The dualistic religious system founded by the Persian prophet Zarathustra (Zoroaster in Greek) and set forth in the Avesta in the late 7th or early 6th centuries BCE, teaching the worship of Ahura Mazda in the context of a universal struggle between the forces of light and of darkness. It is one of the most ancient of living religions and once the faith of the Persian Empire. It is also rooted in ancient Aryan traditions. Today there are less than 200,000 Zoroastrians, mostly in Iran, India, and the West. At the age of 30, Zarathustra was returning with river water for haoma for spring festival when he had a vision and was taken before Ahura Mazda, The Wise Lord, the supreme creator & his 7 created helpers, the Holy Immortals (Amesha Spentas) by the Vohu Manah. Zoroastrianism teaches that Ahura Mazda is the supreme god and all others are subordinate to him. It also teaches that the evil spirit, Angra Mainyu (Ahriman in Pahlavi) and his demons (daevas) upholds the Lie (druj) instead of Truth (asha). As a result, this creates conflict between humans who follow the Lie (dregvant) and those who uphold the Truth (ashavan).
The religion also teaches that each person has free will to choose, with consequences of happiness and misery. Zoroastrians believe that when someone dies, the body must be kept in home for 3 days while the soul hangs about it. On the 4th day, the corpse-bearer raise a massive Tower of Silence (dakhma) with a circular stone platform on the top inclined to a central wall. The body is stripped and then placed on this, exposed to vultures and elements. When the flesh is gone, the bones are swept into the well to disintegrate. This is done to minimize effects of decay on the air, fire, earth, and water. Many Parsis still use Towers of Silence, but those in Iran have shifted to earth burial and those in the West use burial or cremation. After this life, each person is judged at the Chinvat Bridge, shaped as a sword. It turns on its edge for the evil and they fall into an abyss of torment and the righteous pass over it as a broad and flat path to rewards in heaven. The traditional temple of Zoroastrianism is the Fire Temple. It has a central chamber with a stone platform on which fire is always burning in a metal urn on a bed of sand or ash. The priest (magi) keep the fire, perform rituals, prayer, and wear masks so they do not pollute the fire. The fire at Udvada north of Bombay is held to have burned for over 1,000 years.
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