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Published: October 7th 2012
Until the Arabic invasion that brought Islam to what is today Iran, Zoroastrianism was the main religion across the Iranian plateau. Zoroastrianism was one of the first religions to be based upon the idea of an omnipotent and invisible God. That God is named Ahura Mazda and Ahura Mazda was to be worshiped through light - thus the Fire Temples for which the Zoroastrians are famed. The name Zoroastrian, comes from the prophet Zoroaster (also known as Zartosht or Zarathustra). And the priests of this religion were originally called Magi - yes, many postulate that they were the three wise men from the East that are the Christian bible.
The basic tenant of Zoroastrianism is a dualistic belief in the Good Mind (Vohu Mano) and the Bad Mind (Ahem Nano). This dualism brings us day and night, good and evil, life and death. Zoroastrians also believe in the purity of the elements. That means, among other things, that they do not bury their dead as that would pollute the earth. Instead the dead are left in ‘Towers of Silence’ where the bones are picked clean by the vultures. However, these days most Zoroastrians are buried in concrete vaults,
still avoiding the contaminating the earth but recognizing environmental concerns and relations in the neighborhood.
The typical Zoroastrian symbol is a winged figure - Fravahar, who symbolizes the part of the spirit that reaches Ahura Mazda after death. He has three layers of feathers in his wings - symbolizing purity of thought, purity of word and purity in deed - another basic tenant of the religion.
Other names for Zoroastrians - Mazdaism and Parsi. And for me, Parsi is a special connection to my years teaching in India with so many Parsi friends, from families that left the Iranian plateau so many centuries ago and immigrated to India! What a small world!
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