2016 Society of Scholars of Zoroastrianism (SSZ) Conference

Zoroastrian Association of Metropolitan Chicago
(Supported by Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America, FEZANA
and World Zoroastrian Organization, WZO)

proudly hosts

2016 Society of Scholars of Zoroastrianism (SSZ) Conference
“Zoroastrian History: Pre-Achaemenian Times to the Present Day”


Arbab Rustom Guiv Dar-e-Mehr, 8615 Meadowbrook Drive, Burr Ridge, IL 60527,


Saturday September 3, 2016

9:00 am            Registration and Breakfast

9:20 to 12:30    Morning SessionPre-Nihavand HistoryChair Eric Elavia

Pre-Achaemenian, Achaemenian, Seleucid, Parthian and Sasanian
 by our next generation speakers: Sarosh Irani, Khursheed Ichaporia,
Persis Driver, Kamal Saher,
and Er. Rayomand Ravji/Afshan Barshan

 “Zoroastrianism and Empire in Late Antiquity”
Prof. Richard Payne (Oriental Institute, University of Chicago)

12:30 to 1:30    Luncheon
“Ancient Sogdiana, a ‘Zoroastrian Stronghold:’ a Modern Overview”
Kersi Shroff

1:30 to 5:00      Afternoon Session — Post-Nihavand History. Chair Dastoor Kersey Antia

“Zoroastrian History after the Arab Invasion”Dr. Daryoush Jahanian

“History of the Parsees in the Sub-continent” (via Skype)
Dr. Dinyar Patel, University of South Carolina

“Concept of Friendship in Ancient Iran”
– Keynote address by Prof. Jamsheed Choksy, Indiana University

5:00 to 5:30      Arbab Rustam Guiv Dar-e-Mehr 33rd Anniversary Benediction
Dastoor Kersey Antia

5:30 pm            Networking with hors-d’oeuvres and drinks.

Sunday September 4, 2016

9:00 to 12:00    Visit to Oriental Institute, Chicago

12:30 pm          Farvardian Jashan followed by lunch at the Dar-e-Mehr hosted by
Katy and Kersi Bhathena and Dinaz and Ken Weber.

All community members, students and scholars are invited and encouraged to participate.

Registration.  Suggested donation is $10.  Breakfast, lunch and tea will be provided.  Please RSVP by August 27, 2016 to Dinaz Weber (630-830 3430, kenanddina @yahoo.com or Roshan Rivetna (630-340 8272,RRRivetna@aol.com).  For program information contact Rohinton Rivetna (630-325 5383, Rivetna@ aol.com) or Rayomand Ravji (630-589 6631, rayomand.ravji@gmail.com). Visit www.s-s-z.org.

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The Society of Scholars of Zoroastrianism (SSZ) is an initiative to promote study and scholarship of the religion of Zarathushtra.  The mission of the Society is to revive the tradition of scholarship within our community and to promote interaction among academicians, theologians (priests), educationists, students, lay scholars and practitioners of Zoroastrianism, especially our Next-Generation.


Kurdish Zoroastrians to Open Council in Rojava

Kurdish Zoroastrians to Open  Council in Rojava

ERBIL — Yasna NGO for promoting the cultural aspects of Zoroastrianism based in Sulaymaniyah province in the Kurdistan Region announced a plan on Sunday to open a centre in Afrin city in Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava) for the followers of the faith in the region.

Awat Tayib, the head of the organization and the representative of Zoroastrians in the Ministry of Endowment and Religious Affairs in the Kurdistan Region told BasNews that Zoroastrianism faith has made incredible progress in Kurdistan Region and “we decided today to open Yasna council for philosophy of Zoroastrianism in Rojava”.

Tayib added that they will soon visit Afrin in Rojava in order to open the council to further promote the Zoroastrianism philosophy.

Zoroastrianism is one of the oldest faiths which is thought to have emerged from a common prehistoric Indo-Iranian religious system dating the early 2nd millennium BC. The prophet Zoroaster is the founder of the faith who is thought by many modern historians to have been a reformer of the polytheistic Iranian religion who lived in the 10th century BC.

A growing number of Kurds, particularly among the youth, started to convert to Zoroastrianism following the Islamic State (IS) attack on Kurdistan Region.

Kurds are known as the most peaceful people in the Middle East, living in coexistence for centuries in an area where others have been struggling with religious and sectarian issues among their communities.


5 Things to Look Forward to in a Parsi Wedding

Well, before you drift into a daydream about Prawn patio and Chicken farcha, let’s talk a bit about rituals in a Parsi wedding – yes that’s where you can have all these delicacies! Now that we have your attention, can we please talk about the adorable madness – that is a Parsi wedding?

Like other weddings in India, Parsi weddings too have different rituals, signifying different things. There are quite a few rituals which are unique to their culture and must be seen to be understood. We bring to you the top 5 things in a Parsi wedding ceremony that you absolutely must not miss!


Photo Credit: Bahrain Zoroastrians

This is more of a pre-wedding ritual but is an important step that leads to the main event! Once the couple informs their parents about their decision, the parents sit down to discuss the prospect. Once the wedding is finalized, Rupia Peravanu is performed to mark the official coming together of the two families. It may be considered as a modern day engagement and is carried out at the bride-to-be’s home. The groom’s side visit the home of the would-be bride and bless the bride with silver coins (hence the word Rupia) in a brocaded bag. The home is decorated with chalk designs and garlands (made of flowers of knitted with wool) and it is generally the women who engage in this ceremony.



Photo Credit: Aaron Courter

This is performed almost before every ritual and is believed to ward off evil eye. They also perform nahan to cleanse the person physically and spiritually. Achu Michu is once again performed when the bride and groom reach the venue. Their mothers perform this ritual by applying a vermillion tila (or tilak as more popularly known) on the foreheads and pressing uncooked rice over it. They may also put on the garlands and give the bride and groom a bouquet and a coconut wrapped in string.



Photo Credit: Aaron Courter

Parsi weddings are also carried out in all-white wedding attires. The bride is usually dressed in a white blouse and sari which is often heavily embroidered. Different necklines and heirloom or statement jewellery lend a sophisticated touch to the bridal attire. The Parsi groom is dressed in a white robe called a dugli and it is paired with white trousers. It is also essential that the head be covered during the ceremony. While the bride covers her head with a part of the sari, the groom wears a ceremonial hat or a prayer cap. Dressed in immaculate white, the couple is a sight to behold!



Photo Credit: Aaron Courter

Before starting the marriage ceremony, the couple lights a devo or oil lamp together to signify their union. During the actual wedding ceremony, a white cloth is held between the bride and groom and they are not allowed to see each other. Once the priest has heard their both their consents for the union, he officiates and finalizes it. The people gathered around are also asked for their consent and the marriage is finalized soon after.



Photo Credit: NearFox

Well, there you go! You can finally feast on those gorgeous dishes you have been eyeing throughout the ceremony. The Parsi’s know how to party and can surely give you a run for your money when it comes to celebration and food. Dance, music and food are the main ingredients for the wedding reception. Remember Farah Khan and Boman Irani in Shirin Frahad ki Toh Nikal Padi? The Parsi wedding food feast usually comprises ofsaariyas (fried sago chips), raspberry drink, Chicken Salipatri-ni-machchi (fish steamed in banana leaf), muttonpulao dalkulfi, custard and other delicacies.


Looking for Pervez Billimoria

Pervez B Billimoria is a retired airline pilot. He used to live on Vimadalal Road and later on Dinshaw Master Road, Parsi Colony, Dadar, Mumbai. He also had a residence in Park Circus, Calcutta. His Mumbai phone no. was 2410-0752 but no answer is received. I have known him since he was 8 years old, but since I live in the US I only had contact with him once a year or so.

He lived alone. Could you kindly ascertain if he is available, and if so, his current whereabouts.

thanks ….. Jamshed R. Udvadia, Michigan, USA


Milk canister seats at Parsi Dairy

One of South Mumbai’s oldest dairies may have stopped delivering fresh buffalo milk at dawn to loyal patrons in large aluminium milk canisters, but the iconic utensil finds new place of pride at the institution’s Princess Street headquarters.

Milk canister seats at Parsi Dairy

Bang in the centre of the shop sit four canisters topped by bright blue cushioning.


Making the perfect stool, the seats were occupied by two young St Xavier’s College students, sipping on lassi, when we dropped in last week. Every legendary business needs a shot of new ideas.

And Parsi Diary seems to be in safe hands at least on that front.



Like Sugar in Milk

565891_thumpRatan Tata of the Tata Group, Adi Godrej of Godrej Industries, writer Rohinton Mistry, sculptor Arzan Khambatta, actor Boman Irani, singer Penaz Masani, musician Zubin Mehta, painter Jehangir Sabavala, Field Marshal General Sam Manekshaw, business conglomerate Shapoorji Pallonji, cricketer Farokh Engineer, singer and songwriter Freddie Mercury (aka Farrokh Bulsara), dancer Shiamak Davar, scientist Homi Bhabha, journalist Russi Karanjia, legal faculty Fali Nariman, freedom fighter Sir Pherozeshah Mehta and… the list is endless.

All have one thing in common: they are all Parsis. Descendants of the Zoroastrian community who made India their home way back in the 8th century, having fled Persia following the Arab conquest, arriving at the port of Sanjan, Gujarat.

Think of any profession and it’s very likely that they have excelled in it. Besides achieving success in their respective fields and becoming world famous, they have made a great difference to the progress of India, be it in industry, business, science, sports, medicine, legal, banking and finance, arts and other fields.

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Parsis still sweetening rich Canadian diversity

Parsis still sweetening rich Canadian diversity, like sugar in milk

One small community that has continued to punch way above its weight and even today Zahin-Khatow-with-family_Contentsweetens the rich cultural diversity that is India is the Parsi community. And just as Indians started immigrating to Canada, so did some of India’s Parsi community — and they continue to sweeten the fabric of Indo-Canadian society, and of the wider Canadian mosaic.

In India, the Parsis need little introduction. But Canadians may not know their unique history as well.

For nearly 13 centuries, Parsis have remained one of the most unique South Asian communities. Deriving their name from their ancestral links to Persia or present-day Iran, Parsis are followers of Zoroastrianism, one of the oldest religions of the world, predating both Christianity and Islam.

Once the dominant religion of Persia, Zoroastrianism came under threat following the Arab invasion of Iran in 641 AD. Religious persecution and forced conversions (to Islam) forced a small group of Zoroastrians to flee to Gujarat, India in the late eighth century. They settled mostly in the Bombay (now Mumbai) region and created a distinctive identity.

In the late 1960s, some members of the Parsi community started moving to Canada. Currently, their numbers in this country range anywhere between 5,000 and 7,000, with the greatest concentration being in the GTA. With the Parsi Navroze or New Year celebrated earlier this year (March 21), we spoke to some members of the community to reflect on their life in Canada, traditions, achievements and challenges.

The Zoroastrian Society of Ontario was the first institution built by the Parsi community in the 1970s. However, over the decades, “as the community grew, there was a need to build a bigger place or another community centre. So the newer immigrants who came settled in the west end, and as a result, it was decided to start a new community centre because everyone couldn’t be accommodated in one small hall. A group of 10-12 people got together and bought the piece of land which is now the Ontario Zoroastrian Community Foundation (OZCF),” says Havovi Bharda, an OZCF board member.

Nilloufer Bhesania’s father was among those earliest Parsis to arrive in Toronto in 1967. The job market wasn’t as competitive as it is today, and he secured a position with Revenue Canada within a week of his arrival. Being a small community, Parsis were very well-knit at that time. Says Bhesania, “My parents were very active in the Zoroastrian community. In fact, many Parsis called my parents as soon as they landed and my parents assisted them in finding a place to stay.”

Portraits, Dreams And Quirks Of Nine Young Parsis In Mumbai

There’s nothing quite like observing a creature in its natural habitat. Fortunately for us, India is one of the few places a particularly rare specimen are still fairly common. So, for the avid naturalist, here are a few tips for spotting and luring in that ever so endangered species–the Parsi.

They are most active around dusk when the remains of their dhansak lunch has finally been digested. Leaving their siestas behind needs just the right amount of coaxing so you should have plenty of chai and batasas ready to soothe them. Be warned that even this offering may not stem the flow of grumbling, but don’t be alarmed for a Parsi that is truly bemoaning the state of the world is asleep, ill or eating. As the sun sinks below the horizon, you’d do well to have a bottle of whisky on hand though the sanctity of this ritual may vary drastically depending on which type of Parsi you’ve lured into your midst. Still, even if you scare your Parsi away, a simple call might help you find them. Clear your throat and cry as loud as you can  ‘Jamvo Chalo Ji!’ This could, however, cause a stampede as every Parsi in the vicinity may descend upon you expecting to be fed so only use it in the most dire circumstances. Of course, you could skip all the effort, plant yourself in a place that serves good food and better booze and just wait for them to come to you. They are an overwhelmingly friendly and fun-loving bunch so approach at will, though there’s one trigger you’re better off knowing if you want to stay unharmed–don’t insult the Queen.

It’s easy to poke fun at a minority community that’s most lovable for their ability to laugh at themselves. While the rest of the world is busy getting offended, Parsis have always been ready with a creative quip at hand, ready to move on to the bigger and better laugh. It’s perhaps this light-hearted, yet straightforward spirit that’s led them to have such a big impact on our country, despite their dwindling numbers. Although their population currently stands at 69,000, which is a mere 0.006 per cent of the country’s total population, their legacy speaks volumes. From industry to the arts and philanthropy to economics, the legacy of the Parsis may very well outlive the community at this rate but there’s no denying that the community is facing what seems to be an unstoppable decline.

There are many reasons behind the dropping numbers. Parsis, unlike other communities, don’t put such a great emphasis on marriage. Many Parsis remain bachelors and spinsters till they die. If they do marry, a lot of them decide to marry late—in their 30s and even 40s, when conceiving children becomes difficult. Additionally, their duality is well known. Outwardly, they are incredibly westernised and modern. Internally, they wrestle with many demons, the most vicious of which is a mania for blood purity—inter-caste marriages are heavily frowned upon. Moreover, it lays bare the community’s skewed gender rules, as a woman who marries outside is no longer considered a Parsi, and neither are her children. The same does not apply if the man is Parsi—his kids may still be initiated into the Zoroastrian faith.

Through agencies such as Jiyo Parsi, which is a government run scheme to promote the community, people are being made aware that without some help this eccentric race may be facing extinction. If that does come to pass it would be a sad day for India, not merely because of their contributions to the economy, but because their crazy ways and delicious food have become so ingrained in the country’s identity. Hopefully the future will see growth in the Parsi community because we aren’t ready to say goodbye to their big laughs, their big bellies and their even bigger hearts.

For those of you not lucky to have a Parsi in your life we volunteer 9 of our own on the celebratory occasion of Parsi New Year today so you can learn a bit more about this elusive community. We also assure you that this is not an attempt to cement stereotypes but a shout out to all the dikris and dikras who are carrying on living their lives, carrying the legacy of their community forward by doing what they do, the very best that they can. And they’re doing it with a sense of humour.  

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