WHY DID ZOROASTRIANISM BECOME ONE OF THE SMALLEST RELIGIONS?
One among the oldest religions, Zoroastrianism is from the ancient pre-Islamic isolated areas of Iraq which survived! The descendants of Zoroastrian Iranians migrated to India and were then famous as Parsis/ Parsees. Many believe Zoroastrianism is the world’s 1st Monotheistic faith and is approximately 5 thousand years old.
Zoroastrianism influenced many Western religions like Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Over time there were many alterations in many beliefs of the religions and many people have come up with different interpretations over 3 thousand years.
Today Zoroastrians are spread out all over the world. Let me give a glimpse of one of the prime religions of the world.
What is the root of Zoroastrianism?
The ancient religion of Zoroastrianism is a multi-featured faith that implies Dualism. In simple words, Zoroastrianism believes in opposite fundamental concepts e.g. Good and Evil, Ying and Yang, etc.
Zoroastrianism also has a feature of Monotheistic, in which there is the existence of only one god. So, Zoroastrianism has the best of both worlds.
Who established Zoroastrianism?
Around the 5th century, the Persian prophet Zoroaster (In Greek), also known as Zarathustra/ Zartosht (In Gujarati) founded Zoroastrianism as per the mention in Avesta(Religious texts). The Zoroastrian ancient scriptures mention Zoroaster. He lived in a tribal area and followed the ancient religion of many gods (Polytheism), very similar to Hinduism.
According to legends, at the age of 30 Zoroaster had a divine vision of the almighty god while being a participant in a purification ritual. He also learned the secret about how the universe works.
After that Zoroaster started teaching the followers to worship a single god, Ahura Mazda. Real Zoroastrians call their religion ‘Mazdayasna’, which means ‘Worshipper of Mazda’.
Who is the god in Zoroastrianism?
Zoroastrians worship one uncreated and eternal god Ahura Mazda. Ahura Mazda is the Lord of wisdom (Wise God) who created the universe and sustains it. This supreme god of Zoroastrians teaches and encourages them to follow 3 main principles: Good thoughts, Good words & Good deeds.
He is the good of all good things and gives his devotees power to act on the main 3 principles. Ahura Mazda is in a constant fight with Angra Mainyu for centuries, who is the spirit of all bad things.
It’s believed, for every good deed Ahura Mazda wins, for every bad deed Angra Mainyu wins and this battle continues even today! In Zoroastrianism, it’s the battle between the light & dark, the truth & lie in everything.
Symbol of the god, Ahura Mazda:
The Faravahar with a human face represents good thoughts, good words and good deeds. The circle in the middle of the Faravahar’s trunk symbolizes eternity, with no beginning or end. The hand pointing upwards means that we have to work hard to prosper. The ring on the other hand denotes loyalty and faithfulness.
According to the ancient scriptures, the purpose of human life is to choose to follow the principles of Ahura Mazda and reject the temptations, traps of Angra Mainyu.
Ahura Mazda created the first couple in paradise and they had lived in peace and harmony with all things the god had created for them. This was until they listened to the whisperings of Angra Mainyu, who convinced them that he was their creator. The devil convinced them that Ahura Mazda was their enemy and also a deceiver.
Ahura Mazda threw them out of paradise for doubting their true lord and listening to lies of the devil. They were made to live in a world of difficulty and struggle. However, their descendants could still live meaningful and fulfilling lives only if they remain loyal to Ahura Mazda.
What are the other beliefs in Zoroastrianism?
- Ahura Mazda is the leader of or you can say 6 holy immortals called ‘Amesha Spentas’ are his supporters.
- Angra Mainyu entered the world that Ahura Mazda created to confuse people.
- Zoroastrians believe in heaven and hell. The god sends them to hell or heaven after judging their good and bad deeds on the bridge of judgments from where all the spirit of the dead passes.
- In Zoroastrianism, there is even a medium place for the people who are neither good nor bad.
- Zoroastrianism talks about ‘Frashokereti’, which is known as ‘Apocalypse or the last judgment’.
- Cypress of Kashmar, a tree is considered sacred in Zoroastrianism because Zoroaster carried a branch of it from the paradise and planted it.
What’s the History of Zoroastrianism?
Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Achaemenid Persian Empire was a devout follower of Zoroastrianism. Hence, during the era of the world’s ancient largest empire – The mighty Persian Empire, it groomed. 3 major dynasties were Zoroastrians and Zoroastrianism also helped in shaping the grand empire.
Cyrus was a kind ruler who allowed his non-Iranian people to follow their own religion. This was because he followed the Zoroastrian law of Asha (Truth & righteousness) and didn’t impose his religion on the newly conquered territories.
When Cyrus conquered Babylon, he freed Babylonian Jews. Many of them chose to return to their home, Jerusalem. Their descendants helped them to create the Hebrew Bible. Due to Cyrus’ many kind and generous gestures, they picked a lot of Zoroastrian teachings and introduced the community.
The Parthian and Sassanian, 2 dominant Persian dynasties followed Zoroastrianism for thousands of years. This was until the Mughals from Arab conquered Persia in the 7th century. During all these Zoroastrians spread out starting from Asia, the Middle East and Europe.
The Mughals led the fall of the Persian Empire, followed by the decline of Zoroastrianism. They charged Zoroastrians heavy taxes to practice their religion. Hence, many Zoroastrians forcefully converted to Islam.
Who are Parsis?
Parsis are the followers of Zoroastrianism in India. After the entry of the Mughals, a large number of Zoroastrian escaped and sailed in the Arabian Sea. Between the 8th and 10th centuries, they entered India through the land of Gujarat state.
According to history, an Indian ruler sent a cup full of milk to convey that India was filled to the brim. The Zoroastrian king inserted either sugar and sent the cup back to suggest that not only there was room for his people, but they would also enrich Indian society if allowed.
Today India has the most numbers of Paris that follow Zoroastrianism in the world.
What can you find in the Zoroastrian temple?
Fire is an important ailment of Zoroastrianism and they consider it a sacred symbol. In Zoroastrianism, it represents warmth, truth, light and has purifying powers. However, they don’t worship the fire.
Inside the Zoroastrian temple, the priests perform all the rituals in front of the fire. The fire shows the presence of Ahura Mazda. Thus, it’s called ‘Fire Temple’.
Every New Year on 17th August, a burning fire is kept surrounded by wheat and water in the temple. Here, fire signifies purification and wheat signifies wealth and the Fire temples are usually castle-like structures. However, Zoroastrians worship at home and go to the Fire temple only 7 days a year or on festival days.
The priests also use water for purification rituals inside the temple. There are around 167 Fire temples in the world, most of them in India. The oldest Fire temple is in Iran from the 3rd or 4th centuries, on Mount Khajeh, near Lake Hamun in Sistan.
What’s the procedure of death ceremony in Zoroastrianism?
In Zoroastrianism, the death ceremony is quite interesting. Zoroastrian give their dead ‘Sky Burial’, in which the corpse is exposed to the natural elements and local vultures. The corpse is kept until those elements pick up the bones and make it clean and bleach it. Burying or cremating the dead is seen as polluting nature in Zoroastrianism. ‘Dakhma’ is the name of this process.
For centuries, the Parsis in Mumbai have relied on vultures, until the entire population of vultures in the city vanished. In Iran since the 1900s, Dakma is illegal. That led many Zoroastrians to bury their dead beneath concrete slabs today. Some of the Paris in India practice the Sky burial.
What’s the recent status of Zoroastrianism?
Today there are 200 thousand followers of Zoroastrianism, most of them around 60 thousand reside in India. The 2nd largest population of Zoroastrians is in Iran with around 25 thousand. The followers of Zoroastrianism follow the main principles and keep helping society.
Zoroastrianism followers are across the globe and many celebrities are from the religion. Zoroastrianism was born in Iran but the followers brought it up all over the country. Zoroastrianism helped many countries and societies to develop.
Many religions adopted some beliefs of Zoroastrianism which are not fully aware of. Zoroastrianism was once one of the most powerful religions in the world and unfortunately today it’s one of the smallest.
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