PROUD to be Zoroastrian

by Ms. Pashmina M. Contractor

Zoroastrianism has always held a (rightly - deserved) fascination amongst learned and inspired minds down the ages. In art, literature, philosophy, music... you name it, the Zoroastrian connection has always figured in the works of the top most intellectuals of their times.

To name a few...... the German artist Bendemann, his painting of Zarathushtra has become an icon for all times. Strauss immortalised the passion and yearning of Zarathushtra in his powerful symphony "Also Sprach Zarathushtra". Nietsche the German author borrowed that legendary passion and yearning of Holy Zarathushtra, to call one of his books "Thus spake Zarathushtra." (NOTE : This reference to Zarathushtra is in name only and their work in no way signifies the tenets of Zoroastrianism.)

The Greek philosophers, Plato, Eudoxus, Pliny, Hermidorous and many more all mention the Great and Holy Zarathushtra and his teachings, in their works. In fact, the Persian monarch Cyrus the Great; has even been called a messiah in Jewish religious texts! So great has been the influence of that enlightened soul Holy Zarathushtra, and of the faith propogated by him, that over the ages, it became the subject of many a learned man's muse, and rightly so.

However, some later day English Poets have written some beautiful lines on the ancient Persian faith, which seems to capture perfectly the mood and feeling of the Zoroastrian era, which is indeed inspirational!

I make special mention here of a few poets whose lines about the Persians are so inspiring, that I consider myself fortunate to have chanced upon them. It has been my ardent wish at all times to share them with whomsoever I can, and hence this humble effort.

Each time I set my eyes upon these beautiful lines by the famous English Poet "Moore" (taken from Laila - Rookh.... The Fire worshippers), my heart is filled with a fire of great spiritual pride and these lines will definately stir the soul of any Zoroastrian that reads them.

The Guebber Chief says, after the Arab conquest of Iran (Zoroastrians were called Guebber or disbeliever by the Arab invaders)....

..."Yes I am of that impious race,

Those slaves of fire, that morn and even

Hail their creator's dwelling place,

Among the living lights of heaven.

Yes! I am of that outcast crew

To Iran and to vengeance true,

Who curse the hour your Arabs came,

To desecrate our shrines of flame,

And swear before God's burning eye

To break our country's chains or die."

The above lines so brilliantly typify the feeling and mood that must have prevailed at that time amongst the Athravans (the Mobeds) and the Ratheshtars (the Warriors) of Persia, after the defeat at the hands of the Arabs. One could almost believe that Moore was actually there when it happened.

The Guebber Chief says that, yes Indeed, he belongs to that race thought of as being impious by the Arabs. Yes, they are those who revere the Holy Fire, (ref.: "Those Slaves Of Fire") and yes, they still look up, (albeit with a heavy heart now) at the skies in remembrance and reverence of their Creator's wonderful creations, one of them being the sparkling heavenly bodies, the stars! He further states that yes indeed, he is of that so-called outcaste race. (The Zoroastrians not being in conformation with the new religion of Islam were hence labelled 'out-caste').

He claims that he will forever hold true to Iran and to his revenge in the hope of restoring his beloved Iran to its past glory. He loathes and curses that wretched hour when the Arabs came and laid waste to the Zoroastrian Fire Temples. The Chief further swears before God's Burning Eye i.e. the all-seeing physical manifestation of God, the Holy-Fire, that he and his people will either break these chains of bondage cast upon them by the Arab war-lord's or in turn lay down their lives in the process!

Beautiful words, powerful emotions, as expressed by Moore.

Wordsworth (Excursion Book-IV):

"The Persian, zealous to reject

Alter and image of inclusive walls

And roofs of temples built by human hands -

The loftiest heights, ascending from their tops

With mrytle-wreathed tiara on his brow

Presented sacrifice to moon and stars,

And to winds and mother elements

And the whole circle of heaven for him

A sensitive existence of a God"

Wordsworth, in his true to nature style, brilliantly captures the scene of a Zoroastrian Magian Priest, offering salutations to the stars, the moon, the winds, the waters, the fire, the earth and all elements of nature. (Indeed, our sacred Avestan verses of the Atash Nyayesh, Mah Boktar Nyayesh, Ardvisur Nyaesh, Tir Yasht, etc. so magnificiently offer salutations in praise of God's good creations namely Fire, the moon, the waters, the stars. etc.) In doing so, the worshipper recognises the existence of a gentle, yet almighty God. Thus, Wordsworth is trying to make a comparison between this simple yet practical manner of worship, performed within the realms of the natural outdoors, as compared to the highly elaborate ceremonies and litanies of the Christian Church, and by doing so brings out the cosmic and scientific nature of the great religion of the Persians.

Byron (in Childe Harold):

"Not vainly did the early Persian make

His altar the high places and the peak

Of earth, o'er-gazing mountains and thus take

A fit and unwalled temple, there to seek,

The Spirit, in whose honour, shrines are weak

Unprepared of human hands. Come and compare

Columns and idol dwellings, Goth or Greek

With natures realms of worship, earth and air,

Nor fix on fond abode, to circumscribe thy Prayer"

Like Wordsworth, Byron too makes a clear attempt to compare and extol the ancient Persian (Aryan) practice of offering prayers and salutations to the good elements created by God, as compared to the Christian practise of offering prayers via elaborate litanies and ceremonies. He further goes on to compare their places of worship. The Persian, the whole Universe his temple, offers his worship atop lofty mountain peaks, to that spirit, in whose honour even the most magnificent architectural edifices are nothing. Thus befitting 'His' greatness. The Persian chooses the open spaces of His creation, as compared to the Gothic and Greek architectural structures, that Christians used as their places of worship.

These great words of these great poets, were written not so long ago in praise of the Persians and the cosmic nature of their religion. How brilliantly all three bring out the mood of that era, the feel of the place. Its amazing! This goes to show, just how impressed they must have been by the religious modes and practises of the ancient Persians, as they're called.

To their great words, I add my sentiments....

"O my ancient motherland, You, that I've never seen.

O you place of wonder, Where i've never been.

I may have been kept away from you,

For a thousand years or more.

But my love for you still shines

with flames of Gold, bright and pure.

Persia you may be clouded by destiny's writ

and the moving sands of time.

Your Fire-Temples that once burned so bright,

may be biding their time.

Still I want you to know that

we that live far away from you,

Will keep our faith alive, till such time

That we can help blow those storm

clouds away from you."

(By the Grace of Ahura Mazda!!!)

by Ms. Pashmina M. Contractor,

Article published in the Jam-e-Jamshed newspaper.

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