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Parsism or Zoroastrianism is about 2600 years old and finds its origin in Persia. The religion was founded by Spenta Zarathustra or Zoroaster, who is considered as the Prophet of the Parsis. Zoroastrian practice is based on the responsibility of every man and woman to choose between good and evil, and to respect God's creations. Prophet Zarathustra, who lived in Iran in 6000 BC, expounded a dualistic philosophy, based on the opposing powers of the good and the evil. Zarathustra preached the oneness of god and believed that Ahura Mazda was the one and only god, who is formless and has six great aspects called the Amesha-Spentas. These are Ardibehest, Bahman, Shahrivar, Spendarmad, Khordad and Amardad. The mortals can worship Him in one of these forms. The Parsis believe that the Ahura Mazda is eternally in conflict with Angra Mainyu or Ahirman, who represents the evil force. Man has a free will to align himself to good or evil. Soul is immortal and upon death, the good go to Heaven and evil fall into Hell. The Parsis believe in the coming of the Saoshyant (Saviour) to the earth to defeat evil and further righteousness (Ashoi). They belief that when the Saoshyant comes, the final spiritual battle between the forces of good and evil will commence, resulting in the utter destruction of evil. Ristakhiz, the resurrection of the dead will take place - the dead will rise, by the Will of Ahura Mazda. The Final Judgement of all souls will commence, at the hands of Ahura Mazda the Judge (Davar) and all sinners punished, then forgiven, and humanity made immortal and free from hunger, thirst, poverty, old age, disease and death.

The Parsi place of worship is called the fire temple. Five daily prayers, usually hymns or Gathas uttered by Prophet Zarathustra are said in the home or the temple, before a fire, which symbolizes the realm of truth, righteousness and order. The fire-temples and rituals of the Yasna are sacred and are necessary for the religion, such as the Nirang-din ceremony, which creates the Holy Nirang. Fire is regarded as the son of Ahura Mazda, and represents god. In Zorastriniasm, Dakhma-nashini is the only method of corpse-destruction. This involves the destruction of the dead body in the stone-enclosed Dakhma, by the flesh-eating bird or the rays of the Sun.

Religious Scriptures

Zenda Avesta is the religious scripture of the Parsis. It contains the teachings, sermons and prayers composed by Prophet Zoroaster himself and also by his disciples and followers. Avestha is also the name of the language in which it is composed. It is divided into five parts: the Yasna (worship with ceremony and offerings), the Videvdad (laws against demons), the Yashts (worship), the Khordeh Avestha, which comprises of selected portions of the Avestha and forms the book of daily prayers of the Zoroastrians, and the five Gathas - Ahunavaiti, Ushtavaiti, Spenta-Mainyu, Vohu-Khshathra and Vashishta-Ishti, which contain the 17 hymns of God received by Prophet Zarathushtra by way of a Divine Revelation.


There are three principle sects among the Parsis: Shahenshai, Kadmi and Fasli. The only difference between the three sects is the calendar they adhere to. The Faslis follow the traditional Persian calendar; the Shahenshais calculate their calendar from the last Sassanian king, Yazdegard III and the Kadmis claim their calendar is the oldest and most accurate.


Parsi Reform Movement in India: Dababhai Naoroji, Naoroji Furdonji and others set up the Rehnumai Mazdayasan Sabha (Religious Reform Association) in 1851 to carry out campaigns against the strict orthodoxy in Zoroastrianism. They laid special emphasis on modernising the Parsis and raising the social status of women by providing for their education.

The first Zoroastrians to enter India arrived on the Gujarat coast in the 10th century and by the 17th century, most of them had settled in Bombay. Today, there are approximately 90,000 Parsis in India and are concentrated largely in Maharashtra and Gujarat. 

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