Oh, Sepitman Zoroaster! Ahura Mazda appointed me (Anahita) to be the core of all holy existence. With my majesty, two-legged people, small cattle, and stars fly over the earth. – (Yasht 89, Avesta)
Before we start with Anahita, we must be aware of its long history, that humans have always had a religious mentality. In this mental system, the phenomenon of mother-god worship has been one of the oldest common traditions.
Anahita is a famous Iranian goddess and one of these mother-gods. Many statues found in various parts of Iran and other lands prove her existence in the minds and beliefs of the people.
However, the information about how exactly Anahita participated in the daily life of people is limited.
Sociologists, ethnologists, psychologists, and theologians draw on myths to better understand ancient societies. That is how they studied Anahita.
Myth is the origin of human thought and emotion and reflects their desires. Therefore, mythology is closely related to philosophy and religion. It has had an impact on literary and artistic works. Most small sculptures belonged to Anahita or the Mother-god. In ancient societies, humans symbolically deciphered the complexities of the world and nature for themselves. These symbolic decipherments show us the social structure of ancient peoples.
The tradition of worshiping the Mother-god in Iran begins in the ancient Stone Age and Neolithic and appears in other forms in later periods. In the inscriptions left from the Achaemenid period and in cuneiform. The language is Old Persian, mother-god is given a definite name and is called “Anahita.”
And this is the goddess whom the Achaemenid kings worshiped like Ahura Mazda and Mehr (Mitra). From this period onwards, with the order of Ardashir II, many statues of this mythical lady (Anahita) were made in the cities of Susa, Ecbatana, Damascus, and Babylon, and her image engraved in inscriptions.
Let’s tell the story like this there were many gods before Zoroastrianism. A Trinity is you please, Ahura Mazda, Mithra, and Apam-Napat. When Zoroaster made Ahura Mazda the one and only God, Mithra and Apam-Napat were still powerful in people’s belief systems. Hymns which for these gods and goddesses entered the holy book of Avesta.
The sanctity of worshiping Anahita in its oldest set has continued until the Sassanid period. In the inscriptions of the Sassanid era, some works show the honorable position of Anahita. One of these inscriptions is in Naghsh-e Rostam (Necropolis), near Persepolis, in which the Sassanid King Narsa receives the holy Ring from Anahita. The Ring indicates both the Legitimacy to rule and it is the symbol of the contract between the King and Ahura Mazda.
In the inscriptions of Taq-e Bostan in Kermanshah, Anahita is in one of the arches. In another Inscription, Anahita is next to Khosrow II.
We know there is scares information or data to collect about the goddess of water and her religious status, but the etymology of words could help us more than we think.
Anahita is from the Ancient Avestaiean word: Aredvi-Sura-Anahid. The word Aredvi, meaning moisture, was originally the name of a holy river. As for a well-known principle in mythology, any sacred object, natural phenomenon, or even an abstract concept soon grasps a divine character.
Sura, the other part of the name Aredvi-Sura-Anahitd indicates Strong and vigorous, and Anahid means purity. Anahita is a short version of an ancient name representing her divine power over the sacred element of water, her strength, and the fact that she is immaculate.
In this embodiment, in Aban Yasht of Avesta, Anahita is a young, elegant, tall, beautiful woman, with white arms and a graceful body, a narrow belt in the middle, adorned with jewelry, with a golden collar around her neck, a square earring in her ear, a crown with one hundred octagonal stars on the head, shiny shoes on her feet, with gold overlays and rivets.
Such an incarnation probably indicates that sculptures of her existed during the Achaemenid period.
This goddess with the attributes of strength, beauty, and wisdom also becomes the goddess of love and fertility. Because the fountain of life comes from her existence, and thus she is the mother-god.
It is also why women recourse to her when giving birth, as she is the fertility goddess. Men ask her not to be sterile, and the youth pray upon her for finding a suitable soulmate.
She is the Iranian counterpart of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty in Greece, and Ishtar, the Babylonian goddess.
Anahid or Sura Anahita has a chariot with four white horses. Her chariots are clouds of rain, snow, and hail. She lives on the highest floor of the sky and has a house adorned on the shores of each lake with a hundred shining windows and a thousand well-carved columns. He sends down rain, snow, and hail from the clouds of the sky at the command of the wage earner. She is a beloved goddess and has always attracted the deep love and respect of many followers.
Some of the traditions left by modern Iranians have traces of the presence of Anahita or the mother-god. There is an old tradition among Iranians where they escort the traveler with the Quran and a bowl of water.
It used to be an Avesta and a bowl of water as a sign that Ahura Mazda and the goddess of water and light would be the protectors of the beloved traveler and help them in their journey safely. The water bowl of the Haft-Sin table, the presence of an inner pool in the architecture of traditional houses, women’s circles where they pray are all remnants of the Zoroastrian tradition and a sign of Anahita’s presence.
Anahita is one of the few goddesses to have a temple for herself. Kangavar Temple in Kermanshah and Anahita Temple in Bishapur Kazerun are supreme examples of ancient architecture for pilgrimage. The Iranian goddess of water would have blessed any water that flowed into the city.
The temple in Bishapur shows that water enters the temple in silence and sobriety as it befits Anahita. After the ceremony, the water leaves the temple with softness and slowness to reach people’s houses. The Anahita Temple in Bishapur still retains its dignity and impresses tourists.
The 8th month of the Persian calendar Aban is for Anahita. On the 10th, there is a festive in which people have joy and come together and pray for rain.
Once again, we refer back to Aban Yasht in Avesta and read:
The system is the water created by Ahura Mazda.
We worship all the pure water given by Ahura Mazda.
Praise be to the life-giving clean water.
Praise be to that Aredvi-Sura-Anahita, that worthy guardian of the unpolluted waters of the universe, all the clean and pure waters that flow from the clouds and rest on the chest of the earth like rivers, springs, seas, and lakes.
She is in peace in the fields of seven countries and walks within the rising life.