Zoroastrian Forgery

The Desatir: or, Sacred writings of the ancient Persian prophets (Bombay, 1818).

Provenance: Thomas Phillips, 1844.

The Desatir is a sixteenth century forgery claiming to date from the Sasanian period, one of several works originating from an Indian milieu of mystic Zoroastrianism which attempts to show that a mystical form of Zoroastrianism preceded the 'historical' form. According to the preface, the then only known manuscript of this work was purchased in Isfahan "about forty-five years ago, from one Agha Muhammed Taher, a bookseller", by Molla Kavus, father of the publisher Mulla Firuz bin Kaus.

This, the first printed edition, claimed the support of Sir William Jones, Jonathan Duncan, late Governor of Bombay, and Sir John Malcolm. Publication gave some credibility and influence in Parsee circles to the spurious work, but subsequent research has shown that it has no connection with the authentic ancient literature of Zoroastrianism. The manuscript is thought to have been fabricated during the reign of the Mughal emperor Akbar whose search for an ecumenical religion encouraged religious invention of this kind. The text is written in an ostensibly secret coded language.It is unknown whether this was published in mis-guided belief, or whether it represents an early attempt to increase the commercial value of a dubious manuscript.

See further:

Encyclopedia Iranica Vol. III (1989) pp.185-7 and Vol. VII (1994) p.85.

A. E. G. Browne's History of Persian literature, vol. 1, p. 53, 56.