The name "vendidad" shows
that it concens 'laws", not religion law, but the law of a group of Iranians
who had risen before the advent of Asho Zarathushtra, against "daevas" and
their worshippers. The Avesta speaks about two laws in Iran. One is the Law
against the Daevas (Dataam vi-daevaam), the "Vendidad", and the other is the
Zarathushtrian Law (Daataam Zarathushtrim). Yasna 25.5, 71.5, Soroush Yasht
Hadokht 17. The first belongs to pre-Zarathushtrian times and the other
belongs to the days after the Prophet. Let us see why Asho Zarathushtra did
not make laws for his follower during his lifetime.
Asho Zarathushtra appeared
at a time when Iran had a powerful King Vishtaspa of the Kianian dynasty.
He and his civilized people had their own laws for every wake of life; from
judicial through civil, trade, agriculture, cattle raising, medicine,
education, and others.
Under such conditions no
one approached Asho Zarathushtra to know what should be done to a thief or a
murderer. Had some one asked him, he would have replied: "I have not come to
create a government within a government. I have come to teach people how to
lead a good life. Had he been asked: "What law should we follow?" The reply
would have been: "Follow the existing laws." It was the laws of the "Primal
Doctrine", (Paouiryo-tkasesha). He would have advised the people to consider
those laws with their wisdom and knowledge, have them modified to the
principle of monotheism, and to accept them as Zarathushtrian laws, because
social laws change in every era and place, and because the mentality and
knowledge of a people do not remain the same.
Therefore the laws of the
Vendidad which belong to the pre-Zarathushtrian people, should not be
considered today as proper and practical. Every law which, in the past, was
prepared and enforced by the wise men of a people was good and useful for
its own days. It is not for all the people and for all the times.
The Zarathushtrian Religion
spread from eastern Iran to the western parts, and several Zarathushtrian
governments were established each having their own laws. The Medians
prepared their laws to suit their conditions. The Achaemenians came and the
state and the religion became two separate policies. The people had new
laws. The Parthians had a federal system of their own, and the laws changed
accordingly. The Sassanians came with their theocracy. They promulgated new
laws, which have been preserved in Pahlavi books.
government followed the Sassanians, and therefore no new laws were made.
Unfortunately, some think that the laws promugulgated by the Sassanians are
the basic laws and that they are eternal. The present Zarathushtrian laws in
Iran are the rules that apply to the Zarathushtrian minority. The judicial,
trade educational and other laws are promulgated by the temporal Government.
After Asho Zarathushtra,
Zarathushtrian Iranians provided themselves back with religious and cultural
legends, history, medicine, veterinary, astronomy, agriculture and other
science of their ancestors in form of Yashts as Mazdayasni literature. The
Khordeh Avesta is the last addition which Adurbad Mahrasspandan, the
Sassanian Mobedan-Mobed, complied for public prayers in Avesta and Pazand
Various Sections of the
A glance at various
chapters of the Vendidad shows that the book is a compilation of numerous
stories, legends, history, science, art, and religion of ancient Iranians.
They were put together during the Median period by Western Magi after they
They added a chapter concerning Asho Zarathushtra's life. And they called
themselves followers of "Mazda-worshipping Zarathushtrians (who were)
against the Daevas and believed in the Ahurian Doctrine" (Mazdayasno
Zarathushtrish vi-daevo Ahura-tkaesho). In order to show the Vendidad as
the laws of Zarathushtra, they introduced every chapter of the book with
"Zarathushtra asked Ahura Mazda and Ahura Mazda answered” sentences. The
Gathas have nothing like it. This was a policy of the composers and
compilers of the Later Avesta who wanted to have their old scriptures be
attributed to the Zarathushtrian Religion.
According to the late
Professor Nyberg, the Zarathushtrian religion spread first among the Medes
and then among the Persians. It appears that the Median Magi were clever
enough to see the danger the Zarathushtrian Doctrine posed to their beliefs.
They soon pretended to be the orthodox supporters of the new religion. The
Magi were the religious leaders of the Median people. They had the monopoly
of performing religious rituals. Their profession was hereditary, and their
leadership was quite usual for the laity to follow.
Their strategy saved them
their former position in the new religion. They gradually introduced all
their beliefs, rituals and customs under the garb of Zarathuhstra’s
teachings. The Zarathushtrian doctrine came under the influence of the Magi.
As a result, spiritual freshness was gradually replaced by hard and in many
instance impractical rules and regulations. The Zarathushtrian Doctrine was
against magic and superstitions. It recognized the work and progress as true
worship. It raised man's position and introduced principles, which forbade
the monopoly of a distinct priestly class which would control human
resources by means of superstitions. Zarathushtra replaced hypocrisy and
deceit with virtue and excellence. He advocated freedom of will and
intellect. The Zarathushtrian religion was greatly harmed by the Median
Magi. It suffered much. They interfered in public affairs and gave them a
religious hue. They controlled one's life from birth to death.
Unfortunately, when Western
scholars took to Avesta studies, they intentionally or not ascribed the
entire collection to the Prophet and the true Zarathushtrian Religion.
Regarding the language,
although the major part of the Iranian religious scriptures has been written
in Avesta, one cannot ascribe the entire lot to Zarathushtrians.
With the spread of the
Zarathushtrian religion, Iranians began collecting and compiling ancient
history, philosophy, science, tradition, laws and and beliefs of their
ancestors. According to Pahlavi sources, these scriptures were written in
gold on 12000 cowhides. Later they were made into 21 volumes divided into
three categories of (a) seven volumes of the Gathas of Zarathushtra and the
principles of the Zarathushtrian religion, (b) seven volumes of mandatory
prayers, rituals, and regulations.
The division clearly shows
that the law scriptures were of lesser importance. The laws were prepared
and enforced during different periods in places. They could never be placed
on part with the first two categories. Further more many books were written
in Pahlavi during the Parthian and Sassanian periods. At present Iranian
Zarathushtrians are governed by the rules and regulations, which have been
prepared and put in practice during the last century.
To fully understand the
issues related to Zarathushtrian rules and regulations one should study and
understand the laws in force before and during Asho Zarathushtra's time. One
should find out how the Prophet acted and reacted vis-a-vis such problems.
Above all, every information we gather about the Magi and other religious
leaders of Iranian groups will lead us to the overall picture of tl1e
subject. It should be also noted that although all of them carry the same
title of "Magi", the Median, Azerbaijanian, and Babylonian religious leaders
are not the same as the Zarathushtrian Mobeds.
Contents of the Vendidad
A glance through the
contents of the Vendidad shows that although its rules and regulations are
very old, some of them were hygienically very effective in its own times and
even some of them may be accepted to be good today.
But one cannot accept the
present version of the Vendidad to be the copy of the old origin. As seen,
while Yasna and Yashta distinguish the Zarathushtrian Law as separate from
the Vendidad, the extant version is a mixed collection of the old sections
of the old Vendidad, the life of Asho Zarathushtra, and quotations from the
parts of the Yasna. The reason for this mix up is the ascendancy of the Magi
to control religious affairs. They forced most of their old customs, such as
the Dakhmeh-nashini [disposal of the dead], upon Zarathushtrians. They
forbade Zarathushtrians form burying or cremating their dead. Let us have a
brief review of the contents of the Vendidad.
Comment on Fragard 1: It
shows that the beliefs of the composers of the story of the Aryan countries
were non-Zarathushtrian, and that it belongs to a period much older than the
Comment on Fragard 3:
 The ever-burning hearth
fire shows the importance of maintaining fire in the day when matchstick and
other means of lighting fire did not exist.
 The care of domestic
animals, particularly the dog, shows the importance given to them in ancient
 The very ban on burial
and cremation shows that ancient Iranian practiced all the three modes of
the disposal of the dead.
 Regarding purification
with bull's urine, it may be pointed out that it is a disinfectant, and that
in those days a thing which was readily available to the agriculturist
people. But today when we have so many better means of medical purification,
there is no need of using means of several thousand years and no sound
wisdom will accept the old method.
Comment on Fragard 10: All
the spells and prayers prescribed in this section in purification rites are
from various parts of the Yasna. It shows that the Magi mixed their rituals
with Avestan verses only to obtain the Zarathushtrian consent.
Comment on Fragard 22: This
section, like Fragard I. shows the Zurvanite belief of Dualism of the
composers of the Vendidad. Zurvanistic creed goes to pre-Zarathushtrian
times. But these people survived the Sassanians and infiltrated Islam. We
can see its footprints in the Persian Literature, which is full of fatalism.
In fact, the Zurvanite belief in Fatalism is one of the causes of the
Sassanian downfall and the
domination of aliens. It was one of the reasons why Iranians did not rise
[after the downfall of the Sassanians] for centuries to work for the good of