Ancient Religion of Iran and Reforms by Prophet Zarathustra

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Ancient Religion of Iran and Reforms by Prophet Zarathustra
  “The Ancient Religion of Iran and Reforms by Prophet Zarathustra.” in “  A Golden Chainof Civilizations: Indic, Iranic, Semitic and Hellenic (from c. 600 Bc to c. AD 600 ” Vol.I. Pt. 5 Section !: C"lt"ral Contacts and #ovements  !dited by ".#. Pande$P%I&P# #entre for &tudies in #i'ili(ations )e* +elhi , -R-/ 0120 pp. 0340I&6)7489929859:555 The Ancient Religion of Iran and Reforms by Prophet Zarathustra Abhay Kumar Singh Head, Depttof Ancient History and !ulture, "#P Rohil$hand %ni&ersity, 'areilly (India)abhay*++-yahoocom $%o &hat land to t"rn' ae, &hither t"rnin) shall I )o* +n the art of a -insman rince, or allied eer, none, to conciliate, )ive offerin)s to me to hel m ca"se   Ho& then shall I esta/lish &ell the faith, and th"s conciliate %h )race, + ord* %herefore I cr to %hee' /ehold it, ord1 Desirin) helf"l )race for me, as friend, /esto&s on friend declare and teach to me the Good #ind2s &ealth.3 (SB4, 555I, asna 7lvi.!.8 The ob;ecti'e of the present article <  is to e=plore into the religious situation of  Airano 9aeo  or ancient Iran *hen the Prophet incarnated as Zarathustra born to the &pitama family as son of Pourushaspa and +ughdho'a in the se'enth century 6.#. Circa  :>2 6.#. 2   This itself suggests that Zarathustra found the conditions far from satisfactory and he searched for truth *hich *as re'ealed to him by the "od Aurama(da in the form of the  Avesta . Prophet Zarathustra preached the A'estan faith no* a reformed belief 0  to ?ing Vishtaspa of 6actria. The  Avesta  is said to ha'e comprised of 02 )os@s or 6oo@sB. In the e=tant  Avesta  >  as happens *ith religious literature much has been added and altered *hich is Cuite natural to a li'ing religion. 6ut *ithin dynamism there occurred changes *hich seem to go against the reforms of the Prophet as 'oiced and propounded in the earliest portions i.e. the hymns or Gathas  contained in the asna, 3  These are composed in a dialect more archaic and ancient than the rest of the  Avesta . Although D. <   Ac@no*ledgement E The author gratefully ac@no*ledges the encouragement by Professor " # Pande *ho summoned this article and directed interest to A'estan &tudies 2  For date of Prophet see present authors article Prophet Zarathusthra the A'esta and the VedasB in this 'olume. 0  A. D. #arnoy aptly says “ZoroasterBs doctrine is a reform and an epurtion.” $  4;4, GII 9:0/. >  The  Avesta contains the 9endidad *hich is a collection of religious la*s and of mythical tales the 9iserad   is a collection of litanies for the sacrifices and the fi'e Gathas  or hymns. 3  Amidst the Gathas  the asna Hatan)haiti  *ritten in prose form in ancient Gathic  dialect $consists of  prayers and praise for  Ah"ramazda, Amesha Sentas  souls of righteous fire *ater and earth/ seems to  be a later addition. Four sacred prayers 'i(. Ahuna'airya Ashem'ohin Henghe %atam and Airyaman Ishya are also included in the Gathas  +armesteter 5   belie'ing that all sacred *riting *ere lost after Ale=anderBs in'asion  proposed that the Gathas  though more older part in form represent the latest de'elopment of Zoroastrian spirit of about first century A.+. the general accepted 'ie* is that the Gathas  are the oldest part of  Avesta  in form and substance and date bac@ to the early period of the religion $if not to Prophet Zoroaster himself/. Thus the study of the "athic pronouncements are a cutting line *hich suggests the contribution of Prophet Zarathustra in transforming the ancient faith and beliefs and that *hich e=ists in the other A'estan scriptures li@e the Hounger  Avesta  the Pahla'i te=ts *here'er differs from the "athic days of the Prophet should be considered as later de'elopments in the religion of  Avesta .According to A.V. Jilliams Dac@sn the metrical Gathas  $&ongs psalm/ differ from the other parts of  Avesta  in language metre and style of diction $The fi'e "athas compose 28 hymns arranged according to their metre and named  Ah"navaiti  <shtavaiti  Sentas #ain"  9oh" =hshathra  and 9ahishtoishti / “These Zoroastrian psalms contain the teaching e=hortations and rele'ations of the Prophet Zoroaster himself *ho seems a more distinct personality here than else*here in the  Avesta ” :  The fact is that there is a conspicuous absence of any mention of the cult of %aoma the concept of  >ravashis  and the daivas of naturalistic pantheon and the azatas  in the "athic poetry. There is little reference to the ceremonies and rituals too. 8  The tiresome uniformityB and the barren reiterationBfound in other portions of the  Avesta  is missing in the Gathas, although the cardinal tenetsB 9  find recurrent mention.The cardinal tenetsB ascertained and propounded by the Prophet as *e understand from the poetic Gathas 4 are $i/ monotheism  *here in -a(da Ahura is the sole god and creator and *hose characteristic attribute is  senta  $beneficence and holiness/ and *isdom and $ii/ loft moral code  21  *hich -a(da Ahura being the god of supreme asha  e=pects human beings to follo* by *ay of good *ords good deeds good 5  D. +armestester belie'ed that it is a remnant sacred literature under the last Achaemenid ?ings $ SB4   IV. ===ii/ but the 'ie* is strongly opposed that the “tradition of the *isdom of Zoroaster li'ed on during the long period bet*een Ale=ander and the rise of the house of &asan in > rd  #entury A.+.” A.V.J. Dac@son $  4;4   II 081/. :  $  4;4   II 0:9/ 8  “either because the $i.e. Gathas / present the religion in an easier and loftier form or more probably  because they are concerned chiefly *ith the ProphetBs teaching regarding the conflict bet*een Krma(d and Ahriman the relation of human indi'idual to that conflict its ultimate outcome in the routing of the forces of e'il and the final 'ictory of Krma(d the last ;udgement and the longedfor ?ingdom of Krma(d.” A. V. Jilliams Dac@son  I/id. 9    I/id. 4  “It is not theology proper that *e find in the Gathas  but the soteriological aspect of the doctrine of "od. It is not his transcendence and absoluteness but his immanence and relati'ity *hich are here emphasi(ed.”  4;4   VI 040 21  A. D. #arnoy  4;4   L 5:8.  thoughts. The truth and purity not only in *oods and deeds but in mind and heart necessary for re;ecting the *ords of the mendacious spirit $ dr" .The religion of Zarathustra *as ritualistic and missionary both and the Prophet ga'e attention to all aspects. 6efore *e study the reforms by the Prophet Zarathustra *e should halt to discuss in outline the nature of the Iranian religion before the Zarathusthrian reforms. Pre . Zarathustra Religion of Iran Religion of ancient Iran had streams of beliefs *hich included the dominant IndoIranian religion deri'ed from the Indo!uropean elemental cults centering in +yeus 22  sacrificial in ritual 20  *ith elemental gods of nature and moral deities and primiti'e ancestral *orship 2>  besides the cult of the -agi *hose religion also “deri'ed from the same source as that of the Indian Rishis that is L the IndoIranian religion.” 23  The -agi  priests *ere acti'e in the religious life of those times and conducted the sacrificial rituals.%erodotus $313 E 305 6#/ noted that the Persians ascend the highest pea@s of the mountains and offer sacrifice to Zeus calling the *hole 'ault of the s@y Zeus and they also sacrifice to sun moon earth fire *ater and *indsLB 25  %erodotus confused as Zeus the Persian s@y god +yaus Pitar upon the a@inness to the t*o deities. Kne scholar suggested that %erodotus might ha'e used the nati'e name +yeus instead of Zeus and that the astral and elements adored *ere in fact di'inities belonging to circle of hea'enly ones. 2: There seems to ha'e been elemental gods of nature and moral deities in the old Iranian religion. The elemental gods of the s@y *ere in'ol'ed on account of their might. Jhile +yeus *as surrounded by gods embodying forces of nature another god *ho *as 22    I/id. 20  %erod. $I.2>2/ 2>    4;4, VII  , 324 23  D. +armesteter SB4   IV l'i E l'ii. The scholar summari(ed  #a)ism as reflected in  Avesta  as “The *orld such as it is no* is t*o fold being the *orld of t*o hostile beings Ahura -a(da the good  principle and Angra -ainyu the e'il principle all that is good in the *orld comes from the former all that is bad comes from the latter. The history of the *orld is the history of their conflict ho* Angra -ainyu in'aded the *orld of Ahura -a(da and marred it and ho* he shall be e=pelled from it at last. -an is acti'e in the conflict his duty in it being laid before him in the la* re'ealed by Ahura -a(da to Zarathusthra.” 25  “L and a goddess *ho has been called the hea'enly AphroditeB” $I2>2/ 2:  “dei'os” E see  4;4, VII 324. The scholar further elaborated that the people in general *ere *orshipping the daivas  $*ho *ere elemental deities/ and among *hom the light godB $@at έ ξοxήv /   that is -ithra became a deity too.  essentially the guardian of moralityB 'i(. -a(dah *as superseding the pantheon. -a(dah had no material personality and *as essentially god of light. 6ut -a(dah *as head of the personified moral entities or moral hypostases. 28  The de'elopment *as Cuite a@in in the rise of Adityas for maintenance of moral order in the Vedic system. The cultus of -a(dah 29   became prominent in the fifteenth century 6# and the Assyrians had  borro*ed. 6y :51 6# Assara -a(ash *as a di'inity 24  and associated *ith Igigis. It seems that in ancient Aryan $Indo !uropean/ concept the *ord Asura meant a hero  $of "ree@ concept/ or anses  $  semidei / of "erman concept. 01  Fa'oured by nobles and in !astern Iran Ahura *as ele'ated abo'e other rude elemental po*ers by association *ith *ise E *isdom. 02  Thus -a(dah Ahura already *as e=alted in old Iranian religion long  before Zarathustra.A prominent association e=isted in the nature of the gods E Ahura -a(da and Varuna $of the Vedas/ in their control of moral order and arta ? rta . Interestingly Varuna *as un@no*n in Iranian te=ts but there *ere latent similarities as Varuna *as  as"ra  racheta B $  ;9  . I. ==i'. 23/ and Ahura -a(dah is the @no*ing oneB. $etymologically omniscient/ also closely deri'ed from &ans@rit  #edhas  $&cience/. The concrete name 9arana *as lost in Iran but continued as 9ar"na in Vedic religion. 00  Varuna meant the all embracing s@yB and s@y *as the abode of Ahura -a(da.In the same pre Zoroaster period the IndoIranian deity -ithra *as gaining significance and prestige. The tablets from the library of Assurbanipal sho*s -ithra as the same as &hamash. The 6ogha( E ?eui Inscription mentioned -ithra as a god *hose conception in the earliest times seems to be an ethical one. -ithra in A'estan means compactB and in &ans@rit friendshipB and e'ol'ed as a deity forging the concepts of friendship and contract and *as *orshipped as daiva . 0> . %o*e'er as the &upreme "od the Ahura -a(da absorbed the other deities the s@y "od +yeus due to his Cuality of  brightness and the -ithra as a moral deity also dissol'ed into -a(da Ahura.  03  In the C*ords of D. +harmesteter Ahura -a(da “slo*ly brought e'erything under his 28    4;4   5:8. 29    4;4   VII 324. 24    4;4   VIII 850. , !R! 5:8. #arnoy. Assyrian god list published in 298> by Vincent &cheil 01    4;4   II 25. 02    4;4,  VII 324 00  VaranaB remained name of the material hea'en and VarenaB *as the mythical region *hich *as the seat of a mythical fight bet*een a storm god and a storm fiend $ 9endidad  . I 29/. &ee D +armesteter SB4.  IV l'iii l=iii about the Varuna7 Ahura -a(da associates. 0>  &ee !R! VIII 850 and VII 324. 03    4;4   VII 34. L 5:8. In ancient IndoIranian religion se'eral gods had e=isted li@e Vayu M 9  ata Atar M Agni Verethraghna M Vritrahan etc as also many abstractions li@e good thought $Vohu mano M &umati/ e=cellent holiness $Asha M  ; ta/ the perfect so'ereignty $?hshathta 'airya M ?shatra/ perfect righteousness health E immortality $%aur'atat  A meretat/ and di'ine piety $&penta Armaiti M Aramati/ *ere superseded by Ahura -a(da. $ ast  . GIG. 2:/  unCuestioned supremacy and other gods became not only his sub;ects but his creatures.” e.g. -ithra. 05  This mo'ement *as completed as early as the fourth century 6#.6esides the e=istence of the elemental gods of the Indo E Iranian pantheon there *as the peculiar religion of the -edes that influenced the Iranians of the age. Among the -edian tribes *as one priestly class @no*n as the -agi *ho officiated as priests at sacrifices and certain of them *ere interpreters of dreams. 0:  A. D. #arnoy interpreted the name -agi as meaning the helpful the curers or a'erters of e'il spirits $NO=O'   NQ=O NQ=S'Q/.   They *ere astrologers physicians and magicians. 08  According to %erodotus $I 2>0/ no sacrifice could be offered *ithout the -agis *ho said a hymn at the sacrifice. The sacrificial element *as Cuite prominent in the early religion although there *ere no altars no fire nor any libations. 09  There *ere no images of gods no temples or altars considering the use of them a sign of folly. $I. 2>2/. %o*e'er the e=istence of yadanB $prayer chapels/ *hich are mentioned as temples of the godsB in the 6abylonian translation of the 6ehistun Inscription of +arius suggests that ?ing #yrus and ?ing #ambyses had follo*ed the polytheism of &usa and conformed to the ancient *orship of 6abylonia. The -agi *ere also introduced into Persia by ?ing #yrus himself 04  from -edia a nonPersian land.The -agi *as a sacerdotal tribe according to &trabo. -arcellinus $IV cent. A+/ *rote that the -agi *ere taught in magic science by ?ing %ystaspes and they li'ed in unfortified to*ns according to their o*n la*s protected by religious a*e. The -agians *ere a best organised priesthood and so could create a hegemony in the Persian empire. The -agi might ha'e been hated as -edes but they *ere respected and feared as priests. 05  D. +armesteter SB4   IV li=. In IndoIranian religion of the old -ithra the god of the hea'enly light often accompanied Asura of hea'en in in'ocation $li@e Vedic in'ocation of -itra Varuan/. Asura let -ithra share his uni'ersal so'ereignty but in  Avesta  -ithra became one of the creature of Ahura -a(da. This -ithra the ord of *ide pastures I ha'e created as *orthy of sacrifice as *orthy of glorification as I Ahura -a(da am myself.B $l=i/. In Persia from god of hea'enly light ord of 'ast luminous space of *ide pastures $-ithra/ became later the god of the &un $U-ihr/. As light and truth are one and the same thing became god of truth and faith. $see further  >ar)  . IV. 53/ 0:  %erod. I 212 I 231 I 218. In %erodotusB accounts of the -agian religion the concept of +ualism is conspicuous by its absence so is no reference to doctrine of resurrection. A. %. &ayce  4;4   VIII :23 E :25. The -edian tribes *ere 6usal Paraeta@eni &trouchates Ari(anti 6udii and -agi. 08  #arnoy  4;4   GII 9:0. According to %erodotus $I 218/ a -agi *as consulted by Astyages as oneiromancer. 09   %erod $I 2>0/. The animal flesh *as spread on softest herbage trefoil $ τριφυλλον)  *hich is a fodder crop. 6arsom stre*ing is found in )irangistan $-ary 6oyce  BS+AS, 2481 05 n.2:/ The -agian chanted the theogony and the animal flesh *as eaten up. The -agian libations are @no*n from Plutarch and from %erodotus $VII. 223/ about the bloody sacrifices li@e of Amestris the ueen of Ger=es. 04  Genophon Croaedia  VIII i 0>
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