Tuesday 12 January 2010

ABC Wednesday Z

Z is for Zoo. Do you remember Julie Felix singing this song?

Z is also for Zeus and Zion and Zoroaster.

The Prophet Zoroaster (also known as Zarathustra and in Persian as Zarathusti and Gujarati as Zaratosht) founded Zoroastrianism about 3500 years ago in ancient Iran, commonly called Persia. He was born into a Bronze Age polytheistic community which ritually used intoxicants and animal sacrifices in their religious practices. He rejected this religion in which the princes and priests controlled the ordinary people through a thorough-going and oppressive class structure.

When he was thirty years old Zoroaster had a vision of God which affected him deeply and led him to teach that there was only one God, the Creator, who was to be worshipped. He believed that mankind had Free Will and was engaged in a mental struggle between truth and untruth.

Today in Mumbai (Bombay) there is a large community of Parsis (Parsees) descended from a group of Iranian Zoroastrians who fled persecution by Muslims more than 1000 years ago. They are largely involved in business. The Tata Group, now in its fifth generation of family management is one of the largest private employers in India and recently acquired Corus Steel (2007) and Jaguar and Landrover (2008) Genetically Parsis are believed to have more in common with modern Iranians than with Indians.

Some of their traditional practices are under threat, particularly in the disposal of their dead. Parsees believe that earth, fire and water are sacred elements and should not be defiled by the dead. Thus burial and cremation have always been prohibited. Bodies were taken to the Towers of Silence to be consumed by vultures but the number of these birds has reduced dramatically through urbanisation. It is also thought that they have been poisoned by the presence of diclofenac in the corpses. Diclofenac is an anti-inflammatory and analgesic drug commonly prescribed for a number of ailments. Thus the bodies are taking longer to decompose which has led to complaints from nearby residents. Now Parsis in Mumbai are given the option of burial or decomposition for their dead. Naturally, Parsis living in other countries are buried. The cemetery at Brookwood in Surrey is the largest cemetery in Britain and probably Western Europe. It is a Grade I Historic Park and Garden and has a Zoroastrian burial ground.

In a declining population the tradition of passing the faith through the male line is being discussed. Thus the children of a Parsi father married to a non-Parsi mother are considered Parsi. The children of a Parsi mother in a similar marriage are not considered so and there is an expectation that this situation will be adjusted in order to enhance numbers.

Prominent Parsis include rock star Freddie Mercury, conductor Zubin Mehta and cricketer Farokh Engineer.

Thanks go to the ABC Wednesday team for their hard work in organising and hosting this meme.

To see more Zs (goodness, that makes me feel tired . . . zzzzzz) please click here.


  1. Interesting post. How very far removed from our belief that when we die it's 'earth to earth, ashes to ashes'! I do kind of like the idea of being consumed by vultures, but it's very sad that because of modern drug use the bodies are killing the birds.

  2. You included so much variety; I admire your skill!

  3. Fascinating history of the Zoroasters. I had heard of this group but didn't know who they were. Interesting about the non-burial and shortage of vultures in India, too.

  4. What a fascinating post! And terrific for the Z day! I really enjoyed it and was surprised to learn of Zubin Mehta's affiliation with the Parsis! He's a favorite conductor of mine. Have a great day!


  5. Dead good! (pun intended) phew, I've learned a lot today!

    Well researched post.

  6. A few things I didnt know here - thanks.

  7. That is a cute song! Interesting info about Zoroaster.

  8. Hi Janice. What an interesting post. It's amazing what you can learn from blogs! I knew very little about Zoroastrianism. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Very interesting and considering Z is pretty tough to do.

  10. Another interesting post! Which makes me wonder if you are a fan of the poet Rumi, not Parsee but still...
    And thanks for your comment about Rossetti. You must be a singer?! This is a fave of mine because I can feel each word, and wrap up a little warmer each time.
    Happy Thursday, my friend!

  11. Thank you all, folks :-)
    Noni, no I don't know Rumi (will have to look him (?) up. I wouldn't call myself a singer (though I do sing to myself and my grandchildren) but have sung in choirs in the past. Keep warm!


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