Various attempts have been made, at least superficially, to locate the name of the prophet in Rig Veda. Although the name ‘Jarutha’ appears thrice in the bulk of the Rig Veda, the scholars seem inclined to reject the identification. Let us not forget here that Zarathustra is spelled differently in other languages, such as Zarathustra is spelled as Zoroaster in Greek. The other Iranian versions spell the same as Zarathrost, Zaradust or Zaradrust etc. In Sanskrit, Zarathushtra is spelled as Jarathuśtra (in Neriyosangh’s translation of the Avesta). The etymology of the name given is Zarath (old)+Ustra (camel) or Zarath (driving or moving)+ Ustra (Camel). Similarly, the word Zarat denotes the priest or singer. (http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/zoroaster-i-the-name)
Let us not forget here that the phoneme Z finds loss in Vedic language, turns to J, Zarath will thus come to be spelled as Jarath. With phonetic changes, while shortening the name Zarathustra, the name can come, too, be spelled as Jarutha in Vedic dialect. Another supportive information we get as, “The name Jarutha is derived by Sayana from Vgr, to 'sing, saying ; it means one who makes loud sound. ... form in its own way simply copied it from Vedic, for the Avestan Gen. form of hartr would, on the analogy of datr, be zarthro or *zarithro.” (The Indian Historical Quarterly, Volume 5, Issues 1-2, page 269-70, 1985)
Let us have a look at the Rig Vedic verses where Jarutha is mentioned and in what context.
“Burn up all malice with those flames, O Agni, wherewith of old thou burntest up Jarutha,And drive away in silence pain and sickness.” (RV 7.1.7 Trans. By Griffith)
“Vasiṣṭha, when enkindling thee, O Agni, hath slain Jarutha. Give us wealth in plenty. Sing praise in choral song, O Jātavedas. Ye Gods, preserve us evermore with blessings.” (RV 7.9.6 Trans. By Griffith)
“Agni rejoiced the car of him who praised him, and from the waters, burnt away Jarutha. Agni saved Atri in the fiery cave and made Nrmedha rich with troops of children.” (RV 10.80.3, Trans. By Griffith.)
However, Macdonell defines Jarutha to denote a demon that was slain by Agni. He also referees to the Griffith and Ludwig those see in him (Jarutha), a foe slain in the battle in which Vasishtha was the priest. (Vedic Index of Names and Subjects, Volume 1; Volume 5, By Arthur Anthony Macdonell, Arthur Berriedale Keith, page 279, reprint 1995). Hodivala after examining all the three verses states, “From the third passage, it is clear that Jarutha must have been some demon who lived in waters.” (Hodivala, Zharathushtra and his contemporaries in the Rigveda, 1913, page 1.) However, Hodivala examines further to conclude that Zarathustra is mentioned in the Rig Veda as ‘Dasyu’ because he was frequently called as ‘Dakhyuma’ (equivalent to Rig Vedic Dasyu) and wherever, the word is used in plural form, i.e. Dasyus, it is addressed to his followers.
Let us examine the verses mentioned above to find what they mean. All the three verses laud the deed of Agni for killing ‘Jarutha’ in fire. There is no mention anywhere in Rig Veda that Jarutha denotes a demon or foe. Rather, it seems odd to find mention of Jarutha’s thrice to describing only event of his killing in the fire.
Some scholars have associated Jarutha of Rig Veda with Zarathushtra of Avesta. Indian scholar P. R. Deshmukh states, “…From the above Richa we learn that Jarutha was killed by Vashishthas by crossing water…..The word Jarutha means a priest…..Jarutha may be a short form of Zartustra.” (Indus civilisation, Rigveda, and Hindu culture, by P. R. Deshmukh, page 288-89, 1982)
Apart from above two references, Jackson has given detailed accounts of Zarathushtra’s death gathered from various sources, some are listed briefly as below:
1. Early Greek tradition says that Zoroaster was perished by lightning or a flame from heaven. Latin tradition states that an angry star emitted a stream of fire in vengeance for his conjuring up the stars and burnt him to ashes.
2. Gregory of Tours (A.D. 538-593) records etymology of Zoroaster as ‘living star’ stating that the Persians worshipped him as a God because he was consumed by fire from heaven.
3. Chronicon Alexandrinum (A.D.629) states that while praying to the Orion, he was slain by a heavenly shaft and that his ashes were carefully kept by the Persians.
4. Suidas of Tenth century A.D. briefly records the prophet’s death by fire from heaven.
5. Orosius A.D. 5th Century) informs that Ninus conquered Zoroaster and killed him in the battle.
6. Iranian traditions inform that the prophet died at the age of 77 years and 40 days and ascribes the death it to a Turanian named BrAtrOkrEsh. The name of the murderer occurs several times in the Avestan scriptures.
7. Datistan – I Dinik, 72.8, states that among the most heinous sinners “one was Tur – e- Bratarvaksh, the Karap and heterodox wizard, by whom best of the man (i.e. Jharatusht) was put to death.” The similar account is given by Bundahishn naming the above cited assassin.
8. Dk. III, chap. 343 lists the best and worst of men, naming Yam as the best of kings, and Zardušt as the best of priests, and Tūr ī Brātrōkrēš, the karb “who made the body of Zardušt perish,” as the worst of heretics. (Karb stands for Old Avestan Karapan, despised priests of the enemy. The assassin in question in all probabilities was a priest-warrior.)
Apart from Greek and Latin, Pahlavi-Parsi tradition is unanimous that the Zoroaster perished at the hands of Tur-i- BrAtrOkrEsh. Shahname, too, confirms the account of assassination of the Prophet by Turanian raiders at the fire-temple. (See for detailed information “Zoroaster: The Prophet of Ancient Iran” by A. V. Williams Jackson, page 124-132, 1899)
(During the ritual service, Hyaona insurgents stabbed the 77-year-old Zarathushtra, slew his priests and burned the Avesta.” Thus states Snodgrass in Encyclopedia of the Literature of Empire. (By Mary Ellen Snodgrass, page 20) Hyaona was the tribe which was led by Zarathushtra’s staunch enemy Arjaspa.
What we learn from above is Zarathustra’s death was not natural. Most of the accounts agree that he was killed in the fire or he along with his priests was killed and later burnt in a fire temple, while he was praying. The assassin was a Turanian named BrAtrOkrEsh, may be a General, leading Turanian raiding party to Balkh. The news of the killing of the prophet must have spread across the regions adding imaginary details to it for want of accurate details of the incident, some traditions, such as Greek, attributed the death to the ‘fire’ from heaven. Let us not forget here that the Greeks knew Zarathushtra as magician and astrologer or even a sorcerer.
However, Zoroastrians did not commemorate martyrdom of their prophet because in all probability, the old tradition was more interested in his life and teachings than his physical death.
Now, if we reread the Rig Vedic verses, we easily can correlate them with the other legends associated with the Zarathushtra’s death in fire, in all probability, an outcome of a war with Turanians to whom we have identified with Turvasas of Rig Veda, who were sometimes friendly with Rig Vedic tribe. It just cannot be a coincidence that all accounts in relation with Zarathushtra’s death approximately match with the Rig Vedic verses.
Turanians, too, were friendly with Zarathushtra in the beginning which is evidenced by Zarathushtra himself in the Gathas as under:
“Since through righteousness, the powerful children and grandchildren of the Turanian Fryana have risen to promote their world through serenity with zeal, Wise God has united them with good mind, in order to teach them what concerns their help.” (Gathas: 11-12)
It just shows that the inter-tribal and inter-faith relationship bonds were not permanent. Turvasas had fought against Sudasa in Battle of Ten Kings though many a times, they have shown intimate friendly relations.
However, we cannot of course, attribute the death to Vasishtha, as no Rig Vedic verse suggests that the assassination of Zarathushtra was committed by Vasishtha. In the verses composed by him, he attributes the death to ‘Agni’, fire. In fact, in the verse RV 7.9.6, he seems to be rejoicing the death of enemy Jarutha. Looking at the rivalry between Rig Vedic and Avestan people, becoming Vasishtha overjoyous and reflecting it in the verses composed by him (or his family members) can be understood. Vasishtha seems to have recorded the incident in the peculiar Vedic style. The verse 10.80.3 seems to be of far later times which have added confusing element of Atri in it.
As Hodivala’s inference that Zarathushtra is mentioned in Rig Veda as Dasyu is thus undoubtedly correct as during Zarathustra’s life time, for sake of the rivalry, Vedic seers must have called him not by his personal name but contemptuous form of his epithet, Dasyu (Dakhyuma). There are many other proofs, too, to confirm beyond doubt that Zarathushtra was contemporaneous to the Rig Vedic seers which we will see in the present chapter. To sum up conclusively, in all, Jarutha of Rig Veda can be none other than Zarathushtra of Avesta.
(From my forthcoming book)
(From my forthcoming book)