Airyanem Vaejah

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Airyanem Vaejah (Avestan: Airyanəm Vaēǰah‎; Middle Persian: Ērānwēz‎; Persian: Irānwēj‎; Parthian: Aryānwēžan, 'expanse of the Aryans')[1] is the homeland of the early Iranians and is mentioned in the Zoroastrian Avesta (Vendidad, Farg. 1) as one of Ahura Mazda's "sixteen perfect lands".[2] Its actual location remains uncertain.

Etymology and related words[edit]

The Avestan term airyanəm vaējah is formed from airyanəm (which is an adjective of airya) and the neuter noun vaējah (whose often used nominative case is vaējō).[3] The Middle Persian term ērānwēz is derived from an Old Iranian *aryānām waiǰah, where *aryānām is the genitive plural of *arya.[4] The exact meaning of vaējah is unknown but can be roughly translated as territory, expanse, or stretch.[5] It may be related to Vedic Sanskrit vej/vij, suggesting the region of a fast-flowing river.[6] It has also been interpreted by some as meaning 'seed'. Avestan airya is etymologically related to Old Persian ariya.

The related Old Iranian term *aryānām xšaθra- is the origin of the modern Persian term 'Iran,' via Middle Persian Ērān-shahr (𐭠𐭩𐭥𐭠𐭭𐭱𐭲𐭥𐭩‎) and Ērān (𐭠𐭩𐭥𐭠𐭭‎).

Historical concepts[edit]

The historical location of Airyanem Vaejah is still uncertain. In the first chapter of the Vendidad is a listing of 16 countries, and some scholars believe that Airyanem Vaejah lies to the north of all of these.[7] As Darmesteter notes in his translation of the Avesta, Bundahishn 29:12 directly states that it was beside Azerbaijan,[8] however, most modern scholars favor a more eastern location.

Bahram Farahvashi and Nasser Takmil Homayoun suggest that Airyanem Vaejah was probably centered on Khwarezm,[9] a region that is now split between several Central Asian republics. The University of Hawaii historian Elton L. Daniel likewise believes Khwarezm to be the “most likely locale” corresponding to the original home of the Avestan-speaking peoples,[10] and Ali-Akbar Dehkhoda once called Khwarezm “the cradle of the Aryan tribe”.

Conversely, according to Michael Witzel, Airyanem Vaejah lies at the center of the 16 lands mentioned in the Vendidad—an area now in the central Afghan highlands[11] (around Bamyan Province).

Witzel in his article, "The Home of the Aryans", states that the discussion concerning the geographical location of Airyanem Vaejah could drag on for years unless we concede that Airyanem Vaejah is a mythical land constituting, or close to, the homeland of the author of the book in question. According to Michael Witzel, the location of many of Airyanem Vaejah's sixteen cities is ambiguous and can be somewhere between Khwarazm around the Aral Sea to Azerbaijan and Ray in present-day Iran or in the northwestern and southern parts of Afghanistan.[12] At the end of his article, after comparing the geography of the Aryan land in various Avestan texts, including older texts (Yasht 19.1-6), and newer texts, such as Vandidad, as well as the actual geography of these regions and the climatic conditions mentioned in these texts (ten months of very cold winter and two months of cool summer), he concludes that the idea of finding the geography of the land of the Aryans in the Avestan texts should be abandoned. Rather, one could, more profitably, investigate how both the earlier (Yasht 32.2) and later Avestan texts themselves regard their own territory. In Vandidad, it is obvious that the names of the cities were recorded by a person who, inspired by patriotic feeling for his own locale considers the east of Greater Iran, Afghanistan and the surrounding lands to be the land of the Aryans. However, this same land of Aryans, based on the names of the mountains and its geography found in the 19th Yasht, is somewhere else entirely.[13]

According to G. Gnoli, Airyanem Vaejah is situated between the Helmand and the Hindu Kush in Afghanistan.

Shrikant G. Talageri, in his book The Rigveda: A Historical Analysis, proposes that Airyanem Vaejah was located in Kashmir.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "ĒRĀN-WĒZ – Encyclopaedia Iranica". Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  2. ^ Darmesteter, James. Sacred Books of the East (1898). Peterson, Joseph H., Avesta - Zoroastrian Archives: VENDIDAD (English): Fargard 1.
  3. ^ "ĒRĀN-WĒZ – Encyclopaedia Iranica". Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  4. ^ "ĒRĀN-WĒZ – Encyclopaedia Iranica". Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  5. ^ "ĒRĀN-WĒZ – Encyclopaedia Iranica". Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  6. ^ See Edwin Bryant, The Quest for the origins of Vedic culture, 2001: 327
  7. ^ Zoroaster’s Time and Homeland: A Study on the Origins of Mazdeism and Related Problems by Gherardo Gnoli, Instituto Universitario Orientale, Seminario di Studi Asiatici, (Series Minor VII), Naples, 1980
  8. ^ Darmesteter, James. Sacred Books of the East (1898). Peterson, Joseph H., Avesta - Zoroastrian Archives: VENDIDAD (English): Fargard 1. [1]
  9. ^ Nasser Takmil Homayoun, Kharazm: What do I know about Iran?. 2004. ISBN 964-379-023-1
  10. ^ Elton L. Daniel, The History of Iran. 2001. ISBN 0-313-30731-8
  11. ^ M. Witzel, "The Vīdēvdað list obviously was composed or redacted by someone who regarded Afghanistan and the lands surrounding it as the home of all Aryans (airiia), that is of all (eastern) Iranians, with Airiianem Vaẽjah as their center." p. 48, “The Home of the Aryans”, Festschrift J. Narten = Münchener Studien zur Sprachwissenschaft, Beihefte NF 19, Dettelbach: J.H. Röll 2000, 283-338. Also published online, at Harvard University (LINK) (LINK 2)
  12. ^ M. Witzel, “The Home of The Aryans”, p. 9.
  13. ^ M. Witzel, “The Home of The Aryans”, pp. 47 and 48.
  14. ^ "". Archived from the original on 17 October 2012. Retrieved 26 February 2012.

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