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Nanaya in Transoxania (1)

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01 Religious and ideological doctrines and imagery

01 Religious and ideological doctrines and imagery

Sasanid Empire
Iconographic tradition
Iranian culture
Sogdian culture

In Parthian ostraca from Nisa are recorded theophoric personal names such as Nanēfarnak. The presence of the cult of Nanai in Parthian Margiana (Turkmenistan) is also attested by the mention of nanēstāwakān “(the temple of) worship of Nanai” (Bader 1996: 271-272). Nanai was a major goddess of Sogdiana in pre-islamic times, and her cult was combined with those of local Iranian goddesses, especially Ārmaiti. Nanâ occurs in Sogdian onomastics, for example in the personal names nny m’nch “resembling Nana”; nny šyrh “having Nana as her friend”; nny d’yh “slave-girl of Nana” (Weber 1972: 198-199). Nanai is represented in the mural pictorial scene of the sanctuary dedicated to a native funerary cult in the town of Piandjikent (6th century CE). A Sogdian legend on the contemporary coins reads pncy nndb’mpnh “Nanai, the Lady (of) Piandjikent”. Nanai is manifested in the religious imagery of Transoxiana, the Mesopotamian features occur together with Indian motifs in the iconographical syncretism: the four-armed goddess is seated on a lion throne, or astride a lion. The Nanâ images in Tranoxiana are similar to those of the goddess Saka Śśandrāmata in the Buddhist art of Khotan and Tumšuk in Chinese Turkestan.


Azarpay 1976, 539Azarpay, G. “Nanâ, the Sumero-Akkadian Goddess of Transoxiana.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 96 (1976) 536-542. [JSTOR (requires subscription)]
Bader 1996, 271-272Bader, A. “Parthian Ostraca from Nisa. Some Historical Data.” In: La Persia e l'Asia Centrale da Alessandro al X secolo. Atti dei convegni lincei 127. Rome: Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei 1996, 252-276.
Weber 1972, 198-199Weber, D. “Zur sogdischen Personennamengebung.” Indogermanische Forschungen 77 (1972) 190-208.

Andrea Piras

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