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The 6th Conference of Research in Ancient Iranian Culture

Report on the 6th Conference of Research in Ancient Iranian Culture written by:

The President of the Centre, Dr. Khosro Khazai (Pardis), Ph.D

26 November 2002

This year the "6th Conference of Research in Ancient Iranian Culture" took place from 22 to 26 November in Paris. It was held at the Cinema Hall of the UNESCO Headquarters. The Conference was held by the united efforts of several organizations including our Centre.

The aim is to know and make known the ancient common culture shared by he people of Iran, Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, India, Kirghistan, Ossetia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmanistan and Uzbekistan, and the Kurds of Iraq and Syria, and to introduce the scholars of the these countries to one another. The 1st Conference was held in September 1996 in Doshanbeh.

The conference is purely cultural and outside political domains. The official language is Persian, a language, which was once the state and cultural language of all the above countries and more. The conference is financed by anonymous culture-loving persons and the organization/s of the hosting country. The participants pay their own personal expenses.

The fields of the papers read and discussed were mainly focused on Zoroastrian studies, including anthropology, architecture, geography, history, music, philology, scripts, social science, from the origin to Moslem invasion.

A total of 56 scholars had registered to speak at the Paris conference. Eight could not make it. France: 33, Tajikistan: 7, U.S.A.: 4, Belgium: 1, Canada: 1, Germany: 3, Iran: 3, Netherlands: 2, Turkmenistan: 1, and Switzerland: 1. The average number of audience was about 300. Each speaker had 20 minutes to speak and 10 minutes to answer questions from the audience.

The sideshows were live musical concerts, folk dances, a colorful dress show of 23 nations and sub-nations within the region, and a visit to the Ancient Iranian section of the Louvre Museum. The conference lasted from 9:30 AM to 9:30 PM with 3 breaks of one to two hours for lunch, refreshments, and lively discussions.

More details:
22 November:

1. Abdul Qadir Mahneyazi (Tajikistan) spoke on the common culture that binds the countries and people from India to Turkey and the Caspian Sea to the Indian Ocean. He mentioned Zarathushtra and Buddha as the founders of two outstanding religions in the world.

2. Shojaeddin Shafa (France) elaborated the part Iran played, during the Achaemenian, Parthian and Sassanian Empires, in bringing the people of various lands closer in culture. Iran gave the world the first monotheistic religion that has influenced all the major religions.

3. Ali A. Jafarey (U.S.A.) proposed the "Rearrangement of the Avesta for Better Comprehension" on the basis of the 21 volumes of the Sassanian Canon. It would (1) place the Gathas and the Supplements in the Gathic dialect precede the remaining parts of the Yasna; (2) introduce minor changes in the present order of the Vispered chapters; (3) have Yashts re-arranged in (a) pre-Zarathushtrian epics, (b) post-Zarathushtrian epics, (c) post-Zarathushtrian prose compositions in honour of deities, and (d) miscellaneous subjects; (4) re-arrange the Vendidad chapters on the basis of geography, history, medicine, animal kingdom, environment, spells, and prescriptions and proscriptions; and (5) have a standard Khordeh Avesta that has only its normal prayers in Avesta and Pazand -- from Ashem Vohu through Sorush Baj, Peiman-e Din, the Five Gahs and the Five Neyashes to the Afarinegans. Without the loss of any part and piece, the rearrangement will apply only to a translation of the extant Avesta to render it more comprehensive and not the original text which will remain as it is. (The full text in English will be posted later)

4. Parvan Jamshidi (Tajikistan) emphasized the study of the Avesta for better understanding the Message of Zarathushtra and for getting acquainted with the Ancient Iranian legends, history, geography, society, prayers, ceremonies, rules and regulations that make a rich heritage for the entire region.

5. Latif Pedram (France) traced the part played by "Intellect" in the Iranian literature from Zarathushtra through the Shahnameh to Nasser (11th century) and pointed out the importance the Iranians gave to intellectualism in their life.

6. Farhang Mehr defined "Asha" as the Law of Truth and Justice. Asha stands for dynamic progressive evolution in the universe. It applies to human beings through thought, word and deed. It regulates one's behavior to be of good use to the person and his/her environment. Mankind enjoys freedom of will but Vohu Manah, Good Mind, guides to act according to Asha to have the right result. Acting according to Asha, has its reward, a happy life here and hereafter. Asha also means ethics in human society.

23 November:

7. Khosrow Khazai (Belgium) spoke on the influence of the Message of Zarathushtra on European philosophers and intellectuals from Pythagoras (ca 580-500 BCE), Plato (ca 428-348 BCE), Aristotle (384-322 BCE) to Nietzsche (1844-1900 CE). The earlier philosophers found his doctrine through the Magi and the modern ones through the translation of the Avesta by the French scholar Anquetil du Perron (first published in 1771).

8. Abetin Sassanfar (France) referred to the Gathic reformation movement in Zoroastrianism, which is enlightening both those born in the community and those who are attracted to it. The movement is making a good progress, especially among Iranians who consider Zoroastrianism as their heritage.

9. Fatane Farid (U.S.A.) spoke on the universality of the Message of Zarathushtra, which knows no race, color or nationality and which aims only to guide humanity to the world fellowship on global basis. Zarathushtra advocates the Doctrine of Good Mind, Free Will, progress, and modernization that impart health, happiness, peace, prosperity, perfection and immortality to all without exception.

10. Khanak Eshghi (Canada) gave a lively speech, well punctuated with poetical couplets, on Zarathushtra's universality and its reflections in the two poetry books of Mowlana Jalaleddin Rumi, an outstanding Muslim Sufi leader, born in Balkh, Central Asia and buried in Konya, Turkey (1207-73 CE).

11. Parviz Koupai (U.S.A.) dealt with the history of Iranian music from pre-Aryan days to the Sassanian times and pointed to the Avesta being chanted with string musical instruments. He made it known that the Zarathushtrian Assembly is studying to revive the ancient custom, especially for the congregations now spreading across the world.

12. Yousef Nurali (Tajikistan) discussed the medical knowledge of Iranians. Quoting from the Vendidad, he mentioned forms of treatment: surgery, herbal medicine, and psychotherapy and also the care for hygiene.

13. Mohammad Assemi (Germany) related the appearance of Zarathushtra at the Court of Kavi Vishtaspa and the story of the Cypress Tree given in the Shahnameh. It speaks of the tree of Wisdom planted by Zarathushtra, an allusion to the fact that his doctrine is based on wisdom.

14. Mania Sa'di-nezhad (France) described the pictures of certain Yazatas depicted on bas-reliefs, coins and seals, and compared them with what is given in the Avesta.

15. Zohreh Eskandari (France) talked on the Freedom of Will, Choice, Equality and Human Rights in the Gathas and its manifestation during the Achaemenian times, which brought many nations together to live side by side in peace and prosperity.

24 November:

16. Bahman Moradian (France) compared the Pahlavi book of 'Ayâdgâr-e Zarerân -- Memoirs of Zarir" and the narration given in the Shahnameh and sychronized the two. The legend [not given in the Avesta] describes in detail how when King Goshtasb (Vishtaspa) and court convert to the Good Religion of Zarathushtra, Arjasp, King of the Turanians, tells him either to revert to the old cult or face war. The war is fought with heavy losses on both sides but Goshasb is the winner. [The legend in both Pahlavi and the Shahnameh do not mention Zarathushtra in this bloody war as if he was not there). Probably, it is a much later incident between a ruler named Goshtasb and his adversary that has been exagerated and ascribed to Kavi Vishtaspa.]

17. Dad Khoda Sim Addin (Tajikistan) spoke on two Pahlavi manuscripts having two versions of commentary on "Ashem Vohu." He considered one of them written by a person who understood the prayer better than the other because it is much closer to what we now understand it philologically.

18. Raham Asha (France) spoke of his discovery of a Pahlavi manuscript in his recent visit to Bombay that has not been catalogued. [He is an outstanding scholar of Pahlavi and is studying the manuscript.

NOTE: Other papers read at the Conference covered history, legend, language, poetry, music, dress, Iranian flag, tribes, woman, ancient sites, archeological activities and other subjects concerning the common culture of the vast region in pre-Islamic times.

This concludes my brief report on the Conference. A full report and all the papers will be published (in several volumes) in the near future.


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