Dying Iranian language gets boost


June 9, 2015

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BORI, in collaboration with London University, to hold 10-day course in Avestan, an ancient language now fading into oblivion.

In an attempt to resurrect the ancient Iranian language Avestan, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI) is conducting a 10-day course from July 6.

Article By Mayuri Phadnis | Pune Mirror

c5_1aThe ancient language, sacred to Zoroastrianism, has few takers and even fewer scholars. “It is the language of Zoroastrian scripture and is close to Vedic Sanskrit. For instance, just as ‘asur’ means ‘powerful’ in Sanskrit, the corresponding Avestan word is ‘ahur’. The course, titled ‘An Introduction to the Avestan Language’ is being held in collaboration with the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London,” Dr Shrikant Bahulkar, honorary secretary in charge of BORI, told Mirror.

This course is supported by Unesco Parzor, started for the Preservation of Parsi Zoroastrian Heritage, which has now developed into the Parzor Foundation. The course will be taught by Almut Hintze, Zartosthy Brothers Professor of Zoroastrianism from SOAS, one of the very few teachers left from the stream.

“The course is free of charge and we have got a great response, with people coming from as far as Ethiopia and Germany. This could be phase two of the Jiyo Parsi programme. The whole point is to create awareness within the community and across the world about the value of this ancient civilisation and the importance of the language. When a language dies, wisdom too is lost,” said Shernaz Cama, of Unesco Parzor. India has around 60,000 Parsis, though the number is seen to decline by 10 per cent every census. The number of people knowing Avestan is possibly even smaller.

The course will contribute to Oriental studies, Vedic studies and Indian Culture by teaching Avestan from a comparative perspective that takes into account the common Indo-Iranian heritage shared by Vedic and Avestan. It is open to all and there is no eligibility criteria. “The point of the course is to preserve the language and develop people’s interest in it which in turn will lead to more research in the field,” added Dr Bahulkar.

“Avestan is a beautiful script and must be understood in order to understand the wonders of the Zoroastrian faith, a religion older than most. Starting courses is a brilliant initiative to honour the language and will hopefully encourage hundreds to uncover a piece of history. I hope the courses are advertised and promoted well,” said Freyan Bhathena, founder-editor of The Parsi Times. a community newspaper.