ČĒČAST (Av. Čaēčasta-), a mythical lake in eastern Iran, later identified in the Pahlavi and Persian sources with Lake Urmia (or Kabūdān “dark blue lake”) in Azerbaijan (Bundahišn, TD2, p. 92.2, tr. Anklesaria, pp. 114-15; Nozhat al-qolūb, ed. Le Strange, pp. 80, 85, 241; Tārīḵ-e gozīda, ed. A.-H. Navāʾī, Tehran, 1339 Š./1960, p. 90). In the Avesta the lake has the following epithets: “deep,” “created by Mazda,” and “with wide waters” (the last epithet, Av. uruuāpa-/uruiiāpa-, has been variously interpreted as “having a great expanse of water”: AirWb., s.v.; “with surging waters”: H. W. Bailey, “Irano-Indica [I],” BSOAS 12, 1948, p. 331; “with salty waters”: J. Darmesteter, Etudes iraniennes II, Paris, 1883, pp. 179-80, cf. Bailey, loc. cit.; and “with roaring waters”: Bailey, loc. cit., J. Kellens, Les noms-racines de l’Avesta, Wiesbaden, 1974, p. 373 n. 2). In the Pahlavi sources the lake is described as “having warm water” (garm-āb, garmō[g]-āb[ag] from unattested Av. *garəmō.āpa-: Bundahišn; Zād-spram 3.24; and Zand ī Wahman yašt, ed. B. T. Anklesaria, Zand-î Vohûman Yasnand Two Pahlavi Fragments, Bombay, 1957, 6.10), “free from animals, in which no animals live” (ǰud-dad from Av. *vidaiti[ka]-: Bundahišn, Zādspram), “free from harm” (ǰud-beš, cf. Av. vi.ṱbaēšah-), and “saline” (sūr, corrupted into zūr in Zādspram; cf. daryā-ye šūr in Nozhat al-qolūb, p. 241). Čēčast was said to be four farsaḵs wide and four long (Pahlavi Nyāyišn 5.5, ed. M. N. Dhalla, New York, 1908, pp. 145f.), but according to Nozhat al-qolūb (loc. cit.), its circumference was forty-four farsaḵs. Its source was supposed to be “connected with the mythical ocean Frāxkard” (Bundahišn, TD2 pp. 64.14, 92.3, tr. Anklesaria, pp. 74-75, 114-15).

In the Avestan and Pahlavi sources few legends are linked with Čēčast, Prince Haosrauuah (Kay Ḵosrow) was said to have offered a sacrifice to Arəduuī Sūrā Anāhitā beside this lake, asking as a boon that he might overcome Fraŋrasiian (Afrāsīāb). The goddess granted him his wish (Yt. 5.49-51). He was also said to have asked this boon from Druuāspā (Yt. 9.21-23). The latter episode may be the same one that was related in detail by Ferdowsī (Šāh-nāma, Moscow, V, p. 354ff.) and Ṭabarī (I, p. 616), in which Afrāsīāb, having been defeated by the Iranian army, sought refuge at Lake Čēčast (corrupted into ḵnjst in Šāh-nāma, p. 369 v. 2263, p. 370 v. 2278, and into ḵāsef for *Jājast, Arabicized form of Čēčast, in Ṭabarī, loc. cit.). He was finally found, captured, and brought before Kay Ḵosrow, who slew him. Kay Ḵosrow is also said to have destroyed the shrine of an idol at Lake Čēčast (Mēnōg ī xrad, ed. Anklesaria, 2.95, 27.61; Dēnkard, Madan, pp. 599.2, 818.8; Pahlavi Rivayat, p. 148.3) and to have established the fire temple Ādur Gušnasp on the site (Bundahišn, TD2 p. 125.5f., tr. Anklesaria, pp. 160-61); this shrine may actually have been destroyed by a powerful iconoclast, possibly in the late Parthian period (See ĀDUR GUŠNASP).

During Sasanian times Čēčast enjoyed a great reputation for sanctity, particularly because Ādur Gušnasp, in that period one of the three most important fires, stood on its shore (Bundahišn, loc. cit.; Zādspram 3.24; Zand ī Wahman yašt 6.10); the site was called Čēst, Ar. Šīz, the site of modern Taḵt-e Solaymān. Furthermore, the homeland of Zarathustra was supposed to be located in the vicinity of Čēst (Zādspram 10.15).



Given in the text. See also Markwart, Ērānšahr, p. 108; idem, Provincial Capitals, pp. 108-10; A. W. V. Jackson, Zoroaster, New York 1919, pp. 193-205.

(Aḥmad Tafażżolī)

Originally Published: December 15, 1990

Last Updated: December 15, 1990

This article is available in print.
Vol. V, Fasc. 1, pp. 107-108