One of the world’s most ancient faiths is also one of the world’s fastest-dwindling, from millions of adherents a millennia ago to about 250,000 today. That’s thanks to rules that say only Persians may belong, and that its priests must come from a certain family line.
MUMBAI, India – For centuries, the Zoroastrian dead have been wrapped in white muslin and left at a leafy funeral ground on downtown Mumbai’s Malabar Hill, where they are devoured by vultures. Only then, according to the tenets of the ancient religion, can the soul be freed. But with just a handful of the endangered birds remaining in the city, and with solar panels installed to speed up decomposition working poorly during the monsoon rains, some Zoroastrians are demanding a change. Pictures of rotting corpses piled at the funeral grounds, secretly snapped by a mourning woman, have sparked a furor
BURR RIDGE, Ill. – In his day job, Kersey H. Antia is a psychologist who specializes in panic disorders. In his private life, Mr. Antia dons a long white robe, slips a veil over his face and goes to work as a Zoroastrian priest, performing rituals passed down through a patrilineal chain of priests stretching back to ancient Persia. After a service for the dead in which priests fed sticks of sandalwood and pinches of frankincense into a blazing urn, Mr. Antia surveyed the Zoroastrian faithful of the Midwest – about 80 people in saris, suits and blue jeans. “We
It is one the most poignant images in India. Muslin-wrapped mourners carry the dead up a leafy hill to a temple, conducting an ancient ceremony in modern Mumbai. They reach the Towers of Silence and the bodies are laid on slabs of marble to be devoured by vultures and bleached by the searing heat of the sun. For Zoroastrianism, one of the oldest mass religions in the world, bodies left in this manner will see their soul join the spiritual world. The trouble is the vultures of Mumbai are dying out. Their numbers have been decimated by cattle carcasses contaminated
What does Freddie Mercury have in common with the founder of the Indian nuclear programme or Israel Philharmonic conductor Zubin Mehta? The answer is that all are or were adherents of Zoroastrianism, an ancient religion that probably exerted a deep influence on Judaism, Mithraism and Christianity. Yet far from belonging to the distant archaeological past, Zoroastrianism is winning new believers and establishing new and active communities all over the world. The significance of today is that 26 March marks the birthdate of Zoroaster, the religion’s chief prophet, who occupies a theological position similar to that of Mohammed in Islam. Contrary
CHAK CHAK: Zoroastrians say the sacred spring at Chak Chak, a shrine perched beneath a towering cliff face in the searing desert of central Iran, has lost none of its miraculous healing powers. “A 32-year-old Muslim came here as a last resort when he was dying from leukaemia. I was not sure we should let a Muslim in but he insisted and spent the night here,” said Goshtasb Belivani, a priest of Iran’s ancient pre-Islamic religion. “During the night he was visited by a beautiful woman dressed in green who gave him sherbet to drink,” he continued. For the last
N.Va. Temple to Unite Followers of Faith in Which Fire Plays Sacred Role Washington Post, May 10, 2003 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A33351-2003May9.html By Bill Broadway, Washington Post Staff Writer Washington’s small but growing Zoroastrian community will add to the area’s array of international religious buildings with a Persian-style temple located beyond an alley of cedar trees just off Hunter Mill Road in Vienna. The benefactor who purchased and donated the property for temple use said the entrance reminded him of cypress trees leading to an ancient fire temple in Shiraz, Iran, said Farhad Shahryary, who will oversee construction of the $3 million facility.
http://www.thestate.com/ Associated Press, Apr. 4, 2003 MICHAEL BUETTNER, Associated Press VIENNA, Va. – One of the world’s oldest religions is establishing a new, American temple for the faith outside the nation’s capital, the Zoroastrian Center and Darb-e-Mehr. “You will see a magnificent building that reminds you of old Persian architecture,” said Farhad Shahryary, assistant secretary of the Temple Committee. “This is a really a joyful day. There’s been a lot of hard work. This has been a dream for about 20 years.” Once the state religion of an empire that stretched throughout much of the ancient world, Zoroastrianism now has