Category Archives: Avesta and Studies

SOAS PhD FOR NAZNEEN ENGINEER

Having recently been awarded her PhD, Dr. Nazneen Engineer is currently a Postdoctoral Researcher at the SOAS Shapoorji Pallonji Institute of Zoroastrian Studies.
Her interest in Zoroastrian Studies emerged after she attended the December 2007 World Zoroastrian Youth Congress in Australia.
For her doctorate, which was awarded to her on July 24, 2019, at SOAS in London, she produced an annotated translation of a Parsi Gujarati text written in 1883 by a prominent high-priest of the Parsi community. Her post-doctoral journey continues…

The Gathas – in the words of Zarathushtra

In the words of Asho Zarathushtra…

The Gathas are the Heavenly songs of our Dear Prophet Zarathushtra.  These divine hymns in essence, represent Zarathushtra’s communication with Ahura Mazda, in which the Prophet enquires about various aspects of the corporeal and spiritual worlds that embody the Almighty’s Holy Plan. It is through these Gathas that we learn that Ahura Mazda ordained Zarathushtra to propagate our great religion and lead mankind.

The five Gathas address a wide variety of information, which include, the creation of Nature, the concepts of Asha, Vohu Manah and the Twin Spirits, the choices that mankind has to make between Good and Evil, the expected outcome for the demons of the time, the punishment for the followers of falsehood, and a slew of other material. The devotional ‘Manthras’ that Zarathushtra prayed at the time to invoke the sacred Blessings from Ahura Mazda, is sprinkled in different verses of each Gatha.  These specific verses could very well be a great source of divine prayers for us to recite as well.

To allow a true Zarathushti to pray these selected sacred verses that are relevant to our daily lives, I have extracted these verses from each Gatha and have compiled them in a PDF format.  I have also provided the English translation for each stanza, to help with the understanding of the meaning of each verse for the reader.  This translation is based on “Gatha ba Maani” by Ervad Cowasji Eduljee Kanga, and “Divine Songs of Zarathushtra” by Iruch Taraporewala.

I am well aware of the unfortunate degradation of our community members throughout the world, to shy away from following the tenets of our religion, let alone reciting our daily prayers.  However, even if a handful of true Zarathushtis do get a chance to recite these verses, I will consider myself blessed by Ahura Mazda.

The Missing Jamaspe

Truth, they say, is stranger than fiction.

 

This is a  story narrated to Roshnimai Godiwala by a pious lady.  It is the story of a simple husband who was unfortunate to have a wife whose lavish spending  habits left him greatly distressed.  For a long time, he tried his best to cater  to her incessant monetary demands till one day, out of sheer despair,  he decided to end his life. Even as he stood, poised for a leap unto death,  on a precipice overlooking the Wai Ghat near Panchgani, a Sadhu suddenly appeared by his side.

 

When questioned by the ascetic, this Parsi gentleman explained his predicament , saying he was going to meet his Maker. The ascetic laughed aloud and told the Parsi that if this was truly a way to be liberated from life’s worries and meeting God, then many mortals would have succeeded by now. He requested this troubled soul to visit his Ashram and assured him that he would help him to meet God. Since the desperate Parsi had nothing to lose anyway, he accompanied the Sadhu to his Ashram.

 

The ascetic gave this despairing soul a fruit to eat.  No sooner was the fruit consumed, the Parsi went into a samadhi like state, liberated from all flesh and blood needs-no thirst, no hunger, no sleep, no defecation for forty days!  When he returned from this trance like state, he had partaken of many secrets and mysteries lying locked in Nature’s vault. The ascetic handed a Jamaspe to this enlightened soul, instructing him how to use the book to prescribe Nirangs , prayers to other long suffering Parsi souls that they may enjoy some relief and happiness. He also told this Parsi that, henceforth, every morning when he awoke, he would find a ten rupee note under his pillow. It is worth noting that this sequence of events occurred in the forties when a rupee held great value.

 

On returning home, the man went about using the copy of Jamaspe and recently acquired divine knowledge for the work assigned to him.  As for his extravagant wife, there was always the ten rupee note every morning to satisfy her foolish demands. After some time, the man realised his natural end was drawing near. He called a pious lady neighbour whom he trusted, and told her to take away the Jamaspe and carry on the good work after his death.  The lady disciple told him that she would collect the sacred book from the prayer shelf with the burning oil lamp only after he had passed away.  She assured him that she would then put it to good use as instructed by him.  However, after his demise, when she tried  to collect the book from the secret place shown to her, the book was missing!

 

Roshnimai asked late Jehangirji Sohrabji Chiniwalla Saheb (disciple of Ustad Saheb Behramshah Navroji Shroff) to explain why the book had vanished from the secret place shown to the survivor.  He explained that , in the Aravali mountains, even today, there are places cut off from the outside material world by talismatic kash.  Here lie some Astral Libraries where Holy Books of all the Divinely Revealed Religions are kept. Jehangirji Sohrabji Chiniwala Saheb opined that, since the survivor lady was not found eligible to use the secrets of Jamaspe, it must have, so to say, ehtherialised and got restored to one such astral library! He also explained that there are many such advanced souls dwelling in these places cut off from the outside materialistic world. Though the Sadhu was not a Parsi, he could draw the relevant book from such an astral library by virtue of his spiritual stature so that the Parsi could do the good work he was destined to do for other suffering Parsis.

 

The cynic and the doubting Thomas, will dismiss this story as an unbelievable yarn. We wish him good luck!

 

Strange are the ways of Nature and stranger, the multidimensional truths and events lying beyond the grasp of our puny human intellect that always presumes to understand the multidimensional truths of Nature. But then,as Hamlet told his friend,

 

“There are more things in Heaven and earth, Horatio than are dreamt of in your philosophy!.”

 

Courtesy : K F Keravala

 

The Gathas – A Compilation

The Holy Gathas Of Zarathustra – Jimmy Wadia

Presented as a recitable prayer in English compiled from the following publications which give different versions of the Holy Gathas as per links below, (a compilation by Jimmy Wadia ( jjwadia@aol.com:

The Holy Gathas of Zarathustra by Behramgore T. Anklesaria M.A.

The Life of Zoroaster in the words of his own Hymns – The Gathas, by Kenneth Sylvan Launfal Guthrie – published by the Comparative Literature Press, Brooklyn, New York, USA in 1914

The Gathas of Zarathustra- by Stanley Insler-1975, Acta Iranica IV, Leiden: Brill

The Heritage of Zarathushtra – A New Translation of his Gathas by Helmut Humbach and Pallan Ichaporia, published in 1994

The Gathas – The Hymns of Zarathushtra by DJ Irani

Translation of the Gathas – The Holy Songs of Zarathushtra by Mobed Firouz Azargoshasb

Thank you Jimmy for sharing.

SOAS awarded £5million gift to create world-leading Institute of Zoroastrian Studies

SOAS University of London has secured a £5 million donation to create the world-leading SOAS Shapoorji Pallonji Institute of Zoroastrian Studies.

The donation will enable the creation of the SOAS Shapoorji Pallonji Institute of Zoroastrian Studies, a resource dedicated to enhancing the research, learning and teaching in the field of one of the world’s oldest religions. The institute will be co-chaired by Dr Sarah Stewart, Lecturer in Zoroastrianism, and Professor Almut Hintze FBA, Zartoshty Brothers Professor of Zoroastrianism. The donation will secure a long-term endowment for the Shapoorji Pallonji Lectureship in Zoroastrian Studies at SOAS in the Department of the Study of Religion, which will be held by Dr Stewart.

Three Magi in Parthian dress, exhibited at The Everlasting Flame: Zoroastrianism in History and Imagination, London 2013, Delhi 2016

SOAS has secured a commitment of £5 million over three years which will also see the creation of Shapoorji Pallonji Scholarships in Zoroastrian Studies as well as enabling a wide range of public engagement.

Baroness Valerie Amos CH, Director of SOAS, said: ‘Based in London, the home of the oldest Zoroastrian diaspora community outside India and Iran, SOAS is the perfect place to be home to an Institute of Zoroastrianism. Zoroastrianism has been studied at SOAS for nearly 90 years and through this donation we will be able to enhance our research and teaching in Zoroastrian studies and strengthen our relationship with the Zoroastrian Community.’

Mr Shapoor Mistry, Chairman, Shapoorji Pallonji Group, said: ‘Through the creation of the Institute, Lectureship and Scholarships, this donation will ensure that SOAS continues to develop as the world’s leading centre of Zoroastrian Studies, advancing in perpetuity the understanding and appreciation of this ancient religion and its history, culture, languages and peoples.’

Zoroastrianism has been studied at SOAS since 1929 thanks to the Parsi Community’s lectureship, which was held by Sir Harold Walter Bailey and Walter Bruno Henning. Renowned scholar Professor Mary Boyce taught Zoroastrianism from 1947 until 1982. Many other distinguished scholars of Zoroastrianism and Iranian Studies have taught at SOAS, including Professor John Hinnells, Professor A D H Bivar, Professor Philip Kreyenbroek and Professor Nicholas Sims-Williams. SOAS also produced a major international exhibition exploring the cultural history of Zoroastrianism, The Everlasting Flame: Zoroastrianism in history and imagination, which was exhibited in SOAS’s Brunei Gallery in 2013 and in the National Museum in Delhi in 2016.

11 July 2017

https://www.soas.ac.uk/news/newsitem122263.html

Meher Davar – The Divine Judge – Noshir H. Dadrawala

 

In the Zoroastrian Calendar the year comprises twelve Mah (months) with each month noshir-h-dadrawalaaggregating exactly thirty Roj (days) and thus a year of three hundred and sixty days to which are added the stand-alone five days of the Gatha which are not linked to any particular month.

The fifteenth day every month is dedicated to Dae-Meher and the sixteenth day to Meher Yazata. Where the twelve Mah are concerned, the seventh month is dedicated to Meher. Hence, Meher occupies a central position in the monthly and annual time cycle.

Meherangan is celebrated when Roj Meher coincides with Mah Meher. According to folklore this day commemorates the victory of light over the forces of darkness and good over the forces of evil. It is the day when the legendary spiritual King, Shah Faridoon enchains Zohak or Azi Dahak, the epitome of evil to that great spiritual mountain called Damavand in Iran.

According to legend, Zohak (the living embodiment of evil) is still chained to mount Damavand. It is said, every night when darkness grows, the forces of evil gain strength and the chains weaken. However, at the crack of dawn when the cock crows and there is sunlight, the chains are again secured and the evil one is rendered powerless. This is an important truth in nature, wrapped in an easy-to understand legend. Neither darkness nor evil has its own existence. Darkness is merely the absence of light and evil the absence of good. The only way to negate darkness is with light and the only way to dispel evil is through thoughts, words and deeds that are good.

The Avestan name for Meher Yazata is Mithra — the Divinity presiding over all oaths, promises, contracts, bonds, friendship and love. Avestan Mithra finds an echo in the Sanskrit word Mitra which means friend. The equivalent of Mithra in the Hebrew tradition would be Micha-el or the later Archangel Michal of the New Testament who leads God’s army in war against the forces of Satan.

The Romans too were so inspired with Mithra (Mithras to the Greeks) that Mithraism was practiced as a religion across the mighty Roman Empire between the first and the fourth century A.D. The temples of Mithras were always an underground cave, featuring a relief of Mithras killing the bull. Many scholars believe that this is related to cosmic astronomy, where the bull represents the constellation of Taurus.

In the Zoroastrian tradition Meher is referred to as Meher Davar or Judge who presides over the trial of the soul on the chahrom or fourth day after death.

Meher is also depicted as light or more specifically sunlight. Therefore, the Khurshed and Meher Niyaish go together hand in hand and are recommended as daily obligatory (Faraziyat) prayers.

The Meher Yasht is one of the longest of the Avestan Hymns. It embodies invocations for mercy and protection. Mithra being the Divinity of heavenly light is depicted as knower of the truth and one that sees everything. He is therefore the Divine Witness of truth and protector of oaths and promises.

Praying the Meher Niyaesh together with the Khurshed Niyaesh or the much more elaborate Meher Yasht is considered spiritually beneficial. It dispels the darkness of ignorance and untruth and strengthens the devotee with a high sense of truth, justice and commitment.

Meher Yazata is also the presiding deity over all rituals and ritual spaces and therefore Zoroastrian places of worship, especially in Iran are referred to as Dar-e-Meher or Darb=e-Meher which means ‘House of Meher Yazata’ or the ‘House of Light’.

The name Meher is popular among Parsis and though Mithra or Meher is a male Divinity, the name is commonly used by both gender. There are also other name variants. For example among the male — Mehernosh and Meherzad and among female Mehernaz and Meherangis!

 

 

« Older Entries