Zoroastrianism

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Zoroastrianism
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Primary topics
Zoroastrianism /
Mazdaism
Ahura Mazda
Zarathustra Zoroaster!
aša asha! " arta
Angels and demons
#vervie$ of the Angels
Amesha %pentas &
'azatas
Ahuras & (aevas
Angra Mainyu
Scripture and worship
Avesta & )athas
*endidad
+he Ahuna *airya
,nvocation
Fire +emples
Accounts and legends
(-nkard & .undahi/n
.ook of Arda *iraf
.ook of Jamasp
%tory of %an0an
History and culture
Zurvanism
1alendar & Festivals
Marriage
2schatology
Adherents
Zoroastrians in ,ran
Parsis & ,ranis
3 3 3
Persecution of
Zoroastrians
See also
,nde4 of 5elated Articles
+his 6o4: vie$ 3 talk 3 edit
Zoroastrianism is the religion and philosophy 6ased on the teachings ascri6ed to the prophet Zarathustra
Zarathushtra, Zartosht, Zoroaster in )reek!7 +his term is essentially synonymous $ith Mazdaism, $hich
ackno$ledges the divine authority of Ahura Mazda, proclaimed 6y Zarathustra, as demonstrated 6y
Zoroastrianistic creed and articles of faith7 ,n a declaration of the creed 8 the Fravarānē 8 the adherent states:
9:, profess myself a devotee of Mazda, a follo$er of Zarathustra79 Yasna ;<7<, ;<7=!
Zoroastrianism $as once the dominant religion of much of )reater ,ran, practiced 6y the ,ranian tri6es, including
6ut not limited to the Persians, the Pashtoons, the .alochis, the #ssetics, the 'aghno6i, and the >urds7 ?o$ever,
follo$ing the arrival of ,slam, the num6er of adherents has d$indled to not more than <@A,AAA Zoroastrians
$orld$ide, $ith concentrations in ,ndia, ,ran and Pakistan see demographics 6elo$!7 ?o$ever, according to
some other sources, the population is roughly ten times that7
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Contents
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• ; +erminology
• < (istinguishing characteristics
o <7; .asic 6eliefs
o <7< (eath rituals
o <7D #ther characteristics
• D ?istory
o D7; 1lassical antiEuity
o D7< Fate antiEuity
o D7D Middle Ages
o D7G Modern era
• G 5elation to other religions and cultures
• @ 5eligious te4ts
o @7; %cripture
o @7< #ther te4ts
• H Principal 6eliefs
• I Adherents
o I7; ,ran and 1entral Asia
o I7< ,n %outh Asia
 I7<7; (emographics
 I7<7< Joted Zoroastrians
• = .i6liography
• K 24ternal links
[edit] Terminology
+he term Zoroastrianism $as first attested 6y the Oxford English Dictionary in ;=IG in Archi6ald %ayceLs
Principles of Comparative Philology7 +he first surviving reference to Zoroaster in Western scholarship is
attri6uted to +homas .ro$ne ;HA@M;H=<!, $ho 6riefly refers to the prophet in his ;HGD eligio !edici7 +he
#2( records ;IGD War6urton, Pope"s Essay! as the earliest reference to Zoroaster7
+he term !a#daism pronounced / mN ˈ zdəɪzOm"! is a typical ;Kth century construct, taking !a#da$ from the
name Ahura Mazda and adding the suffi4 $ism to suggest a 6elief system7 +he March <AA; draft edition of the
OED also records an alternate form, !a#deism, perhaps derived from the French !a#d%isme, $hich first appeared
in ;=I;7 +he Zoroastrian name of the religion since the times of ancient Persia is !a#dayasna, $hich com6ines
!a#da$ $ith the Avestan language $ord yasna, meaning 9$isdom $orship, devotion to $isdom97 A practitioner
of the Mazdayasna religion is referred to as a !a#dayasni, a 9$isdom $orshipper97
,n the 2nglish language, an adherent of the faith commonly refers to himP or herself as a Zoroastrian or,
increasingly more common, a Zarathustrian7 An older, 6ut still $idespread e4pression is &ehdin, meaning
9follo$er of Daena9, for $hich 9)ood 5eligion9 is one translation7 ,n the Zoroastrian liturgy, the term &ehdin is
also used as a title for an individual $ho has 6een formally inducted into the religion see nav'ote for details!7
[edit] istinguishing characteristics
[edit] !asic "elie#s
• +here is one universal and transcendental )od, Ahura Mazda, meaning (he )*preme +isdom, the one
Qncreated 1reator to $hom all $orship is ultimately directed7 +he term Ahura Mazda $as constructed 6y
Zoroaster as a com6ination of a masculine and a feminine $ord as if to underline the lack of a specific
gender, making the divinity radically different from prePZoroastrian polytheistic deities7
• 5eflecting ZoroastrianismLs geographical and cultural origin 6et$een the monotheistic religions of the
Middle 2ast and the monotheistic and pantheistic faiths of %outh Asia, as $ell as reflecting the religionLs
pluralistic literary origins, contemporary Zoroastrianism features interpretations of the concept of Ahura
Mazda covering 6oth monotheism, cosmic or mental dualism, pantheism and panentheism7 +he Pantheist
school of Zoroastrianism, as taught 6y contemporary scholars such as Parviz *ar0avand, is in this onPgoing
theological de6ate strictly referred to as Mazdayasna, meaning 9$isdom $orship9 in contemporary
2nglish7 ,t is here important to stress that despite these radical theological differences, dualist and
Pantheist interpretations of Zoroastrianism have al$ays coPe4isted, 6oth in ,ran and ,ndia, throughout the
millennia $ithin the same organizational frame$ork7
• Ahura MazdaLs creation 8 evident as asha, truth and order 8 is the antithesis of chaos, evident as dr*',
falsehood and disorder7 +he resulting conflict involves the entire universe, including humanity, $hich has
an active role to play in the conflict7
• Active participation in life through good thoughts, good $ords and good deeds is necessary to ensure
happiness and to keep the chaos at 6ay7 +his active participation is a central element in ZoroasterLs concept
of free $ill, and Zoroastrianism re0ects all forms of monasticism7
• Ahura Mazda $ill ultimately prevail, at $hich point the universe $ill undergo a cosmic renovation and
time $ill end cf, Zoroastrian eschatology!7 ,n the final renovation, all of creation 8 even the souls of the
dead that $ere initially 6anished to 9darkness9 8 $ill 6e reunited in Ahura Mazda7
• ,n Zoroastrian tradition the malevolent is represented 6y (ru0, the 9(estructive Principle9, $hile the
6enevolent is represented through Ahura MazdaLs Asha, the instrument or 9.ounteous Principle9 of the act
of creation7 ,t is through %penta Mainyu that Ahura Mazda is immanent in humankind, and through $hich
the 1reator interacts $ith the $orld7 According to Zoroastrian cosmology, in articulating the Ahuna
*airya formula Ahura Mazda made this ultimate triumph evident to (ru07
• As e4pressions and aspects of 1reation, Ahura Mazda emanated seven 9sparks9, the Amesha %pentas
9.ounteous ,mmortals9!, that are each the hypostasis and representative of one aspect of that 1reation7
+hese Amesha %penta are in turn assisted 6y a league of lesser principles, the 'azatas, each 9Worthy of
Worship9 and each again a hypostasis of a moral or physical aspect of creation7
[edit] eath rituals
• (eath and 6urial: Zoroastrians 6elieve that on the fourth day after death the human soul leaves the 6ody
and the 6ody remains as an empty shell7 Mourners clean and dress the corpse and pose it on a hard sla6, all
according to custom7 +hen they 6ring in a dog $ith t$o spots painted on its forehead, as if it had four eyes7
,f the dog 6arks, the person is still alive7 ,f not, he is dead7
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+raditionally, Zoroastrians disposed of their
dead 6y leaving them atop openPtopped enclosures, called +o$ers of %ilence, or Do-hmas7 *ultures and
the $eather $ould clean the flesh off the 6ones, $hich $ere then placed into an ossuary at the center of
the +o$er usually a $ell!7 Fire and earth $ere considered too sacred for the dead to 6e placed in them7
While this practice is continued in ,ndia 6y some Parsis, it had ended 6y the 6eginning of the t$entieth
century in ,ran7 ,n ,ndia, 6urial and cremation are 6ecoming increasingly popular alternatives as pollution
has killed off the vulture population7 Alternatively, Parsis have created solar concentrators to intensify the
sunLs rays and help 6urn the corpses
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7
[edit] $ther characteristics
• +he sym6ol of fire: +he energy of the creator is represented in Zoroastrianism 6y fire and the %un, $hich
are 6oth enduring, radiant, pure and life sustaining7 Zoroastrians usually pray in front of some form of fire
or any source of light!7 ,t is important to note that fire is not $orshiped 6y Zoroastrians, 6ut is used
simply as sym6ol and a point of focus, much like the crucifi4 in 1atholicism7 For details, see Fire temple!
• Proselytizing and conversion: Parsi Zoroastrians do not proselytize7 ,n recent years, ho$ever, Zoroastrian
communities in ,ran, 2urope and the Americas have 6een more tolerant to$ards conversion7 While this
move has 6een supported officially 6y the 1ouncil of Mo6eds in +ehran, ,ran, it has not 6een endorsed 6y
the priesthood in Mum6ai, ,ndia7
• ,nterPfaith marriages: As in many other faiths, Zoroastrians are strongly encouraged to marry others of the
same faith, 6ut this is not a reEuirement of the religion itself7 %ome mem6ers of the ,ndian Zoroastrian
community the Parsis! contend that a child must have a Parsi father to 6e eligi6le for introduction into the
faith, 6ut this assertion is considered 6y most to 6e a violation of the Zoroastrian tenets of gender eEuality,
and may 6e a remnant of an old legal definition since overruled! of Parsi7 +his issue is a matter of great
de6ate $ithin the Parsi community, 6ut $ith the increasingly glo6al nature of modern society and the
d$indling num6er of Zoroastrians, such opinions are less vociferous than they $ere previously7
[edit] History
[edit] Classical anti%uity
Although older Kth";Ath century .12, see Zoroaster!, Zoroastrianism only enters recorded history in the midP@th
century .127 ?erodotusL (he .istories completed c/ GGA .12! includes a description of )reater ,ranian society
$ith $hat may 6e recogniza6ly Zoroastrian features, including e4posure of the dead7 %ee +o$ers of %ilence!7
Perhaps more importantly, (he .istories is a primary source of information on the early period of the
Achaemenid era HG=MDDA .12!, in particular $ith respect to the role of the Magi7 According to ?erodotus i7;A;,
the Magi $ere the si4th tri6e of the Medians until the unification of the Persian empire under 1yrus the )reat, all
,ranians $ere referred to as Mede or Mada 6y the peoples of the Ancient World!, $ho appear to have 6een the
priestly caste of the MesopotamianPinfluenced 6ranch of Zoroastrianism today kno$n as Zurvanism, and $ho
$ielded considera6le influence at the courts of the Median emperors7
Follo$ing the unification of the Median and Persian empires in @@A .12 1yrus ,, and later his son 1am6yses ,,
curtailed the po$ers of the Magi after they had attempted to seed dissent follo$ing their loss of influence7 ,n @<<
.12 the Magi revolted and set up a rival claimant to the throne7 +he usurper, pretending to 6e 1yrusL younger son
%merdis, took po$er shortly thereafter7 #$ing to the despotic rule of 1am6yses and his long a6sence in 2gypt,
9the $hole people, Persians, Medes and all the other nations9 ackno$ledged the usurper, especially as he granted
a remission of ta4es for three years ?erodotus iii7 H=!7
+he .ehistun ,nscription7
According to the .ehistun ,nscription pseudoP%merdis ruled for seven months 6efore 6eing overthro$n 6y (arius
, in @<; .127 +he 9Magi9, though persecuted, continued to e4ist7 A year follo$ing the death of the first pseudoP
%merdis named )aumata!, a second pseudoP%merdis named *ahyazdRta! attempted a coup7 +he coup, though
initially successful, failed7
Whether 1yrus ,, $as a Zoroastrian is su60ect to de6ate7 ,t did ho$ever influence him to the e4tent that it 6ecame
the nonPimposing religion of his empire, and its 6eliefs $ould later allo$ 1yrus to free the Je$s from captivity
and allo$ them to return to Judea $hen the emperor took .a6ylon in @DK .127 (arius , $as certainly a devotee
of Ahura Mazda, as attested to several times in the .ehistun inscription7 .ut $hether he $as a follo$er of
Zoroaster has not 6een conclusively esta6lished, since devotion to Ahura Mazda $as at the time! not necessarily
an indication of an adherence to ZoroasterLs teaching7
(arius , and later Achaemenid emperors, though ackno$ledging their devotion to Ahura Mazda in inscriptions,
appear to have permitted religions to coe4ist7 Jonetheless, it $as during the Achaemenid period that
Zoroastrianism gained momentum7 A num6er of the Zoroastrian te4ts that today are part of the greater
compendium of the Avesta have 6een attri6uted to that period7 ,t $as also during the later Achaemenid era that
many of the divinities and divine concepts of protoP,ndoP,ranian religions! $ere incorporated in Zoroastrianism,
in particular those to $hom the days of the month of the Zoroastrian calendar are dedicated7 +his calendar is still
used today, a fact that is attri6uted to the Achaemenid period7 Additionally, the divinities, or yazatas, are presentP
day Zoroastrian angels7 (halla, ;KD=!7
Almost nothing is kno$n of the status of Zoroastrianism under the %eleucids and Parthians $ho ruled over Persia
follo$ing Ale4ander the )reatLs invasion in DDA .127 According to later Zoroastrian legend Den-ard, &oo- of
0rda 1iraf!, many sacred te4ts $ere lost $hen Ale4anderLs troops invaded Persepolis and su6seEuently destroyed
the royal li6rary there7 (iodorus %iculusLs &i2liotheca historia completed c/ HA .12, $hich is to a great e4tent an
encapsulation of earlier $orks, appears to su6stantiate Zoroastrian legend (iod7 ;I7I<7<M;I7I<7H!7 According to
one archaeological e4amination, the ruins of the palace of Ser4es 6ear traces of having 6een 6urned %tolze,
;==<!7 Whether a vast collection of semiP!religious te4ts 9$ritten on parchment in gold ink9, as suggested 6y the
Den-ard, actually e4isted remains a matter of speculation, 6ut is unlikely7 )iven that many of the Den-ards
statementsPasPfact have since 6een refuted among scholars, the tale of the li6rary is $idely accepted to 6e
fictional7 >ellens, <AA<!
Zoroastrianism had a significant influence on )reek and 5oman philosophy7 %everal ancient )reek $riters such
as 2udo4us of 1nidus and Fatin $riters such as Pliny the 2lder praised Zoroastrian philosophy as 9the most
famous and most useful97 Plato learned of Zoroastrian philosophy through 2udo4us and incorporated some of its
teachings into his o$n Platonic realism7
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,n the Drd century .1, ho$ever, 1olotes accused PlatoLs (he ep*2lic
of plagiarizing parts of ZoroasterLs On 3at*re, such as the Myth of 2r7
B@CBHC
PlatoLs contemporary, ?eraclides
Ponticus, $rote a te4t called Zoroaster 6ased on ZoroasterLs philosophy in order to e4press his disagreement $ith
Plato on natural philosophy7
BIC
[edit] &ate anti%uity
When the %assanid dynasty came into po$er in <<= 12, they aggressively promoted the Zurvanite form of
Zoroastrianism and in some cases persecuted 1hristians and Manichaeans7 When the %assanids captured territory,
they often 6uilt fire temples there to promote their religion7 +he %assanids $ere suspicious of 1hristians not least
6ecause of their perceived ties to the 1hristian 5oman 2mpire7 +hus, those 1hristians loyal to the Patriarchate of
.a6ylon 8 $hich had 6roken $ith 5oman 1hristianity $hen the latter condemned Jestorianism 8 $ere
tolerated and even sometimes favored 6y the %assanids7 Jestorians lived in large num6ers in Mesopotamia and
>huzestan during this period7
A form of Zoroastrianism $as apparently also the chief religion of preP1hristian 1aucasus region, or at least $as
prominent there7 (uring periods of %assanid suzerainty over the 1aucasus the %assanids made attempts to
promote the religion there as $ell7
Well 6efore the Hth century Zoroastrianism had spread to northern 1hina via the %ilk 5oad, gaining official status
in a num6er of 1hinese states7 5emains of Zoroastrian temples have 6een found in >aifeng and Zhen0iang, and
according to some scholars,
B4ho5C
remained as late as the ;;DAs, 6ut 6y the ;Dth century the religion had faded from
prominence in 1hina7 ?o$ever, many scholars
B4ho5C
assert the influence of Zoroastrianism as $ell as later
Manicheism! on elements of .uddhism, especially in terms of light sym6olism7
[edit] Middle Ages
,n the Ith century the %assanid dynasty $as overthro$n 6y the Ara6s7 Although some of the later rulers had
Zoroastrian shrines destroyed, generally Zoroastrians $ere included as People of the .ook and allo$ed to practice
their religion7 Mass conversions to ,slam $ere not imposed,
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in accordance $ith ,slamic la$, though some
scholars de6ate the validity of these claims7
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?o$ever, there $as a slo$ 6ut steady social pressure to convert7
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+he no6ility and cityPd$ellers $ere the first to convert, $ith ,slam more slo$ly 6eing accepted among the
peasantry and landed gentry7
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Many Zoroastrians fled, among them several groups $ho eventually migrated to the $estern shores of the ,ndian
su6continent $here they finally settled7 According to the TissaPi %an0an 9%tory of %an0an9, the only e4isting
account of the early years of Zoroastrian refugees in ,ndia, the immigrants originated from greater! >horasan7
+he descendants of those and other settlers, $ho are today kno$n as the Parsis, founded the ,ndian cities of
%an0an and Javsari, $hich are said to have 6een named after the cities of their origin: %an0an near Merv, in
presentPday +urkmenistan! and the eponymous %ari in modern Mazandaran, ,ran!7 >ot$al, <AAG!
Zoroastrian school children in >erman, ;KAD7
,n the centuries follo$ing the fall of the %assanid 2mpire Zoroastrianism 6egan to gradually return to the form it
had had under the Achaemenids, and no evidence of $hat is today called the 9Zurvan ?eresy9 e4ists 6eyond the
;Ath century7 .oyce, <AA<! ,ronically, it $as Zurvanism and ZurvanPinfluenced te4ts that first reached the $est,
leading to the supposition that Zoroastrianism $as a religion $ith t$o deities: Zurvan and Ahura Mazda the latter
6eing opposed 6y Angra Mainyu!7
[edit] Modern era
Zoroastrians are primarily found in Pakistan, ,ndia and ,ran7
[edit] 'elation to other religions and cultures
Zoroastrianism is uniEuely important in the history of religion 6ecause of its possi6le formative links to 6oth
Western and 2astern religious traditions7 As 9the oldest of the revealed credal religions9, Zoroastrianism
9pro6a6ly had more influence on mankind directly or indirectly than any other faith97
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,t has 6een asserted
B;DCB;GC
that key concepts of Zoroastrian eschatology and demonology had influence on the
A6rahamic religions7 ?o$ever, .oyce
B;@C
and other ,ranists also note that Zoroastrianism itself inherited ideas
from other 6elief systems and, like other practiced religions, accommodates some degree of syncretism7 For
e4ample, one of the popular strains $ithin Zoroastrianism considers the representation of! evil to have 6een one
of )odLs creations that su6seEuently turned from )od!7 +his idea of a unity of a creative principle is a relatively
recent development and directly attri6uted to influence from 1hristianity, specifically, the impact of Protestant
missionaries on the ,ndian su6continent during the ;Kth century see Angra Mainyu in presentPday Zoroastrianism
for details!7
Many traits of Zoroastrianism can 6e traced 6ack to the culture and 6eliefs of the prehistorical ,ndoP,ranian
period, that is, to the time 6efore the migrations that led to the ,ndians and ,ranians 6ecoming distinct peoples7
Zoroastrianism conseEuently shares elements $ith the historical *edic religion that also has its origins in that era7
?o$ever, Zoroastrianism $as also strongly affected 6y the later culture of the ,ranian ?eroic Age ;@AA .12
on$ards!, an influence that the ,ndic religions $ere not su60ect to7 Moreover, the other culture groups that the
respective peoples came to interact $ith $ere different, for instance in HthPGth century .12 Western ,ran $ith
Fertile 1rescent culture, $ith each side a6sor6ing ideas from the other7 %uch interPcultural influences
not$ithstanding, Zoroastrian script*re is essentially a product of ,ndo!,ranian culture, and8representing the
oldest and largest corpus preP,slamic ,ranian ideology8is considered a reflection of that culture7 +hen, together
$ith the *edas, $hich represent the oldest te4ts of the ,ndian 6ranch of ,ndoP,ranian culture, it is possi6le to
reconstruct some facets of prototypical ,ndoP,ranian 6eliefs7 %ince these t$o groups of sources also represent the
oldest nonPfragmentary evidence of ,ndoP2uropean languages, the analysis of them also motivated attempts to
characterise an even earlier ProtoP,ndoP2uropean religion, and in turn influenced various unifying hypotheses like
those of 1arl )ustav Jung or James )eorge Frazer7 Although these unifying notions deeply influenced the
modernists of the late ;KthP and early <Ath century, they have not fared $ell under the scrutiny of more recent
interdisciplinary peer revie$7 +he study of preP,slamic ,ran has itself undergone a radical change in direction
since the ;K@As, and the field is today disinclined to speculation7
Zoroastrianism is often compared $ith the Manichaeism, $hich is nominally an ,ranian religion 6ut has its origins
in the MiddleP2astern )nosticism7 %uperficially, such a comparison may 6e apt as 6oth are uncompromisingly
dualistic and Manichaeism nominally adopted many of the 'azatas for its o$n pantheon7 As religious types they
are ho$ever poles apart:
B;HC
Manichaeism eEuated evil $ith matter and good $ith spirit, and $as therefore
particularly suita6le as a doctrinal 6asis for every form of asceticism and many forms of mysticism7
Zoroastrianism on the other hand re0ects every form of asceticism, has no dualism of matter and spirit only of
good and evil!, and sees the spiritual $orld as not very different from the natural one and the $ord 9paradise9 via
Fatin and )reek from Avestan pairi/dae#a, literally 9stoneP6ounded enclosure9! applies eEually to 6oth7
ManichaeismLs 6asic doctrine $as that the $orld and all corporeal 6odies $ere constructed from the su6stance of
%atan, an idea that is fundamentally at odds $ith the Zoroastrian notion of a $orld that $as created 6y )od and
that is all good, and any corruption of it is an effect of the 6ad7 From $hat may 6e inferred from many Manichean
te4ts and a fe$ Zoroastrian sources, the adherents of the t$o religions or at least their respective priesthoods!
despised each other intensely7
Many aspects of Zoroastrianism are present in the culture and mythologies of the peoples of the )reater ,ran, not
least 6ecause Zoroastrianism, $as a dominant influence on the people of the cultural continent for a thousand
years7 2ven after the rise of ,slam and the loss of direct influence, Zoroastrianism remained part of the cultural
heritage of the ,ranian languagePspeaking $orld, in part as festivals and customs, 6ut also 6ecause Ferdo$si
incorporated a num6er of the figures and stories from the Avesta in his epic )hāhnāme, $hich in turn is pivotal to
,ranian identity7
[edit] 'eligious te(ts
[edit] Scripture
!ain article, 0vesta
+he Avesta is the collection of the sacred te4ts of Zoroastrianism7 Although the te4ts are very old, the
compendium as $e kno$ it today is essentially the result of a redaction that is thought to have occurred during the
reign of %hapur ,, DAKMDIK 12!7 ?o$ever, some portions of the collection have 6een lost since then, especially
after the fall of the %assanid empire in H@; 12, after $hich Zoroastrianism $as supplanted 6y ,slam7 +he oldest
e4isting copy of an Avestan language te4t dates to ;<== 127
+he most ancient of the te4ts of the Avesta are in an old or 6athic Avestan7 +he ma0ority of the te4ts are ho$ever
from a later period: most are pro6a6ly from the Achaemenid era HG=MDDA .12!, $ith a fe$ 6eing even younger7
All the te4ts are 6elieved to have 6een transmitted orally for centuries 6efore they found $ritten form, and in
e4isting copies, the Avestan language $ords are $ritten in Din da2ireh script, a %assanid era <<HMH@; 12!
invention7
'asna <=7;, 0h*navaita 6atha .odleian M% J<!
+he various te4ts of the Avesta are generally divided into topical categories, 6ut these are 6y no means fi4ed or
canonical7 %ome scholars prefer to place the five categories in t$o groups, one liturgical and the other general7
• +he Yasna, the primary liturgical collection7 +he Yasna includes the 6athas, $hich are thought to have
6een composed 6y Zoroaster himself7
• +he 1isparad, a collection of supplements to the Yasna7
• +he Yasht s , hymns in honor of the divinities7
• +he 1endidad, descri6es the various forms of evil spirits and $ays to confound them7
• %horter te4ts and prayer collections, the five nyaishes9$orship, praise9!, the siro#e 9thirty days9! see
Zoroastrian calendar! and the afringans 96lessings9!7 %ome of these fragments are collected in the
7horda 0vesta, the 9Fittle Avesta9, $hich is the collection of te4ts for daily lay as opposed to priestly!
use7
[edit] $ther te(ts
+he te4ts of the Avesta are complemented 6y several secondary $orks of religious or semiPreligious nature, $hich
although not sacred and not used as scripture, have a significant influence on Zoroastrian doctrine7 +hey are all of
a much later date 8 in general from 6et$een the Kth and ;<th centuries 8 $ith the youngest treatises dating to
the ;Ith century7 %ome of these $orks Euote passages that are 6elieved to 6e from lost sections of the Avesta7
+he most important of these secondary te4ts of $hich there some HA in all! are:
• +he Dēn-ard 9Acts of 5eligion9! in Middle Persian
• +he &*ndahishn 9Primordial 1reation9! in Middle Persian
• +he !ēnog$8 7hirad 9%pirit of Wisdom9! in Middle Persian
• +he 0rda 1iraf 3āmag 9.ook of Arda *iraf9! in Middle Persian
• +he )ad Dar 9?undred (oors or 1hapters9! in Modern Persian
• +he ivayats or traditional treatises in Middle and Modern Persian
+he use of the e4pression Zend$0vesta to refer to the Avesta, or the use of Zend as the name of a language or
script, are relatively recent and popular mistakes7 +he $ord Zend or Zand, meaning 9commentary, translation9,
refers to supplementaries in Middle Persian not intended for use as theological te4ts 6y themselves 6ut for
religious instruction of the 6y then! nonPAvestanPspeaking pu6lic7 ,n contrast, the te4ts of the Avesta proper
remained sacrosanct and continued to 6e recited in Avestan 8 $hich $as considered a sacred language7
,n a general sense, all the secondary te4ts mentioned a6ove are also included in the Zend ru6ric since they too
often include commentaries on the Avesta and on the religion7
[edit] Principal "elie#s
Faravahar or Ferohar!, one of the primary sym6ols of Zoroastrianism, 6elieved to 6e the depiction of a Fravashi
guardian spirit!
Ahura Mazda is the 6eginning and the end, the creator of everything $hich can and cannot 6e seen, the 2ternal,
the Pure and the only +ruth7 ,n the )athas, the most sacred te4ts of Zoroastrianism thought to have 6een
composed 6y Zoroaster himself, the prophet ackno$ledged devotion to no other divinity 6esides Ahura Mazda7
Daena din in modern Persian! is the eternal Fa$, $hose order $as revealed to humanity through the !athra$
)penta 9?oly Words9!7 Daena has 6een used to mean religion, faith, la$, even as a translation for the ?indu and
.uddhist term (harma, often interpreted as 9duty9 6ut can also mean social order, right conduct, or virtue7 +he
metaphor of the LpathL of Daena is represented in Zoroastrianism 6y the muslin undershirt )*dra, the L)ood"?oly
PathL, and the I<Pthread 7*shti girdle, the 9Pathfinder97
Daena should not 6e confused $ith the fundamental principle asha *edic rta!, the eEuita6le la$ of the universe,
$hich governed the life of the ancient ,ndoP,ranians7 For these, asha $as the course of everything o6serva6le, the
motion of the planets and astral 6odies, the progression of the seasons, the pattern of daily nomadic herdsman life,
governed 6y regular metronomic events such as sunrise and sunset7 All physical creation geti! $as thus
determined to run according to a master plan 8 inherent to Ahura Mazda 8 and violations of the order dr*'!
$ere violations against creation, and thus violations against Ahura Mazda7 +his concept of asha versus the dr*'
should not 6e confused $ith the goodPversusPevil 6attle evident in $estern religions, for although 6oth forms of
opposition e4press moral conflict, the asha versus dr*' concept is more systemic and less personal, representing,
for instance, chaos that opposes order!U or 9uncreation9, evident as natural decay that opposes creation!U or more
simply 9the lie9 that opposes truth, righteousness!7 Moreover, in his role as the one uncreated creator of all,
Ahura Mazda is not the creator of dr*' $hich is 9nothing9, antiPcreation, and thus like$ise! uncreated7 +hus, in
ZoroasterLs revelation, Ahura Mazda $as perceived to 6e the creator of only the good 'asna D;7G!, the 9supreme
6enevolent providence9 'asna GD7;;!, that $ill ultimately triumph 'asna G=7;!7
A Parsee Wedding, ;KA@
,n this schema of asha versus dr*', mortal 6eings humans and animals 6oth! play a critical role, for they too are
created7 ?ere, in their lives, they are active participants in the conflict and it is their d*ty to defend order, $hich
$ould decay $ithout counteraction7 +hroughout the )athas, Zoroaster emphasizes deeds and actions, and
accordingly asceticism is fro$ned upon in Zoroastrianism7 ,n later Zoroastrianism this $as e4plained as fleeing
from the e4periences of life, $hich $as the very purpose that the *rvan most commonly translated as the LsoulL!
$as sent into the mortal $orld to collect7 +he avoidance of any aspect of life, $hich includes the avoidance of the
pleasures of life, is a shirking of the responsi6ility and duty to oneself, oneLs *rvan, and oneLs family and social
o6ligations7
+hus, central to Zoroastrianism is the emphasis on moral choice, to choose 6et$een the responsi6ility and duty for
$hich one is in the mortal $orld, or to give up this duty and so facilitate the $ork of dr*'7 %imilarly,
predestination is re0ected in Zoroastrian teaching7 ?umans 6ear responsi6ility for all situations they are in, and in
the $ay they act to one another7 5e$ard, punishment, happiness and grief all depend on ho$ individuals live their
life7
,n Zoroastrianism, good transpires for those $ho do righteous deeds7 +hose $ho do evil have themselves to 6lame
for their ruin7 Zoroastrian morality is then to 6e summed up in the simple phrase, 9good thoughts, good $ords,
good deeds9 .*mata, .*-hta, .varshta in Avestan!, for it is through these that asha is maintained and dr*' is
kept in check7
+hrough accumulation several other 6eliefs $ere introduced to the religion that in some instances supersede those
e4pressed in the )athas7 ,n the late ;Kth century the moral and immoral forces came to 6e represented 6y )penta
!ainy* and its %atanic antithesis 0ngra !ainy*, the Lgood spiritL and Levil spiritL emanations of Ahura Mazda
respectively7 Although the names are old, this opposition is a modern $esternPinfluenced development
popularized 6y Martin ?aug in the ;==As, and $as in effect a realignment of the precepts of Zurvanism Zurvanite
Zoroastrianism!, $hich had invented a third deity, Z*rvan, in order to e4plain a mention of t$inship Yasna DA7D!
6et$een the moral and immoral7 Although Zurvanism had died out 6y the ;Ath century the critical Euestion of the
9t$in 6rothers9 mentioned in Yasna DA7D remained, and ?augLs e4planation provided a convenient defence against
1hristian missionaries $ho disparaged the Parsis ,ndian Zoroastrians! for their LdualismL7 ?augLs concept $as
su6seEuently disseminated as a Parsi interpretation, thus corro6orating ?augLs theory and the idea 6ecame so
popular that it is no$ almost universally accepted as doctrine7
Achaemenid era HG=MDDA .12! Zoroastrianism developed the a6stract concepts of heaven, hell, personal and
final 0udgement, all of $hich are only alluded to in the )athas7 Yasna ;K $hich has only survived in a %assanid
era <<HMH@A 12! Zend commentary on the 0h*na 1airya invocation!, prescri6es a Path to Judgement kno$n as
the Chinvat Peret*m or Chinvat 2ridge cf, AsP%irRt in ,slam!, $hich all souls had to cross, and 0udgement over
thoughts, $ords, deeds performed during a lifetime! $as passed as they $ere doing so7 ?o$ever, the Zoroastrian
personal 0udgement is not final7 At the end of time, $hen evil is finally defeated, all souls $ill 6e ultimately
reunited $ith their Fravashi7 +hus, Zoroastrianism can 6e said to 6e a universalist religion $ith respect to
salvation7
,n addition, and strongly influenced 6y .a6ylonian and Akkadian practices, the Achaemenids popularized shrines
and temples, hitherto alien forms of $orship7 ,n the $ake of Achaemenid e4pansion shrines $ere constructed
throughout the empire and particularly influenced the role of Mithra, Aredvi %ura Anahita, *erethregna and
+ishtrya, all of $hich, in addition to their original protoP!,ndoP,ranian functions, no$ also received PersoP
.a6ylonian functions7
Although the $orship of images $ould eventually fall out of favour and 6e replaced 6y the iconoclastic fire
temples!, the lasting legacy of the Achaemenids $as a vast, comple4 hierarchy of Ya#atas modern
ZoroastrianismLs Angels! that $ere no$ not 0ust evident in the religion, 6ut firmly esta6lished, not least 6ecause
the divinities received dedications in the Zoroastrian calendar, thus ensuring that they $ere freEuently invoked7
Additionally, the Amesha %penta, the si4 originally a6stract terms that $ere regarded as direct emanations or
aspects or 9divine sparks9 of Ahura Mazda, came to 6e personified as an archangel retinue7
[edit] Adherents
+he Zoroastrian temple of 'azd7
%mall Zoroastrian communities may 6e found all over the $orld, $ith a continuing concentration in Western
,ndia, 1entral ,ran and %outhern Pakistan7 Zoroastrians of the diaspora are primarily located in )reat .ritain and
the former .ritish colonies 8 in particular 1anada and Australia 8 6ut the Qnited %tates has 6ecome a preferred
destination in recent decades7 Zoroastrian communities are comprised of t$o main groups of people: those of
%outh Asian Zoroastrian 6ackground, $ho are kno$n as Parsis or Parsees!, and those of 1entral Asian
6ackground7
[edit] )ran and Central Asia
!ain article, Zoroastrians in 9ran
1ommunities e4ist in +ehran, as $ell as in 'azd, >erman and >ermanshah, $here many still speak an ,ranian
language distinct from the usual Persian7 +hey call their language (ari not to 6e confused $ith the (ari of
Afghanistan!7 +heir language is also called 6a2ri or &ehdinan literally 9#f the )ood 5eligion9!7 %ometimes their
language is named for the cities in $hich it is spoken, Ya#di or 7ermani7 ,ranian Zoroastrians $ere historically
called 6a2r s , originally $ithout a pe0orative connotation 6ut in the presentPday derogatorily applied to all nonP
Muslims7
+here is some interest among ,ranians, as $ell as people in various 1entral Asian countries such as +a0ikistan and
Qz6ekistan, in their ancient Zoroastrian heritageU some people in these countries take notice of their Zoroastrian
past7 At the instigation of the government of +a0ikistan, QJ2%1# declared <AAD a year to cele6rate the 9DAAAth
anniversary of Zoroastrian culture9, $ith special events throughout the $orld7
[edit] )n South Asia
!ain article, Parsi people
Parsi 3av'ote ceremony rites of admission into the Zoroastrian faith!
Follo$ing the fall of the %assanid 2mpire in H@; many Zoroastrians migrated7 Among them $ere several groups
$ho ventured to )u0arat on the $estern shores of the ,ndian su6continent, $here they finally settled7 +he
descendants of those refugees are today kno$n as the Parsis7 +he year of arrival on the su6continent cannot 6e
precisely esta6lished and Parsi legend and tradition assigns various dates to the event7
#n the Asian su6continent these Zoroastrians en0oyed tolerance and even admiration from other religious
communities7 From the ;Kth century on$ard the Parsis gained a reputation for their education and $idespread
influence in all aspects of society, partly due to the divisive strategy of .ritish colonialism $hich favored certain
minorities7 Parsis are generally more affluent than other ,ndians and are stereotypically vie$ed as among the most
Anglicised and 9Westernised9 of the various minority groups7 +hey have also played an instrumental role in the
economic development of the region over many decadesU several of the 6estPkno$n 6usiness conglomerates of
,ndia are run 6y ParsiPZoroastrians, including the +ata, )odre0, and Wadia families7
[edit] emographics
,n ;KKH the num6er of Zoroastrians $orld$ide $as estimated to 6e 9at most <AA,AAA97
B;ICB;=C
,ndiaLs <AA; 1ensus
found HK,HA; Parsi Zoroastrians7 ,n Pakistan they num6er @,AAA, mostly living in >arachi, they have 6een
reinforced in recent years $ith a num6er of Zoroastrian refugees from ,ran7 Anglo America is thought to 6e home
to ;=,AAAM<@,AAA Zoroastrians of 6oth %outh Asian and ,ranian 6ackground7 A further D,@AA live in Australia
mainly in %ydney!7 ,ranLs figures of Zoroastrians have ranged $idelyU the last census ;KIG! 6efore the revolution
of ;KIK revealed <;,GAA Zoroastrians7
%ome ;A,AAA adherents remain in the 1entral Asian regions that $ere once considered the traditional stronghold
of Zoroastrianism, i7e7 .actria see also .alkh! $hich is in Jorthern Afghanistan, %ogdiana, Margiana and other
areas close to ZoroasterLs homeland7
,n the ,ndian census of <AA; the Parsis num6ered HK,HA;, representing a6out A7AAHV of the total population of
,ndia, $ith a concentration in and around the city of Mum6ai7 (ue to a lo$ 6irth rate and high rate of emigration,
demographic trends pro0ect that 6y <A<A the Parsis $ill num6er only a6out <D,AAA or A7AA<V of the total
population of ,ndia7 +he Parsis $ould then cease to 6e called a community and $ill 6e la6elled a 9tri6e97 .y <AA=,
the 6irthPtoPdeath ratio $as ;:@ P <AA 6irths per year to ;,AAA deaths
BDC
7 ?o$ever, According to some other
sources, 9+he World Almanac And .ook #f facts9 distri6uted 6y %t MartinLs Press, printed in the Q7%7A7 the
current population $orld $ide is <,I<=,AAA7
[edit] *oted Zoroastrians
!ain articles, :ist of Zoroastrians and ,Category,Zoroastrians
Joted Parsis include the pioneering ,ndian industrialist and philanthropist Jamshed0i +ataU the industrialist and
founder of ,ndian 1ivil aviation J7 57 (7 +ataU ,ndian political activists Pherozeshah Mehta, (ada6hai Jaoro0i and
.hikai0i 1amaU conductor Zu6in Mehta, composer >aikhosru %hapur0i %ora60i, and rock artist Freddie Mercury
Farrokh .ulsara!U .ritish actor and Film Producer 5ay PanthakiU nuclear scientist ?omi J7 .ha6ha, the similarly
named philosopher ?omi >7 .ha6haU Field Marshal %am Maneksha$, author and screen$riter %ooni
+araporevala of the films )alaam &om2ay and !ississippi !asala!, authors 5ohinton Mistry and .apsi %idh$a7
Parsis famed for their philanthropy include Jamset0ee Jee0e6hoy and the eponymous 1o$as0i Jehangir
5eadymoney, 6oth of $hom $ere knighted for their munificence7 +he ,ndian industrial families +ata family,
)odre0 family and Wadia family are also of Parsi Zoroastrian 6ackground7 Joted mem6ers of the more recently
arrived ,rani community include .olly$ood director Ardeshir ,rani and cricketer 5onnie ,rani7
Joted ,ranian Zoroastrians include (r7 Farhang Mehr, former deputy prime minister of ,ran, .oston Qniversity
professor emeritus, longtime activist for religious freedom, and su60ect of the 6iography ;(ri*mph Over
Discrimination; 6y Fylah M7 Alphonse7
Joted Pakistani Zorastrians include Ardeshir 1o$as0ee, a reno$ned $riter and editor for (he Da4n ne$spaper of
Pakistan, founded and esta6lished 6y that countryLs founding father, Mohammed Ali Jinnah7
Jota6le converts to Zoroastrianism include %$edish artist and author Ale4ander .ard7