Mythos 55 – Pre-Glacial Airyana Vaejo


In the Avestan story of the shepherd King Yima and his kingdoms’ destruction by glaciers, the glaciers were artificially caused by Angra Mainyu, the Zoroastrian destructive spirit. Ahura Mazda the Zoroastrian god, warned King Yima, but was unable to stop the spread of the ice. These two beings Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu were both depicted as being celestial beings that were fighting a war. Each had armies under their control, however neither had a clear advantage. Nevertheless, in the battle for Earth, Angra Mainyu’s faction had caused the Earth to enter a glacial period, destroying at least one ancient civilization.

Another important fact mentioned in the passage is that the prolonged duration of winter was the result of Angra Mainyu’s counter-action, meaning thereby that before the invasion of Angra Mainyu different climatic conditions prevailed in that region. This view is further strengthened by the consideration that the Iranians could never have placed their Paradise in a land of severe winter and snow. Bunsen has, therefore, rightly observed that the Airyana Vaejo was originally a perfect country and had a very mild climate, until the hostile deity created a powerful serpent and snow, so that only two months of summer remained while winter prevailed during ten. In short, the passage in question speaks of a sudden change in the climate of the original home, a change that converted the paradise into a kind of ice-bound land with long and severe winters. If we, therefore, want to know what the land was like before the invasion of Angra Mainyu, we must reverse the climatic conditions that obtained after the invasion, and suppose that this cradle of the Iranian race was situated in the extreme north where long cool summers of ten months and short mild winters of two months originally prevailed. It was Angra Mainyu who altered this genial climate by means of glaciation, and rendered it unbearable to man. The description of the two summer months after the invasion, viz., that “These were cold as to the water, cold as to the earth, cold as to the trees,” shows that after glaciation even the summer climate was unsuited for human habitation.

We have stated above that the passage in question indicates a sudden change in the climate of the Airyana Vaejo, converting ten months summer and two months winter into ten months severe winter and two months cold summer. Thirty or forty years ago such a statement or proposition would have been regarded not only bold, but impossible or almost insane, for the geological knowledge of the time was not, sufficiently advanced to establish the existence of a mild climate round about the North pole in ancient times. It was probably this difficulty which stared Zend scholars in the face when they declined to place the Airyana Vaejo in the far north, in spite of the plain description clearly indicating its northernmost position. Happily the recent discoveries in Geology and Archaeology have not only removed this difficulty by establishing, on scientific grounds, the existence of a warm and genial climate near the North Pole in inter-glacial times, but have proved that the Polar regions were invaded, at least twice, by glaciation which destroyed their genial climate. Thus it is now a settled scientific fact that the Arctic regions were once characterized by warm and short winters, and genial and long summers, a sort of perpetual spring, and that this condition of things was totally upset or reversed by the advent of the Glacial period which made winters long and severe and summers short and cold.- Bâl Gangâdhar Tilak (1)Bâl Gangâdhar Tilak (1903) The Arctic Home in the Vedas, Page 340-341

Ahura Mazda warned King Yima of the coming disaster at a meeting of the celestials, that King Yima was invited to attend. There is no indication that King Yima was considered an equal in this celestial council, however they clearly did respect humanity enough to at least warn us of the coming disaster. While no other national envoys are mentioned in the Fargard, other mortals, meaning humans, were present, which could have either been from Yima’s Kingdom, or other countries.

The second part of the Fargard opens with a meeting of the celestial gods called by Ahura Mazda, and “the fair Yima, the good shepherd of high renown in the Airyana Vaejo,” is said to have attended this meeting with all his excellent mortals. It was at this meeting that Yima was distinctly warned by Ahura Mazda that fatal winters were going to fall on the happy land and destroy everything therein. To provide against this calamity the Holy One advised Yima to make a Vara or enclosure, and remove there the seeds of every kind of animals and plants for preservation. Yima made the Vara accordingly…- Bâl Gangâdhar Tilak (2)Bâl Gangâdhar Tilak (1903) The Arctic Home in the Vedas. Page 350

Ahura Mazda tells Yima that fierce and foul frost will fall on the material world, and even the tops of the highest mountains will be covered with or rather buried in snow which will destroy all living beings whether on the tops of the mountains or in the valleys below. The snow, it is said, would fall aredvi deep, which Spiegel translates by the phrase “in great abundance,” while Darmesteter, quoting from the commentary, explains in a footnote that “even where it (the snow) is least, it will be one Vttasti two fingers, that is, fourteen fingers deep.” A cubit of snow, at the lowest, covering the highest tops of the mountains and the lowest depths of the valleys alike cannot but destroy all animal life; and I do not think that the beginning of the Ice-age can be more vividly described. With this express passage before us ascribing the ruin of the happy land to the invasion of ice and winter, we should have no difficulty whatsoever in rightly interpreting the meaning of the invasion of Angra Mainyu described in the beginning of the first Fargard. It is no longer a matter of inference that the original genial climate of the Airyana Vaejo was rendered inclement by the invasion of winter and snow, afterwards introduced into the land. The above passage says so in distinct terms, and the description is so graphic that we cannot regard it as mythical or imaginary. Add to it the fact that the recent geological discoveries have established the existence of at least two Glacial periods, the last of which closed and the post-Glacial period commenced, according to American geologists, not later than about 8000 B.C. When the Avestic traditions regarding the destruction of the primeval Arctic home by glaciation is thus found to be in complete harmony with the latest geological researches, there is no reason, except prejudice, why we should not regard the Avestic account as a correct reminiscence of an old real historical fact. The author of the Fargards in question cannot be supposed to have given us by imagination such a graphic account of a phenomenon, which is brought to light or discovered by the scientists only during the last forty or fifty years.- Bâl Gangâdhar Tilak (3)Bâl Gangâdhar Tilak (1903) The Arctic Home in the Vedas. Page 354-355

It only proves how the ancient records, howsoever express and distinct they may be, are apt to be misunderstood and misinterpreted owing to our imperfect knowledge of the climatic or other conditions or surroundings amongst which the ancestors of our race lived in remote ages. But for such a misunderstanding, it was not difficult to perceive that the Airyana Vaejo, or the original home of the Aryan race, was situated near the North Pole, and that the ancestors of our race abandoned it not out of “irresistible impulse,” or “overcrowding,” but simply because it was ruined by the invasion of snow and ice brought on by the Glacial epoch.- Bâl Gangâdhar Tilak (4)Bâl Gangâdhar Tilak (1903) The Arctic Home in the Vedas. Page 355-356

References   [ + ]

1. Bâl Gangâdhar Tilak (1903) The Arctic Home in the Vedas, Page 340-341
2. Bâl Gangâdhar Tilak (1903) The Arctic Home in the Vedas. Page 350
3. Bâl Gangâdhar Tilak (1903) The Arctic Home in the Vedas. Page 354-355
4. Bâl Gangâdhar Tilak (1903) The Arctic Home in the Vedas. Page 355-356