Zoroastrianism and World History

Zoroastrianism is an ancient religion that was founded by the Prophet Zoroaster in Persia (modern day Iran). The exact date as to its foundation is still not clear although it is placed on the Bible Timeline around 2000 – 2200 BC.

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Zoroastrianism,_World_Religion
Historic Map of the Achaemenid Empire

For a long period, it served as the national religion of many Iranian nations. Zoroastrianism was the state religion of the Achaemenid Empire up to the end of the Sassanid Empire. It started to decline when Alexander the Great conquered the Achaemenid Empire until it was finally replaced by Islam. It is still practised today by about 180,000 people, most of whom live in Asia. Zoroastrianism focused its belief on praising a single God.

Other deities of the ancient religion named Daevas were evil spirits. This idea of monotheism disappointed the locals and created conflict with the local religious leaders. Because of this, Zoroaster left his hometown to seek refuge among those who are willing to accept his philosophies and teachings. He gained it at Bactria, the nation ruled by King Vishtaspa who declared Zoroastrianism the state religion. Zoroastrianism spread throughout the west of Iran and was already widely accepted even before the Achaemenid Empire was established. Its main scripture is the Avesta. In Zoroastrianism, righteous deeds and morality are emphasized.

It’s religious motto is, “I confess good thoughts, good words, good deeds.” The righteous ones will receive rewards while punishments are waiting for those who do evil things. It believes in a single god. It also includes the ideas of heaven and hell, of salvation, and of final judgement. Because of these Zoroastrianism was thought of as a religion of dualism, a religion that identifies the presence of good and evil that are always fighting against each other. During worships, its followers give praises and thanksgivings as means of offerings with oblations of milk, bread, and water complete with the reading of long litanies.

Zoroastrianism also has many similarities with Judaism and Christianity. The three teach the ideas of angelology and demonology. They also believe in a perfect kingdom, in a Messiah, in the resurrection, and in everlasting life.

Prophet Zoroaster

There are limited historical accounts referring to the founder of Zoroastrianism, Zoroaster. Zoroaster was a Greek term for his real name, Zarathustra while he was also called Zarathusti by the people of Persia and Zaratosht in Gujarati. He was born into a Spitama clan. His father was said to be a native of Atropatene while his mother was thought to have come from Rai. He was one of the fortunate ones given a chance to learn from the great teachers in Persia. He was married with three sons and three daughters. He was born in Iran yet the exact place and date of his birth is still under debate. It is said that he was born during the Bronze Age when people were practising a polytheistic religion that included animal sacrifices and use of hallucinogens during rituals.

Aside from founding Zoroastrianism, he was also credited with establishing the Magian wisdom and astrology. His teachings were written in the Avesta. It is unclear how he died. It is assumed that he was killed by a foreign invader while praying at the age of 77. There is no celebration in honour of either his birth or death practised by his followers.

Zoroastrianism Today

Zoroastrianism does not accept converts which is one of the main reasons why the religion and its followers were constantly declining. Its membership was only passed on through heredity. There are only about 150,000 followers in India and Pakistan. In North America, there are less than 15,000 followers of the religion. There are also a few devotees in Iran, in Britain, in East Africa, and in Hong Kong.

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