E-Course on Zarathushti Religion
Lesson – Jasa Mey Avanghey Mazda
I hope that you are enjoying the prayer lessons and making an effort to internalize the teachings of our religion. Study each lesson and then practice reciting the prayer word by word until you can get the feel of its meanings. After you master the lesson and internalize its contents, try and teach it to a friend. This will then result in development of a strong foundation of your value system. Dasturji Minocher Homji always stressed to us, that the best way to learn is: “Each one Teach one.”
As you perfect your recitation of the Hormazd Khodaae by praying slowly and with proper understanding of each word, it will offer you an opportunity to look within yourself. You will be able to question your mistakes and weaknesses and repent for your deficiencies. You will be able to make a resolve to renounce all your shortcomings and change your behavior.
After having performed the self-check, we now move on to the next prayer of Jasa Mey Avanghey Mazda and work on mastering it in the same manner. I begin this prayer, asking for Ahura Mazda’s help. Then, I declare that I am a Mazda worshipper and follower of Asho Zarathushtra. Next I pledge to follow the twelve teachings of our religion. I list them one by one and pledge that I will practice them in my daily life. I acknowledge that all my blessings come from Ahura Mazda. I end the prayer by impressing upon my mind that Such is my reverence to my religion.
Here is a link to the fifth lesson,
With best wishes for an enlightened community,
Kayomarsh P. Mehta
Copyright © 2015 Zarathushti Learning Center of North America, All rights reserved.
Rustom House in Grant Road is home to an elderly priest who is a veritable storehouse of Iranian history. Ervad Parvez Bajan has six cupboards for books on Irani and Persian culture and just one for his personal effects. He can pick out unerringly the volume in the vast cache which contains a particular detail he is seeking.
His earnestness has served him well. At age 65, Parvez Bajan has earned a doctorate in a rare subject, Avesta-Pahlavi, the language of the Zoroastrian scriptures. His guide was Dasturji Dr Kaikhushroo JamaspAsa, an acclaimed scholar of international repute. Barely a handful of priests have taken a doctorate in this subject before, and a proud Bajan has requisitioned new visiting cards that qualify his name with his new degree.
Ervad Bajan is a sixth-generation priest and serves as head priest of the Seth B M Mevawala Fire Temple at Byculla, which has been managed by his family since the enthronement of the fire in 1851. He trained at the Dadar Parsi madressa (seminary) from 1958-1963 and worked with Union Bank for 23 years, where he says he became the first employee to secure leave for religious study. Having become the first graduate in his family, the spirited gentleman went on to take a postgraduate degree in law. Ervad Bajan has continued learning through his 65 years, despite family and priestly responsibilities.
He carefully extracts the original text which has earned him his doctorate. It reportedly dates back 450 years, so the leaves must be handled with extreme care. Curiously, it is written in a mix of Avesta, Pahlavi and old Gujarati in a manner that requires one to turn the book upside down to decipher each alternating script.
“It tells the story of a little boy who asks his father to explain the significance of tying the ‘kusti’ (sacred thread) during the thread ceremony or Navjote,” Bajan says. “Pahlavi is a complex script with 14 characters in the alphabet and no punctuation, so one must decipher the letters and the meaning.”
Most ancient Iranian languages like Avestan, Pahlavi and Pazand are not spoken tongues anymore, he says, yet community youngsters show interest in studying them at Mumbai University. “We are witnessing renewed interest in Zoroastrian history as well. Each year Noshir Dadrawala and I conduct tours to Iran on behalf of a Pune institute, where we guide Indians and expats through the holy sites of the faith. The warm feedback we receive is a sign that we are on the right track,” he says.
His own son who studied at St Mary’s ICSE, Mazgaon, holds a corporate job, yet is committed to wearing the priestly mantle when the need arises.
Fire, a primordial power has long held a certain fascination for mankind. Anything from its ability to heat early caves, and later homes, and then when fire was confined into gas boilers, we still decorate our homes with candles.
It has also been a topic for religions, often just candles in churches — but more profound for the Zoroastrians — and underneath a gallery in central London, you can find a Zoroastrian temple with its eternal flame burning brightly.
As it happens, the temple is temporary, as is the fake flame within, for this is an exhibition that seeks to explain some of the mysteries of this truly ancient religion.
Zoroastrianism originated amongst Iranian tribes in Central Asia around 2,000 years before Christ turned up in Galilee and then it spread to Iran where it became the principal faith until the advent of Islam. Central to the religion is the belief in a sole creator god, Ahura Mazda, his agent Zarathustra (Zoroaster) and the dichotomy between good and evil.
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The first team from India that travelled to England to play cricket was comprised entirely of Parsis. In many ways, they were the pioneers of Indian cricket. Shiamak Unwalla looks at 10 Parsis who played Test cricket for India.
It all started with the Presidency Match — an annual cricket match played between the Europeans of the Bombay Gymkhana and the Parsis (also Iranis) of the Zoroastrian Cricket Club. The matches evolved into First-Class contests, thus making Europeans vs Parsis among the earliest First-Class match played on Indian soil.
The Presidency Match soon evolved into the Bombay Triangular also featuring the Hindus. Soon, it became the Bombay Quadrangular, with the addition of the Muslims. The tournament finally ended up being the Bombay Pentagular, with The Rest being added to the mix.
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NEW DELHI, June 19: “Though very small in number comprising a minuscule fraction of India’s total population, the Parsi community has consistently and remarkably enriched the Indian society over the years”. This was stated here today by Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER), MoS PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances,Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr Jitendra Singh while interacting with a delegation of “Parzor Foundation”, a UNESCO associated registered organization devoted to the cause of co-existence of different cultures in India with special focus on Parsi-Zoroastrians and their culture.
Dr Jitendra Singh observed that the Parsi community has made a major contribution in all walks of life and has thrown up several legendary icons in different fields, some of whom like Sam Manekshaw, Nani Palkhivala, Homi Bhabha, Piloo Mody, Zubin Mehta,Farokh Engineer, R.K.Karanjia, Sohrab Modi and Bejan Daruwalla have become an inseparable part of contemporary India’s bibliography. He expressed concern that even though around the time of independence in 1947, the population of the community stood at around 1-1.5 lakh, in the last six decades ironically, while the country’s population went up to 125 crore, the population of Parsi community declined to just about 60-70 thousand and that too mostly confined to Maharashtra, Gujarat and some other parts of the country. It is, therefore, the responsibility of all of us to recognize the greatness of Zoroastrian culture and help in its protection and resurgence, he added.
Dr Jitendra Singh appreciated the fact that even as the Parzor Foundation facilitates social and scientific research with special focus on Parsi culture, it does not confine itself only to the Parsi and Zoroastrian community but has also taken upon itself the wider objective of creating awareness about India’s age old tradition of coexistence of diverse cultures. He assured all possible support from the government to encourage the work done by the Parzor Foundation, which is associated with UNESCO.
The Director of UNESCO-Parzor Foundation Project, Dr (Ms) Shernaz Cama explained to Dr Jitendra Singh the organization’s plan to organize a mega event in the union capital of Delhi, which will include three exhibitions titled “Everlasting Flame”, “Threads of Continuity” and “Across Oceans…..” in addition to an international conference on “India’s pluralistic heritage”. Considering that India has emerged as the cultural capital of Asia, she said, the proposed programme will also offer an opportunity for India to link with the rest of the countries.
Dr Jitendra Singh assured full cooperation from the government to make the event successful which, he said, would be a commendable effort showcasing India’s multicultural character. Well known personalities of the community Dr (Ms) Nilofer Shroff and Ms Monaz were also part of the delegation
December 25-26-27, 2015
The Foundation for Development of Udvada & the Udvada Samast Anjuman are very pleased to announce that the first ever ‘Iranshah Udvada Utsav’ will be celebrated on December 25-26-27, 2015 at Udvada.
Hon’ble Narendra Modi, in 2014, just a couple of weeks after assuming office as Prime Minister, had invited Dasturji Khurshed Dastoor, Mrs. Homai Engineer, late Mr. Jehangir Cama and Mr. Dinshaw Tamboly, all of who are connected with Foundation for Development of Udvada (FDU) to meet him and provide an overview of the strategic plan to develop Udvada as a pilgrim centre being undertaken by UADA (Udvada Area Development Authority) set up by the Government of Gujarat.
At that time he reiterated what he had mentioned earlier when FDU was under formation, that our community’s contribution towards nation building was unparalled and appreciated that ever since we Parsis arrived as migrants, had abided by a code of conduct through which we have preserved our identity without offending the sensitivities of any other community. He mentioned that Udvada showcases the glorious history of the Parsi community of over 1300 years and that he was very keen to project Udvada as a place of harmony, religious tolerance and opportunities provided to a miniscule community to realise their full potential.
He urged us to organize, preferably an annual festival at Udvada, failing that once every two years, when community members from all over the world would be able to visit Udvada, and participate. He also recommended that we plan the same sometime in December as many Indians visit the country at that time of the year.
Honouring the wishes of our dynamic Prime Minister, Foundation for Development of Udvada & the Udvada Samast Anjuman along with a group of dedicated volunteers have together been working on bringing this project to fruition. We have developed a tentative plan that will be finalised shortly, after which the same will be announced to the community at large.
A galaxy of eminent Parsees will be invited to attend. It has also been decided to felicitate the leading present day icon of our community Mr. Ratan N. Tata on December 27, 2015. Mr. Ratan Tata has accepted our invitation and has agreed to be present at Udvada on December 27, 2015.
With Iranshah Udvada Utsav being the brainchild of our Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi, an invitation has been extended to him as well to participate in the celebration on December 27, 2015.
This advance information has been given to enable our community members from all parts of the world to firm up their schedules to be present at Udvada on December 25-26-27. Please await further announcements and the programme; these will be announced in the media from time to time.
A filmmaker undertook intensive research in 2013 on the city’s Irani cafe culture. The result of that study? A brand new Irani cafe, Mumbai’s first in 50 years, finds Anju Maskeri
Dr Mansoor Showghi Yezdi at Matunga’s Koolar & Co Restaurant & Stores. Pic/Shadab KhanThe shutter is half down, plastic sheets are up to protect the walls from moisture and the newspapers on some of the mirrors have still not been taken down. “It’s a work in progress,” admits 58-year-old Yezdi, as he offers us a couple of bentwood chairs to sit, while offering a nugget of information — “did you know that bentwood chairs (the chairs that are the trademark of the city’s Irani cafés) used to be imported from Poland. Sadly, they are not manufactured any longer.” When Yezdi started hunting for furniture and décor for his new place, he says, he had to search every nook and cranny of Chor Bazaar. And then, it took him a year to find enough for his 32-seater café. Some items — the ceramic kettles, the tiles with Persian inscriptions and the famed samovar (tea urn) — were imported from Iran.
Dr Mansoor Showghi Yezdi has also used mirror panels across Café Irani Chaii. He says that the man behind the gulla (money counter) would use these to keep a watch on his customers. Pic/Sameer AbediThough a filmmaker by profession, Yezdi says he is a ‘chaiwalla’ at heart. “We have been in the café business since 1890. My father owned Light of Mahim on Cadell Road. He sold it to his partner in the 1980s,” he says. The café has now been replaced by a medical store. In 2013, the Mahim resident made a documentary on the Irani café culture of Mumbai, Pune and Hyderabad. Rashid Irani, film critic and owner of Brabourne at Dhobi Talao which shut in 2008, says drought in the regions of Yazd and Kerman in Iran caused the large scale Iranian migration in the early 20th century. Bombay, with its welcoming cosmopolitan culture, was an obvious choice for refuge. “Real estate was cheap back then, making it possible for them to rent spaces. About 90 per cent of the Irani café owners were tenants,” he adds.
The traditional teakwood gulla at the new Mahim cafe. Pic/Sameer AbediYezdi, whose grandfather was among those who migrated at the time, adds, “Young Iranian men would gather over cups of warm tea in the evenings, reminiscing about their homeland. And, at some point of time, someone decided to charge a small sum for the beverage and soon the Iranians were selling chai,” he laughs.
Turning somber, he says, it would sadden him to read about Irani cafés shutting down. In the last decade, nearly 10 have shut shop including Bastani and Brabourne near Dhobi Talao.
“We were gradually losing an integral part of city’s heritage. I felt it was my responsibility as an Iranian living in Mumbai to revive the dying breed of cafés,” he adds.
While owners of most Irani cafés struggle to keep the family interested in the business, new blood has trickled into Café Colony, near Hindu Colony in Dadar East. Last year, Bibi Fotimeh, Bibi Sadhaut and son Mirza Mohammed — children of owner Agha Irani Nazariyan — started pitching in. Pic/Sameer AbediCulture on a plate
Simin Patel, a DPhil in Oriental Studies from Balliol College, Oxford University, and the founder of Bombaywalla.org — a blog that chronicles the city’s heritage structures — recalls her favourite cafés. “At Paris Bakery in Dhobi Talao, when a customer enquires about the price of a packet of batasa biscuits, owner Danesh Nejadkay instantly offers a sample, instead. ‘Once you taste, you are trapped’, he will tell you,” says Patel, adding, that Nejadkay even offers batasa etiquette. “He will tell you to bite into the batasa, not break it. Offer or accept it with your right hand, soak it in a cup of tea for a minute or two, let it ‘blow up’ and then have it with a spoon,” adds Patel who is working on a book on Irani cafes with photographer Hashim Badami.
Rafique Baghdadi. Pic/Bipin KokateIt’s this connect and comfort with the customer that Mohammed Hussain, Yezdi’s 31-year-old son, hopes to establish to beat his competition. To attract the crowds, Yezdi will don the traditional Iranian outfit garment — a long shirt, loose pants, a turban and geeveh (Iranain shoes) — every Sunday and personally serve the customers. “The idea is to revive the culture and keep the business afloat,” says Hussain, who will hold the fort once the café opens its doors for customers.
Veteran journalist Rafique Baghdadi sounds incredulous to hear about the new Irani café in town. Baghdadi, who over the years has made many curious Mumbaikars familiar with the Irani culture in the city with his heritage walks, reminisces the culture that they represent. “It’s absolutely cosmopolitan. It didn’t matter if you’re a celebrity or a common man; everybody was received with the same warmth,” says the 68-year-old, adding that of the 400 Irani cafés in the city in 1950s, only 30 remain. Baghdadi, who favoured Light of Asia at Fort during his college days, says part of the charm of a typical Irani cafe was its decor.
Little has changed about the place since the 1960s (when Nazariyan took over). Even today, the chai is made in the traditional samovar“They have high ceilings, Persian inscriptions on their walls, old paintings of Iran, glass top tables and bentwood chairs,” he adds. When he hears that Yezdi has managed to find those, he exclaims, “You don’t find those Iranian artefacts anymore. I have three bentwood chairs, which cost me a fortune. One of them is broken and I can’t even find someone to fix it.”
Rafique Baghdadi says part of an Irani café’s charm is to do with décor characterised by high ceilings, marble-top tables and bentwood chairs like you see at the 102-year-old Sassanian Bakery And Boulangerie at Dhobi Talao. Pic/Sameer MarkandeBaghdadi also mentions that the city’s Irani cafés were the first to get a jukebox — this is where people would come to listen to music. Newspapers were also a big draw, he adds. “People would sit here and read the day’s papers. Often, one page would be at one table, and other, with a second guest,” says the Mazgaon resident. While Yezdi plans to keep an operational jukebox, he will also retain the gulla (the teakwood money counter). It’s also, why his walls will be mirror-lined. “The mirrors help the man at the counter keep an eye on each customer,” he laughs. But, it’s not just the décor that still serves as a draw. Food plays a big role as well.
Dhansak at Sassanian are hallmark dishes. Yezdi hopes to recreate these on his menuMost Irani cafés also function as bakeries, offering a range of items — cakes, khari, puffs — on its menu. It’s something that Yezdi hopes to replicate.
While the menu — which will be in Persian script along with a Hindi translation — will have Parsi staples like akuri, dhansak, sali boti, kheema pao and also Persian items like berry pulao (with berries imported from Iran), there will also be ‘seeni kabab’, a delicious Middle Eastern item. Desserts will include bakalava, halwa, cakes, pastries along with vanilla and strawberry ice-cream from Palonji. Duke’s rasberry soda, masala soda and gingerale will replace aerated drinks, says Yezdi adding that he will, in good humour, replicate the ‘do not’ board. Watch out for the ‘do not comb your hair’, ‘do not gamble’, ‘do not talk to the waiter’, ‘do not sit unnecessarily’ signs.
The Berry Pulav at Brittania & CoNot about the money
For most of his life Yezdi has been a filmmaker. In 2007 year, he produced Ziarat, a documentary on the sufi saints of India, and has also directed Khanebedoosh, a documentary on Iranian gypsies who came to India around 500 years ago which he hopes to release soon. His son, Hussain, a commerce graduate has assisted him over the last 10 years — even though ‘he always wanted to start his own restaurant’.
Entering the restaurant business in Mumbai is a tricky decision, but Yezdi, who dredged up his personal resources to buy the Mahim space, says he is not in it for the money.
“The prices of food items will be on the lines of other cafés. In fact, anybody in uniform, school children or cops, will get a ten per cent discount,” he says. Just a few minutes before we arrived at the café, Yezdi tells us, an old man, walking past in, peered in and asked if it’s a Irani café. It’s this curiosity, he hopes, brings in others as well.