Ahura Mazda Or Ohrmazd, the Highest Zoroastrian God


Ahura Mazda Face

by Jayaram V

Ahura Mazda, or Ohrmazd, is the highest God of Zoroastrians. He is the creator, judge, benefactor, protector and upholder of Truth, righteousness and Asha, the cosmic order. He is perfection personified. He is the source of all that is good in the universe, which He guards with his vast army of ahuras, angel sprits and universal beings. He responds to the call of his followers and can be communicated personally through righteousness, sacrifice, prayers, rituals and invocations.

But under no circumstances, He should be worshipped in an image form. The utterance of His very name destroys the malice of the daevas and the druj, the evil spirits. He is formless, but goes by many names. In the Khorda Avesta, He proclaims to Zoroaster His numerous names such as fiend-smiter, best healer, herd-giver, perfect holiness, understanding, knowledge, lord, beneficent, harmless, unconquerable, all seeing, creator and all knowing (Mazda), and giver of prosperity. The following are some of the important attributes and functions of Ahura Mazda.

God as creator: Ahura Mazda is the creator of both invisible and visible worlds also called spiritual and material worlds. He created finite time from infinite time. He created the Amesha Spentas, the archangels, guardian spirits and ahuras or divine lords in the spiritual world. He created the elements of fire, water, air and the earth, the primeval man, the primeval Ox, plants, animals and metals in the material world. He established asha or order in the worlds he created. He created all the good things, all the bright things and all the divine qualities. However, according to the earlier Zoroastrian texts, He did not create Ahirman or the dark and evil things that are part of Ahirman's domain. Since God is righteous, evil cannot come out of Him.

God as dispenser of justice: God is righteous and pure. He is a just God who keeps a watch over the worlds He creates and make sure that they are not overpowered by the evil forces. He punishes those who indulge in evil and sinful actions and rewards those who follow the righteous path. To the human beings He gives a chance to expiate their sins through repentance and sincere prayers. On the day of the Last Judgment, He would judge people and assign them to either the heaven or the hell according to their actions.

God as protector: Ahura Mazda makes a firm promise to protect all those from evil who profess themselves as Mazda worshippers, who pledge themselves to Mazdayasnian religion and follow His teachings in letter and spirit. He assures to protect them from the evil Ahirman, daevas, drujs, sorcerers, sinners, kayags, karbs, tyrants, wrongdoers, heretics, sinners and witches. He promises to protect those who keep themselves pure by observing the three cardinal rules: good thoughts, good words and good actions, who follow His teachings, respect the sacred fire, lead a righteous life avoiding sin, dispose of the dead according to the method prescribed by Him, perform sacrificial rituals as per the specifications made in the scriptures and seek His protection and blessings through prayers and invocations.

God as the upholder of truth, justice and order: God keeps a strict watch on the worlds He creates to keep them free from chaos. He maintains order, asha, for order is the nature of God. God is Truth personified. It is from His power of Truth that order and justice flow. He is the righteous lord, who will sit in judgment on the Judgment Day and rid the world entirely of evil, granting eternity to all those who abide by Him and His teachings.

God as the source of knowledge: God is the source of all knowledge. He is the true author of all the sacred teachings. He revealed the right knowledge to Zoroaster in order to help the mankind to safeguard themselves from evil deeds. He communicates with those whom He finds worthy of His sacred teachings. God's knowledge has the power to protect people and the world from evil. In the infinite time God kept evil at bay by reciting the powerful Ahunwar mantra. He also showed the people the way to keep themselves free from evil while living in the material world. He alone knows how to trap Ahirman in the material world and finally bring him to justice.

God as benefactor: God is benevolent and bountiful. He grants the wishes of people who approach Him with devotion and submit their prayers with sincerity. He is forever with those who follow his teachings obediently, desist from evil and help others to remain on the path of righteousness. He bestows on them his bounteous gifts: victory against enemies, vigor, good health, knowledge, abundance, happiness, noble offspring, longevity and heavenly life. He is also the healer, who heals through knowledge, medicine, blessings and destruction of evil.

God as formless and infinite Being: Ahura Mazda is formless and infinite. He cannot be given a shape or form, nor depicted in the form of idols. He should not be worshipped in an image form. He can however be worshipped through sacrificial rituals or Yasnas, prayers, chants and invocations. He can be communicated silently and reverently by devout followers in their own hearts. In many fundamental aspects, Ahura Mazda is akin to the God of Jews and Muslims.

God and His manifestations: Zoroastrian religion has elements of monotheism, polytheism and also dualism. It is monotheistic because it acknowledges Ahura Mazda as the highest and supreme God. It is polytheistic in the sense that its followers revere the universal beings or Amesha Spentas and a host of other spiritual entities. It is dualistic in the sense it acknowledges the principles of God and non-God or anti-God being present in many aspects of the material world.

God as a destroyer of evil: The Zoroastrian texts leave no doubt about supremacy of Ahura Mazda. But whether He is omnipotent in the strict sense of the word is debatable. Although He is the lord of the universe, His authority is constantly challenged and undermined by the evil spirit, Ahirman, who seems to possess a plan and potency of his own, and is free, from God's control at least for now in the visible and material part of creation. While God is the creator of all, we are not sure, who created the evil spirit. Some later day texts do describe him as one of the twins created by God and that God is above Him. But Zoroastrian cosmology allude to the existence of evil during the infinite time before God brought forth His creation. Also when God was busy creating the beings and things, Ahirman was busy creating evil things and evil spirits. What is however certain is that God is more powerful than His opponent, who will destroy Ahirman eventually and free the worlds from evil.

Excerpts From Zoroastrian Texts On Ahura Mazda

Avesta - Yasna - Chapter 1

I announce (and) carry out (this Yasna) for the creator Ahura Mazda, the radiant and glorious, the greatest and the best, the most beautiful (?) (to our conceptions), the most firm, the wisest, and the one of all whose body is the most perfect, who attains His ends the most infallibly, because of his Asha, to him who disposes our minds aright, who sends His joy-creating grace afar; who made us, and has fashioned us, and who has nourished and protected us, who is the most bounteous Spirit!

Denkard Book Five

The Lord delights in persons who on all occasions conduct themselves in accordance with His wishes and behests; and He is displeased with persons who on all occasions transgress his wishes and commands. Of such contumacious persons it is stated in the Religion that they observe not His behests and wishes.

The Bundahishn - Chapter 1

2.As revealed by the religion of the Mazdayasnians, so it is declared that Ohrmazd is supreme in omniscience and goodness, and unrivaled in splendor; the region of light is the place of Ohrmazd, which they call 'endless light,' and the omniscience and goodness of the unrivaled Ohrmazd is what they call 'revelation.'

3. Revelation is the explanation of both spirits together; one is he who is independent of unlimited time, because Ohrmazd and the region, religion, and time of Ohrmazd were and are and ever will be; while Ahriman in darkness, with backward understanding and desire for destruction, was in the abyss, and it is he who will not be; and the place of that destruction, and also of that darkness, is what they call the 'endlessly dark.'

Khorda Avesta - Ohrmazd Yasht

2.' What is the most fiend-smiting? What is the best-healing? What destroyeth best the malice of Daevas and Men? What maketh the material world best come to the fulfillment of its wishes? What freeth the material world best from the anxieties of the heart?'

3. Ahura Mazda answered: 'Our Name, O Spitama Zarathushtra! who are the Amesha-Spentas, that is the strongest part of the Holy Word; that is the most victorious; that is the most glorious; that is the most effective;

4. 'That is the most fiend-smiting; that is the best-healing; that destroyeth best the malice of Daevas and Men: that maketh the material world best come to the fulfillment of its wishes; that freeth the material World best from the anxieties of the heart.'

5. Then Zarathushtra said: 'Reveal unto me that name of thine, O Ahura Mazda! that is the greatest, the best, the fairest, the most effective, the most fiend-smiting, the best-healing, that destroyeth best the malice of Daevas and Men;

6. 'That I may afflict all Daevas and Men; that I may afflict all Yatus and Pairikas; that neither Daevas nor Men may be able to afflict me; neither Yatus nor Pairikas.'

7. Ahura Mazda replied unto him: 'My name is the One of whom questions are asked, O holy Zarathushtra.

'My second name is the Herd-giver

'My third name is the Strong One

'My fourth name is Perfect Holiness .

'My fifth name is All good things created by Mazda, the offspring of the holy principle.

'My sixth name is Understanding;

'My seventh name is the One with understanding.

'My eighth name is Knowledge;

'My ninth name is the One with Knowledge.

'My tenth name is Weal;

'My eleventh name is He who produces weal.

'My twelfth name is AHURA (the Lord).

'My thirteenth name is the most Beneficent.

'My fourteenth name is He in whom there is no harm.

'My fifteenth name is the unconquerable One.

'My sixteenth name is He who makes the true account.

'My seventeenth name is the All-seeing One.

'My eighteenth name is the healing One.

'My nineteenth name is the Creator.

'My twentieth name is MAZDA (the All-knowing One).

9.Worship me, O Zarathushtra, by day and by night, with offerings of libations well accepted I will come unto thee for help and joy, I, Ahura Mazda; the good, holy Sraosha will come unto thee for help and joy; the waters, the plants, and the Fravashis of the holy ones will come unto thee for help and joy.

Denkard - book 3- Chapter 40

Be it known that, the Lord of Existence is manifest through every existent and created thing pertaining to him.. The Self-existent is possessed of a faculty of superior wisdom. And, before the work of the Lord was promulgated through the Spenamino, He Himself existed. And the existence of all is owing to the Self-existent.

Denkard - book 3- Chapter 91

Be it known that, all are bound to praise and to be thankful to the Creator, who is (fit) for praises and thankfulness of all kinds. For, above those who are finite or proportioned, the Lord is infinite and unproportioned.

Denkard - book 3- chapter 130

Be it known that, the lord who is in all things and over every (thing), and who obeys no one and for no one, is the omniscient omnipotent, and all-owning Creator Ohrmazd himself; -- the Lord who obeys no one, but is the master of all; who is uncreated, but the Creator of all; who holds no kinship, but is the highest (of all); who subserves not., but is the lord; who is not a disciple, but is the teacher; who is not destitute, but able; who is not (meant) for protection, but is the protector; who is not mansion-less, but is a possessor of mansions; who is (exists) not to know, but is the originator of knowledge himself; who is not improveable, but is the improver; who is not a receiver of gifts, but the maker of gifts; who is not to obtain happiness, but is the giver of happiness; who works not with associates but works alone; who is not to be judged or weighed, but is the judge and weigher; who is not to be moved, but is the mover of others. Among things one is superior to another, and over all those things the Creator, Ohrmazd, is superior.

Denkard - book 3- Chapter 276

Be it known that God himself the Author of the invisible creation, is the giver to all (earthly) things in an invisible manner of the principle of strength by virtue of its origin (i.e. according to its origin). Just as many kinds of clothes are made by spinning and weaving the thread of wool, so the Almighty creates all invisible things and endows them with the seed of earthly strength. The various kinds of earthly strength (i.e. existence) are distinguished, just as superior kinds of wool produce superior clothes

Denkard - book 3- Chapter 280

Be it known that the man who is far-sighted (who looks to the other world) believes in the efficacy of prayer to God for the salvation of his soul; because he hopes to be saved from damnation by being in the good graces of the Almighty on account of his perfect veracity, his proper sense of justice, his fidelity to his plighted word, his companionship of the wise, and by his wariness in giving out his opinions and thoughts only at the proper time.

Denkard - book 3- Chapter 291

Be it known that God is intimately connected with the world and is kind to it as to his own born child. As a father does not injure his child and wishes that it should not commit any sins and should be virtuous, so God does good to his creation and does not injure or defile it. God loves his creation and tries to keep it at a distance from His opponent and enemy (Ahriman). For it is not by a child's loving father that it is injured but by the father's enemies. The wise and powerful Lord is not capable of harmful gifts. Neither does he injure any one without cause. Men cannot obtain liberation from the evil and restless Ahriman, and eternal happiness except through God. By his efforts to obtain final and eternal happiness man is saved from the defiled Ahriman, and gets the reward of the assistance of God. God has given to all men sufficient ability to save themselves from sin as well as from Ahriman the source of their sins and woes; owing to which every created being is known to be able to overcome Ahriman of evil origin.

Denkard - book 3- Chapter 294

Be it known that God wishes that men should know Him. For this reason the person who has the ability to give men knowledge about God is called in the good religion a chief and excellent adviser. The need of preaching about the knowledge of God is not for immortal men (i.e. those who have been saved from the tortures of hell); but to those other men who are deified by the evil power of greed, lust, sloth, and other injurious vices, and who possess no knowledge about their Creator, the leaders of the faith should teach the knowledge about Ohrmazd. Divine wisdom gives an idea of the protecting power of the Creator to the man who has been perverted by the devil. And men receive the benefit of this divine wisdom from their preceptor the priest.

Suggestions for Further Reading

Image Attribution: The image of Ohrmazd used for this essay has been adapted with alterations from Wikimedia Commons under GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or later

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