If there is one piece of our daily attire that has practically disappeared in the last century, it is headgear. And nowhere is it more noticeable, than the Parsis. Every single picture of Parsis right up to the early 1950’s saw the men with headgear. Mostly the paghdi or pheta adorned the crown of every respectable Parsi gentleman. Sadly that concept today is completely lost. Headgear is now worn only on major ceremonial occasions like navjotes or weddings. And that too mostly by the immediate family.

A few years ago, one of the last Pheta makers passed away. Or so one thought….more on that later.

Burjorji Mistry who lived above Kala Niketan on Queens Road, Marine Lines; Mumbai was a pheta maker of repute. Sadly he did not pass on his craft to someone.

But Burjorji was not the only Mistry when it came to phetas and paghdis. There was the legendary Dinshaw B. Mistry who also made phetas and pagdis that still survive today and have become family heirlooms that get passed on from generation to generation.

As was widely thought of at the time of Burjorji’s passing away, the art of pheta making still continues.




In a two part series Parsi Khabar will feature the two ladies who are keeping the flag flying and making phetas (and pagdis) today.

contact-arminAt a recent summer barbeque party at a friends home in New Jersey, my dear friend Jasmin Kotwal introduces me to some friends of hers who were visiting from India. And she casually mentions that the friend also makes pagdis and phetas. This friend turns out to be Armin Pooniwalla. I was fascinated to meet Armin and more importantly thrilled to know that there was someone who makes phetas in this day and age. Armin most vehemently told me she does, and I had to sheepishly accept my ignorance, and thank her for continuing the amazing craft of pheta making.



On Armin’s website, she writes

imageThe Paghdi is a majestic looking headgear worn by the Zoroastrians at the time of their wedding and other social events. The groom wears white trousers with traditional Iranian overcoat called “Dagli” also white in color and carries a shawl over his arm. On his head he wears traditional Parsi “Paghdi” or “Pheta”. In ancient times the Paghdi was also worn by boys after their Navjote Ceremony.

This ancient heritage of wearing the Paghdi is followed by most of the well known members of Zoroastrian families like Sir Jamsetji Jeejeebhoy, Pirojsha Godrej, Jamsetjee Nassewanji Tata, Jamsetjee Bomanjee Wadia, Dadabhoy Navrojee and others.

I learned this dying art of making the Paghdi to revive our traditional ancient heritage of wearing it. The Paghdi is made on a mould with different types of materials such as cardboard, cotton, cotton silk etc. They are made in black and maroon color for wedding and in red color for Navjot boys.

For keeping the Paghdi in a good condition it should be always kept wrapped in a mulmul cloth or sadra and put in an inverted position in the box.

Armin’s contact is

Armin F. Pooniwalla
12 Gulnar Bldg, Ground Floor, Hill Road
Bandra (West), Mumbai 400 050

Phone : +91 22 26423026
Mobile : +91 9819968419

Email :


Courtesy :  Arzan Wadia – Parsi Khabar

List of WZCongress Awardees at a glance (2000- 2013)

North America – 2000
Outstanding World Zarathushti Award Kaikhosrov D. Irani
World Zarathuhsti Award for Humanitarian Service and/or Philanthrophy Mobed Mehraban Zaratoshty
World Zarathushti Award for Excellence in Business and Profession Dr. Jamshed J Irani
World Zarathushti Award for Performing Arts, Painting and Literature Zubin Mehli Mehta
World  Zarathushti Youth Award for Outstanding leadership Kerman Yazdi Jasavala
 International Design Competition for the World Zarathushti Community Awards trophy Mr. Shahram Akhtar Khavari



London – 2005
London did not hold WZC Awards


Dubai –  2009 
Outstanding Zarathushti Award Rohinton Rivetna
Community Service Award Dinshaw Tamboly
Excellence in Medicine Award Dr. Farokh Udwadia
Excellence in Performing Arts, Painting & Literature Award Sooni Taraporevala
Technology and Engineering Award Minoo Patel
Outstanding Philanthropist (Special Honor – not included in nomination category) Zartoshty Brothers – Mehraban and Faridoon


Mumbai –  2013 
Social Category BPP gave Rs.1 Lakh to Mrs.Ratamai Peshotan Peer
Social Workers BPP offered 9 social workers a token award of Rs.11,000/- each, for cleaning of Dokhmas and Fire Temples

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A set of 7 Monajats Produced and Sung by Mani Rao
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ZUBIN MEHTA in a Persepolis Productions Inc & Oriental Heritage Trust Film

The Epic Film covers the 3500 years, from the time of the prophet Zarathushtra to the present day, tracing the history of Zoroastrians, Parsis (Parsees) of India

The first and only film to cover the philosophy and history of Zoroastrianism in a scholarly and dramatic way. This is an extraordinary journey; it will take you to places and times you may have only read about.!

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Legendary “horse whisperer” gets affectionate farewell

Last Sunday was a red letter day in the life of I n d i a ‘s l e g e n d a r y “horse whisperer“ Rashid Byramji. After regaling three generations of horseracing fans, the master craftsman retired from the game, officially.Although the racing world knew him as a horse trainer, Byramji was in fact a sculptor. An artist par excellence, Byramji sculpted champion after champion, year after year from raw bloodstock. He was a sculptor who was both mesmerized and infatuated with his creation; a creator whose admiration or lust would refuel rather than cease after the making of a singular objet d’art. Byramji kept creating masterpieces one after another; each better than the previous one. No wonder he was chased by the true connoisseurs of this art.

Having trained thoroughbred horses for the Indian Maharajas early in his career, Byramji raced horses for many an industrialist, business tycoon and breeder.By virtue of his stellar performance, Byramji ruled the Indian racing turf like none other, never before or after. That this third generation professional lasted fifty years in this trade was literally a tribute to his virtuosity.

Record achievement

Byramji effectively hung his boots at the end of the last Bangalore winter season, in March 2017, when he took the painful decision of not renewing his horse-trainer’s license anymore. He would have quit the sport long ago when age started telling on his efforts but his love for the noble four-legged creature and the fact that the racecourse was virtually a second home prevented him.

It was only befitting that the legendary figure was accorded a fond farewell by the racing fraternity during a timely felicitation ceremony hosted by the Bangalore Turf Club’s management on summer Derby day.

Words literally fail to reflect Byramji’s achievement though, for the record, he amassed an all-India tally of 3170 wins including 230 classics, 10 Indian Derby winners and 12 Indian Invitation Cup winners. The veteran was crowned champion trainer 42 times in a career that started six decades back in 1956.

Although Byramji started his career at Royal Western India Turf Club, he was forced to settle permanently in Bangalore apparently after an ugly spat with the turf club’s management. In a rare display of his rebellious character, Byramji refused to take lying down the injustice sought to be inflicted on him by the RWITC’s erstwhile managing committee in 1979.

The institution

Not only horses, Byramji honed the skills of jockeys who were also recognised as champions.His yard was like a one-stop shop for all aspiring horsetrainers! Over the years, Byramji became an institution in his own right and a guiding light for at least twenty horse-trainers. Even Aslam Kader assisted him soon after giving up horse-riding.

Aptly summarising Byramji’s personality, Pesi Shroff said: “That Byramji was good human being mattered more than him being a good horse-trainer. We got to learn in five minutes the skills which could have taken him years to accomplish.Although his training skills are folklore stuff now, I would say Byramji was a `trainer of trainers’.”

  • Usman Rangeela

Here is one of his latest interviews :

Fali Chothia Charitable Scholarship now accepting applications

The Fali Chothia Charitable Trust is now accepting applications for its 27th annual scholarship awards. Scholarships are open to Zoroastrian students in North America enrolled in four-year or graduate-level programs. Awards are based on financial need, academic achievement, extracurricular activity and community service. They are given as outright gifts or no- and low-interest loans.

The Fali Chothia Charitable Trust was established in 1988 under the Zoroastrian Association of Metropolitan Washington, Inc. (ZAMWI). The Trust provides scholarships to deserving Zoroastrian students enrolled in universities in North America, regardless of their country of origin. Applications may be downloaded from:

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Jiyo Parsi phase 2 to focus on counselling

The second phase will be launched on July 29 by the Union Minister of minority affairs, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, who will be in Mumbai for it.

After a successful 20 per cent increase in the birth rate in the Parsi community after the launch of Jiyo Parsi scheme, the government of India will be soon launch phase two. The second phase will be launched on July 29 by the Union Minister of minority affairs, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, who will be in Mumbai for it.

Launched in 2013-14 as a special scheme for containing population decline of Parsis in India, it comprises two components — the advocacy component and medical component. It provides financial assistance to married Parsi couples for medical treatment under standard medical protocol and also focuses on outreach programmes to generate awareness among the Parsi population for lineage enhancement. The scheme has been implemented with the help of Parzor Foundation, Bombay Parsi Panchayat and local Anjumans across India.

Recently, the scheme celebrated its 101st birth after the launch. “Not all the births happened through in-vitro fertilisation (IVF). A number of births took place naturally, without medical intervention after we counselled couples on staying healthy, and addressed issues like diabetes and thyroid,” said Dr Katy Gandevia, programme co-ordinator of the scheme.

In the second scheme, those looking to implement it said they will be focusing more on counselling and advocating people to produce more kids. “In the second scheme we are looking to have creches, and counselling families with only one earning member, as having a large number of dependent family members should not deter having more children,” said Dr Shernaz Cama, director, UNSECO Parzor, which looks to preserve vulnerable human heritage.

“Among Parsis, there are many who are ageing and unmarried, therefore dependent. The elderly often desist their children not to have more kids. What we want to do in the second phase is to reach out to them so that they encourage their kids to have more children,” he added.

This would be part of the advocacy plans like making pastors out of Mobeds. “Parsi priests were also asked to counsel couples like in the Christian community,” said Dr Cama.

Those working for the programme said they will be asking the government to increase the share for advocacy and counselling instead of limiting the budget to just medical treatment. The government had initially set aside Rs 10 crore.


Against the backdrop of Islamic State, a much older religion stages a revival in Iraqi Kurdistan.

There is an age-old Zoroastrian mantra: “Good words, good thoughts and good actions.”

It still holds for the small but growing number of Zoroastrians living in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region.

While some look to secular, Western cultural ideals, others are looking to the past and exploring ancient Kurdish beliefs. Up until the seventh century Islamic conquests, Kurds across the region were followers of various pre-Abrahamic faiths, such as Zoroastrianism and Yazidism.

In August this year, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) officially recognised Zoroastrianism as a religion. The move elicited mixed reactions.

According to local media reports, around 10,000 have converted to Zoroastrianism in the last year alone.  Some local media reports purport this figure to be as high as 100,000.

The search for identity

Kurds across the Middle East have generally clung to their ethnic identity rather than their religion. Though Islam has played a more pivotal role in marking out regional identities in recent years, this has not really been the case among Kurds. Islamic parties usually garner only 10-15 percent of the vote in the Kurdistan Regional Government and Kurdish Provincial council elections.

With the Kurdish identity and culture under threat from ISIL, the perceived “Kurdishness” of Zoroastrianism adds to its appeal.

“All Kurds are nationalists and we take pride in our heritage, so of course the Kurdish nature of the religion influenced my decision to convert,” says Shwan Rahman, a recent convert to Zoroastrianism.

Rahman, 30 grew up in London and was a devout Muslim for most of his teenage years, but became an atheist when he returned to live in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region in 2010 and work as a lawyer. He says that the peaceful, Zen-like, philosophy of the religion was its greatest appeal.

“The main principles of Zoroastrianism coincide with my way of thinking, good words, good thoughts, good actions,” he says.

Mullah Abbas Khidir Faraj, preacher at Awal Bakrajo Mosque and Head of Public Relations for the Islamic Scholars Union in Sulaimania, concedes that ISIL has had a negative impact on the public’s perception of Islam.

“ISIL are criminals and they claim to act in the name of Islam, of course this has an impact on us, but they are not true Muslims,” he says.

Arguably the world’s oldest monotheistic religion, Zoroastrianism – or Zardashti, as it is called in Kurdish – stood out from its polytheistic counterparts during the Bronze Age.

Once the official state religion of three Persian empires (Achaemenid, Arsacid and Sassanian) there are now thought to be less than 200,000 followers worldwide. The most active communities are in Iran and India, though there are a handful of diaspora communities across Europe and the United States. However, there are a growing number of activists in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region trying to reverse that trend.

One activist, Awat Taeeb, along with a friend set up the NGO Yasna (which is the name of one of the texts in the Zoroaster holy book the Avesta) to promote the cultural aspects of Zoroastrianism. The NGO was started in London in 2006 and after a failed attempt to open a branch in 2012 in the KRG, a branch of Yasna was successfully opened in March.

Taeeb, who was raised as a Zoroastrian, is passionate about her religion, talking animatedly about its peaceful and environmentally friendly nature as well as pointing out that it promotes equality between men and women, as it doesn’t differentiate between the roles and status of the sexes in the same way Islam does.

In recent months, they have used a combination of seminars and social media to promote their cause and recruit new followers.

“We have held a number of seminars in Sulaimania and also in the surrounding rural areas such as Darbandikhan, Rania and Kifri, as well as cities such as Hawler and Kirkuk,” she says.

“What has become clear to us is that people have been truly shocked by the acts of ISIL – they feel this interpretation of Islam doesn’t represent them and it is attacking Kurdish identity. They feel that what they are learning about Zoroastrianism feels more Kurdish, more familiar.”

But some, including Mullah Faraj, question exactly how “Kurdish” Zorastrianism is and think that this will limit its appeal.

“Zoroastrian Kurds were always in Iranian Kurdistan and not in this area. There is no history in this area of Kurds being Zoroastrian. For this reason, I think it will be hard for them and it’s unlikely they will be successful.”

Sulaimania resident Galawizh Ghulam is also sceptical as to how successful they will be in recruiting followers.

“I find the numbers quoted in the newspapers to be very high. I can see that the younger generation might be turned off by Islam because of ISIL, although personally I don’t think ISIL represents Islam. Even if the youth are turned off, I don’t see large numbers converting,” she says.

It was through their Facebook presence that Rahman became more aware of the teachings of Zoroastrianism.

“At the beginning of this year, I started to consider converting to Zoroastrianism after finding a page on Facebook that posted information about the religion on a regular basis,” he says.

 Converting from Islam is controversial, and society in the Islamic world will not be sympathetic.

Asked his opinion on the matter, Mullah Faraj said that he did not feel people would face reprisals and that, whilst no one likes to lose followers, one had to accept their decision.

“You cannot force someone to follow you. If they believe they will choose to follow you,” he explains.

 However, both Awat Xan and Rahman have reservations as to how easy it will be for large numbers to convert. Despite the potential for broad appeal, conversions will no doubt be resisted by the dominant religious forces in the region.

Awat Xan says that they have already received threats from various Islamic groups and for that reason they have so far stuck to preaching about the culture of Zoroastrianism. The NGO focuses its efforts solely in this direction.

“We have received many threats and people try to spread falsehoods that we are fire worshipers, but that is not true,” she says. “We will have to work slowly and cautiously, but we are a peaceful religion and we believe in free will.”

 It is not always easy to have an open debate about the role of religion in politics in the Kurdistan Region. Many, though not all, politicians fear harsh rebuttals – even reprisals – from Islamist groups and shy away from discussing the issues in hand, from whether ISIL is truly Islamic in nature to whether or not the Kurdish constitution should be completely secular so that women can have equal status to men. Previous attempts at instituting gender equality in the charter have been shut down by Islamist factions even though they represent only 10-15 percent of the voting population. The lack of tolerated open debate is leading to black and white views on many sides.

Is the revival of Zoroastrianism in Iraqi Kurdistan a reaction to the increasing role of Islam in politics and the presence of ISIL?

In my opinion, nothing ISIL have done up until now conflicts with the principles of Islam,” says Rahman. “This has definitely taken a lot of people away from Islam, especially amongst the younger generations.”

 While it is natural that there will be some resistance to a new or returning religion trying to gain ground in the Kurdistan Region, Taeeb is quick to point out that they have had support from various individual members of all the main secular parties in the Kurdistan Region. They are now lobbying the KRG to set up a directorate of Zoroastrian Affairs in a similar way to that of the Yazidis. They have also asked for land to be provided for the construction of a new temple.

Ghulam, however, remains unconvinced,

“I think young people are more likely to just move away from all religions. They will either become more secular or be non-observant Muslims. Myself, for example, I believe in God but I don’t pray on a regular basis.”

It is unlikely that large swathes of people will suddenly forsake Islam, but in the face of extremism, there is some heated debate over the role religion should play within society and politics. Whether or not Zoroastrianism is actually Kurdish in nature is also being debated. Non-Kurdish academics generally posit that it originated with the Persians and possibly from further East.

It is encouraging to see that cautious attempts to create a space for discussion and tolerance are emerging. However, in order to truly move forward, the debate must also consider the similarities and perhaps even influences that Zoroastrianism has had on the Abrahamic religions. They all believe in heaven and hell, redemption, the Messiah, the existence of an evil spirit and judgement day. A greater awareness and understanding of other religions would help to create a more tolerant atmosphere and debate.

Yet sadly, subversion and manipulation of religion throughout the centuries for political gain have left the region struggling with its identity and stability.

Lara Fatah is a communications consultant based in Iraqi Kurdistan. She is also a PS21 global fellow.

Dr. Roozan Bharucha awarded the title of “Majesty” by Heidelberg University

Heidelberg University of Germany confers Dr. Roozan P Bharucha with a special Title of “Majestät der AI-Medizintechnik” for his innovation of AI-Prosthetic
Group of Devices at The SystemX Research Centre

29 June, 2017, PRESS RELEASE ID: SX1706029A
BERLIN – 29 June 2017 – Heidelberg University – Witten – Germany & German Medical Association –
Berlin conferred Dr. Roozan P Bharucha with a title of “Majestät der AI-Medizintechnik” making them
confer this title to a non-German individual for the first time in last 80 years or more. Along with him his various teammates and project indulgent people were also awarded with special category of German Awards for their AI-Prosthetics project. Heidelberg University also conferred Hon. Research Fellow to Dr. Roozan Bharucha, Dr. Sharmeen Mehta & Dr. Preeti Dhamelia for the same project. At last, SystemX Research Centre was also honored by providing them invitation to establish a Research Centre in Berlin – Germany with all facilities and infrastructure funds & help to be provided by The Heidelberg University & German Medical Association.
“World Prosthetics Meet – Berlin – Germany” witnessed an announcement from the German Medical Association and Heidelberg University – Witten – Germany that shattered the 80 years old record of conferring a title of “Majesty” to any non-German individual. The German Medical Association & Heidelberg University conferred the title of “Majestät der AI-Medizintechnik” meaning “Majesty of AIMedical Technology” to Dr. Roozan P Bharucha who sold his thesis and ideology to SystemX Research Centre that led to the development of AI-Prosthetic Group of Devices which are set to grant life desires and smiles to all the physically challenged people around the world.

With this title Dr. Roozan P Bharucha will be recognized as “Majesty Dr. Roozan P Bharucha” and it shall enable him to fetch special privileges across Germany but not in other parts of the world as it is solely a German Honor. Apart from conferring the special title of “Majestät der AI-Medizintechnik” to Dr. Roozan, The University of Heidelberg & German Medical Association also conferred many other employees and private research scientists of SystemX Research Centre with special award certifications and medallions for their support in AI-Prosthetic Group of Devices without whom it would not have tasted so much of success.

Dr. Daniel Torfan, Founder of SystemX Research Centre said, “The word for our reaction is just one and only one, that is, WOW! We never thought in our dreams that we will get this kind of honor from the world’s most prestigious technical development country and their medical associations. Since none of our scientists honored are present at the event, I take the certifications on their behalf and shall get them delivered to their respective owners. I thank German Medical Association and Heidelberg University on behalf of Dr. Roozan & all the other scientists who have been honored with the prestigious awards at this event. When this project was proposed by Dr. Roozan to be sold to us, we took it just as any normal project
which had great technology behind it and we worked for it day and night to make this innovation successful and mint money by selling their rights to the medical manufacturing giants across the globe.

We bought this project just for peanuts as we never expected this project’s glamour and success to rise across the globe even before its launch and manufacturing. This project brought us the great German honor and gave us space to establish one more research centre of SystemX in Germany which is an honor not less than the Nobel Prize for us. I thank from the bottom of my heart to Dr. Roozan P Bharucha for considering us capable to handle his project and trusting us for completion of his project. With this, I make an announcement to provide 25% royalty on the profit of the entire AI-Prosthetic Device Group Members & Technology rights sale to Dr. Roozan P Bharucha, and we shall approach him to revise and increment the purchase price of this AI-Prosthetic Device Group thesis from him as we don’t wish to do any injustice to the talent who brought us this fame and honor. Thank you once again.”

Heidelberg University Chairman, Dr. Eva Rojovsky said, “Along with the title of ‘Majesty’ we as a University feel privileged to honor Dr. Roozan P Bharucha, Dr. Sharmeen H. Mehta & Dr. Priti Dhamelia as Hon. Research Fellows to The Heidelberg University where we would like to see these great talents come to our University and guide our students for providing many such innovative products to the world. Seeing such young Indian talents after Dr. Homi Bhabha and Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam, we feel proud for the fact that India is a land of the great grand masters and it produces talents that have an extra strand in their DNA and are capable to change and create history.”

German Medical Association, Dr. Kian Romonova on a day-closing note said, “Welcome, Dr. Torfan! It’s a privilege for us to honor such a talented scientific researcher with a historical title. Also, it’s a privilege to honor such young talents who were involved in making AI-Prosthetics a grant success for SystemX  Research Centre. We wish to conduct more events like the World Prosthetics Meet and become a witness to the innovations that are life changing and miraculous.”

SystemX Research Centre is the world’s Digital Innovation Centre which researches on transforming medical systems with software defined machines and solutions that include high end and precise quantum computing and artificial intelligence making them connected, responsive and predictive. SystemX shares this innovative knowledge with medical industry giants enabling them to form high quality medical instrumentation which works for the benefit of the patients.
Mr. Manya Aggarwal
SystemX Research Centre – PR Department