Zoroastrianism at the British Museum

I recently went to the British Museum’s current exhibition on Zoroastrianism.

Zoroastrianism was a state religion of Persia from around A.D. 200 until the conquests of the Persian lands by the Arabs in around 650 A.D, although its origins are much earlier and may date from as early as 800 – 1000 BCE. At the time of the Arab conquest, many Zoroastrians left there homeland and migrated to India, where they are known today as the Parsis. in Persia, it was replaced as the state religion by Islam.
The religion takes his name from the Prophet Zarathustra who lived sometime between 1700 and 800 BCE in the central Asian steps. His writings are to be found in a holy Scripture known as the Avesta. In Zoroastrianism one must choose between truth and falsehood. A true Zoroastrian is committed to good thoughts good works and good deeds.
Interestingly, the Zoroastrian winged figure, the fravashi or farvahar, has become a symbol of national identity for modern Iranians regardless of their religious affiliation.

The fravashi or farvahar
The fravashi or farvahar

This was an interesting exhibition about a subject I was not familiar with and in that respect it was very informative. However, I think the most amazing part of the exhibition was the sheer richness and beauty of the objects on display.

Glazed wall tile (19th century copy of 5th century BCE audience scene
Glazed wall tile (19th century copy of 5th century BCE audience scene
Roayl seal of darius the Great 522-486 BCE showing the King in his chariot facing a lion
Royal seal of Darius the Great 522-486 BCE showing the King in his chariot facing a lion

Persian and Zoroastrian imagery has often been used in connection with ‘the three wise men’ or ‘the three Kings’ from the Christian Christmas story. In this 13th century enamelled reliquary casket from France, the wise men are shown wearing Persian tunics and trousers. In the image of the presentation the hand of the first King is covered as a sign of piety and respect in the Persian and Zoroastrian tradition.



The exhibition is at the British Museum and runs until April 2004. Further details can be found at http://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/exhibitions/wise_men_from_the_east.aspx

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