Book of Arda Viraf

Book of Arda Viraf

The Book of Arda Viraf is a Zoroastrian religious text that describes the dream-journey of a devout Zoroastrian (the 'Viraf' of the story) through the next world. Due to the ambiguity inherent to Pahlavi script, 'Viraf' (the name of the protagonist) may also be transliterated as 'Wiraf', 'Wiraz' or 'Viraz'. The 'Arda' of the name is an epithet of Viraf and is approximately translateable as "truthful" or "righteous."

The date of the book is not known, but is generally assumed to be fairly late in the ancient history of the religion, probably from the period of the Sassanian empire, when Zoroastrianism experienced a state-sponsored revival.

The text is frequently compared to Dante's Divine Comedy.

In the narrative Arda Viraf is chosen for his piety to undertake a journey to the next world in order to prove the truth of Zoroastrian beliefs, after a period when the land of Iran had been troubled by the presence of confused and alien religions (probably a reference to Hellenization that occurred under Seleucid and Arsacid rule). He drinks wine and a hallucinogen, after which his soul travels to the next world where it is greeted by a beautiful woman named Den who represents his faith and virtue. Crossing the Chinvat bridge, he is then conducted by "Srosh, the pious and Adar, the angel" through the "star track", "moon track" and "sun track" – places outside of heaven reserved for the virtuous who have nevertheless failed to conform to Zoroastrian rules. In heaven itself he meets Ahura Mazda who shows him the souls of the blessed ("ahlav"). Each person is described living an idealised version of the life he or she lived on earth, as a warrior, agriculturalist, shepherd or other profession.

With his guides he then descends into hell to be shown the sufferings of the wicked, which are described in graphic detail. As in Dante, each wicked person is allotted a form of suffering appropriate to their transgressions. For example, a woman who failed to feed her children properly is forced to devour her own flesh. Stress is placed on obedience (Srosh), social authority, and order (Ard).

Having completed his visionary journey Viraf is told by Ahura Mazda that the Zoroastrian faith is the only proper and true way of life and that it should be preserved in both prosperity and adversity.

Full texts

* [ Translation of the Book of Arda Viraf]
* [ Middle Persian text (Romanized version)]

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