Zoroastrianism is one of the oldest religions in existence, which was instituted by Zarathushtra which means ‘Zoroaster’ in Greek more popularly known as ‘Zarthosht’ in India and Persia. Conservative Zoroastrians believe that the religion was founded in about 6000BCE whereas historians and religious scholars generally believe the birth of Zarathushtra, who lived in Persia which is modern-day Iran, to be between 1500 and 1000BCE based on his style of writing.
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He advocated monotheism and was attacked for his teachings, ultimately winning the support of the kings, who declared Zoroastrianism as the state religion of various Persian empires, until the 7th Century CE. There are less than 200,000 Zoroastrians in the world today out of which 11,000 reside in the United States, 6,000 in Canada, 5,000 in England, 2,700 in Australia, and 2,200 in the Persian Gulf nations (Fezana Journal survey, published quarterly by the Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America).
The ‘Avesta’ is the holy book of the Zoroastrians which includes the Gathas, a series of five hymns, aiming towards the worship of the One God, perception of morality, endorsement of communal fairness, and personal option between virtue and sin. The Gathas have a general and even universal vision.
The Zoroastrians believe in a single supreme, all-powerful god ‘Ahura Mazda’, as the only deity worthy of being worshipped as opposed to the evil spirit of violence and death, Angra Mainyu, who they believe will be destroyed by the end of time bringing Dualism to an end and Goodness as the everlasting virtue.
Their worship includes prayers and symbolic ceremonies dedicating to a three-fold path of “good thoughts, good words and good deeds” as shown in their motto. Members have a choice of praying at home instead of going to a temple if they wish. They do not generally accept converts and one has to be born into the religion. (Laurie Goodstein, “Zoroastrians Keep the Faith, and Keep Dwindling,” New York Times, at: <http://select.nytimes.com/>).
The Zoroastrians perform their rituals before a sacred fire thus giving the impression that they worship fire which is not true. The practice stems from the belief that fire is a symbol of their God, and they cherish the light that it produces which is seen as a form of energy and a natural force that is influential and crucial for endurance.
The most important holiday of the Zoroastrians is the ‘Noruz’ or the Iranian New Year, celebrated on the 21st of March which is the Spring Equinox, marking it as the most important day for the Zoroastrians, symbolizing the arrival of joy, wealth, and festivities. Noruz, in Persian, means ‘New Day’ which is the 21st of March which marks the beginning of warm weather and the growing season in ancient Iran, indicating the arrival of the time to begin the plowing of fields and the sowing of seeds for crops.
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Zoroastrians greatly respect these natural rhythms and cycles, because they firmly believe that the revitalization of the earth is a divine representation that takes place with the arrival of spring. To them, light from any source, whether the Sun or the Sacred fire is a great symbol of God and Goodness, and the Spring Equinox which marks the increase in the length of days is thus a representation of the “victory of light over the cold darkness of winter” (Hannah M.G. Shapero, ‘Noruz, The Fire of Spring’at: <http://www.vohuman.org/>)
Avesta — Zoroastrian Archives an extensive resource of Zoroastrian information at. Web.
Farhand Mehr, ‘The Zoroastrian Tradition’ Element Books, (1991).
Duchesne-Guilemin (translated by Henning), ‘Wisdom of the East’ C.E. Tuttle (1992).
Hannah M.G. Shapero, ‘Noruz, The Fire of Spring. Web.
Laurie Goodstein, ‘Zoroastrians Keep the Faith, and Keep Dwindling’ New York Times. Web.
‘Zoroastrian Calendar’. Web.