Zoroastrianism is an ancient religion that was practiced by Persians, which is the present Iran.
It was formed by an Iranian prophet called Zoroaster or Zarathustra in the 6th century, making it one of the oldest forms of religion in the world. Zoroaster tried to preach monotheism in his land, in a bid to change the minds of the people who believed in polytheistic religion. Zoroaster believed in a single religion that he preached, with the belief that he was serving the people, and restoring righteousness in their lives.
In his view, he saw the religion of the Iranians as oppressive and wayward, with the aspect of many gods, and priests whose aim was to control the people. Moreover, he was against the performance of rituals with certain plants, as well as the sacrifice of animals to gods, since it went against the creation of the world and its preservation. Even though his efforts were widely resisted throughout the region, he managed to gain the trust and support of the king, who made Zoroastrianism the sole religion in Persia during his reign. Zoroastrianism is present in India today, though it has a much-diminished number of followers who believe in its teachings. These followers are descendants of the few believers who escaped Persia, after it was invaded by Muslim Arabs in the 6th century (Nigosian 12).
Zoroastrianism believes in a god called Ahura Mazda, who is described as having many qualities. These qualities define Ahura Mazda as omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, unchangeable, the maker of entirety in the world, difficult for human beings to understand, and the only cradle of happiness and all the good in the world. Zoroaster is thus believed to be a prophet sent by Ahura to spread his teachings to the world (Nigosian 23). People, however, do not worship Zoroaster, but rather follow his teachings and principles in the way of righteousness and truth, hence leading a life on the path to Ahura Mazda.
Ahura Mazda has principles that are to be followed by all the followers of the faith, to ensure that they are in the path of righteousness. There are six divine attributes namely, VohuManah, which means good purpose and mind of a believer, Ameretat, meaning long life and immortality, and Spenta Ameraiti, that means serenity, holy devotion, and loving kindness of a believer. In addition, other divine attributes are; Hauravatat, meaning health and wholeness of believers, Asha Vahishta, that means righteousness and truth, and finally Khashathra Vairya,that refers to power and just rule (Kapadia 45). A believer who knows and follows these divine attribute is in the right path to knowing the supreme god, and is living a proper life in the Zoroastrianism religion.
Furthermore, Zoroastrianism believes in and adversary to Ahura Mazda, whose aim is resisting and combating the supreme god. Angra Mainyu is Ahura Mazda’s enemy, believed to be residing in hell, and is the source of all evil that is present in the world (Whitney 26). Angra Mainyu is believed to be the spirit of destruction that cause different pain in human life such as sickness and death that destroys the earth that Ahura Mazda strived to make perfect. This duality is also a basis for this religion, since the war between the two, revolves around morality and supernatural power in the world. It is, therefore, the main cause of the difference in people, and the description of good and evil in the world. It also teaches that ultimately, good will prevail over evil, and Ahura Mazda will be successful over Angra Mainyu, which will lead to the end of time. At this point, there will be a recreation of the world, and even the dead will come back to life and join Ahura. It is here where a savior will commence this renovation, and all the dead will be revived.
Believers of Zoroastrianism perceive fire to be a very important symbol in their religion, since it represents divine light that is a representation of Ahura Mazda, their god. Light, therefore, is significant to Zoroastrianism, since they always pray in the direction of light as symbolism. Therefore, they do not necessarily worship fire as a ritual, but as a representation of their god’s divine light. Fire is, therefore, the medium through which believers receive spiritual insight and wisdom, from Ahura Mazda during worship. Additionally, Zoroastrianism also views water as an agent of ritual purity, since it is considered among the last elements that were created by their god. Since water is considered life sustaining, it is a very important representation of the Zoroastrian faith, and any form of worship is considered strengthening of waters. In this case, water is considered the source of wisdom and insight that believers get, while they worship their god. This religion follows very few rituals, and is mostly guided by ethics such as, good words, thoughts, and deeds that guide their daily activities and actions. A cord that is tied thrice called a kusti, is a representation of a person’s commitment to following those three basic rules of living a righteous life (Kapadia 56). Zoroastrianism has a belief that after death, a believer’s soul undergoes three days of meditation of the person’s past life in the world. After this, the person’s soul is judged, and if good deeds, thoughts, and words outweigh the bad ones, then the soul is allowed into heaven; however, if not, the soul is cast into hell.
Apart from that, they believe in communal worship as represented by events and festivals that are marked to celebrate functions such as, marriage, and the initiation of a young child into this religion (Nigosian 42). Zoroastrianism does not advocate for people to worship Ahura Mazda at specific locations or temples, but rather encourages its believers to pray at home and at any place they feel like communicating to their god. Additionally, the religion believes in active participation of life, by undertaking good deeds that are pleasing in the eyes of Ahura Mazda, to ensure happiness prevails, and to keep trouble and suffering away.
Zoroastrianism has had an effect on various different religions such as Judaism and Christianity, since they borrow the ideas of heaven, hell, God, Satan, resurrection, and final judgment that is portrayed in Zoroastrianism. Additionally, its beliefs of the holiness of all of god’s creations are very critical when it comes to matters of protecting and conserving the environment (Whitney 61). Therefore, Zoroastrianism is one of the first eco-friendly religions that do not destroy trees, rivers, or pollute the environment in any way. This is because it believes in purity of the world, and that each item on earth was made for a good purpose to serve.
Some members of the Zoroastrianism religion have always been opposed to conversion of people from other faiths into this religion. This is due to historical reasons, and the need to preserve the purity of the religion, hence believers are not expected to interact with people from other faiths. In some areas of India, believers see this as a punishable crime, and members found guilty may be excommunicated from the religion, and cast out.
In the world today, there are a few remaining members of Zoroastrianism religion that continue to practice their beliefs, even though its dominance has fallen over the years. Few members are found in both Iran and India, but they have maintained the cultural heritage of the religion, by conducting festivals and rituals that aim at emphasizing their identity and beliefs. Through the Avesta, which is the religious book of the Zoroastrians, the sacred texts are a guide to each believer, and are a source of wisdom to many. Through this, believers are influenced to live positive lives, and continue the heritage through the many generations, from its inception in the 6th century. Therefore, Zoroastrianism is among the only few religions that are still practiced, even though it was one of the first religions to be established in the world.