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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

These Guebres are manly fellows


If

Yezd is, for its size, now the most enterprising trading centre of Persia, it is mostly due to the Guebres living there. Although held in contempt by the Mullahs and by the Mahommedans in general, these Guebres are manly fellows, sound in body and brain, instead of lascivious, demoralized, effeminate creatures like their tyrants. Hundreds of years of oppression have had little effect on the moral and physical condition of the Guebres. They are still as hardy and proud as when the whole country belonged to them; nor has the demoralizing contact of the present race, to whom they are subject, had any marked effect on their industry, which was the most remarkable characteristic in the ancient Zoroastrians.

The Zoroastrian religion teaches that every man must earn his food by his own exertion and enterprise,--quite unlike the Mahommedan teaching, that the height of bliss is to live on the charity of one's neighbours, which rule, however, carries a counterbalancing conviction that the more money dispensed in alms, the greater the certainty of the givers obtaining after death a seat in heaven.

One of the most refreshing qualities of the Guebres (and of the Parsees in India) is that they are usually extraordinarily truthful for natives of Asia, and their morality, even in men, is indeed quite above the average. There are few races among which marriages are conducted on more sensible lines and are more successful. The

man and woman united by marriage live in friendly equality, and are a help to one another. Family ties are very strong, and are carried down even to distant relations, while the paternal and maternal love for their children, and touching filial love for their parents, is most praiseworthy and deserves the greatest admiration.

The Mussulmans themselves, although religiously at variance and not keen to follow the good example of the Guebres, admit the fact that the Zoroastrians are honest and good people. It is principally the Mullahs who are bitter against them and instigate the crowds to excesses. There is not such a thing for the Guebres as justice in Persia, and even up to quite recent times their fire temples and towers of silence were attacked and broken into by Mussulman crowds, the fires, so tenderly cared for, mercilessly put out: the sacred books destroyed, and the temples desecrated in the most insulting manner.

There are a number of Guebre places of worship in Yezd, and in the surrounding villages inhabited by Guebre agriculturists, but the principal one is in the centre of the Guebre quarter of Yezd city. It is a neat, small structure, very simple and whitewashed inside, with a fortified back room wherein the sacred fire is kept alight, well covered with ashes by a specially deputed priest. It is hidden so as to make it difficult for intending invaders to discover it; and the strong door, well protected by iron bars, wants a good deal of forcing before it can be knocked down.

The religious ceremony in the temple of the Guebres is very interesting, the officiating priests being dressed up in a long white garment, the _sudra_, held together by a sacred girdle, and with the lower portion of the face covered by a square piece of cloth like a handkerchief; on the head they wear a peculiar cap. Various genuflexions, on a specially spread carpet, and bows are made and prayers read.


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