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Zoroastrianism – A review

Zoroastrianism which had its origin vitally from Iran and scarcely from India was believed to be a holy religion by the Mazdayasnians. To everybody’s amaze it is believed that a small section of Zoroastrians are still found in modern Iran in the archaic regions attributed to the life, death and practices of Zoroastrianism. Another section has made a migration from Iran to the India especially to the western coast. They are also popularly recognized as Parsis.

Unlike any other religion Zoroastrianism was subjected to the inevitable influence of the present ideas of Westernization. Let us discuss the origin, History and practice of Zoroastrianism before delving in details the impact of Westernization on the religion. History of Zoroastrianism Most of the Iranian satrapies were Zoroastrians, when Alexander conquered Iran. It was believed be one of the most primitive communities of the east, subjected to political matters influenced by the Persians controlled and directed by the Great Kings.

The control of the Great Kings through the Persians took an unique dimension in the Achaemenian times and underwent a dozens of changes in accordance to the changes in the environment, this was the period when Liturgical calendar was invented. They familiarised the new community by building temples and preaching of monistic values, cultures and practices of Zuruvanism. Zoroastrianism was practiced by most of the Iranian for the reasons such as similarity between both the religion, beliefs, customs and practices just as how paganism was widely spread among the European’ Christian community known for their extensive following of practices.

The north eastern part of Iran was highly adaptable the new comers, new settlers in Iran, conquerers and infiltrators. The existence of the religion in Iran in the Sesanian times was evident when there was a cross over and interaction of the beliefs and customs between Zoroastrianism and the other religion Hellenistic which was prevailing there. There was a widespread acceptance of Zoroastrianism among the population of Iran especially by the landowners.

It was further proved when in the due course of time, population from rural areas, suburbans and less exposed regions such as Selucid were prone to be under the control of Helenes and the landowners (Zoroastrians) in Iran, there was an internal conflict between the two groups as to who should make the most use of the laborers there. There was a subdivision among the satrapies to facilitate the administrative and the fiscal purposes, they were taxed in accordance to the kind of work and salary they were paid.

In between there was a population of people who were termed as “the scribes” who served directy under the landlords – the caste system and subsystems were decided by the scribes with the approval of the landlords. They were trained to learn Aramaic to read and write, further the scope of the language knowledge was widened which was inclusive of Iranian and Greek languages. More than being close to landowners they were ones close to priest which was disturbed when they shifted from one place to another during the foray of the country.

The domination of this group by priests ended when Alexander conquered Iran and a large group of population was fascinated to follow Zoroastrianism when they were liberated from the clutches of the priests ad when given a chance to follow the religion of choice and interest. Mary Boyce, Frantz Grenet, Roger Beck. (1991). A History of Zoroastrianism: Zoroastrianism under Macedonian and Roman rule. BRILL, ISBN 9004092714, 9789004092716 The origin of Zoroaster Zoroastrianism was a combination of gatherings from Gathas and the role of the Younger Avesta in Gathas and the involvement of few interested Zoroastrians.

Perhaps there was no vivid proofs to confirm the origin of Gathas and the existence of Young Avestas since books were not their main source of record and they did not record anything in a written format to leave a clue to the following generations. Two books of Avesta were available which was believed to be dedicated to the prophets Spend Nask and Cihrdad Nask which disappeared long back leaving no hint about the existence and the History of Gathas or Avesta or the prophets to whom the books were devoted.

To the relief of many Historians who were interested in garnering fact about this religion were blessed with some facts in the Pahlavi works – also recognised popularly as “Middle Persian texts”. Portions of this book which guided us with the third source of information were the “Dinkard” and “Selections of Zadspram”. The relationship with the prophets mentioned above and the Young Avesta was illustrated.

According to the book the Younger Avesta was fascinated with the religion that he himself assumed roles and performed in the plays to explain the spiritual bestowals and all that he believed to have been caused based on the beliefs about the religion. He earns the credit of creating the Zoroastrian doctrine. The birth and death of Zoroaster is believed to be confirmed by three facts that he belonged to the family of Spitaman, to have been born to Pourasapa and Dughdhova. Spitama is the ancestor in the direct line of his house.

These points prove the fact that the Zoroastrian is from the family of Avestan Zarathustra which means one who is capable enough to manage camels. The meaning of Zarathustra is derived from Greek word “zara. ustra”. However the name of his parents do not have any relevance to his birth as a Zorostrian. Perhaps there are additional facts mentioned in the last book of Pahlavi – an explanation on the names of the parents and a precise description of the family background. However the book is not reader friendly, because of its ambiguous nature there is only little clue as to how to read the book.

He is recognised as Zaoter among the Gathas, which means a complete priest qualified enough to conduct all the rituals and take care of the temple. He is also referred to as Younger Avesta as mentioned above, and the more recognized terminology of all those according to the book is “athravan”. The Gathas were assumed to have been given a rigorous and tight training which could have been the reason that triggered his thoughts so immense about the worship of God, the compilation of manthras and many other divine activities. Mary Boyce, B.

Boyce, Hartwig Altenmuller, Bertold Spuler. (1996). A History of Zoroastrianism. 3rd edition. BRILL. ISBN 9004104747, 9789004104747 The teachings of Zoroaster It was a tough task for any researcher to make out the ideology or the concept of Zoroastrianism for the reason that the teachings, beliefs and practices of Zoroastrianism have always been rational and for the reason that the religion was subdivided sometimes based on the status values and most of the times based on the discernment and the inference of the logics preached and the concepts attached to it.

According to the book “The Zoroastrian Faith – Tradition & Modern Research” by S. A. Nigosan the God who was worshiped by Zoroastrians was Ahura Mazuda also recognised as Mazda who was believed to have created himself under ideal conditions and divine like the other Gods. He is assumed to be ubiquitous, infinitely wise, an illustration beyond the expectation of human imagination, unseeable to the eyes of human, holy and high in all aspects.

It was recorded in the Avesta according to Ahura Mazda’s description of himself in the quoting “ My sixth name is Understanding; my seventh is Intelligent One; my eigth name is knowledge; my ninth is Endowed with Knowledge; my twentieth is Mazda (Wisdom). I am the Wise One; my name is the Wisest of the Wise” (Yasht 1. 7, 1. 8, 1. 15) accoridng to the book “The Zoroastrian Faith – Tradition & Modern Research” by S. A. Nigosan.

Their practices go by lighting lamps in the house after the successful completion of fifth and seventh months of gestation and immediately after the child birth to ensure a bright life for the new born leaving it to burn for a period of 10 to 40 days. Special practices to ensure the safety of the mother was perpetrated like allotting a special plate for he that only can be used by her and visitors are requested to carry out ablution before seeing her so that she remains germ free. The first child is considered a special child and his first birthday is given importance and due celebration.

Just like baptism in Christianity Naojote is perpetrated in Zoroastrianism to confirm that the child belongs to Zoroastrianism and he is liable to follow the code of customs of this religion. This process is limited to be followed in the age between seven to eleven and twelve to fifteen with special sentimental reasons attached to it. Marriage gains a religious importance when it comes to Zoroastrians, the marriage should be conducted after the moth hours which shows their sentiment of conducting it in the twilight.

Marriage is conducted under the spiritual chanting of spells(the manthra) by the priest supposed to have blessed by Ahura Mazda. Ritual practices of Zoroastrians were based on the place they dwelled in as Zoroastrians who did not choose India and Iran to be their abodes chose cremation whereas the others opted to follow burying in the graveyards. Ablution is strictly followed before every event which had religious importance and sentiments attached to it.

An hour before the disposal of the body, iron bier is placed next to the body by men in white and chant spells to bid adieu to the soul that leaves the body. Solomon Alexander Nigosian. (1993). The Zoroastrian faith: tradition and modern research. Edition: reprint. McGill-Queen’s Press – MQUP. ISBN 077351144X, 9780773511446 Conclusion The previous paragraphs discusses the origin, History and the beliefs of the Zoroastrians and like any other religion it has its own sentimental values which are attributed to the legendary efforts of the Zoroaster Ahura Mazuda.

The religion is a mixture of few practices from the other religions. Eg. The custom to adopt a child to the religion was similar to the Baptism in Christianity, the custom of cremation and cemetery are both followed in Hinduism and a noticeable point is it is older than Zoroastrianism. The practice of ablution is highly observed and strictly followed in Islam and the coffin custom is the forte of Christianity. Perhaps we have to understand the fact that the religion is a set of rules and a code of customs to be followed by the individual who belongs to that religion.

A religion is purely framed with the idea of inculcating good habits and deeds in the minds of the people. For example, the practice of ablution gets one rid of germs and it is followed by every individual before any holy event and especially before visiting a young mother who has just delivered a baby. Giving it a psychological analysis, one can understand the fact that the Ahura Mazuda, the assumed God of the religion has taken pains to make people believe that he is a supernatural power and it was clearly evident from his quoting and the spiritual lessons and practices he has left behind.

Perhaps this should have been with the idea to inculcate good deeds after having understood the human tendency that they wont accept the clean habits or good habits if they are not attached with any sentiments. As these rules such as ablution, coffin usage and marriage have become a part of the religious practice it is easy for them to follow in the fear of ignorance from the society if not followed.

They try to conform to the society, however in due course of time these practices fade away when the layman comes to realize the logic behind religion, nonetheless he intends to forget the religion and practices but does not tend to realize the goodness of the healthy habits and practices that would enable him reach heights. Reference: Mary Boyce, Frantz Grenet, Roger Beck. (1991). A History of Zoroastrianism: Zoroastrianism under Macedonian and Roman rule. BRILL, ISBN 9004092714, 9789004092716 Mary Boyce, B.

Boyce, Hartwig Altenmuller, Bertold Spuler. (1996). A History of Zoroastrianism. 3rd edition. BRILL. ISBN 9004104747, 9789004104747 Solomon Alexander Nigosian. (1993). The Zoroastrian faith: tradition and modern research. Edition: reprint. McGill-Queen’s Press – MQUP. ISBN 077351144X, 9780773511446 Mary Boyce. (2001). Zoroastrians: their religious beliefs and practices. 2nd Edition. Routledge. ISBN 0415239028, 9780415239028 Hafizullah Emadi. (2005). Culture and customs of Afghanistan. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0313330891, 9780313330896

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