Zoroastrianism

Zoroastrianism is one of the oldest world religions and arguably the first monotheistic faith in the world. Zoroastrianism was founded by Prophet Zarathustra (or Zoroaster) in ancient Persia approximately 3500 years ago. Zoroastrianism expanded to become one of the most important religions in the ancient world. From 600 B.C.E. to 650 C.E. it was the official religion of Persia (ancient Iran).

Zoroastrianism declined from the 7th century onwards following the Arab conquest of Persia of (636 – 651 C.E.) and the overthrowing of the Persian Empire. In around 700 AD. the Zoroastrians had to flee Persia due to religious persecution and landed on the shores of India. The Zoroastrian / Persian migrants who fled to India are called Parsi. Parsi in the Persian language means “inhabitants of Pars”, Pars being a province in Persia.

Zoroastrians believe that there is one universal, transcendent, all-good, and uncreated supreme creator deity, Ahura Mazda, or the “Wise Lord”. Zoroastrian theology includes foremost the importance of following the Threefold Path of Asha revolving around Good Thoughts, Good Words, and Good Deeds. Zoroastrians believe that everyone in the world are created by God and are equal.

The oldest Zoroastrian religious scripture, as preserved at present as the holy book of Zoroastrianism is known as the Avesta.

Zoroastrians are not fire-worshippers (as some westerners wrongly believe). Zoroastrians believe that all the elements are pure and that fire represents God’s light or wisdom. Zoroastrians turn towards a flame (atash) or a source of light when they worship. The light can come from a natural source such as the sun, an oil lamp or a wood fire. Fire is a source of light and light represents wisdom while darkness represents ignorance. Ignorance and darkness are the absence of wisdom and light. A fire temple (called agiyari or atash behram) where the holy fire is always kept burning, is the place of worship for Zoroastrians.

Navjote (or Sudreh Pushi) is the ceremony the ritual through which a pre-puberty child is initiated into the Zoroastrian faith. The ceremony is traditionally the first time a Zoroastrian wears the sudreh and kusti (the holy vest and girdle), which they then continue to wear for the rest of their life. The sacred clothing signifies parental responsibility as well as responsibility for the one who is undergoing this ceremony.

The Zoroastrian new year is called Nowruz (or Navroze). It falls on the day of the vernal equinox (March 21), and marks the beginning of spring.

The Zoroastrian community in Singapore is a small but very closely-knit and united community which has contributed in its own small way to the growth and progress of Singapore.

The Fire Temple

The fire temple or places of worship are consecrated for prayers and sacred ceremonies. These places of worship are called Agiary or Atash Behram (fire temples). As there is no Fire Temple in Singapore, worship in Singapore is only conducted in private homes. In a Zoroastrian place of worship, or Fire Temple, shoes are removed and the head is covered with a cap or a scarf. In the innermost sanctum there is a fire on a central altar, symbolizing God’s presence and radiant energy. The fire is kept burning day and night and the ashes of the fire are offered to the congregation and applied to the forehead.

Belief

Ahura Mazda the Almighty God revealed the religion to Lord Zarathustra. The basic religious tenets are Good Thoughts, Good Words, and Good Deeds. Prayers are to be performed five times a day.

Festivals

Ghambar translates to “full time” or “proper season”. These Parsi festivals honour the seasons, because they are responsible for the prosperity of humanity, and they occur six times a year. During these rituals, tribute is paid to the phases in the creation of the world. Each phase – heaven, water, earth, flora, fauna and man – is associated with one Ghambar and is celebrated over five days. Those who participate are expected to recall not only the blessings bestowed by the seasons, but also the seven main acts that a good Parsi must perform. They are radih or to give charity; rastih or to be truthful; to celebrate the Ghambars; to observe the three-day ceremony after death; to worship God; to build lodgings for the poor; and to wish everyone well. The Ghambar festival is expected to reinstil these feelings of brotherhood.

New Year or Navroz literally means “new day”. Inherited from Zoroastrian Persia, it is celebrated as a New Year feast by the Parsis of India. The day of celebration is March 21st, which coincides with the spring equinox and is called Jamshedi Navroz. It is a festival observed for the onset of spring. People join nature in making a fresh start, full of joy and hope for the coming year.

Diet

Food that conforms to the Jewish dietary law is called Kosher. Only meals, which have been prepared in accordance with the kosher dietary laws, should be served. All processed foods such as wine, bread and cheese as well as meats must be strictly kosher. Such food is marked with a hechsher (Kosher supervision seal), which certifies it as kosher.