The Everlasting Flame
Intricately carved funerary altars, detailed reliefs, temples, ancient religious rituals and Gods – no this is not Ancient Greece but Zorastrianism, the subject of the latest exhibition at the Brunei Gallery in London’s Russell Square.
Little known to many, Zorastrianism is the ancient religion of the Classical World and one of the oldest religions in existence founded over 3,500 years ago by the Prophet Zoraster. The Everlasting Flame – appropriately named after the constant presence of a lit fire in the Zorastrian temples, is the first exhibition of its kind to be dedicated to this fascinating religion. With its origins deeply rooted in Persia, it was a wonderful opportunity to connect with my heritage.
At the core of the religion is the sole creator, the god Ahura Mazda, his adversary Ahriman and their division between good and evil. Another major aspect of this religion centres around fire. Zorastrians were not worshipers of fire, however they believed in the purity of elements and fire is representative of Ahura Mazda’s wisdom. In honour of this, there is always a flame present in Zorastrian temples and this is recreated in one of the highlights of this exhibition where the ground floor has been transformed into a Zorastrian temple complete with statues and the everlasting flame.
Also featured in the gallery are ancient prayer books, religious rituals that were performed in temples and the funerary practices that were carried out as well as an array of stunning art work and artefacts.
The major highlight however is the breathtaking reproduction of the Western staircase from the Palace of Darius at Persepolis. Engraved in glass, the intricate detail and overall visual impact is remarkable. The famous image of a lion clawing the back of a bull is featured on both sides of the central panels. This motif is seen many times in ancient Persian artefacts which indicates that it carries a huge amount of importance although its exact meaning is still unknown.
The Everlasting Flame – Zoroastrianism in History and Imagination is on at the Brunei Gallery from 11th October – 14th December 2013