Why are there similarities between Zoroastrianism and Hinduism? (23 & 30-3-14)

1. There are several similarities as well as some differences between Zoroastrian and Hinduism. Many believe that this is so on account of the interaction between the two religions after Zoroastrians came from Iran to India about 1300 years ago. However, this is not true.

2. Zoroastrians and Hindus descend from the same Aryan stock. The ancestors of both the religions had been together since the pre-historic times dating back thousands of years. They spoke the same language and inhabited the same space, referred to as Airyana Vaeja by the Zoroastrians and Arya Varta by the Hindus.

3. The two languages – Avesta of the Zoroastrians and Sanskrit of the Hindus have evolved from a common mother language and hence are remarkably similar. In fact, the word Hindu itself is from the Avestan language.  It appears in the Sanskrit language at a much later date.

4. Achaemenian, Parthian and Sasanian kings of ancient Iran ruled over parts of North India. Iran and India had trade and cultural relations at least since the last 2500 years.

5. Practices like venerating natural elements, praying to the sun early in the morning, honoring fire, use of cow/ bull’s urine for religious purposes and performance of rituals in the presence of fire have been common since Indo-Aryan times.

6. The preparing of Hom juice in the Yasna ritual is similar to the practice of preparation of the ‘Som ras’ in the Vedas. The Sapta padi (seven steps around the fire) of the Hindu wedding is reflected in the taking of the cotton thread seven times round the marrying couple in the Zoroastrian wedding religion. 

7. There were some common divine beings among the Indo-Iranians, like Hom and Som, Mithra and Mitra, Armati and Aramaiti. The names of some pre-historical personalities of those times, like Yama and Yima, Thrita and Trita, Vivanghan and Vivasvat are also remarkably similar.

8. From the point of view of Society too, there are similarities. In ancient times there were four professional divisions of society in both the Indian and Iranian religions. They were the Athornan (priests), Ratheshtar (administrators / warriors), Vastryosh (tillers) and Hutoskhsh (artisans) in Zoroastrianism and Brahmin (priests), Khshatriya (administrators / warriors), Vaishya (tillers) and Shudra (workers) in Hinduism.  Among these four, the first three are identical but a difference arose in the fourth in later times. Among the Hindus, the fourth group Shudra later came to be regarded as those doing menial and lowly work and serving others.

9. Just before the advent of prophet Zarathushtra there was a great schism between the two groups, which further intensified after the advent of the prophet, so much so that  some principles were intentionally polarised.  The good divine beings ‘Ahura’ became the evil ‘Asura’ of the Hindus and the good ‘Devs’ of the Hindus became the evil ‘Daevas’ of the Zoroastrians. Some good Hindu divine beings like Indra and Nasatya assumed negative connotations in Zoroastrianism.

Why are there similarities between Zoroastrian and Judaism – Christianity? (20 & 27-4-14)

1. Zoroastrianism, apart from being the first revealed religion in the world, was an established religion and had a very strong presence, both when Judaism was developing and Christianity was born.

2. The Achaemenid king Cyrus the Great freed the Jews from their seventy year Babylonian captivity in 536 B.C., allowed them to go back to their native land, returned their treasures which the Babylonian king had looted, and helped them rebuild the temple of Solomon. Then, the Achaemenids benevolently ruled over the Jews for nearly two centuries. Their policy of tolerance immensely raised them in the esteem of the Jews. It is perhaps for the above reasons that the Jews were highly influenced by Zoroastrian teachings, especially the concept of God, Celestial Hierarchy, Death and Judgment, Heaven and Hell, Resurrection, Life Everlasting and the coming of a future Saviour.

3. From this time on, Zoroastrianism and Judaism shared similar practices and beliefs. Both religions advocated an agriculturist life style, believed in divine intervention and advocated repentance of sins. Both had their religious life revolving around teachings of ritual purity, temples and rituals, and followed the practice of covering the head by a cap.

4. In both the religions there are observances of festivals, which are connected with religion, seasons and religious history. These festivals played an important role of reminding the indigenous people of their duties, shared difficulties and ethnic identity. Later, this assumes a very important significance, considering that both the religions have been a persecuted lot, and lived away from their homeland since centuries.

4. As for Christianity, at the time of birth of Jesus, Zoroastrian kings were at their height in the Parthian empire. The borders of the Romans was just outside Palestine, from where the Parthian Empire began. It was mainly through Judaism, that Christianity adopted the Zoroastrian teachings of end of the world, Resurrection, triumph of good over evil and immortal life. Zoroastrian ideas of purity, impurity and seclusion can be seen in the book of Leviticus of the New Testament of the Bible.

5. The three Magis who went to Bethlehem to welcome and offer presents to infant Christ, are believed to be Zoroastrian priests. These Magis, with their precise knowledge of astronomy knew the exact location of infant Christ’s birth and were the first to go and pay respects to the child.

Why are there similarities between Zoroastrianism and Islam? (31-6 & 6-7-14)

1. Prophet Mohammad was born in the reign of the Sasanian king Khushru I (Nosherwan Adel) and the religion of Islam was established when king Khushru II (Khushru Purviz) was ruling. Thus Zoroastrian religion had a direct and distinct influence on Islam.

2. The most important contribution of Zoroastrianism to Islam was the Iranian Zoroastrian Behzad or Dastur Dinyar who later came to be known as Salman-i-Fars. He helped Prophet Mohammad at Medina while he was compiling the Quran.

3. In the Quran every Chapter, except the ninth, begins with the words bismilla ar rahmān ur rahim “In the name of the merciful and compassionate Allah”, similar to the Zoroastrian invocation ‘ba nāme yazad bakhshāyandeh bakhshāyazgar meherbān’  “In the name of Yazdān (God), the benevolent, the merciful and the just” , which occurs in Pazand prayers.

4. Just as Ahura Mazda is assisted by Ameshāspands (arch-angles) and Yazads (angels) in His work, Allah is helped by archangels and angels. Their duty is “to bring man forth out of the Darkness and into the Light.” Also similar is the belief in Islam and Zoroastrianism that evil undoes the work of God and tempts man to be wicked.

5. The Chinvad Bridge in Zoroastrian eschatology, which a soul has to cross on the dawn of the fourth day after death, is reflected in the Islamic belief of the Bridge of Al Sirat which leads to Heaven and Hell where the Judgment of the deceased takes place.

6. The Zoroastrian idea of Resurrection and coming of the Saoshyant also found its way into Islam, wherein it is believed that the Saviour Mahdi will come at the end of time to bring about Resurrection.

7. The most visible symbol of the Islamic religion – the Crescent Moon with the Star of Venus inside it – originally belonged to Zoroastrian Iran. It is found on some coins of Pre-Islamic Sasanian kings, as it is an auspicious conjunction and a rare astronomical phenomenon. 8. The Islamic injunction of offering Namāz five times a day had been adopted by Islam from the Zoroastrian concept of five Gehs.