Ancient Avestan Calendar


The Zoroastrian tropical solar calendar, known as seasonal or Fassli is one of the oldest calendars as well as the most accurate solar calendar in the world. This ancient calendar also provides a comprehensive summary on the key beliefs of the ancient wisdom of the Mazdyasna/Zoroastrian faith.

In addition, the Ancient Iranian months of the year CORRESPOND EXACTLY TO THE SEASONS and HOROSCOPE MONTHS and the calendar uses astronomical calculation for determining vernal equinox or “Hama-ss-path-maädya,” an Avestan term that refers to the the equinox. “Hama-ss-path” alludes to when the PATHS are equal/HAMA or at SAME distant from each other; maädya means MID-, in the MIDDLE. The time of equinox refers to the moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator and EQUALIZES night and day. At the time of the equinox, sunlight is EVENLY divided between the north and south hemispheres. The day after “Hama-ss-path-maädya” or vernal equinox is called “nava- raóchá” or “nauv-rooz;” new light or new dawn/day.

This makes the Zoroastrian calendar an observation based calendar. As we read in the Holy Denkart, Denkard 3, chapter 419 and all the Avestan accounts appertaining to the same subject, the religious festivals can be observed ONLY in connection with the natural seasons and an accurate solar calendar.

Based on the Avestan accounts the year/Avestan “yaar” (Old.High.German. jar, Dutch.jaar, Ger. Jahr, Goth. jer “year,”) is ALWAYS computed from the vernal equinox. The Avestan year consists of twelve months of thirty days each (Māh yašt or hymn to the moon verse 2: “fifteen days the moon waxes, fifteen days the moon wanes,”) plus 5 extra days at the end of the year dedicated to the five Gáthás. The last five days of the year are regarded as particularly auspicious and are designated for the practice of chanting the poetic Gāthās . (Gáthá mean “songs, odes, hymns. ” Compare Lithuanian giedoti “to sing.)”

The ancient calendar also has an auto-regulatory LEAP DAY every four years called “Avardád-sál-Gáh;” which follows the five existing Gátha days at the end of the year, and/or the leap day is substituted by intercalating an additional month every 120 years as prescribed in Denkart.

The reason that the Parsi/Indian Zoroastrian’s Calendar of today is OUT of sync with the ancient Avestan calendar is because the subsequent generations of Parsis neglected to insert this additional month/vahizak every 120 years and/or to observe “Avardád-sál-Gáh” LEAP DAY every four years. The old calendar or kadimi, still in use in the Caspian Mountains and among remote, mostly Zoroastrian villages of central Iran has fallen behind (though to a lesser degree) due to the same exact reason.

Each month of the Avestan calendar is determined by the transit of the sun into the CORRESPONDING ZODIAC, a system that incorporates improvements on the ancient Vedic system of the Surya Siddhanta (Surya=solar,Siddhanta=attain, succeed in reaching.) Thus, the Ancient Iranian/Zoroastrian months of the year CORRESPOND EXACTTY TO THE SEASONS and HOROSCOPE MONTHS.

I have constructed the name of the Avestan months here below, with their corresponding ZODIAC signs, Old Persian Achaemenid designations, Parthian/East Iranian religious names and today’s Farsi derivatives.

SPRING
March-April
Avestan: fravashayö,
Parthian: parvartyn
Farsi: farvardin=Aries

The name of the first month comes from “Fravashi,” which consists of 2 parts; fra+ vashi. “Fra” simply means first, earliest, foremost, Old.Norse. fyrr . Many Germanic. languages tend to take words for “fore” or “early” as their roots for the spring season; Dan. voraar, Du. voor-jaar, Ger. Frühling, from M.H.G. vrueje ” lit. “fore-year, foremost/prime season.

The second part “vashi,” is derived from “vac,” word, voice, speech, expression. It is also connected to “vakhsh,” to increase, grow, augment. Germanic.wakhsan, O.N. vaxa, Ger. wachsen, “to grow, increase”, Skt. vaksayati “cause to grow.”

The concept is that of words/powerful utterances/divine speech causing growth. Also compare Lithuanian. “veisti” propagate, expand O.N. visir “bud, sprout, stalk.”

In the Achaemenid calendar the first month is called “Ādú -kanaisha.” Ādú -kanaisha comes from the root kan- kantan“sow/scratch/dig” (W.Gmc. kerfan (cf. O.Fris. kerva, Du. kerven, Ger. kerben). The first part Ādú comes from Avestan āðü-, Old.Norse. sað, SEED; hence month of sowing seed/planting.

April-May
Avestan: ashá vahishtá/artá vahishtá,
Parthian: arty vahisht
Farsi: Ordibehesht=Taurus

ashá vahishtá/artá vahishtá is supreme art, great skill, craftsmanship, the ahüric excellence/effortless ease that brings about a sense of amazement, marvel, beauty and wonder.

In the Achaemenid calendar the second month is called “thūra.vāhara,” month of vigorous spring/growth. It should be added that in the third line of Yasna 48.6 of the poetic gathas, it is ashá vahishtá/artá vahishtá or the “artistic creativity/true essence of ahurmazd” that causes plants to grow vigorously.

May- June
Avestan: haur-vatát
Parthian: haur-vat
Farsi: Khordad=Gemini

Avestan “haur” means whole, sound, well, complete, wholeness, HEALTH, weal. Compare Old .English. hælth, Old.Norse. heill.

vatát refers to “means of conveyance,” compare with vessel.

In the Achaemenid calendar the third month is called “thāi-graciš” “garlic- collecting month.” Among ancient Indo-Europeans, garlic was used for white magic owing to its reputation as a potent preventative medicine.To ward off evil, garlic was worn, hung in windows, or rubbed on chimneys and keyholes. The association of garlic to HEALTH and WELLNESS may be based on the antibacterial, antiparasitic value of garlic.

SUMMER
June-July
Avestan: tishtrím stárem
Parthian: tyr
Farsi: Tir=Cancer

This month is the the month of “the star Tishtryá,” the most brilliant and the luckiest of all stars/constellations. Tishtryá is related to Vedic Tishyá and Norse “Tyr.” The sighting of Tishtryá in the sky is associated with prosperity, upcoming rain and good fortune. I might add that in the Mazdean thought, stars and constellations always exert a positive and benign influence on life upon earth. It might be interesting to add that the divine star Tishtryá is also revered/named in Koran, Surah 53, al-najm 48-49.

In the Achaemenid calendar this month is called “Garma.pada” “heat-station/ footstep of heat or summer. O.E. wearm, O.H.G., Ger. warm, O.N. varmr, Goth. warmjan, Skt. gharmah, Arm. jerm “warm, Gk. thermos ” HEAT.”

Pada is “foot, footstep;” O.N. fotr, Ger. Fuß, Goth. fotus “foot”), Skt.pat, Gk. pos, Lithuanian. padas “sole,” peda (“FOOT, FOOTSTEP.”)

I should add that in the Avestan Yasht dedicated to Tishtryá 20-23; the initial sighting of the star is associated with extreme heat and drought which is followed later by rain and relief.

July-August
Avestan: ameretát
Parthian: ameret
Farsi: Amordad=Leo

ameretát is “deathlessness, immortality or more accurately indestructibility.” Compare Old Irish marb, “mortality,” Lithuanian mirtis, “mortal man,” Greek ambrotos “Immortal,” ambrosios, ambrosia lit. “of the immortals.” Deathlessness in Mazdyasna is NO “dull fixity,” but eternal progress, discovery and adventure. The spirit of adventure, discovery and progress is indestructible.The only death therefore is the stop of progress in the individual and the imprisonment of spirit.

Based on the surviving records, we do NOT have the name of this month in the Achaemenid calendar.

August-September
Avestan: khshathrem vairím
Parthian: khshatr-var
Farsi: Shahrivar=Virgo

Avestan “khshathrem vairím” is the “power to rule at will.” Khshathrá means to rule, steer, wield power. O.N. styra, Du. sturen, O.H.G. stiuren, Ger. steuern “to steer.” Sanskrit kshatra, Gk. kybernan “to steer or pilot a ship, direct” (the root of CYBER comes from this word.)

“vairím” comes from the root “var”; will, wish desire, power to choose, wield.
O.N. vilja/vili/valda, O.H.G. wellan/willio/waltan, Ger. wollen/walten,
Gothic. wiljan/wilja/waldan; “to will, wish, desire,”to choose, rule govern.”
O.C.S. voljo, voliti “to will,” veljo, veleti”to command;” Lithuanian. velyti “to wish, favor, lithuanian veldu, to rule, Old.English. wel “well,” lit. “according to one’s wish;” wela “well-being, riches. English “valiant” is from the same root.”

Based on the surviving records, we do NOT have the name of this month in the Achaemenid calendar.

September-October
Avestan: mithrá
Parthian: mitr
Farsi: Mehr=Libra

Avestan mithrá is LOVE, our PACT with Gd. The word is related to latin amor “love,” amare “to love,” old french amee. mithrá is the PROMISE of all the knowledge we have to acquire, all the power we have to obtain, all the LOVE we have to become, for in Mazdyasna Gd is loving intelligence and wisdom.

In the Achaemenid calendar this month is called “Bāga.yādiš,” “(month) of the celebration of BAGA.” compare Russian bog “Gd,” proto baltic-slavic “bagu,” “bogdhu.” The root denotes lordship, wealth, fortune, propitious share, good luck and is related to Sanskrit Bhágá and persian Bakht; good fortune as well as persian Bagh: luscious garden/paradise.

The second part of the word Yādiš is the same as persian yazishn, jashan, “celebration of, union with, to join/yoke.”

October-November
Avestan: ápö vañgúhísh,
Parthian: apa vyní
Farsi: Aban=Scorpio

Avestan ápö vañgúhísh is “beautiful/wonderful waters.” ápö L. aqua, “water,” cognate with Proto.Germanic. akhwo, “source of,” Goth. ahua “river,” waters,” Skt. ap”water,” Lithuanian. uppe “a river.” According to Avesta, Yasna 38.3, there is close association between ahurá and waters; compare Old.Norse. Ægir, name of the sea-god. The Iranian saying that waters are light has its roots in the Avesta.

vañgúhísh means wonderful, beautiful, compare Old. Norse. vuntar, Old.High.German wuntar, German wundershön.

In the Achaemenid calendar this month is called Vrka-zana “(month) of wolf breeding ???? Compare Skt. vrkas, Avestan vehrka-; Lithuanian vilkas, O.C.S. vluku; Rus. volcica; “wolf;” O.Pers. Varkana- “Hyrcania,” district southeast of the Caspian Sea called Gorgan today meaning lit. “wolf-land.” The Achaemenid name of this month seem to be associated with the sign of the Zodiac more than anything. Wolves are the symbol of LUST, sexual veraciousness, and Scorpio associated with this month is the sexual sign of the Zodiac .

November-Decmber
Avestan: áthrö/átrem
Parthian: átharv
Farsi: Azar=Sagittarius

Avestan áthrö/áthrá is the original, pure and pristine form of light/energy/fire. Compare with Gk. aither from aithein “to burn, shine,” Skt. inddhe “burst into flames,” O.Irish. aed “fire,” Latin. aedes, edify. Greek aether is a very close cognate, a purer form of air/fire that filled all space beyond the sphere of the moon, constituting the substance of the stars and constellations.

In the Achaemenid calendar this month is called Āchish-yādiya; (month) of the celebration/festival of fire.

WINTER
December- January
Avestan: daðváw/dathúshö
Parthian: dathúsh
Farsi: Day=Capricorn

Avestan daðváw/dathúshö is the “giver of gifts,” bestower of talents/powers. It is the epithet of Gd in Mazdyasna. Compare Latin donatorem, Persian dátár. Persian dátár/dádár lit. “giver of mental powers/talents,” is a frequently cited epithet of GD in the Iranian Zoroastrian writings and is used widely among the Parsis of India.

In the Achaemenid calendar this month is called “a-nāma-ka,” month of the nameless/without attributes. For the Divine/Spiritual Wisdom is beyond our confined set limits.

January-February
Avestan: vohü manö
Parthian: vah-man
Farsi: Bahman=Aquarius

Avestan “vohü” comes from the root “vah;” the word suggests “amazement, wow, beauty, and wonder.”

Avestan “manö” comes from the root “man,” mind/spirit. Distinction between “mind” and “spirit” became current much much later, but is without significance for ancient Avestan or earlier Indo-European or Germanic languages.

manö is “the power to see, know, imagine.” manö is “the visionary, imaginative and thinking core.” Compare Lithuanian mintis “thought, idea,” Greek mantis “one who divines, prophet,” Skt. matih “thought,” munih “sage, seer.

vohü manö is the “superb mind/spirit; the ingenious and benevolent wit that abides, remains, stays and has continued existence.” Comp Gk. menein “to remain,” Pers. mandan “to remain.”

In the Achaemenid calendar this month is called thwayauvā “the bewildering, amazing (month).” I should add that the ancient exegesis of the poetic gáthás, the fifth line of Yasna 43.4 talks about vohü manö ‘s astonishing power “to overwhelm with wonder, amaze and bewilder. Mazdá in the Zoroastrian writings is frequently referred to “mínöyán mínö,” or mind/spirit par excellence.

This month is especially HOLY in the Zoroastrian calendar and Zoroastrians in addition to 4 days during each other month, must abstain from eating meat during this entire month.

February-March
Avestan: speñtá(n)m ármaitím
Parthian: spendár-matí
Farsi: Esfand=Pisces

Avestan speñtá means “auspicious,” and ár-maití is ” the flow of thoughts, ideas in serenity and calm.”

Compare Lithuanian mintis “thought, idea,” Skt. matih “thought, innovative idea.” Avestan ár is lit. “that which flows, moves, runs” compare Proto Indo European base *reie- “to move, flow, run,” Skt. rinati ” flow,” ritih “stream, course;” L. rivus “stream;” Old.Irish. rian “river, way;” Old.Norse. rinna “to run,” “running stream.”

In the Achaemenid calendar this month is called Vyákhna. Vyákhna is an Avestan term meaning “orator, speaker/head of an assembly.” In Yasna 21.2 written as a commentary to the famous Yasna 27.15 or “Yäñghä hátá(n)m” formula;
speñtá ár-maití is the foremost praiser of the Auspicious Immortals.

Now going back to the harmony with the seasons and exact correspondence with the signs of the Zodiac in the Avestan calendar, the following passages from the Denkard 3, chapter 419 are most helpful;

“The spring is the season of the commencement of the year. It is from (the time) when the sun enters the first portion (or degree) of Aries which (degree) is called the Halo of the sky. And its three months are those (during which) the sun travels through the constellations of Aries, Taurus, and Gemini.
The second season of the year is summer which is regarded as the season of light. And it lasts three months from when the sun enters the first degree of the constellation Cancer till it continues its course through the constellations of Cancer, Leo and Virgo. The third season is autumn and it lasts from when the Sun arrives at the first degree of Libra, which (degree) is known as Star, till it (i.e. the sun) completes the (constellations) of Libra, Scorpio, and Sagittarius.

The fourth that is to say the last season is winter and it lasts from when the sun enters the limit of Capricorn called (in Pahlavi) Dudtora till (the end of) the three months which are for the sun to travel through (the constellations of) Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces.”

I should add that the Achaemenids used the religious Zoroastrian solar calendar in addition to a uniquely Old Persian popular calendar. The Achaemenid system of 2 calendars seem not to have been abolished in later Iranian history. In the time after the occupation of Alexander the Macedonian, the original old Persian names of the months were replaced by the Macedonian names, in which the first month corresponded to Artemisios and so on (cf. Bickerman, 1980, p. 20), but from the material discovered at Nisa (2nd-1st century b.c.) and Avroman (q.v.; 1st cent. a.d.) it is established that the Zoroastrian solar calendar was used side by side with the popular Macedonian calendar. It should be added that even today in Iran, the ancient Zoroastrian solar calendar is used as the NATIONAL calendar side by side with a lunar Islamic calendar.

Calendars derived from the Zoroastrian calendar
The Persian calendar is the official calendar of the government of Afghanistan, and all national holidays and administrative issues are fixed according to the Persian calendar. The Zoroastrian names of the months have been abolished though, Frasi speaking Afghans use Arabic names of the zodiac signs. The Pashtons use the Pashto names of the zodiac signs.
The Cappadocian calendar. That the Cappadocian solar calendar, with twelve months of 360 days plus five epagomenal days, was an imitation of the Zoroastrian calendar is especially clear from the names and order of the months. The names have been transmitted only in Greek characters, however (Nyberg, p. 479; see Table 25).

The Armenian calendar. The Armenian calendar also has twelve months of thirty days each plus five epagomenal days (aweleacʿ). The names and order of the months are given in Table 26. At least four of the twelve month names are clearly of Iranian origin: Nawa-sard-i “month of the new year” from *naṷa sarda-; Trē, obviously derived from Middle Persian tīr; Mehekan-i “month of Mithra” from *Miθrakāna-, probably via Parthian *Mihrakān (cf. Gr. Midrákana, MPers. Mihragān); Ahekan-i “month of the fire” from *Aθrakāna. In a.d. 1084 this calendar ceased to be used when John the Deacon adopted the Julian calendar.

The Sogdian calendar, the Choresmian calendar, the calendar of Sīstān, the kharāji calendar. Early Muslim leaders dispensed with the old Zoroastrian method of intercalation, based on a solar year of 365 1/4 days. In this cycle a normal year contained 365 days, and after 120 years an extra month of thirty (120 x 1/4) days was added. Under the newly adopted Hejrī calendar, however, the period during which ḵarāj, or land tax (paid in cash or kind), was to be collected fell earlier in each annual agricul tural cycle; as a result there were long intervals in which the tax came due before harvest time. The captive Iranian general Hormozān is said to have attended ʿOmar b. Ḵaṭṭāb’s advisory council (see above) to explain the solar calendar by which taxes had been collected in the Sasanian empire (Bīrūnī, Āṯār, pp. 29- 30; Ḥabīb al-sīar I, pp. 484-85). Although early historians do not mention whether or NOT ʿOmar decided to adopt a version of the Iranian calendar for tax purposes, It seems unlikely that Omar had the slightest interest in doing so. It seems much more likely that such action was taken by Imam Ali, considering his great admiration and respect for ancient Iranians and their customs and religion.

And Finally the Jalālī calendar. A true solar calendar was introduced during the reign of the Saljuq sultan Jalāl-al-Dawla Malek (465-85/1072-92.) According to early historians and astronomers, the main purpose of the reform was to fix the beginning of the calendar year (Nowrūz) at the vernal equinox. Thenceforth the first day of the official new year was always the day on which the sun entered Aries before noon.

ardeshir

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5 Responses to Ancient Avestan Calendar

  1. ardeshir farahmand says:

    Just wanted to add that the final section of my article under “Calendars derived from the Zoroastrian calendar,” has been taken almost entirely from “Iranica.”

    ardeshir

  2. Rowan says:

    Awesome article, and, just 2 nights ago i decided to synchronize the Astrological Calendar with the Gregorian calendar, because i saw the Persian calendar was incorrect, and most astrologers have varying starts to months, and no real calendar.
    So i came up with the following month lengths.

    Aries – 31 days, starts March 21st, the day following the solstice(is usually the 20th, and is set back a day each 4 years).
    Taurus – 31 days, starts April 21st.
    Gemini – 31 days, starts May 22nd.
    Cancer – 31 days, starts June 22nd(first day after solstice, which is also 33 hours, roughly).
    Leo – 31 days, starts July 23rd.
    Virgo – 32 days, starts August 23rd.
    Libra – 30 days, starts September 24th, the day after the equinox, which is usually the 23rd.
    Scorpio – 30 days, starts October 24th.
    Sagittarius – 29 days, starts November 23rd.
    Capricorn – 30 days, starts September 22nd, day after the solstice.
    Aquarius – 30 days, 31 days on a leap year, starts January 21st.
    Pisces – 29 days, starts February 20th.

    so we have, 31, 31, 31, 31, 31, 32, 30, 30, 29, 30, 30/31, 29. As the Order.
    The first 6 months of the year are 31-32 days, the second 6 months of the year are 30-29(Aquarius 31 on a leap), this is because the 2nd half of the year, the orbit of the earth is on a ellipse, so it’s shorter.
    But when we look at the share of the days, positive months, negative months.
    the sequence is; – (31) – (31) + (31) – (31) + (31) + (32) + (30) – (30) + (29) -(30) + (30/31) – (29).
    Which gives 183 positive days, and 182 negative days, and 184 positive days on a leap year. Which gives the positive more days per year.
    Also notice, the leap day arrives on the Aquarius, which is “This month is especially HOLY in the Zoroastrian calendar and Zoroastrians in addition to 4 days during each other month, must abstain from eating meat during this entire month”, and, incidentally, the Gregorian Calendar, has the leap day in the month of February, and this is no coincidence, but can’t talk about it here.
    Also notice, that Virgo is positive, and Aries becomes negative, this is of no surprise, really, because Virgo is symbolized by the Virgin woman, and also Aries symbolized by a Ram and whatnot.
    The positive and negative association depends on which of the spirits(demons and angels) govern each sign, so the positive signs are governed by 3 Angelic principles, and the negative signs are governed by 3 demonic principles, with each demonic and angelic principles governing 2 signs each.
    Ahriman governs Scorpio and Capricorn.
    Lucifer governs Pisces and Cancer.
    Sorath governs Aries and Taurus.
    Seraphim governs Libra and Aquarius.
    Cherubim governs Leo and Gemini.
    Archai governs Virgo and Sagittarius.

    I can go into further detail on the esoteric nature of the Zodiac signs.
    But i just want to stop here, it requires a little too much background knowledge with anthroposophy to continue on.

    I would like to add, that in the bundahishn, the reference to the 360 days + 5, has a few meanings, but is not each month having 30 days, with 5 days “at the end”, but is in reference to the babylonian, and existing calendars, which only had 360 days… but it also references the 5 elements, which are special elemental days spread out during the year. Earth Air Fire Water Ether, the 5th elemental day is ont he 8th of January, the element of Ether, which is 72 days before the start of the year(1st of Aries).
    The other 4 elemental days i am unsure where they are, but my intuition says they are either the 4 solstices/equinoxes, or spread out in 72-73 intervals throughout the year, matching up with the 5th element.
    The 6th elemental day occurs on leap day, and is in the Aquarius month, the 6th element, is love, and is symbolized by Venus, 6 is also “the lovers” in the major arcana, and Venus is also a symbol of 6, and of love, and is associated with the Aquarius month.

    OK, i can continue, but i will leave it at that.

    Great Article!

  3. Yury says:

    Aafarin!
    thanks Ardeshir for such amazing article. Very complete indeed.
    I have still a question. You started stating that Summer name in Avestan is Garma-pada. Can you give me the names in avestan of the 4 seasons?
    Sepas Guzarame! Shaad zi!

  4. Tahmtan Khashayarmanesh says:

    As far as I know, Jalali calendar is the most accurate calendar and it does not have anything to do with any religion at all. It is all based on astronomical and mathematical computations that Khayyam did. This is science not religion and this is 21st century not ancient times. The Jalali calendar has 1 second of error in 10 thousands years. There is no such thing as religion comming from God; all religions are made by humans for humans.

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