The Everlasting Flame: Zoroastrianism in History and Imagination

Key information

10:30 am to 5:00 pm
Brunei Gallery
Exhibition Rooms
Event type

About this event

Open : Tuesday - Saturday: 10.30 - 17.00 Late night Thursday until 20:00
Closed : Sundays, Mondays

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One of the world’s oldest religions, Zoroastrianism originated amongst Iranian tribes in Central Asia during the second millennium BCE and spread to Iran where it became the principal faith until the advent of Islam. Central to the religion is the belief in a sole creator god, Ahura Mazda, his agent Zarathustra (Zoroaster) and the dichotomy between good and evil.

The Everlasting Flame: Zoroastrianism in History and Imagination is the first exhibition of its kind to provide a visual narrative of the history of Zoroastrianism, its rich cultural heritage and the influence it has had on the major world religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The exhibition takes you on a journey from the earliest days of the religion to its emergence as the foremost religion of the Achaemenid, Parthian and Sasanian empires of imperial Iran.


Ten stories within the overall historical narrative explore the fascinating ways in which Zoroastrianism has been imagined through the art, iconography and literature of non-Zoroastrians down the ages. Artefacts, coins and silverware introduce the ancient and imperial periods of Iranian Zoroastrian history.

Illustrated texts and manuscripts written in Avestan, Pahlavi, Persian and Gujarati languages show how the oral tradition was committed to writing during the Sasanian and later periods. . From Iran to India the textiles, paintings, jewellery and furnishings from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries bear witness to the role of Parsis in the China trade that included opium, silk and tea.

A collection of photographs and maps illustrate the wider diaspora in Hong Kong, Singapore, Britain and the United States.

Key Installations

The exhibition transforms areas of the gallery with spectacular installations. A walk- in fire temple, consisting of a prayer room, inner sanctum and ritual precinct offers a unique opportunity for visitors who are not permitted to enter the fire temples of India and Pakistan. Other signature pieces include a reproduction engraved in glass of the British Museum’s 10 metre cast of the western staircase from the palace of Darius at Persepolis, complete with the magnificent lion and bull motif. Finally, verses from the Gathas of Zarathustra will be presented as a series of large calligraphic panels and combined with voice recordings of the text to be presented as an audio-visual experience.


A two day conference titled “ Looking Back: The Formation of Zoroastrian Identity Through Rediscovery of the Past ” and organised by the Centre for Iranian Studies at SOAS will take place at the Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre on 11 and 12 October 2013.


The exhibition is accompanied by a major publication published by IB Tauris including essays by leading academics in the field of Zoroastrian Studies.

Sample Images