I am forwarding to you an article written by a 13 year old girl from California.  Thought I should share it with you all.

With love and blessings,


The History, Philosophy & Culture of Zoroastrianism
By: Anahita Amalsad

Mary Boyce said, "Zoroastrianism is the oldest of the revealed world-religions, and it has probably had more influence on mankind, directly and indirectly, than any other single faith." [1] The history of Zoroastrianism dates back to anywhere from 600 B.C.E. to 6000 B.C.E., with the most recent studies pointing to the Bronze Age, about 1800 B.C.E. to 1200 B.C.E.  The main philosophy of Zoroastrianism is based on good thoughts, good words and good deeds. The Zoroastrian culture embraces many customs and rituals that may or may not be directly part of the religion. In this paper, I will be focusing on these aspects of Zoroastrianism: the history, philosophy and culture.

           There is no confirmed date that tells us when the history of Zoroastrianism started. The Gathas, hymns, suggest that Zoroaster lived at the time when the Bronze Age developed. According to this, we suppose that Zoroastrianism flourished at about 1800 B.C.E. to 1200 B.C.E. The Persian prophet, Zartosht, (later named as Zoroaster by the Greeks), which means the Golden Light or the Shining Star, founded Zoroastrianism. This religion prospered through the rise and fall of many civilizations. For 1,000 years, (558 B.C.E. to 652 C.E.) it was the main religion of three Persian Empires: the Achaemenians, the Parthians and the Sassanians.[2] This religion spread across Asia, from Greece in the west, to the Hindu Kush in the east, up into southern Russia and down into Egypt. Zoroastrianism had millions of followers. This religion then spread through Persia, and became the main religion of the Achaemenian Empire, founded by Cyrus the Great in 558 B.C.E.  In 330 B.C.E., Zoroastrianism suffered many complications when Alexander the Great conquered Persia, burned Persepolis, and burned much of Zoroastrianism with it. The religion got rejuvenated during the Parthian and the Sassanian Empires. In 652 C.E., Zoroastrianism suffered another setback when the Muslims invaded Persia. At this time, a large number of Zoroastrians converted into Muslims. They got scattered due to massive persecutions, and today they are left with about 250,000 people across the world.  A few shiploads of devoted Zoroastrians migrated to India in the 10th century and were given shelter. The major concentration of Zoroastrians is presently in Iran and India. There are approximately 25,000 Zoroastrians in North America, 7,500 in the United Kingdom, 4,000 in Europe, 2,000 in Australia and 3,000 in Pakistan. Some of the theological concepts shared by Zoroastrianism with Judaism and Christianity are: the belief in one supreme and loving God and that good ultimately prevails when one follows strict moral and ethical codes. The exchange of Zoroastrian thought or teachings with the Jewish and Christian beliefs first took place when Cyrus the Great defeated the Assyrians and released the Jews from Babylonian captivity.  Therefore, the Zoroastrian philosophies have played an important role in the development of western religions and history.

           The main belief of Zoroastrian philosophy is based on good thoughts, good words and good deeds. Zoroastrians follow their faith by thinking good thoughts, speaking good words and by doing good deeds. The teachings of Zoroaster are mainly preserved in 17 hymns, known as Gathas, which are in the Yasna, part of the sacred Avesta scripture. This pocket book of Gathas has divine songs, filled with inspiring philosophies called the Manthra. Avesta, the holy book of the Zoroastrians, is a collection of prayers for daily use by the followers of this religion. When Zoroaster lived, the Persians were not familiar with writing. Therefore, for many centuries, all their religious works were handed down orally.[3] In the 5th century C.E., it was the first time that the Avestan alphabet was invented to actually write the Avesta. The simplest and most powerful prayer of the Zoroastrians is the Ashem Vohu prayer. This twelve-word prayer means: there is righteousness in the divine creation. Happiness comes to those who use their consciousness to be on the path of righteousness. Zoroastrianism is a religion of honoring the Wise Being, Ahura Mazda. Zoroastrians consider Ahura Mazda as their God. Zoroaster was the first prophet in the world who truly believed in monotheism. According to him, there is only one God, Ahura Mazda, the creator, maintainer and promoter of life. There are no assisting gods and goddesses. Mazda means supreme wisdom. Since God is a divine being, Zoroaster added Ahura to Mazda. Later, these two components were combined as Ahura Mazda, which translates as the Wise Lord. The concept of good and evil in Zoroastrianism has somehow been misunderstood and misinterpreted. In the Gathas, Zoroaster tells people that they have to choose between following the effective (righteous), or the ineffective path. This is different from believing that there are two equal and powerful opposing sources in the universe, whose constant struggle defines life and destiny. Zoroaster also believed in the freedom of choice through responsibility. He indicates in the Gathas to "Hear the best with your ears and ponder with your bright mind. Then make the choice between right and wrong, and accept complete responsibility for the consequences of your choice."[4] Based on Zoroaster's teachings, the reward and consequence of our actions are realized in this life. He emphasizes the individual's role in making this world a better place for everyone.

           Zoroastrians follow a culture that consists of different customs and rituals, which show respect and reverence for their religion. Most cultures hold customs and rituals that may or may not be directly part of their religion. Many of the rituals and customs that the Zoroastrians follow are not described in the Gathas. But these rituals and customs are actual events that are symbolic to Zoroastrians. They exchange meaning and have real strength to influence us. There are many different customs that Zoroastrians follow. For example: First, they celebrate Novrooz, or Persian New Year, which is celebrated on the first day of spring. Khordad Saal, the birthday of Zoroaster, is celebrated on March 27th.  Next, they celebrate Ghanbars, or seasonal Thanksgiving festivals. Finally, one of the most important ceremonies in the Zoroastrian religion is called Navjote, or the initiation ceremony.[5]  A Zoroastrian child is officially initiated into the faith with the Navjote ceremony. During this ceremony, he or she is provided with the sacred Sudreh and Kushti, accompanied with recitation of prayers from the Avesta. The Sudreh is an undershirt of pure white muslin with a small symbolic pocket in front, reminding the wearer to fill it everyday with good thoughts, good words and good deeds. The Kushti, a woolen cord, signifies that the wearer has committed himself or herself to practice the teachings of Zoroaster. These customs often reflect their belief in the purity of the environment and their hopes for prosperity. Zoroastrians believe that cleanliness is next to Godliness. Therefore, in most of their rituals, they use fire as a symbol of cleanliness and are mistakenly labeled as fire worshippers by non-Zoroastrians. Zoroastrians are not fire worshippers. They just respect fire and light because they believe that life would be difficult without fire and light. Therefore, when they pray, they face the sun or a light source. In the Gathas, Zoroaster considers Atash, or fire, as mental light, warmth, and energy, three qualities that help one to transform good thoughts into good words and good deeds. Zoroaster also regarded Atash as a symbol of purity because it is the only element of nature whose sanctity is not affected by any kind of impurity because the energy radiated from fire destroys all impurities. For this reason, Zoroastrians consider fire as a sacred element, and have Fire Temples to worship Ahura Mazda. There are three grades of Fire Temples: Atash Bahram, Atash Adaram, and Dar-e-Meher.  "The oldest existing Atash Bahram in the world is in the village of Sharifabad in Iran. Here the holy fire has been kept perpetually burning for over 2000 years." [6] (Roshan Rivetna) Another old Fire Temple in Iran, is situated in the city of Yazd, which is called the center of Zoroastrianism. The holiest Fire Temple in India is the Atash Bahram at Udvada, about one hundred miles from Bombay, where the Sacred Fire brought by Iranian refuges from Iran has been continuously burning since 1741. In India, Pakistan and Iran, many Zoroastrians have built a special fireplace for prayers in their homes. This fire is called Atash Dadgah. Another symbol used by Zoroastrians is a Fravahar, a guardian spirit, or an inner voice. The Fravahar is a daily reminder to follow good thoughts, good words and good deeds, to keep promises, to respect the elderly and to choose the path of righteousness. As you can see, Zoroastrians have many different rituals and customs to show respect and admiration for their religion.

           In the last few pages, I have researched the history, philosophy and culture of the Zoroastrian religion. Most people do not know very much about this religion because it is the oldest monotheistic religion in the world. Most of the vital books and information about Zoroastrianism were first burned during the attack of Alexander the Great, and later destroyed by the Muslim invasion. Zoroastrian history was founded and taught in eastern Iran in about 1800 B.C.E. to 1200 B.C.E. This religion spread all over the Persian Empire by the 6th century B.C.E. Zoroastrianism flourished during the Achaemenians, the Parthians and the Sassanians Empires. The Zoroastrian kings, such as Cyrus the Great, were known for their tolerance and kindness towards other religions and races. Zoroaster, the founder of this religion, preached his main philosophy of good thoughts, good words and good deeds. The Zoroastrians holy book is called the Avesta; and their psalms are called the Gathas. Zoroastrians are supposed to respect other religions and choose the path of righteousness. The Zoroastrians follow certain customs and rituals to show love and respect for their religion. In most of their rituals, fire is used as a symbol of cleanliness and purity. Therefore, when they pray, they are to face the sun or a source of light. The most significant ritual in this religion is the Navjote, or the initiation ceremony, through which a child is officially accepted into the Zoroastrian faith. Most people have either not heard about this religion or have had misconceived concepts about its philosophy. I hope that my research paper on the history, philosophy and culture of Zoroastrianism, has clarified some misconceptions and brought more knowledge and understanding about this religion.


ACKNOWLEDGMENT:  I like to acknowledge the guidance, patience and support of my parents.

[1]     Roshan Rivetna, The Legacy of Zarathushtra (Hinsdale: FEZANA, 2002), 22.
[2]     Roshan Rivetna, The Legacy of Zarathushtra (Hinsdale: FEZANA, 2002), 59
[3]     Mary Boyce, Textual Sources for the Study of Zoroastrianism. (London, Manchester University Press, 1984), 1
[4]     This is my parents' understanding of the Gathas.
[5]     Lorraine N. Moos, My Simple Book of Zoroastrianism. (New Delhi, Business Communicators, 1996), 36
[6 ]     Roshan Rivetna, The Legacy of Zarathushtra (Hinsdale: FEZANA, 2002), 40.

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