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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Continued in Yezd and Kerman when


The

name of Parsees, adopted by the better-known Guebres who migrated to India, has been retained from Fars or Pars, their native country, which contained, before the Arab invasion, Persepolis as the capital, with a magnificent royal palace. From this province the whole kingdom eventually adopted the name.

It is not necessary to go into the history of the nine dynasties which ruled in Persia before it was conquered by the Arabs, but for our purpose it is well to remind the reader that of all these dynasties the Sassanian was the last, and Yezdeyard, as we have seen, the ultimate King of the Sassan family.

One is filled with horror at the romantic tale of how, through weakness on his part and treachery on that of his people, the fanatic Arabs, guided by the light of Allah the Prophet, conquered Persia, slaying the unbelievers and enforcing the Mahommedan religion on the survivors. The runaway Yezdeyard was treacherously slain with his own jewelled sword by a miller, in whose house he had obtained shelter after the disastrous battle of Nahavand and his flight through Sistan, Khorassan and Merv. Persia, with every vestige of its magnificence, was lost for ever to the Persians, and the supremacy of Mahommedanism, with its demoralizing influence, its haughty intolerance and fanatic bigotism, was firmly established from one end of the country to the other. The fine temples, the shrines of the Zoroastrians, were mercilessly

destroyed or changed into mosques.

Zoroaster, the prophet of the Parsees, had first promulgated his religion during the reign of Gushtasp (b.c. 1300) of the Kayanian family, but after centuries of vicissitudes and corruption it was not till the time of the Sassanian dynasty (a.d. 226) that Ardeshir Babekhan, the brave and just, restored the Zoroastrian religion to its ancient purity. It is this religion--the true religion of ancient Persia--that was smothered by the conquered Arabs by means of blood and steel, and is only to-day retained in a slightly modified character by the few remaining Guebres of Yezd and Kerman, as well as by those who, sooner than sacrifice their religious convictions and their independence, preferred to abandon their native land, migrating to India with their families, where their successors are to be found to this day still conservative to their faith.

It is not too much to say that, although--in the conglomeration of races that form the Indian Empire--the Parsees are few in number, not more than 100,000 all counted, they nevertheless occupy, through their honesty, intelligence and firmness of character, the foremost place in that country. But with these Parsees who migrated we have no space to deal here. We will merely see why the remainder escaped death at the hands of the Mahommedans, and, while ever remaining true to their religion, continued in Yezd and Kerman when, under the new rulers, almost the whole of the Zoroastrian population of Persia was compelled to embrace the religion of Islam.

The fact that Yezd and Kerman were two distant and difficult places of access for the invading Moslems, may be taken as the likely cause of the Zoroastrians collecting there. Also for the same reason, no doubt, the Arabs, tired of fighting and slaying, and having given way to luxury and vice, had become too lazy to carry on their wholesale slaughter of the Zoroastrian population. This leniency, however, has not done away entirely with constant tyrannical persecution and oppression of the unbelievers, so that now the number of Zoroastrians of Yezd does not exceed 7,000, and that of Kerman is under 3,000. A great many Zoroastrians have, notwithstanding their unwillingness, been since compelled to turn Mahommedans. Even fifty years ago the Zoroastrians of Yezd and Kerman called in Persia contemptuously "Guebres," were subjected to degradations and restrictions of the worst kind. Now their condition, under a stronger government and some foreign influence, has slightly ameliorated, but is not yet entirely secure against the cruelty, fanaticism, and injustice of the Mullahs and officials in the place.


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