Ṛgveda, Avesta, and Beyond—ex occidente lux?

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Hartmut Scharfe



It is a puzzle of long standing in Indo-Iranian studies that the cognates of the Vedic devás and their eventual rivals and eternal enemies, the ásuras, have entirely opposite valuations in Old Iranian, where Ahura Mazdāh is the chief of the pantheon and the daēuuas are considered demons. This puzzle is complicated by the fact that in early Vedic the ásuras do not have the demonic role they play in later Vedic and in fact are themselves sometimes identified as devás. Numerous solutions to this problem have been advanced. This article re-examines the evidence in detail and suggests a new explanation, set in the larger Near Eastern cultural context.

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