Travels in Iran
A Parsi Mission to Iran (1865)
Wednesday 4 June 2003, by
Manekji Limji Hataria
A Parsi Mission to Iran
An English Translation of Manekji’s Travel Report (1865).
The land that time forgot.
Even in the late nineteenth century, many a ruined monument attested to Iran’s great past.
- Manekji Limji Hataria
The ancient Zoroastrians, who lived within the boundaries of Iran, called the country Iran-Mino Nishan (sign of heaven) because of its pleasant climate and the fertility of its soil. Iran is also known as Baag-e-Behesht (garden of paradise) because of its unique climate. The mountains of Iran, the springs of sweet water flowing therefrom, the pasture grounds and the animals rea red thereon, the milk of those heal- thy animals, the fruits and flowers of many varieties make human life stronger and longer: even today it is so.
The geographical position of Iran in the center of the great land mass enables the country to command the neigh boring lands; in ancient times, the Iranian Empire had extended to the Ural Mountains in the west and to China in the east. The country had many arts and industries and its prosperity was unsurpassed in the annals of history. Even today no country of the world appears to have reached that level of prosperity. Moreover, in those happy and prosperous days of Iran, the inhabitants observed the rules of piety and purity of body, mind and soul. There were no superstitious beliefs and thus they could live a long and healthy life.
Every Parsi knows today that kings of various Zoroastrian dynasties ruled over Iran thousands of years ago. But we have no roeord of what happened to their mighty palaces, forts and other monuments. Even those who remained in Iran and suffered oppression at the hands of the Arabs had not the faintest idea of these things. Most of the monuments and palaces were destroyed by the Arabs. They were either broken down or burnt. The great library, which was a treasure house of ancient culture and literature, was burnt by the Arabs.
To travel in many parts of Iran was not safe under the Arab rule. Permission was required for going from province to province and their spies and soldiers follow the travellers and watch their movements and note down their conversation.
The traveller had to be on guard all the time. No arms were allowed to be carried. The task of research in Iran is a Himalayan task and will never be completed. Many westerners have interest in Iranian history and culture and their research work is continuous. There is a reason for this. They have got means and they are supported and encouraged by their governments. This facility we Parsis of India do not get.
It must be borne in mind that the ancient Iranians were far superior and civilized than the people of today. They had various arts and crafts which provided them with their livelihood. Their trading activities were boundless. They traded with the countries of the East and the West and always kept good relations with others. On the whole the Iranians were peace-loving people; but when occasion required it, they fought to the finish. In art and architecture also they were pioneers. Their edifices, buildings, palaces, forts and other monuments were not built of bricks, stones and mortar, with wood and iron as is done today. They were mostly carved in mountains, particularly at great heights. There were reasons for that. Iran is a mountainous country and there is very little place for building extensive monuments. Also, the ancients had the foresight to know that some day their country might be invaded or overrun by some enemy. To safeguard their own position their forts were constructed on relatively inaccessible mountain tops; and so too were their palaces, courts and towers of silence. On examination it is found that most of the constructions were perfect and contained every facility for life.
Their battle arms were very strong and unique. Modern science of today is filled with awe at their equipment and their constructions. From all this we can definitely say that the ancient Iranians were far advanced in all ways of life. We wonder at some of the modern scientific inventions, but these were known to the ancient Iranians.
The author, having been there personally and having seen almost every place in Iran, is in an advantageous position to give an account of its ancient glory. Many western travellers also have made a study of the ancient monuments but the author lived and researched there for nearly 10 years and has gathered much information.
On March 31, 1854, the author traveller left Bombay and by sea route came to the Isle of Ormaz where he found an observatory which exhibited a device to study the movements of nine planets. This was constructed by the ancient Iranians. The ancient lighthouse near the Isle of Ormaz still stands to caution ships entering the harbor. Proceeding further, one comes to Abashi, Kism, Ashidor, Langa and Minab ports from where one can proceed straight to Bushaire. All these places show some traces of the ancient Iranian greatness. Further from there, on the other side of Mount Godare Manhoor, stands the city of Dehrish. A river flows through the mountain crevices and on the top of the mountain there is an old fort in a ruinous condition. On the side of the mountain there are pictures engraved which contain Naksh-e-Zohak, Naksh-e-Ardehsir Babak and Naksh-e-Shapoor Shah, etc. These are very vividly in scribed. Far below in the valley is to be seen the huge statue of Shapoor Shah. There are several cubicles carved in the mountain which show that people who came there must have resided there for some time. Further in the wilderness there are inscriptions of the world-famous hero Rustom and Ash Kaboos and Shaaraab-e-Behrarn and some other inscriptions and tablets. Between Gajroon and Tang-e- Toorkan there are other mountains of which Kuh-e-Hoosang is well-known. The mountain top was the place for the disposal of dead bodies. There are inscriptions of old heroes of the past, their dresses, arms, way of fighting, etc on Mount Barme Dalaak.
On the way from Shiraz to Firozabad, some old towers of silence are to be seen as also several forts in ruinous condition. There is a very important and noteworthy inscription showin Prophet Zoroaster teaching his good Zoroastrian religion to Shah Gustasp and his children. It shows how Shah Gustasp and hisprogeny accepted the religion. Another inscription depicts the war between Asphandiar-e-Ruinton and Arjasp. At the foot of the mountain there is an old atash kadeh whose edifice is still unbroken. Near Shiraz, in the suburb named Khapar, there is an old tower of silence of Hakim Jamasp. There are many other ruined monuments which testify to the ancient Iranian glory. Near Nalook-e-Daraab, in a lonely mountain, there is an atash kadeh with a golden dome which is still in a good condition and not ruined. There is another atash kadeh in the ruined city of Sarvasthan. Beyond Shiraz, in Istekhar there are fire-temples, towers of silence and other ruined edifices. The most noteworthy are the Takht-e-Jamshid and Takht-e-Tagdish, Dokhme Jamshir, Dokhme Faridoon, Dokhme Zarthosht, Kaabe Zarthosht and Naksh-e-Rustom. There are inscriptions of the coronation ceremonies of many Iranian kings and of the appointing of their successors. In villages further north, there are other ruined monuments, forts, towers of silence, etc.
On the way from Mard-e-Seemurg-eaab to Yazd, there are many inscriptions depicting King Yazdegard Sheriyar and his children. There are ancient ruined cities of Daaredoor, Davroon, Dodrog, Refla-Sanjan, where many ruined edifices are yet to be seen. There are forts and libraries and domes of old atash kadehs. The Kille-Kaaoos is noteworthy. In the open spaces around Kerman and Yazd, there are signs of the past glories of Kayanian and Sasanian kings. Moving forward from there, one comes across Haft Azar, Aakha, Navdosaan and other old cities now in ruin. The cave named Gaare-Yazdan is worth seeing. The sight of all these provide testimony to the power of the evil Arab sword.
To the north-east of Kuh-e-Jamavand there are the old cities of Tabriz and Gajveen Sultanis. The old palace of King Jamshid of the Peshdadian clan — Takhte-Jamshid — and Takht-e-Suleman are other historical places. Here on the mountainsides there are inscriptions, in Khilarokhi script, which are difficult to decipher. Other ruined cities are Shannadez, Haavan Dhaoon, Sharooshabaad and Asphandabad. There are forts carved in mountainsides at great heights.
To the north-east of Mount Demavand, in the city of Kangavaar, there is an old atash kadeh which was a favorite of King Kobad. In the north there are many forts and towers of silence. Forts were probably constructed there for the defence of the country against the Turanian invasions across the northern border of Iran. In the northern mountains there are many inscriptions — like the coronation ceremony of King Lohrasp performed by King Kaikhushroo, inscriptions of Khushroo Parvez, Takht-e-Shinn, coronation of King Asphandiar, Farangiz, hero Rustom with his horse Rekha in a magnificent manner, wars and hunting exploits of Khushroo Parviz, etc.
In the mountains near Jaenda, the mighty palace and ports of King Yazdegard Shaheriyar are to be seen in a ruinous condition. There are inscriptions of Arab invasion and their fight with Iranians. On the top of a mountain there is a tower of silence named Kilah-e-Dawood. It is so high on the mountain that probably the Arab destroyers could not see it or could not reach it.
The last capital city of the Persians was Madam near Baghdad. A minaret built by Tehmurasp Devband stands testimony to its glory.
A millennium of misery
Though harassment thinned the ranks of Zoroastrians in Iran, it failed to annihilate their devotion to the faith.
When the country went into the hands of the Muslims, hordes of Arabs, Mongols, Tartars and other barbaric tribes overran the country causing destruction and devastation everywhere. Robbers and dacoits destroyed our ancient temples, palaces and valuable libraries and other important monuments. These hoards were totally illiterate and uncultured and forced Islam upon the people at the point of the sword. They brought nothing but poverty and ruin. The slaughter of thousands of people led to the spread of various contagious diseases. The natural beauty of the country and the healthy atomsphere became things of the past. Under the tyrannical rule of the Muslim Sultans, the number of dacoits and robbers increased; men forgot their human characteristics and behaved like senseless brutes. Family happiness departed and the “Garden of Paradise” turned into the most veritable hell.
A time came when Zoroastrians in Iran were tyrannized and forbidden to have their own mode of worship. Many had to embrace Islam for life. Women and children lived in fear of the Muslim maulyis (religious heads) who harassed all non-Muslims. All good and learned ministers were slaughtered mercilessly along with many non-Muslims. It was a period of bloodshed and we can well imagine the sorry plight of our coreligionists engulfed by that ruthless administration.
The ancient Iranians ruled over the country of Persia for thousands of years and the traces of their power are still to be seen in that country. In spite of this many Muslim rulers believed that the past sovereigns of Iran were not Zoroastrians but some other race. They think that those Zoroastrians who reside in Iran even today are the descendants of some uncultured race called Maajus. To this day some of the Muslims of Iran keep themselves aloof from the Parsis, never touch them or their belongings and refuse to sell them the wares from their shops. It is very difficult for the Parsis to keep their individuality there, as their estates and properties have gone into the hands of the Muslims and for the sake of their personal safety, many have embraced Islam. Recently research scholars have found out that a group of our coreligionists still survive as Zoroastrians and live in distant mountains in Central Asia. They belong to the ancient Kayanian race, possessing Kayani blood; but no precise details are available about their vocation and occupation and how they satisfy their needs and necessities of life, and still maintain their ancient religion taught by prophet Zarathushtra.
The inhabitants of Kerman and Yard are mostly Zoroasirians and they have suffered much at the hauds of the Arabs and Muslims. Their population appears to be dwindling. When the Arabs got their sway over Iran, the Zoroastrians were slaughtered mercilessly, their houses were burnt down and they were robbed of their valuables and other belongings. Rape, arson, fire, house-breaking and all other possible crimes were perpetrated by the Muslims. There was unspeakable cruelty. One can well imagine their sorry plight; yet we have been able to preserve our ancient religion of Zoroaster, and the Muslims have not been able to prevail upon us.
Even the Parsis who left their father-land, Iran and came into India (Hindustan) were not happy in the beginning. They suffered much under the Muslim tyrannical rule; but determination to preserve their good religion made them abandon everything — their lands, estates, houses, farms, wealth, etc — and they migrated from their land of birth with tears in their eyes. Their faith in God and determination to preserve their religion granted them relief in the end and they were able to settle down in Hindustan.
At present the Zoroastrian population of Iran is no more than 10,000 and the Muslim population is more than accrue, the ratio being 1 : 1 ,000. Those who immigrated into India became safe, particulary under the British regime, but those who were left behind in Iran underwent terrible times and suffered beyond description. The Parsis of India did much in the past to improve the conditions of their coreligionists residing in Iran, but the Muslim maulyas being adamant, no good ever came of the effort. Muslim tyranny did not abate and the Zoroastrians in Iran continued to live in a state of bond-age because of their religion (mazhab).
In Arab dominated Iran, the condition of the Zoroastrians was pitiable. Their food was simple, consisting of rice, wheat and pulses which they ate with naan (a kind of bread). They often subsisted on vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, or garlic, onion, etc. Meat and fish was for the more fortunate ones only. Dried fruits (mevo) was available but only rich people could afford it.
The houses of the Zoroastrians were built of clay with thatched roofs. They were small and without upper storeys. Most of the houses were in a bad condition. They were closed from all sides with one small door in front. There was always a fear of robbery and burglary: the inhabitants were never safe.
Their main occupation at that time was agriculture; but even in this there was no security. The Arab hordes could pounce upon the fields at any moment and carry away the crops. On their fields they mostly grew wheat and vegetables as these articles made up their staple diet.
The Zoroastrians covered their bodies with khadi-like materials in summer and woollen blankets in winter. They wore sudreh and kusti which were actually prohibited articles under Arab rule. They dare not expose their sudreh and kusti. Many a times, when a kusti was not available, the Zoroastnans wrapped round their waists a thick cotton belt which they called kamarband. They always kept their heads covered with a thick cotton or woollen handkerchief. They were forbidden to put on any other, headgear. They put on high boots made of leather which they called patawa or cupps. In winter, some people put on woolen socks also.
As time went on, the Zoroastrians took up other occupations also like weaving and carpentry. Some worked as laborers in the fields owned by the Muslims. The beast of transport was the mule.
There were peddlers who carried artides like sewing thread, needles, spices, pieces of cloth, etc in large bags on their shoulders and moved about from place to place selling their wares. Many went into trade, selling wool, woollen clothes, cotton, silk, wheat, oil, dried fruits, nuts, etc and made good business. They started exporting the above articles to other countries of Europe and Asia.
The Arabs and Muslims found the Zoroastrian way of living and working better than their own. Some of them appreciated the Zoroastrian way of living while the more fanatic ones tried to destroy the Zoroastrian tribes in Iran.
Rites of Passage Simplicity remained the keynote of Zoroastrian celebrations at birth, marriage or death
The Zoroastrians performed their religious rites also, but this they did in their closed houses. They performed jashans and even navjotes and wedding ceremonies according to their traditional customs.
Every Parsi girl had to learn domestic duties such as cooking, sewing, working on the ancestral field, etc. A girl who was proficient in household duties and domestic affairs was always preferred for marriage. The marriageable age for girls was between 15 and 20 years. Nobody wanted to marry a girl who was beyond 20 years of age and who could not undertake household duties. She had to stitch and sew her own as well as her husband’s clothes, cook for the family and do other odd jobs in the household. The marrying age for boys was between 20 and 30 years. Young boys and girls were free to select their own life partners, though the parents and elders were always ready to guide them and advise them on the right path.
Due to poverty in some families and adverse circumstances, many girls remained spinsters and boys bachelors up to a ripe, advanced age. The boy understood his responsibility and when he found himself able to stand on his own legs and run the whole household and maintain the family, then only he ventured to get married. Love marriages were also allowed. Parents only tried to trace the family history of the opposite family. The parents of the girl always saw what the boy was doing, what he was earning and how he conducted his daily life. They did not want to risk the life of their daughter in the hands of one who was unable to support her and make her happy. Before marriage both the parties always found out if there were any diseases or other drawbacks in the girl as well as in the boy.
Mobeds were then consulted and if the boy and the girl were both willing and loved each other, the mobeds gave their consent. Thus the preliminary part of marriage was over.
Afterwards, two cones of sugar, some sweets, dried fruits, fresh fruits and such other things were sent from the bride-groom’s parents to the bride’s place. These articles were taken by nine ladies and nine gentlemen. One cone of sugar and sweets were given to the bride and the other cone and some sweets and other articles were given to her father. A small plant or pomegranate and some meva (dried fruits) were also given to the bride, not for her, but for her other near relatives. The visitors were entertained with sherbet or fruits or sometimes they were made to dine with their hosts.
Two weeks after this, the bride’s parents sent a cap, a handkerchief, a knitted purse for keeping money and a pair of footwear for the bridegroom. At that time the girl gave to the boy and his relatives some sweets, sugar and dried fruits. Both the sides sent sweets to their neighbors, to the priests and to the head of the village. Thus the marriage was made known to the people of the place and this was called Nam-e-Jadsood — giving the name — or confirmation of marriage. This ceremony was held generally occuring springtime when fruits were aplenty. A few days after the above ceremony, on some festival day, the boy, accompanied by a number of his relatives, went to the girl’s place and offered her a pomegranate with seven to 23 rials (currency of Iran) inserted in it. (The value of one rial was about half a rupee.)
Men and women sat separately; the girl sat in one corner of the room and the boy personally went to the girl and gave her the coin-studded pomegranate and other presents. The boy’s relatives (womenfolk) made the girl wear new shoes brought by the boy. When she put her feet into the shoes, it was confirmed that she had become the rightful life partner of that boy. The womenfolk announced this and the men shouted with joy. They say “Haa baro, Haa baro”, meaning “well done.” The above phrase appears to be the Persian equivalent of “Hurrah”. This word seemed to have crept into Iran from the West, and the Persians construed it as “Be happy”. Then they all dined together. That was the sign of unity between the two families.
Festivities were not compulsory and each one celebrated according to his economic status. Sumptuous dinners were given with wine, etc by well-to-do people; others, less fortunate, offered only fruits and sherbet. In the following winter the above ceremonies were repeated. The girl went up to the boy with her father and offered more presents to him. In this way nearly a year passed by so that the boy and the girl could understand each other well. When the elders found that there was nothing wrong and both got on well with each other, the marriage was fixed at a short notice of 15 to 20 days. Before getting married, the boy generally procured a house of his own and if he could not, then he stayed with his parents for some time till he owned a house of his own. No marriage was done during autumn (Phaiz); if there was hurry, the marriage was performed during winter. But the most appropriate time was spring when the earth were covered with fresh verdure. Marriage was performed at the time of meeting of day and night, i.e. either in the morning at the time of sunrise or in the evening at the time of sunset.
At the time of marriage, the senior priest asked the girl very slowly and quietly whether she was willing to accept the boy as her husband. The girl did not answer at first, out of her modesty. The mobed repeated the question three times, the last very loudly saying that he was tired of asking and he wanted a reply. He requested the girl once again to tell him whether she was willing to accept the proposed boy as her husband. She very softly and respectfully said “Bali Bali” meaning “Yes, Yes”. The mobed then asked the guests present whether they heard her and whether they were witness to that ceremony. The men folk again shouted “Bali Bali”.
Then the mobed performed the wed-lock ceremony. The mobed instructed the bridegroom to pray the Khorshed Niyayesh and the Meher Niyayesh three times a day morning, afternoon and evening for prosperity and if he could not pray this much, he had to recite 135 Yatha-ahu-vairyo and five Ashem. On the days of ghambars, some food was to be distributed to friends and relatives and they all sat down and ate together.
The Zoroastrians were very religious minded and they invoked the blessings of the 33 Fareshtas. Fire was a very holy and honored element in every Zoroastrian’s house. They burnt sandalwood or ordinary wood and nothing else. As fire was considered holy, nothing which emitted a foul or unpleasant smell was put on fire. Fire was revered as the son of Ahura Mazda.
Fire was considered so holy that when the wedded couple came home they turned round — circumambulated — the holy fire three times as a seal of their pledge of fidelity to each other. There was never any strife or quarrels between the daughter-in-law and the mother-in-law.
Marriages were not very expensive. They did everything in a simple way in keeping with their economic conditions. The couple was always happy and the husband took every care to see that his wife was happy in all respects. After marriage, the girl’s parents had no right or control over her. She was her husband’s property and it was her husband’s obligation to maintain her and keep her happy.
The girl who married according to the rites mentioned above, was known and was called by the name of Padshahajani.
The girl whose marriage was arranged by her parents was entitled Padshaha Janina. The girl who married without her parents’ consent, at her own free will, was called Khood Rehijni. If a widow married again, she was called Chakar Jani. When she bore children, their names were connected with the name of her first husband.
If a wife could not get on with her husband or vice versa and lived separately for some time, she was obliged to have the ashirwad ceremony performed again when she rejoined her husband, as if she was getting married again.
Divorce cases were few and far between. When a couple quarreled and could not live amicably, the relatives of both sides and the mobeds intervened and tried to bring about a settlement between them and if they failed in this and if the husband and wife could not agree yet, they were taken to the atash bahram where, after performing the kusti ceremony, the mobed reprimanded them, saying that they would have to answer for their behavior to Meher, Sarosh and Rashne Yazads. The mobed then brought them near each other, they kissed each other’s hand for the last time and thus got separated and went to their respective homes. Separation between husband and wife was considered a sinful act.
There had been cases of bigamy — having two wives. When a man wanted to have another wife, he first opened his heart before his wife and she allowed him to do so. She had to make a confession in the presence of a mobed and her relatives that she had given him permission to bring another wife. The man, in his obligation, had to declare that after having the second wife he would not neglect the first one and both of them would be treated on equal footing. They lived together in one house and the children of both the wives were treated equally, as brothers and sisters. This practice of having two wives seemed to have been adopted from the Muslims, after the Arab occupation of Iran.
When a child was born to the newly-weds, he or she was to be trained in a proper way. Much importance was given to the building of the child’s moral character. Before the age of 10 a boy was initiated into Zoroastrianism — i.e. his navjote was performed. A girl’s navjote was performed earlier, generally by the age of seven years.
When a girl who married had no brother she was entitled Shwhoorjani, and when she gave birth to the first boy child, the boy was considered his maternal grandfather’s son and the boy’s father had no right over his son. The Kayanian King Darab’s name was attached to his maternal grandfather’s name, Bomanshah; the Peshdadi King Minocher’s name was attached to his maternal grand-father’s name Erachshah and King Alexander’s name was attached to his maternal grandfather’s name, Filsuf.
A name was given to the newly born child on the tenth day after birth. For this purpose the parents, uncles, grand-parents and other near relatives thought of a name but did not disclose it. On the tenth day after the birth of the child all relatives met together and each one gave out the name that he or she had thought of. Then the mother chose whichever name she liked out of all those and that name was given to the child. Generally a boy was given his grandfather’s name and a girl her grandmother’s name. If a child was born posthumously, the father’s name was given to the boy and the mother’s name to the girl. Small children were made to sleep in small, comfortable cradles which were mostly hand-made.
A child was always fed on mother’s milk. After giving birth to the child, the mother always took very nutritious food in order to be able to give more milk to her child. If a mother died while giving birth, the child was entrusted to a very near relative (woman) who could feed the child.
Though the Arabs forced the Iranians to give up their traditional dresses, they retained the sudreh and kusti hidden under a loose garment like a robe. There was not much change in the woman’s dress. Womenfolk put on colorful cotton or woolen garments under which they wore the sudreh and kusti. They wore an eejaar (pyjama) long enough to reach below the knee and always kept their heads covered with a handkerchief or a scarf. They wore light shoes on their feet. They kept their entire body covered; even over the face they wore the burkha. Modesty and self-respect were their most praiseworthy qualities. Feminine beauty was never exposed in public. During festivals and gatherings, men and women sat separately on two sides and did not mix much with each other.
On festive occasions, ladies put on colorful dresses. They covered their body with silk gowns and tied a handkerchief or a scarf on the head. They always kept their arms covered up to the elbows. There was no burkha system among the Parsis in Iran, but this became prevalent under the Arab rule. For ornaments they mostly used silver. Old silver coins were often joined together with chains and used as necklaces. They used flowers also for decorating their bodies. Some-times, silver earings were also used. The womenfolk did not wear glass bangles but sometimes they used beads of colored glass tied together round their wrists.
Periodic and seasonal jashans were performed. Crowds met together for jashans and when the mobed started to pray, the guests also prayed with the mobed. Praying from books was also allowed. It was compulsory for everyone present to pray along with the mobed. Ghambars were also held. Ghambars are seasonal feasts and the community met together at the festive board and partook of the same food. Ghambars were thanksgiving to God for his various bounties. Sitting together and eating together brought about unity and brotherhood among the people. Of course, on all such occasions, men and women did not mix with each other; they sat apart, either in separate chambers or on two opposite sides of the same room. The chief mobbed-Dah-Mobed was the most important personality at all religious ceremonies and festivals and was much respected. In the early days, about two thousand jashans and ghambars were held in different towns and villages of Iran.
The custom of drinking wine was prevalent among the Iranians during festivals and ghambars. A socially appointed wine-bearer (known as saki in Persian) distributed wine to the guests. First he filled his own cup, said some prayers, wished well for the guests and drank it himself. Then he filled the cups of the guests and they all drank together giving blessings to each other.
The most important and most significant festival was the Jamshedi Nowroz, the Iranian New Year, when the sun enters the first house of the Zodiac. The last 10 days of the year were observed as days for remembering the dead. Those were days for prayers and visiting each other. No regular work was done. Those were the days of muktad. It is said that a Roman ambassador came to the court of King Darius of Iran during these muktad days. Darius refused to receive him but made arrangements for him to stay in comfort till the Nowroz clay though the ambassador had come for some urgent and important work. King Darius met him in great pomp and dignity on the Nowroz Day and entertained him in the most fitting manner before doing any official work. This spring festival of Nowroz was observed throughout the length and breadth of the country by all, rich as well as poor.
Jashans were held when the name of the month and that of the day coincided, for example, Fravardin mah and Fravardin roj, Ardibehesht mah and Ardibehesht roj, Meher mah and Meher roj, etc. The womenfolk were proud to make various preparations for all these jashans and other festivals. They worked hard and believed in the dignity of labor. Their modesty was concealed in their simplicity of manners and bearings. Sweets and daroons were prepared only by wives of mobeds — i.e. athornan women. Non-athornans or behdins could not make these things.
During monthly sickness, the Iranian women observed strict rules of piety. They did not touch the articles of their daily use. A separate set of utensils were kept for use during this period. The woman kept aloof and did not mix or talk with other members of the household.
When a person died, a woman was bathed by womenfolk and the dead man was bathed by men. Then the sachkar ceremony began and the mobeds prayed near the dead body till the time of dokhmenashini i.e. putting the dead body in the tower of silence.
Before putting the body in the tower of silence, a pair of mobeds performed the last rites — geh sarna — and the friends and relatives present at the ceremony paid their last homage to the departed one who was put in the gehan (bier). The nassessalars carried the dead. Separation between husband and wife was considered a sinful act body to the dokhma. A number of people went up to the dokhma to pay their last respect; they went in the form of a procession, the son or brother of the departed leading the procession. They all walked in pairs of two holding a white handkerchief. Even womenfolk came up to the dokhma and stood there on one side. After the body was put in the dokhma the relatives all went back. Before entering their houses they always performed the kusti ceremony for acquiring piety for their body and soul. It was considered a sin to cry after the dead because they considered that after death the person went to a higher stage in life and life after death was a happy, heavenly life.
The third day ceremony was really a consolation meeting: all friends and relatives of the departed one came and consoled the family members of the departed one. During this time the mobeds prayed with a view that the soul of the departed one might become free to move forward. The fourth day ceremony the chahrum ceremony — was the most important one, as on the fourth day the soul of the departed one went beyond the orbit of the earth, crossed the Chinvat Bridge and proceeded further and further. The prayers in memory really to help the soul in its further heavenly march — continued daily till the tenth day. Then on the day of death every month, the remembrance ceremony, baaj and afrinagan, were performed. It was believed that these prayers pleased the departed one and the soul of the departed one sent blessings to his dear ones on this earth. The ancients thought it necessary to perform the baaj ceremony every month for at least 30 years.
When the Parsis intervened
When the Parsis intervened liberalism at the center was offset by the greed and cruelty of local officersand religious heads.
The Muslims of the Shia sect became very powerful in course of time and some of the petty officers, moulvies, mullahs and other religious heads imposed their laws upon the people with a total disregard for the rulers in the capital. Some of them posed as khalifa (successors of Prophet Mohammed) and ruled with tyranny. The Zoroastrians were the worst affected and they suffered a lot. Still, hiding in caves and other secret places, they preserved their dear religion secretly.
The power of these petty officers and moulvies increased to such an extent that they dominated the country like kings, but there was a lurking fear that the subjects might rise or rebel against them. At that juncture, a petition was made to the rulers asking for redress for the Zoroastrians and requesting that they be exempted from Muslim codes. The rulers were considerate in many cases but their subordinates, other officers of the state and religious heads harassed the Zoroastrians and forced them to embrace Islam.
There was a very large population of the Jews in Iran during the great Iranian kings and they were all happy. With the advent of Arab rule, those Jews migrated from Iran in large numbers because they hated the tyranny of the Arabs and the Jewish population became almost extinct in Iran. Similarly, there were many other people such as Russians, Armenians, Turks, etc. They also fled from Iran like the Zoroastrians, to save their religion.
The Zoroastrians were everywhere — in every hook and corner of Iran. In the villages, round about Tehran only, there were more than 60,000 houses of Zoroastrians; immediately after the advent of the Muslims, about 6,000 houses could be counted. But this number dwindled in the course of time and those Zoroastrians who could not leave Iran like their other coreligionists, fled into the wilderness and mountains where they lived unknown to the outside world. They remained backward, their children could fled get any education nor did they learnthe tenets of their own religion and passed a rustic life. There were 20,000 or more houses of Zoroastrians in Isfahan, but today there are hardly 400 houses there.
Foreigners like the Jews, Armenians, Russians and others had been very helpful to the country by way of trade and agriculture. When they fled due to Arab persecution, Iran suffered a great loss. As time passed, many Muslims also found it difficult to stay in Iran under the tyrannical rule of many impudent officers, and consequently they also fled. Due to the weak rule and lack of control from the rulers at the center, robbers and dacoits overran the country and harassed the people. Everyone’s safety was at stake.
It was during such troubled times that the Parsis of India tried hard to save their coreligionists who were in Iran. There had been instances of people having been butchered for not accepting Islam; and the Muslim rulers maintained that it was not cruelty on the people: they were only doing their duty! The Parsis of India communicated to the Muslim rulers of Iran to improve their religious code and keep their hands off the Zoroastrians. Some relief was given to the Zoroastrians of Iran by the then rulers due to this intervention of the Parsis of India. Yet the Jazia tax continued to be collected from the Zoroastrians under the pretext that they received protection of their person and property by paying that tax. Those who refused to pay the Jazia tax were mercilessly killed and their properties and lands were taken away by the Muslims. Many a time, the Muslim officers who wield power in Iran went off the track of Islamic rules as taught to them by their Prophet Mohammed. Notwithstanding much opposition and protest, such lawless procedures went on and the country was turned into a veritable hell. Those who paid the Jazia tax regularly and fully were respected irrespective of their caste and religion. This shows that the Muslim rulers of Iran were not so interested in their own religion as in exacting money from the people. The lawlessness prevailing in Iran gave boundless opportunities to unscrupulous people to carry on their nefarious activities of plunder, arson, rape and soon.
The Koran says that the person who does not cause any injury to others, who rejoices at the good of others, one who helps others in their troubles and looks upon all with a fraternal eye, he alone is true and faithful. This law was set aside by the cruel Muslim officers who did many wrongs. Of course the Koran says that people of other sects should be converted into Muslims at the earliest but the method of doing so is not clarified.
His Majesty King Humayun Naseruddin had promised to exempt the Zoroastrians from the Jazia tax; but after Naseruddin his orders and promises were set aside. So a petition was once again made to the Muslim rulers stating that many Jews, Armenians and Russians migrate from Iran under the pretext of trade and business. First they go to their native land but do not stay permanently there. They go away to India or China and settle there. This shows that they were not happy and satisfied in Iran.
The rulers were requested to safeguard the properties of the Zoroastrians and grant them some freedom in the matter of worship. It was also stated that the Zoroastrians — if granted some relief — would remain there as faithful subjects and would help the rulers and their government in times of need.
The petition was duly received by the then Muslim ruler and a suitable reply was received by the Parsis of India and the same was also published in Indian newspapers. The ruler Kulazazkhan thus did much for the benefit of the Zoroastrians in Iran and since that day the ill feeling of the Zoroastrians towards their Muslim rulers became much less. His Majesty, Shah Humayun gave liberal promises to the Parsis and those promises were faithfully observed.
At the instance of the above petition, His Majesty Hooshang Hazrat convened a conference of religious heads of Muslims and Zoroastrains and after much discussion and debate, decided to allow the Zoroastrians to follow their religion unmolested. They were allowed to wear the sudreh and kusti and they were exempted from the Jazia tax. Of course, this order did not last long because the kings who ruled after Hooshang were again religious bigots and the religious tyranny continued. Whether legally allowed or not, the Zoroastrians continued to wear the sudreh and kusti secretly for hundreds of years and adhered to their religion.
Fortunately, there appeared a wise man in Iran. He was a blacksmith by profession but of a religious turn of mind. He sang the Bhagavad Gita in various tunes and won over the people. He became a very powerful and influential man and ruled over a small province.
The Zoroastrians preferred to live under him as they got full religious freedom. There were oppositions to this movement but the opponents did not succeed in their efforts. A time came when it was decided to initiate every Zoroastrian born child into the Mazdayasni Zarthosti religion. A mass ceremony was held for this initiation and a large group of Zoroastrian children were given sudrehs and kustis and were taught our prayers. Thus an improvement came in the life of the Zoroastrians in Iran. These Zoroastrians children then came forward in society, got proper education and led a very useful and religious life. They learnt to follow the four-fold path of religion: the path of Ashoi, that is purity of body and soul; the preservation of fire and reverence for the sacred elements; Tokhma-sarav, i.e. love for humanity or brotherhood; and the Avesta prayers. They learnt that our Zoroastrian religion is not only a ritualistic religion, but a way of life.
Sudreh and Kusti
Sudreh is a sign of purity as it is made of light white cloth. Kusti is tied in the middle part of the body; thus it teaches us to keep the middle path in everything, and live a temperate life. Sudreh and kusti are powerful weapons of defence on our body; they protect us from all evil spirits and give us courage to fight against evil. Moreover, the kusti is made from the wool of lamb. The lamb is a meek creature. Thus kusti is a sign of meekness and it also teaches us to be meek and gentle like the lamb. A Zoroastrian is enjoined to pray five times a day during each gah, as the day is divided into five parts and each gah has its prayers. Today, sudreh and kusti are worn by almost every Zoroasirian staying in Iran. Those who have turned Muslims of their own accord are without sudreh and kusti and they are “out of the creed”, so to say.
One who is initiated into Zoroastrianism prays “Dainyao, Vanghayao, Mazdayashnoish Astooatish”. The sudreh and kusti are to be kept on the body till the end of life. The sudreh must be clean and must be changed every two or three days at least.
The kusti is to be performed in the morning at the time of getting up from the bed; every time after visiting the toilet, to make us pure in body and soul; after attending a funeral ceremony; before every meal after washing hands and face, as a thanksgiving to God for the bounty He gives us; at the time of going to bed at night.
There is no stipulated number of times the kusti is to be performed during the day or night. We can do it as many times as we can during the 24 hours of the day.
After giving the sudreh and kusti to the Zoroastrian children in Iran, the Parsis of India tried to persuade the Iranian rulers to allow the Zoroasirians to perform their marriages according to the Zoroastrian rites.
This request also was acceded to the plight of iranian Zoroastrians moved the Parsi sethias to personal commitment to their cause.
Parsis helped the Zoroastrians of Iran
The Zoroastrians of Iran lived under the tyranny of Islamic rule. Many influential and philanthropic Parsis helped the Zoroastrians of Iran in many ways. Houses were constructed for the poor who had no abode; old and dilapidated atash bahrams and agiaries in many cities were repaired. Three dokhmas were constructed in Yard, Sharifabad and Tehran for the comfort of the departed ones; dharamshalas were constructed in Tehran, Yard and Khorramshahr for the Zoroastrians of Iran. The poor were helped monetarily; even food, clothing and other useful articles were distributed amongst the needy Zoroastrians of Iran.
The hateful Jazia tax, which was imposed by the Muslims on all non-Muslim residents, was to a great extent reduced for Zoroastrians by the forceful influence of the Bombay Parsis. This Jazia tax amounted to thousands of rupees per head per year. Those who could not afford to pay this tax were obliged to convert to Islam. The Parsi Anjuman of Bombay helped their coreligionists in Iran in every respect. In some cases secret arrangements were made for some Parsis to flee from Iran secretly; such runaways came to Bombay where they could earn a decent living. First, the Jazia tax was reduced in the case of the Zoroastrians of Iran and later it was abolished altogether. All this was due to the efforts of the Zoroastrian sethias (rich travellers and industrialists) of Bombay, many of whom actually visited Iran several times especially in the days of Shah Naseruddin who was a very considerate king. Under Naseruddin the condition of Zoroastrians in Iran improved to a great extent.
Many charitable and religious works were done by the Bombay Parsis for the betterment of the Zoroastrians in Iran. There were other Parsi sethias who did much for the betterment of the Iranian Zoroastrians but their works were not published and manifest. Their charities were boundless but their names were never made known to the public.
The trustees of the Bombay Kadmi Anjuman’s ghambar fund arranged to send Rs 600 annually to Iran and ghambars were started in Kerman and Tehran for the Zoroastrians. Sad to say that the trustees later on stopped remitting this amount of Rs 600 and some philanthropic Parsis and Iranis sent the amount out of their own pockets. Sir Jamsetji Jejeebhoy, first baronet, once sent Rs 500 worth of cotton cloth for the use of poor Zoroastrians there. He also donated Rs 5,000 to be used for defraying the marriage expenses of poor Zoroastrian girls of Iran. Thus 12 poor Zoroastrian girls were helped in their matrimonial affairs. He had even sent a number of books on religious subjects to be distributed free among the Zoroastrians of Iran.
The late Seth Framji Cawasji Banaji had started a fund for the maintenance of the atash bahram of Yard and he sent large amounts of money every year for sandalwood for that fire-temple.
The late Seth Merwanji Framji Panday and his late wife Hirabai were instrumental in arranging the marriages of a number of poor girls in Iran. They also provided a house to a blind Parsi woman who had only the road for her abode. At great expense he stopped cow slaughter in Iran. Seth Merwanji Panday’s charity in Iran, for the benefit of the Zoroastrians there, was boundless. He had paid school and college fees for many Zoroastrian students of Iran and provided them with necessary books and stationery articles. He had encouraged the Zoroastrians of Iran to continue wearing the sudreh under the Muslim rule when wearing the sudreh was forbidden by the Muslim Sultans of Iran, and often sent sudrehs, kustis and other articles of need for the Zoroastrians of Iran. The Panday family became well-known for their charity both in Iran as well as in India and all their charities were for the good of the Zoroastrian community. Seth Panday spent his entire life in helping the Zoroastrians of Iran and of India.
Another philanthropic well-wisher of our community was Seth Minocherji Hormusji Kama. He obtained permission from the Muslim Sultans to allow the Parsis to perform their marriage ceremonies according to our Zoroastrian rites. He succeeded in all his efforts of helping his coreligionists in Iran.
Seth Minocherji Kama’s son, Seth Framji Minocherji Kama followed in the footsteps of his father and continued helping the Zoroastrians of Iran and fulfilled all their needs.
Seth Rustomji Ruttonji Wadia arranged to send sandalwood from Bombay to Iran for the atash bahram of Yard. He left no stone unturned to see that his coreligionists in Iran continued to live as Zoroastrians and followed the traditions of the ancient Zoroastrians, in spite of Muslim domination in the country.
Seth Behramji Noshirwan Datra was another Parsi Zoroastrian who did much to improve the condition of the Zoroastrians in Iran. His charity was boundless while he himself lived a very simple, frugal life.
The charities made by the Parsis of India in general and those of the Parsis of Bombay in particular were countless and many charities were secret. Particularly, the repair of atash bahrams and agiaries in the different towns of Iran was done secretly so that the Muslim rulers might not know, but after years their results were manifest. The Zoroastrians who survived in Iran secretly followed their own religion. They prayed and performed all Zoroastrian rites and ceremonies up to the present time. For the betterment of the Zoroastrians of Iran, our Parsi sethias of Bombay were mainly responsible, and the Zoroastrians of Iran also deserve praise and congratulations for maintaining their Zoroastrian spirit and continuing to follow the good religion. Thus our good religion was preserved in Iran for hundreds of years after the Arab occupation of the country.
The Parsis of India had done much to improve the living conditions and other matters connected with the life of the Zoroastrian population of Iran. Still, much remains to be done.
The attention of King Naseruddin of Iran was invited to look after the small Zoroastrian population in Iran with a request not to harass them any more, for Naseruddin was a good and considerate ruler. He agreed to allow the Zoroastrians to follow their own religion and did not include them in the Muslim population of Iran.
The Parsis of India drew the attention of Queen Victoria of England to the plight of the Zoroastrians in Iran and the British Resident of Iran (Iran was then a subsidiary state under the British order) was also informed by the Parsis of Bombay about Muslim terrorism and requested to look to the safety of the Zoroastrians there. The Zoroastrians got good protection from the British Resident.
Many Parsis from India visited Iran, saw personally the plight of the Zoroastrians there and with the British Resident they tried to improve the prevailing conditions. They promised the British Resident that they would pay all the expenses necessary for improving the conditions of their coreligionists. Some of them were allowed to go out of Iran towards the West, to Armenia and Bulgaria where they could follow their religion uninterrupted.
In the vicinity of the atash bahram of Yazd, the Parsis purchased a plot of land with the intention of building a dharmashala in future. That proposed dharamshala is not yet constructed.
In the vicinity of the atash bahram at Kerman there was a house owned by a Muslim. This has been purchased by the Parsis and is now used as a dharamshala for housing poor Zoroastrians and also for the temporary sojourn of Zoroastrian travelers
The old tower of silence at Kerman was in a very dilapidated condition. A fund was raised to construct a new dokhma beside the old, broken one for resting the dead. The tower of silence at Kanatkasoon is of clay walls and the walls give way every now and then. So if a new tower of silence is constructed with the stone walls, it would facilitate the Zoroastrians of that place.
In the whole country of Iran, there are, today, two atash bahrams and 17 adarians. It is imperative to raise a suitable fund for the maintenance of these religious abodes.
In Khorramshahr, there is a vacant plot of land adjoining the adarian. Muslims often collect there for holding their meetings and conferences. If this plot of land is purchased and a public hall is built for the use of the Zoroastrians, it would be a blessing to the large Zoroastrian population of the city.
The problem of availability of mobeds in Iran is very acute. Those who are there are not very enlightened and they are not even well versed with some of our rites and customs. There is a great need to improve the condition of the mobeds there: to educate them properly so that they may be better able to serve the community.
It is necessary to create more facilities in Tehran so that some of the Parsis from India can go and earn their livelihood there and be a help to their coreligionists there.
Many old, disabled and weak people are to be found in Iran among the Zoroasirians. They are totally helpless and they live by begging and die of starvation and helplessness. Some provision must be made to provide them with the necessities of life such as food and clothing.
Many of our religious places were destroyed by the Muslims. By the efforts of the Parsis of India many of them have been rebuilt. But there is a need for hospitals and dispensaries for the Zoroastrians wherever they dwell in Iran.
Lastly, some provision must be made to provide suitable education to the remaining Zoroastrians of Iran: they must be taught some art so that they can come out of their captivity and earn a decent living for the betterment of their families.
A request is made to the Mazdyasnan Anjuman to endeavor to preserve the ancient religious monuments like atash bahrams, agiaries and adarians which are in a ruinous condition. Most of them were destroyed by the Arabs with a view to terminate the Zoroastrian religion; others succumbed to the forces of nature. These art required to be rebuilt and maintained well.
Long ago, the late Seth Ardeshir Dadiseth sent money and material to rebuild the adarian at Mubaraka and in order to obtain money for its maintenance, he purchased land nearby and let it on hire so that the rent could be used for the maintenance of the said adarian. Today that said plot of land and the constructions thereon have gone out of the hands of the trustees and the adarian is in a sad plight. If it is not repaired on time, it is likely to collapse some day.
The late Seth Noshirwan Koyaji got an atash bahram built at Yard and for its maintenance purchased a plot of land named Bag-e-Chinaar and gave it on hire. But the party using the land refused to pay rent and became the owners of the land. Thus the income for the maintenance of the said atash bahram stopped and the atash bahram is now in a sad plight; it requires immediate attention.
The late Seth Khurshedji Cawasji Banaji gave a donation for the construction of a public hall where religious ceremonies could be held and the hall could be used for other social gatherings. But the mobed in charge utilized it for the permanent use of his family members and their descendants and thus no trace even of the name of the donor is to be seen or found. This is a sad story.
The adarian at Khorramshahr which was renovated recently by the efforts of the Parsi Anjuman of Bombay, appears to have been constructed by some philanthropic Parsi of India whose name is not to be found or traced at present. Now it is the joint responsibility and duty of each and every member of our community to try and preserve these ancient religious monuments and edifices in our fatherland, Iran.
The best hope for the community’s revival lay in the education of the youth
Hardly two to three percent of the Parsis of Iran are in a somewhat better state than the rest. A majority lived in misery and poverty in mountain caves and forests for fear of Arab tyranny and having known only broken Darri language they were unable to carry on trade and communication with people of other parts of Iran. Most of them were farmers and it was not difficult to realize their sorry plight as they worked in the winter without sufficient clothes.
After the Arab occupation, education had suffered. The Arabs were semi-barbaric tribes who had no culture of their own and did not know the value of education. Old madressas, teaching Avesta, Pahlavi and Persian, were destroyed by the invaders. Consequently the Zoroasrians who remained in Iran had no scope for education; their children could not learn Avesta or Pahlavi and Persian languages and consequently their religious knowledge was wanting. They were forced to learn Arabic instead.
Consequently, the Zoroastrian children of Iran remained uncultured and uneducated and, being uneducated, they became aggressive. It is, therefore, necessary to provide some education — I mean useful education — to the children. Languages like Avesta, Pahlavi and Persian need to be revived.
For want of education, many evil customs entered into the community. Zoroastrians were forced to embrace Islam, girls were forced to marry Arabs and Muslims and so on. Many Zarthushti girls remained unmarried through life either due to poverty or some other reasons. Zoroastrians took to vices and led an evil life in keeping with the customs of the wild Arabs.
The dokhma of Yazd was in a ruinous condition. A new dokhma on the top of the hill was constructed by the efforts of the Zoroastrian Anjuman of Bombay; but still the mobeds of the old school prefer to use the old dokhma, saying the new one was constructed in modern style and thus was not in keeping with our religion. As the new one is constructed with stone walls and the old one has muddy walls, the uneducated mobeds believe that the real dokhma must have muddy walls only. Stone walls are modern, adopted from western countries, and thus they are unfit for a dokhma. This wrong belief is due to want of education.
There was a row and controversy between the supporters of the old dokhma and the upholders of the new one. As the mobeds remained uneducated, they could not guide the behdins on the right lines in religious matters. They often believed in superstitious elements and introduced superstition into the religion. Thus the real tenets of our good religion were set aside and false beliefs crept in.
Even in India today, it is quite necessary for Zoroastrian children to learn Persian and Avesta in order to acquire perfect knowledge of religion. It is foolish to abandon our own language (Persian) and culture and adopt those of others.
The great philanthropist Peshotan Marker has set up an orphanage in Yard at his own expense and hundreds of Zoroastrian boys in Iran benefit from it.
There was a recommendation to start a boarding school in Tehran for Zoroastrian children residing in Tehran, Yazd and Kerman. This was supposed to be the only way to inculcate Zoroastrian children in religious matters. A study of Avesta and religious rituals was recommended so that the Zoroastrian children may not be attracted towards Islam but would follow with zeal the religion taught to us by our prophet.
Let us take the example of Russia. There were no schools in Russia in the past yet education was imparted to the children in different ways and young men were prepared for army, navy, technology, theology, etc. Later they found that they could get efficient men for certain jobs. Then schools were started and Russia took a great stride in education. In other countries of the West, all over the continent of Europe, very useful and job disposed persons and it was found that they were really educated and useful members of the community. When schools were established in Russia, it was found that not a child in the whole country remained illiterate. Education was sound and useful. Everyone learnt a means of livelihood and there was no unemployment. Iran wanted to follow the example of Russia. It was strongly recommended to start a boarding school in Iran for the benefit of the Zoroastrian children. Scholars of the western countries were also consulted in this matter and they all approved the idea. A building was donated by a Zoroastrian of Tehran to house the proposed boarding school. On October 30, 1860, a petition was sent to the Parsi Anjuman of Bombay wherein the proposal for a boarding school in Tehran was put. The petition dated October 7, 1860, written and signed by the donor of the above-said building, runs:
I declare that I am a Zoroastrian inhabitant of Tehran and the house that I propose to donate for housing the proposed orphanage has been purchased by me from a Muslim lady Imam Murteja for 1,000 tomans. I donate this building and the ground on which it stands to the orphanage with my own free will and accord, under the following conditions:
Myself and my son and successor will live in this house so long as it is not used for the orphanage and we will pay three tomans per month to the Parsi Anjuman. As there has been a need for starting a Zoroastrian boarding school in Tehran, the same building can be used for that purpose and the organizers/owners of the said orphanage should pay to the Parsi Anjuman a rental of three tomans per month, which amount would be used by the Anjuman for the maintenance of the orphanage. So long as the house is not used for the orphanage, it could be used by Zoroastrians even as a go down for storing food grains and the utilizers must pay to the Anjuman a rental of three tomans per month.
I have been using this house at present but in my will I shall direct that the whole property together with the plot of land be handed over to the Anjuman after my life-time. And if the house is rented, the rental should be 150 tomans per annum.
The author went to Baghdad for some urgent work and from there he sent a copy of the above document to Bombay to Seth Merwanji Framji Panday. Seth Merwanji Panday forwarded the same immediately to Seth Cowasjee Jehangir Readymony, but unfortunately Seth Readymoney did not pay heed to it and the orphanage did not materialize for some time.
The author came back to Bombay and on March 1, 1864 he contacted the people concerned including Seth Cowasjee Jehangir. He expressed his great desire to set up an orphanage at Tehran and appealed to the philanthropists here for necessary help and donations. It was not possible for him to go to Iran immediately; so the matter was prolonged.
On November 16, 1864, a meeting was held in Bombay by the Parsis to finalize the venue and other details about the boarding school to be established in Iran. They had to decide where the school should be set up, what subjects to be taught, how to impart religious education, etc.
The necessary fund was created by the Parsis of Bombay for the purpose of improving the conditions of the Zoroastrians in Iran wherein the greatest contribution was made by Seth Maneck Noshirwanji Petit. Then Seth Bomanji Framji Cama donated Rs 5,000 in sacred memory of his late daughter. This amount was specifically to be used for the construction of the proposed orphanage. The work was started and was carried on with zeal and enthusiasm.
Considering all this, it was decided to start a boarding school so that the Zoroastrian children of Kerman, Yazd, Tehran and other provinces of Iran could live together and learn their own scriptures. Thirty-six Zoroastrian orphans were collected from different villages in Iran. Some of them were nourished and education was given to them by charitably.
A boarding school was established in the capital city of Tehran and Zoroastrian children between the ages of 10 and 15 were admitted from neighboring towns and villages. The timetable of the school functioned as under:
Of the 24 hours pf the thy, nine hours were kept for sleep. Of the remaining 15 hours, specified times was allotted to various activities, including education, religious instruction, gymnastics, rest, games, etc.
After getting up early in the morning, boys were required to take a bath and then say their prayers. Then there was time “we must weep over this Anjuman which does not listen to our comptaint” enough for breakfast and tea. The regular work of the school starts afterwards. Books printed in Persian only are used; and Persian is the medium of instruction. Boys are taught to put into practice what they learn in books. Much attention is paid to handwriting. There is fixed time in the evening for games and recreation so that boys can become fresh after the whole day’s work.
There are special classes for science and mathematics. Besides, boys are taught arts and crafts like carpentry, smithy, cane work, masonry, mechanics, etc. The aptitudes of the students are found out by special tests and boys are given training to develop their abilities so that they can become useful citizens and stand on their own feet. The education imparted in the school is job-on- enterd.
Every month, Hormuzd roz, Khorshed roz and Ram roz are days when the regular timetable does not apply. Instead, the boys do work like washing, cleaning, ironing clothes, etc.
A register showing the record of work of each student is maintained.
Arrangements were made for some Parsis to flee from Iran to Bombay where they could earn a decent living
For improving the conditions of the Zoroastrians of Iran, a meeting was convened at the bungalow at Mazagaon of Seth Merwanji Framji Panday on March 20, 1864 at 2.30 p.m. Sir Jamsetji Jejeebhoy, Baronet, was in the chair.
Seth Manekji Limji Hooshang Hataria, who had lived in Iran for 10 years, had studied the miserable plight of the Zoroastrians there. He said that the charity given by some of the well-to-do Parsis of India covered the Jazia Tax imposed upon the Zoroastrians in Iran; but there were still many difficulties which remained to be solved.
The writer carried on a long correspondence with the various Zoroastrian bodies in India regarding improving the conditions of the Zoroastrians in Iran. Large amounts of money were sent for their betterment and the task of improving their conditions was a Himalayan one. Some people argued that instead of spending large amounts like that, why not bring those Zoroastrians to India and make them settle down here. Here they can follow any vocation and earn their living. The question is, who would sponsor the travel of all the Zoroastrians from Iran to India. At present there are about 1 ,000 Zonoastrian houses in Iran, housing about 7,000 to 8,000 souls. Are they all willing to leave their ancestral houses and lands forever and come to India? Is there any guarantee that they would get livelihood in India? Lastly, will the Government of Iran allow all of them to migrate from that country? The Iranis, who currently come to India, leave their country in some disguise under the pretext of going for Haj or for trade. Then only they get permission to leave the country. If the Zoroastrians of Iran want to come to Bombay, they must dispose of their house and property in Iran. But the Muslims there are not willing to buy and pay full value of the property to the Zoroastrians. There are many other problems that baffle any definite solution.
The Iranis who have come to Bombay are in the restaurant line and some are doing well; but if all the Inani Zoroastrians come down to Bombay there is no guarantee that they will all get employment, apart from getting accommodation. After coming to Bombay, many become homesick and go back to Iran as they cannot bear to be away from the ancestral land and lose touch with it.
The best help for the Iranian Zoroastrians is to send money to help and nun schools for them in Iran so that the children can get proper education and become good citizens whenever they stay and earn their livelihood.
The writer (traveller) has collected ancient manuscripts and books in Persian, Khila Roki script, in Hindi, Gujarati, Urdu, English, German and many other languages both from Iran and from India, studied them well and preserved them. Besides, he has collected ancient coins of gold, silver and copper, vessels of various metals, pictures, photos of inscriptions on mountains, etc after a labor of 40 years.
The value of the whole collection at that time was estimated to be about Rs 30,000 and many European scholars and research workers were willing to buy the whole collection. But the author handed over the whole collection to the Zoroastrian Anjuman along with Rs 20,000 cash, with instructions to preserve them in a fitting place and augment it by the research work of other scholars so that the collection may be a permanent and everlasting treasure.
In Europe there are many such collections of ancient articles, both public as well as private, in the houses of lords and nobles. The people appreciate these things and study them. The same spirit must be here among the Parsis of today. Such a collection of ancient articles is a source of encouragement to scholars and research workers.
When the author (traveller) felt his health failing, he made his will in which also he had mentioned that the treasure mentioned above should be kept in such a place and in such a way that it is avail-able to scholars and research workers whenever they needed the same. To this effect he had written to Seth Merwanji Framji Panday to take charge of the whole collection on behalf of the Anjuman and keep it as stated above for the use of scholars and learned men who are interested in ancient studies. He had written to the Anjuman for the same but as he did not get any reply from the Anjuman, he raised a voice, saying, “Bareen Anjuman Bayad jaaragisl ke” nadaanad fariad rash kiat (We must weep over this Anjuman who does not know who is the listener of our corn-plaints).”
The Anjuman did not take any interest in the subject. By this time the then goy-emor’s brother, the Hon’ble Freare carne to know of this great treasure and sent for the author (traveller). Hon’ble Freare examined some of the ancient coins and appreciated them and made a very handsome offer to buy the whole collection to be kept in a separate room in the Victoria Museum. The author did not like this idea and kept the collection with him for some time more. By this time he got a reply from the Anjuman that they could not do anything in the matter.
Different parties and organizations offered to take the collection and keep the same in their museums or libraries or create a separate museum for the same. The author found that those institutions already had some old books which were in a neglected state; so he realized what would be the fate of his precious articles. He declined their offers.
He made several requests to the Anjuman but in vain. He wanted his collection to be useful to Zoroastrian scholars and research workers. He also showed his desire that if the Anjuman could not accede to his request he would like to create a new museum to preserve that untold treasure, as is done in many European countries.