Spring 1372 Y.Z. (2003)
Message from our President
Greeting, fellow Mazdayasni Zarathushtis!
At the invitation of ZANZ, our committees recently met to discuss various topics; the following is a basic run-down of what happened..
Until receiving the agenda, we assumed the subject of discussion would perhaps be on a framework for cooperating for social events,
however the meeting was arranged to discuss the possible formation of a single association. We went into the meeting with open
minds, ready to discuss anything that was brought up. From the beginning, we stated that our definition of a Mazdayasni Zarathushti
(as defined in our constitution) was the core of TMZANZ and that any discussions would have to take this into account.
Unfortunately, the majority of the meeting was spent defending our constitution (and the purpose of our associations existence) and
answering hypothetical "jabs" as to who we would consider to be a "Mazdayasni Zarathushtee", i.e. if someone marries a
non-Zarathushti why are they no longer considered Zarathushtis
if a Zarathushti cant find a mobed to do an ashirvad ceremony, are
they still considered to be unmarried, etc. etc.
As the meeting progressed, we tried to bring up the fact that if our two associations cant agree on their definitions of Zarathushtis,
then at least we could try coordinating and perhaps organize common functions, i.e. sports events, Navroze/Papeti dinners, etc. ZANZ
mentioned that this would be unacceptable and that we need to have common religious events as well. We reiterated TMZANZs
position on who can attend religious functions and that if ZANZ was willing to accommodate us, then wed be more than happy to
cooperate. We asked the ZANZ committee how many families in their association would contravene the TMZANZ definition of a
Zarathushtee the answer was only a handful of families; our point was that if we want to form a single association in NZ, ZANZ needs
to weigh the importance of including the TMZANZ membership at the expense of a few families, or vice-versa.
The meeting ended with ZANZ having a better understanding of TMZANZ and what were about theyll present the information to
their membership after which any further decisions can be made. For TMZANZ, little was achieved. We had hoped for some
agreement to cooperate in non-religious events after all, the majority of ZANZs membership satisfy our definition of being a
Mazdayasni Zarathushti and we naturally hold many similar events. However, we can simply try again to meet with ZANZ and spend
more time focussing on our similarities.
On a different note, recently in India there were a few "neo-Zoroastrians" (a term I mentioned in the last newsletter) who tried to enter
our Agiaries and Atash Behrams there. This group of people were Latin Americans "converted" by Ali Jafarey (based in Los Angeles)
and they wanted to visit the holy places of their "new heritage" to photograph and film them. Luckily some vigilant Parsis realized what
was going on and warned all the other temples in India to be cautious as to who they allow into their premises. All of this might seem
absurd and ridiculous, but our Mazdayasni Deen has finally come to this! Most Zarathushtis around the world sit complacently and
watch as people like "Dr." Jafarey and his cohorts are given a pedestal to stand on and preach their lies and falsehoods! So many of
our fellow Zarathushtis just dont care what is happening to the religion
to them, its someone elses problem to deal with. By being
members of TMZANZ, you have all taken the first step of at least preserving the proper definition of a Zarathushti and performing
religious ceremonies as they were meant to be done! Our association is like a shelter to protect us against the slow but harmful
changes happening in our religion!
One of this executive committees endeavours is to develop some guidelines and procedures for the unfortunate (but inevitable)
occurrence of someone passing away and wanting to have our traditional Dokhme-Nashini method of disposal. We will investigate the
possibility of how (or if) a body can be sent to India and what procedures need to be followed with the NZ/Indian governments as well
as the airlines. If anyone would like to assist with this project, please contact one of the committee members. Another endeavour is to
contact other Traditional associations around the world and set up some sort of correspondence; we could share ideas on how things
are done, etc. Perhaps in future it could lead to a framework for an international network of Traditional anjumans.
Anyways, hope youre all having a great summer and enjoying the sunshine!
A Recipe to Share
Tareli Kolmi (Fried Prawns)
500 gms prawns
1 tsp garlic paste
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp sambhar powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 potatoes diced
Fry the diced potatoes until golden brown and leave to one side.
In a separate pan lightly cook the garlic, ginger, sambhar turmeric and coriander powders.
When the masala mixture is lightly cooked add the prawns and salt and cook until the prawns are golden and have formed a
Add the potatoes and cook for a further minute or two.
Remove from the pan and serve garnished with a sprinkling of freshly chopped coriander if desired.
We would like to hear from you
News, recipes, advertisements or interesting information to share, please feel free to contact us.
A contribution from a member.
ADVICE TO WESTERNERS ON CHOOSING A SPIRITUAL PATH
"The most important thing is not to get trapped in what I see everywhere in the West, a "shopping mentality": shopping around from
master to master, teaching to teaching, without any continuity or real, sustained dedication to any one discipline. Nearly all the great
spiritual masters of all traditions agree that the essential thing is to master one way, one path to the truth, by following one tradition with
all your heart and mind to the end of the spiritual journey, while remaining open and respectful towards the insights of all others. The
modern faddish idea that we can always keep all our options open and so never need commit ourselves to anything is one of the
greatest and most dangerous delusions of our culture, and one of the ego's most effective ways of sabotaging our spiritual search."
- From Sogyal Rinpoche's: Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
Postcard from Iran
This carving depicts two crowned figures standing upon a trampled figure, and another figure standing behind a King. The central
figure is supposed to be Ardeshir Babegan who stands with his left hand on his sword and his right hand grasping his royal circlet
which he bestows upon the other person Shapur I. The third carving behind the King is said to be that of our Prophet Zarathushtra or
Ahura Mazda. This is the only carving of our Holy Prophet Zarathushtra, not only in Iran, but in the whole world. The trampled figure is
that of the last Parthian King Artabanus IV.
This carving represents the inauguration of Shapur I with a share of the dominion by his father in the presence of Zarathushtra or Ahura
- Gotla, A.S. (2000). Guide to Zarthoshtrian Historical Places in Iran.
Did You Know
Madam Bhikaji Cama (l86l - 1936) was the first Indian to have conceived the idea of a National Flag for India, which she designed and
unfurled at the Socialist Congress in 1907.
Something for your files
An article by Ervad Jal N. Birdy titled "Snippets and Lessons from Early Parsi History" is enclosed.
Snippets and Lessons from Early Parsi History
by Ervad Jal N. Birdy.
This article provides a brief account of the Parsis after the downfall of the Sasanian Empire at the hands of the Arabs and
gives possible reasons as to why only those migrants to the West Coast of India have managed to survive while others
have disappeared without trace. In doing so, it is hoped that Parsi communities who have migrated to the West in recent
times may learn the secrets of survival from their ancestors.
Meaning of the Term Parsi: The word "Parsi" literally means "a resident of Parsa", which was a province in the South West region of
ancient Iran. It is originally an ethnic term, which later acquired a religious connotation and was used for the Zarathushti residents of
Parsa. Emperor Darius the Great (521-486 B.C.) in the famous inscription at Naksh-e-Rustom proclaimed himself a Parsi, a son of a
Parsi. Later, "Parsi" was used particularly for those residents of Iran who remained faithful to their ancestral faith, propagated by
Zarathushtra, to distinguish them from those Iranians who discarded their faith and embraced Islam after the Arab conquest of Iran in
641 A.C.E. Since then, the term "Parsi" has been applied to the original residents of Iran and their descendents who did not forsake
the faith of Zarathushtra and are now living in Iran, India and elsewhere. In more recent times, a stronger connection between the terms
Parsi and Zarathushti has been established. Western scholars (Spiegel, West, Max Muller), writers and historians (Firdausi, Karaka,
Napier, Sykes) have referred to the Zarathushtis of Iran as Parsis.
In 1906, the Shah of Iran, while repealing the hated Jizya tax on Iranian Zarathushtis, referred to them as Parsis. More recently, Indian
Chief Justice Chagla and Justice M. L. Jain have both ruled that the two terms are synonymous. Justice Jain, while stating that Parsi is
a religion, has gone even further and held that "any person who is a Parsi but does not follow the Zarathushti religion is not considered
a Parsi". The term Parsi, therefore, automatically means Zarathushti, while the reverse is not true. In the following account, therefore,
the term Parsi is used for all original residents of Iran and their descendents who refused to forsake the religion of Zarathushtra.
Parsi Kingdoms and Settlements within Iran in Post-Sasanian Times: Parsi Kingdoms in Eastern Iran : Even after the downfall of the
Sasanian Empire, there were small independent kingdoms in the mountainous districts of Kuhistan in Eastern Iran viz., Mazandaran,
Gilan, Tabaristan and Khurasan. The Parsi rulers of these kingdoms were the descendents of the Sasasnian royal family and
aristocracy and were called Sipahbads. There existed an effective alliance between these independent rulers. All the highlands were
under their control and no one dared enter the highlands from the plains without their permission. Notable among these rulers were
Sipahbads Sharwin and his son Shahriyar. They ruled in these districts for about 150 years as gleaned from their coinage bearing
Pahalvi legends, which are in existence today.
Parsi Kingdoms in Mount Demavand: A dynasty of Zarathushti priests, known as Masmoghan - Chief of the Mobeds or Magis, ruled in
the mountainous district of Tabaristan during Sasanian times and thereafter as independent rulers under Bav, who later retired himself
into a fire temple. These mountainous kingdoms, also called Kohs, were highly fortified and almost impenetrable. An account from an
anonymous book written in 982 mentions the Kuh- I-Qarin containing over ten thousand very prosperous Parsi villages. Although there
are reports that the kingdoms in Mount Demavand were completely routed in the mid-fourteenth century, there is a strong belief held by
many Parsis of India today that these Magis, now called Saheb-e-Delans, still exist in these mountains. These highly evolved
personages periodically give audience, passing on their ancient religious teachings to selected Parsis. One such person was Mr.
Behramshah Navroji Shroff of Surat, who had an audience with these Magis during the latter part of the nineteenth century.
In the Mountains of Kerman : A chain of seven mountains, stretching from the sea to the city of Jiruft, was known as the mountains of
Kerman. The Muslim rulers did not have a representative in these Parsi communities; instead the chief collected the dreaded "jizya"
tax for their rulers. The inhabitants developed a special language (spoken only), known as Dari, which could not be understood by
anyone outside their community.
Parsi Kingdoms and Settlements Outside Iran in Post-Sasanian Times; Parsi Kings in China : After the murder of Yazdgard III, the last
Sasanian Emperor in 652 A.C.E., his son Piroj, proclaimed himself king of Iran and took refuge in exile in the mountains of Tokharistan
in Central Asia then under Chinese rule. The Chinese Emperor recognized Piroj as the king of Iran. Later, Piroj went to China and
served as a captain in the Chinese army and built a fire-temple in China in 677 A.C.E. His son, Narsi, also lived in Tokharistan and
later went to China in 707 A.C.E. The historian and writer, Masudi, recorded in 916 A.C.E., that there were Parsis living in China who
worshipped in fire-temples. These early Parsi migrants to China have been totally assimilated into the local population.
Parsi Migration to India : In ancient times, Iran had come into political, cultural and trade-relations with practically all nations of the
ancient world including India and China. During Sasanian times, Parsis were living in China, Central Asia, Pakistan (Sind and Punjab),
northern India (Punjab) and western India (Saurashtra, Rajasthan and Gujarat). Apart from occasional archaeological relics discovered
from time to time signifying they once lived there, there is no trace of these early settlers. The ancestors of the present Indian-Pakistani
Parsi community migrated to India after the downfall of the Sasanian Empire. A single date of this Parsi migration is not known, since it
must have occurred over many years. Dates anywhere from 716 to 936 A.C.E. have been mentioned in various historical accounts.
The Settlement in Sanjan : According to the traditional account recorded in the Kisseh e Sanjan, after the Arab conquest of Iran, the
ancestors of the present Indian Parsis took refuge in the mountainous districts of Kohistan in Khorasan for about 100 years. They
spent about 15 years in the port city of Hormuzd on the southern coast of Iran, possibly contemplating migration. They finally left
Hormuzd by the sea route and landed in India on the island of Div in southern Saurashtra. They stayed in Div for about 19 years, and
thereafter, most probably due to the growing threat of an Arab invasion, left Div and settled on the west coast of India, near the place
later to be known as Sanjan about 145 kilometers north of Mumbai. There is again no evidence whatsoever as to how many
immigrants actually came via the sea route. There is some evidence that the immigrants came with their families. Some accounts state
that about 18,000 Parsis came in seven junks, five of them landing in Div, one at Variav near Surat and one at Cambay in Gujarat.
Subsequently, more Parsis migrated from Iran and landed at various places on the West Coast of India. These various and gradual
migrations might be the cause of inconsistency and confusion regarding the date of arrival and the landing place. The local Hindu
Rajah, known as Jadi Rana, permitted the Parsis to settle in his kingdom and gave them a vacant area in which they could establish
their colony. Tradition states that the Parsis named their new settlement "Sanjan", after the cities bearing the same name in Iran. They
installed their Holy Fire, whom they named Iranshah or the King of Iran.
Invasion of Sanjan and Subsequent Migrations within Gujarat : After 700 years of peaceful and prosperous stay in Sanjan, the Hindu
kingdom was invaded by a fanatical Muslim named Sultan Mahmud Begada of Ahmedabad. About 1400 Parsis joined the army of the
Hindu Rajah and fought valiantly to rid their land of the Muslim invader. Unfortunately, the Rajahs army was defeated and Sanjan was
destroyed, the Parsis suffering much loss of life. Those Parsis who survived the attack on Sanjan gradually migrated to other places
within Gujarat and the West Coast. Their important settlements besides Sanjan were Navsari, Surat, Vankaner, Variav, Ansleshvar,
Bharuch and Cambay to the north of Sanjan and Thana to the south.
The Establishment of Panthaks or Diocesan Jurisdictions : Around 1290 A.C.E., the Parsi priests assembled in council and
established boundaries for the following five Panthaks serving the migrants on the West coast. Sanjana priests of Sanjan serving from
the River Dantora (near Dahnu) to the River Par (near Pardi) Bhagharia priests of Navsari serving from the River Par to the River
Variav Godavra priests of Surat serving from the River Variav to the River Ankseshvar Bharucha priests of Bharuch serving from the
River Ankseshvar to the River Cambay and Khambatta priests of Cambay (Khambhat) serving in and around Cambay.
The Journey of the Sacred Fire, "Iranshah" : The Parsis who survived the attack on Sanjan decided to move with their Holy Fire to
Bahrot, a safer region located in the mountains close to Sanjan. They installed their Iranshah in a secluded cave in the mountains and
stayed there for twelve years. Thereafter, the Parsis moved Iranshah to the more prosperous town of Bansda, where they remained for
a further fourteen years. The existing Parsi settlement in nearby Navsari, under the leadership of Changa Asha, allowed the Sanjana
priests to move Iranshah to their town in 1419 A.C.E. The Sanjana priests guarding Iranshah were now under the jurisdiction of the
Bhagharia priests of Navsari and it was agreed that they would only perform the ceremonies connected with Iranshah, while the
Bhagharias would continue to perform other religious ceremonies for the community. This arrangement lasted for about 320 years,
after which there were quarrels between the two priestly factions. Ultimately, the Sanjanas decided to remove Iranshah to some place
within the jurisdiction of the Sanjana priests. In 1740 A.C.E., they chose to move to Bulsar where they remained for two years after
which they moved Iranshah to Udvada, where the sacred fire flourishes to this day.
The Tragedy at Variav : On one occasion, the Rajput ruler demanded a higher tribute from the Parsis of Variav, near Surat. When the
Rajah sent his troops to collect the dues, they were repelled by the Parsis. A bigger force was sent on another occasion when the
Parsi men were away to an out-of-town feast. This compelled the parsi women to take up arms against the Rajah s men. They fought
bravely and were on the point of winning, when a womans helmet dropped exposing her hair. Seeing this the Rajput soldiers made a
frenzied charge and the women preferring death to dishonor heroically leapt into the nearby Tapti River and drowned. Roj
Ashishwangh, Mah Fravardin is commemorated even today in honor of the Parsi women who sacrificed themselves at Variav.
Lessons From Our Parsi Ancestors : From the foregoing account, it will become clear how much hardship and suffering was borne by
our ancestors in their fight for survival, both in Iran and also on the Indian sub-continent, and for the preservation of the Holy Fire -
Iranshah. The decision by some of these ancestors to give up their beloved land of Iran and all their possessions and move to another
country in order to save their religion and identity is equally commendable. How the Parsi migrants to the Indian sub-continent
managed to achieve their objective in the face of tremendous odds is even more noteworthy. Our forebears were truly men and women
with backbone of whom we should be justly proud and grateful.
Just as Parsis migrated to the West Coast of India after the downfall of the Sasanian Empire, there have been accounts of similar
migrations to other regions, principally Europe. It is remarkable that no trace exists of any such early migrants, except the Parsis who
came to India. The Parsis on the Indian sub-continent number less than a hundred thousand today and they have achieved their goal of
preserving their faith and identity almost intact in a sea of some one billion non-Parsis for around thirteen centuries. Some may call it a
miracle; others call it a result of their dogged adherence to certain tough rules of survival based primarily on their religion. The first rule
they adopted was to call themselves Parsis, or Parsi-Zarathushtis and not Zarathushtis alone. This can be seen from the names of
almost every Anjuman and Institution on the Indian sub-continent. This immediately insulated them from others who could claim to
belong to their community by following the Zarathushti religion. Other important rules came directly from their scriptures. These rules
included wearing of the sudhreh-kushti, reverence to fire as The Son of Ahura Mazda, following their purity laws (Ashoi) including the
use of Nirang, the practice of Dokhme Nashini, rules against conversion of non-Parsis into their community and most importantly, the
law prohibiting mixed-marriage with non-Parsis. Besides making the Parsi community a distinct entity, these rules also formed a
deterrent by being so unique and different, that outsiders could not readily abide by them. Had they not followed these laws, the Parsis
of the Indian sub-continent would have also become assimilated a long time ago. During their thirteen-century history on the Indian
sub-continent, significant changes have taken place in their makeup. Their outer clothing, diet, customs, etc., have all undergone
significant transformation. Despite these changes, they have managed to survive as a distinct identity. Not only have they always
moved with the times, in most fields they have also been pioneers and have stayed ahead of the times. But throughout their checkered
history, they have always steadfastly adhered to their unique rules which remained unchanged and which has been their salvation. Not
only have they preserved both their faith and their identity, they have also played a full role in the development of their country. No one
labeled them non-humanist, non-compassionate, pompous, bigoted, racist, or any other derogatory term, just because they wanted
to preserve their identity. On the contrary, they have helped the indigenous population almost as much as they have helped their own
community members and this has won them great acclaim from the leaders of their adopted homelands. There has been a great
pressure for us to change ever since we arrived on this continent. Words like "be more open minded", "compromise", "move with the
times", "shed outdated ideas", "be realistic", etc., are constantly banded around to shame the Parsis into giving up their time tested
traditions. Change if you must, but bear in mind that unless we have in place rules as effective (if different) as our forefathers did on the
Indian sub-continent, our chances of survival as a Parsi community beyond a couple of generations are negligible. It is not easy for a
microscopic community like ours to survive without disciplining ourselves into following some tough rules. Once our identity is lost, our
Faith will go the same way. Of course, if the will to survive as Parsis is absent, nothing more needs to be said. Historical portions of
this article have been taken almost entirely from Dastur Dr. Hormazdyar Dastur Kayoji Mirza s "Outlines of Parsi History", published in
1987. The Tragedy at Variav is from P. P. Balsaras "Highlights of Parsi History", published in 1963. The author makes grateful
acknowledgment to both of these sources.