MONDAY, DECEMBER 26: One of the world’s oldest continuing religions marks the death of its founder today, on the Zoroastrian solemnity of Zartusht-no-diso. The birth date of Zarathustra is debated—some scholars place it 6,000 years before Plato, while others estimate it by the linguistic standards of the Avesta, the Zoroastrian holy book, around the 14th century BCE—but most agree he was born in ancient Persia. Today, Zoroastrianism continues to reign strongest in Iran, many live in India and followers reside all around the world.
Legends abound concerning Zarathustra’s life, as they do about his death, but most importantly, Zarathustra lived his life as one of the first teachers of monotheism; on Zarthusht-no-diso, Zoroastrians study the scholar’s life, his teachings and the Avestas. (Learn more at Zoroastrians.info.) In their fire temples, devotees review Zarathustra’s teaching of one creator God, “Lord Wisdom,” and his recognition of opposing positive and negative energy present in each human being. Experts believe Zoroastrianism was one of the first religions to connect a belief in one God linked to a moral code for humanity, eventually influencing Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Today’s solemnity hardly stirs up celebrations, but last week, Parsi Zoroastrians in New Delhi did have reason to celebrate: it was the 50th anniversary of their community’s fire temple. According to the Times of India, the community did not have a place to worship for many decades, until the Dar-e-Mehr was built in 1961. Unlike most exclusive Zoroastrian communities, this temple is progressive: it invites non-Parsi spouses to become members, too.
Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.