Hara Berezaiti

Harā Bərəzaitī, literally meaning "High Watchpost", is the name given in the Avestan language to a legendary mountain around which the stars and planets revolve.

Etymology and derived names

Harā Bərəzaitī reflects Proto-Iranian *Harā Bṛzatī. Harā may be interpreted as "watch" or "guard", from an Indo-European root *ser- "protect". *Bṛzatī is the feminine form of the adjective *bṛzant- "high". Hence 'Harā Bərəzaitī' "High Watchpost."

The mountain has several secondary appellations, including "Haraitī" "the guarding one" (feminine), "Taēra" "peak" (Middle Persian "Tērag") and "Hukairya" "of good deeds" (Middle Persian "Hukar").

*Bṛzant- "high", is the ancestor of modern Persian "boland" (بلند). The legendary mountain has given its name to two physical features of the world: In Middle Persian, Harā Bərəzaitī came to be identified with "Harborz", Modern Persian "Alborz", a range in northern Iran, which parallels the southern edge of the Caspian Sea; and Mount Elbrus in the Caucasus range, near the border of Russia and Georgia.

In the Avesta

In the ancient Zoroastrian scriptures of the Avesta, Harā Bərəzaitī is the source of all mountains of the world, that is, all other mountains and ranges are but lateral projections that originate at High Hara. So, for instance, the mountains of the Hindu Kush (Avestan: "ishkata"; Middle Persian: "kofgar") appear in "Yasht" 19.3 as one of the spurs of High Hara.

In Avestan cosmogony, High Harā is the geographic center of the universe, immediately surrounded by the steppes of the Airyanem Vaejah, the first of the seven lands created by Ahura Mazda. It is a polar mountain around which the stars revolve; it is also the mountain behind which the sun hides at night.

The pinnacle of High Hara is Mount Hukairya, "Of good activity" ("Yasht" 10.88), from which springs the source of all waters of the world. These waters rush down from the mountain as the mighty world river Arədvī Sūrā Anāhitā, which in turn feed the great sea "Vourukaša", upon which the world rests. (See Aban, "the Waters" for details). As the source of this mighty river, and so connected to fertility, Mount Hukairya is "the verdant, which deserves all praise" (Yasht 5.96)

Harā is tall and luminous, free from darkness and the predations of the daēvas, the "false gods" that are later considered to be evil spirits. The sacred plant haoma grows on Harā. It is also the home of the yazata Mithra. It is the site in legend of sacrifices (yasnas) to the yazatas Mithra, Sraoša, Arədvī Sūrā Anāhitā, Vayu, and Druvāspa, by sacrificers such as the divine priest Haoma (epitome of the sacred plant) and kings like Haošyaŋha and Yima.

In the "Vendidad", High Hara is at one end of the Činvat bridge, the bridge of judgement that all souls must cross. The bridge then spans the lands of the daēvas, i.e. hell.

In later texts

Later Iranian folklore endowed the mountain with characteristics that placed it more firmly in this world, distant but accessible.

In Middle Persian, Harā Bərəzaitī appears as "Harborz", attested in the "Zend" commentaries of the Sassanid epoch and in the "Bundahishn", a Zoroastrian account of creation finished in the 11th or 12th century CE.

The cosmogonical legend of a river that descends from Mount Hara appears to have remained a part of living observance for many generations. A Greek inscription from Roman times found in Asia Minor reads 'the great goddess Anaïtis of high Hara'.

In Ferdowsi's Shāhnāma, where the mountain in Ērānvēj is named "Alborz", Mount Hara is the place of refuge for Fereydun when he is sought for by the spies of Zahhāk. It is the dwelling-place of the Simorgh, where he brings up the infant Zāl. It is also the region where Key Qobād dwells before being summoned to the throne of Iran by Rostam.

In other cultures

The concept of Harā shares many characteristics with the Hindu Mount Meru and the Buddhist Sumeru, and the name was indeed used for Sumeru by the Iranian Sakas who converted to Buddhism.

ee also

* *Harahvati Aredvi Sura Anahita, the source of all waters in the world that descends from the mythical Mount Hara.
* Airyanem Vaejah, the first of the lands created by Ahura Mazda.

Bibliography

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