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Avestan ashavan[pronunciation?] (also ašavan, ašāvan and artāvan) is a Zoroastrian theological term. It literally means "possessing aša", hence "possessing truth" or "possessing righteousness", but has further implications:
- It is an epithet of Ahura Mazda (Yasht 1.12). The term may then be applied to anything within the domain of Ahura Mazda and/or Aša (i.e. all of Creation), and excludes only that which is not drəgvant "possessing lie" (YAv: drvant).
- With respect to mortals and in an eschatological and sotereological context, ašavan is also a quality that can be acquired in life. Then, having acquired the qualities of an ašavan, one becomes an ašavan (through "blessed union with aša") after death. (See also: aša: in eschatology and sotereology). Zarathushtra is said, following Tradition to be the only Ashavan that has become an Ashavan during his life.
- Ašavan may be used to denote any follower of the "Good Religion." This is the most common use of ašavan, applicable to any who walk the "path of truth" (Yasna 68.12 and 68.13). In this context, Ašavan is frequently translated as "righteous person" or "blessed person." This general meaning of ašavan is preserved in Middle Iranian languages as Pahlavi ardav.
The sotereological meaning of ašavan is also evident in Xerxes' daiva inscription, an Old Persian text (XPh). That the souls of the dead dwell in the radiant quarters of Truth (Yasna 16.7) also has Vedic parallels: According to the RigVeda, the seat of truth is located in the other world. This next-world implication of ašavan is preserved in Middle Iranian languages as Pahlavi ahlav.
The linguistic cognate of Avestan ašavan is Vedic ŗtáavan, which however has some functional differences vis-à-vis the Zoroastrian term:
- The dichotomy of the ašavan and the drəgvant is not attested in the Vedas.
- In the Vedas, ŗtá- is hidden from ordinary mortals and only initiated seers are allowed to possess ŗtá- (become ŗtáavans). In contrast, in Zoroastrianism any mortal may strive to possess aša.
- Duchesne-Guillemin, Jacques (1963), "Heraclitus and Iran", History of Religions 3 (1): 34–49, doi:10.1086/462470
- Gershevitch, Ilya (1955), "Word and Spirit in Ossetic", Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 17 (3): 478–489, doi:10.1017/S0041977X0011239X
- Gershevitch, Ilya (1964), "Zoroaster's Own Contribution", Journal of Near Eastern Studies 23 (1): 12–38, doi:10.1086/371754
- Gnoli, Gerardo (1987), "Ašavan", Encyclopaedia Iranica 2, New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul: 705-706
- Gray, Louis H. (1926), "List of the Divine and Demonic Epithets in the Avesta", Journal of the American Oriental Society 46: 97–153, doi:10.2307/593793, JSTOR 593793