Khosro E. Mehrfar
Anquetil du Perron, a French intellectual writer, interpreter, traveler and
linguistics scholar is generally credited with pioneering works on the first
translation of the Avesta into a European language. Du Perron was born on December, 7th 1731 in Paris
and due to his personal initiative, diligence, dedication and hard work
generated great interest in the European intellectual circles in the study of
Eastern languages and philosophy.
Du Perron studied Hebrew at
the university of Paris. This was
his first contact with an Eastern language.
He then turned his attention to learning about Persia and its colloquial
languages. His starting point for
this endeavor was the Royal Library of Paris.
His first contact with the religion of Zarathushtra was through a few
pages of a very old manuscript that had been published at
Oxford university under the title of “The Wisdom of the Parsees”
The reading of this old document stimulated his interest in digging
deeper with the aim of uncovering the philosophical foundation of ancient
year was 1754, and Du Perron was only 23 years old, when his mind was set on
traveling to India, where he hoped to make contact with the descendant of the
ancient Persians known as Parsees who had taken refuge on the Indian soil
pursue his dream of making contact with the descendants of ancient Iranians in
India, Du Perron enlisted on a French ship as a way of paying for his passage to
India at the time naval battles raged between European powers on the high seas
of the Indian Ocean. Anquetil
became very sick en-route to India, and was almost thrown overboard, as he was
thought to have expired. However,
he survived the ordeal and in overcoming incredible odds, and life threatening
sickness, Du Perron finally reached the shores of India.
It was to be that he would regain his health and stamina to locate the
Parsees. He got close and became
very friendly with the Persians of India and studied with various scholars of
the community. However, the one
teacher who had the greatest intellectual influence on him was Dastur Darab, a
well-known Zarathushtrian scholar of his time who became Du Perron’s teacher
1771, about seventeen years later after that faithful day in Paris, where he saw
the Oxford manuscript for the first time, he published the very first European
translation of the Avesta and named it "Le Zend-Avesta, ouvrage de
Zoroastre." Until then, very
little was known about the Zarathushtra and his religion in Europe.
The discovery of the ancient writings and the personal ambitions of Du
Peron to objectively and truthfully gather and publish information about
Zarathushtra’s philosophy and doctrine shed a new light on the achievements of
Zarathsuhtra’s as the first philosopher and prophet whom probably has had the
most impact on human belief system than any other figure in history according to
professor Mary Boyce.
were several attempts by British missionaries and associates such a John
Williams to discredit Du Perron’s works.
However, such attempts were not successful, mostly thanks to Du
Perron’s conduct of his research being fact finding
and scholarly focused. The
science of philology had not been started at the time.
Years later, through the continuation of works by scholars such as Dane
Rask, Burnouf and others based on the philological methodology, the works of Du
Perron’s was fully approved, appreciated and closeness of Avestan language
with that of Sanskrit was discovered.
Perron also wrote numerous papers and scholarly works on various Eastern and
oriental languages, General Laws and Orders,
Moral Trades and International Relationships, and systems of governments,
Included amongst his works
Historical and Geographical Research on India (1786),
The Dignity of Commerce
Commercial State (1789).
India in Rapport with Europe (1798),
Upanishada (1804; "Secrets Never To Be Revealed").
Du Perron passed away on
January 17th 1805 after a long and fruitful life of self dedication
to the scientific works and scholarly research. The Zoroastrian Educational Institute, Vohuman.org takes
pride in dedicating the Fall 2000 issue of the Vohuman.org web journal to the
memory of Du Perron for his great personal initiatives and scholarly endeavors
aimed at uncovering the Vision of
May his legacy inspire others
to seek the wisdom of the Supreme Intellect, Ahura Mazda.