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1 Zoroastrianism The Religion of Ancient Persia Nawaz Merchant Sam Merchant ZAGNY: Zoroastrian Association of Greater New York Photo: Winged Lions in the.

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Presentation on theme: "1 Zoroastrianism The Religion of Ancient Persia Nawaz Merchant Sam Merchant ZAGNY: Zoroastrian Association of Greater New York Photo: Winged Lions in the."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 Zoroastrianism The Religion of Ancient Persia Nawaz Merchant Sam Merchant ZAGNY: Zoroastrian Association of Greater New York Photo: Winged Lions in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

2 2 The Middle East has been in the news often – but do you know it’s history?

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5 5 Z-what? What is it? Zoroastrianism is the First Mono- theistic religion in the world Name given to followers of Prophet Zoroaster/Zarathushtra State religion of the Kings of Persia Cyrus the Great: –Conquered lands from Afghanistan to Egypt – –Ruled justly, –First Bill of Human Rights King Darius: –Universal currency/coins (Dariks), –First postal system Predominant from 1000 BC AD

6 6 So what did he say? Zoroaster had a simple message: –Good Thoughts, Good Words, and Good Deeds Below: Raphael's 1509 painting of “The School of Athens”. –In it, Zoroaster and Ptolemy are having a discussion. The prophet is holding a star-studded globe.

7 7 Tenets of Zoroastrian-ism One God: The Amesha Spenta or the attributes of Ahura Mazda (God) 1.Asha is Righteousness. God is Righteous therefore He is Just and morally perfect. 2.Vohu Mano is the Good Mind. God has the perfect mind and therefore he is incapable of choosing anything evil. 3.Spenta Aramaity is Benevolence. God is benevolent and loves and trusts his creation to eventually become perfect as he has wanted it to be from the moment he created it. 4.Kshathra Vairya is the power to do Good. God uses his power to do only Good. 5.Houravatat is Perfection. God is Perfect. 6.Ameretat is Immortality. God is Immortal. Our Role: Human beings are expected to develop these virtues. They must: Learn what Righteousness is, and choose the right path. Be benevolent (good to others), and trust that God has intended them to be good. Evil is within people- (like being selfish). If all human beings choose to use their power to do only good and fight evil, then the rule of reason will prevail. Good Thoughts, Good Words, and Good Deeds

8 8 Zoroastrian-ism: History Founded in ~1000 BCE –“Mazdaism” – since Ahura Mazda is the Devine Creator State religion of Mede, Achemenian, Parthian, and Sassanian Rulers The Persians (Achaemenid Empire) were conquered by Alexander the Great of Greece in 330 BCE –Alexander was influenced by Xenophon’s book – “The Training of Cyrus the Great” In 670 AD, the Persian Sassanid dynasty was overthrown by Arabs armies –Many persians were killed, others converted to Islam, some remained in Iran –but a few escaped…and fled to India Popular Parsi Zoroastrian depiction. This image emerged in the 18th century

9 9 Zoroastrian refugees (called Parsis) fleeing religious persecution in Iran, landed in Sanjan (Gujarat), in 936 AD (some say 716 AD) and asked Jadhav Rana, King of Gujarat, for refuge. The King gave a glass full of milk to the chief Parsi priest, to say that that he had no place for new settlers. The Parsi priest took the glass of milk full to the brim, and added sugar to it. He implied: Just as the sugar blended into the milk without displacing any of it, so too would the parsis blend into and sweeten the land. Impressed by this assurance, the King gave the Parsis refuge. Pictures: Re-enactment of Kisse-Sanjan. Commemorative Column installed in 1920 Arrival in Sanjan

10 10 Parsees & Progress in India Sir Jamshedjee Jeejeebhoy ( ) - First Baronet – Highly esteemed parsi of the 19 century. Dadabhoy Naoroji ( ) was the first Asian to become member of the British Parliament credited with coining the word “SWARAJ” or home rule. Madam Bhikajee Cama ( ) was the first to unfurl the future Indian flag in public First Indian Cricket Team to go to England was made-up of Parsis. Field Marshall Sam Maneckshaw, lead India to victory in the 1965 Indo-Pak war.

11 11 TATA’S Century of Excellence Founded by JN Tata, the Tata Group has 98 Operating Companies and $28B annual sales. Five core values: integrity, understanding, excellence, unity and responsibility 1903 – India’s First Luxury hotel – India’s First Integrated steel factory – India’s First Commercial air service – India’s First Cancer Hospital – India’s First International Commercial flight – India’s First Software service company – India’s First Indigenous car – Tata Nano: $2500 Car for the masses “A CENTURY OF TRUST”

12 12 Migration to North America Zarathushtis who stayed in Iran were persecuted with high Jaziya tax, ban on travel, trade, etc In the 1800s, with the help of the British govt., parsees of India rescued some of their brethren from Iran. Others remained in Kerman & Yazd (Iran), and flourished under the rule of the Reza Shah Pehlvi. In Iran today, 5 minority representatives have permanent seats in parliament – one of these is a Zoroastrian representative. From the 1920s onward, Zoroastrians migrated to UK, Australia, Europe and North America. There are now ~25,000+ Zoroastrians in North America, with over 25 ‘anjumans’ or associations. They continue to make sweet the lives of those they live and work among.

13 13 Customs and Traditions The Jashan Ceremony performed by a priest or Dastoor to bless a Zoroastrian home

14 14 Childhood Traditions Tradition: On the 5th night after the child’s birth, it is said, Vermai, an old spirit, visits the family to write the child’s fortune. At sunset, the grandmother prays by a deeva (candle), and leaves overnight a shesh (tray) with a piece of paper and a pen filled with auspicious red ink. With one of the lowest birth rates of any community, the birth of a baby is celebrated with great joy. Childhood ceremonies: Besna (when the child can sit upright at about 6 months old), Puhg-laroo (When the child can walk – at months old.)

15 15 Navjote: Initiation into the Zoroastrian Faith The priest prays for the health, wealth and well- being of the child by reciting the Doa Tandarosti prayer. He showers petals and rice upon the child's head, symbolizing prosperity and plenty. The Navjote is when a child joins the Zoroastrian religion. The word Navjote is from: (1) Nao (new), and (2) Jotë (one who offers prayers). The child (age 7-15) wears the Sudreh (shirt) and Kusti (girdle) which are the visible symbols of the faith. Relatives and friends are invited to witness the child’s acceptance of the Zoroastrian religion

16 16 Zoroastrian Wedding Ceremony The bride and the groom sit opposite each other, with a veil between them. When the veil falls, and the couple toss rice to “win the upper hand” in the marriage! The Priest asks the couple and witnesses. Pasande kardi? “Are you willing?” Chanted prayers ask the blessings of God and of the Amesha-Spentas and of the Yazatas upon the couple and the Priest advises them on their conduct in life (called the Ashirwad, or blessing).

17 17 Parsi Ladies adopted the Sari – and made it their own: Ladies admire traditional Parsee Sarees for their exquisite embroidery: Garo (A dark silk saree with white embroidery is often a family heirloom passed from mother to daughter) Kor-Sari and Kasab (silver)-kor sarees (A richly embroidered border, attached over the entire length of the saree) Teeli-saree (A sequined lace sari, usually in pastel colors but often in jewel tones as well.)

18 18 The Exotic Flavors of Parsi Cuisine Parsi Cuisine has gained favor in India over the years, and has also attracted followers of ethnic food in the west. Pictured: ‘Patra ni machi’ (fish in banana leaf) ‘Malido’ (a sweet semolina dessert) Parsi Shrimp Curry, Patrel..mmmm!. Picture Credits:www.sanjeevkapoor.com,

19 19 The Parsi and Iranian Zarthostis in North America strive to preserve their heritage.. Traditional crafts like Torans or bead garlands are still used in traditional homes to decorate the door-frame of family rooms and bring good luck. Homes frequently have a shrine or collection of devotional pictures.

20 20 Naurooz: New Year (Haft-Sinn table) NauRooz is a spring festival, representing renewal and growth. Celebrates the Spring Equinox, March 21, Official New Year for Zoroastrians worldwide. National holiday in Iran, Afghanistan, & Tajikistan. The Haft Sin items are: –sabzeh – wheat sprouts growing in a dish (symbolizing rebirth) –samanu - pudding (affluence) –senjed - dried oleaster fruit (love) –sīr - garlic – (medicine ) –sīb - apples – (beauty and health) –somaq - sumac berries – (for sunrise) –serkeh - vinegar – (age and patience )

21 21 Sadeh – Ancient Feast celebrating ‘Creation of Fire' Some rituals remain national holidays in Iran: Nowruz (New Year), Chahar-Shanbe Suri (the Wednesday Feast in March) and Yalda, in winter

22 22 Lagan ni Jori: Bridal Clothing Bridal clothing is placed in a large khumcha (tray) with garland of white tube-roses and red roses · The Zoroastrian bride usually wears a white lace sari, hand embroidered with delicate sequin-work or silver thread. · It is worn with a white satin sari blouse and white satin petticoat. · The Groom wears a white traditional ‘dugli’ or outer jacket which is fastened at the neck and side with small bows or white cloth fastenings. · A new white shirt and pair of trousers accompany the formal dugli. · An heirloom pair of cuff-links or a new watch is gifted by the bride’s family. It is likely that this is a tradition from an era when a time-piece was a rarity and therefore an auspicious gift. · The black pheta or pugri gives the groom a distinguished and mature appearance. For many Zoroastrian men, their wedding is the only occasion when they wear a pheta or pugri. Others wear it on important festivals and family occasions as well. · · A white lace sudreh is worn under the blouse. An heirloom piece of jewelry presented by the grooms family. · A red wool shawl is placed in the shesh (tray), The bride and groom are welcomed into the wedding ceremony with a garland of white tube- roses and red roses.

23 23 Traditional Clothing Sudhreh and Kushti: Religious Vestments (clothing) Sudhreh (or Sadra) is the sacred Shirt and Kushti (or Kusti) is the Sacred Thread worn by Zarathostis after their Navjote (Initiation). Each morning a Zoroastrian bathes, dons a fresh sudhreh and then prays a daily prayer, during which he re-ties the sacred thread. The Main prayer is “Jasa Me Avenghe Mazda” a prayer where he reaffirms his faith, saying “I follow the Zoroastrian Religion”. Zarthostis cover their heads to pray: Topis are worn by children and men while in prayer or in the Fire- temple. Women can wear a scarf, or topi, or use the ‘sohr’ of the saree (drawn over the head) during religious events. Traditional Parsee women frequently wore “maathu-banu” or a scarf under their saree or in the home. Traditional hats such as Pheta or Pagri are still worn by Parsi men


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