History of Zoroastrianism - Religion in India - Seeker's Thoughts

Recent Posts

Seeker's Thoughts

A blog for the curious and the creative.

History of Zoroastrianism - Religion in India

History of Zoroastrianism  Religion in India






 History of Zoroastrianism - Religion in India


Zoroastrianism, an ancient pre-Islamic religion that survives today in certain areas of Iran as well as in India where descendants of Persian immigrants known as Parsis still practice it with great dedication, is both monotheistic and dualistic in its outlook.


Basic to this religion is that Ahura Mazda and Ahriman, an evil spirit, are constantly at war and that famine, disease and killings aren't caused by God but are part of this conflict.





Zoroastrianism is one of the world's oldest monotheistic religions still in practice today, predating Christianity and Islam by several centuries. Founded by Zoroaster (also known as Zarathustra), its prophet Zoroaster preached a message about good and evil that has since influenced other faiths. Zoroastrian temples house sacred fires intended to burn eternally while this faith also promotes vegetarian diets.


Zoroaster may have been born sometime around 6350 B.C, though historians only know for certain. Scholars disagree as to where exactly his origins and place of birth may have been; ideas range from eastern Iran, Azerbaijan or Bactria (in present-day Afghanistan) all the way up to Chorasmia or Sogdia in modern-day Tajikistan as potential locations. He may have come from an upper class family with good education; possibly becoming priest due to knowledge of Pahlavi language which allowed him to write the Avesta text.


He was likely a religious reformer who attempted to make religion more inclusive for women and minorities, particularly during his time. It is said he discouraged animal sacrifice by the Karpan priests at that time. Additionally, Gathas and Yashts written by him contain hymns written in Pahlavi language which indicate poetry being part of his legacy.


Zoroastrianism enjoyed its greatest heyday before Arab conquest of Persia in the 7th century; yet its followers persisted despite this invasion. Relegated to religious minority status under Islamic rule, the faith eventually made a comeback in India where Parsis (known as Persians in India) thrived again; with significant communities present worldwide - North America, Europe and Australia included. Professor Choksy is hopeful for Zoroastrianism's future although cautioning that some cultural traditions may shift as adapts to changing times/places





Zoroastrianism is a monotheistic religion which places immense faith in Ahura Mazda, the Wise Lord. He serves as both creator and sustainer, providing direction for life's evolution according to divine law embodied by Asha. Zoroastrian prayer states "Righteousness is greater happiness than all pleasures" (Ashem Vohu).


Fire is the cornerstone of this faith, representing its pure soul and providing light for humanity. Fire plays an integral part of religious ceremonies and must remain burning at all times; similarly, Ahura Mazda worshippers revere sun and stars as symbols of his glorious creations.


Religion centers on a profound tension between good and evil, symbolized by Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu as two opposing forces that play an essential role in human life. This struggle between goodness and evil has long been at play within humanity's experience - either striving toward virtue or falling prey to evil forces. Humanity constantly engages this battle either striving toward goodness or succumbing to its lure; those striving toward virtue become "men of wisdom", while wicked people may descend further down towards hell.


Zoroastrians believe in an ongoing spiritual battle for soul purification that takes place both materially and morally, in both relationships and moral life. Their goal is to rid themselves of any impurity - such as harmful thoughts, words and deeds - including any harmful thoughts, words or deeds they encounter along the way. Furthermore, Zoroastrians follow an intricate caste system where priests and nobles serve as elite rulers over peasants and artisans.


Religion was at its height during the Achaemenid (550-330 BCE), Parthian (247 BCE-224 CE) and Sasanian (451-651) empires, when its central teachings and practices were further refined and solidified. At this time the Avesta was written up and published, while literature in Pahlavi flourished greatly. Additionally, Islam flourished as well as Christianity and Judaism began competing religions within their empires.



Religion and Society


As with many religions, Zoroastrianism is an oral tradition. Priests memorize and recite passages from its scriptures called Avesta that are written in an ancient East Iranian dialect called Farsi (also spelled Pahlavi). Additionally, teachings are shared via ritual ceremonies as well as upholding certain ethical and moral codes; ultimately this tradition forms the foundation of Zoroastrian philosophy, ethics, life philosophy, worship practices and worship services.


Zarathushtra's teachings were tailored to local cultures throughout Greater Iran and Central Asia throughout his lifetime, adapting his message of ethical monotheism. Although his followers persecuted him for it, his priests continued his preaching and teachings, eventually collecting their texts into what became known as Avesta.


At its height during the 10th century, Zoroastrianism's survival and eventual resurgence depended upon an unprecedented output of religious literature, as well as an establishment of a new scribal tradition which still endures today.


Zoroastrianism experienced significant transformation during the 19th century due to Western academics and missionaries' attempts to portray it as polytheistic and superstitious. Zoroastrian religious communities responded by selective assimilation - accepting aspects of Indian culture while keeping alive their unique traditions.


Today there are about 22,000 Parsis who practice Zoroaster religion primarily in India and Pakistan, most living in Mumbai and Gujarat cities. Zoroastrians traditionally took an active role in business, culture, education, philanthropy and philanthropic activities. Religion discourages burial and instead exposes bodies to natural elements by using structures known as Towers of Silence. Recently, Parsis have also ventured into high tech and pharmaceutical fields. Community has thrived during periods of declining membership caused by emigration and low birth rates through church initiation programs that provide children with symbolic baths and give sacred items such as hat, sudre and kusti; white shirt with cord; and sacred scarf.





Zoroastrianism has existed for more than 3,000 years, predating Christianity and Islam. Its followers, known as Parsis, maintain vibrant communities on four continents while acknowledging that their numbers have decreased significantly over time. On Friday in New York City they will gather for an unprecedented four-day congress aimed at assessing their future - its first such gathering since 2000!


Zoroastrianism recognizes two states of mind as heaven and hell: those resulting from wrong choices can either reach Ahura Mazda's celestial paradise for eternity; otherwise their soul will be cast away to House of Lies to hear Satan sing and devour its flesh as punishment.


Religion was dealt a serious blow during Arab Muslim conquest of Persia in the 7th century AD and their subsequent persectution of Zoroastrians by Arab Muslims. Fleding further persecution, many fled to India where they settled cities such as Mumbai and Gujarat where eventually their community flourished until today when it is one of the largest worldwide.


Zoroastrians are a tight-knit group who have many traditions in common, marrying only within their faith and keeping to traditional marriage practices. Additionally, many renowned businesspeople from Parsis such as Lovji Wadia of India's largest conglomerate and Freddie Mercury from Queen are part of this faith tradition. Yet even among the most successful among them spiritual values remain central.


Parsis are known to be generous and socially aware, contributing generously to schools, hospitals and temples in their local areas. Amid rising religious intolerance worldwide, Parsis have stood as an example of interfaith harmony and tolerance.


Afshin Marashi's account of how links between two tiny religious minority communities in late colonial Bombay and early Pahlavi Iran transformed cultural politics is captivating reading. His meticulous research highlights how recovering Iran's ancient heritage became mired in competing ideologies like liberalism and nationalism - an achievement worth commending! Additionally, Marashi deserves praise for preserving and honoring an otherwise obscure faith's rich history.


No comments:

Post a Comment