Anahita /ɑːnɑːhtɑː/ is the Old Persian form of the name of an Iranian goddess and appears in complete and earlier form as Aredvi Sura Anahita (Arədvī Sūrā Anāhitā), the Avestan name of an Indo-Iranian cosmological figure venerated as the divinity of “the Waters” (Aban) and hence associated with fertility, healing and wisdom. Aredvi Sura Anahita is Ardwisur Anahid or Nahid in Middle and Modern Persian, and Anahit in Armenian.[1] An iconic shrine cult of Aredvi Sura Anahita was – together with other shrine cults – “introduced apparently in the 4th century BCE and lasted until it was suppressed in the wake of an iconoclastic movement under the Sassanids.”[2]

The Greek and Roman historians of classical antiquity refer to her either as Anaïtis or identified her with one of the divinities from their own pantheons. 270 Anahita, a silicaceous S-type asteroid, is named after her. Based on the development of her cult, she was described as a syncretistic goddess, which was composed of two independent elements. The first is a manifestation of the Indo-Iranian idea of the Heavenly River who provides the waters to the rivers and streams flowing in the earth while the second is that of a goddess with an uncertain origin, though maintaining her own unique characteristics, became associated with the cult of the ancient Mesopotamian goddess Inanna-Ishtar.[3] According to a theory, this is attributed partly to a desire to make Anahita part of Zoroastrianism after diffusing from the extreme northwest to the rest of Persia.[3]

According to H. Lommel, the proper name of the divinity in Indo-Iranian times was Sarasvatī, which also means “she who possesses waters”.[4] In Sanskrit, the name आर्द्रावी शूरा अनाहिता means “of the waters, mighty, and immaculate”. Like the Indian Sarasvatī, Anāhitā nurtures crops and herds; and she is hailed both as a divinity and as the mythical river which she personifies, “as great in bigness as all these waters which flow forth upon the earth” (Yasht 5.3).[5]