ZOROASTRIANISM

: A short overview

Zoroastrianism is the ancient religion of Persia. It was founded about 3500 years ago by the prophet Zarathushtra. Arising out of the polytheistic traditions of ancient India and Iran, he was one of the first monotheists in human history. Zarathushtra preached that there was one God, whom he called Ahura Mazda. Ahura means “Lord,” and Mazda means “Wise,” so Zoroastrians call God the “Wise Lord.” Zarathushtra has been known in the West as Zoroaster, from the Greek transliteration of his name; in Persia and India he is known as Zarthosht.
No one knows exactly when Zarathushtra lived. Zoroastrian tradition places him at around 600 B.C.E., but this date is thought by modern scholars to be far too late. The modern estimate of Zarathushtra’s date is anywhere from 1500 to 1000 B.C.E.
The basic scripture of Zoroastrianism is a set of 5 poetic songs called the _Gathas_, which were composed by Zarathushtra himself and have been preserved through the millennia by Zoroastrian priests. Over the years many other scriptures have accumulated around these Gathas. Much of these scriptures were destroyed by the Greek, Muslim, and Mongol invasions, but some remain. The Gathas are still the core text of the faith. They are composed in a very ancient language known as Avestan, which is closely related to Sanskrit. The evidence scholars use to give a time reference to Zarathushtra is linguistic: the language of the hymns composed by the Prophet is similar to the Sanskrit of the Rig-Veda, an ancient Hindu text which has been dated to the period of 1500-1000 B.C.E. Continue reading ZOROASTRIANISM