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A Sogdian Zoroastrian Prayer Rose, Jenny


c. 9th c. CE The manuscript containing this text was among the 14,000 or so documents from the Library Cave (Cave 17) at Dunhuang, which were brought to Britain in by Aurel Stein in the early 20th century. The two lines of the text containing the Ashem Vohu prayer were not deciphered until the mid-1970s (See bibliography attached to this entry). This discovery represents the oldest written text, in Old Iranian, of a prayer that is regularly recited by Zoroastrians today. The Zoroastrian religion traces its roots to the pronouncements of an ancient Iranian named Zarathustra, which were transmitted in a language now known as "Avestan." As the Iranians moved across the eastern Eurasian steppes towards the plateau of Iran, several groups remained in what is now Central Asia. The Sogdians, who spoke an eastern (middle) Iranian language seem to have retained aspects of the religion that differed in expression from the Sasanian Zoroastrians. The identification of the Ashem Vohu prayer, which varies from the form of the prayer as preserved in the Sasanian Avesta, indicates that it was central to the religion from a very early period.

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