Live Blogging-Endangered Zoroastrian Heritage of Iran

Speaker Saloumeh Gholami

Research fellow at Goethe University of Frankfurt

Speciality is Iranian linguistics (Bactrian Grammar).

She’s going to speak on the endangered Zoroastrian dialects of Kerman.

* three aspects of Zoroastrian heritage; Dari language (Gavri), Avesta & other Zoroastrian manuscripts, Historical Documents.

*Zoroastrian Dari (Gavri, Gavruni); different to Afghani Dari (which is a dialect of Persian). Gavri is closer to Kurdish; it’s a northwestern Iranian language (Persian is Southwestern).

Critically endangered language. Kermani dialect (today’s topic) extinct. Some sub dialects of Yazdi are extinct. 20 sub dialects of Yazdi need to be documented. Kerman and Yazd are the two centres in Iran.

*Reasons for Endangerment if ZD: Migration (shift from Kerman/Yazd) to Tehran.

*Zoroastrians have migrated to the West and stop using the language / lack of intergenerational transmission. Zoro parents speak Persian to their kids.

*Dari is “falling under the shadow of Persian.”

* Status of Persian as a prestigious language. Only Persian is considered to be a prestigious language in Iran.

* Accent of non-Persian speakers ridiculed hence why Zoros drop Dari in Tehran. where ever Dari has kept function it survives (why Yazd does better than Kerman).

* Shows a picture of three ladies, who are the last 3 speakers of Kermani Dari. No one speaks it as either first or second language. She’s discussing her attempts to save the language.

*her efforts to save Dari are impressive (and extensive). She’s now discussing how she’s documented ZD.

*there was assumptions no Avestan scripts in Iran. She has discovered 96 Avestan scripts; she’s digitised them and she’s describing what they found.

* they found the manuscripts in Yazd (clearly the most important centre). There is a “Priests’ Quarter” in Yazd.

* One of the manuscripts is called Story of Vivedad. Copied by 1608-1609 copied by Bahrain Mazban (most famous manuscript family in Zoroastrian Iran).

*Edward Brown (the famous chronicle) saw this manuscript during his visit in Yazd in the house of Mubed Tirandaz.

* The story she’s relaying is absolutely shocking. A drug addict sold the manuscript after stealing it from the High Priests house; the current owner of the manuscript called up Saloumeh Gholami and threatened to burn all the Avestan manuscripts he had.

*Its obvious Iranian government not supportive of preservation efforts.

* She’s showing the efforts to digitise and restore the manuscripts. They are in awful condition. It’s interesting I was in a seminar on Safavid book binding last week and the difference could not be more different.

*why are Avestan Manuscripts important? transmission of Avesta / Liturgical Use / Genealogical information / Historical and cultural information

* Avesta language is attested solely by manuscripts

* Newly discovered manuscripts in Iran have changed theories about transmission of Avesta. Initially in the old editions of Avesta the Iranian manuscripts were underrepresented (primary basis was on Indian manuscripts).

*Interestinf she is mentioning correspondence between the Parsis and Iranis. The Parsis were asking for Q&A, Hom and Vars. this is 1722. All the Parsis have Iranian names with “jiv” added at the end.

* the scribe mentions that it was about 1100 since the Parsis has come from Iran to India. His journey from Yazd-Surat took a year. But was kept back for a further 5 month to translate the Pahlavi characters to Persian manuscripts.

* there are Avestan manuscripts in Qom.

* shocking every Zoroastrian house in the Qajar period had a “hidden” room to escape in case of persecution.

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5 years ago

Is Yazd/Yazdi at all related to Yazidi (the people who were recently persecuted by the ISIS)?


Very informative, thanks!


The word “yazd” at least in Middle Persian referred to “Ahura Mazda”. A loanword from Avestan yazata, where the dental is voiced to /d/ as is the norm in Middle Persian.

Cognate of Skt yajata, used for the thing/entity one pours oblations (in the sacrificial fire) to. So literally means “worshipped” in Sanskrit, past passive participle of the verbal root yaj- (whence also yajna, yajya, yajamAna etc).

5 years ago

The person who endangered Z heritage and society most was Alexander the great. After the conquest of Achamenid empire, lot of priesthood and books were destroyed.
Arab conquest was a slow motion death extending 300 to 400 years.

5 years ago
Reply to  VijayVan

From what I’ve read the Zoroastrian tradition was still mostly oral in the time of the Achaemenids. Not that it’s impossible they had books, but accounts of Alexander burning Zoroastrian scriptures is likely a latter-day invention by Sassanid and later Zoros who were used to the religion having a sacred written corpus.

5 years ago

I’m surprised Zoroastrian Dari is closer to Kurdish than Persian, and that it’s a northwestern Iranian language. I always thought it was just a Zoroastrian dialect of Persian. Are the Zoroastrians of Yazd and Kerman descendants of people that lived somewhere else in Iran?

I wish more was written about Irani Zoroastrians and their diaspora in India. So much about Parsis, but nothing on Iranis. I think there are still some Dari speakers in India.

Milan Todorovic
Milan Todorovic
5 years ago

This is my last BP reading day, already stopped contributing, it is pretty busy time. Coincidentally, I saw this comment, meaning that the remaining admin, the shocked&shocking Xerxie bp_man, is also of Serbian descendancy (we saw earlier from one Dr Khan’s map that Gujjars have almost the same genes as Polish). Kerman is a Serbian toponym, Media is old name of pre-Alexander’s Macedonia.

All this, including all previous I wrote, can be considered or rejected. I have three degrees (including PhD) in different areas: automation/IT, mba and liberal arts, I write under real name and I have certain reputation among people who know me, what not allows me to write stupidities. Many documents regarding SA ancient history, which I have, are not available to SA readers. It would be interesting that the expert for ‘Bactrian Grammar’ from Goethe Institute states which language was spoken at the same time in her native Frankfurt. That would be a real world contribution which cannot be found in wiki.

In my last reading session, I found couple interesting statements which I will not comment:
>”We identify WITH the Aryans dude. We are the Aryan successors culturally and genetically”
>”Scythian Pride Worldwide”
>”Scythian pride in all realms and dimensions.”
>”Are any of prominent Indian researchers working in the field of ancient DNA based out of Hyderabad?” (someone here is still working on previous names of HYD and the river IND).

Didn’t have a chance to write about Scythians (I was waiting someone else to do), about Conan Barbarian/Destroyer (as I promised), about Aryans territory in SA stretching from Aral Sea till Serendib, about Jat’s ancient town in today’s Israel which was destroyed (still exists with later built Roman aqueduct, I don’t know if any Jat in India knows about this), about Aryans in Mahabharata (I don’t know if anyone wrote about this before; I urge Arjun & Anan to publish the Iliad/Mahabharata paper), about abolishing (or extremely scaling down) cricket as an anachronistic, brain-damaging, repetitive, ‘spelling-bee’ activity and as a part of SA mental decolonisation, pursuing other sports which require mental/physical capacities (soccer, basketball, volleyball) and to join world competitions, etc, etc. Well, I am off.

Brown Pundits