Zoroastrianism and Hinduism

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Himanshu Bhatt

Inception of both the Religions

Coins issued by Hindu Kushan Dynasty's kings of ancient Afghanistan. These coins display Mazdaen-worshiped deities, because the Hindu kings were tolerant of social diversity and wanted to promote harmony between them.

Both Zoroastrianism and Hinduism have similar origins and venerate the same spiritual seers, venerate the same gods and even have the same verses throughout the early scriptures. Mazdaen scholars Zubin Mehta and Gulshan Majeed[1] had noted a similarity of Kashmiri customs with Zoroastrian ones. In the modern era, some Mazdaen clerics had visited Kashmir, who include Azar Kaiwan[2] and his dozen disciples[3] and Mobad Zulfiqar Ardastani or Sasani[4] who compiled the Dabistan-e Mazahib.

Zarathustra was definitely a Kashmiri Brahman as he was an Atharvan[5], who called himself a zaotar[6], manthran[7] and datta.[8] He was referred to as an erishi[9] and ratu[10].[11] He also wore the sacred thread, compiled Gāthās containing Vedic verses, worshiped Varuṇa and venerated other holy Vedic asuras. He lived as an ascetic in a cave[12] for some time and also had other traits similar to that of an Indian Brahman, not to mention other customs similar to those of Kashmiri Hindus. The geographical description of his birthplace in the Mazdaen scriptures match Kashmir's Diti River, Urni Jabbar Mountain, and Haramukh Mountain.


Zoroastrianism originated in India

Zarathustra's name

"Zarathustra became a generic name for 'great prophet' so several Zarathustras arose in the period 6000 to 600 BC the Avesta Y.XIX.18 named a hierarchy of five leaders, the supreme being called Zarathustrotema." - Duncan K. Malloch[13]

Just as the pseudonyms Gautama Buddha, Vardhman Mahavira, and Guru Nanak are reflective of the sages' names and titles, so too is the case of Zarathustra Spitima.

Zoroastrianism and Hinduism
There are the master of the house, the lord of the borough, the lord of the town, the lord of the province, and the Zarathustra (the high-priest) as the fifth.
Zoroastrianism and Hinduism

—Avesta Yasna 19.18.50 [14]

There was "the Armenian Zoroaster, grandson of Zostrianus" ("Zostriani nepos"), who was the Pamphylian friend of Cyrus the Great. There was also a "Zoroaster" of Babylon whom Pythagoras had written of meeting.

Zarathustra's surname Spitima comes from his ancestor Spiti. This name traces its roots to the Spiti Valley of Himachal Pradesh, just south to Kashmir. This is also supported by the fact that Zarathustra had taken solitude at age 15 to Mt. Ushidaran which the Greater Bundahishn identifies as Mt. Kaf.[15] Today is a village in the Spiti Valley of Himachal Pradesh named Kaf.

Spitama itself has the Vedic Sanskrit attribute of containing 'tama', like the gotra patronyms of Gautama and Girghtama(s), as well as the titles of hiranya-vasi-mat-tama, rathi-tama, ratna-dha-tama, and sasvat-tama.

Athravans were Atharvans from India

Zarathustra was either from Magi (Athravan) or of the Maga (Atharvan) priestly caste. The Avesta declares that Zarathustra was an Athravan.

Zoroastrianism and Hinduism

Hail to us! for he is born, the Athravan Spitama Zarathustra. Zarathustra will offer us sacrifices with libations and bundles of baresma with libations and bundles of baresma and there will be the good Law of the worshipers of Mazda come and spread through all the seven Karshvares of the earth.

Zoroastrianism and Hinduism

—Avesta 24.94[16]

The Atharvans are as ancient as the Rig Veda. It mentions that Brahma taught the knowledge of Brahman to his eldest son Atharvan.[17] Further, the Atharvans are associated with fire symbolizing it to be as sacred to them as it was to the later Athravans. Bharadvaja says to Agni that Atharvan has churned Agni out from the lotus, from the head of everything.[18] Vitahavya also says that the Atharvans have brought Agni from the "dark-ones" (i.e., nights.)[19]

Further, Zarathustra in his Gathas alludes to "old revelations"[20], and praises the Saoshyants[21] (fire-priests), and even exhorts his party of attendees to praise the Angras[22]. Hindu scriptures know the Angiras as the composers of the Atharva Veda, or as the "Atharvangirasa" and the Veda is also known as the Angirasa Veda. (Angras are in no way connected to Angra Mainyu, the opposer of Ahura Mazda.) Angira is a son of Varuna, as are Bhargava and Vaśiśṭha.

Zarathustra was of Vaśiśṭha Gotra

The Denkard scripture specifically mentions that Zarathustra was a descendant of the law-giving immortals (Amesha Spentas, to which the Vahiśtas belong), as well as of "King Jam"[23] Mazdaen scriptures mention Vahiśta (Sanskrit: Vaśiśṭha) within the Avesta, wherein he is an Amesha Spenta[24] mentioned as Asha Vahiśta. In Mazdayasna, Asha Vahiśta is a divine lawgiver[25] and guardian of the Asha.[26] Vaśiśṭha is a law-giver sage in many instances within the scriptures and is even quoted by other rishis, such as Bhṛgu and Manu, when they prescribe societal laws.[27] Asha Vahiśta is also closely associated with the sacred fire in several Avestan passages[28][29], just as Vaśiśṭha is.

The Atharvans are descended from Vaśiśṭha Rishi.[30] Vaśiśṭha's dedication to Atharvan is demonstrated in the Rig Veda wherein after being filled with anger, he calms himself by reading the Atharva Mantra.[31] Vedic scholar Mallinatha writes in his commentary of the Kiratarjunya that the Śāstras declare that the mantras of Atharva Rishi are preserved by Vaśiśṭha.[32] Just as there are several Vaśiśṭhas[33] within the community, the Avesta acknowledges that there are several Vahiśtas,[34] and refers to them as the "Lords of Asha." Even in the Vahistoistri Gāthā,[35] Francois De Blois notices that it consists of verses with a variable number of unstressed syllables.[36]

Avestan as a dialect of Sanskrit

It is known that both Vedic Sanskrit and the Zend Avestan languages were very close. In fact, some scholars have even stated that "the Parsi was derived from the language of the Brahmans"[37] like various Indian dialects. This view point was supported by "Zend language was at least a dialect of the Sanskrit."[38] Max Muller, William Jones[39] and Nathaniel Brassey Halhed[40] put forward this viewpoint.

Erskine Perry also was in the view that Avestan was a dialect of Sanskrit and was imported to ancient Persia from India but was never spoken there and his reasoning for this is that of the seven languages of ancient Persia mentioned in the Farhang-i-Jehangiri, none of them is referring Avestan language. Another scholar perpetuating the viewpoint of Avestan being a Sanskritic dialect was John Leyden.[41]

List of some Sanskrit and Avestan words
Zarathustra portrayed on a pillar of the Shakta-Vaishnava Birla Mandir, Jaipur. Hinduism's pluralistic tradition recognizes the pious sage as a saint in the list of the world's spiritual gurus.
Word Sanskrit Avestan
gold hiranya zaranya
army séna haena
spear rsti arsti
sovereignty ksatra khshathra
lord ásura ahura
sacrifice yajñá yasna
sacrificing priest hótar zaotar
worship stotra zaothra
sacrificing drink sóma haoma
member of

religious community

aryamán airyaman
god devá daeva
demon rákshas rakhshas[42]
cosmic order rta arstat/arta
List of some Sanskrit and Avestan names for gods
Sanskrit Avestan Status within Mazdayasna Function
Apām Napāt Apam Napat Yazata Son of water, a god
Aramati Armaiti Amesha Spenta Archangel of immortality
Baga Bagha Yazata A sun god
Ila Iza Yazata Goddess of sacrifice
Manu Manu Ancestor Son of Vivanhvant
Marut Marut Yazata Cloud god
Mitra Mithra Yazata A sun god
Nābhānedista Nabanazdishta Ancestor Name of Manu
Narasansa Nairyosangha Yazata A fire god
Surya Hvara Yazata A sun god
Trita Thrita Yazata God of healing
Twastra Thworesta Yazata Artificer of the gods
Usha Ushah Yazata The Goddess Dawn
Varuna Varuna Ahura Mazda (one of his 101 names[43]) The Wise Lord, creator of all
Vayu Vayu Yazata A wind god
Vivasvant Vivanhvant Yazata A sun god
Vritrahan Verethragna Yazata Slayer of Verethra
Vasishta Asha Vahiśta Amesha Spenta Archangel and lawgiver to humanity
Yama Yima King A pious king of Airyana Vaejo

Apart from the gods that are common to both Zoroastrianism and Hinduism, names of some other Hindu gods are carried by even modern day Persian speakers. For example, the names 'Śiva' (Charming) and variations of 'Rāma' (Black)[44] are used by Iranic speakers, such as Persians and Pushtu. Rāma is also added in names such as 'Shahram' (King Rām) and 'Vahram'/Bahram' (Virtuous Rām), which was the other name of Verethragna mentioned in the Bahram Yasht of the Avesta. The Sassanian kings took the Vahram title, such "Vahram I" (ab. AD 273-276.)[45] Place names as well include 'Ram'/'Rama' in their syntax, such as Ramsar in Iran.

Many Avestan verses are from Vedas

The Rig Veda is believed to have been the oldest scripture in the world. In it are verses that are identical to ones within the Zend Avesta, except the dialect of the Avesta is in Avestan. Ahura Mazda, whom the Mazdaens worship as the Supreme Lord is the Avestan equivalent to Vedic Sanskrit's Asura Medhira or Asura Mada. These terms mean "Wise Lord" and in the Rig Veda this phrase appears in a few places, in one verse being "kṣayannasmabhyamasura".

Zoroastrianism and Hinduism
"With bending down, oblations, sacrifices, O Varuna, we deprecate thine anger:

Wise Asura, thou King of wide dominion, loosen the bonds of sins by us committed."[46]

Zoroastrianism and Hinduism

—Rig Veda 24.14

There are several passages in the Vedas (especially the Atharva Veda) and Avesta that are identical, with the only difference that they are in the different dialects of Avestan and Vedic Sanskrit.

There are two sets of Mazdaen scriptures; the Zend Avesta[47] and the Khorda-Avesta.[48] The Zend contains 3 further sets of writings, known as the Gāthās[49] compiled by Zarathustra, and the Vendidad, and Vispered. The Khorda contains short prayers known as Yashts. They are written in a metre much like the Vedas. Normally they contain 15 syllables known in Sanskrit as Gayatri asuri) like hymns of the Rig Veda, or Ushnih asuri such as in the Gāthā Vohu Khshathrem[50] or of 11 syllables in the Pankti asuri form, such as in the Ustavaiti Gatha.

Some scholars also note that there is a connection between Bhargava Rishi and Zoroastrianism, as the Atharva Veda portion composed by him is known as Bhargava Upastha and the latter word is the Sanskrit version of the term 'Avesta'.[51]

"The Avesta is nearer the Veda than the Veda to its own epic Sanskrit." - Dr. L. H. Mills

Some identical verses from Vedas and the Avesta
Scripture Sanskrit Avestan English
Rig Veda (10:87:21) /
Avesta (Gāthā 17:4 Yashna 53:4)
mahaantaa mitraa varunaa samraajaa devaav asuraaha sakhe

sakhaayaam ajaro jarimne agne martyaan amartyas tvam nah

mahaantaa mitraa varunaa devaav ahuraaha sakhe ya fedroi vidaat

patyaye caa vaastrevyo at caa khatratave ashaauno ashavavyo

O Ahura Mazda, you appear as the father, the ruler, the friend, the worker and as knowledge.

It is your immense mercy that has given a mortal the fortune to stay at your feet.

Atharva Veda 7:66 /
Zend Avesta Prishni, Chapteer 8, Gatha 12
yadi antareekshe yadi vaate aasa yadi vriksheshu yadi bolapashu

yad ashravan pashava ud-yamaanam tad braahmanam punar asmaan upaitu

yadi antareekshe yadi vaate aasa yadi vriksheshu yadi bolapashu

yad ashravan pashava ud-yamaanam tad braahmanam punar asmaan upaitu

O Lord! Whether you be in the sky or in the wind, in the forest or in the waves.

No matter where you are, come to us once. All living beings restlessly await the sound of your footsteps.

Rig Veda /
Gatha 17:4, Yashna 29
majadaah sakritva smarishthah madaatta sakhaare marharinto Only that supreme being is worthy of worship.
Atharva Veda / Avesta vishva duraksho jinavati vispa drakshu janaiti
Atharva Veda / Avesta vishva duraksho nashyati vispa drakshu naashaiti
Atharva Veda / Avesta yadaa shrinoti etaam vaacaam yathaa hanoti aisham vaacam

Zarathustra was born in Kashmir

Zarathustra is always shown wearing a dhoti, (Indian-fashioned garment), unlike the Balkhans to whom he preaches.

The birthplace of Zarathustra has been a subject of dispute ever since the Greek, Latin and later the Muslim writers came to know of him and his teachings. Cephalion, Eusebius, and Justin believed it was either in Balkh (Greek: Bactria) or the eastern Iranian Plateau, while Pliny and Origen thought Media or the western Iranian Plateau, and Muslim authors like Shahrastani and al-Tabari believed it was western Iran. [52] While Zarathustra's place of birth has been postulated in various places even in modern times, including within areas not historically included by authors, such as in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, a few scholars have believed that he was born in Kashmir. Shrikant G. Talageri[53] was a proponent of this Kashmiri Airyana Vaejo viewpoint. Mazdaen scriptures[54] mention repeatedly that Zarathustra was born in Airyana Vaejo, also known as Airyanam Dakhyunam. However, Zarathustra moved from there to Balkh, where he was given sanctuary by its king and he had become a royal sage and the Mazdaen scriptures also say that many others people of Airyana Vaejo had moved out with the dramatic climate change whereby snow and cold weather became much more frequent. Zarathustra was regarded as a pious Godman for the Balkhan administrators of his time and India was recognized as a center of spiritual and scientific wisdom. King Vishtaspa (Greek: Hystaspes) was the father of King Darius I of the Balkh Kingdom and he had studied astronomy amongst the Brahmans of India.[55]

There are similarities noticed by scholars such as Subhash Kak and Zubin Mehta which are described by them between Mazdaen practices of Kashmiri Hindus. These include the sacred thread for women (called aetapan in Kashmiri) and the sacred shirt (sadr.) The festival of Nuvruz[56] in commemoration of King Yima is known as Navreh in Kashmir which is celebrated by Kashmiri Hindus. Furthermore, the folklore of Kashmir too has many tales where devas[57] are antagonists to both devas and asuras. As the name Zarathustra has many variations, such as 'Zartust' and 'Zardost', the Sanskrit equivalent of his name is 'Jaradustra Svitma'. The 'p' in 'Spitama' corresponds to a 'v' in Sanskrit just as Avestan 'Pourusarpa' is 'Purusarva' is Sanskrit. Whereas the consonant 's' of many Sanskrit words becomes 'h' in Avestan, 'Svitama' maintains its letter because it is followed by a 'v', just as how the 's' in Sanskrit 'asva' (horse) becomes 'aspa' (i.e., 'Dhruwaspa' means She who possesses strong horses.) As 'Spitama' means white, the Sanskrit word for the color-based name is 'Svitama'. Svita is a metaphorical characteristic associated with purity and normally associated with Brahmans in the Vedas. For example, the Rig Veda[58] describes the Vaṣiṣṭha ṛṣis as 'svityam' (white), 'svityanco' (dressed in white)[59] and white-robed. Zarathustra dresses in white as well Mazdaen priests also dress up in white. The connection between Vaṣiṣṭha ṛṣi with Atharvan Rishi is a very close one.

Identification of Avestan sacred places in Kashmir

See also: King Yama's kingdom was in Kashmir

Scriptures mention the original homeland of the religion and of Zarathustra, but due to place name changes, the exact location has been hard to pinpoint. Daityas are also mentioned as Danavas) in ancient Mazdaen texts as good beings. It is believed that the homeland of the Aryans is located by the Daitya River as said in this Avesta quote, "Airyanem Vaijo vanghuydo daityayo", which Darmesteter translates as "the Airyana Vaejo, by the good (vanghuhi) river Daitya."[60] In later scriptures, the river is known as 'Veh Daiti'. Though this river has not been identified yet there are theories of its whereabouts. Kashmir has a river named Diti which is said to have been an incarnation of Diti[61] herself.[62] This river is also popularly called as Chandravati or Arapath or Harshapatha.[63]

Zarathustra was said to have been born in the village of Raji[64] on the banks of the Darega[65] River near the Jabr Mountain[66]. In Kashmir, there is a village of similar name, Renji in Sopore district[67]. There are other villages and towns bearing 'Rai' in their names. These are Raipura, Raika Gura, Raika Labanah, Raika Mahuva, Rainawari, and Rai'than. Kashmir bears the villages Raj Pora Thandakasi[68]

"If India were the original home of Indo-Europeans, it must also be the birth place of Zarathushtra. If the Zoroastrians had migrated out of India, they would have carried memories of the geography they left behind. Avestan literature is not familiar with the Indus. In fact, it believes Indus and Oxus to be the same. In contrast, Avesta itself refers to the features in Afghanistan." - Rajesh Kochhar[69]

Rajesh Kochhar's statement that Zarathustra would have had to have been born in India for it to have been the Indo-European homeland holds true, because the Avesta indeed mentions place names of features in northern India, mainly from Kashmir. The reason why most places in the Avesta are of Afghanistan is because Zarathustra, who was not from the Balkh Kingdom and had migrated there as most scholars agree, had only composed the Gāthās of the Avesta, whereas the rest of it was composed by his converts in Balkh. It is believed that the time gap between the Gāthās and the rest of the Avesta are centuries.[70] Scholars believe that this can be seen from "the poor grammatical condition of the language" of the Vendidad portion of the Avesta.[71] Kochhar also says Mazdaens who migrated would have to carry the memories of India with them, because the first Mazdaens were Zarathustra's family including his cousin Maidhyomaongha, also known as Maidhyoimah or Medhyomah, brother-in-laws Frashaoshtra and Jamaspa,[72] wife Hvovi, his daughters named Freni, Thriti and Pourushista, and his three sons which migrated with him, Zarathustra was the only compiler of the Avesta out of them. Apart from Zarathustra and his family, the first community of adherents was founded by King Vishtaspa[73] Interestingly enough, the king converts[74] after recognizing Zarathustra's holyness, when the prophet healed his paralyzed horse[75] just like the Sant Kabir and Sant Namdev [76] brought back a cow to life to earn the faith of kings. So because Kochhar asserts that India must be the Indo-European homeland by meeting his criteria, then India is Airyana Vaejo.

In the Avesta, Us-Hindava Mountain[77] is also spoken of as Usindam and Usinda Mountain and it receives water from a "golden channel" from Hukariya (Of good deeds[78].) Hukariya is the name for a series of mountains as well as villages[79] that have "Hara" as their names. Today Hara Parvat is revered by Hindus as a sacred mountain. Also within Kashmir is Haramukh Mountain[80] and nearby in Gilgitstan is the Haramosh Mountain. The most sacred mountain of the Avesta is the Hara-Berezaiti which is likely the Hara Parvat, because it is revered as a sacred mountain today. Further, the Harakvaiti River that the Avesta writes about, is the Saraswati River of the Rig Veda is said to flow from Hara into the Vourukasha Sea[81] (Indian Ocean.) Sarasvati flowed from Hardikun glacier (West Harhwal Bandarpanch Masif) and took its coarse into the Indian Ocean. To further, that Avestan Harakvaiti was in Kashmir is that it mentions god Sraoesa (Avestan name of Bṛhaspati) living in the Hukariya mountains. There is a praśasti dedicated to Sarasvati inscribed in Madhya Pradesh, which states that Sarasvati lived in heaven together with Bṛhaspati.[82] Also, the Avesta speaks of the Arvand River, which flows around the Hara and the Amaravati River that flows around the Hara Parvat.

India in general is overlooked by modern scholars who study the Mazdaen scriptures. Of importance is Mithra, who is associated with the Indian Sub-continent. His dominion is geographically described in the Mihir-Yasht as extending from eastern India and the Hapta Hindava to western India and from the Steppes of the north to the Indian Ocean. The Avesta mentions Four Waters, which are four rivers of paradise. Kashmiri poets have written of "four rivers of paradise" in their works. The Four Waters of paradise according to the Avesta are:[83]

  1. The Azi
  2. The Agenayo
  3. The Dregudaya
  4. The Mataras

The water of these has a trait that they contain honey or honey-sweet water: "Two crossing canals that joined in a pond and which symbolized the four rivers of Paradise where milk, honey, wine and water flow."[84] This same bed of four rivers is the one referred to in the Rig Veda. The Veda mentions waters filled with honey-sweet water as the greatest work of nature: "The noblest, the most wonderful work of this magnificent one (Indra) is that of having filled the bed of the four rivers with water as sweet as honey."[85] The river of Kashmir which has four streams is the Vitasta and its four branches are Arapath (the Diti River), Vishau, Rimiyara and Lidar.[86] As Airyana Vaejo is said to have been the birthplace of the first set of humans, the Kashmiris too state the human origin story about Kashmir.

"Aryana Vaeja has been placed in Media by inhabitants of Persia and Media. But this is only a transfer...which has nothing primitive and has only originated in consequence of the real site being forgotten."[87]

Zoroastrianism's scholars have written about the origins of the Mazdaens from India. Max Muller had said that, "The Zoroastrians were a colony from northern India."[88] M. Michel Break wrote, "The Zoroastrians were a colony from Northern India."[89]

Also identified in the Mazdaen scriptures are people such as Yima (Yama) and Manushchihr,[90] who have traditionally been strongly associated with Kashmir. Manushchihr in the Avestan Yasht[91] is mentioned as "the holy Manushchihr, the son of Airyu."

Zarathustra learning from and preaching to other Vedic scholars

Ancient Greek scholars, such as Clement of Alexandria and Ammianus Marcellinus[92], had written that Zoroaster had studied with the Brahmans of India. Ammianus had written that the Magi derived some of their most secret doctrines from the "Indian Brachmans" (i.e., Brahmans.)[93] Arabian writers have given a lot of information concerning the learning which Zoroaster acquired from the Indian Brahmans.[94] Ammianus also states in his 23rd Book of History that King Gushtasp (Vishtasta) went deep into the secluded areas of northern India and having reached a forest for retreat of the most exalted Brahmans, he learned spiritual knowledge from the Brahmans there and then returned back to his domain to preach this newly acquired wisdom to the Magi.[95] Par Thomas Maurice believed and wrote that Zarathustra had studied with Brahmans in India.[96] Kashmiri Brahmans are known synonymously as Kashmiri Pandits or simply as 'Pandits' (Scholars) and Anquetil du Perron believes that the Mazdaen scripture the Dhup Nihang mentions Mazdaen Pandits. The 8th century CE scripture refers to three Dustoors called 'Pandits' whose names were Bio Pandit, Djsul Pandit and Schobul Pandit.[97] Their names appear in the prayers of that scripture.[98] Interestingly enough, the word 'Dustoor' is used in Kashmiri to mean custom.[99]

According to the Canda's Persian text, the Changragach Nameh, an Indian Brahman was called to King Gushtasp's palace to discuss with Zarathustra the Mazdaen religion. The Brahman after his discussion had became a preacher of the religion and went back to India where he established followers and temples.[100] Changragacha's name bares similarity to a place name, 'Chandrabhāga'. According to the Bhaviṣya Purāṇa, the Magi had first settled on the Chandrabhāga.[101] This account also coincides with Timur's finding "fire-worshipers" in Punjab. Further, Aristoboulos, when visiting Taxila,[102] had stated that the dead were "thrown out to be devoured by vultures."[103] This practice is still observed in parts of western Tibet.[104] Further, within Taxila had existed a great Jandial fire temple mentioned by Philostratus.[105] In the 1079 CE century, Sultan Ibrahim the Ghaznavid had attacked a community of Mazdaens at Dehra (probably Dehra Dun.) Then from Timur's invasion of India, among his captives of both Mazdaens and Hindus from Tughlikpur, some were Mazdaens who offered fierce resistance. In 1504 CE, Bedauni mentioned that Sultan Sikander destroyed fire-altars.[106]

Relationship between the Magi and Indian Hindu Priests

The Magi being Athravans were accepted as Brahmans and they settled in Punjab first when they were brought by Samba (son of Kṛṣṇa) and they spread from there to other parts of the Indian Subcontinent including Karnataka and Nepal which are also known as the Magacharya or Maga Brahman today.

Where nations speak Avestan-like languages today

As Zarathustra had spoken Avestan, the language likely would have been spoken in a place where it was popular. Today, Kashmiri (Koshuri) is closest language to Sanskrit and hence to Avestan that is spoken by a linguistic group very similar to Rig Vedic Sanskrit. In addition, languages very close to Sanskrit which are also spoken in regions adjacent to Kashmir, showing only that the Sanskritic-Avestan homeland would at least include Kashmir. The neighboring nations which speak Sanskrit-like languages are the Kalashi, Shina, Gawar Bati, Dameli, Pashayi, Kohistani, Palula and Nuristani. Just as in Avestan, 'zarat' means golden and 'ustra' refers not only to camel[107] but also to wild animals such as cows and sheep in general.[108] 'Ustra' is used a few times in the Atharva Veda), displaying the point that camels were very familiar and common amongst where the Veda's compilers and where Zarathustra lived.

Why Zarathustra left for Balkh
Map from Aelianus' De natura animalium.

"That this Magian language was Zend is surely no forced hypothesis, since from those Brahmins seated in Bactria, we long after find Zoroaster bringing the same religious system and employing their Zend terms for it: a fact which no one can deny." - John George Cochrane[109]

Map of the ancient Silk Route, which connected major cities and peoples of the ancient world.

In ancient time, Indian Brahmans had a great amount of influence over the kingdoms adjacent to India or ones that extended from India to other places like Gandhara, Kakeya and Kamboja. Balkh was known to have a Brahmans within the court of its king as well. Historically in India, Brahmans and other spiritual teachers have sought royal patronage to institutionally aid their religions such as in preaching beliefs to society and building temples. Zarathustra had become the chief spiritual advisor of the Balkhan court and his family members who were the first Mazdaens and also had similar positions within the court. Ancient Greek historian Aelianus in De natura animalium,[110] also mention that there were "Indian Arianians" and there is some suggestion that control of Ariana fluctuated between Indian and Arian Arianians. This infers that Indians in Ariana had political influences.

It was normal for a monarch of ancient Balkh and other regions of Afghanistan to have Brahman teachers or ministers. For example, Nagasena had become the preceptor of the Balkhan King Menander, while Aśvaghosha of Balkhan King Kaniṣka[111] who after his conversation held the Fourth Buddhist Council in Kashmir. Buddhayasas was a Kashmiri and had become the preceptor of Dharmagupta the king of Kashgar in 4th century CE. Even the Hindu Shahi Dynasty was established in the 9th century CE by the Turki Shahi Dynasty's Brahman minister Kallar. Kashmir was influential to both Indian and adjacent regions.[112] In ancient history, Kashmir has been part of various kingdoms that had included regions of Afghanistan. Even in the Buddha's time, Gandhara was a Mahajanapada[113] and in many periods of history, Kashmir was a part of the Gandharan Kingdom.

The presence of Indian Brahmans in various places, including neighboring ones, such as Gandhara and Balkh, was recorded in ancient times; Edict 13 of the 14 'Rock Edicts of King Asoka' reads, "There is no country, except among the Greeks, where these two groups, Brahmans and ascetics are not found and there is no country where people are not devoted to one or another religion..." Along the ancient Silk Route the Kashmiri gateway is at Kunjerab Pass and the Balkhan gateways on the pathway are Balkh and Shahrisabz.

Ranha is Rasa
See also: Areas of Asura control

The Avesta mentions Ranha (Sanskrit: 'Rasa', another name for Rasatala), which is the "sixteenth of the best lands created by Ahura Mazda." This land is based around the sources of the Ranha River which is the Rig Vedic Rasa River. This river is identified with the modern-day Brahmaputra River because the scriptural traits of the Rasa mentioned align with those of the Brahmaputra. Rasatala, being populated by many Daityas (i.e., Ahuras) would be of significance to Mazdaens and it always appears on the lists of 7 main abodes of the Asuras. Here a major battle between Asura and Deva took place, the battle of Hiranyakṣa and Varāhā.

Four Ages of Humanity

There are 4 ages according to Zoroastrianism[114], much like Hinduism's 4 yugas, with the first being the most righteous of times in both religions and then as the ages succeed, they become worse than the preceding age. Finally in the last age, a godly figure arises and vanquishes the most evil people of the world. In Zoroastrianism, the messianic figure is Shaosyant,[115] while in Hinduism it is Kālki.

Practice of similar customs

Sathya Sai Baba with a Mazdaen priest during a child's Navjot ceremony (left), and a Mazdaen priest with a child performing the Navjot ceremony (right.)

There are customs that are typically unique to the Mazdaens, but were practiced in India. Some of the customs within the Mazdaen community are similar to those of the Hindu Brahmans. For example, the Navjot and vegetarianism.

Spiritual Initiation

Navjot which means New birth is the initiation of a Mazdaen and they are given a sacred thread to wear similar to that of the Yajnopavita ceremony for many Hindus.

A medieval painting of Gayomard and living beings, displaying that humans and animals lived in harmony according.

A large section of Parsis[116] are vegetarian and during weddings/navjyots, there is always a "Parsi vegetarian" menu. There are four days in a month where all Mazdaens, even the non-vegetarians are expected not to eat meat in a practice called parhezi which means abstinence. They are Bahman, Mohar, Ghosh, and Ram roj. Meat is also not eaten for three days after a relative passes away.

Zoroastrianism and Hinduism
Be plant-eaters ('urwar khwarishn', i.e., vegetarian), O you people, so that you may live long. And stay away from the body of useful animals. As well, deeply reckon that Ohrmazd the Lord, has for the sake of benefiting useful animals created many plants.
Zoroastrianism and Hinduism

—High Priest Atrupat-e Emetan (Adarbad, son of Emedan) who officiated after the Arab invasion states in the 11th century CE, Book 6, Denkard

Third century CE Greek biographer, noted in the prologue to his Biography[117] that the Magi priests of Persia "dress in white, make their bed on the ground and have vegetables, cheese and coarse bread..."

Usage of plants in worship

Both Mazdaens and Hindus use plants in their worship. During group and individual praying, Mazdaens hold a plant. Also, in the Haoma ceremony of Mazdaens, they use the ephedra in the ritual.[118]

Venerating the same gods

In Mazdayasna, Ahura Mazda is the Supreme Lord and the other supreme beings are yazatas.[119] As there are several with a similar name in both Mazdayasna and Hinduism, there are also others whose names are different but are the same persons, such as Sraoesa, who is Bṛhaspati of Hinduism.

An Ahura of Mazdayasna is known as an Asura in Hinduism. It is then no surprise that we also find Śukra Acharya, the Guru of the Asuras, being venerated as one of the most holy beings. In the Avesta he is known as Us and later in the Bahram Yashta as Kavi Uṣa.[120]

Zoroastrianism and Hinduism
This one is known to me here, who alone heard our precepts: Zarathustra, the Holy, he asks from Us, Mazda, and Asha, assistance for announcing, I will make him skilful of speech.
Zoroastrianism and Hinduism

—Yasna 29, Avesta

Kavi Uṣa is also called Kava Uṣan and Ashvarechao which means full of radiance just like how his Hindu name Shukra means radiant and how scriptures like the Yoga Vasista[121] describes him as "radiant young Shukra", or Ramayana[122] describes "Shukra, radiant as the sun, departed."

Sacredness of the sun

The sun is like fire, a holy symbol of Ahura Mazda. The Avesta declares:

Zoroastrianism and Hinduism
This Mithra, the lord of the wide pastures, I have created as worthy of sacrifice, as I, Ahura Mazda, am myself.
Zoroastrianism and Hinduism



Mitra is a god often paired with Varuṇa in Vedic hymns. There are many Hindus today who worship God Almighty in the form of the sun and they are known as Sauras. The Māga Brahmaṇas are very closely associated with the sun-worship in Hinduism.

Just as the Rig Veda declares that the sun is the "Eye of Varuṇa"[124], the Avesta[125] it also declares that Mitra is the eye of Ahura Mazda.[126]

Praying ceremony for departed ancestors

Both Mazdaens and Hindus offer prayers for their ancestors, and the procession meant solely for their well-being is known as the 'Dhup Nirang' (Gujarati for ritual of offering of frankincense) or 'Nirang-e Rawan-e Guzashtagan' (Persian for Ceremony for the souls of departed ones) amongst Mazdaens[127] and as 'Śrāddha' amongst Hindus.

Festivals of Mazdaens corresponding to those of Kashmiri Hindus

Just as Mazdaens celebrate Ahura Mazda (Varuṇa) and King Jamshed, so too do Kashmiri Hindus. The Mazdaen calender new year, celebration Nuvruz, is the same festival as that of the Kashmiri Hindus, Navreh.[128]

During the festivity of Tararatrih, on the 14th of the dark half of Magha, King Yama is worshiped.[129] On Varuṇa Panchami, Varuṇa is worshiped.[130] Varuna is worshiped again on the 5th day of the festivity of Yatrotsava, whereby Hindus are encouraged to visit his 'abodes' or temples.[131]

Celebrating god Mitra has historically also been a part of Kashmiri culture. Till the 11th century CE, the Kashmiri Pandits celebrated Mitra (Mithra) Punim, on the fourteenth or full moon night of the bright fortnight (Śukla Pakṣa) of the Hindu autumn month of Ashvin or Ashwayuja. Similarly, the Mazdaens celebrate Yalda as the birth of Mithra.[132]

Usage of fire in ceremonies
Ateshgah of Baku fire temple in Baku, Azerbaijan which was utilized by Hindu priests from India.

Fire is used in processions of both Mazdaens and Hindus. Their temples use fire altars for performing the rituals. Fire altars have been discovered in the Indus Valley city of Kalibangan in northern Rajasthan state, showing that even the ancient society then revered fire as sacred.


In addition to the ceremonies of Navjot and praying for ancestors, there are other similar ones for the Mazdaens and Hindus.

Mazdaen Hindu Entails
Afrigan Apri The ceremony is meant to invite persons; during Afrigan a deceased person or an angel, and during the Apri a god.
Darun Darsha Purnama During the Darun, sacred bread is offered, whereas on the Darsha Purnama the sacrificial cakes are offered.
Gahanbar Chaturmasya Ishti Gahanbar involves offering sacrifices 6 times a year, whereas the Chaturmasya entails sacrifices given 4 times.
Yajishn (Ijashne) Jyotishthoma The both, the twigs of sacrificial plant ('Homa'/'Soma') itself are brought to the sacred spot where the procession occurs and the juice is extracted during the recital of prayers. The Yajishn (Ijashne) implements a plant that grows in Iran whereas the Jyotishthoma implements the Putika.
Mouth covering of priests

Mazdaen priests wear the padam over their mouth just as many Jain monks wear the mohapatti. The purpose of the Mazdaen clad is to prevent pollution through the products of the mouth when handling the sacred fire.

Sky burials

In one period of history, even feeding corpses to vultures as opposed to either cremating them or burying them was the norm in parts of the Punjab region. Aristoboulos, when visited Taxila,[133] had stated that the dead were "thrown out to be devoured by vultures."[134] This practice is still observed in parts of western Tibet which is modern-day Avestan Raṇa or Vedic Rasatala.

Raghunath Rai discusses that leaving corpses for birds and beasts was historically one way that Indians since ancient times had disposed of the dead.[135] He also leads to the conclusion that this was practiced by Indus Valley Civilization residents of Mohenjo Daro because skeltons have been found in public places and within a room.

Zarathustra as a cave mendicent

Ancient Greek writers Eubulus, Porphry and Dio Chrysostom had written of Zarathustra's time living in a mountainous cave wherein he is said to have lived for ten years. The way in which he lived is of a similar description to that of Brahmans of that time. This was "Mount Kaf [which is the] mountain Usihdatar,..."[136]

The Vessantara Jātaka gives this description of Brahman ascetics: "looking like a Brahman with his matted hair and garment of animal skin with his hook and sacrificial ladle, sleeping on the ground and reverencing the sacred fire".


Symbolic representation by figures

Apart from the persons, such as gods and sages, what they represent in Zoroastrianism is similar in Hinduism. Just as in Hindu scriptures there are 33 gods that uphold the universe, so too are there 33 gods in Zoroastrianism.

Zoroastrianism and Hinduism

And I announce and complete (my Yasna) to all those who are the thirty and three lords of the ritual order, which, coming the nearest, are around about Hâvani, and which (as in their festivals) were inculcated by Ahura Mazda, and were promulgated by Zarathustra, as the lords of Asha Vahiśta, who is Righteousness the Best.[137]

Zoroastrianism and Hinduism

—Yasna 1.10, Avesta

See also: Dharmachakra

The wheel is a sacred symbol in Zoroastrianism as in Hinduism. The Avesta speaks of "turning of the wheel", which Max Muller himself thinks "smacks of Buddhism" as he writes.[138]

Religion referred to 'Law'

Both Mazdaens and Hindus refer to religion as 'Law'; 'Daena' for Mazdaens and 'Dharma' for Hindus.

Fire trial

Taking the "test of fire" is an allegory in both Mazdayasna and Hinduism for proving one's innocence through penances.[139] According to the Valmiki Rāmāyaṇa, Sita had taken an Agni Parikṣā[140] to prove her fidelity to Rama. In the Shahnameh Siyavash had passed through fire to prove he was truthful.[141][142]

"It is added, that he passed twenty years in the desert and the love of wisdom and justice obliged him to retire from the world to a mountain where he lived in solitude; but when he came down from thence there fell a celestial fire upon it, which perpetually burned; the king of Persia accompanied with the greatest lords of his court, approached it for the purpose of putting up prayers to God; that Zoroaster came out from these flames unhurt;..."[143]

Piousness of fire

Fire is used in both Mazdaen and Hindu ceremonies as it is believed to be holy by both the communities. It is invoked and prayers exist wherein fire itself it adorated even when fit is not physically not being venerated. Ceremonies that involve fire are of initiation[144] and sacrifices.[145]

Sacredness of cows

The Avesta declares that Gomez[146] (Vedic 'Gomedha') is an important sacrifice, which involves cow urine. The cow is very sacred. In the 9th chapter of the of the Vendidad of the Avesta, the purification power of cow urine is dilated upon.[147] It is declared to be a panacea for all bodily and moral evils. It is drunk as well as applied externally just like the Hindus also.[148] Urine of the bull, called "nirang" is brought to the house of an orthodox Parsi every morning and is applied to the face, hands and feet like the cow's milk.[149][150]

Sacredness of the environment
File:Map of Tibet.jpg
Detailed map of Tibet showing the mountainous Gangdise region and Mt. Lionbo Kangri A.K.A. Kangdez.

Both Mazdaens and Hindus regard the environment as an important resource like animals which cannot be abused. Yasna Haptanghaiti[151] declares, "apo at yazamaide" or "We worship the waters." Mazdaens often offer libations to the rivers just as they do to the sacred fire, similar to how Hindus do by placing oil lamps or flowers into a river sometimes during their worship.

Apart from the Mt. Meru (Mazdaen Hara), Mt. Kailash is also revered in Mazdayasna as "Kangri". The part of Tibetan Plateau west of the Indus River and Brahmaputra is even today called Gangdise. Mazdaen scriptures and the Shahnameh mention Kangdez. It is the abode of Peshotan (Chitro-maino), son of King Vishtaspa, and Khwarsheed-chihr (Khursheed-chehr), son of Zarathushtra, who will gather their righteous army there before the final battle against Ahriman and his creatures, according to the Bundahishn[152], Denkard[153], Zand-i-Wahman Yasn[154]. In the Dadestan-i-Menog-i-Khrad[155], the location of Kangdez is described as "Kangdez is entrusted with the eastern quarter, near to Satavayes on the frontier of Airan-vego." Since Kangdiz is the Gangdise region, this excerpt also supports Kashmir being Airyana Vaeja.

Humans born from sacrifice of a super being

According to Mazdaen stories, Gayomard was a great being, upon whose self-sacrifice were born the first pair of humans and vegetation.[156] This story is similar to the Rig Vedic lore of self-sacrifice of the cosmic Puruṣa from whose sacrificed body came all the parcels of the universe.

Immortality of souls and souls of animals

Mazdayasna believes that animals have souls and the phrases used for describing an animal's soul are 'pasu urvan'[157] and 'geush urvan'.[158] Geush urvan is another phrase for the souls of animals, because the cow here is used as a metaphor for animals in general just as in Hindu societies a 'goshālā'[159] refers to animal shelters.

Days of the week relating to gods and planets

The gods and planets which represent the days of the week are the same for the Mazdaens and Hindus.

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Planet Sun Moon Mars Mercury Jupiter Venus Saturn
Hindu deity Ravi Soma Mangala Buddha Guru Shukra Shani
Mazdaen deity[160][161] Mithra Vrarayna Tiriya Ahura Mazda Ardvi Anahita Sura Kayvanu
Scriptural verses and styles

As Zarathustra was a Brahman, he was familiar with the Vedas and wrote Vedic verses to be revered. This portion of the Avesta is known as the Gathas meaning Songs, just as Hindus scriptures are often either Gāthās or Gitās. The Brahmana scriptures refer to gāthās and abhiyajnagāthās as the verses of the Vedas.[162]


An incarnation is known as an avatār. The Avesta[163] reads that there were ten forms of Verethraghna, whose equivalent Sanskrit name is 'Vritrahana', which appeared to Zarathustra, similar to the ten major forms:[164]

Mazdaen Hindu
Wind Vāyu
Bull Ṛṣabha (the ascetic whose name means Bull)
Horse Hayagriva (whose name means Horse-headed)
Boar Varāhā (whose name means Boar)
Youth Vāmana (the child avatār)
Raven Garuda
Man Rama, Kṛṣṇa, Parshurama, etc.
The earth being divided into seven continents

According to the Avesta the world consists of seven continents wherein the one in which Zarathustra lived is Khvaniratha with Mount Hara at the center just as Hindu scriptures mention Jambudvipa as the Indian Plateau and some adjacent regions with Mount Meru at its center.

See also

External resources


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  9. Yasht 31.5.10; Sanskrit 'Rishi' meaning seer
  10. Sanskrit 'Ratu' meaning guide
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  155. Dadestan-i-Menog-i-Khrad 62.1
  156. P. 353 The Cambridge History of Iran, Volume 3 edited by E. Yarshater
  157. It means animal soul.
  158. It means cow soul.
  159. It means cow shelter.
  160. P. 253 The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Zoroastrianism By Michael Stausberg, Yuhan Sohrab-Dinshaw Vevaina, Anna Tessmann
  161. P. 37 Persian Architectural Heritage: Architecture, Structure and Conservation By Mehrdad Hejazi, Fatemeh Mehdizadeh Saradj
  162. P. 28 The History of Indian Literature By Albrecht Weber
  163. 14.2.7 Bahram Yasht
  164. "Daṣāvatāra" of Viṣṇu.