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the-south-asian.com                               April  2001

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Page  2  of  11

Zarathusthra.jpg (31353 bytes)
Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds

 

Parsis - the Zoroastrians of India

by

Sooni Taraporevala

 

The story of the Ancestors

"When Cyrus conquered Babylon he issued a decree outlining his aims and policies, later hailed as the first Charter of Human Rights. Unlike other conquerors who forced the vanquished to adapt to a common culture, Cyrus and Darius were liberal and tolerant rulers. Their subjects were granted autonomy to worship their own Gods, speak their own language and retain their own culture."

 

Our ancestors founded the mighty Persian Empire centuries before the Christian era. Cyrus the Great ruled over an Empire so vast it touched the waters of the Mediterranean, the Aegean, the Black, the Caspian, the Indian, the Persian and the Red Seas; had six of the grandest rivers in the world flowing through it - the Euphrates, the Tigris, the Indus, the Jaxartes, the Oxus and the Nile.

Cyrus had risen from a minor chieftain to being the founder of such a vast empire, it was here that east and west met for the first time; he compelled Greece to acknowledge his power, conquered the mighty kingdom of Babylon, freed and allowed the Jews to build their temples and establish themselves in Jerusalem. In his book, The Upbringing of Cyrus, the Greek writer Xenophon says about him:

" He ruled over these nations, though they did not speak the same tongue as

he, nor one nation the same as another's: yet he was able to stretch the

dread of him so far that all feared to withstand him; and he could rouse

so eager a wish to please him that they all desired to be governed by his

will."

Darius, his successor, set about consolidating and organising what Cyrus had so casually conquered. His empire encompassed Asia Minor, parts of Greece, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, northern Arabia, Mesopotamia, Persia, Afghanistan, Turkestan, Uzbekistan, the Tadzhik and part of the Kirgiz Soviet Republics, western Pakistan, the rich Indus Valley and Thrace. It had the first international bureaucracy, the first international army and there was nothing to beat the pomp, pageantry and wealth of the Persian court.

To maintain contact between the different centres of the Empire, Darius created a network of roads, which survived a long time after the Empire fell. It is still possible to trace the Royal Road, 1677 miles long, divided into more than one hundred post-stations. An efficient courier service and chains of fire signals kept the court in touch with every corner of the empire and foreshadowed by thousands of years, DHL and FedEx.

As Empires go, the Achaemenian Empire (559BC- 330BC) originally a small highland tribal kingdom obscurely situated in the foot-hills of south-west Iran, was unique on two counts. The Achaemenians carved out a colossal empire in the space of one generation. Unlike other conquerors who forced the vanquished to adapt to a common culture, Cyrus and Darius were liberal and tolerant rulers. Their subjects were granted autonomy to worship their own Gods, speak their own language and retain their own culture. When Cyrus conquered Babylon he issued a decree outlining his aims and policies, later hailed as the first Charter of Human Rights. The original cylinder in cuneiform script is housed in the British Museum. A copy can also be seen at the United Nations building in New York.

Though the Achaemenians patronised the temples of their subjects as a mark of respect and diplomacy, their religion was different from the fertility cults that existed in those days. They were believers in the Good Religion as taught by the prophet Zarathustra.

Extracted  from the book
'Zoroastrians of India: Parsis: A Photographic Journey' 
by Sooni Taraporevala.
 
c 2000 Sooni Taraporevala. 
Reproduced with permission of Good Books, Mumbai, India.

 

next page

 

Parsis - The Zoroastrians of India

The story of the Ancestors

Arrival in India and the beginnings of a new life

The Early Entrepreneurs of Bombay

Pioneers of Modern India

Eminent Parsis of India

What is Zoroastrianism?

Who was Zarathustra?

Rituals, Customs & Manners

 

 


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