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Pahlavi Literature

7) Pahlavi texts on non-religious subjects

83. Social code of the Parsis in Sasanian times. 96. 89. Cities in the land of Iran. 98.
84. Karnamak-i Artaxshir-i Papakan. 101. 90. Chatrang-Namak. 103.
85. Yatkar-i Zariran. 97. 91. Drakht-i Asurig. 102.
86. Khusro-i Kavatan and his Page. 100. 92. Form of Marriage Contract. 105.
87. Frahang-i Pahlavig. 106. 93. Wonders of the land of Sagastan. 99.
88. Forms of Epistles, in No. 34. 104  

The Social Code of the Parsis in Sasanian times (Matigan-i Hazar Datistan) contained originally more than 42,000 words, of which about 26,000 are supposed to be extant. Tahmuras Dinshawji obtained 20 folios of the text from Persia. about the year 1872, and prepared a facsimile of them for publication many years afterwards, when he discovered that 55 folios of another Persian copy were at Teheran, in the library of the late Manekji Limji, which has since been transferred to Bombay. Taken together, these fragments ot two separate copies extend from fol. 20 to fol. 98 of the text, with some duplicates and some deficiencies which have not been ascertained, as only 21 folios have been examined.

Fol. 20 begins in the middle of a chapter about anashatroigan, 'foreigners', apparently slaves; which is followed by a complete chapter about partners and joint proprietors; and the heading of the next chapter is 'Decisions of the leaders of professions, and agreement and disagreement with their decisions.' Fol. 74 begins in the middle of a chapter about the laws of property, the income (vindishn) of wives, annuities, mortgage, &c; of which the following passage is a specimen:-

[Translation.] When a husband is provided for her, the person of a daughter is given up in marriage by her own mother and father, devoided of income. When a man with two wives, who are justifiably his own, has made a convenant thus: 'Thou and Thou are made joint proprietors with me', each wife separately is joint proprietor with the husband, but the wives are separate proprietors as regards one another; and it is not allowable for a wife two alter that joint proprietorship, but it is for the husband; and, when he has to alter it, the regulation of the property has become just as it was before.

On fol. 75 a chapter begins about an irreverent person (atarsag aish) male or female; on fol. 27 another about one's own property; on fol. 79 several statements about the care of a child; on fol. 81 several opinions for assertion, and specially necessary to observe, about children, adoption, property, &c.; on fol. 85 a chapter on the infallibility of officials (ae-varih-i kardaran); on fol. 87 another on something written and completed, and other well-considered statements, which latter form nearly the whole of the chapter; and on fol. 88. another on the comparison of any one statement with other statements on the same subject, which continues beyond the end of fol. 91, and contains many names of commentators and kings. There are two folios numbered 84, and two numbered 89; and, altogether, about thirty commentators are quoted, and the names of kings Vahram-i Yazdkartan, Yazdkart-i Vahraman, Piruz, and Khusro-i Kavatan are mentioned on fols. 90 and 91.

Most of the other non-religious texts are found in the old MS. J (see 69) which begins with the Yatkar-i Zariran, containing about 3000 words. This Yatkar is also called the Shahnamah-i Gushtasp in the colophon of the copy made in 1721, and this name has caused the MS. J to be occasionally called the Pahlavi Shahnamah. The Yatkar has been translated by Geiger into German, with a few quotations from the Pahlavi text; and has also been noticed by Noeldeke. It is an account of the war between Arjasp, king of Hyons, and king Vishtasp, caused by the conversion of the latter to Zoroastrianism, and, hence, usually called the war of the religion, in which the Iranians were finally victorious, but not till they had lost nearly all their most valiant leaders in the battle. According to a colophon, appended to this text, it was copied by Mihraban-i Kai-Khusro from the MS. of his great grand-uncle Rustakhm-i Mihraban, who had copied from the MS. of Den-panah (see 76); but no dates are stated.

This Yatkar is followed by an account of the founders of the Cities in the land of Iran (Shahristaniha-i Iran), given in about 880 words. About 110 cities are mentioned, but some of them are not named; the last one is 'the city of Bagdat, constructed by the Abu-Jafar that they call Abu-davanig'; but most of the founders mentioned were Sasanians, and some older. Darmesteter has reffered to two passages in this text, which give the name of the Jewish queen of Yazdkart I.

The next is a short text of 290 words, about the Wonders of the land of Sagastan (Afdih va sahikih-i Sagastan), or Sistan, among which mentions the river Aetumand, the lake Frazdan, the sea Kyansih, the mountain Aushdashtar, and the birth of the last three apostles. This land was also the refuge of the posterity of Iraj, son of Fretun, and the scene of Vishtasp's first propagation of the religion, and his conferences with Zartusht; also of the proceedings of Seno-i Ahumstan of Bust (bustig) and his disciples, who issued various Nasks for religious instruction.

Then follows the tale of Khusro-i Kavatan and his Page, containing about 1770 words. The Page is a princely youth of great intelligence, who relates to the king that he was the only son of his mother, and while yet a child he lost his father; that he had recieved a liberal games, and wished the king to test his learning. In reply to king he details the pleasantest foods, the handsomest birds, the nicest meats, the freshest jellies, the best broths, the most delicious fruits, the wholesomest grains, the best wines, the most pleasing tunes, the best seven ingredients of soup, the sweetest-scented flowers, the best women, and the best steeds. The king also sends him to capture two lions who had carried off a mare; on his way he receives an evasive reproof from a woman, and, returning with the lions, he is made governor of the district. This tale contains many Iranian nouns not found elsewhere in Pahlavi.

Several of the texts which follow in J, being religious, have been already described in 70-76. After these comes the Karnamak-i Artakhshir-i Papakan, containing about 5,600 words, which has been translated into German by Noeldeke. It relates that there were 240 petty rulers in Iran after Alexander's death, but Artavan became the chief king, and Papak was a frontier governor who had no son. Sasan was a shephered employed by Papak, but descended from Dara. In consequence of a dream, Papak promoted Sasan and gave him his daughter to wife; from her Artakhshir was born and, when fifteen years old, he was summoned to court by Artavan. Owing to a quarrel with the king's son, he was sent to work in the stables, where he was seen by the king's handmaid who fell in love and was induced to run away with him on horseback, with many valuables into Pars. They were pursued by Artavan, but escaped, being assisted by the royal glory which had descended upon Artakhshir who was joined by several nobles and carried on a war with Artavan, whom he finally defeated and slew; afterwards marrying the king's daughter. This chronicle continues to relate the further wars and adventures of Artakhshir, and of his son Shahpuhar during his father's reign, until Artakhshir acknowledges his grandson Aurmazd, whose birth had been concealed from him for seven years. Like the Yatkar (97), this Karnamak in J has descended from a copy made by Rustakhm-i Mihraban, and it is the original from which all known copies have been derived.

Then follow the texts mentioned in 77 and 78, two of which are non-religious and occur both in J and Pt. The first of these is the Drakht-i Asurig, containing about 800 words, of which the first 85 are lost from J. It professes to be an alteration between a tree growning in the country of Asur and a goat, in which both state their claims to being more useful than the other to mankind.

The other non-religious text is the Chatrang Namak, of about 820 words, which has been edited in Pahlavi and pazand, with Gujarati and English translations, by Dastur Peshotan in 1885, as an accompaniement to his Ganje Shayagan. The text has also been transliterated and translated into German by Saleman, and noticed by Noeldeke. It relates how Dewasarm, king of the Hindus, sent to king Khusro-i Anushak-ravan a set of chessmen and other valuable presents, with a demand for an explanation of the game, or a heavy tribute. After three days' consideration, Vozurg-Mihr, Khusro's prime minister, explains the game, and invents that of back-gammon (nev-Artaxshir), with which and many valuable prsents he is sent to India, to make similar demands from Dewasarm, whose courtiers fail in explaining the new game after forty days consideration, and their king has to pay tribute.

The Forms of Epistles, mentioned in 79, occurs in J, Pt., and the Vichirkart-i Denig (see 32). They contain about 990 words, and give suitable modes of addressing kings, rulers, and other great men in epistles, with a variety of polite phrases for beginning and concluding letters.

These are followed, in J and Pt., by a Form of Marriage Contract, containing about 400 words, which begins as follows:-

[Translation.] In the month Vohuman of the year 627 after the year 20 of that one who was Yazdkart, king of kings, son of Shatroiyar, and grandson of that one who was the victorious Khusro, king of kings and son of Aurmazd, on the chosen day Day-pat-Mihr (16 November 1278), when good statement have been coming into the assembly as to a privileged marriage contracted by a certain man named A, son of B, son of C, which A resides in the town D of the district E, and a certain girl named F, the privileged daughter of G, son of H, who resides in the same district E; and so she has come into the guardianship of the father of A, as though her marriage and daughterhood were by way of adoption, and the union of some one with her had not occured.

This Contract then proceeds to state the conduct which each party promises to practise towards the other, and to fix the payment of 3000 dirhams of silver for the bride.

The Frahang-i Pahlavig is the old Pahlavi Pazand Glossary edited by Hoshang and Haug, and containing about 1300 Pahlavi words, but its original extent appears to have been only 1000 words, excluding the Appendices. This edition does not give the Frahang in its oldest form which is better represented by the modern copy in the Parsenhandschrift described by Salemann in 1878 (see 24), and by another modern copy in the MS. O 390. These two MSS. give the Frahang nearly as it stands in the oldest copy that has been examined, which is in the library of Dastur Jamasp in Bombay. This copy is imperfect, having lost its second folio and all after fol. 28, and appears to be fully three centuries old. The alternating Huzvarishn and Iranian Pahlavi text is written in black, and is interlined with the pronunciation of each word in Avesta letters written in red, except in the first chapter where the pronunciation is written in black. The heading of the several chapters, some of which had already become misread by copyists, are as follows:-Chap. 1. In the name of the creator Aurmazd. Chap. 2. worldly things. Chap. 3. waters. Chap. 4. grain and fruits. Chap. 5. drinking. Chap. 6. vegetables. Chap. 7. quadruped. Chap. 8. birds. Chap. 9. no heading. Chap. 10. parts of the body. Chap. 11. young person as well as people of older life. Chap. 12. people of the upper classes. Chap. 13. people of lower classes. Chap. 14. 'horsemanship; a register about accomplishments which are those in the knowledge of a rider:' which shows that Hoshang's fourteenth chapter, when divested of copyists' emendations, is really the heading of his fourteenth chapter. Chap. 15. writership and whatever is provided for it. Chap. 16. metal. Chap. 17. condemnation. Chap. 18-21 are not indicated. Chap. 22. gratification and end. Chap. 23. the Huzvarishn of whatever is relating to writing. No further chapters are indicated, nearly all the verbs are given in three forms, and there are several variations from the H. and H. edition, but agreeing nearly with the Petersburg and Bodleian modern MSS.

The term Huzvarishn, applied to Semitic words and obsolete modes of writing certain Iranian words, has been found in Pahlavi MSS. only in the heading of chap. 23 in the foregoing Frahang, and in a few colophons. In Persian characters the term is either zvarish, uzvarish, as in the following passage in the Rivayat of Kamdin Shapur (A.D. 1559), which has been quoted by M.J. Mueller, Spiegel, Haug, and others:-'that which is a secret, written to a scholar, one must write in Avesta writing, or the writing of blackness which is uzvarish'. When this sentence is seen its original Persian characters, there seems no sufficient reason for supposing savad to be a name, or anything but the common Arabic noun denoting the black colour so appropriate to thick writing; just as the first old-English printing is called 'black letter'. Huzvarish probably means 'obsoleteness, antiquity, or archaism', being an abstract noun derived from the obsolete verb zuvaridan, 'to be old or worn out'; and the cognate word auzvarano certainly means 'decrepitudes' in SBE.

In the foregoing sketch of surviving Pahlavi literature attempts have been made to point out the best MSS. known to exist, and also to give some general idea of the contents of each text, especially of those which have not yet been made easily accessible by translation. Of some texts other MSS. of less importance have been examined, and many more exist, no doubt, which have not been examined, owing to want of opportunity. Among these unexamined MSS. in India, and the unknown MSS. in Persia, there is still some chance of the discovery of further important texts and fragments. And, with regard to the contents of the texts, the reader should always recollect that no one can yet read Pahlavi with ease and certainty, so that the true meaning of a text can be very easily misunderstood when no complete translation is made.

They are some complications in the dates of Pahlavi colophons that require attention. Those written by Indian Parsis are all given in years of Yazdkart, and the new-year's day of his first year was 16 June 632 according to the Persian reckoning which was adopted by the Kadmi sect of Parsis in India on 17 June 1745; but owing, it is said, to an intercalary month having been introduced at some unknown period by the Indian Parsis, the usual new-year's day is a month later than in Persia, according to the reckoning of the Shahanshahi Parsis, and this applies to all Pahlavi dates written by Indian Parsis, except those few of the last 150 years to which the word katim is appended. As all Parsi years contain twelve months of thirty days each, with five extra days at the end of the year, or a total of 365 days, their new-year's day recedes one day in the Christian year whenever the latter is a leap-year; so that the new-year's day of A.Y. 1262 was 17 August 1892 according to the Persian or Kadmi reckoning, or 16 September (30 days later) according to the Shahanshahi reckoning. All this is simple enough, as it merely requires accurate calculation of the months and days, with proper allowances for the leap-years and other irregularities in the Christian calendar. But nearly all Pahlavi colophons written by Persian Parsis are dated either from the twentieth year of Yazdkart, or in Parsig years which imply the same thing; this was the era of the Zoroastrians, or the Magi, described by Al-Biruni and now no longer in use. When it went out of use is not known, but the copy of the colophon of L4, preserved in Pt2 (see 18), gives the date from both eras, showing that the era A.20Y. was still in use in 1323; but there are reasons for believing that Persian writers of Pahlavi colophons continued to write the accustomed formula for the twentieth year of Yazdkart for more than a century after they had ceased to count the years from that era. This additional complication and uncertainty applies probably to all Persian Pahlavi colophons of these last two centuries, and is a matter that requires further investigation. The extract difference produced by calculating the same date from the two different eras is five days less than twenty years, on account of the five leap-years that occur in that period; and the easiest mode of calculating is to add 20 years to the Persian date, and then calculate as if it were an Indian Kadmi Parsi date.

The question of transliteration is necessarily one that has engaged much of the attention of every Pahlavi scholar, but the result of that attention does not promise much in the way of unanimity or simplicity. What a Pahlavi scholar really wants is some simple system of transliteration which, while it represents something like the supposed pronunciation of the written words, will also indicate to the reader the mode in which the words are actually written. Such a system is possible, without using a single special type, as has been shown in another place, and the system there proposed can probably be much improved. The real pronunciation of any language more than five centuries ago can never be ascertained with certainty; and, in the case of Pahlavi, the matter is still more complicated by the question whether the Semitic words were really pronounced, or not. To dispense with them and produce a Pazand text might be interesting and even useful, but it would not be Pahlavi.

Abstracted from : Pahlavi literature, E.W. West,
in Grundriss der iranischen Philologie, II. Band, Wilh. Geiger und Ernst Kuhn, Strassburg, 1896-1904

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