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ZOROASTRIANISM

Zoroastrianism is not a religion in the sense it does not contain the ingredients, which are supposed to make up a religion.

It is rather a scientific and rational explanation of the existence of man, his duties, and the destiny assigned for him according to his conduct in the world, which are put together to what is called the immutable Law of nature, which Zaurashtra called the Law of Asha. Zoroastrianism is essentially based upon knowledge and illumination and so its emblems are the Fire and the sun. The word, "Zaurashtra" is composed of "Zarath" which means golden and "Ushtra" which is light and so Zaurashtra means of the golden light. This is one of the oldest beliefs in the world and was founded in Persia by the prophet Zararthustra in the 6th or 7th century B.C.

He was born in Mazar-I-Sharif, which is now in Afghanisthan.Tradition says that Zaurashtra laughed when born which is contradictory to normal children. He spent several years in meditation. The religion called Zoroastrianism is today found in Shiraz in Iran, Karachi in Pakistan and Bombay in India. The followers are called Paris, since originally they fled to India to escape persecution in Persia. They are the best-known immigrants in Bombay. Zoroastrianism is one of the first religions to postulate an omnipotent and invisible God. Their scripture is the Zend Avesta, which describes the continual conflict between the forces of good and evil. Their God is Ahura Mazda, the god of light who is symbolized by fire.


Parsi scriptures
The tenets of the Zoroastrian religion are basically contained in the gathas, sacred songs that are divided into stanzas and strophes. Zaurashtra is said to have composed around 100,000 strophes but only a few hundred remain till date. From these the philosophy of the religion can be gleaned. The five Gathas are
  • Gatha Ahunavaiti or freedom of choice
  • Gatha Ushtavaiti on supreme bliss
  • Gatha Spenta Maniyu on the Holy Spirit
  • Gatha Vohu Kshatra, the gatha of the good kingdom
  • Gatha Vashishtoisti, the gatha of fulfillment.
The language in which the gathas are written is nor known, but it is loosely termed Gathie Avestan. It bears a strong affinity with Rig Vedic Sanskrit.

Parsi rituals
Parsis worship in fire temples and wear a sadra or sacred shirt and a kasti or sacred thread. A child born of Zoroastrian parents is not considered to be Zoroastrian till he is initiated into the fold by a special function. Children first wear these sacred items in a function called Navjote. It is performed at the age of seven, or nine or eleven unto fifteen.

After Navjote, the next important ceremony is the marriage. The bride and the groom sit opposite each other. Their parents and relatives and witnesses surround them. Two priests stand in front of them and start the marriage function. The priests recite some holy words in Sanskrit and throw uncooked rice over the couple to bless them. After this the couple get blessings from their parents and then straight away go to the fire temples. Flames burn eternally in their fire temples.

The dead body of a Zoroastrian is disposed off in the Towers of Silence on the top of a hill, where birds are supposed to devour the bodies. Then the bones are lowered into deep wells at the bottom of which are layers of charcoal, lime and other minerals, which slowly dissolve the bones. Thus the mortal remains are disposed in a hygienic manner.

They celebrate few festivals apart from No Ruz (New Year), which celebrates the creation of fire. They make their pilgrimage to Udwada in Gujarat, where the temple houses the fire that has been burning continuously for thousand years.

Parsis in India
Parsis concentrated in Bombay are a few hundred thousands and they are successful in commerce and industry and have become noble philanthropists. They also do much charity work. Because of the strict requirements that a Parsi should marry a Parsi only, their numbers have started to dwindle. Because of intermarriages some even have slight deafness. The Parsis are excellent weavers. They gave India three ancient crafts, which are Surti Ghat, Garo and the Tanchoi.

The Surti Gaht is a soft silk with a satin finish on one side. The garo is a fine silk with elaborate Chinese embroidery all over the saree. The tanchoi is fine silk brocade with floral designs woven in. The three Paris closely associated with the Indian National Movement are Dadbhai Navroji, Sir Pherozeshah Mehta and Sir Dinshaw Wacha.After the house of Tatas, the next major industrial Barons are the Godrej family. In medicine and science, there are famous names like Dr. Homi Jehangir Bhabha and Dr.D.N. Wadia.