1. Dates & Origins
    THE founder of Zoroastrianism, Zarathushtra, or Zoroaster as the Greeks rendered the name, cannot be ascribed any precise date and dating is a hotly contested issue. Academic opinion, which bases its case on linguistic analysis of the oldest texts (the Gathas), suggests a date roughly around 1300 BCE. Other suggestions, based on Greek sources, arrive at dates as far apart as 6000 BCE and the sixth century BCE. Furthermore, his exact place of origin cannot be pinpointed, although it is thought that he lived either in the part of Iran which is known as Azerbaijan today or possibly in what has been called Greater Iran, namely around Balkh, or possibly as far east as the Pamir mountains in today's Tajikistan. All these areas are connected by a common Iranian culture and once upon a time practised Zoroastrianism.
    Mehraban & Goli Farhangi
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  2. Zoroaster’s message
    Zoroaster's message is preserved in the Gathas, a body of 225 verses dispersed over 17 Yasnas composed in an ancient Iranian language. WHAT made Zoroaster's ideas radical was firstly his revelation that there was one creator, Ahura Mazda, the Wise Lord, at a time when it was commonplace to worship the numerous natural elements as gods in their own right. His understanding of life was based on his realisation that all the manifestations of creation had to come ultimately from one all-powerful energy - God or the Self-Creator. His originality is further seen in his injunction found in the Gathas, that those who are listening should use their free will to choose their own path, that of good or that of evil. In this injunction are two fundamental ideas: free will and individual responsibility for one's own actions; and the concepts of good and evil. Good and evil are understood as realities encountered in the inner mind - the conscience - that appear to operate as twin energies, equally present and both exerting a pull over us.
    Mehraban & Goli Farhangi
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  3. The Symbolism of Fire/Prayers
    FIREor the sun, both of which embody many of the characteristics of the creative force. As the creative energy they are enduring, radiant, pure and life sustaining. In Zoroastrian places of worship, therefore, an urn containing fire, which is kept alive by donations of fragrant sandalwood or myrrh, is the most important feature Prayers THE corpus of Zoroastrian prayer texts, known collectively as the Avesta, provides both the ideas resulting from the divine revelation, which came to Zoroaster and also historical background through which scholars try to contextualise his life and teachings. It contains layers of prayers in different languages, indicating additions at different times and suggesting a tradition which underwent linguistic and occasionally philosophical transformation.
    Priest tending Fire in Iran
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  4. Parsees
    PARSEES are those Zoroastrians who left Iran in the face of fierce persecution in the 10th century CE to try and maintain their faith and practices in a foreign land and were given permission by a local ruler to settle around Sanjan in Gujerat, India, (The legend of their migration was later recorded in the Qissa Sanjan). With Zoroastrians located in two centres (Iran & India) from the 10th century and with little contact between them until the last century, it is not surprising that certain beliefs and rituals evolved differently, with Parsees in India absorbing aspects of the caste practices with which they were surrounded, while cultural differences such as food, dress, and language became very pronounced. Nevertheless some Parsees realized that they had lost their way and between the 15th to 18th centuries envoys and emissaries regularly travelled from India to pose important questions about doctrine and ritual and to return with the responses from senior priests in Iran.
    Zoroastrian migration to India
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  5. Gender Equality
    EQUALITY of gender remains a feature which has singled out Zoroastrians from their compatriots throughout history. In the Gathas, Zoroaster specifically exhorts men and women to use their own unclouded judgement to decide if what he, Zoroaster, advocates has a relevant message for them. It is particularly noteworthy that throughout the Gathas he addresses both men and women, indicating that they are partners in trying to increase the amount of goodness and trying to defeat the forces of darkness. This equality of address implies respect towards both sexes and a belief in the competence of both. Indeed, lack of gender prejudice is one of the fundamental tenets of Zoroastrianism and is seen in societal organisation, in later texts, in the priesthood and also in the wedding liturgy.
    Recent ordination of women
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      Queen Pourandokht
      Example from the Gathas
  6. Nature & the Environment
    Zoroastrianism is a very ecologically aware religion, which has led to some commentators calling it the first Green movement. In the Gathas there are several references to Mother Earth and the wonders of natural phenomena such as the moon, the stars, the wind and so on. Nature, in fact, is central to the practice of Zoroastrianism and understanding the interdependence of human life, the seasons and the elements lies at its core. Many important Zoroastrian annual festivals are in celebration of nature: new year celebration of Nowruz on the first day of spring (March 21); the water festival in summer; the autumn harvest festival of Mehrgan at the end of the season; and the mid-winter fire festival. It should be said that there are many days for feasting and celebrations to break up an otherwise laborious lifestyle and Zoroastrians traditionally sing, dance, play music and drink wine together during the celebrations, in marked contrast to those around them.
    Typical Haft Sheen table
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  7. Charity & Hard Work
    ZOROASTRIANS are told in the Gathas that laziness and sloth are frowned on. It is our duty to toil, so that life may be enjoyed when relaxing after effort and when the bounty of our hard work produces results. The work ethic is a strong hallmark of the community in which wealth in itself is not regarded as undesirable. However, Zoroastrians are exhorted to do good deeds and among these is the promotion of a charitable disposition which inclines them to part with a little of what would otherwise be just for themselves. In more industrial communities and among more affluent families, it is commonplace to find a person endowing a hospital, a home for the aged, an orphanage or a school, all institutions for which Parsees are particularly renowned. Nowadays, endowments are also made for communities to meet at the local centre for a meal together after prayers of thanksgiving and remembrance.
    Typical Gahambar in Iran
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