Ahura Mazda (also known as Ahuramazda, Harzoo, Hormazd, Hourmazd, Hurmuz, Ohrmazd, 'Lord' or 'Spirit') is the highest spirit worshipped in Zoroastrianism, the old Mede and Persian religion which spread across Asia predating Christianity. Ahura Mazda is the creator of the universe and all the things in it, being at the same time wise and good.
Name & Characteristics
As with all supreme deities, Ahura Mazda carries a long list of titles and characteristics. He is the supreme being in Garothman (heaven), the uncreated spirit. Beyond, apart and without him, there is nothing in existence. He is changeless, moving all while not being moved by anyone. Has no equal and no one can take the heavens from him. He favors the just man, upholding the truth and proper behavior. Ahura Mazda created the twin spirits, Angra Mainyu, the good spirit, and Spenta Meynu, the destructive spirit.
Mazda, or the Avestan form of the Mazdā, reflects the proto-Iranian word Mazdāh which is a feminine noun. Considered the proper name of the god, it may also come from the Sanskrit word medhās, meaning 'intelligence' or 'wisdom'. During the Achaemenid era, the name was Ahuramazda, during the Parthian the form of Hormazd was used and, finally, in the Sassanian we find the name Ohrmazd.
Ahura MAzda & ZARATHUSTRA
Ahura Mazda was revealed to the prophet Zoroaster/Zarathustra through a vision he had when he was 30 years old. When Zoroaster was 15, then, according to local custom, he was considered an adult and took up adult duties. Because he was born during violent times he grew up questioning the concept of righteousness and the conflict of good versus evil. As a result he left his home, living in solitude, between the ages of 20 to 30, on a mountain. When he was 30 he participated in a spring festival as a member of a priestly family and one of his duties was to draw water from the deepest and purest part of the stream for the morning ceremony. Here at the Daytia river, he met the angel Vohu Mana. The entity asked Zoroaster who he was and what was the most important thing in his life. To which Zoroaster answered that he wanted most of all to be righteous, pure and wise. By this answer, he was granted a vision of Ahura Mazda and his archangels from whom he learned the principles that would lead to the religion known late as Zoroastrianism.
During the Achaemenid Empire (c. 550 – 330 BCE) the prophet, Zoroaster/Zarathustra is not mentioned in the inscriptions of the Achaemenid kings while Ahura Mazda is mentioned in opposition with the daeva. There are no solid links between the teachings of Zoroaster and the Achaemenid kings besides the emphasis on moral behavior.
An inscription was made on a cliff at Naqsh-i Rustam, near Persepolis, the summer palace of Darius I (r. 522–486 BCE). Here Ahura Mazda is named creator of the world, creating the earth, the sky, and man, and also making Darius the king. The most important mention of Ahura Mazda from this period is the Behistun Inscription written by Darius I in 516 BCE. The inscription accompanies a bas-relief depicting the victory of Darius over the pretender Gaumata, where the victor stands over the fallen and above them hovers Ahura Mazda represented here as a king within a winged solar disc. The text of the inscription mentions how Ahura Mazda helped the victor defeat his enemy and that he, Darius, was chosen to lead his kingdom by the "grace of Ahura Mazda".
In the time of the Parthian Empire (247 BCE - 224 CE), Zoroastrianism was embraced by its rulers, many temples were rebuilt which were previously destroyed during the campaigns of Alexander the Great in 330 BCE. Also, Parthian rulers were more tolerant, besides Zoroastrianism religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jews, Christians are also present. Ahura Mazda was worshipped among deities like Mithra, an older god turned archangel in Zoroastrianism, and Anahita, a female deity. Also, towards the end of the Parthian era, Ahura Mazda was represented as a male figure standing or on horseback, an image that will dominate the next era.
Another form of Zoroastrianism, known as Zurvanism, formed during the Sassanid Period (224-651 CE). During the reign of Shapur I, the message of Zoroaster was discarded, Zurvan was named the supreme being and Ahura Mazda, now a created spirit, becomes a son of Zurvan besides Angra Mainyu/Ahriman. During the reign of Bahram II, Ahura Mazda was given the title which after would become one of his names, Ohrmazd-mowbad.
About the Author
- Maneckji Nusservanji Dhalla, History of Zoroastrianism (K.R. Cama Oriental Institute, 1985).
- Prods Oktor Skjærvø, An Introduction to Zoroastrianism , 2005)
Cite This Work
Chicago Style Citation
1. Radu Cristian, “Ahura Mazda,” Ancient History Encyclopedia, last modified March 13, 2017, http://www.ancient.eu /Ahura_Mazda/.As Bibliography Entry:
Radu Cristian. “Ahura Mazda,” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Last modified March 13, 2017. http://www.ancient.eu /Ahura_Mazda/.
628 BCE - 551 BCELife of Zoroaster, according to Pahlavi sources.