Fragrance in Zoroastrian
and Jewish Traditions
The marriage of scent and spirit is as old as time, both undying in their fidelity to the wow of spiritual exhilaration. Without scent, the
spirit is desolate and sans color,
Unanimously considered by sages and seers as
the worshipper’s ally, fragrance is central to many
religious and spiritual traditions of the world.
Among the most ancient ones are two great faiths:
Zoroastrianism and Judaism. Both view the sublime
gift of fragrance as an aid to worship, while express-
ing fragrance in their very unique ways.
One of the world’s earliest religions, from
modern-day Iran, is called Zoroastrianism. Founded
by the legendary Prophet Zarathushtra, or “Asho
Zarathushtra” (Zarathushtra the Righteous), he is
known to the west as “Zoroaster,” and regarded as
one of history’s earliest prophets.
Flame of Righteousness
Zoroastrianism is pillared by its scared scripture,
the “Zend Avesta” revealed by “Ahura Mazda” (the
Wise Lord) to Zarathushtra. The faith is also comprised of other classical texts.
Although the scriptures are very vast, the teachings are simple and touching. Zoroastrianism is
pivoted mainly on three principles: “Humt,” “Hukht,”
and “Hvaresht,” which simply translate as “good
thoughts,” “good words” and “good deeds”—the
pillars of “Asha,” or righteousness.
Zoroastrianism’s fundamental prayer is “Ashem
vohu vahishtem asti. Ushta asti ushta ahmai hyat
ashai vahishtai ashem” (“Righteousness is the
best good, and is happiness. Happy is the man
who is an embodiment of perfect righteousness”).
Zoroastrian worship takes place in holy fire temples
with sacred fires consecrated on various levels. Fire
in Zoroastrianism symbolizes divine light and is
From flames of righteousness to scent in scriptures, these two ancient faiths provide
an interesting look at the ritual and ceremony behind some of the world’s most
n BY KRISHNARAJ IYENGAR
India’s renowned Jewish scholar, Sharon Binyamin Galsurkar, nosing a myrtle
leaf at the western wall in Jerusalem—Judaism’s holiest site.
All photos courtesy of the author.
Scent and the Spirit: