Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

Hara Berezaiti – The Watchtower

Posted by Fredsvenn on September 27, 2014

Avestan and the Zoroastrians

In the Zoroastrian religion the word ahura is used for a good spirit and Ahura Mazda is the highest God of the Zoroastrians. This word is a perfect cognate with the Sanskrit word ashura, and it is a general word for ‘a god, any god.’ The Avestan speakers also have a form of the word with the intrusive -t- which is Atar, the word for the sacred fire of the Zoroastrians.

At the Spring Equinox, on the festival of Nov Ruz, which means ‘New Year’ the Zoroastrians keep a fire burning all night to help the Sun come up. This is one of the seven the major festivals known as Gahambars among the Zoroastrians. In many areas this spring fire festival is called Ashur and among the Zoroastrians, it is sacred to the Persian God Ahura Mazda. New Year’s Day or Ashur was a holiday in, for example, Morocco, according to the Golden Bough, which gives a description of the celebration (Vol. 10, p. 216-217).

In Moslem countries generally, Ashur is now celebrated on the 10th day of Moharram, the 1st month of the Islamic calendar. As Frazer puts it: “All strictly Mohammadean feasts being pinned to the moon, slide gradually with that luminary through the whole period of the earth’s revolution about the sun,” so Ashur falls in a different month every year.

In some Moslem countries it is celebrated twice, once at the spring equinox and again at the moveable Islamic New Year. In addition, the name for the annual celebration of Ashura has broadened to refer to any gathering, including a council of elders (which however excludes women in Moslem countries) in a number of languages.

Hara Berezaiti – The Watchtower

The cosmological qualities of the world river are alluded to in Yasht 5, but properly developed only in the Bundahishn, a Zoroastrian account of creation finished in the 11th or 12th century CE. In both texts, Aredvi Sura Anahita is not only a divinity, but also the source of the world river and the (name of the) world river itself. The cosmological legend runs as follows:

All the waters of the world created by Ahura Mazda originate from the source Aredvi Sura Anahita, the life-increasing, herd-increasing, fold-increasing, who makes prosperity for all countries. This source is at the top of the world mountain Hara Berezaiti, “High Hara”, around which the sky revolves and that is at the center of Airyanem Vaejah, the first of the lands created by Mazda.

The water, warm and clear, flows through a hundred thousand golden channels towards Mount Hugar, “the Lofty”, one of the daughter-peaks of Hara Berezaiti. On the summit of that mountain is Lake Urvis, “the Turmoil”, into which the waters flow, becoming quite purified and exiting through another golden channel.

Through that channel, which is at the height of a thousand men, one portion of the great spring Aredvi Sura Anahita drizzles in moisture upon the whole earth, where it dispels the dryness of the air and all the creatures of Mazda acquire health from it. Another portion runs down to Vourukasha, the great sea upon which the earth rests, and from which it flows to the seas and oceans of the world and purifies them.

In the Bundahishn, the two halves of the name “Ardwisur Anahid” are occasionally treated independently of one another, that is, with Ardwisur as the representative of waters, and Anahid identified with the planet Venus: The water of the all lakes and seas have their origin with Ardwisur (10.2, 10.5), and in contrast, in a section dealing with the creation of the stars and planets (5.4), the Bundahishn speaks of ‘Anahid i Abaxtari’, that is, the planet Venus. In yet other chapters, the text equates the two, as in “Ardwisur who is Anahid, the father and mother of the Waters” (3.17).

This legend of the river that descends from Mount Hara appears to have remained a part of living observance for many generations. A Greek inscription from Roman times found in Asia Minor reads “the great goddess Anaïtis of high Hara”. On Greek coins of the imperial epoch, she is spoken of as “Anaïtis of the sacred water.”

Harā Bərəzaitī, literally meaning “High Watchpost”, is the name given in the Avestan language to a legendary mountain around which the stars and planets revolve. Harā Bərəzaitī reflects Proto-Iranian *Harā Bṛzatī. Harā may be interpreted as “watch” or “guard”, from an Indo-European root *ser- “protect”. *Bṛzatī is the feminine form of the adjective *bṛzant- “high”, which is cognate with Celtic brigant- (as in the Brigantes) and with Germanic burgund- (as in the Burgundians). Hence ‘Harā Bərəzaitī’ “High Watchpost.”

The mountain has several secondary appellations, including Haraitī “the guarding one” (feminine), Taēra “peak” (Middle Persian Tērag) and Hukairya “of good deeds” (Middle Persian Hukar).

*Bṛzant- “high”, is the ancestor of modern Persian boland. The legendary mountain has given its name to two physical features of the world: In Middle Persian, Harā Bərəzaitī came to be identified with Harborz, Modern Persian Alborz, a range in northern Iran, which parallels the southern edge of the Caspian Sea; and Mount Elbrus in the Caucasus range, near the border of Russia and Georgia, as well a number of other high mountains throughout the Iranian Plateau, such as the Albarez (Jebal Barez in Kerman).

In the ancient Zoroastrian scriptures of the Avesta, Harā Bərəzaitī is the source of all mountains of the world, that is, all other mountains and ranges are but lateral projections that originate at High Hara. So, for instance, the mountains of the Hindu Kush (Avestan: ishkata; Middle Persian: kofgar) appear in Yasht 19.3 as one of the spurs of High Hara.

In Avestan cosmogony, High Harā is the geographic center of the universe, immediately surrounded by the steppes of the Airyanem Vaejah, the first of the seven lands created by Ahura Mazda. It is a polar mountain around which the stars revolve; it is also the mountain behind which the sun hides at night.

The pinnacle of High Hara is Mount Hukairya, “Of good activity” (Yasht 10.88), from which springs the source of all waters of the world. These waters rush down from the mountain as the mighty world river Arədvī Sūrā Anāhitā, which in turn feed the great sea Vourukaša, upon which the world rests. As the source of this mighty river, and so connected to fertility, Mount Hukairya is “the verdant, which deserves all praise” (Yasht 5.96)

Harā is tall and luminous, free from darkness and the predations of the daēvas, the “false gods” that are later considered to be evil spirits. The sacred plant haoma grows on Harā. It is also the home of the yazata Mithra. It is the site in legend of sacrifices (yasnas) to the yazatas Mithra, Sraoša, Arədvī Sūrā Anāhitā, Vayu, and Druvāspa, by sacrificers such as the divine priest Haoma (epitome of the sacred plant) and kings like Haošyaŋha and Yima.

In the Vendidad, High Hara is at one end of the Činvat bridge, the bridge of judgement that all souls must cross. The bridge then spans the lands of the daēvas, i.e. hell.

In Middle Persian, Harā Bərəzaitī appears as Harborz, attested in the Zend commentaries of the Sassanid epoch and in the Bundahishn, a Zoroastrian account of creation finished in the 11th or 12th century CE.

The cosmogonical legend of a river that descends from Mount Hara appears to have remained a part of living observance for many generations. A Greek inscription from Roman times found in Asia Minor reads ‘the great goddess Anaïtis of high Hara’.

In Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh, where the mountain in Ērānvēj is named Alborz, Mount Hara is the place of refuge for Fereydun when he is sought for by the spies of Zahhāk. It is the dwelling-place of the Simorgh, where he brings up the infant Zāl. It is also the region where Kai Kobad dwells before being summoned to the throne of Iran by Rostam.

Zoroastrians may identify the range with the dwelling place of the Peshyotan, and the Zoroastrian Ilm-e-Kshnoom sect identify Mount Davamand as the home of the Saheb-e-Dilan (‘Masters of the Heart’).

In his epic Shahnameh, the poet Ferdowsi speaks of the mountains “as though they lay in India.” This could reflect older usage, for numerous high peaks were given the name and some even reflect it to this day, for example, Mount Elbrus in the Caucasus Mountains, and Mount Elbariz (Albariz, Jebal Barez) in the Kerman area above the Strait of Hormuz.

As recently as the 19th century, a peak in the northernmost range in the Hindu Kush system, just south of Balkh, was recorded as Mount Elburz in British army maps. All these names reflect the same Iranian language compound, and share an identification as the legendary mountain Harā Bərəzaitī of the Avesta.

Mount Elbrus is a dormant volcano located in the western Caucasus mountain range, in Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay–Cherkessia of Russia, near the border with Georgia. Mt. Elbrus’s peak is the highest in the Caucasus Mountains and in Europe.


Airyanem Vaejah


Anahita temple

Hara Berezaiti




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