World Religions


Zoroastrianism also known as Mazdaism by some followers and Zarathustrianism by others, is a monotheistic religion. Considered by many to be the first monotheistic faith, it is thought to have originated between the 18th and the 11th centuries BCE in the eastern part of present-day Iran or in Bactria, and is still practiced today.
The origin of the religion is ascribed to the prophet Zarathushtra, who is commonly known in the Western world as Zoroaster, the Greek version of his name. The etymology of his name is disputed and several different explanations exist. The modern Persian form of the prophet's name is Zærtosht . Zoroaster is thought to have composed the Gathas, poems which were assiduously preserved by his followers through centuries of oral transmission. The language of those hymns, Gathic Avestan, is though date to c. 1000 BCE (roughly contemporary to the Brahmana period of Vedic Sanskrit). Zoroaster's reforms initially established the supremecy of the Creator Ahura Mazda. Later, many of the divinities of ancient proto-Indo-Iranian polytheism were reintroduced to Mazdaism, but in a complex hierarchy, and with significantly reduced importance, under the supremecy of the Creator.

Zoroastrianism History

Zoroastrianism was the favored religion of the two great dynasties of ancient Persia, the Achaemenids and Sassanids. However, because we have few contemporary Persian sources, it is difficult to describe ancient Zoroastrianism in detail.
Herodotus's description of Iranian religion includes recognizably Zoroastrian features, including exposure of the dead and divination. The Achaemenid emperors or shahs acknowledge their devotion to Ahura Mazda in inscriptions; however, they maintained local religions in Babylon and Egypt, and helped the Jews to return to Canaan, showing remarkable tolerance. According to later traditions, many of the Zoroastrian sacred texts were lost when Alexander the Great destroyed Persepolis and overthrew the Achaemenids in the 330s BCE. The status of Zoroastrianism under the Seleucids and Parthians is unclear; however, it is widely believed that the Three Wise Men (Magoi in early Greek New Testament manuscripts), said to have come from the Parthian empire bearing gifts for Jesus of Nazareth, were Zoroastrian Magi. It was also during the Parthian period that Mithraism, a Zoroastrian-derived faith particularly focused on the Aryan god of contracts, Mitra, began to become popular within the Roman Empire. The Mithras cult reached the peak of its popularity in the second and third centuries CE, and was particularly popular in the Roman army.
When the Sassanid dynasty came into power in Persia in 228 CE, they aggressively promoted their Zoroastrian religion and in some cases persecuted Christians and Manichaeans. When the Sassanids captured territory from the Romans, they often built fire temples there to promote their religion. The Sassanids were suspicious of Christians not least because of their perceived ties to the Christian Roman Empire; thus, those Persian Christians loyal to the Patriarchate of Babylon, which had broken with Roman Christianity when the latter condemned Nestorianism, were tolerated and even sometimes favored by the Sassanids. Nestorians lived in large numbers in Mesopotamia and Khuzestan during this period.
Also during the Sassanid era, the belief that Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu were the two sons of the time-god Zurvan became popular.
A form of Zoroastrianism was apparently also the chief religion of pre-Christian Armenia, or at least was prominent there. During periods of Sassanid suzerainty over Armenia, the Persians made attempts to promote the religion there as well.
Well before the 6th century, Zoroastrianism had spread to northern China via the Silk Road, gaining official status in a number of Chinese states. Remains of Zoroastrian temples have been found in Kaifeng and Zhenjiang, and according to some scholars, remained as late as the 1130s, but by the 13th century the religion had faded from prominence in China. However, many scholars assert the influence of Zoroastrianism (as well as later Manicheism, which drew from Zoroastrianism) on elements of Buddhism, especially in terms of light symbolism.
In the 7th century, the Sassanid dynasty was conquered by Muslim Arabs. The Zoroastrian subjects were to pay a special tax, the jizya. Although some Arab commanders destroyed Zoroastrian shrines and prohibited Zoroastrian worship, once Zoroastrians were included as People of the Book, Zoroastrians were allowed to practice their religion freely. Mass conversions to Islam were neither desired nor allowed, in accordance with Islamic law. There was a slow but steady movement of the population of Persia toward Islam. The nobility and city-dwellers were the first to convert. Islam spread more slowly among the peasantry and the dihqans, or landed gentry.
Many Zoroastrians fled Muslim conquests and went to India in large numbers, where they were offered refuge by Jadav Rana, a Hindu king of Sanjan (the modern-day state of Gujarat) on condition that they abstain from missionary activities and marry only in their community. This community came to be known as Parsis, or Parsees. It is not known exactly where these refugees originated from in ancient Persia, although popular lore attributes them to the Persian province of Pars—supposedly the origin of their name. Although these strictures are centuries old, Parsis of the 21st century still do not accept converts and are endogamous (though see below for further discussion). The Parsi Zoroastrians of India speak a dialect of Gujarati as well as English.

Back to top
  Facts about Zoroastrianism
©, 2003-2005. All Rights Reserved.
Contact for comments and suggestions.
Sania Mirza Tennis Bollywood actors and actresses All about Cartoons & Comics Buy & Sell Stockphotographs from around the World fifa world cup 2006

India's Cricket Matches - Tests and One Day Internationals - News, Scores, Photos