" and next in importance to the
Gathas further clarifies the position held by woman in the Gathic society.
Advocating learning, practicing, and preaching, it says: "The more a
man or woman knows the truth, the better. He
or she should zealously practice it and preach it to others so that they
practice it accordingly." (H 1
= Y 35, st 6). It venerates the
"womenfolk, ... who belong to You, God, on account of their righteousness.
(H 4 = Y 38, st 1). Indeed it
venerates the helpful law-abiding righteous, "born in whatever land, both
men and women, whose good consciences are growing, have grown, or shall grow ...
good men and women (who are) incremental, eternal, ever-gaining, ever-growing,
... who live a life of good mind." (H 5 - Y 39, st 2-3).
Zarathushtra prayed : "May good rulers, not bad rulers, rules over
us with actions of good understanding and serenity
(S 13 - Y 48, st 5)," and his immediate successors rightly added :
"May a good ruler, man or woman, rule over us in both the (mental and
physical) existences." (H 7 - Y 41, st 2).
It was this ordinary love and respect shown by Asho Zarathushtra to his
men and women that created the tradition of commemorating outstanding men and
women on the Memorial Day, the Farvardegân or Muktâd, at the end of the year.
The Farvardin Yasht, a post-Gathic Avesta text, venerates the names of
261 persons, sixteen of whom are married women and eleven are maidens. This
gives us a much higher proportion of women in the front lines of a religious
order than in any other religion in its early stage, or even today.
Keeping in mind the universality of the Zarathushtrian message in view,
the Yasht then turns to human beings of every land and states in separate
paragraphs: "We venerate the righteous men ... we venerate the righteous
women of Aryan countries, ... Turanian countries, --- Sairimyan countries, ...
Saini countries, ... Dahi countries, ... and of all countries, ... the righteous
men and women, who (were) foremost in accepting the divine doctrine and first to
listen to the divine teachings, who won for the cause of righteousness, who have
been successful in establishing homes, districts, settlements, countries, who
have been successful in learning the thought-provoking message, who have been
successful in improving their souls, and who have been successful in obtaining
all that is good." (Yasht 13.143-151)
Aerpatistan is a book for the priestly class.
It has not reached us in full but fortunately has the part dealing with
woman officiants at rituals. It
belongs to a time when every person was engaged in his or her livelihood
profession, generally agriculture. One
could only leave the job if another person was available to take over without a
possible loss in property. Man and
woman both officiated, whenever invited as priests in a ritual.
If invited to officiate at a ceremony, husband and wife had to consider
who was needed more to attend the profession so that the other was spared to
proceed to the ritual scene. Women
were at liberty to go to officiate at a ritual without the prior permission of
their husbands. The officiant, more
needed to attend to his or her daily profession, could only be absent for a
total of six nights in traveling and officiating at the ceremony.
It may be noted that those willing to become priests had to undergo a
three-year rigorous course of learning, memorizing, comprehending, expounding
the Gathas and the Haptanghaiti, till then the only guiding "principles of
life" and the only prayers used in rituals.
All non-Gathic texts now used in rituals are later, some very late,
additions. The Avesta does not
speak of the Yasna or the Vendidad ceremonies performed in present times in
India. (see "Aerpatastan and Nirangastan" by Sohrab J. Bulsara,
Bombay, 1915, and "Erbedestan, an Avestan-Pahlavi text" by Helmut
Humbach and Josef Elfenbein, Munich., 1990)
The Vispered is a booklet devoted to the seasonal festivals of Gahanbars.
It shows that eight officials, each responsible for a specific function,
took part in the ritual. In
addition to the eight priests surrounding the holy fire, there were
representatives of all the religious and social units of the locality to stand
"prepared" to participate in the ritual, a procedure now out of
question in present-day rituals performed by the priestly class while the laity
lie low and silent. The Zaotar
(literally "invoker"), the chief officiant, summons each of his or her
seven colleagues as well as the representatives of the priestly, warrior and
prospering professions, and the representatives of the house, district,
settlement, the youth devoted to further the religion, the teaching priest in
the district, the roving preacher outside the district, and the house mistress.
It is then that woman and man of extraordinary talents, given in the
stanzas quoted at the beginning of this essay are summoned to participate.
We may note that a woman is called hush-hâm-sâsta
(literally well-instructed in religious lore) and ratu-khshathra
(rite-authority). The latter title
is used for Ahura Mazda as the supreme authority (Vispered 11.1) and the Gathas
as the foremost authority of all scriptures used at ratu, rightful
rituals. (Y 54.2, 55.1, 71.11, Vispered 11.1, Afarin-e Gatha 2.3, Vendidad
19.38). It may be pointed that due
to a wrong rendering in Pahlavi, some have translated the above ratu-khshathra
as "obedient to husband" without taking into view the other instances
quoted above, particularly the one in which Ahura Mazda is ratu-khshathra!
As a participant, the Gathas are addressed as prayers to God and as
guidance to mankind. Yet, as we
have observed, the Gathic texts go a little further to mention both men and
women so that it is fully understood that both the sexes enjoy equal rights in
every spiritual (Gathic mental) and physical phase of human life.
No priority or supremacy is given to any of the two.
The two are free to emulate each other in union to win each other in
We have left the pristine Gathic era and the immediate post-Gathic period
behind. Centuries have passed.
Changes have set in. Certain
Gathic concepts have been personified under a new term "yazata",
meaning the "venerated, revered."
Daenâ, conscience, religion, Chistâ, perception, another
term for Daenâ, and Ashi Vanguhi, meaning "good
reward", all feminine, are among the personified concepts.
The Din Yasht in honor of Chistâ and the Art Yasht in honor of Ashi,
provide us with the names of two stalwarts of the Good Religion.
They are Hvovi, wife of Zarathushtra, and Hutaosa, wife of Kavi Vishtaspa.
In the Din Yasht, Chistâ is approached by Hvovi.
She, "the righteous, the knowledge-seeking, wished (to join) in good
share with the righteous Zarathushtra in thinking, talking and acting in
accordance with the Religion (Daenâ). (Yasht 16.15).
It shows that she wanted to marry Zarathushtra to serve the religion
better, an act her daughter Pouruchista followed later on the occasion of her
marriage. In the Art Yasht, it is
Zarathushtra who prays to Ashi Vanguhi to grant him the boon that "the
good, independent Hutaosa think, talk, and act in accordance with the Religion
so that she believes in and comprehends my Mazdayasni Religion and brings good
fame to my community." (Yasht 17.46, also repeated in Yasht 9.26).
Her conversion, according to the composer of the yasht,
to the Good Religion was of special importance to Zarathushtra.
Ashi Vanguhi has the Art or 17th Yasht in her honor. This personification
of a Gathic abstract is, in her "yazata" role, what Lakshmi is to the
Hindus, deity of wealth and prosperity. Contrary to Anahitâ, a pre-Zarathushtrian
deity of which we will speak later, she is not offered any animal sacrifices but
is simply praised by pre-Zarathushtrian and Zarathushtrian kings and heroes to
grant boons. She is highly
aggrieved, we are told, to see three women: a barren jahika, a woman who
delivers her husband a child conceived from a stranger, and a maiden seduced to
bear child without marriage. She
bars "impotent men, past-menopause jahi, children, and virgins," from
partaking her libations. (Yasht 17.54, 57-58).
It means that the participants are told that she accepts only able-bodied
men and women of mature and reproductive age in the rituals performed in her
Although composed posthumously, the two Yashts not only echo two
important events in the promotion of the religion, but also reveal the
importance of women in the mission. They
also show that women still enjoyed high status although the marshal phase of the
Good Religion had begun with the ascendancy of the conquering warriors and the
advent of epical Yashts. The epical
Yashts are mostly dedicated to pre-Zarathushtrian deities (Ardevi Sura Anahita,
Tishtrya, Mithra, Varethraghna, and Drvaspa).
Although edited and augmented to suit the Zarathushtrian environment,
they have much of the pre-Zarathushtrian material in them.
Here, the first thing one observes is the dominating figure of Aredvi
Sura Anahita. Originally a river
goddess with a probable name of Harahvati/Sarasvati, she is known
in the later Avesta by her titles as Aredvi Surâ Anâhitâ,
freely rendered as the "Unpolluted Heroine Humidity."
She provides us with the description of a beautifully attired lady, whom
kings and heroes of pre-Zarathushtrian days approached with ritual sacrifices of
hundreds of large and small animals for helping them to accomplish certain
tasks. The description runs: "Aredvi
Sura (is) maiden, independent, tall, upright, well-shaped, and beautiful.
Her beautiful white arms resemble the forelegs of a mare.
She wears a crown of gold with hundred stars, octagon in shape, shining
circle, with ribbons flowing and flying. She
has square-shaped golden earings. Her
lovely neck is adorned by a gold necklace. Her breast (are) made prominent by
her tight belt glittering with ornaments. She
wears a costly gold-embroidered gown with many folds.
Her fur coat of one hundred female beavers shines like gold and silver
woven together. Thus attired, she
rides a chariot with reins in her hands. Her
chariot is drawn by four white horses of the same breed.
They are the wind, the rain, the cloud, and the hail."
She is called the healer; promoter of herd, home, country and the world;
purifier of male seed and female womb; facilitator of child birth; increaser of
milk in breasts; and above all, the Guardian of Waters. (Yasht 5.1-1342)
Strangely enough, it is this female yazata who prohibits women from
partaking the offerings made in honor. All
those who pray to her for boons are male. However,
the high popularity enjoyed by her and other female deities to whom male kings
and heroes turned for help reveals the feminine position.
Dravaspâ (Literally Healthy-mare) is another pre-Zarathushtrian female deity. Although she is the guardian of the animal world, she too accepts sacrifices of hundreds of animals by the kings and heroes approaching her for boons. A description of the wives and daughters, given in the DravaspaYasht, reveals how the upper class women lived. The wives reclined on beautiful coaches with beautiful cushions. They were well-attired, with square-built earrings and gold necklaces. The waited for their husbands to come and make love with them. Their daughters had narrow waists and were beautiful in body. Their shape was wishfully pleasing to those who looked at them. (Yasht 9.1-3)
male yazatas, Tishtrya and Verethraghna, both pre-Zarathushtrian gods, bar
"the robber, the jahi, the person who does not chant the Gathas, and
the antagonist to this religion which is divine and Zarathushtrian" from
partaking their libations. (Yashts )
Jahi or Jahika (the
second is derogative) is generally rendered as "whore".
But context in which the terms are used show that ordinarily it should
mean a vagrant. Other instances
show that when applied to woman, in addition to being a vagrant, she is said to
be barren, "past-her-menopause," and engaged in prostitution and
witchcraft. (Yashts 3.9,12,16; 8.59; Vendidad 18.62; 21.1, 17 for jahi,
and Yasna 9.32; Yasht 14.51; 17.54, 57.58; Vendidad 18.54 for jahikâ).
Finally, the last phase of our essay.
The Vendidad or better Vidaeva-dâta, literally "the
Law against the Daevas," is mostly devoted to pollution and purification
rites. Although its composition is
ascribed to the Parthian period (250 BCE to 224 CE), its contents show that most
of the rites go well beyond the Zarathushtrian era, even into pre-Aryan times.
The Avestan renderings of many of the rites from whatever language they
originally were, are merely a screen to make it look as Zarathushtrian as
Improper contact with a corpse, menstruation and stillbirth are among
major pollutants. Contact with a
dead body was a rare phenomenon among pollution conscious people.
So man and woman suffered less. But
the other two naturally concern woman only.
She has to experience the menstrual cycle about twelve times a year until
menopause. But for the stillbirth,
in those remote days of lack of hygiene and health care, she could suffer it
once or twice in her lifetime. A third or fourth would have taken her life too.
A woman, polluted and polluting as she was considered during her period,
was placed under strict quarantine and segregated from other members of the
family. She was given a rationed
food and that too without coming into any contact with her.
At the end of her period, she had to wash herself ritually with bovine
urine, sand and water to regain her
purified status in order to resume her normal domestic and social contacts and
works. A woman with a stillborn
child had to undergo a more rigorous purification rite over a longer period. (V
Cohabitation with a menstruating women had physical punishment -- 60
lashes for the first time, 100 for the second, 140 for the third, and 180 for
the fourth time. (Vendidad 16.14-16).
It may be pointed out here that the way in which menstruation is not
mentioned in any other parts of the Avesta, even by the yashts which specify
those who should be barred from participating in the libations offered to them,
one has to accept that it was taken quite naturally and did not pose a problem
to the Zarathushtrian, or even to the earlier purely Aryan society.
Only the Vendidad mentions menstruation and it reminds one of the
pre-Aryan custom described earlier in this essay, although in a more gruesome
It is again the Vendidad which states: "... Indeed the jahi
intermixes the seeds of the genius (a term used for a scholar priest) and a
non-genius, Daevayasna and non-Daevayasna, and pesho-tanu and non-pesho-tanu (pesho-tanu
was an extreme sinner whose body was "forfeited")." (Vendidad
18.62). In other words, jahi
is a prostitute who sleeps with men of "opposite" classes and creeds
-- scholarly priests and non-scholarly priests, Daeva worshiping laymen and non-Daeva-worshiping
laymen, sinners of a special class of and non-sinners.
It may also mean that if a woman who sleeps with more than one man of the
same class would not be termed jahi.
The jahi who mixes the seeds is a vicious person whose look
"dries up one-third of waters, plants, and good thoughts, words, deeds and
strength of a righteous man."
But while the Vendidad prescribes a summary death for jahi,
nothing is mentioned about any punishment for those males, priests or not, who
sleep with her. They are not
termed as prostitutes. Men do not blame and punish themselves when it
comes to adultery! Male chauvinism!
There is another Avestan passage found only as a quotation in the
apparently out of context Pahlavi commentary under the chapter on Education in
Erpatistan. Here is how it has been
rendered by Bulsara: ... And to (cohabitation) with adulterous ignoble
barbarians and those of the worth of death, those of wicked creed we declare to
be degrading as (cohabitation) with females of quadrupeds.
These (facts) can be manifested from the passage in (the Avesta)
"whereof then (is) a woman among "Mazdayasnians"
(who) adulterates the (seeds) of Mazdayasnians and the demon-worshipers.
(Aerpatastan, Bk I, Chp V, para 9, page). The
same is rendered by Prof. Humbach and Prof. Elfenbein as: "It is offence to
cohabit with a whore, with a non-Iranian woman, with a Tanapuhr, and with one of
evil religion. (I (refers to the writer of the commentary) make reference to
whores together with female quadrupeds). They
are referred to in the following (Avesta) passage: HE AMONG THE MAZDAIIASNIANS
WHOSE WIFE (...?... A WHORE WHO)
MIXES THE SEEDS OF BOTH MAZDAIIASNIANS AND DAEUUAIIASNAS.
(By cohabiting with) whores (and) women of evil religion Mazdaiiasnian
people are disqualified (i.e. (they are) no (longer) qualified; it is evident
that both whores and non-Iranians (are referred to)." (Page 90)
It is the above two passages, in fact the latter one, on prostitution
which are interpreted by the persons who repeatedly speak and write about
interfaith and mutual respect and cooperation between revealed and recognized
religions and that none of the followers of these religions are
"demon-worshipers" and "dregvants" (followers of Lie) to
mean that intermarriage is strictly prohibited, and that intermarriage is an act
of adultery and the child an illegitimate product.
They have to respond in a scholarly convincing way instead of making a
mute statement and then leaving it to the vociferous to raise quite an uproar.
There is nothing in the Avestan texts that would prohibit and discredit a
marriage between a Zarathushtrian and a non-Zarathushtrian.
Mixed marriages took place. The
Shahnameh has many instances of them and King Vishtaspa, who later chose the
Good Religion and helped in spreading it far and wide, is shown to have married
a (Roman) Greek princess. All know
that the sources of that wonderful record are Pahlavi writings passed on to
Ferdowsi by mobeds. Iranian
history, particularly from the Achaemenian days down to the Sassanian times,
shows that Zarathushtrian kings, chiefs, and definitely following them, other
notables married outside. It does
not seem to have posed any problem. Otherwise
all that was required was a commandment to have declared in clear terms,
something to read: "Thou shall
neither marry a non-Zoroastrian woman nor marry your woman to a non-Zoroastrian
man!" And save all of
us the hot, often foul, controversy. There
is not a single commandment and not a single report by Iranian and foreign
historians regarding the prohibition of mixed marriage.
Therefore, all the uproar to stop it comes through twisted translations
by 20th century guardians of self-styled "Traditional" Zoroastrianism.
To return to our subject, while the Gathic and other texts use nâiri,
genâ, ghnâ for "woman", the Vendidad is fond of nâirikâ,
a diminutive for of nâiri, obviously in a contemptible sense.
Seducing and impregnating a maiden outside marriage was considered a
heinous crime. However, the
Vendidadic society was broad-minded enough to declare that "if a young
woman, belonging to a family or independent (note "independent"),
married or not, conceives by a man," she should not feel ashamed and should
not resort to abortion, because "it is murder committed by both the man and
the woman." The man was
commanded to support her until the child was born and then support the two for
seven years. If he, for obvious
reasons, did not, then the community took care of the mother and the child.
Generally, old women helped in abortion by means of drugs "which
kills the womb ... or produces miscarriage."
The scripture also prohibits the use of drugs to stop the issue or
shorten the menstruation period. A
lengthy period of issue was considered a sickness and the woman is advised to be
treated and cured. (Vendidad 15.9-19, 45)
The marriageable age for both the sexes was fifteen years all along.
However, while the Gathas show that a woman chose her husband through
sound consultations, the Vendidad reveals that it was the father or the brother
who gave away the girl to a righteous man seeking wife. (Vendidad 4.45, 14.150)
The Gathic doctrine places man and woman on fully equal status in all
religious and social affairs, more than what is observed and practiced in modern
"advanced" societies. But
the post-Gathic period, particularly when the entire indigenous population of
the Plateau was completely assimilated with their age-old-hard-to-die customs,
things took a turn. Women were not
regarded as high by certain factions of the very late Avestan people.
Chronologically the Avesta speaks about her decline in favor of an
egocentric man of authority, but never to a revolting degree.
Taboos could not rob her of her position. There is not a single sentence
in the Avesta that would belittle woman. Even
the Vendidad does not make any derogatory remarks about her.
She continued to be venerated in all the daily prayers on par with man.
And she continued her normal life as nmâno-pathni, the
mistress of house.
Whatever the past, time has come to turn to the divine Gathic doctrine to comprehend her true and rightful status. It is direly needed in order to reestablish the "Fellowship of men and women of Zarathushtra ... highly regarded by Ahura Mazda" in a progressing world. It proudly and placidly places the Zarathushtrian women ahead of others and that too without resorting to any "liberation" task. The Gathas are the resort. Let us all, men and women, turn to them.
* * * * * *
Back to Top