An illustrated Videvdad Sadah


The Videvdād Sādah (or Vendidād sādah as it is often referred to), is a liturgical text in Avestan, based on the Zoroastrian legal work the Vīdēvdād (‘Law repudiating the demons’). The text, described as sādah (‘clean’), i.e. unaccompanied by any commentary, was recited in a ritual context separately from the Yasna ceremony.

What is special about this manuscript?

Most unusually for Zoroastrian manuscripts, which are usually undecorated, this copy contains seven coloured illustrations, six of trees (ff. 23r, 64r, 112r, 151v, 202v, 227r; see digitised images 2, 4, 6 and 7) and one geometrical design (f. 90r, digitised image 9). The most significant of these is the opening of chapter nine (f. 151, digitised image 6) concerning the nine-night purification ritual for someone who has been defiled by contact with the dead. The heading here has been decorated very much in the style of contemporary illuminated Islamic manuscripts. Additionally – and this is a more common feature of Videvdād sādah manuscripts – this copy includes a diagram (f. 31v, digitised image 1) illustrating the ceremonial layout for the ritual of the sacred haoma plant. The diagram consists of three rectangles representing tables. The chief priest (zaotar) is seated on the lower table and facing him a table where the tools are laid out and at the top, the holy fire. The chief priest officiates with an assistant (raspi). Their functions are to tend the sacred fire, the water, tools, and to wash and strain the haoma, and mix it with milk.

This manuscript

This beautifully written and decorated copy of the Videvdād Sādah was produced in Yazd, Iran, for a Zoroastrian called Marzban Sandal Khusraw from Kirman. The copyist Mihrban Anushirvan Bahram completed his work with a Persian colophon (f. 151r) of forty-four verses on 15 Isfand 1016 Yazdegerdi (1647). It was presented to the Royal Society, London in May 1864 by Burjorji Sorabji Ashburner (fl. 1817–1895), a successful Bombay businessman, who acquired a collection of manuscripts from Iran from Siyavakhsh Urmazdyar a descendant of Marzban, the original patron. It is likely that this manuscript was part of that collection.

View images of the entire manuscripts via our Digitised Manuscripts website.

Full title:
Videvdād Sādah
1647, Iran
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library
RSPA 230

Full catalogue details

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