- Zoroastrians in Iran
Iranhave had a long history, being the oldest religious community of that nation to survive to the present-day. Prior to the Muslim Arab invasion of Persia (Iran), Zoroastrianism had been the primary religion of the Persian people.
Since the fall of the
SassanidZoroastrian empire by the Arab conquest of Persia, Zoroastrians in Iran have faced much religious discrimination including forced conversions, harassments, as well as being identified as najisand impure to Muslims, making them unfit to live alongside Muslims therefore forcing them to evacuate from cities and face major sanctions in all senses ("See Persecution of Zoroastrians").
Zoroasterand his first followers are believed to have been the proto-Indo-Iranians that lived between the Stone Ageand Bronze Age(est. 1400-1200BC). Mary Boyce"Zoroastrians, Their Religious Beliefs and Practices" pp. 1] The proto-Indo-Iranians ( Aryans) were later divided in to two distinct branches of Iranian and Indians; the Iranian branch migrated to Iran as early as 2000 BC. [worldhistory|quote=The Medes and the Persians, c.1500-559|section=123]
The time that the
Iranian peoplesmigrated to Iran are mainly estimated through Assyrian records. Mary Boyce"Zoroastrians, Their Religious Beliefs and Practices" "Under the Achaemenians" pp. 48] Also, Herodotus(I, 101) had recalled one of the Medetribes to be called "Magoi", better known as " Magis", a tribe known to have included many priests, who served both Medesand Persians. By the time of the Median empire(est. 612 BC), Zoroastrianism is known to have been well established in both Parsregion (later capital of Persia) as well as in the Eastern regions. Mary Boyce"Zoroastrians, Their Religious Beliefs and Practices" pp. 49] Achaemenid dynasty Persiansled by Cyrus the Greatsoon established the second Iranian dynasty, and the first Persian empireby defeating the Medesdynasty in 549BC. Mary Boyce, "Zoroastrians, Their Religious Beliefs and Practices" pp. 49] As Persians expanded their empire, Zoroastrianism was introduced to Greek historians such as Hermodorus, Hermippus, Xanthos, Eudoxusand Aristotle; each giving a different date regarding the life of Zoroasterbut naturally believed him to be a Persian prophet and called him "Master of the magi" Mary Boyce, "Zoroastrians, Their Religious Beliefs and Practices": "Under the Achamenians"]
Although there are no inscriptions left from the time of Cyrus about his religion, the fire-altars found at
Pasargadae, as well as the fact that he called his daughter Atossa, name of the queen of Vishtaspa (Zoroaster's royal patron), suggests that he indeed may have been a Zoroastrian. Mary Boyce, "Zoroastrians, Their Religious Beliefs and Practices": "Under the Achamenians"]
However, it is clear that by the time of
Darius the Great(549 BC– 485/486 BC), the empire was clearly in favour of Zoroastrianism. Darius declares in one of his inscriptions that:
Persepolis (or Parsa) was one of the four capitals of the Achaemenid empire, built by
Darius the Greatand his son Xerxes; it was a glorious city known to the world as the "richest city under the sun". It was also the trading capital of the Near East.
One of the main functions of Persepolis was to serve as the host of the ancient Zoroastrian festival,
Norouz. Therefore, every year representatives from each country under the rule of Persia would bring gifts to Persepolis to show their loyalty to the king and the empire.
The Sassanid dynasty was the first
Persian empirewhich declared Zoroastrianismas the state religionand promoted the religion more than ever. It is believed that Avesta (a compilation of Zoroastrian sacred texts) was first gathered and put together at this time.
The prophet Mani was an Iranian of noble
Parthian roots who established Manichaeismwhich contained many elements of Zoroastrianismas well as Gnosticism, however it saw the experience of life on earth by humans as miserable, which was a contrast to the Zoroastrian view which was to celeberate life through happiness.
Mani was received kindly by king
Shapur Iand spent many years at his court where he was protected during all of Shabuhr's reign. However Mani wrote in a semitic language and all his work had to be translated in to Middle Persianby his followers, who rendered the name of Mani's supreme god as Zurvan and called him the father of Ohrmazd Mary Boyce, "Zoroastrians, Their Religious Beliefs and Practices": "Under the early Sassanians"] ( Ahuramazda, God of Wisdom, main deity of Zoroastrianism).
Although the origins of Zurvanite Zoroastrianism are unclear, it was during the Sassanid period that it gained widespread acceptance, and many of the Sassanid emperors were at least to some extent Zurvanites. Zurvanism enjoyed royal sanction during the Sassanid era but no traces of it remain beyond the 10th century.
Unlike Mazdean Zoroastrianism, Zurvanism considered
Ahura Mazdanot the transcendental Creator, but one of two equal-but-opposite divinities under the supremacy of Zurvan. The central Zurvanite belief made Ahura Mazda (Middle Persian: Ohrmuzd) and Angra Mainyu(Ahriman) twin brothers that had co-existed for all time.
Non-Zoroastrian accounts of typically Zurvanite beliefs were the first traces of Zoroastrianism to reach the west, which misled European scholars to conclude that Zoroastrianism was a dualist faith.
The Zoroastrian cult of Zurvan should not be confused with the Manichaeism's use of the "name" Zurvan in Middle Persian texts to represent the Manichean deity of light. Mani had himself introduced this practice (for perhaps political reasons) in his "Shapurgan", which he dedicated to his patron
Shapur II. For much of the rest of the Sassanid era, the Manichaens were a persecuted minority, and Mani was sentenced to death by Bahram I.
The three great sacred fires of Persia at the time of the Sassanids were the
Adur Farnbag, Adur Gushnaspand the Adur Burzen-Mihrwhich burnt in Pars, Media and Parthia respectively. Of these three the Adur Burzen-Mihr was the most sacred fire as it was linked to the prophet Zarathustra himself and king Vishtaspa. Mary Boyce, "Zoroastrians, Their Religious Beliefs and Practices": "Under the mid Sassanid period"]
Arab conquest and Under the Caliphs empire
The Mongol invasion of Iran resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and ruined many cities. Within half a century of the conquest,
Ghazan Khanbecame a Muslim, which did not help the status of Zoroastrians in Iran. However, by the time that the Mongols were expelled, Parsprovince had escaped major damages and the Zoroastrians moved to the North of Pars mainly in the regions of Yazdand Kerman, Mary Boyce, "Zoroastrians, Their Religious Beliefs and Practices": "Under the Caliphs"] where even today the main Zoroastrian communities are found. Safavid dynasty Qajar dynasty
During the Qajar Dynasty, religious persecution of the Zoroastrians was rampant. Due to the increasing contacts with influential Parsi philanthropists such as
Maneckji Limji Hataria, many Zoroastrians left Iran for India. There, they formed the second major Indian Zoroastrian community known as the Iranis.
Starting from the early twentieth century,
Tehran, the nation's capital, experienced rapid migrations from all Iranian minorities. The Zoroastrian population increased from about 50 merchants in 1881 to 500 by 1912. [Hukht (1973)]
During the reign of the
Pahlavi dynasty, Zoroastrians changed from being one of the most persecuted minorities in Iran to a symbol of Iranian nationalism.Janet Kestenberg Amighi "Zoroastrians of Iran, Conversion, Assimilation, or Persistence" pp. 143] This notion carried on all the way through the 1979 Islamic revolution of Iranwhen Ayatollah Sadughi in defence of Zoroastriansclarifyme proclaimed that "We Muslims are like the branches of a tree, if our roots are cut off, we shall shrivel up and die", also the last prime minister before the revolution Shapour Bakhtiarheld an anti- Khomeinimeeting in Los Angeleson the day of the Zoroastrian Mehreganfestival (1980), in tribute to "true nationalism"Janet Kestenberg Amighi "Zoroastrians of Iran, Conversion, Assimilation, or Persistence" pp. 143] "(See Iranian nationalism)".
The Iranian revolution of 1979 and the eventual establishment of the new theocratic
Islamic Republicposed many initial setbacks for religious minorities. Today, the Zoroastrian community in Iran is estimated by some to number some 22,000 - half the size of that in existence before the 1979 Islamic revolution.ref|change
Like the Armenian, Assyrian and Persian Jewish communities, Zoroastrians are officially recognized and on the grounds of the 1906 Constitution allocated one seat in the Iranian Parliament, currently held by
Esfandiar Ekhtiari Kassnavieh[ [http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=47657§ionid=351020101 Press TV - Results for the minority MPs] ] .
Important Zoroastrians in the 20th century:
Jamshid Bahman Jamshidianalso known as Arbob Jamshidi
Keikhosrow Shahrokhalso known as Arbob Keikhoshrow
Religious minorities in Iran
*Firooz Bahram Zoroastrian high school in Iran
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/picture_gallery/05/middle_east_zoroastrians_in_iran/html/1.stm Images of modern Zoroastrianism in Iran]
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