On my journey through the unique cultural environment, I discovered the nearly unforgotten faith and religion of Zoroastrians. Passed down by Zoroaster and implemented into the Persian Empire by Cyrus the Great and Darius, this religion is known as the ancient religion of Iran. This status changed after the Arab invasion around 630 A.D. Since then, Islam is the primary religion in Iran. Nowadays, Zoroastrians have a population of 20,000, who can live peacefully beside Muslims without practical restrictions in their beliefs. They mainly reside around the area of Yazd and Kerman. My experiences among the Zoroastrian community was very special and unique.
The Friendship between Parsis and Zoroastrians
The first day of my journey among Zoroastrians began in Yazd in a dizzy and rainy morning, usually perfect for a day on the couch, but not this day. I met a Tour-Guide called Amir Vali, a specialist on the topic of Zoroastrians, and together we went for visiting the Zoroastrian Museum. To have the first understanding of this community and the living among the Zoroastrians you shall visit this museum. Besides the source of faith, ceremonies and traditional way of living, you can experience the relationship between Iranian Zoroastrians and the Indian Parsis.
First fled to India from the Arab invasion, an ancient society of Zoroastrian settled down in India, nowadays called Parsis. Markar, a magnificent person in the relationship between Zoroastrian and Parsis, helped the Iranian society in a difficult time while establishing elementary schools for boys in 1927 and girls in 1930 or helped in the construction of the Ferdowsi Clock Tower in Yazd. Besides this, even the construction of the Holy Fire Temple in Yazd was supported by Parsis.
The Holy Sites of Zoroastrians
After the Museum we went to one of the holy places of the Zoroastrian community. Despite the bad weather, my curiosity was piqued. The holy fire temples, called Atashkadeh, are the most important places for worshipping and gathering among the Zoroastrian community.
The fire, as a symbol of the supreme God of Zoroastrians, Ahura Mazda, is worshipped inside the temple. Besides the fire, water, earth, and wind are counted as the four holy elements in which purity is the duty of all Zoroastrians. I later discovered an ancient Water Temple in the area of Varzaneh Desert near Isfahan. Furthermore, Chak Chak is a holy shrine among the Zoroastrian community and a must-see place for all the tourists.
My Journey among the Zoroastrian sites took several days, but not a single day wasn´t rainy and foggy. Nevertheless, I continued and overcome the cold and oppressive weather because it was totally worth it.
The Traditional Way of Burying the Dead
If I didn’t overcome myself, I wouldn’t have seen the unique Tower of Silence. A very special place for burying the corpse of beloved people in ancient times. Zoroastrians brought their dead to the Tower of Silence. Mostly build on small mountains or hills, only the dead carrier was allowed to bring the dead onto the top of the towers.
The ceremonial procedure provides a four days stay of the corpse at the foot of the tower before they are giving back to nature inside this tower. Birds eat the corpse until only the bones are left. After that, the bones vanish in the middle of the tower. Moreover, this tradition is forbidden among the Zoroastrian community for a long time. Nowadays, the dead are buried in the soil inside a white cloth fixed with a Sedreh (the Avestan term for the undergarment worn by Zoroastrians) and the face to the sky. The meaning of this white cloth and the so-called Sedreh was shown to me at an anniversary ceremony among members of the Zoroastrian community.
Ceremonies of Zoroastrians
You get the white cloth called Sedreh at the age of 15 when you’re entering the religious society and take responsibility for protecting the rules of faith. Among Zoroastrians, the Sedreh Pooshi Ceremony (wearing Sedreh) and the white dress is the symbol of peace and a replacement for the knight’s armor. One more example of the Zoroastrian Ceremonies is the Sadeh Festival 100 Days after the beginning of winter. When the days are getting longer again, this ceremony is about welcoming the light back and overcome the darkness of lies, untruth or evil. Among Zoroastrian believe, light is the sign of the truth and Ahura Mazda, while the darkness is the sign of lies and evilness.
While I never could be Part of this kind of Ceremonies, I was very lucky to participate in an anniversary ceremony in the village of Sharifabad. I didn’t expect to be invited to a ceremony like this, but suddenly I was sitting between a bunch of old men and eating a very delicious traditional meal. The father of the local Moped died one year before, and as I learned, the death anniversary is celebrated one year after, and only once, to celebrate the life of the dead. For this ceremony, a table is prepared and there are special ingredients that are provided to wish the dead a good journey into Paradise.
After my trip through this rainy and disgusting weather, I made the experience of a very warm and heartfelt ceremony, which is usually known as a day of mourning. Nevertheless, among Zoroastrian, this day is a day of happiness and it is also the feeling I experienced while and after my journey among the Zoroastrian society in Iran, just happy to have this unique opportunity in my life.