A Deeply Mystical Verse in the Gathas: by Dr. Purviz Dinyar Kolsawalla

Hâiti 44.18 -A Deeply Mystical Verse in the Gâthâs.

By Purviz Kolsawalla, Ph.D., Sydney Australia

The Holy Gâthâs are our Prophet's own words, which are deep in philosophy and meaning for a Zarathusti to lead an Ashavan life. The message comes straight from Zarathustra's heart and his relationship with Ahurâ Mazdâ. It is refreshingly honest, straight forward and sincere. However, the Gâthâs are not simple homilies written in a simple language in all instances. There are some verses which are deeply esoteric and should not be taken literally. Every religion has two forms of messages, one for the masses (exoteric) and another which is esoteric meant for the adept who have studied the religion in more details.

Looking at the Holy Bible, Jesus spoke in parables, which look at first sight as a simple stories but they often contain a deep and meaningful message. One of the verse in the Gâthâs which Hâs been fairly difficult to understand and interpret is from Gâthâ Ushtavaiti, Hâ 44.18. This verse translated using ordinary grammar and rules of philology appears to be set in a tranquil pastoral setting whereby the ancient Iranians seem to be emerging from a nomadic to a more settled life, where cattle and livestock were still their greatest wealth. In this verse, Zarathustra seems to be asking from Ahurâ Mazdâ a boon of ten mares, a stallion and a camel as a reward.

The Avestan verse is :

Tat thwa peresa eresh moi vaocha Ahurâ,

Katha asha tat mizdem hanani,

Dasa aspao arshnavaitish ushtremacha,

Hyat moi Mazdâ apivaiti haurvata,

Ameretata yatha hi taeibyo daongha

There are several translations of this verse and let us look at some very different translations.


This I ask Thee. Tell me truly, Lord. How shall I win through truth this prize, namely ten mares together with their stallions and a camela prize which is to inspire completeness and immortality in me, just as Thou hast received these two for Thyself?


How shall I earn through righteousness the reward of ten mares with their stallions and a camel, which would make me know how to give these persons both - wholeness and immortality.


How would I fully acquire through Asha that Grace - ten mares possessing lords and a Bull - which Grace is intelligible to me, O Mazdâ, through Haurvatat and Ameretat, so that Thou mayest please both of them unto these.


How shall I earn through Asha that reward, ten Senses, led by the Mighty One and Illumination? That Perfection and Immortality might be understood by me, that I may bring them both, O Mazdâ, to mankind.

This is one of the mystic verses in the Gâthâs which has been difficult for the Western scholars to comprehend. Zarathustra's mention of ten mares and a stallion is taken literally. They suggest that Zarathustra is seeking material wealth from Ahurâ Mazdâ to build up his flock of horses.

How patently absurd! A prophet who has sought no physical powers, glory or kingdom, is reduced to begging for ten mares and a stallion!

Zarathustra was born of wealthy parents and could have obtained all of these wealth as a share of his patrimony. Thus he would have had no need to ask for horses, cattle, sheep or goats, specially a disproportionate number of mares in comparison with one solitary stallion.

What he is asking for is the total control over his ten senses represented allegorically by ten mares and the stallion which allegorically represents the mighty mind. This in turn leads to self realisation and immortality. This verse clearly highlights the pitfalls of relying blindly in translating the Gâthâs on basis of philology alone. The esoteric meaning is rapidly degenerated into banality of a pastoral life.

B.T. Anklesaria, a great Zarthusti scholar explained the ten mares and stallion by implying that Zarathustra for devoting his whole life to spreading of the Mañthra of Ahurâ Mazdâ is asking for a very superior type of reward. The prophet was asking for the complete knowledge of the stars and planets and their influence on mankind. It is noted in the ancient Iranian history that Zarathustra was very proficient in Astronomy and Astrology.

The Mares in the Gâthâs have the same significance as it has in the Upanishads. Barthalomaé gives the Sanskrit word vrshanvati as the equivalent of the Avesta word. It is found in Rig Veda viii, 68.18 where it is applied to a mare. The mare is accompanied by the stallion and is described as svabhishuh kasavati meaning obedient to the rein and the whip. This implies that the Stallion being the mighty one, controls her. In Bhagvat Gita there is a reference to indriyani dashaikam cha, a clear combination of ten mares and a stallion. The ten senses are made up of the five buddhi indriyas which is the sense of knowledge and five karma indriyas which is the sense of action. The Manas which is composed of thoughts, is the eleventh sense.

Stanley Insler mentions that the concept of ten mares together with stallions and a camel is not a payment for Zarathustra's priestly services, but a metaphor for a group of diverse adherents to the prophet's message. The subsequent lines mention that Zarathustra had developed a following and would mean immortality and completeness for him in this world, just as Ahurâ Mazdâ acquired these qualities in the other world. (Seems strange that the Supreme Creator would acquire qualities for Himself?). Insler further suggests that the words aspa, ushtrem suggests Vîstapa, Jamaspa and Frashaoshtra and that Zarathustra may have intended to describe their families in this manner.

Rev. LH Mills insisted on ushtra as camel and says that there is no other meaning for it in Avesta, similarly the "horses were material for sacrifice among the Persians according to Herodotus." Kanga refers to "mares" as rewards and leaves it at that. Mills refused to see the mystic and occult tradition and failed to see the inner meaning of this verse.

The great Parsi scholar IJS Taraporewala pointed out that none of the Western scholars, the Pahalavi and Neryosangh translations try to explain the extraordinary mixture of Asha, mares, stallion, camel, Haurvatat and Ameretat which occurs in this verse. They have all taken the words literally.

Taraporewala believed that this verse embodies a very ancient occult symbology, explained at length in the Kathopanisad (i. 3.3-6) where the atman is called the Lord of the Chariot, the Body as the Chariot and the Human Senses as the Horses. These "horses" rush outwards trying to reach various material "sense objects" that attract them, unless they are reigned in by the Mind.

There is a further simile of the chariot in Plato's Phaedros, Plato being a great occultist from Greece. His works points to an ancient tradition inherited equally by Iran, India and Greece. The word ushtra means primarily "illumination , light" as per Taraporewala.

To summarise the inner esoteric meaning of this verse, Zarathustra hopes that through Asha, he may get his reward comprising of his ten senses being brought in complete control of the "Mighty One", the Mind and thus he may gain the Illumination. Then he would be able to comprehend what Perfection and Immortality means and he would be able to make the mankind understand what these are.

Kavi A.F.Khabardar on the other hand did not agree with Taraporewalla's hypothesis. He believed that the prophet could not be asking for control over his senses at this late stage of his revelation. He had already been accepted as a prophet earlier and had attained the state of Grace which comes only after total control of his senses.

Khabardar offered an astrological interpretation. He mentions that at present there are twelve Signs of Zodiac and twenty seven constellations. However there is evidence in Hindu scriptures that at the time of Zarathustra there were ten Zodiac Signs and thirty constellations. He gives example of Mithra being referred as vouru gaoyetem meaning of "wide pastures". Mithra is represented as Deity of Anuradha Constellation of the Scorpio sign. In Zarathustra's days there was a very large constellation in the Zodiac. Hence Khabardar interprets the "ten mares" as ten Zodiacal Signs and their "lords" as the planets in charge of these Zodiacal Signs. The Zodiacal Signs have been named in the Vishnu Puranas. The lord of constellation Aries is Mars, of Taurus is Venus etc. While ushtra is translated as camel, originally according to Khabardar it meant a Bull. The Bull is represented by the Sun and he is the Master of the Solar System. So the ten mares are the Zodiac signs belonging to the Moon and in turn they all belong to the Sun.

The word mîzhdem in this verse is generally translated as a "prize" or "reward". Its actual meaning according to Pithavala is "the results of actions done in a previous or present life, results of Késhash or Karma". This word in the above sense occurs in Ha 51.15, Hormazd Yasht and in the Uthamna Ceremony (dhûp nîrang). Sometimes the word myazda is replaced by khvaretha meaning food as in Hâ 49.11; souls of the wicked fit for "evil food".

Behramshah Pithavala, an Ilm-e-Khshnum scholar, had explained the meaning of this verse as follows. It is a fact in nature that whenever great prophets come with God's message to mankind, many advanced souls also take birth simultaneously to assist in the great work. Sometimes, these great prophets temporarily use the bodies of their advanced disciples as vehicles for carrying on their work on this dense physical plane. Pithavala mentioned that Lord Christ used the body of his disciple Jesus on this earth. Asho Zarathustra desires to use the Kéhrpa of Frashaoshtra in Hâ 51.17. It was thus that this great disciple later came to be known as "Peshotanû", one who has offered his body for the prophet's work.

In this verse Holy Zarathustra asked how he will get 12 co-workers and he also specifies their spiritual status as of the following three categories:

i) "10 mares" = ten disciples who are on the spiritual stage of aspa, that is they are spiritually fit to receive great occult teachings in the form of "seeds", which is the basic formula or Måthra.

ii) "1 stallion" = One who is so advanced spiritually that he can "reproduce" more workers on the stage of "aspa". He is a leader who can accelerate the spiritual progress of others and raise them to his own stature.

iii) "a camel" = One who has attained Zarathustra's own stage of "ushtra". There was only one other person who had attained this stage and he was Frashaoshtra; so he could not ask for more of them.

All of these highly advanced twelve co-worker's co-operation was asked in order to bestow Perfection and Immortality on all humanity. Pithavala names the 12 co-workers as follows:

1) Frashaoshtra

2) King Vishtasp

3) Jamaspa Hakim

4) Maidhyomah

5) Prince Aspandyar

6) Zarathustra's Spiritual Sons: Khurshid Cheher, Esadvastra, and Urvatatnara.

7) Spiritual daughters : Pouruchishti, Freny and Thrity

8) Zarir

9) Turani Frayan

10) Nar-asho Asmo-Khanvant

11) Saena

12) Queen Hutokhshi

Referring to Numerology, Pithavala mention that the relevant numbers:

10(mares) + 1(stallion) +1(camel) = 12, which is a number signifying "evolution".

Reading from right to left as in Avesta script, 2 = many to 1 = the Creator, the same number of words as it is in Ashém Vohû, the Måthra of Redemption. Finally 12 co-workers plus 1 (Zarathustra) = 13, the number signifying both human perfection and Sraosha Yazata, the Supreme teacher.

Dr. FS Chiniwala, a very well respected exponent of the mystical school of Ilm-e-Khshnum, translated this verse as:

"I am asking when I will become deserving of those gifts? That gift which is given through Haurvatat and Ameretat of ten mares with a stallion and a camel? That which is to be offered to Mazdâ, when will I receive it?"

The interpretation according to Chiniwala is that the horse represents the energy of practice, the completeness of the practice, the energy of the holy men and women who reaches Khaétvodatha. The number ten represents completeness. Thus the 10 mares and a stallion shows condition of completeness, where the soul first attracts all its scattered constituents within itself. Then the soul attracts the soul of the opposite sex and achieve completeness (Khaétvodatha). When a soul is ready for Khaétvodatha, it is sent help through Haurvatat. Thus the 10 mares and stallion are related to Haurvatat and Ameretat. Through their Completeness and Immortality, the mystery of 10 mares and stallion, which is the mystery of achieving Khaétvodatha is revealed.

The camel reveals the mystery of knowledge. When Haurvatat gives completeness to the soul and it achieves the Bliss of Immortality through Ameretat, then true knowledge is given to the soul. The mystery of the Fravashi is revealed to the soul. When the soul receives this gift and reaches the Airyama condition of Khaétvodatha, it receives the knowledge about the Fravashi. Through the energy of Fravashi the soul is totally obedient to Ahû.

This is an example of how a single verse could have so many diverse meanings. There is no one clear cut answer. This is what makes the Gâthâs so endearing and challenging to a person who wishes to ponder on the deep meaning of the message of Holy Zarathustra. But then our Holy Prophet asked us to use the Good Mind he has given to us to ponder and decide for ourself the true meaning.


1) Ushtavad Gâthâ - by Dr. FS Chiniwalla, Jarthosti Ilm é Khshnoom Felavnari Committee,Bombay.

2) The Gâthâs of Zarathustra by S. Insler, 1975.

3) The Gâthâs, Our Guide - the Thought-provoking Divine Songs of Zarathustra - Ali A Jafarey, Ushta Publications, 1989.

4 New Light on the Gâthâs of Holy Zarathustra - Ahunavaitî Gâthâ by Kavi AF Khabardar, Bombay 1951. Also Hand written manuscripts of Ushtavaitî, Vôhû Khshathra and Vahishtoîsht Gâthâs

5) The Divine Songs of Zarathustra by IJS Taraporewalla, Bombay,including Barthalomaé's translation.

6) TRANSLATIONS OF THE GATHAS. - A Compilation of various translations by Western and Zarthustrian Scholars and Comments by the author. by Dr. Purviz Dinyar Kolsawalla - 4 Computer diskettes


Purviz Dinyar Kolsawalla (D.Sc., Ph.D. in Zoroastrian Studies)

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