Zoroastrianism and Hinduism

Zoroastrianism and Hinduism

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

Zoroastrianism and Hinduism have close resemblances. For example Both the religions worship fire god, Both have religious languages are sound alike. Both Teachings agree that Ahura/Asura and Daeva/Deva both were Celestial Beings and later one of the group would then be casted out- Similar with God & Satan in Christianity isn't it?

For Hinduism, Deva remained Gods & Asura were the casted out group because of their greediness and wildness. On the Other Hand, Zoroastrianism Ahura was the God and the Daevas were casted out because bringing evil thoughts in Humans, Both respects the sacred plant juice [ Haoma (Zoroastrianism) & Soma (Hinduism)] and both Religions says it was drunk by the Celestial beings in both the religions.

The prayers in both the religions involve burning incense, chanting Mantra. The Parsi's also use coconuts and. grains of rice during their Navjyot and wedding ceremonies just like the Hindus. Even the concept of time where evil takes control over time in 4 cycle also seems to be similar to Hinduism.

Almost anything I read about Zoroastrianism is awfully similar to Hinduism. I know both of them are Aryan descendant, but can it also be that one religion is formed from another(like Buddhism from Hinduism) ?

Apart from the similarities are they any differences between the two that distinguish each other ? make them not to be related to each other ?

Not exactly an expert but I don't think the two religions can be more dis-similar.

Zoroastria is a revealed religion, it has a distinct founder and prophet who historically existed (although whether really a prophet is another question). It's a monotheistic religion - arguably the first.

Hinduism is a collection of much older (potentially several millenia older) local religions with no original prophet or founder none to history.

The rituals, commandments and activities of most religions end up being pretty similar - there are only so many natural forces you can attribute to a god and the laws you need to live peacefully in a city have been pretty much the same for the last 10,000 years.

Zoroastrianism in India

Zoroastrianism in India has significant history within the country. Zoroastrians have lived in India since the Sasanian period. [2] The Zoroastrians also moved to India in successive migrations during the Islamic period. The initial migration following the Muslim conquest of Persia has been canonized as a religious persecution by invading Muslims. Zoroastrianism meanwhile suffered a decline in Iran after the conquests. Subsequent migrations also took place after the attempts by Safavids to convert their subjects to Shiism. [3]

Due to persecution of Zoroastrians in other countries and the liberal atmosphere and patronisation of India, today the largest population of Zoroastrians resides in India, where Zoroastrians have been allowed to play a notable role in the Indian economy, entertainment, the armed forces, and the Indian freedom movement during British Raj. The Zoroastrian groups are regarded as either Parsi or Irani depending on the time of migration to India.

Ayyavazhi Edit

Ayyavazhi and Hinduism are two belief systems in India. Though Ayyavazhi continues to officially exist within Hinduism and is considered by some observers to be a Hindu denomination, members of the religion claim that it is independent. The most notable distinction from Hindu are the Ayyavazhi religion's concepts of good, evil and dharma. [1]

Hindus view Vedas, Gita, and other texts from the Shastra as canonical scriptures, instead of the Akilam. The Ayyavazhi believe that the Hindu scriptures were once canonical, but now have lost their Substance because of the advent of Akilam. Kaliyan bought the Vedas as a Boon and so all the previous religious books including Agamas and Puranas lost their Substances, leaving Akilattirattu Ammanai as the only book of perfection. Several dubious claims state that the present day Vedas are not accepted by Ayyavazhi as books of Perfection, because there is a quote in Akilam about Venneesan "Avan pilathaal vedamondruntakki" (He created a Veda of his own intention). All previous religious texts have lost their Substance in the vision of Ayyavazhi at the very moment Kaliyan came to the world.

Though Ayyavazhi has many differences from popular Hinduism, it has many beliefs and practices in common. As Hinduism is really a tree of many branches, Ayyavazhi is closest to Smartism and its Advaita beliefs in thought

Buddhism Edit

Jainism Edit

Hinduism and Jainism have a rather similar view on the topic of asceticism, or, in simpler terms, abstinence. It is thought that their beliefs on the topic come from the early belief that some meditative and monastic practices cleanse the body of impurity. The Hindu theory of Karma gave Jainism a great deal of support to start promoting asceticism. Both of these traditions attribute human greed, hatred, and delusion to the presence of impure residues (samskaras or vasanas) that must be cleansed as the individual person moves towards "freedom" (death). Both of these religions believe that practicing asceticism is not only to the benefit of the individual but also to the benefit of the society as a whole. Nonviolence plays a large role in both of these religions so the concept of asceticism relies greatly on both of their beliefs. [2]

Sikhism Edit

The historical interaction between Sikhism and Hinduism occurred because both were founded on the Indian Subcontinent and have the majority of their followers there.

Christianity Edit

Ram Mohan Roy criticized Christian doctrines, and asserted that how "unreasonable" and "self-contradictory" they are. [3] He further adds that people, even from India, were embracing Christianity due to the economic hardship and weakness, just like European Jews were pressured to embrace Christianity, by both encouragement and force. [4]

The Hindu monk Vivekananda regarded Christianity as "collection of little bits of Indian thought. Ours is the religion of which Buddhism with all its greatness is a rebel child, and of which Christianity is a very patchy imitation." [5]

Philosopher Dayanand Saraswati, regarded Christianity as "barbarous religion, and a 'false religion' religion believed only by fools and by the people in a state of barbarism," [6] he included that Bible contains many stories and precepts that are immoral, praising cruelty, deceit and encouraging sin. [7]

In 1956 the Niyogi Committee Report On Christian Missionary Activities was published by the Government of Madhya Pradesh. This influential report on controversial missionary activities in India recommended that suitable controls on conversions brought about through illegal means should be implemented. [8] Also in the 1950s, K.M. Panikkar's work "Asia and Western Dominance" was published and was one of the first post-Independence Indian critiques of Christian missions. It argued that the attempt to convert Asia has definitely failed, and that this failure was due to the missionaries' claim of a monopoly of truth which was alien to the Asian mind their association with imperialism and the attitude of moral and racial superiority of the Christian West. [9] The Indian writer and philosopher Ram Swarup was "most responsible for reviving and re-popularizing" the Hindu critique of Christian missionary practices in the 1980s. [10] He insisted that monotheistic religions like Christianity "nurtured among their adherents a lack of respect for other religions". [11] Other important writers who criticized Christianity from an Indian and Hindu perspective include Sita Ram Goel and Arun Shourie. [12] [13] Arun Shourie urged Hindus to be "alert to the fact that missionaries have but one goal - that of harvesting us for the church" and he wrote that they have "developed a very well-knit, powerful, extremely well-endowned organizational framework" for attaining that goal. [14] In his "widely read and cited" book Missionaries in India, Shourie tried to build a case that Christian evangelistic methods were cynically calculating and materialistic, and to Shourie, missionary strategizing "sounded more like the Planning Commission, if not the Pentagon, than like Jesus". [15] [16]

Unfortunately Christian religion inherited the Semitic creed of the ‘jealous God’ in the view of Christ as ‘the only begotten son of God’ so could not brook any rival near the throne. When Europe accepted the Christian religion, in spite of its own broad humanism, it accepted the fierce intolerance which is the natural result of belief in 'the truth once for all delivered to the saints.' [17]

History Edit

There has been some debate on historical connections between Christianity and Indian religion, it has focused on both Buddhism (via Greco-Buddhism) as well as Hinduism. While it is evident that a number of Indian sages visited Constantinople in Classical Antiquity, claims of significant influence in either direction have failed to gain wide acceptance. Christianity revolves heavily around the life of Jesus Christ as detailed in the Bible, whereas Hinduism is not based on any one personality or one book, but rather on the philosophy that there is a god, or no god and just self, etc. Nevertheless, some scholars have studied whether there are links between the story of Jesus and that of Krishna "Krishnology" is a term coined to express these claimed theological parallels between Krishnaism and the Christological dogmas of Christianity. [18]

Although little is known of the immediate growth of the church, Bar-Daisan (AD 154–223) reports that in his time there were Christian tribes in North India which claimed to have been converted by Thomas and to have books and relics to prove it. [19]

Contemporary Christian-Hindu relations are a mixed affair. Hinduism's historical tendency has been to recognize the divine basis of various other religions, and to revere their founders and saintly practitioners this continues today. The declaration Nostra aetate by the Second Vatican Council officially established inter-religious dialogue between Catholics and Hindus, promoting common values between the two religions (among others). There are over 17.3 million Catholics in India, which represents less than 2% of the total population, still making it the largest Christian church in India. (See also: Dalit theology).

Doctrine Edit

Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity differ on fundamental beliefs on heaven, hell and reincarnation, to name a few. From the Hindu perspective, heaven (Sanskrit: swarga) and hell (naraka) are temporary places, where every soul has to live, either for the good deeds done or for their sins committed. After a soul suffers its due punishment in hell, or after a soul has enjoyed enough in heaven, it again enters the life-death cycle. There is no concept in Hinduism of a permanent hell like that in Christianity rather, the cycle of "karma" takes over. Permanent heaven or bliss is "moksha".

The Holy Trinity of Christianity, consisting of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is sometimes seen as roughly analogous to the Trimurti of Hinduism, whose members—Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva—are seen as the three principal manifestations of Brahman, or Godhead. The specific formulation of this trinitarian relationship is not identical between the two religions for example, in Hinduism there is a Parabrahma, or an ultimate creator who created the Trimurti, for which there exists no parallel in Christianity. Some consider Brahma to be more similar to the demiurge of Christian gnosticism, in that he (at least initially) wrongly thought himself as the "Creator" and also as the highest or even the only god. In this case, the Hindu version of the Trinity could be seen as Brahma (Father), Sankarshan or Vishnu (Holy spirit), and Mahesh or Shiva (Son analogous to Christ).

There have been Christian writers such as the 17th century mystic Jane Leade and the 19th-20th century theologian Sergei Bulgakov, who have described the feminine Sophia (wisdom) as an aspect of the Godhead. This may serve as a rough analogue to Hinduism's description of Sita in the Ramayana, who is saved by Hanuman (an incarnation of Shiva) from the demon king Ravana to be reunited with her husband Rama, representing God. Nevertheless, although the concept that we can come to know God through sophia has played a role in Christian thought, no major Christian denominations profess Sophia as an independent aspect of God.

In Hinduism (also in Jainism and Sikhism), the concept of moksha is akin to that of Buddhism's nirvana, but some scholars further claim that it is akin as well to Christianity's doctrine of salvation. Hindu sannyasi Swami Tripurari states:

. in theory the sinners of the world are the beneficiaries of Christ’s sacrifice, but it is God the father for whose pleasure Christ underwent the crucifixion, even when the father’s joy in this scenario lies in the salvation of sinners. Christ represents the intermediary between God and humanity, and his life aptly illustrates the fact that it is sacrifice by which we come to meet our maker. Thus in Christ the Divine teaches us “the way” more than he does the goal. The Christ conception represents “the way” in the sense that the way is sacrifice, out of which love arises. The Krishna conception represents that for which we not only should, but must sacrifice, compelled by the Godhead’s irresistible attributes, etc. depicted therein. [20] [ better source needed ]

The Christian Ashram Movement, a movement within Christianity in India, embraces Vedanta and the teachings of the East, attempting to combine the Christian faith with the Hindu ashram model, and Christian monasticism with the Hindu sannyasa tradition. In Western countries, Vedanta has influenced some Christian thinkers (see also: Pierre Johanns, Abhishiktananda, Bede Griffiths), while others in the anti-cult movement have reacted against the activities of immigrant gurus and their followers. [ citation needed ]

Among the Malbars of the French island Réunion, a syncretism of Catholicism and Hinduism can develop. Krishna Janmashtami, the birth day of Krishna, is considered to be the date of birth of Jesus Christ. Mariamman is worshiped as the Virgin Mary. Saint Expeditus is identified with goddess Kali. [21]

Islam Edit

Hindu–Islamic relations began when Islamic influence first came to be found in the Indian subcontinent during the early 7th century. Hinduism and Islam are two of the world’s four largest religions. Hinduism is the socio-religious way of life of the Hindu people of the Indian subcontinent, their diaspora, and some other regions which had Hindu influence in the ancient and medieval times. Islam is a strictly monotheistic religion in which the supreme deity is Allah (Arabic: الله ‎ "the God": see God in Islam), the last Islamic prophet being Muhammad ibn Abdullah, whom Muslims believe delivered the Islamic scripture, the Qur'an. Hinduism mostly shares common terms with the other Indian religions, including Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. Islam shares common characteristics with Abrahamic religions–those religions claiming descent from the prophet Abraham–being, from oldest to youngest, Judaism, Christianity, Islam.

The Qur'an is the primary Islamic scripture. Muslims believe it to be the verbatim, uncreated word of Allah. Second to this in religious authority, and whence many practices of Islam derive, especially for Sunnis, are the Sunni six major collections of hadīth, which are traditional records of the sayings and acts of Muhammad. The scriptures of Hinduism are the Shrutis (the four Vedas, which comprise the original Vedic Hymns, or Samhitas, and three tiers of commentaries upon the Samhitas, namely the Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Upanishads [22] ) Furthermore, Hinduism is also based on the Smritis (including the Rāmāyana, the Bhagavad Gītā [part of the Mahabharata cycle], and the Purānas), which are considered to be of secondary authority and of human creation of sages but the 18 Puranas.

Judaism Edit

Hinduism and Judaism are amongst the oldest existing religions in the world. They have shared a notable relationship throughout historical and modern times.

Baháʼí Faith Edit

Hinduism is recognized in the Baháʼí Faith as one of four known religions and its scriptures are regarded as predicting the coming of Bahá'u'lláh (Kalki avatar). Krishna is included in the succession of Manifestations of God. The authenticity of the Hindu scriptures is seen as uncertain. [23]

Zoroastrianism Edit

Hinduism and Zoroastrianism share a common root in Proto-Indo-Iranian religion. Zoroastrianism in India shares more than a thousand year of history with the culture and people of India. The Zoroastrians of India are known as Parsis.

The "Council of Dharmic Faiths" (UK) regards Zoroastrianism, whilst not originating in the Indian subcontinent, also as a Dharmic religion. [24]

Yezidism Edit

Recently, some people have found similarities between the customs of Hindus and Yezidis, suggesting that in ancient times they may have even been one people. [25] Recent comparisons and historical research between the two people have revealed many links that now thousands of Hindus and Yezidis believe that they are part of the same family. [ citation needed ]

Perspectives of Hinduism and Zoroastrianism on abortion: a comparative study between two pro-life ancient sisters

Hinduism and Zoroastrianism have strong historical bonds and share similar value-systems. As an instance, both of these religions are pro-life. Abortion has been explicitly mentioned in Zoroastrian Holy Scriptures including Avesta, Shayast-Nashayast and Arda Viraf Nameh. According to Zoroastrian moral teachings, abortion is evil for two reasons: killing an innocent and intrinsically good person, and the contamination caused by the dead body (Nashu). In Hinduism, the key concepts involving moral deliberations on abortion are Ahimsa, Karma and reincarnation. Accordingly, abortion deliberately disrupts the process of reincarnation, and killing an innocent human being is not only in contrast with the concept of Ahimsa, but also places a serious karmic burden on its agent. The most noteworthy similarity between Zoroastrianism and Hinduism is their pro-life approach. The concept of Asha in Zoroastrianism is like the concept of Dharma in Hinduism, referring to a superior law of the universe and the bright path of life for the believers. In terms of differences, Zoroastrianism is a religion boasting a God, a prophet, and a Holy book, while Hinduism lacks all these features. Instead of reincarnation and rebirth, Zoroastrianism, like Abrahamic religions, believes in the afterlife. Also, in contrast with the concept of Karma , in Zoroastrianism, Ahura Mazda can either punish or forgive sins.

Keywords: Abortion Hinduism Pro-life Religious bioethics Zoroastrianism.

2019 Medical Ethics and History of Medicine Research Center, Tehran University of Medical Sciences. All rights reserved.

Other sources: the process of “ Sanskritization”

The development of Hinduism can be interpreted as a constant interaction between the religion of the upper social groups, represented by the Brahmans, and the religion of other groups. From the time of the Vedas (c. 1500 bce ), people from many strata of society throughout the subcontinent tended to adapt their religious and social life to Brahmanic norms. This development resulted from the desire of lower-class groups to rise on the social ladder by adopting the ways and beliefs of the higher castes. Further, many local deities were identified with the gods and goddesses of the Puranas.

The process, sometimes called “Sanskritization,” began in Vedic times and was probably the principal method by which the Hinduism of the Sanskrit texts spread through the subcontinent and into Southeast Asia. Sanskritization still continues in the form of the conversion of tribal groups, and it is reflected in the persistence of the tendency among some Hindus to identify rural and local deities with the gods of the Sanskrit texts. Sanskritization also refers to the process by which some Hindus try to raise their status by adopting high-caste customs, such as wearing the sacred cord and becoming vegetarians.

If Sanskritization has been the main means of connecting the various local traditions throughout the subcontinent, the converse process, which has no convenient label, has been one of the means whereby Hinduism has changed and developed over the centuries. Many features of Hindu mythology and several popular gods—such as Ganesha, an elephant-headed god, and Hanuman, the monkey god—were incorporated into Hinduism and assimilated into the appropriate Vedic gods by this means. Similarly, the worship of many goddesses who are now regarded as the consorts of the great male Hindu gods, as well as the worship of individual unmarried goddesses, may have arisen from the worship of non-Vedic local goddesses. Thus, the history of Hinduism can be interpreted as the interplay between orthoprax custom and the practices of wider ranges of people and, complementarily, as the survival of features of local traditions that gained strength steadily until they were adapted by the Brahmans.


Islamic conquest Edit

Until the Arab invasion and subsequent Muslim conquest, in the mid-7th century Persia (modern-day Iran) was a politically independent state, spanning from Mesopotamia to the Indus River and dominated by a Zoroastrian majority. [2] [3] [4] Zoroastrianism was the official state religion of four pre-Islamic Persian empires, [5] the last being the Sassanian empire that passed a decree solidifying this in 224 CE. [3] [6] The Arab invasion abruptly brought to an end the religious domination of Zoroastrianism in Persia and instituted Islam as the official religion of the state. [7] [8] [9]

Yemen's Zoroastrians who had the jizya imposed on them after being conquered by Muhammad are mentioned by the Islamic historian al-Baladhuri. [10]

After the Muslim conquest of Persia, Zoroastrians were given dhimmi status and subjected to persecutions discrimination and harassment began in the form of sparse violence. [11] Those paying Jizya were subjected to insults and humiliation by the tax collectors. [12] [13] [14] Zoroastrians who were captured as slaves in wars were given their freedom if they converted to Islam. [12]

Many fire temples, with their four axial arch openings, were usually turned into mosques simply by setting a mihrab (prayer niche) on the place of the arch nearest to qibla (the direction of Mecca). Zoroastrian temples converted into mosques in such a manner could be found in Bukhara, as well as in and near Istakhr and other Persian cities. [15] [ full citation needed ] Urban areas where Arab governors made their quarters were most vulnerable to such religious persecution, great fire temples were turned into mosques, and the citizens were forced to conform or flee. [16] Many libraries were burnt and much cultural heritage was lost. [17]

Gradually there were increased number of laws regulating Zoroastrian behavior, limiting their ability to participate in society, and made life difficult for the Zoroastrians in the hope that they would convert to Islam. [17] Over time, persecution of Zoroastrians became more common and widespread, and the number of believers decreased significantly. Many converted, some superficially, to escape the systematic abuse and discrimination by the law of the land. [12] Others accepted Islam because their employment in industrial and artisan work would, according to Zoroastrian dogma, make them impure as their work involved defiling fire. [18] According to Thomas Walker Arnold, Muslim missionaries did not encounter difficulty in explaining Islamic tenets to Zoroastrians, as there were many similarities between the faiths. According to Arnold, for the Persian, he would meet Ahura Mazda and Ahriman under the names of Allah and Iblis. [18]

Once a Zoroastrian family converted to Islam, the children had to go to Muslim religion school and learn Arabic and the teachings of the Quran and these children lost their Zoroastrian identity. [12] These factors continued to contribute to increasing rates of conversion from Zoroastrianism to Islam. [19] A Persian scholar commented, "Why so many had to die or suffer? Because one side was determined to impose his religion upon the other who could not understand." [20]

However, Sir Thomas Walker Arnold doubts the entire narrative of the forced conversions of the Zoroastrians, citing many examples of tolerance that were shown by the Muslim overlords concluding that "in the face of such facts, it is surely impossible to attribute the decay of Zoroastrianism entirely to violent conversions made by the Muslim conquerors". [21] Arnold suggests that some of the conversions of the former-Zoroastrians were actually sincere citing the similarities between the two religions as a motivation for the conversions. [21] Stepaniants also (like Arnold) declares that some historians have said that some of the conversions to Islam were sincere citing the fact that Islam offered a broader door of brotherhood, unlike the restrictive criteria of Zoroastrianism. [22] Nevertheless, Sir Thomas Arnold does acknowledge that the persecution of Zoroastrians did take place later on. [23] Stepaniants states that many persecutions took place during the reign of the Abbasids, and around that time was when the Parsi exodus took place. [24] But regardless, both Arnold and Stepaniants say that the Islam is not to blamed entirely for the decline of Zoroastrianism. [25] [21] Furthermore, the population of the city of Nishapur, even after the event of conquest (despite conversions to Islam taking place almost immediately) there still remained sizeable Zoroastrian populations, along with the Jews and Nestorian Christians as well. [26] Fred Donner says that the northern were hardly penetrated by the "believers" for a century or the, the Iranian nobility who reside in that area made terms with the believers winning virtually complete autonomy over the region in return of a tribute-tax or jizyah. Donner also acknowledges that Zoroastrians continued to exist in large numbers even after the rise of Islam in these regions. [27]

642 to 10th century Edit

In the 7th century CE Persia succumbed to the invading Arabs. [9] With the death of Yazdegerd III, who was treacherously slain in 651 after being defeated in battle, the Sassanid line came to an end and the Zoroastrian faith, and Islam took its place as the national religion of Persia. [8]

In the following centuries, Zoroastrians faced much religious discrimination and persecution, harassments, as well as being identified as najis (polluted) and impure to Muslims, making them unfit to live alongside Muslims, and therefore forcing them to evacuate from cities and face major sanctions in all spheres of life. Zoroastrians have been subject to public humiliation through dress regulations, to being labeled as najis and to exclusion in the fields of society, education and work. [28]

Rashidun Caliphs (642–661) Edit

Under the first four Caliphs, Persia remained predominantly Zoroastrian. Zoroastrians were awarded the status of People of the Book or dhimmi status by the Caliph Umar, although some practices contrary to Islam were prohibited. [17] [29]

When the Persian capital of Ctesiphon in province of Khvârvarân (today known as Iraq) fell to the Muslims during the Islamic conquest of Persia in 637 under the military command of Sa'ad ibn Abi Waqqas during the caliphate of Umar, the palaces and their archives were burned. According to a 17th-century account cited by Georgie Zeidan, the Arab Commander Sa'ad ibn Abi Waqqas wrote to Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab asking what should be done with the books at Ctesiphon. Umar wrote back: "If the books contradict the Qur'an, they are blasphemous. On the other hand, if they are in agreement, they are not needed, as for us Qur'an is sufficient." [30] Thus, the huge library was destroyed and the books, the product of the generations of Persian scientists and scholars were thrown into fire or the Euphrates. [31] However, it is doubted whether libraries were actually burned or desecrated. [32] [33] Nearly 40,000 captured Persian noblemen were taken as slaves and sold in Arabia. The Arabs called the Persians 'Ajam' meaning foreign. The first voice of protest came from Piruz Nahavandi, an enslaved Persian artisan, who assassinated Umar. [34] When the city of Estakhr in the south, a Zoroastrian religious center, [35] [36] put up stiff resistance against the Arab invaders, 40,000 residents were slaughtered or hanged.

The Umayyads (661–750) Edit

The Umayyads who ruled from Syria followed the Caliphs. The persecution increased in the 8th century, during the reign of the late Umayyad Caliphs, whose dynastic predecessors had conquered most of the last Zoroastrian state by 652. [37] [38] Jizya tax was imposed upon Zoroastrians, and the official language of Persia became Arabic instead of the local Persian. [39] In 741, the Umayyads officially decreed that non-Muslims be excluded from governmental positions. [40]

The Iranian Muslims at this time started a new tradition, which made Islam appear as a partly Iranian religion. They pointed out that an Iranian, Salaman-I-Farsi, had a great influence on the prophet Muhammad. They also pointed out the legend that Husayn, the son of the fourth Caliph, had married a Sassanian princess named Shahrbanu (the Lady of the Land), whose son later became the fourth Muslim Imam (and started the Shia branch of Islam). [41] The Iranian Muslims thus believed that Shia Islam was derived from Sassanian Royalty. [41] [42] These two beliefs made it easier for Zoroastrians to convert. An instance of religious oppression is recorded when an Arab governor appointed a commissioner to supervise the destruction of shrines throughout Iran, regardless of treaty obligations. [43] One of the Umayyad Caliphs was quoted saying, "milk the Persians and once their milk dries, suck their blood". [44]

Yazid-ibn-Mohalleb, a general under the Umayyads, was appointed the head of a great army to lead the Mazandaran expedition. [45] On the way to Mazandaran, the general ordered captives to be hanged at the two sides of the road so that the victorious Arab army pass through. The attack on Tabarestan (present-day Mazandaran) failed, but he established his control in Gorgan. [45] By the orders of Yazid-ibn-Mohalleb so many Persians were beheaded in Gorgan that their blood mixed with water would energize the millstone to produce as much as one day meal for him, as he had vowed. [46] [47] The extent of his brutality represented itself by running watermills by people's blood for three days and he fed his army with the bread made from that very bloody flour. [45] But, Tabarestan remained invincible until the majority of Zoroastrians migrated towards India and the rest converted to Islam gradually. [45]

Although the Umayyad's were harsh when it came to defeating their Zoroastrian adversaries, claiming responsibility for many of the atrocities towards the Zoroastrian population during warfare, [48] but they did however offer protection and relative religious tolerance to the Zoroastrians who accepted their authority. [48] As a matter of fact, Umar II was reported to have said in one of his letters commanding not to "destroy a synagogue or a church or temple of fire worshippers(meaning the Zoroastrians) as long as they have reconciled with and agreed upon with the Muslims". [49] As a matter of fact Fred Donner says that Zoroastrians in the northern parts of Iran were hardly penetrated by the "believers" winning virtually complete autonomy in-return for tribute-tax or jizyah. [50] As a matter of fact, Donner goes on to say that ". Zoroastrians continued to exist in large numbers in northern and western Iran and elsewhere for centuries after the rise of Islam, and indeed, much of the canon of Zoroastrian religious texts was elaborated and written down during the Islamic period. ". [50]

The Abbasids (752–804) Edit

The Umayyads were followed by the Abbasid dynasty which came to power with the help of Iranian Muslims. The persecution of Zoroastrians increased significantly under the Abbasids, temples and sacred-fire shrines were destroyed. [51] Also during Abbasid rule, the status of Zoroastrians in Persian lands was reduced from zimmi (or dhimmi, people who were protected by the state and generally considered 'People of the Book') to 'kafirs' (non-believers). [51] [52] As a result, Zoroastrians were not granted the same rights and status as Jews and Christians. [52] Iranian Muslims were welcomed to the court, but not Zoroastrians. [42] Zoroastrians were denied access to bathhouses on the grounds that their bodies were polluted. [52]

Hardly any Zoroastrian family was able to avoid conversion to Islam when employed by the Abbasids. [53] Because of their harshness towards unbelievers, and due to their lavish patronage of Persian Muslims, the Abbasids proved to be deadly foes of Zoroastrianism. [54] According to Dawlatshah, Abdollah-ibn-Tahir, an Arabicized Persian, [55] and governor of Khorasan for the Abbasid caliphs, [56] banned publication in Persian and by his order all the Zoroastrians were forced to bring their religious books to be thrown in the fire. [31] [53] As a result, many literary works written in Pahlavi script disappeared. [53] During the Abbasid reign the Zoroastrians, for the first time became a minority in Iran.

Nevertheless, there were many cases of toleration during the Abbasid era, particularly under the reign of Al-Mu'tasim who flogged an imam and muezzin for destroying a fire-temple and replacing it with a mosque. [18] As a matter of fact, Al-Mu'tasim even allowed rebuilding and the establishment of Zoroastrian fire temples in many places within the borders of the Abbasid Caliphate. [57] It was reported that there were still a significant amounts of strongholds of the Zoroastrian communities in places such as Kerman, Qom, Sistan, Fars and more that were thriving under the Abbasid regime. This is a fact that is not only attested by European explorers of later times, but also the Muslim historians who were present. [57]

The Saffarids (869–903) Edit

The Abbasids were followed by the Saffarids. Zoroastrians lived under the leadership of their High Priest, since they had no king. In Iraq, the political center of the Sassanian state, Zoroastrian institutions were viewed as appendages of the royal government and family, and suffered much destruction and confiscation. [52] Closely associated with the power structures of the Persian Empire, Zoroastrian clergy quickly declined after it was deprived of the state support. [58] [59]

The Samanids (819–999) Edit

The Samanids were of Zoroastrian theocratic nobility who voluntarily converted to Sunni Islam. During their reign, approximately 300 years after the Arab conquest, fire temples were still found in almost every province of Persia including Khorasan, Kirman, Sijistan [18] and other areas under Samanid control. According to Al-Shahrastani, there were fire-temples even in Baghdad at the time. The historian Al-Masudi, a Baghdad-born Arab, who wrote a comprehensive treatise on history and geography in about 956, records that after the conquest:

Zorastrianism, for the time being, continued to exist in many parts of Iran. Not only in countries which came relatively late under Muslim sway (e.g., Tabaristan) but also in those regions which early had become provinces of the Muslim empire. In almost all the Iranian provinces, according to Al Masudi, fire temples were to be found – the Madjus he says, venerate many fire temples in Iraq, Fars, Kirman, Sistan, Khurasan, Tabaristan, al Djibal, Azerbaijan and Arran.

He also added Sindh and Sin of the Indian subcontinent (Al-Hind) to the list. This general statement of al Masudi is fully supported by the medieval geographers who make mention of fire temples in most of the Iranian towns. [1]

10th to 20th century Edit

Migration to India Edit

The Zoroastrians moved to India in successive migrations in the Islamic period. The initial migration following the conquest has been characterized as a religious persecution by invading Muslims. According to the account, the Zoroastrians suffered at their hands and in order to protect themselves and safeguard their religion, fled first to northern Iran, then to the island of Hormuz and finally to India. This generally accepted narrative of migration emphasises Muslim persecution while identifying Parsis as religious refugees. Recently, scholars have questioned this explanation of Iranian origins. There is a scarcity of sources about the migration. Historians are forced to rely exclusively on Qissa-i Sanjan written in 1599 by a Parsi Priest and Qissah-ye Zartushtian-e Hindustan written more than 200 years later. This is complicated by the fact that there were already Zoroastrians in India in the Sasanian period. [60] According to the legend, at the beginning of the 10th century a small group of Zoroastrians living around the town of Nyshapour and Fort of Sanjan in the province of (greater) Khorasan, decided that Iran was no longer safe for Zoroastrians and their religion. The refugees accepted the conditions and founded the settlement of Sanjan (Gujarat), which is said to have been named after the city of their origin (Sanjan, near Merv, in present-day Turkmenistan). [61]

Iranian Zoroastrians are known to have been trading with India for centuries before the dates calculated for arrival of Parsis per Qissa-i Sanjan. Ruksana Nanji and Homi Dhalla while discussing archaeological evidence for 'The Landing of Zoroastrians at Sanjan', conclude that the most likely date for the migration at the start of the middle phase of their chronology, namely the early-to-mid-eighth century. Nevertheless, they express their general skepticism about the Qissa-i Sanjan account. [62] Scholar Andre Wink has theorized that Zoroastrian immigrants to India, both before and after the Muslim conquest of Iran, were primarily merchants, since evidence suggests it was only some time after their arrival that religious experts and priests were sent for to join them. He argues that the competition over trade routes with Muslims may also have contributed to their immigration. [60]

Although historically unsubstantiated, the story of how Zoroastrians gained permission to step on the shores of Gujarat continues to be critical to the self-identity of the group. Per the commonly told narrative, the Rajah of Sanjan, summoned them and demanded to know how they wouldn't be a burden on or a threat to the indigenous communities. Replying to their request of practising their religion and till the land, he showed them a jug full of milk, saying Sanjan like it was full. In one version, a dastur added a coin to the milk, saying like the coin, no one would be able to see that they were there but they would enrich the milk nonetheless. In another version, he added sugar instead and claimed that like it, they would sweeten lands of Sanjan. In both of them their settlement is approved by the Rajah who addresses certain conditions for it: they would explain their religion, promise not to proselytise, adopt Gujarati speech and dress, surrender their weapons and only conduct their rituals after nightfall. [63]

One of the dates that can be fixed with certainty is the arrival of Parsees in Navsari when a mobed named Kamdin Zarthost arrived there in 1142 AD to perform religious ceremonies for Zoroastrians settled there. Traditionally, the Parsee settlers had named it Navsari after Sari in Iran. However this was considered wrong by the Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency who noted that the town was already shown in Ptolemy's map. [64]

Apart from two accounts of confrontation in the Qissa, Parsi lore presents a smooth integration into the local culture of first their Hindu, and then Muslim neighbors. [65] The community still exists in western India, and it currently contains the largest concentration of Zoroastrians in the world. [66] "Parsi legends regarding their ancestors' migration to India depict a beleaguered band of religious refugees escaping the harsh rule of fanatical Muslim invaders in order to preserve their ancient faith." [67] [68] The epic poem Qissa-i-Sanjan (Story of Sanjan) is an account of the early years of Zoroastrian settlers on the Indian subcontinent. It is only in recent times that Parsis have become aware of the extent of the oppression that their ancestors in Iran had to endure. [28]

The Safavids (1502–1747) Edit

Zoroastrians had difficult time during the Safavid period and faced repeated persecution and forced conversion. [69] Safavid kings sought to compel them to accept Shia Islam, Sunnis too were forced to convert to Shia or were persecuted, imprisoned, exiled, or killed. [70] [71] [72] Zoroastrians were also branded as impure, in addition to being infidels. [73] As earlier in the century, so this period also witnessed sporadic campaigns for the conversion of Armenians and Zoroastrians, focusing blame for economic and other ills on these and other minorities whose involvement in the spice export, for example, was well known. [74]

In the early 16th century the great Safavid king, Shah Abbas I settled a number of Zoroastrians in a suburb of his new capital, Isfahan. The suburb of Isfahan where the Zoroastrians lived was called Gabr-Mahal, Gabristan or Gabrabad, derived from the word Gabr. [ citation needed ] Europeans who visited his court left accounts of the 'Gabars' or 'Gabrs', (an insulting term used for Zoroastrians by the Muslims [ citation needed ] ), agree on the poverty and simplicity of their lives. [75] Fearing desecration by Muslims, Zoroastrians hid the sacred fires, and conversed in a newly invented dialect called Dari. [ citation needed ] Later Safavid kings were not as tolerant as Shah Abbas. Muhammad Baqir Majlisi persuaded Sultan Husayn (1688–1728 CE) to decree the forcible conversion of Zoroastrians, [76] those who refused were killed. [ citation needed ]

The accounts in Mino Khirad, written during the Savafid period, demonstrate that the Zoroastrians were subjected to harassment by the Shi'ite majority, their places of worship were under a constant threat of being destroyed. [77] By 1707, when Le Bruyn visited Isfahan, the Zoroastrians were no longer able practice their religion freely. He notes that the most deprived Zoroastrians had been brought to Isfahan, and had been forced to become Muslim three years earlier. [78] In 1821, Ker Porter visiting Isfahan notes that there were hardly any Zoroastrians left in Isfahan and Gabrabad was in ruins. [ citation needed ]

Qajar Dynasty (1796–1925) Edit

A Zoroastrian astrologer named Mulla Gushtasp predicted the fall of the Zand dynasty to the Qajar army in Kerman. Because of Gushtasp's forecast, the Zoroastrians of Kerman were spared by the conquering army of Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar. Despite the aforementioned favorable incident, the Zoroastrians during the Qajar dynasty remained in agony and their population continued to decline. Even during the rule of Agha Mohammad Khan, the founder of the dynasty, many Zoroastrians were killed and some were taken as captives to Azerbaijan. [79] Zoroastrians regard the Qajar period as one of their worst. [80]

Many foreign visitors to Iran of the time had commented on their pitiful situation. [80] [81] Traveller A.V.W. Jackson noted that Zoroastrians lived in constant fear of persecution by Muslim extremists and their lives were in danger whenever the fanatical spirit of Islam broke out, such as the one witnessed by him in Yazd. [82] According to Edward Browne, the wall of Zoroastrian houses had to be lower than that of the Muslims and prohibited from marking their houses with distinctive signs. [83] Zoroastrians were forbidden from erecting new houses and repairing old ones. [81] [84]

Various methods were used to proselytize the minorities. According to a law, if any member of family converted to Islam, he/she was entitled to all inheritance. [81] [84] [85] They were forbidden from taking up lucrative occupations. [81] The community was regarded as outcast, impure and untouchable. [81] The Zoroastrians and their food was considered impure [80] [81] and many public places refused to serve them. When they shopped in the bazaar, they were not allowed to touch any food or fruits. [72] They were threatened with forced conversions, beaten up and fleeced, [ citation needed ] and their religious sanctuaries were regularly desecrated. [81] Harassments and persecution were the norms of daily life. [86] Zoroastrians were often attacked and beaten by Muslims in the streets. [72] The murders of Zoroastrians were not punished. [81] At times, Zoroastrian girls were kidnapped and forcefully converted and married to Muslims and brought to town in fanfare. [85]

Zoroastrians were subjected to public discrimination through dress regulations [80] [81] – not allowed to wear new or white clothes, [81] and compelled by enactments to wear the dull yellow raiment already alluded to as a distinguishing badge. [14] [81] [84] They were not allowed to wear overcoats but were compelled to wear long robes called qaba and cotton geeveh on their feet even in winter. [72] Wearing eyeglasses, [80] long cloak, trousers, hat, boots, [72] socks, winding their turbans tightly and neatly, [87] carrying watch or a ring, [88] were all forbidden to Zoroastrians. During the rainy days they were not allowed carry umbrellas [80] or to appear in public, because the water that had run down through their bodies and cloths could pollute the Muslims. Zoroastrian men in Yazd would carry a large shawl that they would place under their feet when visiting a Muslim's home so as to prevent the carpet from being polluted. [72] Forbidden from riding horses [14] [81] [83] [84] and only allowed to ride mules or donkeys, [80] [81] upon facing a Muslim they had to dismount. [87] Not until 1923, was the general proscription against Zoroastrians' riding horses and donkeys lifted by Reza Shah. [89]

On top of all the misery the Zoroastrians had to pay a heavy religious tax known as Jizya. [80] Zoroastrian sources record the method of extracting this as designed to humiliate the dhimmi, the taxed person, who was compelled to stand while the officer receiving the money sat on a high throne. Upon receiving the payment, the officer gave the dhimmi a blow on the neck and drove him roughly away. The public was invited to watch the spectacle. [90] Arab tax collectors would mock Zoroastrians for wearing Kushti and would rip it off, hanging the cord around the necks of the beleaguered faithful. [91] Due to corruption of the tax officials, at times twice and even three times the official figure would be collected, because every intermediary had to receive his share. If the families could not afford paying the Jizya, their children were beaten and even tortured and their religious books were thrown in fire. That is how the term "the bookless" came about. Under the woeful conditions, some had to convert and there were those who declared themselves Muslims, picked up Islamic names, but in secret continued Zoroastrian practices. Today the latter group among the Zoroastrians is known as Jaddid. In response to persecution and segregation policies, the Zoroastrians community became closed, introverted, and static. [80]

Zoroastrian massacres did not cease during the Qajar rule. The last two are recorded at the villages surrounding the city of Boarzjan and Turkabad near Yazd. Today, the village of Maul Seyyed Aul near Borazjan, among the local people is known as "killing site" (Ghatl-Gauh), [79] and Zoroastrian surnames of Turk, Turki, Turkian and Turkabadi reflect lineage to the survivors of Turkabad. In the 1850s, Comte de Gobineau, the French Ambassador to Iran wrote: "Only 6000 of them are left and just a miracle may save them from extinction. These are the descendants of the people who one day ruled the world." [92]

Due to the extent of oppression, and destitution, many Zoroastrians ventured to the hazardous journey to India. Those who could not afford the voyage aboard the ships, risked their lives by crossing the hostile desert on donkeys or even on foot. [31] In India, they were recognized for Sedreh and Kushti and were sheltered by their Parsi brethren. There, they formed the second major Indian Zoroastrian community known as the Iranis.

Emissaries to Iran Edit

When the news of their plight reached the Parsis, who by this time had become quite prosperous, Parsi funds were set up to help the Iranian Zoroastrians and emissaries were dispatched to Iran. [31] A Parsi philanthropist, Maneckji Limji Hataria, was sent to help them. He found only 7711 Zoroastrians in Kerman, Yazd and Tehran (now the capital of Iran). Using his influence with the British government he managed to get some of the repression against Zoroastrians removed. Jizya was paid by the Zoroastrian minority until 1882, [93] when it was removed by pressure on the Qajar government from the Persian Zoroastrian Amelioration Fund. [94]

The Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe (ZTFE), also attempted to alleviate the conditions of their Iranian brethren. Both Dadabhai Naoroji and Mancherjee Bhownagree, as presidents of the ZTFE and Members of Parliament addressed the House of Commons of the United Kingdom on the issue of the persecution of Zoroastrians in Iran. On the six occasions, Shah Naser al-Din Shah Qajar visited London Parsi delegations from the ZTFE were present to advocate for their Iranian co-religionists suffering the intense persecution of the Qajar dynasty. [95]

Islamic Republic of Iran (1979-Present) Edit

The 1979 Islamic Revolution was equally traumatic for the remaining Zoroastrians, and their numbers reduced drastically. [96] [97] Immediately after the revolution, during Bazargan's premiership, Muslim revolutionaries "walked into the main Zoroastrian fire temple in Tehran and removed the portrait of the Prophet Zoroaster and replaced it with one of [Ayatollah] Khomeini". [98]

The Iranian government is regarded by the United Nations and other non-governmental organizations as among the world's worst offenders against freedom of religion —alongside Saudi Arabia and Sudan. Members of religious minorities are, by law and practice, barred from being elected to a representative body (except to the seats in the Majles reserved for minorities, as provided for in the Constitution) and from holding senior government or military positions. They also suffer discrimination in the legal system, receiving lower awards in injury and death lawsuits, and incurring heavier punishments, than Muslims. Muslim men are free to marry non-Muslim women but marriages between Muslim women and non-Muslim men are not recognized. [99] [100]

Mazdakism was viewed by the Zoroastrian hierarchy as a heresy and its followers were persecuted by Zoroastrian Sassanian leaders. The Sassanian ruler Khosrau I launched a campaign against the Mazdakis in 524 or 528, culminating in a massacre which killed most of them, including Mazdak himself and restored orthodox Zoroastrianism as the state religion. [101]

Various accounts specify the way of death: e.g. the Shahnameh states that the three thousand Mazdakis were buried alive with the feet upwards in order to present Mazdak with the spectacle of a "human garden", whereas Mazdak himself was hanged upside down and shot with countless arrows other stories specify other torturous methods of execution. In any case, Anushiravan then proceeded to implement his own far-reaching social and administrative reforms. [102] Mazdakism almost disappeared after the massacre. [103] Later, there were instances in which Zoroastrian clergy were assisted by Muslims against Zoroastrians whom the Zoroastrian clergy considered to be heretics or separatists. [1]

According to Mary Boyce, Zoroastrians living under Christian rule in Asia Minor were noted to have undergone hardship, [104] notably during the long conflict between the Roman Empire and Persia. Christians living in Sassanian-held territory were noted to have destroyed many fire-temples and Zoroastrian places of worship. [105] Christian priests deliberately extinguished the sacred fire of the Zoroastrians and characterized adherents as "followers of the wicked Zardusht (Zoroaster), serving false gods and the natural elements." [105]


Al-Biruni and Ibn Hazm of the Islamic Golden Age compared the study of religious pluralism and their works have been significant in the fields of theology and philosophy. [3] [4] [5] [6] Social scientists in the 19th century took a strong interest in comparative and "primitive" religion through the work of Max Müller, Edward Burnett Tylor, William Robertson Smith, James George Frazer, Émile Durkheim, Max Weber, and Rudolf Otto. [7] Nicholas de Lange, Professor of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at Cambridge University, says that

The comparative study of religions is an academic discipline which has been developed within Christian theology faculties, and it has a tendency to force widely differing phenomena into a kind of strait-jacket cut to a Christian pattern. The problem is not only that other 'religions' may have little or nothing to say about questions which are of burning importance for Christianity, but that they may not even see themselves as religions in precisely the same way in which Christianity sees itself as a religion. [8]

According to Charles Joseph Adams, in the field of comparative religion, a common geographical classification discerns [2] the main world religions as follows: [2]

  1. Middle Eastern religions, including Judaism, Christianity, Islam and a variety of ancient cults
  2. East Asian religions, the religious communities of China, Japan, and Korea, and consisting of Confucianism, Daoism, the various schools of Mahayana (“Greater Vehicle”) Buddhism, and Shintō
  3. Indian religions, including early Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Zoroastrianism, and sometimes also the Theravada (“Way of the Elders”) Buddhism and the Hindu- and Buddhist-inspired religions of South and Southeast Asia
  4. African religions, the ancient belief systems of the various indigenous peoples of Africa, excluding ancient Egyptian religion, which is considered to belong to the ancient Middle East
  5. American religions, the beliefs and practices of the various Indigenous peoples of the two American continents
  6. Oceanic religions, the religious systems of the peoples of the Pacific islands, Australia, and New Zealand and
  7. Classical religions of ancient Greece and Rome and their Hellenistic descendants.

Middle Eastern religions Edit

Abrahamic or Western Asian religions Edit

In the study of comparative religion, the category of Abrahamic religions consists of the three monotheistic religions, Christianity, Islam and Judaism, which claim Abraham (Hebrew Avraham אַבְרָהָם Arabic Ibrahim إبراهيم ) as a part of their sacred history. Smaller religions such as Baháʼí Faith that fit this description are sometimes included but are often omitted. [9]

The original belief in the God of Abraham eventually became strictly monotheistic present-day Rabbinic Judaism. Judaism is considered by religious Jews to be the expression of the covenant that God established with the Children of Israel. Jews hold that the Torah is part of the larger text known as the Tanakh or the Hebrew Bible, they also believe in a supplemental oral tradition represented by later texts such as the Midrash and the Talmud. [10]

Christians believe that Christianity is the fulfillment and continuation of the Jewish Old Testament. Christians believe that Jesus (Hebrew Yeshua יֵשׁוּעַ) is the awaited Messiah (Christ) foretold in the Old Testament prophecies, and believe in subsequent New Testament scripture. [11] Christians in general believe in that Jesus is the incarnation or Son of God. Their creeds generally hold in common that the incarnation, ministry, suffering, death on the cross, and resurrection of Jesus was for the salvation of mankind. [12]

Islam believes the present Christian and Jewish scriptures have been corrupted over time and are no longer the original divine revelations as given to the Jewish people and to Moses, Jesus, and other prophets. For Muslims, the Quran is the final, complete revelation from God (Arabic الله Allah), who believe it to have been revealed to Muhammad alone, who is believed by Muslims to be the final prophet of Islam, and the Khatam an-Nabiyyin, meaning the last of the prophets ever sent by Allah ("seal of the prophets").

Based on the Muslim figure of the Mahdī, the ultimate savior of humankind and the final Imām of the Twelve Imams, Ali Muhammad Shirazi, later known as Bab, created the Bábí movement out of the belief that he was the gate to the Twelfth Imām. This signaled a break with Islam and started a new religious system, Bábism. However, in the 1860s a split occurred after which the vast majority of Bábís who considered Mirza Husayn `Ali or Bahá'u'lláh to be Báb's spiritual successor founded the Baháʼí Movement, while the minority who followed Subh-i-Azal came to be called Azalis. [13] The Baháʼí division eventually became a full-fledged religion of its own, the Baháʼí Faith. In comparison to the other Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the number of adherents for Baháʼí faith and other minor Abrahamic religions are not very significant.

Out of the three major Abrahamic faiths, Christianity and Judaism are the two religions that diverge the most in theology and practice.

The historical interaction of Islam and Judaism started in the 7th century CE with the origin and spread of Islam. There are many common aspects between Islam and Judaism, and as Islam developed, it gradually became the major religion closest to Judaism. As opposed to Christianity, which originated from interaction between ancient Greek, Roman, and Hebrew cultures, Judaism is very similar to Islam in its fundamental religious outlook, structure, jurisprudence and practice. [14] There are many traditions within Islam originating from traditions within the Hebrew Bible or from post-biblical Jewish traditions. These practices are known collectively as the Isra'iliyat. [15]

The historical interaction between Christianity and Islam connects fundamental ideas in Christianity with similar ones in Islam. Islam accepts many aspects of Christianity as part of its faith – with some differences in interpretation – and rejects other aspects. Islam believes the Quran is the final revelation from God and a completion of all previous revelations, including the Bible.


The name Zoroaster (Ζωροάστηρ) is a Greek rendering of the Avestan name Zarathustra. He is known as Zartosht and Zardosht in Persian and Zaratosht in Gujarati. [31] The Zoroastrian name of the religion is Mazdayasna, which combines Mazda- with the Avestan word yasna, meaning "worship, devotion". [4] In English, an adherent of the faith is commonly called a Zoroastrian or a Zarathustrian. An older expression still used today is Behdin, meaning "The best religion | beh < Middle Persian weh ‘good’ + din < Middle Persian dēn < Avestan daēnā". In the Zoroastrian liturgy, this term is used as a title for a lay individual who has been formally inducted into the religion in a Navjote ceremony, in contrast to the priestly titles of osta, osti, ervad (hirbod), mobed and dastur. [32] [33] [34]

The first surviving reference to Zoroaster in English scholarship is attributed to Thomas Browne (1605–1682), who briefly refers to Zoroaster in his 1643 Religio Medici. [35] The term Mazdaism ( / ˈ m æ z d ə . ɪ z əm / ) is an alternative form in English used as well for the faith, taking Mazda- from the name Ahura Mazda and adding the suffix -ism to suggest a belief system. [36]


Zoroastrians believe that there is one universal, transcendent, all-good, and uncreated supreme creator deity, Ahura Mazda, or the "Wise Lord" (Ahura meaning "Lord" and Mazda meaning "Wisdom" in Avestan). [37] Zoroaster keeps the two attributes separate as two different concepts in most of the Gathas yet sometimes combines them into one form. Zoroaster also claims that Ahura Mazda is omniscient but not omnipotent. [4] In the Gathas, Ahura Mazda is noted as working through emanations known as the Amesha Spenta [26] and with the help of "other ahuras", [38] of which Sraosha is the only one explicitly named of the latter category. [ citation needed ]

Scholars and theologians have long debated on the nature of Zoroastrianism, with dualism, monotheism, and polytheism being the main terms applied to the religion. [39] [38] [40] Some scholars assert that Zoroastrianism's concept of divinity covers both being and mind as immanent entities, describing Zoroastrianism as having a belief in an immanent self-creating universe with consciousness as its special attribute, thereby putting Zoroastrianism in the pantheistic fold sharing its origin with Indian Brahmanism. [41] [42] In any case, Asha, the main spiritual force which comes from Ahura Mazda, [22] is the cosmic order which is the antithesis of chaos, which is evident as druj, falsehood and disorder. [23] The resulting cosmic conflict involves all of creation, mental/spiritual and material, including humanity at its core, which has an active role to play in the conflict. [43]

In the Zoroastrian tradition, druj comes from Angra Mainyu (also referred to in later texts as "Ahriman"), the destructive spirit/mentality, while the main representative of Asha in this conflict is Spenta Mainyu, the creative spirit/mentality. [20] Ahura Mazda is immanent in humankind and interacts with creation through emanations known as the Amesha Spenta, the bounteous/holy immortals, which are representative and guardians of different aspects of creation and the ideal personality. [26] Ahura Mazda, through these Amesha Spenta, is assisted by a league of countless divinities called Yazatas, meaning "worthy of worship", and each is generally a hypostasis of a moral or physical aspect of creation. According to Zoroastrian cosmology, in articulating the Ahuna Vairya formula, Ahura Mazda made the ultimate triumph of good against Angra Mainyu evident. [44] Ahura Mazda will ultimately prevail over the evil Angra Mainyu, at which point reality will undergo a cosmic renovation called Frashokereti [45] and limited time will end. In the final renovation, all of creation—even the souls of the dead that were initially banished to or chose to descend into "darkness"—will be reunited with Ahura Mazda in the Kshatra Vairya (meaning "best dominion"), [46] being resurrected to immortality. In Middle Persian literature, the prominent belief was that at the end of time a savior-figure known as the Saoshyant would bring about the Frashokereti, while in the Gathic texts the term Saoshyant (meaning "one who brings benefit") referred to all believers of Mazdayasna but changed into a messianic concept in later writings. [ citation needed ]

Zoroastrian theology includes foremost the importance of following the Threefold Path of Asha revolving around Good Thoughts, Good Words, and Good Deeds. [28] There is also a heavy emphasis on spreading happiness, mostly through charity, [29] and respecting the spiritual equality and duty of both men and women. [30] Zoroastrianism's emphasis on the protection and veneration of nature and its elements has led some to proclaim it as the "world's first proponent of ecology." [47] The Avesta and other texts call for the protection of water, earth, fire and air making it, in effect, an ecological religion: "It is not surprising that Mazdaism…is called the first ecological religion. The reverence for Yazatas (divine spirits) emphasizes the preservation of nature (Avesta: Yasnas 1.19, 3.4, 16.9 Yashts 6.3–4, 10.13)." [48] However, this particular assertion is undermined by the fact that early Zoroastrians had a duty to exterminate "evil" species, a dictate no longer followed in modern Zoroastrianism. [49]


The religion states that active and ethical participation in life through good deeds formed from good thoughts and good words is necessary to ensure happiness and to keep chaos at bay. This active participation is a central element in Zoroaster's concept of free will and Zoroastrianism as such rejects extreme forms of asceticism and monasticism but historically has allowed for moderate expressions of these concepts. [51]

In Zoroastrian tradition, life is a temporary state in which a mortal is expected to actively participate in the continuing battle between Asha and Druj. Prior to being born, the urvan (soul) of an individual is still united with its fravashi (personal/higher spirit), which has existed since Ahura Mazda created the universe. The fravashi before the urvan's split act as aids in the maintenance of creation with Ahura Mazda. During life, the fravashi act as aspirational concepts, spiritual protectors, and the fravashi of bloodline, cultural, and spiritual ancestors and heroes are venerated and can be called upon for aid. [52] On the fourth day after death, the urvan is reunited with its fravashi, in which the experiences of life in the material world are collected for the continuing battle in the spiritual world. For the most part, Zoroastrianism does not have a notion of reincarnation, at least not until the Frashokereti. Followers of Ilm-e-Kshnoom in India believe in reincarnation and practice vegetarianism, among other currently non-traditional opinions, [53] although there have been various theological statements supporting vegetarianism in Zoroastrianism's history and claims that Zoroaster was vegetarian. [54]

In Zoroastrianism, water (aban) and fire (atar) are agents of ritual purity, and the associated purification ceremonies are considered the basis of ritual life. In Zoroastrian cosmogony, water and fire are respectively the second and last primordial elements to have been created, and scripture considers fire to have its origin in the waters. Both water and fire are considered life-sustaining, and both water and fire are represented within the precinct of a fire temple. Zoroastrians usually pray in the presence of some form of fire (which can be considered evident in any source of light), and the culminating rite of the principal act of worship constitutes a "strengthening of the waters". Fire is considered a medium through which spiritual insight and wisdom are gained, and water is considered the source of that wisdom. Both fire and water are also hypostasized as the Yazatas Atar and Anahita, which worship hymns and litanies dedicated to them. [ citation needed ]

A corpse is considered a host for decay, i.e., of druj. Consequently, scripture enjoins the safe disposal of the dead in a manner such that a corpse does not pollute the good creation. These injunctions are the doctrinal basis of the fast-fading traditional practice of ritual exposure, most commonly identified with the so-called Towers of Silence for which there is no standard technical term in either scripture or tradition. Ritual exposure is currently mainly practiced by Zoroastrian communities of the Indian subcontinent, in locations where it is not illegal and diclofenac poisoning has not led to the virtual extinction of scavenger birds. Other Zoroastrian communities either cremate their dead, or bury them in graves that are cased with lime mortar, though Zoroastrians are keen to dispose of their dead in the most environmentally harmless way possible. [ citation needed ]

For a variety of social and political factors the Zoroastrians of the Indian subcontinent, namely the Parsis and Iranis have not engaged in conversion since at least the 18th Century. Zoroastrian high priests, have historically opined there is no reason to not allow conversion which is also supported the Revayats and other scripture though later priests have condemned these judgements. [55] [38] Within Iran, many of the beleaguered Zoroastrians have been also historically opposed or not practically concerned with the matter of conversion. Currently though, The Council of Tehran Mobeds (the highest ecclesastical authority within Iran) endorses conversion but conversion from Islam to Zoroastrianism is illegal under the laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran. [56] [38]

Classical antiquity

The roots of Zoroastrianism are thought to have emerged from a common prehistoric Indo-Iranian religious system dating back to the early 2nd millennium BCE. [57] The prophet Zoroaster himself, though traditionally dated to the 6th century BCE, is thought by many modern historians to have been a reformer of the polytheistic Iranian religion who lived in the 10th century BCE. [58] Zoroastrianism as a religion was not firmly established until several centuries later. Zoroastrianism enters recorded history in the mid-5th century BCE. Herodotus' The Histories (completed c. 440 BCE) includes a description of Greater Iranian society with what may be recognizably Zoroastrian features, including exposure of the dead. [59]

The Histories is a primary source of information on the early period of the Achaemenid era (648–330 BCE), in particular with respect to the role of the Magi. According to Herodotus, the Magi were the sixth tribe of the Medes (until the unification of the Persian empire under Cyrus the Great, all Iranians were referred to as "Mede" or "Mada" by the peoples of the Ancient World) and wielded considerable influence at the courts of the Median emperors. [60]

Following the unification of the Median and Persian empires in 550 BCE, Cyrus the Great and later his son Cambyses II curtailed the powers of the Magi after they had attempted to sow dissent following their loss of influence. In 522 BCE, the Magi revolted and set up a rival claimant to the throne. The usurper, pretending to be Cyrus' younger son Smerdis, took power shortly thereafter. [61] Owing to the despotic rule of Cambyses and his long absence in Egypt, "the whole people, Persians, Medes and all the other nations" acknowledged the usurper, especially as he granted a remission of taxes for three years. [60]

Darius I and later Achaemenid emperors acknowledged their devotion to Ahura Mazda in inscriptions, as attested to several times in the Behistun inscription, and appear to have continued the model of coexistence with other religions. Whether Darius was a follower of the teachings of Zoroaster has not been conclusively established as there is no indication of note that worship of Ahura Mazda was exclusively a Zoroastrian practice. [62]

According to later Zoroastrian legend (Denkard and the Book of Arda Viraf), many sacred texts were lost when Alexander the Great's troops invaded Persepolis and subsequently destroyed the royal library there. Diodorus Siculus's Bibliotheca historica, which was completed circa 60 BCE, appears to substantiate this Zoroastrian legend. [63] According to one archaeological examination, the ruins of the palace of Xerxes bear traces of having been burned. [64] Whether a vast collection of (semi-)religious texts "written on parchment in gold ink", as suggested by the Denkard, actually existed remains a matter of speculation, but it is unlikely. [65]

Late antiquity

As late as the Parthian period, a form of Zoroastrianism was without a doubt the dominant religion in the Armenian lands. [67] The Sassanids aggressively promoted the Zurvanite form of Zoroastrianism, often building fire temples in captured territories to promote the religion. During the period of their centuries long suzerainty over the Caucasus, the Sassanids made attempts to promote Zoroastrianism there with considerable successes, and it was prominent in the pre-Christian Caucasus (especially modern-day Azerbaijan). [ citation needed ]

Decline in the Middle Ages

Most of the Sassanid Empire was overthrown by the Arabs over the course of 16 years in the 7th century. Although the administration of the state was rapidly Islamicized and subsumed under the Umayyad Caliphate, in the beginning "there was little serious pressure" exerted on newly subjected people to adopt Islam. [72] Because of their sheer numbers, the conquered Zoroastrians had to be treated as dhimmis (despite doubts of the validity of this identification that persisted down the centuries), [73] which made them eligible for protection. Islamic jurists took the stance that only Muslims could be perfectly moral, but "unbelievers might as well be left to their iniquities, so long as these did not vex their overlords." [73] In the main, once the conquest was over and "local terms were agreed on", the Arab governors protected the local populations in exchange for tribute. [73]

The Arabs adopted the Sassanid tax-system, both the land-tax levied on land owners and the poll-tax levied on individuals, [73] called jizya, a tax levied on non-Muslims (i.e., the dhimmis). In time, this poll-tax came to be used as a means to humble the non-Muslims, and a number of laws and restrictions evolved to emphasize their inferior status. Under the early orthodox caliphs, as long as the non-Muslims paid their taxes and adhered to the dhimmi laws, administrators were enjoined to leave non-Muslims "in their religion and their land." (Caliph Abu Bakr, qtd. in Boyce 1979, p. 146).

Under Abbasid rule, Muslim Iranians (who by then were in the majority) in many instances showed severe disregard for and mistreated local Zoroastrians. For example, in the 9th century, a deeply venerated cypress tree in Khorasan (which Parthian-era legend supposed had been planted by Zoroaster himself) was felled for the construction of a palace in Baghdad, 2,000 miles (3,200 km) away. In the 10th century, on the day that a Tower of Silence had been completed at much trouble and expense, a Muslim official contrived to get up onto it, and to call the adhan (the Muslim call to prayer) from its walls. This was turned into a pretext to annex the building. [74]

Ultimately, Muslim scholars like Al-Biruni found little records left of the belief of for instance the Khawarizmians because figures like Qutayba ibn Muslim "extinguished and ruined in every possible way all those who knew how to write and read the Khawarizmi writing, who knew the history of the country and who studied their sciences." As a result, "these things are involved in so much obscurity that it is impossible to obtain an accurate knowledge of the history of the country since the time of Islam…" [75]


Though subject to a new leadership and harassment, the Zoroastrians were able to continue their former ways. But there was a slow but steady social and economic pressure to convert. [76] [77] The nobility and city-dwellers were the first to convert, with Islam more slowly being accepted among the peasantry and landed gentry. [78] "Power and worldly-advantage" now lay with followers of Islam, and although the "official policy was one of aloof contempt, there were individual Muslims eager to proselytize and ready to use all sorts of means to do so." [77]

In time, a tradition evolved by which Islam was made to appear as a partly Iranian religion. One example of this was a legend that Husayn, son of the fourth caliph Ali and grandson of Islam's prophet Muhammad, had married a captive Sassanid princess named Shahrbanu. This "wholly fictitious figure" [79] was said to have borne Husayn a son, the historical fourth Shi'a imam, who claimed that the caliphate rightly belonged to him and his descendants, and that the Umayyads had wrongfully wrested it from him. The alleged descent from the Sassanid house counterbalanced the Arab nationalism of the Umayyads, and the Iranian national association with a Zoroastrian past was disarmed. Thus, according to scholar Mary Boyce, "it was no longer the Zoroastrians alone who stood for patriotism and loyalty to the past." [79] The "damning indictment" that becoming Muslim was Un-Iranian only remained an idiom in Zoroastrian texts. [79]

With Iranian support, the Abbasids overthrew the Umayyads in 750, and in the subsequent caliphate government—that nominally lasted until 1258—Muslim Iranians received marked favor in the new government, both in Iran and at the capital in Baghdad. This mitigated the antagonism between Arabs and Iranians, but sharpened the distinction between Muslims and non-Muslims. The Abbasids zealously persecuted heretics, and although this was directed mainly at Muslim sectarians, it also created a harsher climate for non-Muslims. [80]


Despite economic and social incentives to convert, Zoroastrianism remained strong in some regions, particularly in those furthest away from the Caliphate capital at Baghdad. In Bukhara (in present-day Uzbekistan), resistance to Islam required the 9th-century Arab commander Qutaiba to convert his province four times. The first three times the citizens reverted to their old religion. Finally, the governor made their religion "difficult for them in every way", turned the local fire temple into a mosque, and encouraged the local population to attend Friday prayers by paying each attendee two dirhams. [77] The cities where Arab governors resided were particularly vulnerable to such pressures, and in these cases the Zoroastrians were left with no choice but to either conform or migrate to regions that had a more amicable administration. [77]

The 9th century came to define the great number of Zoroastrian texts that were composed or re-written during the 8th to 10th centuries (excluding copying and lesser amendments, which continued for some time thereafter). All of these works are in the Middle Persian dialect of that period (free of Arabic words), and written in the difficult Pahlavi script (hence the adoption of the term "Pahlavi" as the name of the variant of the language, and of the genre, of those Zoroastrian books). If read aloud, these books would still have been intelligible to the laity. Many of these texts are responses to the tribulations of the time, and all of them include exhortations to stand fast in their religious beliefs. Some, such as the "Denkard", are doctrinal defenses of the religion, while others are explanations of theological aspects (such as the Bundahishn's) or practical aspects (e.g., explanation of rituals) of it. [ citation needed ]

In Khorasan in northeastern Iran, a 10th-century Iranian nobleman brought together four Zoroastrian priests to transcribe a Sassanid-era Middle Persian work titled Book of the Lord (Khwaday Namag) from Pahlavi script into Arabic script. This transcription, which remained in Middle Persian prose (an Arabic version, by al-Muqaffa, also exists), was completed in 957 and subsequently became the basis for Firdausi's Book of Kings. It became enormously popular among both Zoroastrians and Muslims, and also served to propagate the Sassanid justification for overthrowing the Arsacids (i.e., that the Sassanids had restored the faith to its "orthodox" form after the Hellenistic Arsacids had allowed Zoroastrianism to become corrupt). [ citation needed ]

Among migrations were those to cities in (or on the margins of) the great salt deserts, in particular to Yazd and Kerman, which remain centers of Iranian Zoroastrianism to this day. Yazd became the seat of the Iranian high priests during Mongol Il-Khanate rule, when the "best hope for survival [for a non-Muslim] was to be inconspicuous." [81] Crucial to the present-day survival of Zoroastrianism was a migration from the northeastern Iranian town of "Sanjan in south-western Khorasan", [82] to Gujarat, in western India. The descendants of that group are today known as the Parsis—"as the Gujaratis, from long tradition, called anyone from Iran" [82] —who today represent the larger of the two groups of Zoroastrians. [ citation needed ]

The struggle between Zoroastrianism and Islam declined in the 10th and 11th centuries. Local Iranian dynasties, "all vigorously Muslim," [82] had emerged as largely independent vassals of the Caliphs. In the 16th century, in one of the early letters between Iranian Zoroastrians and their co-religionists in India, the priests of Yazd lamented that "no period [in human history], not even that of Alexander, had been more grievous or troublesome for the faithful than 'this millennium of the demon of Wrath'." [83]


Zoroastrianism has survived into the modern period, particularly in India, where the Parsis are thought to have been present since about the 9th century. [ citation needed ]

Today Zoroastrianism can be divided in two main schools of thought: reformists and traditionalists. Traditionalists are mostly Parsis and accept, beside the Gathas and Avesta, also the Middle Persian literature and like the reformists mostly developed in their modern form from 19th century developments. They generally do not allow conversion to the faith and, as such, for someone to be a Zoroastrian they must be born of Zoroastrian parents. Some traditionalists recognize the children of mixed marriages as Zoroastrians, though usually only if the father is a born Zoroastrian. [84] Reformists tend to advocate a "return" to the Gathas, the universal nature of the faith, a decrease in ritualization, and an emphasis on the faith as philosophy rather than religion. [ citation needed ] Not all Zoroastrians identify with either school and notable examples are getting traction including Neo-Zoroastrians/Revivalists, which are usually reinterpretations of Zoroastrianism appealing towards Western concerns, [85] and centering the idea of Zoroastrianism as a living religion and advocate the revival and maintenance of old rituals and prayers while supporting ethical and social progressive reforms. Both of these latter schools tend to center the Gathas without outright rejecting other texts except the Vendidad. The Ilm-e-Khshnoom and the Pundol Group are Zoroastrian mystical schools of thought popular among a small minority of the Parsi community inspired mostly by 19th-century theosophy and typified by a spiritual ethnocentric mentality. [ citation needed ]

From the 19th century onward, the Parsis gained a reputation for their education and widespread influence in all aspects of society. They played an instrumental role in the economic development of the region over many decades several of the best-known business conglomerates of India are run by Parsi-Zoroastrians, including the Tata, Godrej, Wadia families, and others. [ citation needed ]

Though the Armenians share a rich history affiliated with Zoroastrianism (that eventually declined with the advent of Christianity), reports indicate that there were Zoroastrian Armenians in Armenia until the 1920s. [86] A comparatively minor population persisted in Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Persia, and a growing large expatriate community has formed in the United States mostly from India and Iran, and to a lesser extent in the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. [ citation needed ]

At the request of the government of Tajikistan, UNESCO declared 2003 a year to celebrate the "3000th anniversary of Zoroastrian culture", with special events throughout the world. In 2011 the Tehran Mobeds Anjuman announced that for the first time in the history of modern Iran and of the modern Zoroastrian communities worldwide, women had been ordained in Iran and North America as mobedyars, meaning women assistant mobeds (Zoroastrian clergy). [87] [88] [89] The women hold official certificates and can perform the lower-rung religious functions and can initiate people into the religion. [90]

Some scholars believe [92] that key concepts of Zoroastrian eschatology and demonology influenced the Abrahamic religions. [93] [94] On the other hand, Zoroastrianism itself inherited ideas from other belief systems and, like other "practiced" religions, accommodates some degree of syncretism, [95] with Zoroastrianism in Sogdia, the Kushan Empire, Armenia, China, and other places incorporating local and foreign practices and deities. [96] Zoroastrian influences on Hungarian, Slavic, Ossetian, Turkic and Mongol mythologies have also been noted, all of which bearing extensive light-dark dualisms and possible sun god theonyms related to Hvare-khshaeta. [97] [98] [99]

Indo-Iranian origins

The religion of Zoroastrianism is closest to Vedic religion to varying degrees. Some historians believe that Zoroastrianism, along with similar philosophical revolutions in South Asia were interconnected strings of reformation against a common Indo-Aryan thread. Many traits of Zoroastrianism can be traced back to the culture and beliefs of the prehistorical Indo-Iranian period, that is, to the time before the migrations that led to the Indo-Aryans and Iranics becoming distinct peoples. Zoroastrianism consequently shares elements with the historical Vedic religion that also has its origins in that era. Some examples include cognates between the Avestan word Ahura ("Ahura Mazda") and the Vedic Sanskrit word Asura ("demon evil demigod") as well as Daeva ("demon") and Deva ("god") and they both descend from a common Proto-Indo-Iranian religion. [ citation needed ]


Zoroastrianism is often compared with Manichaeism. Nominally an Iranian religion, it has its origins in Middle-Eastern Gnosticism. Superficially such a comparison seems apt, as both are dualistic and Manichaeism adopted many of the Yazatas for its own pantheon. Gherardo Gnoli, in The Encyclopaedia of Religion, [100] says that "we can assert that Manichaeism has its roots in the Iranian religious tradition and that its relationship to Mazdaism, or Zoroastrianism, is more or less like that of Christianity to Judaism". [101]

But they are quite different. [102] Manichaeism equated evil with matter and good with spirit, and was therefore particularly suitable as a doctrinal basis for every form of asceticism and many forms of mysticism. Zoroastrianism, on the other hand, rejects every form of asceticism, has no dualism of matter and spirit (only of good and evil), and sees the spiritual world as not very different from the natural one (the word "paradise", or pairi.daeza, applies equally to both.) [ citation needed ]

Manichaeism's basic doctrine was that the world and all corporeal bodies were constructed from the substance of Satan, an idea that is fundamentally at odds with the Zoroastrian notion of a world that was created by God and that is all good, and any corruption of it is an effect of the bad. [ citation needed ]

Present-day Iran

Many aspects of Zoroastrianism are present in the culture and mythologies of the peoples of Greater Iran, not least because Zoroastrianism was a dominant influence on the people of the cultural continent for a thousand years. Even after the rise of Islam and the loss of direct influence, Zoroastrianism remained part of the cultural heritage of the Iranian language-speaking world, in part as festivals and customs, but also because Ferdowsi incorporated a number of the figures and stories from the Avesta in his epic Shāhnāme, which is pivotal to Iranian identity. One notable example is the incorporation of the Yazata Sraosha as an angel venerated within Shia Islam in Iran. [103]


The Avesta is a collection of the central religious texts of Zoroastrianism written in the old Iranian dialect of Avestan. The history of the Avesta is speculated upon in many Pahlavi texts with varying degrees of authority, with the current version of the Avesta dating at oldest from the times of the Sasanian Empire. [104] According to Middle Persian tradition, Ahura Mazda created the twenty-one Nasks of the original Avesta which Zoroaster brought to Vishtaspa. Here, two copies were created, one which was put in the house of archives and the other put in the Imperial treasury. During Alexander's conquest of Persia, the Avesta (written on 1200 ox-hides) was burned, and the scientific sections that the Greeks could use were dispersed among themselves. However, there is no strong evidence historically towards these claims and they remain contested despite affirmations from the Zoroastrian tradition, whether it be the Denkart, Tansar-nāma, Ardāy Wirāz Nāmag, Bundahsin, Zand i Wahman Yasn or the transmitted oral tradition. [104] [105]

As tradition continues, under the reign of King Valax (identified with a Vologases of the Arsacid Dynasty [106] ), an attempt was made to restore what was considered the Avesta. During the Sassanid Empire, Ardeshir ordered Tansar, his high priest, to finish the work that King Valax had started. Shapur I sent priests to locate the scientific text portions of the Avesta that were in the possession of the Greeks. Under Shapur II, Arderbad Mahrespandand revised the canon to ensure its orthodox character, while under Khosrow I, the Avesta was translated into Pahlavi.

The compilation of the Avesta can be authoritatively traced, however, to the Sasanian Empire, of which only fraction survive today if the Middle Persian literature is correct. [104] The later manuscripts all date from after the fall of the Sasanian Empire, the latest being from 1288, 590 years after the fall of the Sasanian Empire. The texts that remain today are the Gathas, Yasna, Visperad and the Vendidad, of which the latter's inclusion is disputed within the faith. [107] Along with these texts is the individual, communal, and ceremonial prayer book called the Khordeh Avesta, which contains the Yashts and other important hymns, prayers, and rituals. The rest of the materials from the Avesta are called "Avestan fragments" in that they are written in Avestan, incomplete, and generally of unknown provenance. [108]

Middle Persian (Pahlavi)

Middle Persian and Pahlavi works created in the 9th and 10th century contain many religious Zoroastrian books, as most of the writers and copyists were part of the Zoroastrian clergy. The most significant and important books of this era include the Denkard, Bundahishn, Menog-i Khrad, Selections of Zadspram, Jamasp Namag, Epistles of Manucher, Rivayats, Dadestan-i-Denig, and Arda Viraf Namag. All Middle Persian texts written on Zoroastrianism during this time period are considered secondary works on the religion, and not scripture. Nonetheless, these texts have had a strong influence on the religion. [ citation needed ]

Zoroastrianism was founded by Zoroaster (or Zarathushtra) in ancient Iran. The precise date of the founding of Zoroastrianism is uncertain and dates differ wildly from 2000 BCE to "200 years before Alexander". Zoroaster was born in either Northeast Iran or Southwest Afghanistan. He was born into a culture with a polytheistic religion, which included excessive animal sacrifice [109] and the excessive ritual use of intoxicants, and his life was defined heavily by the settling of his people and the constant threats of raids and conflict. Zoroaster's birth and early life are little documented but speculated heavily upon in later texts. What is known is recorded in the Gathas—the core of the Avesta, which contains hymns thought to be composed by Zoroaster himself. Born into the Spitama clan, he refers to himself as a poet-priest and prophet. He had a wife, three sons, and three daughters, the numbers of which are gathered from various texts. [110]

Zoroaster rejected many of the gods of the Bronze Age Iranians and their oppressive class structure, in which the Kavis and Karapans (princes and priests) controlled the ordinary people. He also opposed cruel animal sacrifices and the excessive use of the possibly hallucinogenic Haoma plant (possibly a species of ephedra), but did not outright condemn completely either practice in moderate forms. [111] [112]

Zoroaster in legend

According to later Zoroastrian tradition, when Zoroaster was 30 years old, he went into the Daiti river to draw water for a Haoma ceremony when he emerged, he received a vision of Vohu Manah. After this, Vohu Manah took him to the other six Amesha Spentas, where he received the completion of his vision. [113] This vision radically transformed his view of the world, and he tried to teach this view to others. Zoroaster believed in one supreme creator deity and acknowledged this creator's emanations (Amesha Spenta) and other divinities which he called Ahuras (Yazata). Some of the deities of the old religion, the Daevas (Devas in Sanskrit), appeared to delight in war and strife and were condemned as evil workers of Angra Mainyu by Zoroaster. [ citation needed ]

Zoroaster's ideas were not taken up quickly he originally only had one convert: his cousin Maidhyoimanha. [114] The local religious authorities opposed his ideas, considering that their faith, power, and particularly their rituals were threatened by Zoroaster's teaching against the bad and overly-complicated ritualization of religious ceremonies. Many did not like Zoroaster's downgrading of the Daevas to evil ones not worthy of worship. After twelve years of little success, Zoroaster left his home. [ citation needed ]

In the country of King Vishtaspa, the king and queen heard Zoroaster debating with the religious leaders of the land and decided to accept Zoroaster's ideas as the official religion of their kingdom after having Zoroaster prove himself by healing the king's favorite horse. Zoroaster is believed to have died in his late 70s, either by murder by a Turanian or old age. Very little is known of the time between Zoroaster and the Achaemenian period, except that Zoroastrianism spread to Western Iran and other regions. By the time of the founding of the Achaemenid Empire, Zoroastrianism is believed to have been already a well-established religion. [ citation needed ]

Cypress of Kashmar

The Cypress of Kashmar is a mythical cypress tree of legendary beauty and gargantuan dimensions. It is said to have sprung from a branch brought by Zoroaster from Paradise and to have stood in today's Kashmar in northeastern Iran and to have been planted by Zoroaster in honor of the conversion of King Vishtaspa to Zoroastrianism. According to the Iranian physicist and historian Zakariya al-Qazwini King Vishtaspa had been a patron of Zoroaster who planted the tree himself. In his ʿAjā'ib al-makhlūqāt wa gharā'ib al-mawjūdāt, he further describes how the Al-Mutawakkil in 247 AH (861 AD) caused the mighty cypress to be felled, and then transported it across Iran, to be used for beams in his new palace at Samarra. Before, he wanted the tree to be reconstructed before his eyes. This was done in spite of protests by the Iranians, who offered a very great sum of money to save the tree. Al-Mutawakkil never saw the cypress, because he was murdered by a Turkish soldier (possibly in the employ of his son) on the night when it arrived on the banks of the Tigris. [115] [116]

Fire Temple of Kashmar

Kashmar Fire Temple was the first Zoroastrian fire temple built by Vishtaspa at the request of Zoroaster in Kashmar. In a part of Ferdowsi's Shahnameh, the story of finding Zarathustra and accepting Vishtaspa's religion is regulated that after accepting Zoroastrian religion, Vishtaspa sends priests all over the universe And Azar enters the fire temples (domes) and the first of them is Adur Burzen-Mihr who founded in Kashmar and planted a cypress tree in front of the fire temple and made it a symbol of accepting the Bahi religion And he sent priests all over the world, and commanded all the famous men and women to come to that place of worship. [117]

According to the Paikuli inscription, during the Sasanian Empire, Kashmar was part of Greater Khorasan, and the Sasanians worked hard to revive the ancient religion. It still remains a few kilometers above the ancient city of Kashmar in the castle complex of Atashgah. [118]

Humata, Huxta, Huvarshta (Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds), the Threefold Path of Asha, is considered the core maxim of Zoroastrianism especially by modern practitioners. In Zoroastrianism, good transpires for those who do righteous deeds for its own sake, not for the search of reward. Those who do evil are said to be attacked and confused by the druj and are responsible for aligning themselves back to Asha by following this path. [28]

In Zoroastrianism, Ahura Mazda is the beginning and the end, the creator of everything that can and cannot be seen, the eternal and uncreated, the all-good and source of Asha. [4] In the Gathas, the most sacred texts of Zoroastrianism thought to have been composed by Zoroaster himself, Zoroaster acknowledged the highest devotion to Ahura Mazda, with worship and adoration also given to Ahura Mazda's manifestations (Amesha Spenta) and the other ahuras (Yazata) that support Ahura Mazda. [119]

Daena (din in modern Persian and meaning "that which is seen") is representative of the sum of one's spiritual conscience and attributes, which through one's choice Asha is either strengthened or weakened in the Daena. [120] Traditionally, the manthras, spiritual prayer formulas, are believed to be of immense power and the vehicles of Asha and creation used to maintain good and fight evil. [121] Daena should not be confused with the fundamental principle of Asha, believed to be the cosmic order which governs and permeates all existence, and the concept of which governed the life of the ancient Indo-Iranians. For these, asha was the course of everything observable—the motion of the planets and astral bodies the progression of the seasons and the pattern of daily nomadic herdsman life, governed by regular metronomic events such as sunrise and sunset, and was strengthened through truth-telling and following the Threefold Path. [22]

All physical creation (getig) was thus determined to run according to a master plan—inherent to Ahura Mazda—and violations of the order (druj) were violations against creation, and thus violations against Ahura Mazda. [25] This concept of asha versus the druj should not be confused with Western and especially Abrahamic notions of good versus evil, for although both forms of opposition express moral conflict, the asha versus druj concept is more systemic and less personal, representing, for instance, chaos (that opposes order) or "uncreation", evident as natural decay (that opposes creation) or more simply "the lie" (that opposes truth and goodness). [22] Moreover, in the role as the one uncreated creator of all, Ahura Mazda is not the creator of druj, which is "nothing", anti-creation, and thus (likewise) uncreated and developed as the antithesis of existence through choice. [23]

In this schema of asha versus druj, mortal beings (both humans and animals) play a critical role, for they too are created. Here, in their lives, they are active participants in the conflict, and it is their spiritual duty to defend Asha, which is under constant assault and would decay in strength without counteraction. [22] Throughout the Gathas, Zoroaster emphasizes deeds and actions within society and accordingly extreme asceticism is frowned upon in Zoroastrianism but moderate forms are allowed within. [51] This was explained as fleeing from the experiences and joys of life, which was the very purpose that the urvan (most commonly translated as the "soul") was sent into the mortal world to collect. The avoidance of any aspect of life which does not bring harm to another and engage in activities that support the druj, which includes the avoidance of the pleasures of life, is a shirking of the responsibility and duty to oneself, one's urvan, and one's family and social obligations. [23]

Central to Zoroastrianism is the emphasis on moral choice, to choose the responsibility and duty for which one is in the mortal world, or to give up this duty and so facilitate the work of druj. Similarly, predestination is rejected in Zoroastrian teaching and the absolute free will of all conscious beings is core, with even divine beings having the ability to choose. Humans bear responsibility for all situations they are in, and in the way they act toward one another. Reward, punishment, happiness, and grief all depend on how individuals live their lives. [122]

In the 19th century, through contact with Western academics and missionaries, Zoroastrianism experienced a massive theological change that still affects it today. The Rev. John Wilson led various missionary campaigns in India against the Parsi community, disparaging the Parsis for their "dualism" and "polytheism" and as having unnecessary rituals while declaring the Avesta to not be "divinely inspired". This caused mass dismay in the relatively uneducated Parsi community, which blamed its priests and led to some conversions towards Christianity. The arrival of the German orientalist and philologist Martin Haug led to a rallied defense of the faith through Haug's reinterpretation of the Avesta through Christianized and European orientalist lens. Haug postulated that Zoroastrianism was solely monotheistic with all other divinities reduced to the status of angels while Ahura Mazda became both omnipotent and the source of evil as well as good. Haug's thinking was subsequently disseminated as a Parsi interpretation, thus corroborating Haug's theory, and the idea became so popular that it is now almost universally accepted as doctrine though being reevaluated in modern Zoroastrianism and academia. [38] It has been argued by Dr Almut Hintze, that this designation of monotheistic, is not wholly perfect and that Zoroastrianism instead has it 'own form of monotheism' which combines elements of dualism and polytheism. [123] It has otherwise been opined that Zoroastrianism is totally monotheistic with only dualistic elements. [6]

Throughout Zoroastrian history, shrines and temples have been the focus of worship and pilgrimage for adherents of the religion. Early Zoroastrians were recorded as worshiping in the 5th century BCE on mounds and hills where fires were lit below the open skies. [124] In the wake of Achaemenid expansion, shrines were constructed throughout the empire and particularly influenced the role of Mithra, Aredvi Sura Anahita, Verethragna and Tishtrya, alongside other traditional Yazata who all have hymns within the Avesta and also local deities and culture-heroes. Today, enclosed and covered fire temples tend to be the focus of community worship where fires of varying grades are maintained by the clergy assigned to the temples. [125]

Cosmology: Creation of the universe

According to the Zoroastrian creation myth, Ahura Mazda existed in light and goodness above, while Angra Mainyu existed in darkness and ignorance below. They have existed independently of each other for all time, and manifest contrary substances. Ahura Mazda first manifested seven divine beings called Amesha Spentas, who support him and represent beneficent aspects of personality and creation, along with numerous Yazatas, divinities worthy of worship. Ahura Mazda then created the material and visible world itself in order to ensnare evil. Ahura Mazda created the floating, egg-shaped universe in two parts: first the spiritual (menog) and 3,000 years later, the physical (getig). Ahura Mazda then created Gayomard, the archetypical perfect man, and Gavaevodata, the primordial bovine. [122]

While Ahura Mazda created the universe and humankind, Angra Mainyu, whose very nature is to destroy, miscreated demons, evil daevas, and noxious creatures (khrafstar) such as snakes, ants, and flies. Angra Mainyu created an opposite, evil being for each good being, except for humans, which he found he could not match. Angra Mainyu invaded the universe through the base of the sky, inflicting Gayomard and the bull with suffering and death. However, the evil forces were trapped in the universe and could not retreat. The dying primordial man and bovine emitted seeds, which were protect by Mah, the Moon. From the bull's seed grew all beneficial plants and animals of the world and from the man's seed grew a plant whose leaves became the first human couple. Humans thus struggle in a two-fold universe of the material and spiritual trapped and in long combat with evil. The evils of this physical world are not products of an inherent weakness, but are the fault of Angra Mainyu's assault on creation. This assault turned the perfectly flat, peaceful, and ever day-lit world into a mountainous, violent place that is half night. [122]

Eschatology: Renovation and judgment

Zoroastrianism also includes beliefs about the renovation of the world (Frashokereti) and individual judgment (cf. general and particular judgment), including the resurrection of the dead, which are alluded to in the Gathas but developed in later Avestan and Middle Persian writings. [ citation needed ]

Individual judgment at death is at the Chinvat Bridge ("bridge of judgement" or "bridge of choice"), which each human must cross, facing a spiritual judgment, though modern belief is split as to whether it is representative of a mental decision during life to choose between good and evil or an afterworld location. Humans' actions under their free will through choice determine the outcome. According to tradition, the soul is judged by the Yazatas Mithra, Sraosha, and Rashnu, where depending on the verdict one is either greeted at the bridge by a beautiful, sweet-smelling maiden or by an ugly, foul-smelling old hag representing their Daena affected by their actions in life. The maiden leads the dead safely across the bridge, which widens and becomes pleasant for the righteous, towards the House of Song. The hag leads the dead down a bridge that narrows to a razor's edge and is full of stench until the departed falls off into the abyss towards the House of Lies. [122] [126] Those with a balance of good and evil go to Hamistagan, a neutral place of waiting where according to the Dadestan-i Denig, a Middle Persian work from the 9th century, the souls of the departed can relive their lives and conduct good deeds to raise themselves towards the House of Song or await the final judgement and the mercy of Ahura Mazda. [127]

The House of Lies is considered temporary and reformative punishments fit the crimes, and souls do not rest in eternal damnation. Hell contains foul smells and evil food, a smothering darkness, and souls are packed tightly together although they believe they are in total isolation. [122]

In ancient Zoroastrian eschatology, a 3,000-year struggle between good and evil will be fought, punctuated by evil's final assault. During the final assault, the sun and moon will darken and humankind will lose its reverence for religion, family, and elders. The world will fall into winter, and Angra Mainyu's most fearsome miscreant, Azi Dahaka, will break free and terrorize the world. [122]

According to legend, the final savior of the world, known as the Saoshyant, will be born to a virgin impregnated by the seed of Zoroaster while bathing in a lake. The Saoshyant will raise the dead—including those in all afterworlds—for final judgment, returning the wicked to hell to be purged of bodily sin. Next, all will wade through a river of molten metal in which the righteous will not burn but through which the impure will be completely purified. The forces of good will ultimately triumph over evil, rendering it forever impotent but not destroyed. The Saoshyant and Ahura Mazda will offer a bull as a final sacrifice for all time and all humans will become immortal. Mountains will again flatten and valleys will rise the House of Song will descend to the moon, and the earth will rise to meet them both. [122] Humanity will require two judgments because there are as many aspects to our being: spiritual (menog) and physical (getig). [122] Thus, Zoroastrianism can be said to be a universalist religion with respect to salvation in that all souls are redeemed at the final judgement. [ citation needed ]

Ritual and prayer

The central ritual of Zoroastrianism is the Yasna, which is a recitation of the eponymous book of the Avesta and sacrificial ritual ceremony involving Haoma. [128] Extensions to the Yasna ritual are possible through use of the Visperad and Vendidad, but such an extended ritual is rare in modern Zoroastrianism. [129] [130] The Yasna itself descended from Indo-Iranian sacrificial ceremonies and animal sacrifice of varying degrees are mentioned in the Avesta and are still practiced in Zoroastrianism albeit through reduced forms such as the sacrifice of fat before meals. [111] High rituals such as the Yasna are considered to be the purview of the Mobeds with a corpus of individual and communal rituals and prayers included in the Khordeh Avesta. [128] [131] A Zoroastrian is welcomed into the faith through the Navjote/Sedreh Pushi ceremony, which is traditionally conducted during the later childhood or pre-teen years of the aspirant, though there is no defined age limit for the ritual. [121] [132] After the ceremony, Zoroastrians are encouraged to wear their sedreh (ritual shirt) and kusti (ritual girdle) daily as a spiritual reminder and for mystical protection, though reformist Zoroastrians tend to only wear them during festivals, ceremonies, and prayers. [133] [121] [132]

The incorporation of cultural and local rituals is quite common and traditions have been passed down in historically Zoroastrian communities such as herbal healing practices, wedding ceremonies, and the like. [134] [135] [121] Traditionally, Zoroastrian rituals have also included shamanic elements involving mystical methods such as spirit travel to the invisible realm and involving the consumption of fortified wine, Haoma, mang, and other ritual aids. [136] [25] [137] [138] [139] Historically, Zoroastrians are encouraged to pray the five daily Gāhs and to maintain and celebrate the various holy festivals of the Zoroastrian calendar, which can differ from community to community. [140] [141] Zoroastrian prayers, called manthras, are conducted usually with hands outstretched in imitation of Zoroaster's prayer style described in the Gathas and are of a reflectionary and supplicant nature believed to be endowed with the ability to banish evil. [142] [143] [44] Devout Zoroastrians are known to cover their heads during prayer, either with traditional topi, scarves, other headwear, or even just their hands. However, full coverage and veiling which is traditional in Islamic practice is not a part of Zoroastrianism and Zoroastrian women in Iran wear their head coverings displaying hair and their faces to defy mandates by the Islamic Republic of Iran. [144]

Zoroastrian communities internationally tend to comprise mostly two main groups of people: Indian Parsis and Iranian Zoroastrians. According to a study in 2012 by the Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America, the number of Zoroastrians worldwide was estimated to be between 111,691 and 121,962. The number is imprecise because of diverging counts in Iran. [15]

Small Zoroastrian communities may be found all over the world, with a continuing concentration in Western India, Central Iran, and Southern Pakistan. Zoroastrians of the diaspora are primarily located in the United States, Great Britain and the former British colonies, particularly Canada and Australia, and usually anywhere where there is a strong Iranian and Gujarati presence. [ citation needed ]

In South Asia


India is considered to be home to the single largest Zoroastrian population in the world. When the Islamic armies, under the first caliphs, invaded Persia, those locals who were unwilling to convert to Islam sought refuge, first in the mountains of Northern Iran, then the regions of Yazd and its surrounding villages. Later, in the ninth century CE, a group sought refuge in the western coastal region of India, and also scattered to other regions of the world. [ citation needed ] Following the fall of the Sassanid Empire in 651 CE, many Zoroastrians migrated. Among them were several groups who ventured to Gujarat on the western shores of the Indian subcontinent, where they finally settled. The descendants of those refugees are today known as the Parsis. The year of arrival on the subcontinent cannot be precisely established, and Parsi legend and tradition assigns various dates to the event. [ citation needed ]

In the Indian census of 2001, the Parsis numbered 69,601, representing about 0.006% of the total population of India, with a concentration in and around the city of Mumbai. Due to a low birth rate and high rate of emigration, demographic trends project that by 2020 the Parsis will number only about 23,000 or 0.002% of the total population of India. By 2008, the birth-to-death ratio was 1:5 200 births per year to 1,000 deaths. [145] India's 2011 Census recorded 57,264 Parsi Zoroastrians. [146]


In Pakistan, the Zoroastrian population was estimated to number 1,675 people in 2012, [15] mostly living in Sindh (especially Karachi) followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. [147] [148] The National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) of Pakistan claimed that there were 3,650 Parsi voters during the elections in Pakistan in 2013 and 4,235 in 2018. [149]

Iran, Iraq and Central Asia

Iran's figures of Zoroastrians have ranged widely the last census (1974) before the revolution of 1979 revealed 21,400 Zoroastrians. [150] Some 10,000 adherents remain in the Central Asian regions that were once considered the traditional stronghold of Zoroastrianism, i.e., Bactria (see also Balkh), which is in Northern Afghanistan Sogdiana Margiana and other areas close to Zoroaster's homeland. In Iran, emigration, out-marriage and low birth rates are likewise leading to a decline in the Zoroastrian population. Zoroastrian groups in Iran say their number is approximately 60,000. [151] According to the Iranian census data from 2011 the number of Zoroastrians in Iran was 25,271. [152]

Communities exist in Tehran, as well as in Yazd, Kerman and Kermanshah, where many still speak an Iranian language distinct from the usual Persian. They call their language Dari (not to be confused with the Dari of Afghanistan). Their language is also called Gavri or Behdini, literally "of the Good Religion". Sometimes their language is named for the cities in which it is spoken, such as Yazdi or Kermani. Iranian Zoroastrians were historically called Gabrs, originally without a pejorative connotation but in the present-day derogatorily applied to all non-Muslims.

The number of Kurdish Zoroastrians, along with those of non-ethnic converts, has been estimated differently. [153] The Zoroastrian Representative of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq has claimed that as many as 100,000 people in Iraqi Kurdistan have converted to Zoroastrianism recently, with community leaders repeating this claim and speculating that even more Zoroastrians in the region are practicing their faith secretly. [154] [155] [156] However, this has not been confirmed by independent sources. [157]

The surge in Kurdish Muslims converting to Zoroastrianism is largely attributed to disillusionment with Islam after experiencing violence and oppression perpetrated by ISIS in the area. [158]

Western world

North America is thought to be home to 18,000–25,000 Zoroastrians of both South Asian and Iranian background. A further 3,500 live in Australia (mainly in Sydney). As of 2012, the population of Zoroastrians in USA was 15,000, making it the third-largest Zoroastrian population in the world after those of India and Iran. [159] It has been claimed that 3,000 Kurds have converted to Zoroastrianism in Sweden. [160] In 2020, Historic England published A Survey of Zoroastrianism Buildings in England with the aim of providing information about buildings that Zoroastrians use in England so that HE can work with communities to enhance and protect those buildings now and in the future. The scoping survey identified four buildings in England. [161]

  1. ^"Zarathustra – Iranian prophet" . Retrieved 9 June 2017 .
  2. ^
  3. www.iranicaonline.orghttps://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/zoroaster-i-the-name . Retrieved 2021-03-29 . Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^
  5. Skjærvø, Prods Oktor (2005). "Introduction to Zoroastrianism" (PDF) . Iranian Studies at Harvard University.
  6. ^ abcdefg
  7. "AHURA MAZDĀ – Encyclopaedia Iranica". Encyclopædia Iranica . Retrieved 2019-07-13 .
  8. ^
  9. Dastur, Francoise (1 January 1996). Death: An Essay on Finitude. A&C Black. pp. 11–. ISBN978-0-485-11487-4 .
  10. ^ ab
  11. Mehr, Farhang (2003). The Zoroastrian Tradition: An Introduction to the Ancient Wisdom of Zarathushtra. Mazda Publishers. p. 44. ISBN978-1-56859-110-0 .
  12. ^
  13. Russell, James R. (1987). Zoroastrianism in Armenia. Harvard University, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. pp. 211, 437. ISBN978-0-674-96850-9 .
  14. ^
  15. Boyd, James W. (1979). "Is Zoroastrianism Dualistic Or Monotheistic?". Journal of the American Academy of Religion. XLVII (4): 557–588. doi:10.1093/jaarel/xlvii.4.557. ISSN0002-7189.
  16. ^
  17. Karaka, Dosabhai Framji (1884). History of the Parsis. Macmillan and Company. pp. 209–.
  18. ^
  19. "Greece iii. Persian Influence on Greek Thought". Encyclopaedia Iranica . Retrieved 2019-07-14 .
  20. ^
  21. Hinnel, J (1997), The Penguin Dictionary of Religion, Penguin Books UK
  22. Boyce, Mary (2001), Zoroastrians: their religious beliefs and practices, Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd
  23. ^
  24. Beckwith, Christopher I. (2015). Greek Buddha: Pyrrho's Encounter with Early Buddhism in Central Asia. Princeton University Press. pp. 132–133. ISBN9781400866328 .
  25. ^
  26. "ZOROASTRIANISM i. HISTORY TO THE ARAB CONQUEST – Encyclopaedia Iranica". Encyclopædia Iranica . Retrieved 2019-07-13 .
  27. ^Hourani 1947, p. 87.
  28. ^ abc
  29. Rivetna, Roshan. "The Zarathushti World, a 2012 Demographic Picture" (PDF) . Fezana.org.
  30. ^
  31. "Zoroastrians Keep the Faith, and Keep Dwindling". Laurie Goodstein. 6 September 2006 . Retrieved 25 September 2017 .
  32. ^
  33. Deena Guzder (9 December 2008). "The Last of the Zoroastrians". Time . Retrieved 25 September 2017 .
  34. ^
  35. "AHURA". Encyclopaedia Iranica . Retrieved 2019-07-13 .
  36. ^
  37. "DAIVA". Encyclopaedia Iranica . Retrieved 2019-07-13 .
  38. ^ ab
  39. "AHRIMAN". Encyclopaedia Iranica . Retrieved 2019-07-13 .
  40. ^Boyce 1979, pp. 6–12.
  41. ^ abcde
  42. "AṦA (Asha "Truth")". Encyclopaedia Iranica . Retrieved 2017-06-14 .
  43. ^ abcd
  44. "Druj". Encyclopaedia Iranica . Retrieved 2017-06-14 .
  45. ^
  46. "Ahura Mazdā". Encyclopaedia Iranica . Retrieved 2017-06-14 .
  47. ^ abc
  48. "GĒTĪG AND MĒNŌG". Encyclopaedia Iranica . Retrieved 2019-07-13 .
  49. ^ abc
  50. "AMƎŠA SPƎNTA". Encyclopaedia Iranica . Retrieved 2019-07-13 .
  51. ^
  52. Goodstein, Laurie (2008-09-06). "Zoroastrians Keep the Faith, and Keep Dwindling". The New York Times . Retrieved 2009-10-03 .
  53. ^ abc
  54. "HUMATA HŪXTA HUVARŠTA". Encyclopaedia Iranica . Retrieved 2019-07-13 .
  55. ^ ab
  56. "CHARITABLE FOUNDATIONS". Encyclopaedia Iranica . Retrieved 2019-07-13 .
  57. ^ ab
  58. "WOMEN ii. In the Avesta". Encyclopaedia Iranica . Retrieved 2019-07-13 .
  59. ^
  60. "ZOROASTER i. THE NAME". Encyclopaedia Iranica . Retrieved 2019-08-01 .
  61. ^
  62. "BEHDĪN". Encyclopaedia Iranica . Retrieved 2019-08-01 .
  63. ^
  64. Giara, Marzban Jamshedji (2002). Global Directory of Zoroastrian Fire Temples. Marzban J. Giara.
  65. ^
  66. Karanjia, Ramiyar P. (2016-08-14). "Understanding Our Religious Titles". Parsi Times . Retrieved 2021-01-30 .
  67. ^ Browne, T. (1643) "Religio Medici"
  68. ^
  69. "Mazdaism". Oxford Reference . Retrieved 2019-08-01 .
  70. ^
  71. Duchesne-Guillemin, Jacques. "Zoroastrianism". Encyclopedia Britannica.
  72. ^ abcde
  73. Hinnells, John Williams, Alan (2007-10-22). Parsis in India and the Diaspora. Routledge. p. 165. ISBN978-1-134-06752-7 .
  74. ^
  75. Boyd, James W. et al. (1979), "Is Zoroastrianism Dualistic or Monotheistic?", Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol. XLVII (4): 557–588, doi:10.1093/jaarel/XLVII.4.557 |volume= has extra text (help)
  76. ^
  77. Hintze, Almut (2013). "Monotheism the Zoroastrian Way". Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. 24 (2): 225–249. doi:10.1017/S1356186313000333. S2CID145095789 – via ResearchGate.
  78. ^ François Lenormant and E. Chevallier The Student's Manual of Oriental History: Medes and Persians, Phœnicians, and Arabians, p. 38
  79. ^
  80. Constance E. Plumptre (2011). General Sketch of the History of Pantheism. p. 81. ISBN9781108028011 . Retrieved 2017-06-14 .
  81. ^
  82. "Zoroastrianism: Holy text, beliefs and practices". Encyclopedia Iranica. 2010-03-01 . Retrieved 2017-06-14 .
  83. ^ ab
  84. "AHUNWAR". Encyclopaedia Iranica . Retrieved 2019-07-13 .
  85. ^
  86. "FRAŠŌ.KƎRƎTI". Encyclopaedia Iranica . Retrieved 2019-07-13 .
  87. ^
  88. "ŠAHREWAR". Encyclopaedia Iranica . Retrieved 2019-07-13 .
  89. ^
  90. "What Does Zoroastrianism Teach Us About Ecology?". Parliament of the World's Religions.
  91. ^
  92. Foltz, Richard Saadi-Nejad, Manya (2008). "Is Zoroastrianism an Ecological Religion?". Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture. 1 (4). doi:10.1558/jsrnc.v1i4.413.
  93. ^
  94. Foltz, Richard (2010). "Zoroastrian Attitudes toward Animals". Society & Animals. 18 (4): 367–378. doi:10.1163/156853010X524325.
  95. ^ Lee Lawrence. (3 September 2011). "A Mysterious Stranger in China". The Wall Street Journal. Accessed on 31 August 2016.
  96. ^ ab
  97. "DARVĪŠ". Encyclopaedia Iranica . Retrieved 2019-07-13 .
  98. ^
  99. "FRAVAŠI". Encyclopaedia Iranica . Retrieved 2019-07-13 .
  100. ^Boyce 2007, p. 205.
  101. ^
  102. "Interfaith Vegan Coalition: ZoroastrIan KIt" (PDF) . In Defense of Animals.
  103. ^
  104. Writer, Rashna (1994). Contemporary Zoroastrians: An Unstructured Nation. University Press of America. p. 146. ISBN978-0-8191-9142-7 .
  105. ^
  106. www.iranicaonline.orghttps://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/conversion-vii . Retrieved 2021-03-29 . Missing or empty |title= (help)
  107. ^ Foltz 2013, pp. 10–18
  108. ^ abc Patrick Karl O'Brien, ed. ^
  109. "Herodotus, The Histories, Book 1, chapter 140". Perseus Digital Library . Retrieved 2021-03-21 .
  110. ^ ab
  111. "Herodotus, The Histories, Book 3, chapter 67, section 3". Perseus Digital Library . Retrieved 2019-08-03 .
  112. ^
  113. Sala, Joan Cortada I. (1867), Resumen de la Historia Universal: escrito con su conocimiento, y aprobado . – Joan Cortada i Sala , retrieved 2012-11-07 – via Google Libros
  114. ^
  115. "BISOTUN iii. Darius's Inscriptions". Encyclopaedia Iranica . Retrieved 2019-08-03 .
  116. ^
  117. Siculus, Diodorus. Bibliotheca Historica. pp. 17.72.2–6.
  118. ^
  119. Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Persepolis" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 21 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 186.
  120. ^
  121. "ALEXANDER THE GREAT ii. In Zoroastrianism – Encyclopaedia Iranica". Encyclopædia Iranica . Retrieved 2019-08-03 .
  122. ^ ab Mary Boyce. Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices Psychology Press, 2001 978-0415239028, p. 85
  123. ^ Mary Boyce. Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices Psychology Press, 2001 0415239028, p. 84
  124. ^
  125. Wigram, W. A. (2004), An Introduction to the History of the Assyrian Church, or, The Church of the Sassanid Persian Empire, 100–640 A.D, Gorgias Press, p. 34, ISBN978-1593331030
  126. ^ Dr Stephen H Rapp Jr. The Sasanian World through Georgian Eyes: Caucasia and the Iranian Commonwealth in Late Antique Georgian Literature Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 28 September 2014. 1472425529, p. 160
  127. ^ Ronald Grigor Suny. The Making of the Georgian NationIndiana University Press, 1994, 0253209153, p. 22
  128. ^ Roger Rosen, Jeffrey Jay Foxx. The Georgian Republic, Volume 1992 Passport Books, 1992 p. 34
  129. ^Boyce 1979, p. 150.
  130. ^ abcdBoyce 1979, p. 146.
  131. ^Boyce 1979, p. 158.
  132. ^
  133. "Kamar Oniah Kamaruzzaman, Al-Biruni: Father of Comparative Religion". Lib.iium.edu.my. Archived from the original on 13 July 2015 . Retrieved 9 June 2017 .
  134. ^Buillet 1978, pp. 37, 138 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFBuillet1978 (help) .
  135. ^ abcdBoyce 1979, pp. 147.
  136. ^Buillet 1978, p. 59 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFBuillet1978 (help) .
  137. ^ abcBoyce 1979, p. 151.
  138. ^Boyce 1979, p. 152.
  139. ^Boyce 1979, p. 163.
  140. ^ abcBoyce 1979, p. 157.
  141. ^Boyce 1979, p. 175.
  142. ^
  143. "CONVERSION vii. Zoroastrian faith in mod. per.". Encyclopaedia Iranica . Retrieved 2017-06-14 .
  144. ^
  145. Stausberg, Michael (2007). "Para-Zoroastrianisms: Memetic transmissions and appropriations". In Hinnels, John Williams, John (eds.). Parsis in India and their Diasporas. London: Routledge. pp. 236–254.
  146. ^ Anne Sofie Roald, Anh Nga Longva. Religious Minorities in the Middle East: Domination, Self-Empowerment, Accommodation Brill, 2011, 9004216847, p. 313
  147. ^
  148. "The Jury Is Still Out On Women as Parsi Priests". Parsi Khabar. 2011-03-09 . Retrieved 2013-10-12 .
  149. ^
  150. "A group of 8 Zartoshti women received their Mobedyar Certificate from Anjoman Mobedan in Iran". Amordad6485.blogfa.com . Retrieved 2017-06-14 .
  151. ^
  152. "Sedreh Pooshi by Female Mobedyar in Toronto Canada". Parsinews.net. 2013-06-19 . Retrieved 2017-06-14 .
  153. ^
  154. "گزارش تصویری-موبدیاران بانوی زرتشتی، به جرگه موبدیاران پیوستند (بخش نخست)". Archived from the original on September 27, 2013 . Retrieved August 10, 2013 . CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  155. ^ While estimates for the Achaemenid Empire range from 10–80+ million, most prefer 50 million. Prevas (2009, p. 14) estimates 10 million 1. Langer (2001, p. 40) estimates around 16 million 2. McEvedy and Jones (2001, p. 50) estimates 17 million 3Archived 2013-10-13 at the Wayback Machine. Strauss (2004, p. 37) estimates about 20 million 5. Aperghis (2007, p. 311) estimates 32 million 6. Scheidel (2009, p. 99) estimates 35 million 8. Rawlinson and Schauffler (1898, p. 270) estimates possibly 50 million 9. Astor (1899, p. 56) estimates almost 50 million 10. Lissner (1961, p. 111) estimates probably 50 million 11. Milns (1968, p. 51) estimates some 50 million 12. Hershlag (1980, p. 140) estimates nearly 50 million 13. Yarshater (1996, p. 47) estimates by 50 million 14. Daniel (2001, p. 41) estimates at 50 million 15. Meyer and Andreades (2004, p. 58) estimates to 50 million 17. Jones (2004, p. 8) estimates over 50 million 18. Safire (2007, p. 627) estimates in 50 million 19. Dougherty (2009, p. 6) estimates about 70 million 20. Richard (2008, p. 34) estimates nearly 70 million 21. Mitchell (2004, p. 16) estimates over 70 million 23. West (1913, p. 85) estimates about 75 million 24. Zenos (1889, p. 2) estimates exactly 75 million 25. Cowley (1999 and 2001, p. 17) estimates possibly 80 million 26. Cook (1904, p. 277) estimates exactly 80 million 27.
  156. ^
  157. "Zoroastrianism". jewishencyclopedia.com. 2012 . Retrieved 23 February 2012 .
  158. ^Black & Rowley 1987, p. 607b harvnb error: no target: CITEREFBlackRowley1987 (help) .
  159. ^Duchesne-Guillemin 1988, p. 815.
  160. ^ e.g., Boyce 1982, p. 202.
  161. ^
  162. The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Zoroastrianism. John Wiley & Sons. 2015. pp. 83–191. ISBN9781444331356 .
  163. ^ Š. Kulišić P.Ž. Petrović N. Pantelić. "Бели бог". Српски митолошки речник (in Serbian). Belgrade: Nolit. pp. 21–22.
  164. ^ Juha Pentikäinen, Walter de Gruyter, Shamanism and Northern Ecology 11/07/2011
  165. ^ Diószegi, Vilmos (1998) [1958]. A sámánhit emlékei a magyar népi műveltségben (in Hungarian) (1. reprint kiadás ed.). Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó. 963-05-7542-6. The title means: “Remnants of shamanistic beliefs in Hungarian folklore”.
  166. ^ Gherardo Gnoli, “Manichaeism: An Overview”, in Encyclopedia of Religion, ed. Mircea Eliade (NY: MacMillan Library Reference USA, 1987), 9: 165.
  167. ^ Contrast with Henning's observations: Henning, W.B., The Book of Giants, BSOAS, Vol. XI, Part 1, 1943, pp. 52–74:

It is noteworthy that Mani, who was brought up and spent most of his life in a province of the Persian empire, and whose mother belonged to a famous Parthian family, did not make any use of the Iranian mythological tradition. There can no longer be any doubt that the Iranian names of Sām, Narīmān, etc., that appear in the Persian and Sogdian versions of the Book of the Giants, did not figure in the original edition, written by Mani in the Syriac language

  • Black, Matthew Rowley, H. H., eds. (1982), Peake's Commentary on the Bible, New York: Nelson, ISBN978-0-415-05147-7
  • Boyce, Mary (1984), Textual sources for the study of Zoroastrianism, Manchester: Manchester UP, ISBN978-0-226-06930-2
  • Boyce, Mary (1987), Zoroastrianism: A Shadowy but Powerful Presence in the Judaeo-Christian World, London: William's Trust
  • Boyce, Mary (1979), Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices, London: Routledge, ISBN978-0-415-23903-5 (note to catalogue searchers: the spine of this edition misprints the title "Zoroastrians" as "Zoroastians", and this may lead to catalogue errors there is a second edition published in 2001 with the same ISBN)
  • Boyce, Mary (1975), The History of Zoroastrianism, 1, Leiden: Brill, ISBN978-90-04-10474-7 , (repr. 1996)
  • Boyce, Mary (1982), The History of Zoroastrianism, 2, Leiden: Brill, ISBN978-90-04-06506-2 , (repr. 1997)
  • Boyce, Mary (1991), The History of Zoroastrianism, 3, Leiden: Brill, ISBN978-90-04-09271-6 , (repr. 1997)
  • Boyce, Mary (2007), Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices, London: Routledge, ISBN978-0-415-23903-5
  • Boyce, Mary (1983), "Ahura Mazdā", Encyclopaedia Iranica, 1, New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul pp. 684–687
  • Bulliet, Richard W. (1979), Conversion to Islam in the Medieval Period: An Essay in Quantitative History , Cambridge: Harvard UP, ISBN978-0-674-17035-3
  • Carroll, Warren H. (1985), Founding Of Christendom: History Of Christendom, 1, Urbana: Illinois UP, ISBN978-0-931888-21-2 , (repr. 2004)
  • Clark, Peter (1998), Zoroastrianism: An Introduction to an Ancient Faith, Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, ISBN978-1-898723-78-3
  • Dhalla, Maneckji Nusservanji (1938), History of Zoroastrianism, New York: OUP
  • Duchesne-Guillemin, Jacques (1988), "Zoroastrianism", Encyclopedia Americana, 29, Danbury: Grolier pp. 813–815
  • Duchesne-Guillemin, Jacques (2006), "Zoroastrianism: Relation to other religions", Encyclopædia Britannica (Online ed.), archived from the original on 2007-12-14 , retrieved 2006-05-31
  • Eliade, Mircea Couliano, Ioan P. (1991), The Eliade Guide to World Religions, New York: Harper Collins
  • Foltz, Richard (2013), Religions of Iran: From Prehistory to the Present, London: Oneworld publications, ISBN978-1-78074-308-0
  • Hourani, Albert (1947), Minorities in the Arab World, New York: AMS Press
  • Kellens, Jean, "Avesta", Encyclopaedia Iranica, 3, New York: Routledge and Kegan Paul pp. 35–44.
  • Khan, Roni K (1996), The Tenets of Zoroastrianism
  • King, Charles William (1998) [1887], Gnostics and their Remains Ancient and Mediaeval, London: Bell & Daldy, ISBN978-0-7661-0381-8
  • Melton, J. Gordon (1996), Encyclopedia of American Religions, Detroit: Gale Research
  • Malandra, William W. (1983), An Introduction to Ancient Iranian Religion. Readings from the Avesta and Achaemenid Inscriptions, Minneapolis: U. Minnesota Press, ISBN978-0-8166-1114-0
  • Malandra, William W. (2005), "Zoroastrianism: Historical Review", Encyclopaedia Iranica, New York: iranicaonline.org
  • Moulton, James Hope (1917), The Treasure of the Magi: A Study of Modern Zoroastrianism, London: OUP, 1-564-59612-5 (repr. 1997)
  • Robinson, B.A. (2008), Zoroastrianism: Holy text, beliefs and practices , retrieved 2010-03-01
  • Russell, James R. (1987), Zoroastrianism in Armenia (Harvard Iranian Series), Oxford: Harvard University Press, ISBN978-0-674-96850-9
  • Simpson, John A. Weiner, Edmund S., eds. (1989), "Zoroastrianism", Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed.), London: Oxford UP, ISBN978-0-19-861186-8
  • Stolze, Franz (1882), Die Achaemenidischen und Sasanidischen Denkmäler und Inschriften von Persepolis, Istakhr, Pasargadae, Shâpûr, Berlin: A. Asher
  • Verlag, Chronik (2008), The Chronicle of World History, United States: Konecky and Konecky
  • Zaehner, Robert Charles (1961), The Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism, London: Phoenix Press, ISBN978-1-84212-165-8
  • Definitions from Wiktionary
  • Media from Wikimedia Commons
  • Quotations from Wikiquote
  • Texts from Wikisource
  • Data from Wikidata

120 ms 6.8% Scribunto_LuaSandboxCallback::sub 80 ms 4.5% (for generator) 60 ms 3.4% Scribunto_LuaSandboxCallback::plain 60 ms 3.4% Scribunto_LuaSandboxCallback::find 60 ms 3.4% dataWrapper 60 ms 3.4% [others] 440 ms 25.0% Number of Wikibase entities loaded: 1/400 -->

The dating of Mazdaism, Zoroastrianism and Hinduism

Many highly divergent dates have been proposed for the first appearance of original Mazdaism, Zoroastrianism (which is a reform or renovation of Mazdaism, based on the Avesta), and the earliest manifestation of Hinduism. No satisfactory agreement on chronology has ever been reached.

I believe that both Mazdaism and Hinduism sprung from the same source: an older Indo-European or Indo-Aryan religion established not long after the dawn of PIE culture.

Yet even the dating of PIE civilization and languages remains highly controversial. What solid evidence do we possess, which can assist us in determining the correct dating of these religions and cultural manifestations?


I dont know the dating or the evidences but I agree there is some confusion over the Zoroastrian dates that relate to the fact that Zoroaster was a reformer of an earlier form of that religion that became corrupted or that there was a division within it ?

Then we have an early date for some indications of the religion and a later date for Zoroaster, and the two get mooshed up together .

Basically its prehistory so we cant be sure .

Early on in my studies I was seeing them as two separate strands, but sometimes, even from Zoroastrian sources , it appears Zoroastrianism was a split off from, or a reaction against , movements and developments within , previous aligned Proto Indo Iranian religion.

Eg . looking at the early names used by the religion itself

The opening paragraphs of the Avesta's Farvardin Yasht and the Yasht's verse 13.150 also tell us that Gaya Maretan and the other Pre-Zoroastrian Mazdayasni were called paoiryo-tkaesha meaning keepers of the original ancient law.

I think this was the original religion, or described the earlier religions before an Indo Iranian split .

Later in Aryan history, Zarathushtra described a belief Mazdayasno Zarathushtrish Vidaevo Ahura-Tkaesho, that is, Zarathushtrian Mazda-Worship opposed to the daeva through the laws of the Lord (Ahura).

That indicates that the religion was about opposing a state of or a new development in the old religion

I wish someone with more accurate info would weigh in on this .

Dates are really speculative and often dont match archaeology .


I dont know the dating or the evidences but I agree there is some confusion over the Zoroastrian dates that relate to the fact that Zoroaster was a reformer of an earlier form of that religion that became corrupted or that there was a division within it ?

Then we have an early date for some indications of the religion and a later date for Zoroaster, and the two get mooshed up together .

Basically its prehistory so we cant be sure .

Early on in my studies I was seeing them as two separate strands, but sometimes, even from Zoroastrian sources , it appears Zoroastrianism was a split off from, or a reaction against , movements and developments within , previous aligned Proto Indo Iranian religion.

Eg . looking at the early names used by the religion itself

The opening paragraphs of the Avesta's Farvardin Yasht and the Yasht's verse 13.150 also tell us that Gaya Maretan and the other Pre-Zoroastrian Mazdayasni were called paoiryo-tkaesha meaning keepers of the original ancient law.

I think this was the original religion, or described the earlier religions before an Indo Iranian split .

Later in Aryan history, Zarathushtra described a belief Mazdayasno Zarathushtrish Vidaevo Ahura-Tkaesho, that is, Zarathushtrian Mazda-Worship opposed to the daeva through the laws of the Lord (Ahura).

That indicates that the religion was about opposing a state of or a new development in the old religion

I wish someone with more accurate info would weigh in on this .

Dates are really speculative and often dont match archaeology .

Thank you for your very rational comments and for the research you have done on this topic.

As you explore the Avesta and other Zoroastrian sacred texts, you will find many references to pre-Zoroastrianism and even to conditions which prevailed before Mazdaism. This indicates that the basic metaphysical, spiritual and moral concepts underlying Mazdaism and Zoroastrianism reach far back into prehistory. I wouldn't be surprised if the most ancient PIE populations were already professing a faith similar to this. The Avestan language is considered by many Zoroastrians to date from at least 1600 B.C. if this is so, then the language spoken by people who practiced original Mazdaism was far older: perhaps a type of Indo-Aryan still quite close to PIE.

I'll post more on this soon. Please continue to exchange opinions with me. Thanks.

Freddie Mercury was intensely proud of his Persian Zoroastrian heritage

It wasn’t only in Western art and literature that Zoroastrianism made its mark indeed, the ancient faith also made a number of musical appearances on the European stage.

In addition to the priestly character Sarastro, the libretto of Mozart’s The Magic Flute is laden with Zoroastrian themes, such as light versus darkness, trials by fire and water, and the pursuit of wisdom and goodness above all else. And the late Farrokh Bulsara – aka Freddie Mercury – was intensely proud of his Persian Zoroastrian heritage. “I’ll always walk around like a Persian popinjay,” he once remarked in an interview, “and no one’s gonna stop me, honey!” Likewise, his sister Kashmira Cooke in a 2014 interview reflected on the role of Zoroastrianism in the family. “We as a family were very proud of being Zoroastrian,” she said. “I think what [Freddie’s] Zoroastrian faith gave him was to work hard, to persevere, and to follow your dreams.”

Ice and fire

When it comes to music, though, perhaps no single example best reflects the influence of Zoroastrianism’s legacy than Richard Strauss’ Thus Spoke Zarathustra, which famously provided the booming backbone to much of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. The score owes its inspiration to Nietzsche’s magnum opus of the same name, which follows a prophet named Zarathustra, although many of the ideas Nietzsche proposes are, in fact, anti-Zoroastrian. The German philosopher rejects the dichotomy of good and evil so characteristic of Zoroastrianism – and, as an avowed atheist, he had no use for monotheism at all.

Raphael’s The School of Athens, finished in 1511, includes a figure, seen in this detail from the larger work, many historians think is Zoroaster, holding a globe (Credit: Alamy)

Freddie Mercury and Zadig & Voltaire aside, there are other overt examples of Zoroastrianism’s impact on contemporary popular culture in the West. Ahura Mazda served as the namesake for the Mazda car company, as well as the inspiration for the legend of Azor Ahai – a demigod who triumphs over darkness – in George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones, as many of its fans discovered last year. As well, one could well argue that the cosmic battle between the Light and Dark sides of the Force in Star Wars has, quite ostensibly, Zoroastrianism written all over it.

Freddie Mercury, the legendary lead singer of Queen, drew inspiration from the Zoroastrian faith of his Persian family (Credit: Alamy)

For all its contributions to Western thought, religion and culture, relatively little is known about the world’s first monotheistic faith and its Iranian founder. In the mainstream, and to many US and European politicians, Iran is assumed to be the polar opposite of everything the free world stands for and champions. Iran’s many other legacies and influences aside, the all but forgotten religion of Zoroastrianism just might provide the key to understanding how similar ‘we’ are to ‘them’.

If you would like to comment on this story or anything else you have seen on BBC Culture, head over to our Facebook page or message us on Twitter.

Watch the video: ΙΝΔΟΥΙΣΜΟΣ


  1. Raynord

    Quite right! I think this is a great idea.

  2. Maulkis

    What to do in this case?

  3. Ossian

    This one topic is simply incomparable :), it is very interesting to me.

  4. Saa


  5. Taithleach

    I can't take part in the discussion right now - I'm very busy. I will be free - I will definitely write what I think.

Write a message