The religion of the Parsis or Zoroastrians of India was at one time, in its ancient form, that of the whole of Iran. It was founded by Zoroaster, who claimed to be the prophet sent by Hormazd to recover the people from error and to lead them in the right way, so that they might after death reach the World of Light (جهان نوراني) in which Hormazd himself dwell. Zoroaster's exact date is not known with certainty, but he probably lived between 500 and 600 B.C., and between 1100 and 1200 years before the Hijra. It is stated that he was born at Rai, a short distance south of Tihran, though some assert that his birthplace was in the west of Azarba'ijan. Being rejected at first by his own tribe, the Magi, he fled to Balkh, which was then ruled by the wise king Gushtasp. It is probable that this Gushtasp was the father of Darius the Great, who became king of the whole Persian Empire in 521 B.C. His father Gushtasp continued to reign in Balkh, one of the provinces of that empire. Gushtasp embraced the religion which Zoroaster taught, as did his queen Hutaosa, and they did their best to spread it throughout the whole land. Cyrus, who had founded the Persian Empire and who had seized Babylon in 538 B. C., has left inscriptions there, and these have now

1 This account is drawn directly from the Avasta and later Zoroastrian books.

been interpreted. They acknowledge Marduk and the many false gods of Babylon, so that Cyrus was a polytheist and not a Zoroastrian. This is one of the reasons for believing that he lived before Zoroaster's religion had spread to any great extent. Darius the Great, however, was a zealous Zoroastrian. His inscriptions at Persepolis (Istakhr) and elsewhere inform us that he worshipped Hormazd more than any other of the gods, though he does mention the existence of 'clan-gods'. He tells us that Hormazd is the creator of heaven and earth, and that it was by his grace that Darius himself had become king. This belief was the result of Zoroaster's teaching.

When Zoroaster arose, he found that the people worshipped many false gods, as well as the sun and the powers of nature. In fact their religion much resembled that of the Hindus, whose ancestors had once lived with those of the Persians in Central Asia, before they had conquered India. Many of these deities were evil spirits. Zoroaster denounced the worship of all evil powers as a very great sin. He undoubtedly worked a great reformation of religion, and this may, in some measure, have been due to the influence of the Israelites who had many years previously been carried captive to Media.1 No doubt in their tribulation some of them repented of their sins and turned to God, and they may thus have led Zoroaster to see the folly

1 2 Kings xviii. 6.