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Our Scholars are ready to Answer your questions on Zoroastrian Religion. However,
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Frequently Asked Questions

Prepared By Dr. Mahmoud Khalighi

1. 3736 years ago is a long time ago, how can you prove a man of Zarathushtra existed?

It is unquestionable that we have in our hand a collection of songs composed in an
old dialect that has a strong similarity with the Veda’s dialect. In this authentic
collection, we encounter frequently the name Zarathushtra as a personality who
addresses to and admires God. He is listening to divine teaching and dedicates
himself to God, chooses for himself the most progressive divine mentality, and
he is chosen as the leader of the world.
In addition, Zarathushtra has been mentioned, as a prophet, by different
Authorities of history since the antiquity so that one cannot doubt about his
Historical personality.

2. Can Gathas be a collective ideas and thoughts of Ancient Persians which it is
Presented under the name of Zarathushtra?

The content of Gathas shows that one person, named Zarathushtra, recited this collection of songs.
Different verses of Gathas prove this fact. In some cases, pronoun “I” or “me” is intended to be
Zarathushtra. In song 11, V.18, we read: “Whoever truly accomplishes through righteousness the
complete renovation of lift for me, Zarthushtra, as is the will of God.

3. What does Airyana-Vaejah mean?

-It means the “stem-land of the Aryans” and Aryans are the parent of Indo-European people of history.

4. Where was exactly this land located ?

There exist many controversies about the original location of Aryans. Scholars have proposed different
places from north of Europe to south of Russia. The last investigation, which is more justified than others,
insist on a location between northeast of Black Sea and the Aral Sea.

5. How and when did the Aryans migrate from their original location?

-Historical evidences prove that Aryans migrated from their original place in south of Russia to the West,
East, and South during the second millennium B.C. It’s to say that that group of Aryans who migrated
from south of Russia constituted the Indo-Iranian people. These people lived in the south of Aral Sea and
north of Afghanistan. A group of these people moved to India and arrived to the Indus River in about
1700 B.C. Others came down to Iran.

6. What were the racial characteristics of Aryans?

-They were of a white race and spoke in a language similar to Sanskrit.

7. What was the religion of Aryans?

-Many authors believe that the original religion of these people was Mithraism. Mithra was undoubtedly a
great god of the Aryans, but it was not the alone. Indra, god of thunder and rain, and Varuna, god of sky,
are considered as the two powerful gods that were collaborating with Mithra. In general, Aryans were
worshiping natural elements. Fire especially was very important phenomenon that was adored by Aryans.

8. What were the characteristics of the Iranian society before Zarathushtra?

The Iranian society consisted of three classes: priests, warriors, and agriculturists. Here and there, the
princes called Kavis, were ruling tyrannically over people. The class of priests, called Karapans,
Athravana, and Usij, were taking charge of the religious affairs of the society and were propagating
superstitions in the name of religion. They were living on the people’s charge.

9. What was the correct name of the Iranian prophet and what does the name
Zarathushtra mean?

-There is a lot of controversies about the meaning of the word Zarathushtra. This name, as is precisely
said in Gathas, is Zarathushtra Spitama. The Greeks called him Zoroaster. Some of ancient Greek
authors believed that this name meant star-worshiper. Some of the contemporary authors believe that it
means “the owner of pastures”. Some others propose “who ploughs earth by camel”. Fr. Justi proposes:
“the golden star.” The majority of scholars suggest simply the meaning of “the golden camel”. Azar
Goshasp and Pourvalla believe that Zarathushtra means “golden light.”

10. Where was Zarathushtra born?

-Bartholemea Geldner, Hertzfeld, and some other orientalists saggest Northwwestern Iran i.e.
Azarbayejanm. They believe that the prophet escaped from enemies to Eastern Iran. The majority of
authors like Henning, Christensen, and Humbach propose the Northeastern Iran. The latter view is more
acceptable than others are.

11. Did Zarathushtra belong to Magi community?

-Lommel believes that Magi, as a religious class, didn’t exist at the time of Zarathushtra, but the prophet
of Iran belonged to the clergy class. Hertel doesn’t accept this view. He believes that Zarathushtra
belonged to the farmer class. This view seems more justified than the former one, because of the strong
protection the prophet shows towards the agriculturists.

12. When was the period of Zarathushtra?

-There is a huge mass of controversy about the time of Zarathushtra. The main sources to which
researchers refer are categorized in three groups: religious traditions, scientific investigations based on
archeology and linguistics, and written works of Greeks, Romans, and Arabic writers.

According to the first and the third category, the time of Zarathushtra varies from a few centuries to 6000
B.C. A critical study of the three mentioned sources proves that the time of Zarathushtra should be
between 14th and 17th centuries B.C.

13. Was Zarathushtrianism the official religion of Achaemenids?

-the answer is yes. The message of the great Achaemenian kings of Iran, like Cyrus and Dariush, in their
inscriptions prove that the official religion of Iran under this dynasty was Zarathushtrianism.

14. How the teachings of Zarathushtra deviated from their original form after
Zarathushtra ?

-The ancient gods and archangels that were worshipped in the pre-Zarathushtrian period, like Mithra,
Bahram, Anahita etc. entered into Zarathushtrianism and caused, to a great extent, the deviation of the
religion.

15. Regardless of the revival of the ancient gods and angels, what changes took place in the
Zarathushtrian ideology?

-Abstract concepts that constituted the core of the teachings of Zarathushtra changed often into concrete
ones in the later Zarathushtrian ideology. In addition many old traditions, like offerings to gods revived in
the later religion.

16. Which period is called the Gathic period?

-From about 1000 B.C. to about 800 B.C. During this period, the teachings of Zarathushtra were
probably vivid and far from any deviation.

17. What was the original method of Zarathushtra to discover truth?

-Seeking silent and solitary seclusion, imitation, doubting about the old divinities of his society, thinking,
and reasoning were the main methods of Zarathushtra to discover truth.

18. Who were the relatives of Zarathushtra?

-Pouruchisti, his daughter, Maidyoimaongha, his cousin, and Jamaspa, his son in law, were some of the
prophet’s relatives.

19. Which period is called Avestan period?

-from about 800 B.,C. to about 200 A.D. During this period, the Younger Avesta appeared.,

20. Which famous old Iranian or Indo-Iranian Yazatas did enter into the official religion of
Avestan period?

-The more important of them were Mithra, Bahram, Anahita, Varuna.

21. Who were the Magi?

-They were a religious class originally in Western Iran that could dominate the official religion in the later
period especially under Sassanids.

22. How voluminous was the Avesta at the end of Achaemenian dynasty?

-It was very larger than the present Avesta. It is said that it was written on the 2000 bull’s skins.

23. How antithesis between good and evil became more and more prominent in the
Avestan period?

-Hormazd (Ahura Mazda) and Ahriman (Angra Manyu) opposed each other.

24. Where were maintained the Zarathushtrian scriptures when Alexander was going
to annihilate them ?

-They were in two archetype copies and preserved in Dizh I Niisht and Ganj I
Shapingan.

25. What did Alexander do with the Zarathushtrian scriptures?

-The first scripture, which was deposited in the archive of Persepolis, perished in the conflagration of
Persepolis. The second copy, which was preserved in Ganj I Shapigan was annihilated too through the
chaos caused by the Alexander’s invasion. It is said that this later was translated into Greek language.

26. When did the invasion of Alexander occur?

-It occurred in 330 B.C.

27. Who was the last king of Acheaemenian dynasty?

-Darush III who was killed by Alexander’s soldiers.

28. What was the religion of Parthians?

-The Parthians were strongly influenced by Zarathushtrianism in their religious beliefs. The old archangels,
that gradually entered in the religion after Zarathushtra like Mithra, and the natural elements like fire were
adored by Parthians and all Zarathushtrian traditions were honored under this dynasty.

29. What is Zand?

-It is an interpretation of Avesta in Pahlavi language.

30. What is Pazand?

-It is an interpretation and explanation of Zand.

31. What are the main ethical principles of Mithraism?

-Mithra is the divinity of truth and justice and guards them, fights against falsehood and injustice. The
fighting armies look to him for help and he never fails them.

32. How did Zarathushtrianism revive under Sassanids?

-Ardashir, the founder of Sassanid dynasty, commissioned his high priest, Tansar, to collect the scattered
Avestan works and to prepare an authorized compilation of sacred texts. This zeal continued by the
descendants of Ardashir notably Shapur II, who brought the work to completion with help of his
Dastur,Azarbad Marspand. Shapur declared the redacted canonical collection to be authoritative.

33. Of which point of view does the Pahlavi literature have a special importance?

-The Pahlavi works explain, elaborate, and describe in detail much of what is stated in the original
Avestan texts.

34. What was the trend of the religious thoughts of the Pahlavi period?

-The process of materializing of original abstract concepts – mainly described in Gathas- reaches its
climax in the eschatological notions of the Pahlavi period.

35. What is Zarvanism?

-It is considered as a sect of Zarathushtrianism Zarvan is the Boundless Time, created by Ormazd and
with its creation the entire existence came into motion. Mani calls Zarvan in his heresay Time Eternal, the
Father of God of Light, which creates Ormazd and Ahriman.

36. In which period did Mani propagate his religion?

-It was under Ardeshir, but worked with greater vigor under Shapur I.

37. What were the main principles of Manichaeism?

-Manichaeism was an eclectic religion, which was based on materials drawn from Zarathushtrianism,
Buddhism, Christianity, and Gnosticism. In this synthetic religion, the dualistic theory is accepted as the
basic doctrine to explain the existence of evil, Light which is synonymous with God existed above and
darkness below, Satan arose out of darkness, Celibacy, fasting, and suppressing bodily desires are
recommended in this religion.

38. Which period called period of Decadence of Zarathushtrianism?

-From the seventh to the eighteenth century.

39. What are the main reasons for decadence of Zarathushtrianism?

-First of all, one can mention, as a reason for this decadence, the strong deviation of the later
Zarathushtrianism from the original teachings of Zarathshtra. This deviation made the Zarathushtrianism
full of superstition. The Zarathushtrian clergy –Mubeds- were taking advantage of their religious power
and suppressing the low classes. Therefore, the Iranian people were unsatisfied with their religious
system. Thus, Arab invasion easily destroyed almost all Zarathushtrian inscriptions and propagated the
new religion. The majority of Zarathushtrians converted to Islam. Others, under the suppressing caused
by Arab ruler, escaped to India, China, and other foreign countries to continue their hard lives. The
frequent ravages by Tatars, Turks, Mongols, and Afghans in the following centuries maid the Iranians,
notably Zarathushtrians, more and more perished.

40. Who were the famous Muslim writers who wrote about Zarathushtrianism in the
early Islamic period ?

-The more famous ones were Mas’udi (A.D.950), Biruni (A.D.1000), and Shahrestani (A.D.1169)

41 How did Parsi-Sanskrit literature expand in India?

-Some of Parsi scholars began to translate the Pahlavi texts of Avesta into Sanskrit. The most illustrious
representative of this group of Parei-Sanskritists is Neryosangh Dhavala who flourished about 1200 A.D.

42. What were Rivayats in the Zarathushtrian literature of the decadence period?

-They are collections of tradition, customs, and rites, arranged in the form of questions and answers. In
Persia and considered as the influence of the Muslim rule in Gujarat. These compilations provide a wealth
of information on liturgical and social matters.

43. Which period of Zarathushtrian history is called the revival one?

-Nineteen century and after.


44. What was the main factor that caused to modify the religious conceptions of the
young people at the revival period?

-Among other factors, one can mention illiteracy of the priesthood that failed to satisfy the intellectual
wants of the enlightened youth.

45. How is used the science of comparative philology among the Parsi scholars of India?

-Since 1771, when Anquetil du Perron published his translation of some parts of Avesta in Europe, the
European and American scholars paid special attention to benefit from the scientific archeological and
philological methods to understand Avesta. These way Parsi scholars began to use the western methods
of philology in their works

46. How did the new school back to the Gathas at the revival period?

-The use of the philological methods in the Avestan investigations led the scholars to discover a lacking of
homogeneity between the different parts of Avesta. They perceived that the later Avesta could be a
deviation from the Gathas, which are older than other parts and contain much abstract and spiritual
concepts. These concepts seem more justified from the point of view of ethics,. This way, the scholars of
the new scientific school showed a tendency to turn back to the Gathas

47. What is the Parsi theosophy in India?

Parsi theosophy is the rejection of philological methods in investigations of Avesta. The theosophists try
to discover the deep meanings of sacred texts through their own mysterious method

48. Who was Azar Kaivan?

-He was the last Parsi adept who alleged to have the key to discover the esoteric meaning of the sacred
text. He presented a book, called Dasatir, in a mysterious style of writing with the exotic and meaningless
words claimed to be written under Khosrow Parviz. He should be considered as a theosophist whose
belief is an eclectic system drawing its materials from Hinduism and Buddhism.

49. What are some controversies discussed between Reformers and Conservatives of the
Zarathushtrian community in India in the revival period?

-One subject of controversy was based on the fact that Avesta language was an unintelligible one that
neither clergy nor laymen did understand it. The orthodox followers believed that uttering the Avestan
prayers, even in an incorrect pronunciation, could be considered as worshiping and cause to gain the
mercifulness of God. The Reformers, on the opposite side, insisted on the meaning of prayers and
proposed the translation of prayers to be read.

Another subject of disagreement was the alien customs that were going to enter into Zarathushtrianism
through the inevitable social contacts. The orthodox clergy were in opposite side and reformer followers
agreed with this process of acculturalization.

50. Did this conflict between conservative and free thought among Parsis lead to a formal
division between themselves?

-The answer is no. The rival parties, however, did not make any formal division. Due to flexibility that
exists in the core of Indian civilization, the two extreme parties, orthodox and reformer, live peacefully
with each other.

 

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