Stories of Faith

The key stories for Zoroastrians are the myths surrounding the life of the prophet Zoroaster. Zoroastrians highlight his visions, his call by Ahura Mazda, the fact that he could perform miracles due to divine support and his mortality because he was murdered.

An epic work both in literary nature and size, is the Shah Nama, translating as the Book of the Kings. It was written by an Iranian poet under the pseudonym ‘Firdausi’ (the paradisal) in Persian in the 11th century CE, but drew extensively on much earlier Zoroastrian texts. It tells the story of Iran from creation until the Islamic conquest of the country, by transforming ancient Zoroastrian myths into legends, and relating the bravery and prowess of heroes and the evil deeds of tyrants and enemies. These provide stories enjoyed by adults and used for bed time reading by young Zoroastrians. Many Zoroastrian first or personal names are from figures in the Shah Nama, for example Rustam, a legendary hero, who fought many Iranian enemies and has become a role model for many.

Among Parsis, a much loved story is the Qesse ye Sanjan, The Tale of Sanjan. It was written in Persian couplets in 1599 by a Parsi priest and relates the story of the arrival of the Parsis as refugees from Islamic persecution in the Iranian homeland. It tells of how their ship was threatened by a storm at sea and, following prayer, a gentle breeze and guidance of priests with knowledge of astrology, they were brought safely to the port of Sanjan on the west coast of India. This is interpreted as the settlement in India being an answer to prayer, and ‘written in the stars’ as their destiny. The tale continues to tell the story of the consecration of the first Atash Bahram (a ‘cathedral’ or royal fire temple) and the travails of the Parsis as they protected the Atash Bahran when they were attacked by Muslim invaders of India. Woven into the story are historical details behind customs with the whole reflecting positively the Parsi attitude to India, a land where the Parsis have gained religious freedom and security.

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