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Religion
ZOROASTERIAN
  • Zoroastrianism is a religion which originated 3,500 years ago and was the largest world religion during the Persian empires (559 BC to 651 AD).

  • Founded by Zarathushtra, known to the Greeks as Zoroaster who attained revelation at the age of 30 years. Zoroaster's life dates have been traditionally given as c.628-551 BC, but many scholars argue for earlier dates. The birthplace of Zoroaster is considered by many to be Balkh (Bactria) in northern Afghanistan.

  • The sacred literature of Zoroastrianism is found in the Avesta, which was compiled sometime during the Sassanian period from much earlier materials. Only a portion of the Avesta remains, but the language of its earliest sections is extremely ancient, closely related to that of the Indian Vedas. These sections, the Gathas (hymns), are thought to be by Zoroaster himself.


Zoroastrian Avesta


Zoroastrians performing religious ceremony in Yazd

  • Adopted as the faith of the Persian kings, Zoroastrianism became the official religion during the reign of King Cyrus, the Great of the Achaemenian dynasty. The religion prospered during the three major dynasties of Achaemenian, Parthian and Sassianian. After the Muslim invasion of Persia in 652, many of the Zoroastrians migrated to India, the Parsis of Bombay are their modern descendants.

  • Zoroastrians are about .1% of the population in Iran today. Many live in Yazd and are also located in India, UK, Canada, US, Australia and Africa. While Zoroastrians once dominated an empire that stretched from Rome to Greece to India and Russia, now the global population has dwindled to about 190,000.

The prophet Zarathushtra, son of Pourushaspa, of the Spitaman family, is known to us primarily from the Gathas, seventeen great hymns which he composed and which have been faithfully preserved by his community. These are not works of instruction, but inspired, passionate utterances, many of them addressed directly to God; and their poetic form is a very ancient one, which has been traced back (through Norse parallels) to Indo-European times. It seems to have been linked with a mantic tradition, that is, to have been cultivated by priestly seers who sought to express in lofty words their personal apprehension of the divine; and it is marked by subtleties of allusion, and great richness and complexity of style. Such poetry can only have been fully understood by the learned; and since Zoroaster believed that he had been entrusted by God with a message for all mankind, he must also have preached again and again in plain words to ordinary people. His teachings were handed down orally in his community from generation to generation, and were at last committed to writing under the Sasanians, rulers of the third Iranian empire. The language then spoken was Middle Persian, also called Pahlavi; and the Pahlavi books provide invaluable keys for interpreting the magnificent obscurities of the Gathas themselves." - Zoroastrians, Their religious beliefs and practices, by Mary Boyce, London, 1979

LINKS:

AVESTA - Zoroastrian Archives
FEZANA -- Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America
Textcorpus Avesta (German)
The Zarathushtrian Assembly
Traditional Zoroastrianism
World Zoroastrian Organisation
Zarthushti Anjuman of Northern California

Books on Zoroasterism