Zoroastrianism n : system of religion founded in Persia in the 6th century BC by Zoroaster; set forth in the Zend-Avesta; based on concept of struggle between light (good) and dark (evil) [syn: Mazdaism]
- /'zɒrəʊ'æstrɪən'ɪz(ə)m/ (RP)
- /'zo:-ro-'ae-stri-ən-'Izm/ (US)
- General usage: Religion and philosophy based on the teachings ascribed to the prophet Zoroaster. Also referred to as Zoroastrism and
- Scholastic usage: identifies the religion as it exists today, as distinguished from earlier forms of the religion. (see Related terms, below).
- Zarathustrianism, a term coined by Iranist Ilya Gershevitch to denote the prophet's own doctrine as distinguished from later accretions. From Zarathustra, Avestan language name of Zoroaster. Similarly,
- Zarathustricism: distinguishes the teachings of Younger Avestan texts from Zarathustrianism and also from later accretions
- Afghanistani Zardush Zardusht
- Afrikaans: Zoroastrisme
- Basque: Zoroastrismo
- Bosnian: zoroastrijanizam , zoroastrizam , zaratustrizam
- Bulgarian: Зороастризъм
- Catalan: Zoroastrisme
- Chinese: 琐罗亚斯德教
- Croatian: zoroastrijanizam , zoroastrizam , zaratustrizam
- Czech: Zoroastrismus
- Danish: Zarathustrianisme
- Dutch: Zoroastrisme
- Esperanto: Zaratuŝtrismo
- Finnish: Zarathustralaisuus
- French: Zoroastrisme
- Georgian: ზოროასტრიზმი
- German: Zoroastrismus
- Greek: Ζωροαστρισμός
- Hebrew: זורואסטריות
- Hindi: पारसी धर्म (pārsī dharm)
- Irish: Sorastrachas
- Interlingua: Zoroastrismo
- Italian: Zoroastrismo
- Japanese: ゾロアスター教
- Korean: 배화교
- Kurdish: Zerdeştî
- Latvian: Zoroastrisms
- Lithuanian: Zoroastrizmas
- Norwegian: Zoroastrisme
- Polish: Zaratusztrianizm
- Portuguese: Zoroastrismo
- Russian: Зороастризм
- Slovak: Zoroastrizmus
- Slovenian: Zoroastrstvo
- Spanish: Zoroastrismo
- Swedish: Zoroastrism
- Thai: ศาสนาโซโรอัสเตอร์
- Turkish: Zerdüştçülük
- Ukranian: Зороастризм
Zoroastrianism is the religion and philosophy based on the teachings ascribed to the prophet Zoroaster (Zarathustra, Zartosht). Mazdaism is the religion that acknowledges the divine authority of Ahura Mazda, proclaimed by Zoroaster.
As demonstrated by Zoroastrianistic creed and articles of faith, the two terms are effectively synonymous. In a declaration of the creed — the Fravarānē — the adherent states: "…I profess myself a devotee of Mazda, a follower of Zarathustra." (Yasna 12.2, 12.8)
While Zoroastrianism was once the dominant religion of much of Greater Iran, the number of adherents has dwindled to not more than 200,000 Zoroastrians worldwide, with concentrations in India and Iran (see demographics below).
TerminologyThe term Zoroastrianism was first attested by the Oxford English Dictionary in 1874 in Archibald Sayce's Principles of Comparative Philology. The first surviving reference to Zoroaster in Western scholarship is attributed to Thomas Browne (1605–1682), who briefly refers to the prophet in his 1643 Religio Medici. The OED records 1743 (Warburton, Pope's Essay) as the earliest reference to Zoroaster.
The term Mazdaism () is a typical 19th century construct, taking Mazda- from the name Ahura Mazda and adding the suffix -ism to suggest a belief system. The March 2001 draft edition of the OED also records an alternate form, Mazdeism, perhaps derived from the French Mazdéisme, which first appeared in 1871. The Zoroastrian name of the religion is Mazdayasna, which combines Mazda- with the Avestan language word yasna, meaning "worship, devotion".
In the English language, an adherent of the faith commonly refers to him- or herself as a Zoroastrian or, less commonly, a Zarathustrian. An older, but still widespread expression is Behdin, meaning "follower of Daena", for which "Good Religion" is one translation. In the Zoroastrian liturgy, the term Behdin is also used as a title for an individual who has been formally inducted into the religion (see navjote for details).
- There is one universal and transcendental God, Ahura Mazda, the one Uncreated Creator to whom all worship is ultimately directed.
- Ahura Mazda's creation — evident as asha, truth and order — is the antithesis of chaos, evident as druj, falsehood and disorder. The resulting conflict involves the entire universe, including humanity, which has an active role to play in the conflict.
- Active participation in life through good thoughts, good words and good deeds is necessary to ensure happiness and to keep the chaos at bay. This active participation is a central element in Zoroaster's concept of free will, and Zoroastrianism rejects all forms of monasticism.
- Ahura Mazda will ultimately prevail, at which point the universe will undergo a cosmic renovation and time will end (cf: Zoroastrian eschatology). In the final renovation, all of creation — even the souls of the dead that were initially banished to "darkness" — will be reunited in Ahura Mazda.
- In Zoroastrian tradition the malevolent is represented by Angra Mainyu, the "Destructive Principle", while the benevolent is represented through Ahura Mazda's Spenta Mainyu, the instrument or "Bounteous Principle" of the act of creation. It is through Spenta Mainyu that Ahura Mazda is immanent in humankind, and through which the Creator interacts with the world. According to Zoroastrian cosmology, in articulating the Ahuna Vairya formula Ahura Mazda made His ultimate triumph evident to Angra Mainyu.
- As expressions and aspects of Creation, Ahura Mazda emanated seven "sparks", the Amesha Spentas ("Bounteous Immortals"), that are each the hypostasis and representative of one aspect of that Creation. These Amesha Spenta are in turn assisted by a league of lesser principles, the Yazatas, each "Worthy of Worship" and each again a hypostasis of a moral or physical aspect of creation.
Mourners clean and dress the corpse and pose on a hard slab, all according to custom. Then they bring in a dog with two spots painted on its forehead, as if it had four eyes. If the dog barks, the person is still alive. If not, they expose the corpse to the elements, vultures, and other predators, then gather up the bones and deposit them in a pit.
- The symbol of fire: The energy of the creator is represented in Zoroastrianism by fire and the Sun, which are both enduring, radiant, pure and life sustaining. Zoroastrians usually pray in front of some form of fire (or any source of light). (It is important to note that fire is not worshiped by Zoroastrians, but is used simply as symbol and a point of focus, much like the crucifix in Catholicism. For details, see Fire temple)
- Proselytizing and conversion: Parsi Zoroastrians do not proselytize. In recent years, however, Zoroastrian communities in Iran, Europe and the Americas have been more tolerant towards conversion. While this move has not been supported officially by the priesthood in Mumbai, India, it has been endorsed by the Council of Mobeds in Tehran.
- Inter-faith marriages: As in many other faiths, Zoroastrians are strongly encouraged to marry others of the same faith, but this is not a requirement of the religion itself. Some members of the Indian Zoroastrian community (the Parsis) contend that a child must have a Parsi father to be eligible for introduction into the faith, but this assertion is considered by most to be a violation of the Zoroastrian tenets of gender equality, and may be a remnant of an old legal definition (since overruled) of Parsi. This issue is a matter of great debate within the Parsi community, but with the increasingly global nature of modern society and the dwindling number of Zoroastrians, such opinions are less vociferous than they were previously.
- Death and burial: Religious rituals related to death are all concerned with the person's soul and not the body. Zoroastrians believe that on the fourth day after death the human soul leaves the body and the body remains as an empty shell. Traditionally, Zoroastrians disposed of their dead by leaving them atop open-topped enclosures, called Towers of Silence, or Dokhmas. Vultures and the weather would clean the flesh off the bones, which were then placed into an ossuary at the center of the Tower (usually a well). Fire and Earth were considered too sacred for the dead to be placed in them. While this practice is continued in India by some Parsis, it had ended by the beginning of the twentieth century in Iran. In India, burial and cremation are becoming increasingly popular alternatives.
Classical antiquityAlthough older (9th/10th century BCE, see Zoroaster), Zoroastrianism only enters recorded history in the mid-5th century BCE. Herodotus' The Histories (completed c. 440 BCE) includes a description of Greater Iranian society with what may be recognizably Zoroastrian features, including exposure of the dead. (See Towers of Silence).
Perhaps more importantly, The Histories is a primary source of information on the early period of the Achaemenid era (648–330 BCE), in particular with respect to the role of the Magi. According to Herodotus i.101, the Magi were the sixth tribe of the Medians (until the unification of the Persian empire under Cyrus the Great, all Iranians were referred to as Mede or Mada by the peoples of the Ancient World), who appear to have been the priestly caste of the Mesopotamian-influenced branch of Zoroastrianism today known as Zurvanism, and who wielded considerable influence at the courts of the Median emperors.
Following the unification of the Median and Persian empires in 550 BCE Cyrus II and later his son Cambyses II curtailed the powers of the Magi after they had attempted to seed dissent following their loss of influence. In 522 BCE the Magi revolted and set up a rival claimant to the throne. The usurper, pretending to be Cyrus' younger son Smerdis, took power shortly thereafter. Owing to the despotic rule of Cambyses and his long absence in Egypt, "the whole people, Persians, Medes and all the other nations" acknowledged the usurper, especially as he granted a remission of taxes for three years (Herodotus iii. 68).
In the centuries following the fall of the Sassanid Empire Zoroastrianism began to gradually return to the form it had had under the Achaemenids, and no evidence of what is today called the "Zurvan Heresy" exists beyond the 10th century. (Boyce, 2002) Ironically, it was Zurvanism and Zurvan-influenced texts that first reached the west, leading to the supposition that Zoroastrianism was a religion with two deities: Zurvan and Ahura Mazda (the latter being opposed by Angra Mainyu).
Modern eraToday there are significantly fewer Zoroastrians than there once were. Over the centuries adherents of the faith have dispersed in all directions, but greater concentrations of Zoroastrians may still be found on the Indian subcontinent and in Iran.
Relation to other religions and culturesZoroastrianism is uniquely important in the history of religion because of its possible formative links to both Western and Eastern religious traditions. As "the oldest of the revealed credal religions", Zoroastrianism "probably had more influence on mankind directly or indirectly than any other faith".
It has been asserted that key concepts of Zoroastrian eschatology and demonology had influence on the Abrahamic religions. However, Boyce and other Iranists also note that Zoroastrianism itself inherited ideas from other belief systems and, like other practiced religions, accommodates some degree of syncretism. For example, one of the popular strains within Zoroastrianism considers (the representation of) evil to have been one of God's creations (that subsequently turned from God). This idea of a unity of a creative principle is a relatively recent development and directly attributed to influence from Christianity, specifically, the impact of Protestant missionaries on the Indian subcontinent during the 19th century (see Angra Mainyu in present-day Zoroastrianism for details).
Many traits of Zoroastrianism can be traced back to the culture and beliefs of the prehistorical Indo-Iranian period, that is, to the time before the migrations that led to the Indians and Iranians becoming distinct peoples. Zoroastrianism consequently shares elements with the historical Vedic religion that also has its origins in that era. However, Zoroastrianism was also strongly affected by the later culture of the Iranian Heroic Age (1500 BCE onwards), an influence that the Indic religions were not subject to. Moreover, the other culture groups that the respective peoples came to interact with were different, for instance in 6th-4th century BCE Western Iran with Fertile Crescent culture, with each side absorbing ideas from the other. Such inter-cultural influences notwithstanding, Zoroastrian scripture is essentially a product of (Indo)Iranian culture, and—representing the oldest and largest corpus pre-Islamic Iranian ideology—is considered a reflection of that culture. Then, together with the Vedas, which represent the oldest texts of the Indian branch of Indo-Iranian culture, it is possible to reconstruct some facets of prototypical Indo-Iranian beliefs. Since these two groups of sources also represent the oldest non-fragmentary evidence of Indo-European languages, the analysis of them also motivated attempts to characterise an even earlier Proto-Indo-European religion, and in turn influenced various unifying hypotheses like those of Carl Gustav Jung or James George Frazer. Although these unifying notions deeply influenced the modernists of the late 19th- and early 20th century, they have not fared well under the scrutiny of more recent interdisciplinary peer review. The study of pre-Islamic Iran has itself undergone a radical change in direction since the 1950s, and the field is today disinclined to speculation.
Zoroastrianism is often compared with the Manichaeism, which is nominally an Iranian religion but has its origins in the Middle-Eastern Gnosticism. Superficially, such a comparison may be apt as both are uncompromisingly dualistic and Manichaeism nominally adopted many of the Yazatas for its own pantheon. As religious types they are however poles apart: Manichaeism equated evil with matter and good with spirit, and was therefore particularly suitable as a doctrinal basis for every form of asceticism and many forms of mysticism. Zoroastrianism on the other hand rejects every form of asceticism, has no dualism of matter and spirit (only of good and evil), and sees the spiritual world as not very different from the natural one and the word "paradise" (via Latin and Greek from Avestan pairi.daeza, literally "stone-bounded enclosure") applies equally to both. Manichaeism's basic doctrine was that the world and all corporeal bodies were constructed from the substance of Satan, an idea that is fundamentally at odds with the Zoroastrian notion of a world that was created by God and that is all good, and any corruption of it is an effect of the bad. From what may be inferred from many Manichean texts and a few Zoroastrian sources, the adherents of the two religions (or at least their respective priesthoods) despised each other intensely.
Many aspects of Zoroastrianism are present in the culture and mythologies of the peoples of the Greater Iran, not least because Zoroastrianism, was a dominant influence on the people of the cultural continent for a thousand years. Even after the rise of Islam and the loss of direct influence, Zoroastrianism remained part of the cultural heritage of the Iranian language-speaking world, in part as festivals and customs, but also because Ferdowsi incorporated a number of the figures and stories from the Avesta in his epic Shāhnāme, which in turn is pivotal to Iranian identity.
ScriptureThe Avesta is the collection of the sacred texts of Zoroastrianism. Although the texts are very old, the compendium as we know it today is essentially the result of a redaction that is thought to have occurred during the reign of Shapur II (309–379 CE). However, some portions of the collection have been lost since then, especially after the fall of the Sassanid empire in 651 CE, after which Zoroastrianism was supplanted by Islam. The oldest existing copy of an Avestan language text dates to 1288 CE.
The most ancient of the texts of the Avesta are in an old or Gathic Avestan. The majority of the texts are however from a later period: most are probably from the Achaemenid era (648–330 BCE), with a few being even younger. All the texts are believed to have been transmitted orally for centuries before they found written form, and in existing copies, the Avestan language words are written in Din dabireh script, a Sassanid era (226–651 CE) invention.
The various texts of the Avesta are generally divided into topical categories, but these are by no means fixed or canonical. Some scholars prefer to place the five categories in two groups, one liturgical and the other general.
- The Yasna, the primary liturgical collection. The Yasna includes the Gathas, which are thought to have been composed by Zoroaster himself.
- The Visparad, a collection of supplements to the Yasna.
- The Yashts, hymns in honor of the divinities.
- The Vendidad, describes the various forms of evil spirits and ways to confound them.
- Shorter texts and prayer collections, the five nyaishes("worship, praise"), the siroze ("thirty days") (see Zoroastrian calendar) and the afringans ("blessings"). Some of these fragments are collected in the Khorda Avesta, the "Little Avesta", which is the collection of texts for daily lay (as opposed to priestly) use.
Other textsThe texts of the Avesta are complemented by several secondary works of religious or semi-religious nature, which although not sacred and not used as scripture, have a significant influence on Zoroastrian doctrine. They are all of a much later date — in general from between the 9th and 12th centuries — with the youngest treatises dating to the 17th century. Some of these works quote passages that are believed to be from lost sections of the Avesta.
The most important of these secondary texts (of which there some 60 in all) are:
- The Dēnkard ("Acts of Religion") in Middle Persian
- The Bundahishn ("Primordial Creation") in Middle Persian
- The Mēnog-ī Khirad ("Spirit of Wisdom") in Middle Persian
- The Arda Viraf Nāmag ("Book of Arda Viraf") in Middle Persian
- The Sad Dar ("Hundred Doors or Chapters") in Modern Persian
- The Rivayats or traditional treatises in Middle and Modern Persian
The use of the expression Zend-Avesta to refer to the Avesta, or the use of Zend as the name of a language or script, are relatively recent and popular mistakes. The word Zend or Zand, meaning "commentary, translation", refers to supplementaries in Middle Persian not intended for use as theological texts by themselves but for religious instruction of the (by then) non-Avestan-speaking public. In contrast, the texts of the Avesta proper remained sacrosanct and continued to be recited in Avestan — which was considered a sacred language.
In a general sense, all the secondary texts mentioned above are also included in the Zend rubric since they too often include commentaries on the Avesta and on the religion.
Principal beliefsAhura Mazda is the beginning and the end, the creator of everything which can and cannot be seen, the Eternal, the Pure and the only Truth. In the Gathas, the most sacred texts of Zoroastrianism thought to have been composed by Zoroaster himself, the prophet acknowledged devotion to no other divinity besides Ahura Mazda.
Daena (din in modern Persian) is the eternal Law, whose order was revealed to humanity through the Mathra-Spenta ("Holy Words"). Daena has been used to mean religion, faith, law, even as a translation for the Hindu and Buddhist term Dharma, often interpreted as "duty" but can also mean social order, right conduct, or virtue. The metaphor of the 'path' of Daena is represented in Zoroastrianism by the muslin undershirt Sudra, the 'Good/Holy Path', and the 72-thread Kushti girdle, the "Pathfinder".
Daena should not be confused with the fundamental principle asha (Vedic rta), the equitable law of the universe, which governed the life of the ancient Indo-Iranians. For these, asha was the course of everything observable, the motion of the planets and astral bodies, the progression of the seasons, the pattern of daily nomadic herdsman life, governed by regular metronomic events such as sunrise and sunset. All physical creation (geti) was thus determined to run according to a master plan — inherent to Ahura Mazda — and violations of the order (druj) were violations against creation, and thus violations against Ahura Mazda. This concept of asha versus the druj should not be confused with the good-versus-evil battle evident in western religions, for although both forms of opposition express moral conflict, the asha versus druj concept is more systemic and less personal, representing, for instance, chaos (that opposes order); or "uncreation", evident as natural decay (that opposes creation); or more simply "the lie" (that opposes truth, righteousness). Moreover, in his role as the one uncreated creator of all, Ahura Mazda is not the creator of druj which is "nothing", anti-creation, and thus (likewise) uncreated. Thus, in Zoroaster's revelation, Ahura Mazda was perceived to be the creator of only the good (Yasna 31.4), the "supreme benevolent providence" (Yasna 43.11), that will ultimately triumph (Yasna 48.1).
In this schema of asha versus druj, mortal beings (humans and animals both) play a critical role, for they too are created. Here, in their lives, they are active participants in the conflict and it is their duty to defend order, which would decay without counteraction. Throughout the Gathas, Zoroaster emphasizes deeds and actions, and accordingly asceticism is frowned upon in Zoroastrianism. In later Zoroastrianism this was explained as fleeing from the experiences of life, which was the very purpose that the urvan (most commonly translated as the 'soul') was sent into the mortal world to collect. The avoidance of any aspect of life, which includes the avoidance of the pleasures of life, is a shirking of the responsibility and duty to oneself, one's urvan, and one's family and social obligations.
Thus, central to Zoroastrianism is the emphasis on moral choice, to choose between the responsibility and duty for which one is in the mortal world, or to give up this duty and so facilitate the work of druj. Similarly, predestination is rejected in Zoroastrian teaching. Humans bear responsibility for all situations they are in, and in the way they act to one another. Reward, punishment, happiness and grief all depend on how individuals live their life.
In Zoroastrianism, good transpires for those who do righteous deeds. Those who do evil have themselves to blame for their ruin. Zoroastrian morality is then to be summed up in the simple phrase, "good thoughts, good words, good deeds" (Humata, Hukhta, Hvarshta in Avestan), for it is through these that asha is maintained and druj is kept in check.
Through accumulation several other beliefs were introduced to the religion that in some instances supersede those expressed in the Gathas. In the late 19th century the moral and immoral forces came to be represented by Spenta Mainyu and its Satanic antithesis Angra Mainyu, the 'good spirit' and 'evil spirit' emanations of Ahura Mazda respectively. Although the names are old, this opposition is a modern western-influenced development popularized by Martin Haug in the 1880s, and was in effect a realignment of the precepts of Zurvanism (Zurvanite Zoroastrianism), which had invented a third deity, Zurvan, in order to explain a mention of twinship (Yasna 30.3) between the moral and immoral. Although Zurvanism had died out by the 10th century the critical question of the "twin brothers" mentioned in Yasna 30.3 remained, and Haug's explanation provided a convenient defence against Christian missionaries who disparaged the Parsis (Indian Zoroastrians) for their 'dualism'. Haug's concept was subsequently disseminated as a Parsi interpretation, thus corroborating Haug's theory and the idea became so popular that it is now almost universally accepted as doctrine.
Achaemenid era (648–330 BCE) Zoroastrianism developed the abstract concepts of heaven, hell, personal and final judgement, all of which are only alluded to in the Gathas. Yasna 19 (which has only survived in a Sassanid era (226–650 CE) Zend commentary on the Ahuna Vairya invocation), prescribes a Path to Judgement known as the Chinvat Peretum or Chinvat bridge (cf: As-Sirāt in Islam), which all souls had to cross, and judgement (over thoughts, words, deeds performed during a lifetime) was passed as they were doing so. However, the Zoroastrian personal judgement is not final. At the end of time, when evil is finally defeated, all souls will be ultimately reunited with their Fravashi. Thus, Zoroastrianism can be said to be a universalist religion with respect to salvation.
In addition, and strongly influenced by Babylonian and Akkadian practices, the Achaemenids popularized shrines and temples, hitherto alien forms of worship. In the wake of Achaemenid expansion shrines were constructed throughout the empire and particularly influenced the role of Mithra, Aredvi Sura Anahita, Verethregna and Tishtrya, all of which, in addition to their original (proto-)Indo-Iranian functions, now also received Perso-Babylonian functions.
Although the worship of images would eventually fall out of favour (and be replaced by the iconoclastic fire temples), the lasting legacy of the Achaemenids was a vast, complex hierarchy of Yazatas (modern Zoroastrianism's Angels) that were now not just evident in the religion, but firmly established, not least because the divinities received dedications in the Zoroastrian calendar, thus ensuring that they were frequently invoked. Additionally, the Amesha Spenta, the six originally abstract terms that were regarded as direct emanations or aspects or "divine sparks" of Ahura Mazda, came to be personified as an archangel retinue.
AdherentsSmall Zoroastrian communities may be found all over the world, with a continuing concentration in Western India and Central Iran. Zoroastrians of the diaspora are primarily located in Great Britain and the former British colonies — in particular Canada and Australia — but the United States has become a preferred destination in recent decades. Zoroastrian communities are comprised of two main groups of people: those of Indian Zoroastrian background, who are known as Parsis (or Parsees), and those of Central Asian background.
In Greater Iran
Communities exist in Tehran, as well as in Yazd, Kerman and Kermanshah, where many still speak an Iranian language distinct from the usual Persian. They call their language Dari (not to be confused with the Dari of Afghanistan). Their language is also called Gabri or Behdinan (literally "Of the Good Religion"). Sometimes their language is named for the cities in which it is spoken, Yazdi or Kermani. Iranian Zoroastrians were historically called Gabrs, originally without a pejorative connotation but in the present-day derogatorily applied to all non-Muslims.
There is some interest among Iranians, as well as people in various Central Asian countries such as Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, in their ancient Zoroastrian heritage; some people in these countries take notice of their Zoroastrian past. At the instigation of the government of Tajikistan, UNESCO declared 2003 a year to celebrate the "3000th anniversary of Zoroastrian culture", with special events throughout the world.
In the Indian Subcontinent
Following the fall of the Sassanid Empire in 651 many Zoroastrians migrated. Among them were several groups who ventured to Gujarat on the western shores of the Indian subcontinent, where they finally settled. The descendants of those refugees are today known as the Parsis. The year of arrival on the subcontinent cannot be precisely established and Parsi legend and tradition assigns various dates to the event.
On the Indian subcontinent these Zoroastrians enjoyed tolerance and even admiration from other religious communities. From the 19th century onward the Parsis gained a reputation for their education and widespread influence in all aspects of society, partly due to the divisive strategy of British colonialism which favored certain minorities. Parsis are generally more affluent than other Indians and are stereotypically viewed as among the most Anglicised and "Westernised" of the various minority groups. They have also played an instrumental role in the economic development of the region over many decades; several of the best-known business conglomerates of India are run by Parsi-Zoroastrians, including the Tata, Godrej, and Wadia families.
DemographicsIn 1996 the number of Zoroastrians worldwide was estimated to be "at most 200,000". India's 2001 Census found 69,601 Parsi Zoroastrians. In Pakistan they number 5,000, mostly living in Karachi. Anglo America is thought to be home to 18,000–25,000 Zoroastrians of both South Asian and Iranian background. Iran's figures of Zoroastrians have ranged widely; the last census (1974) before the revolution of 1979 revealed 21,400 Zoroastrians.
Few, if any, adherents remain in the Central Asian regions that were once considered the traditional stronghold of Zoroastrianism, i.e. Bactria (see also Balkh) which is in Northern Afghanistan, Sogdiana, Margiana and other areas close to Zoroaster's homeland.
In the Indian census of 2001 the Parsis numbered 69,601, representing about 0.006% of the total population of India, with a concentration in and around the city of Mumbai (previously known as Bombay). Due to a low birth rate and high rate of emigration, demographic trends project that by 2020 the Parsis will number only about 23,000 or 0.002% of the total population of India. The Parsis will then cease to be called a community and will be labelled a "tribe".
Noted Parsis include the pioneering Indian industrialist and philanthropist Jamshedji Tata; the industrialist and founder of Indian Civil aviation J. R. D. Tata; Indian political activists Pherozeshah Mehta, Dadabhai Naoroji and Bhikaiji Cama; conductor Zubin Mehta, composer Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji, and rock artist Freddie Mercury (Farrokh Bulsara); British actor and Film Producer Ray Panthaki; nuclear scientist Homi J. Bhabha, the similarly named philosopher Homi K. Bhabha; Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, author and screenwriter Sooni Taraporevala (of the films Salaam Bombay and Mississippi Masala), authors Rohinton Mistry and Bapsi Sidhwa. Parsis famed for their philanthropy include Jamsetjee Jeejebhoy and the eponymous Cowasji Jehangir Readymoney, both of whom were knighted for their munificence. The Indian industrial families Tata family, Godrej family and Wadia family are also of Parsi Zoroastrian background. Noted members of the more recently arrived Irani community include Bollywood director Ardeshir Irani and cricketer Ronnie Irani.
Noted Iranian Zoroastrians include Dr. Farhang Mehr, former deputy prime minister of Iran, Boston University professor emeritus, longtime activist for religious freedom, and subject of the biography "Triumph Over Discrimination" by Lylah M. Alphonse. Notable converts to Zoroastrianism include Swedish artist and author Alexander Bard.
- Peake's Commentary on the Bible
- Textual sources for the study of Zoroastrianism
- Zoroastrianism: A Shadowy but Powerful Presence in the Judaeo-Christian World
- Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices
- The History of Zoroastrianism
- The History of Zoroastrianism
- Encyclopaedia Iranica pages 684–687
- Conversion to Islam in the Medieval Period: An Essay in Quantitative History
- Founding Of Christendom: History Of Christendom
- Zoroastrianism. An Introduction to an Ancient Faith
- History of Zoroastrianism}}
- The Eliade Guide to World Religions
- Encyclopaedia Iranica pages 35-44.
- Gnostics and their Remains Ancient and Mediaeval
- Encyclopedia of American Religions
- An Introduction to Ancient Iranian Religion. Readings from the Avesta and Achaemenid Inscriptions
- Encyclopaedia Iranica">http://www.iranica.com/newsite/articles/ot_grp9/ot_zorhist_20051007.html}}
- The Treasure of the Magi: A Study of Modern Zoroastrianism
- Zoroastrianism in Armenia (Harvard Iranian Series)
- Oxford English Dictionary
- Die Achaemenidischen und Sasanidischen Denkmäler und Inschriften von Persepolis, Istakhr, Pasargadae, Shâpûr
- The Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism
Further readingcommonscat-inline Zoroastrianism
- BBC World Service Zoroastrianism
- The World Zoroastrian Organisation
- Avesta.org contains further information on Zoroastrianism
- Zoroastrians.info contains discussions and information about Zoroastrianism
- Dmoz.org Religion and Spirituality | Zoroastrianism a list of Zoroastrian organizations
Zoroastrianism in Afrikaans: Zoroastrisme
Zoroastrianism in Arabic: زرادشتية
Zoroastrianism in Aragonese: Zoroastrismo
Zoroastrianism in Azerbaijani: Zərdüşt dini
Zoroastrianism in Belarusian (Tarashkevitsa): Зораастрызм
Zoroastrianism in Bosnian: Zoroastrijanizam
Zoroastrianism in Bulgarian: Зороастризъм
Zoroastrianism in Catalan: Zoroastrisme
Zoroastrianism in Chuvash: Сăртăш
Zoroastrianism in Czech: Zoroastrismus
Zoroastrianism in Welsh: Zoroastriaeth
Zoroastrianism in Danish: Zarathustrianisme
Zoroastrianism in German: Zoroastrismus
Zoroastrianism in Dhivehi: ފާރިސީދީން
Zoroastrianism in Spanish: Zoroastrismo
Zoroastrianism in Esperanto: Zaratuŝtrismo
Zoroastrianism in Basque: Zoroastrismo
Zoroastrianism in Persian: مزدیسنا
Zoroastrianism in French: Zoroastrisme
Zoroastrianism in Western Frisian: Zoroastrisme
Zoroastrianism in Irish: Sorastrachas
Zoroastrianism in Korean: 자라투스트라교
Zoroastrianism in Armenian: Զրադաշտականություն
Zoroastrianism in Hindi: पारसी धर्म
Zoroastrianism in Croatian: Zoroastrizam
Zoroastrianism in Indonesian: Zoroastrianisme
Zoroastrianism in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Zoroastrismo
Zoroastrianism in Icelandic: Sóróismi
Zoroastrianism in Italian: Zoroastrismo
Zoroastrianism in Hebrew: זורואסטריות
Zoroastrianism in Georgian: ზოროასტრიზმი
Zoroastrianism in Kirghiz: Зороастризм
Zoroastrianism in Kurdish: Zerdeştî
Zoroastrianism in Ladino: Zoroastrismo
Zoroastrianism in Latvian: Zoroastrisms
Zoroastrianism in Lithuanian: Zoroastrizmas
Zoroastrianism in Hungarian: Zoroasztrizmus
Zoroastrianism in Macedonian: Зороастризам
Zoroastrianism in Malay (macrolanguage): Majusi
Zoroastrianism in Moksha: Зороастризма
Zoroastrianism in Dutch: Zoroastrisme
Zoroastrianism in Japanese: ゾロアスター教
Zoroastrianism in Norwegian: Zoroastrisme
Zoroastrianism in Norwegian Nynorsk: Parsisme
Zoroastrianism in Pushto: زردشتي
Zoroastrianism in Low German: Zoroastrismus
Zoroastrianism in Polish: Zaratusztrianizm
Zoroastrianism in Portuguese: Zoroastrismo
Zoroastrianism in Romanian: Zoroastrism
Zoroastrianism in Russian: Зороастризм
Zoroastrianism in Simple English: Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism in Slovenian: Zaratustrstvo
Zoroastrianism in Serbian: Зороастризам
Zoroastrianism in Finnish: Zarathustralaisuus
Zoroastrianism in Swedish: Zoroastrism
Zoroastrianism in Tagalog: Soroastrianismo
Zoroastrianism in Tamil: சோறாஸ்ரியனிசம்
Zoroastrianism in Thai: ศาสนาโซโรอัสเตอร์
Zoroastrianism in Turkish: Zerdüştçülük
Zoroastrianism in Ukrainian: Зороастризм
Zoroastrianism in Contenese: 瑣羅亞斯德教
Zoroastrianism in Chinese: 琐罗亚斯德教
Zoroastrianism in Slovak: Zoroastrizmus