Culture includes the characteristics and knowledge of a particular group of people, encompassing language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts. Anthropologists additionally define culture as shared patterns of behaviors and interactions, cognitive constructs and understanding that are learned by socialization. Thus, culture can be seen as a unique group identity formed by social patterns over time. Zarathushtis from Iran and India have distinct cultures even as they share the same faith.
Zarathushtis are the followers of a visionary messenger named Zarathushtra Spitama.
Zarathushtra was his given name and Spitama was the family name. Very little is known about his life as he lived before the introduction of written records. At the age of twenty years, he went to Mount Ushidaren to meditate. After ten years of self-study, he received the revelation that there is only one universal source of wisdom whom he named Ahura Mazda (Lord Wise), and that the aim of human life is to strive to be perfect like Him. It took Asho Zarathushtra many years of struggle before the superstitious people accepted his message, which happened largely through the patronage of Kai Vishtasp, the ruler at that time.
Zarathushtis comprise two main groups of people (1) Parsi-Zarathushtis, descendants of Zarathushtis who sought refuge in the Indian sub-continent after the Arabs invaded Iran in the 7thcentury, and (2) Persian-Zarathushtis, who remained in Iran after the conquest.
There are 200,000 or so Zarathushtis scattered throughout the world, the largest numbers remaining in Iran and India. There are approximately 21,000 Zarathushtis living in North America. Famous North American Zarathushtis include symphonic conductor, Zubin Mehta, and award-winning authors, Bapsi Sidhwa and Rohinton Mistry.
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