Meaning of ZOROASTRIANISM in English

the ancient pre-Islamic religion of Iran that survives there in isolated areas and more prosperously in India, where the descendents of Zoroastrian Iranian (Persian) immigrants are known as Parsis, or Parsees. Founded by the Iranian prophet and reformer Zoroaster in the 6th century BC, this religion, containing both monotheistic and dualistic features, influenced the other major Western religionsJudaism, Christianity, and Islam. Zoroaster's reforms cannot be appreciated without knowledge of the tradition into which he was born and educated. Society tended to be divided into three classes: chiefs and priests, warriors, and husbandmen and cattle breeders. This class structure is reflected in the religion, with particular gods or daivas (heavenly ones) associated with each of the three classes. The ahuras (lords), for example, which included Mitra and Varuna, seem to have been connected only with the first class. Zoroaster rejected the cults of all the gods except one ahura, Ahura Mazda, the Wise Lord. It is not certain that Zoroaster was the first to proclaim Ahura Mazda. This deity appears as the great god of Darius 1 (522486 BC), and it is not known whether Darius heard of him through Zoroaster's disciples or independently. The origin of evil is traced in Zoroaster's system to an exercise of free will at the beginning of creation, when the twin sons of Ahura Mazd a entered into an eternal rivalry. One, Spenta Mainyu (Bounteous Spirit), chose good, thus acquiring the attributes of truth, justice, and life. The other, Angra Mainyu (Destructive Spirit), chose evil and its attendant forces of destruction, injustice, and death. According to Zoroaster the world was soon to be consumed in a mighty conflagration from which only the followers of the good would rise to share in a new creation. Until this came to pass, the souls of those who died would cross the Bridge of the Requiter from whence the good would be led to wait in heaven, the wicked in hell. Later Zoroastrian cosmology conceives the history of the world as a vast drama divided into four periods of 3,000 years each. In Infinite Time there existed Ormazd, who dwelt in the light, and Ahriman, who dwelt below him in the darkness. At the end of the first 3,000 years Ahriman crossed the Void that separated them and attacked Ormazd, who, perceiving that their struggle would last forever unless realized in finite terms, made a pact with Ahriman limiting the duration of their struggle. Ormazd then recited the Ahuna Vairya, the most sacred prayer of the Zoroastrians, which is believed to contain the germ of their whole religion. Ahriman, aghast, fell back into the abyss where he lay for another 3,000 years. During this time Ormazd called creation into being, first the spiritual creation including the Beneficent Immortals, then a corresponding material creationsky, water, earth, plants, the Primeval Ox, and Primeval Man (Gayomart). Next, to the fravashis (preexistent souls) of men Ormazd offered a choice between staying forever in their embryonic state and becoming incarnate in the physical world in order to secure his triumph over Ahriman; they chose birth and combat. Meanwhile Ahriman generated six demons and an opposing material creation. At the end of the second period of 3,000 years Ahriman, instigated by Primeval Woman, the Whore, burst through the sky and corrupted the creation of Ormazd. He killed Gayomart, from whose body mankind and the metals were generated, and the Ox, from which arose animals and plants. In the third period Ahriman triumphed in the material world but was unable to escape from it; trapped by Ormazd, he was doomed to generate his own destruction. The beginning of the last period witnesses the coming of religion on earth, namely the birth of Zoroaster. The end of each of its millennia is to be marked by the coming of a new saviour, successor and posthumous son of Zoroaster. The third and last saviour, Saoshyans, will bring about the final judgment, dispense the drink of immortality, and usher in the new world. Thus, Finite Time, which had come forth from Infinite Time, merges with it again after the interval of 12,000 years. The literature of Zoroastrianism falls into two distinct parts: the Avesta, the original scriptural work, composed in a form of the ancient Iranian language called Avestan; and the much later texts written in Pahlavi, a dialect of Middle Persian, or in Persian. After Zoroaster's death his religion slowly spread southward, through what is now Afghanistan, and westward into the territory of the Medes and Persians. As it did so, it did not remain immune from contamination with the ancient religion, whose gods and goddesses were again worshiped. This development, which seems to have taken place in Achaemenid times (559330 BC), is reflected in the later part of the Avesta. For about four centuries after Alexander's conquest (330 BC), it seems, Iran was more or less hellenized and the indigenous religion neglected; a revival did not come about until toward the end of the Arsacid, or Parthian, Empire (247 BCAD 224). With the advent of a new and decidedly national Persian dynasty, the Sasanian, in AD 224, Zoroastrianism became the official religion. Its hierarchy possessed considerable political power, and other religions (Christianity, Manichaeism, and Buddhism) were persecuted. The Avesta was compiled, edited, and provided with a translation and commentary in the vernacular, Pahlavi. The dualistic, or Mazdean, doctrine, which had gradually replaced the monotheistic system of the Gathas during the Achaemenid period, became finally accepted as orthodox. Under Muslim rule the bulk of the population was persuaded or forced to embrace Islam, but Zoroastrianism was tolerated to a certain extent and succeeded in holding its own fairly well for about three centuries. Between the 8th and 10th centuries religious persecution and forced conversion to Islam led some of the remaining Zoroastrians to leave Iran and settle in India, most of them eventually in the region of Bombay. By the 19th century these Zoroastrians, called Parsees, were distinguished for their wealth, education, and beneficence. In the 19th century the Parsees renewed contact with the only remaining Zoroastrians in Iran, the Gabars. These two groups and their emigrants to other countries are today the only surviving practitioners of the religion of Zoroaster. Zoroastrian worship is most distinctively characterized by tendance of the temple fire. the ancient pre-Islamic religion of Iran that survives there in isolated areas and, more prosperously, in India, where the descendants of Zoroastrian Iranian (Persian) immigrants are known as Parsis, or Parsees. In India the religion is called Parsiism. Founded by the Iranian prophet and reformer Zoroaster in the 6th century BC, the religion contains both monotheistic and dualistic features. It influenced the other major Western religonsJudaism, Christianity, and Islam. For a discussion of the context in which Zoroastrianism arose, see Iranian religion. Additional reading A wide-ranging introductory study is found in Cyrus R. Pangborn, Zoroastrianism: A Beleaguered Faith (1982). Other studies include Mary Boyce, A History of Zoroastrianism (1975 ), A Persian Stronghold of Zoroastrianism (1977, reprinted 1989), Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices (1979, reissued 1986), and Zoroastrianism: Its Antiquity and Constant Vigour (1992); Jacques Duchesne-Guillemin, Zoroastrian Religion, in The Cambridge History of Iran, vol. 3, part 2 (1983), chapter 23, pp. 866906; and S.A. Nigosian, The Zoroastrian Faith: Tradition and Modern Research (1993). James Hastings (ed.), Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, 13 vol. (190826, reissued 1962); and Mircea Eliade (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Religion, 16 vol. (1987), contain many articles on Zoroastrianism. Geo WIDENGREN, Die Religionen Irans (1965), is comprehensive. Mary Boyce (ed. and trans.), Textual Sources for the Study of Zoroastrianism (1984), is a compilation of translations. Texts covering specific aspects of Zoroastrianism are J.R. Hinnells, Zoroastrian Saviour Imagery and Its Influence on the New Testament, in Numen, 16:161185 (December 1969); Stanley Insler, The Gathas of Zarathustra (1975); Simone Ptrement, Sur le problme du gnosticisme, in Revue de Mtaphysique et de Morale, 85:145177 (AprilJune 1980); P. Lecoq, Ahura Mazda ou Khvarnah, in Acta Iranica, 23:301326 (1984); and Jamsheed K. Choksy, Purity and Pollution in Zoroastrianism: Triumph Over Evil (1989), examining the Zoroastrian ritual of purity throughout history. Works dealing specifically with the Parsis of India include Eckehard Kulke, The Parsees in India: A Minority as Agent of Social Change (1974; originally published in German, 1968), which studies their history in the 19th and 20th centuries; and Jer D. Randeria, The Parsi Mind: A Zoroastrian Asset to Culture (1993). Jacques Duchesne-Guillemin The Editors of the Encyclopdia Britannica

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