Afterlife in Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism preaches the idea that Death is the work of the evil Angra Mainyu. The religion also asserts the existence of the soul (Fravasi) and the resurrection of the body at the time of the Great Renewal that will come one day. The soul, created by Ahura Mazda, is immortal and will be judged immediately after the death of the body. At the time of death, the soul must pass over a narrow bridge. At the entrance to the bridge stands the daenā, or conscience, a maiden who becomes identified with the individual soul. The good souls see a beautiful and dignified woman, while the evil souls see a witch. The good, led by the maiden, will pass over to the “House of Songs” or Paradise as angel-like beings who will serve as guardians of the living good people. The souls of those who have lived evil lives will be attacked by the witch and will fall as demons into the dark cold ravine or “House of Lies” that is Hell. According to some sources, it is the bridge itself, Chinvat, that decides on the fate of souls. Other sources say Ahura Mazda himself makes the judgment, and still others say that Mithra presides over an actual trial of the individual, who must plead his or her own case. (The Oxford Reference Online Site)
Zoroastrians have very specific views on death and dying. These views are so unique to these believers that they’re often at the focus of study for researchers and anthropologists.
Despite Zoroastrianism surviving thousands of years, many of the original death beliefs are similar to how they were centuries ago. When we consider the role of these ideas about dying, it’s clear how they tie into views of the afterlife.
When the body dies, according to Zoroastrians, it becomes impure immediately. This religion believes that death comes from a type of devil figure known as Angra Mainyu.
Zoroastrians believe that the material world is afflicted with the evils of death, decay and disintegration due to the presence of Ahirman and his fiendish forces. Their presence in the world is as per a covenant agreed upon by God, who wanted them to remain confined to a particular region in the universe so that they all could eventually be destroyed. So the world is marked by dichotomy between good and evil. God represents life and light, where as Ahirman represents, malice, death and darkness.
Zoroastrianism states that the urvan, the disembodied spirit, lingers on earth for three days before departing downward to the kingdom of the dead that is ruled by Yima. For the three days that it rests on Earth, righteous souls sit at the head of their body, chanting the Ustavaiti Gathas with joy, while a wicked person sits at the feet of the corpse, wails and recites the Yasna. Zoroastrianism states that for the righteous souls, a beautiful maiden, which is the personification of the soul’s good thoughts, words and deeds, appears. For a wicked person, a very old, ugly, naked hag appears. After three nights, the soul of the wicked is taken by the demon Vizaresa (Vīzarəša), to Chinvat bridge, and is made to go to darkness (hell).
Yima is believed to have been the first king on earth to rule, as well as the first man to die. Inside of Yima’s realm, the spirits live a shadowy existence, and are dependent on their own descendants which are still living on Earth. Their descendants are to satisfy their hunger and clothe them, through rituals done on earth.
Rituals which are done on the first three days are vital and important, as they protect the soul from evil powers and give it strength to reach the underworld. After three days, the soul crosses Chinvat bridge which is the Final Judgment of the soul. Rashnu and Sraosha are present at the final judgment. The list is expanded sometimes, and include Vahman and Ormazd. Rashnu is the yazata who holds the scales of justice. If the good deeds of the person outweigh the bad, the soul is worthy of paradise. If the bad deeds outweigh the good, the bridge narrows down to the width of a blade-edge, and a horrid hag pulls the soul in her arms, and takes it down to hell with her.
Misvan Gatu is the ‘place of the mixed ones’ where the souls lead a gray existence, lacking both joy and sorrow. A soul goes here if his/her good deeds and bad deeds are equal, and Rashnu’s scale is equal.
Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia