Zoroastrianism is believed to be more than 3000 years old, making it one of the most ancient religions.
The religion still has followers today mainly in some areas of Iran and more prominently in India. Having both monotheistic and dualistic features, Zoroastrianism is thought to be one of the influences on western religions like Judaism and Christianity. It is mainly monotheistic and testifies to the belief that there is only one creator, known as Ahura Mazda. However, it is also often called dualistic because of the fact that its followers also believe in Ahura’s twin children Spentu Mainyu (meaning 'beneficient spirit') and Angra Mainyu (meaning ‘hostile spirit'). There is a constant battle between these two beliefs and that is what defines the theology of Zoroastrianism. The main symbol of Zoroastrianism is Fire and that along with water are seen as signs of purity. The worship places for Zoroastrians are called fire temples that each house an altar with a flame that burns continuously.
As far as the history of the belief is concerned, Zoroastrianism was founded by Zarathustra in pre-Islamic Iran and still exists today in the great mountain ranges of Hindu Kush and Seistan. The Prophet Zoroaster is thought to have been born in northeastern Iran in one of the tribes that followed a polytheistic religion similar to Hinduism. At the age of 30, Zoroaster is believed to have had a divine vision after which he began spreading the idea of Monotheism and invited people to worship one God, Ahura Mazda.
In later years, Zoroastrianism gained popularity and helped shape one of ancient world’s greatest empires; the Persian Empire, being the state religion of three Persian dynasties. Cyrus the Great was a devoted Zoroastrian and ruled by the law of Asha (meaning truth righteousness). Being a tolerant ruler, he did not force his people to follow his religion and let the people practice their own religions. Following his rule, Zoroastrianism maintained its popularity for two more dynasties to come.
The Muslim conquest of Iran in the year 633 A.D. forced the fall of the Persian Empire and the subsequent decline of the religion of Zoroastrianism in Iran. The Muslim Invaders taxed the Zoroastrians heavily for their practices and therefore most of the locals converted to Islam. The ones who managed to escape the Muslim forces migrated and took refuge in India. These people are called Parsees and still exist in small numbers in the country. Initially taking refuge in the city of Gujrat, these pilgrims had all their connections with Iran broken off and spent their lives as humble agriculturists and farmers. But in later years, they adopted British culture, language and education and settled themselves in Bombay as a prospering community. In later years, they gained contact with their fellow brethren back home and were able to offer help to them through finances or government intervention.
Exogamy (marrying outsiders) is strictly forbidden in the religion which is the main cause of the small number of followers. Moreover, incest is one of the most common practices in the religion and the religion also does not support conversions. Both of these practices combined has led to the poor position of the religion globally and could be the cause of its imminent decline. In India alone, their numbers are declining by 10% every decade. Today, there are an estimated 190,000 Zoroastrians worldwide. Although it has a small number of followers, Zoroastrianism is a religion that has similar beliefs to that of Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Its teachings include the worship of a single god, the human being’s struggle between what is good and what is evil and the final day of judgement. It professes that humankind is intended to strive for perfection and the things that hinder that are greed, lust and hatred. These forces must be defeated through the development of a “good mind” that focuses on only good words, good thoughts and good deeds.