13. QA about GEOGRAPHY

What is the importance of the Alburz /Alborz mountain range in Zoroastrianism? (JJ 9-4-16)

1. The Alburz mountain range is situated in the North-east of modern day Iran, stretching from Azerbaijan to Afghanistan. It is the most prominent range of mountains in West Asia. Its highest peak is Mount Demavand which is located in Amol city in the province of Mazandaran. The word Alborz means “the tall guard.”

2. Alburz is known as Hara-berez in the Avesta and Harburz in Pahlavi. It is referred in cosmological as well as historical writings. In Zamyad Yasht, it is mentioned as the first mountain to appear on the earth. Ahura Mazda created it for Meher Yazad, so that the heavenly bodies could go around it. It is considered so high that poetically it is said that the Ameshāspands oversee the entire material world from there and its peak reaches the stars, moon and the sun. The Hukairya peak on the Alborz mountains was the source of the river Aredvi Sura Anahita. From this peak, the river poured down, and finally went into the sea Vourukasha.

3. The Shahnameh describes Alborz as an enormous mountain range. It mentions Alborz in the following episodes: (a) Faranak left her infant son Faridun on Mount Alburz in the care of a holy man, where he was trained. At the age of sixteen he came down from there along with Kaveh to defeat the evil Zohak. (b) Sām, the king of Zabulistan, cast away his son Zāl on the Alburz mountain range, where Simurgh the saintly man looked after him and brought him up till he was found later and brought back to the city. (c) After the Peshdadian dynasty came to an end, and there was no suitable heir to continue the line, Zāl sent his son, the young Rustam, to Alburz mountains to look for Kae Kobad who was a royal scion, and bring him to take over the reign of the Iranian empire, thus starting the Kayanian dynasty. (d) King Kae Kaus, the second Kayanian king, ordered the foot of Mt. Alburz to be excavated and had two cellars dug under it to serve as stables for horses and mules.

4. In the Avestan Yashts it is mentioned that Kings Hoshang and Jamshed went to the Alburz mountain to worship Avan, Gosh, Ram and other Yazads.

5. The Pahlavi texts mention Mt. Alburz as the dwelling place of Peshotan, brother of king Kae Vishtasp, till the end of Time. Peshotan was blessed by prophet Zarathushtra with an immortal body.

Why is Lake Chaeschist important in the Zoroastrian religion? (JJ 30-4-17)

1. Lake Chaechist is a sacred lake, the waters of which have spiritual and therapeutic powers. It is mentioned in the Avesta texts like Atash Nyash, Avan Yasht, Gosh Yasht, Ashishwangh Yasht and Siroza Yasht. It is also mentioned in several Pahlavi texts and the Persian epic Shahnameh.

2. Lake Chaechisht is especially connected to the Kayanian King Kae Khushru. It was his favourite place to conduct his prayers, and it was here that he prayed to several Yazads. He also established the spiritual fire of Adar Gushasp, near Lake Chaechist. It was this fire that helped him become the king. It was again at lake Chaechist that king Kae Khushru captured and defeated the evil Turanian king Afrasiyab.

3. Lake Chaechist, is one of the several lakes mentioned in the Pahlavi text Bundahishn. The Pahlavi Bahman Yasht states that fire Gushasp burns on the banks of Lake Chaechist. It further states that the lake is deep and its water has medicinal properties which drive away diseases.

4. In present times, Chaechist Lake is identified with the Caspian Sea, which is the world’s largest lake. It is situated on the Northern border of Iran.  It is bounded by Kazakhstan to the northeast, Russia to the northwest, Azerbaizan to the west and Turkmenistan to the southeast. Its waters have therapeutic qualities and are good for relieving rheumatism. Some scholars identify Lake Chaechist with lake Urumiyah in northwest of Iran.

What is the Vourukasha Sea? (24-3-19)

1. The sea known as Vourukasha in the Avesta, is referred to as Frākhvakard in Pahlavi. The word Vourukasha means “having wide shores.” The sea Vourukasha is originally a place mentioned in Zoroastrian cosmogony. Later when Iranians settled in the Central Asian expanses, they gave names from cosmogony to actual geographical locations. Since the Vourukasha is described in Pahlavi as being devoid of significant tidal movements, it is identified with the Caspian Sea.

2. The Vourukasha is mentioned in several Avestan texts like the Avan Yasht, Farvardin Yasht and Zamyad Yasht, as the place where Iranian kings and heroes worshipped different Yazads. This sea is also mentioned in Pahlavi texts like Bundahishna, Denkard, Zādsparam, Menog Khrad and Dādetān-i-Denig.

3. According to Zoroastrian cosmogony, Vourukasha was formed at the beginning of creations. When Tir Yazad made the clouds rain over the earth, at the beginning of creations, the principal reservoir of the rain water was Vourukasha. It was so huge that it covered one-third of the earth. The river Aredvi is said to originate from Mount Mount Hukairya in the Alborz, and then flow into the sea Vourukasha.

4. Vorukasha has a special place in Avestan history. According to the Tir Yasht, the battle between Tir, the Yazad of rain, and Apaosha the demon of drought, for bringing rains, takes place in sea Vourukasha. In another narrative, when the hero Kersasp followed the huge, deadly monster Gandareva, it hid in sea Vourukasha. Later Kersasp waited till it came out and then killed it.

5. When the Khvarena (divine energy) of king Jamshed fled, it hid into Vourukasha. Later, the tyrants Zohak and Afrasiyab attempted to seize the Khvarena, but were not successful. The Khvarena then went to other noble Iranian kings, and then once again fled king Kae Kaus and hid into the sea Vourukasha.

6. Gaokerena “the white Hom” and Harvesp-Tokhmi, “the tree of many seeds” grow in the deepest part of this sea. The white Hom is protected by a fish called Kara, which fights off the noxious creatures created by Ahriman to destroy the white Hom. These trees are also protected by a special mysterious animal in the water. Innumerable Fravashis look after this sea.

How is the formation of rain explained in Zoroastrian religion? (JJ 16-7-17)

1. Tishtrya or Tir is the name of the Yazad who presides over stars in general and the star Sirius in the constellation of Canis Major in particular. This Yazad also presides over rain. The process of rainfall is described in Tir Yasht and the Vendidad.

2. In the Tir Yasht, it is allegorically described that Tishtrya in the form of a white horse battles Apaosha the demon of drought, who appears in the form of a black horse. Finally Tishtrya overcomes Apaosha and brings rains for the people of the earth.

3. The Vendidad offers a scientific explanation for the rains. It states that rain occurs on account of the evaporation of water from the seas and rivers, which forms into clouds between the earth and the atmospheric planes. The clouds are scattered with the help of the wind (Govad Yazad).

4. The Farvardin Yasht informs us that the Fravashis (Asho Farohars) help in the distribution of the rainfall and dispatch the clouds to places which are needy and deserving of rains.