Skip to comments.Iran's Zoroastrians remember Arab conquest of Persia
Posted on 06/18/2007 12:56:35 PM PDT by freedom44
CHAK CHAK, Iran (AP) - Dressed in white to symbolize purity, a priest recited from the Zoroastrian holy book at a shrine as members of this ancient pre-Islamic religion marked what they see as one of the most bitter events in Iran's history: the 7th century Arab conquest of Persia.
The Arab invasion changed history for Persia, the ancient name for non-Arab Iran: Islam was imposed as the new religion, replacing Zoroastrianism, whose followers were dispersed.
Thousands of Zoroastrians from Iran's small remaining community and from India, the United States and other countries gathered at this mountain shrine this week for five days of ceremonies that ended Monday, commemorating the event.
Priest Goshtasb Belivani addressed the gathering, standing at the tall bronze doors of the shrine, built into a cliff-side cave where a heroine of the faith, Nikbanou, is said to have fled from the Arab assault. «We have all gathered at this sacred place to pray Ahura Mazda,» he said, using the Zoroastrians' name for God. «We are also here to remember Nikbanou and what happened to our ancestors by the Arab invaders.
Belivani spoke to the crowd in modern Farsi, before reciting the verses from the Avesta, the faith's holy book, in an ancient version of the language.
According to legend, Nikbanou, the youngest daughter of the last king of the Persian empire, took shelter in the mountain and prayed to Ahura Mazda for help from the attackers. Miraculously, the mountain opened up and gave her protection.
Near the shrine, a slowly dripping spring emerges from the mountain, giving the site its name _ «Chak Chak» means «drip drip» in Persian. The legend says the spring is the mountain shedding tears in remembrance of Nikbanou. An immense tree stands nearby, said to have grown from Nikbanou's cane.
The legends regretting the invasion that brought Islam to this country highlight the unusual status of Zoroastrians in today's Iran ruled by an Islamic government headed by clerics.
Since coming to power in the 1979 revolution, the Islamic Republic has tolerated the sect, giving it official status and guaranteeing a Zoroastrian seat in parliament. It also allows its members to practice their rites. For example, while the law forbids mixed dancing, Zoroastrian men and women are permitted to dance together and play music as part of their worship in special places like temples or covered buildings.
Still, the Zoroastrian community's numbers have dwindled to around 50,000, down from 300,000 in the 1970s, with many emigrating to the U.S.
Human rights reports say Zoroastrians like members of Iran's small Jewish and Christian minorities suffer some discrimination, kept out of some jobs. But many Zoroastrians left simply because of the general restrictions on all Iranian society imposed by the Islamic government.
Still, Zoroastrian traditions remain embedded in Iran, where the population of 70 million overwhelmingly Shiite Muslim take deep pride in their pre-Islamic civilization.
Every year, Iranians of all religions mark Chahar-Shanbe Suri, or the Wednesday feast, part of celebrations for the Persian New Year, in March. During the rites, Iranians light bonfires in the streets and jump over them and dance, hoping to put failures behind them and the rite has persisted despite attempts by the ruling clerics to discourage it as un-Islamic.
Zoroastrians are not a big population in Iran but our rituals remain widely respected not only in Iran but other parts of the world, said chief Zoroastrian priest Ardeshir Khorshidian.
At Chak Chak also known by the name Pir-e Sabz, 550 kilometers southeast of the capital Tehran the pilgrims crowded into pavilions set up at the base of the mountain, below the shrine in the cliff. Families sitting on rugs had picnics, while children danced and their parents attended prayers in the shrine.
For many Zoroastrians, summer begins with a pilgrimage to Pir-e-Sabz, said Pedram Soroushpour. This event is a symbol of Zoroastrians remaining loyal to their manners and rituals.
However (as expected) AP can't get the facts straight: Persia, the ancient name for non-Arab Iran
Persia was the name the Greek, Romans and later other foreigners called the Country/Empire, referring to the people of the Fars province.
Iran (previously Aryanam), meaning "Land of the Aryans" has been the natives' name for their country since ancient times, long before Islam appeared.
1935 Reza Shah Pahlevi officialy made Iran the name to be used by natives and foreigners alike.
I’ve seen speculation several places that the Magi who visited baby Jesus with gifts, (Matthew 2), were Zoroastrians.
Really? I didn't know that. How is this related to the apparently fictitious "Aryan race" that Hitler dreamed up?
The "Aryans" of Hitler and Co., as you know where imagined to be blond, blue-eyed Nordics... total nonsense.
Aryan actually refers to a linguistic family, stemming from the Northern Caspian region, who settled what is today Iran, Afghanistan, India etc.
“Ive seen speculation several places that the Magi who visited baby Jesus with gifts, (Matthew 2), were Zoroastrians.”
I have as well. It is a long-standing belief.
Marco Polo claimed to have seen their graves in Persia.
The wise men were apparently monotheistic (since God directed them), from the East, and not Jewish, or at least not under the Law of Moses, so Zoroastrian is one of a few possible candidates.
I know nothing about zorastrian, other than it would apparently qualify as a Noahadic religion, and thus would be a valid relgion, pre-Christ.
Very interesting. I always knew Hitler’s idea of the Aryan race was bogus, but it would still be interesting to study the details of where the ideas came from.
The real Aryans were not a race, but a group of tribes.
The structural resemblance between Persian and Hindi and Latin and Greek and German led to them being called "the Indo-Aryan languages" and, due to Hitler, they are now called the Indo-European languages.
The Aryan tribes were a group of Caucasian peoples that raided and conquered modern-day Iran, northern India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Their descendants are the Persians, Punjabis and Pushtun peoples.
These peoples have lighter skin and are generally taller and lankier than other regional ethnic groups, have a large number of green and blue-eyed individuals in their groups, and have a strong military tradition.
The racial nationalists of 1930s Europe saw these peoples as fellow members of their imagined master race - cousins of Europeans who could be used as a puppet master race for Asia.
The RSS in India was a neo-Nazi organization that agitated against British rule and for Hitler.
Yes, a good read! And thanks for the clarification on the correct naming of Aryanam ... Persia ... Iran!
Heresy? I suppose its not heresy to the followers of this sect...I guess what I am saying is that it all depends what side of the street you live on....in America we have the right to believe whatever we want(at least until we are crammed full with enough Islamofascists, for those b@stards to take over.).
I've also seen claims that it is older than Judaism. Much older, in fact. Some say that this is it; the original, Zoroastrianism goes all the way back to Noah, Enoch, even Adam.
How ironic that both versions of Aryans ended up hating Jews.
It certainly could be older, in that God showed up on Mt. Sinia circa 1500BC.
I'd be careful with this description. The occurence of blue eyes and occasionaly fair hair in Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan have largely their origins from the Greek/Macedonians under Alexander the Great, who conquered the Persian empire, and intermarried with Persians and Baktrians.
While Persians are lighter skinned than i.e. Arabs, and often have green eyes, they are dark haired since ancient times.
Some cultural anthropologists say that the Jewish concept of the yetzrim - the good and evil impulses in each person - is a cultural borrowing from Zoroastrianism during the Babylonian captivity, since there is evidence of Zoroastrian presence in Babylon.
I don't buy the theory.
Manichaeanism owes something to Zoroastrianism, but it involves an importation from the Greek mystery religions: the demiurge.
In Manichaeanism and in Marcionism, we have the notion imported from Zoroastrianism of an evil power vying against a nearly-matched or equally matched good power, and the evil power is identified with the Greek demiurge: the creator of the physical world, while the good power is the creator of the spiritual world.
In Manichaeanism and Marcionism the evil demiurge is the God of the Hebrew Scriptures.
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