Z for Zoroastrianism

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“Zoroastrianism is the oldest of the revealed world-religions, and it has probably had more influence on mankind, directly and indirectly, than any other single faith.” Mary Boyce.

The religion was founded by Zarathushtra in Persia .It may have been the world’s first monotheistic faith. It was once the religion of the Persian empire, but has since been reduced in numbers to fewer than 200,000 Zoroastrians today. With the exception of religious conservatives, most religious historians believe that the Jewish, Christian and Muslim beliefs concerning God and Satan, the soul, heaven and hell, the virgin birth of the savior,resurrection, the final judgment, etc. were all derived from Zoroastrianism.

Zoroaster lived in Persia, modern day Iran. Legends say that his birth was predicted and that attempts were made by the forces of evil to kill him as a child,a common theme found in many religions of the world. He preached a monotheism in a land which followed an aboriginal polytheistic religion. He was attacked for his teaching, but finally won the support of the king. Zoroastrianism became the state religion of various Persian empires, until the 7th Century CE.

When Muslim Arabs invaded Persia in 650 CE, a small number of Zoroastrians fled to India. Today, the group in India is the largest concentration of Zoroastrians in the world. Here, they are called Parsis. Those who remained behind in Iran have survived centuries of persecution, systematic slaughter, forced conversion, heavy taxes, etc. They now number only about 18,000 and reside chiefly in Yazd, Kernan and Tehran.

Zoroastrian places of worship are called Fire Temples. In the temples, an eternal flame is kept burning with sandalwood and frankincense.

Zoroastrians do not convert and consequently Zoroastrians are born to the faith. If a Parsi woman marries outside the religion, her children cannot be Zoroastrians, but if a man marries outside, his children can become Zoroastrians, although his wife cannot.

There are three basic moral principles that guide the life of a Zoroastrian:

  • Humata, “Good Thoughts,” the intention or moral resolution to abide by Asha, the right order of things.
  • Hukhata, “Good Words,” the communication of that intention.
  • Havarashta, “Good Deeds,” the realization in action of that intention.

Zoroastrianism places great emphasis on purity and not impair any of the elements of Zoroastrians’ creation. Hence traditionally, neither burial nor cremation were practiced by Zoroastrians. Dead bodies were taken to a Tower of Silence and laid out under the sun, where vultures devoured them.The doctrinal rationale for exposure is to avoid contact with earth or fire, both of which are considered sacred.This ritual is still followed and dedicated tower houses are constructed away from the cities.

According to the Zoroastrian tradition, after the death of the body, the soul remains in this world for three days and nights, in the care of angels. During this period, prayers are said and rituals performed to assure a safe passage of the soul into the spiritual kingdom. On the dawn of the fourth day, the spirit is believed to have crossed over to the other world.

Parsis’ are the actual minority of India as their population is decreasing by fast. They are concentrated mostly around Mumbai and a small percentage is present still in Gujarat where they initially landed.This is due to people getting married late, not wanting to have kids and also due to their ritual of marrying within their own community. Something needs to be done to protect them not because they are a religion but because they are peace loving , hardworking , industrious and not-crazy-about propagating their religion people.

Raja Ravi Verma: The Parsee Lady

Raja Ravi Verma:
The Parsee Lady

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