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- For the fictional character in the Marvel Universe series, see Ahura (comics); for the river, see Akhurian River.
Avestan ahura derives from Indo-Iranian *asura, also attested in an Indian context as RigVedic asura. As suggested by the similarity to the Old Norse æsir, Indo-Iranian *asura may have an even earlier Indo-European root.
There are also speculations by historians today that the term Ahura equated to the Persian variety of the Assyrian god Ashur as the Behistun Inscription referred to the Assyrians as Ahura which can also be noted by the similarities in the depictions between the two gods.
It is commonly supposed (Thieme 1960:308; Gershevitch 1964:23; Kuiper 1983:682) that Indo-Iranian *Asura was the proper name of a specific divinity, with whom other divinities were then identified. In this sense, ahura is not a noun but an adjective meaning "ahuric".
For not altogether obvious reasons, the Oxford English Dictionary lists asura, rather than ahura, as a Zoroastrian term.
In the Gathas
In the Gathas, the oldest hymns of Zoroastrianism and thought to have been composed by Zoroaster himself, the poet exhorts his followers to pay reverence to only the ahuras, and to rebuff the daevas and others who act "at Lie's command". This should not however be construed to reflect a view of a primordial opposition: Although the daevas would in later Zoroastrian tradition appear as malign creatures, in the Gathas the daevas are (collectively) gods that are to be rejected. (see daeva for details)
In the Gathas, the poet does not specify which of the divinities aside from Ahura Mazda he considers to be ahuras.
In the Younger Avesta
In the Fravaraneh, the Zoroastrian credo summarized in Yasna 12.1, the adherent declares: "I profess myself a Mazda worshiper, a follower of the teachings of Zoroaster, rejecting the daevas, ... " This effectively defines ahura by defining what ahura is not.
In the Younger Avesta, three divinities of the Zoroastrian pantheon are repeatedly identified as ahuric. These three are Ahura Mazda, Mithra and Burz, and hence known as the "Ahuric triad". Other divinities with whom the term "Ahuric" is associated include the six Amesha Spentas and (notable among the lesser yazatas) Aredvi Sura of The Waters and Ashi of Reward and Recompense.
- Boyce, Mary (1975), History of Zoroastrianism, Vol. I, Leiden: Brill
- Boyce, Mary (1983), "Ahura Mazda", Encyclopaedia Iranica, 1, New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul : 684–687
- Gershevitch, Ilya (1964), "Zoroaster's Own Contribution", Journal of Near Eastern Studies 23 (1): 12–38
- Kuiper, Bernardus Franciscus Jacobus (1983), "Ahura", Encyclopaedia Iranica, 1, New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul : 682–683
- Thieme, Paul (1960), "The 'Aryan' Gods of the Mitanni Treaties", Journal of the American Oriental Society 80 (4): 301–317
- Sweeney, Emmet John (2008), "5", The Series "Ages in Alignment", Vol 4., The Ramessides, Medes and Persians, 4, United States: Algora, p. 105