The Yazidis are one of the oldest religious minorities of Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. The deeply shocking genocide of the Yazidis by the Islamic State (ISIS) made headlines back in 2014. The reason why ISIS hunted the Yazidis down almost to extinction was because of their culture.
Surprisingly, the Yazidi culture shares a striking resemblance to the Hindu culture. The connection between the two civilisations can be traced back to ancient times. Back in time, the Yazidis were nomadic and had thus migrated to India. This led to a huge cultural influx and some of them continued to live in India for over four thousand years.
During this time period, they absorbed the Hindu culture in their traditions.
Sanjeev Sanyal, in his book Land of Seven Rivers: History of India’s Geography, notes that like Hindus, the Yazidis, believe in reincarnation and avatars. “...they pray facing the sun at dawn and dusk and have a system of endogamous castes“.
Another similarity is their use of oil lamps referred to as Sanjaks and Aarti in Yazidi and Hindu culture respectively. The difference is that while Hindus have thousands of Aarti lamps, the Yazidis only have two Sanjaks. It is believed that their deity, Tawsi Melek, the peacock angel gave the Yazidis seven Sanjaks, one for each Great Angel. However, five have either been lost or stolen. The remaining two are so sacred that they are only taken out once a year so that the Yazidis could pay their homage to them.
On the temple wall of the most sacred shrine of the Yazidis, The Lalish, there is a mural of a woman wearing a Hindu sari and holding the Sanjaks.
The peacock across the Aarti and Sanjak oil lamps has to do with a deity that is a part of both the Hindu and Yazidis pantheon.
According to the Hindus, the deity is Murugan, who rides a peacock and as per the Yazidiz, it is the Tawsi Melek, the Peacock Angel or Peacock King.
It seems that these deities are counterparts of each other. “Both have the peacock in common, of course, and each deity has at one time or another been envisioned as a boy with peacock feathers growing out his tail end”, as per the organisation Yazidis Truth.
Both have a lot of other similarities too. Both brought the path to God on Earth and showed it to the humankind and taught it to them. Both are a part of a group of seven.
“Murugan as Sanat Kumara is often spoken of as the leader of the Seven Kumaras, and the Peacock Angel is known as the leader of the Seven Great Angels”, according to the organisation.
Another similarity between both cultures is that they anoint themselves in the ‘third eye’ region as the space between the eyebrows is considered a sacred space.
The Yazidi Leader Wanted India To Be Their Voice In The UN
The founder and president of Yazidis human rights organisation, Mirza Ismail, said in an interview in 2018, “The ISIS beheaded our men, abducted women and children. They destroyed our houses, planted explosives in the remains of the houses. We had to run for life. For us, the rocks were the bed and sky was the shelter. We had to eat leaves to survive. There are faith checkpoints on way to Mosul. If they find any Yazidi they either capture him/her and ask for ransom to their families or kill him/her.”
He further added, “We met (External Affairs Minister) Sushma Swaraj last week in Delhi. We told her India should become our voice at the UN. She was very compassionate but we do not know whether it will happen.”
The connection between these two cultures comes across as rather surprising at first. But, history can be really unpredictable.
The Yazidis are a symbol of mankind’s unprecedented will to persevere in the worst of the situations without resorting to violence. As one of the most mistreated people in the world, they deserve all the support that they can get.
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