Zoroaster, Zarathushtra

Zarathushtra or Zoroaster, the Founder of Zoroastrianism

by Jayaram V

The following account of the life of Zoroaster is taken from Denkard (Bk.5).

1. May the Light (i.e. the blessed Rule) of Ohrmazd, who is the Life of all the wisdom contained in the Mazdayasnian Religion, be ever prevalent.

2. This is the fifth volume of the writings of Adar Frobag son of Farroxzad, a practicer of virtue and a guide of the good Religion. And it is known as the writing about the Selamis.

3. The guide of the good Religion, Adar Frobag son of Farroxzad, who was a leader of the faithful, has expressed in this writing his views about the answers to some of the good, mysterious, and pleasing questions put by those who were all known as the tribe of the descendants of Selam.

4. This writing was sent to Adar Frobag by a venerable chief of Iranian descent. His ancestors had, for the purpose of dethroning a ruler perverse, evil doing, and following a gross devil-worshipping and harmful religion, gone under the leadership of and as the alhes of Bakhtenarsiya1 into the midst of that martial tribe. And king Kay Loharasp had sent them with Bakhtenarsiya from Iranshehr to Arumemukaddas, where the faithful who had a conception of the good religion were behevers in, and had a knowledge of the tenets of the religion of Jamshed of the noble race. After many fights, in order to induce, by various arguments and by exposition of religious points, those devoted adherents of the religion of Jamshed to believe in and to adopt the other (i.e. the Mazdayasnian Zartoshti religion), and after expounding the tenets (of the latter faith) and discussing the same by way of questions and answers, they had purified the students of the religion by imbuing them with a yearning for the precepts thereof.

5 [7]. Before the advent of the holy Zartosht (descendant) of the devout Spitaman in what way had the preceding prophets been initiated into this religion? In this way: -- The messages brought by the angels, who revealed this pure good religion from time to time, had induced them to adopt the religion everywhere. An account of the thoughtful followers of religion, who had adopted this religion (is as under). The (first) man to have faith in this religion was Gayomard; and after him Mashye, Siyamak, Hooshang, Takhmorup, Jamshed, Faridoon, Minoshchihr, Saman, and the Kayanian kings. Besides them there were many other leading men, who used to propagate the religion by expounding it to the people, and by the help of the same (i.e. the religion) used to ward off the calamities overhanging the people, and to rule the world in prosperity.

Chapter 2

6. [1] Furthermore, God, in order to give joy to the good creation, had, from the beginning of the world, created, in pure and luminous essence, the holy Zartosht as an associate of the Amahaspands, endowed with all their good qualities, thoughtful, and fully attentive. And his essence was made in the Spiritual World fitted for (the task of) proselytism, and of propagating the religion throughout the world. And at the right time he was sent down to the world as a man, invested with the earthly body. At that time (i.e. when the pure Spirit of Zartosht entered this tenement of clay), a superior kind of light and effulgence began to flash forth from his house, through the medium of a star (in the heavens). And he was born of his father Pourushasp -- a descendant of (the Peshdadian King) Jamshed -- and of his mother Dukdaub. Further, when he (the prophet) was born, there was a light like the blaze of fire-a glare and a twilight --irradiating from his house in all directions, high in the air, and to great distance on the earth, as a token of his greatness and exaltation. And there (in the house of the holy Zartosht) were (gathered together) the sorcerers, the pens, the teachers of the religion of Ahriman, those that turned their eyes and ears away from the Divine Religion, and other evil-doers, desiring to do him mortal injury at his birth and in his infancy, and to cause harm (to his pure soul). So much so that the evil doers collected there wanted by any means to make his soul inefficacious through death, or to disable him otherwise, and to obscure the dawning intellect in him. And for the purpose of contriving the destruction of Zartosht, they sent (to the house of Pourushasp), in the forms of wolves and other beasts of prey, such of Pourushasp's relatives as were addicted to sorcery and devil-worship. In reference to this it is mentioned (in the religious books) that as (the Amahraspand) Vohuman had an abode in the heart of Zartosht, the latter laughed at the time of birth. And when he (the holy one) went into the presence of Ohrmazd to crave for an insight into and to accept the faith, Ahriman, and many devils, and evil spirits came to him to frighten him, to trouble him, and, by fighting with him, to crush his aspirations about the religion. But he defied them all, and they retired routed and overcome by that weapon -- the chanting of the sacred Avesta (of the Ahunwar), embodying the sublime goodness pleasing to Ohrmazd.2

And he won the final victory in the cause of God. And he became worthy of the manifest good recompense, and a wielder of the power pertaining to God's Dominion. And he showed to the people the way to mar the blemish-giver, (Ahriman), and he kept in progress the work pertaining to the final triumph of God. He destroyed the material frames in which the evil spirits before his time used to move about openly. And thus harm was done to their bodies (i.e. their physical manifestations in this world), and the evil spirits being enfeebled lost their power of visibility. And owing to the holy Zartosht they became helpless, vanquished, despairing of misleading (the people), and incapable of assuming a visible shape.3

7. When (the holy Zartosht) after having thoroughly received his mission from Ohrmazd went to the Kayanian King Vishtasp for the purpose of winning over the people of the world to the belief in the religion, for the sake of their own happiness, he wrought many glorious deeds of smiting the evil spirits:4 and he enlightened the mind of Vishtasp by unfolding to him many of the sublime mysteries. And he brought his august person into unison with the good of the people of the created world; while with his own animated body he withstood the antagonism of the various sorcerers, devil-worshippers, devil-seekers, demoniacal impostors, and stubborn fighters.

8. To him came all wise men versed in the prognostication of events from the twelve zodiacal signs, that is those who were called astrologers; (they came) with the evident desire (of attaining to truth), sent by the rulers of Khwaniras [= Xwaniratha] to put to him certain questions. He convinced them by explanatory arguments, by making everything clear to them with logical evidence exoteric and esoteric, and by illustrating the same with similar tenets from the previous religion of (king) Jamshed. Moreover, Vohuman (the Amahraspand) connected with him, Ardwahisht, Adar, and other good Heavenly Yazads, becoming manifest, finally came to the court of King Vishtasp to testify to (the truth of) the religion of Ohrmazd, to instill (into the minds of men) the comprehension of it, to express their views about it, and to expound it.5

9. Further, debaters of the highest class, who entered into discussion with the prophet Zartosht, acknowledged him, from the way in which he confuted their contradictory arguments, to be (a possessor) of transcendent qualities and a giver of wonderfully excellent judgments.6 In the same way the holy Zartosht, by means of his glorious deeds came safely out from all conflicts. In him were manifest all the traits and characteristics of the prophets and of the glorious messengers (the Yazads). And owing to this supreme testimony and evidence, the people acknowledged him to be the prophet of God.

10. Afterwards the Kayanian Vishtasp willingly under took the work of enforcing observance of the Religion (in the world), so that there might be no danger of its being overtaken by degeneration and decay. When Zarir, Aspandyar, Frashostar, Jamasp, and several rulers of the provinces saw the sublimity, the gloriousness, and the mysteries of the religion, they all became thorough embellishers of their good deeds-men after the heart of Ohrmazd and the Amahaspands. And they promulgated religious mandates to be observed by the people of the world. Moreover, from the (aspect of) the twelve Zodiacal signs they learnt that the devs (i.e. the evil beings who opposed the religion) would ultimately be overcome and destroyed; that the faithful would be preserved by God in their conflict with the opposing innumerable devil-worshippers; that men would become pure after much fighting and bloodshed; and that in the world wherever the people should have remained (adherents) of their impure faiths Aushedar, Aushedar-mah, and Soshyant, the re-introducers and the propagators of the religion, would make them followers of the pure faith. By means of this pure Ohrmazd-given Religion Soshyant would make the people free from afflictions, and everlastingly happy.

Suggestions for Further Reading


1. Bakhtenarsiya is the other name of the Iranian Warrior Reham Godrez. On Loharasp's succeeding Kay Khosraw to the throne of Iran, he appointed Reham Godrez as one of the commanders of his army and sent him to fight with the idol-worshipping ruler of Jerusalem. And the said warrior, after defeating the heathen king took the kingdom under his charge, and by the order of king Loharasp ruled over it. Bakhtenarsiya was living till the reign of Behman. The Shah-nameh makes no mention of "Bakhtenasriya," but we find details given in the Tarikhe Tabari, in the portion which treats of the history of Jerusalem and of Bakhtulnasriya from the time of Loharasp to that of Behman. Behman had during his reign brought about the prosperity of Jerusalem.

2. See an account of it in the holy text, Vendidad 19.1-10.

3. Before the time of Zartosht, evil spirits used to come into this world in the form of men, and this power of assuming human form was destroyed by Zartosht by means of the glory of his prophetic mission. The evil spirits were thus disabled from coming into this world in visible shapes. This is borne out by Yasna 9.9.]

4. That is he performed in the presence of King Vishtasp and his courtiers, for the purpose of convincing them of the truth of the Mazdayasnian Zoroastrian Religion, many sublime miracles and stupendous marvels, superhuman, awe-inspiring, and influenced by spiritual agencies.

5. See the Srosh Yasht for the night, 10.23 and 24.

6. Changranghas and Vias, two Hindu savants had come to the court of Vishtasp to discuss religious subjects with the prophet. Ere the pandits announced what questions they had to ask, the holy Zartosht, who had already got the questions and their answers written out beforehand, got the same read out to them by Maidok-mah. Changranghas was so much struck with this that he apologized to the prophet Zartosht, and adopted the Mazdayasnian Zartoshti religion. For authority relating to this see the Persian Changranghas Nameh of Dastur Zartosht Behram, wherein these lines occur: (Persian quote omitted).]

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