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.
There is greater significance to this day than just abstaining from meat today or through this Holy month.
About 5 years ago I wrote an article titled: “Bahman – Bestows Divine Wisdom” and which was published in Jam-e-Jamshed.
It’s a bit long, but you may like reading it.
In the Zoroastrian calendar, the second day of every month as well as the eleventh month of every year is dedicated to Bahman Amshaspand.
Bahman is the Persian form of the Pahlavi word Wahman and the original Avestan – Vohu Manah, a term which most scholars translate as the ‘Good Mind’, though there are more esoteric interpretations as well.
In the pantheon of Zoroastrian Divinities, Bahman Amshaspand ranks next to Ahura Mazda Himself. Bahman is an Amshaspand or Amesha Spenta (variously translated as Bountiful Immortal or Arch Angel) who is the guardian of Ahura Mazda’s Good Creation of Animals – particularly Goshpands like cow, goat, sheep etc. It is for this reason that devout Parsis abstain from eating meat throughout the entire month of Bahman. Even those who do not observe fasting from meat for the whole month try to avoid eating meat on Bahman Roj of Bahman Mah and the days dedicated to Bahman’s Hamkara (co-workers) – Mohor, Gosh and Ram.
Since at a moral and ethical level Bahman represents the Good Mind, abstaining from eating meat on every Bahman Roj as also Roj Mohor, Gosh and Ram is considered not just as an act of pleasing the Guardian Divinities of all Goshpands, but, also an act of spiritual merit to acquire spiritual wisdom through internal cleansing and exercising non-violence towards a Good Creation of Ahura Mazda.
Strictly speaking, throughout the month of Bahman, a Zoroastrian is expected to live on a simple diet of ann, fal & shak or grain, fruit and vegetable. But Parsis, being Parsis, cannot live on what they call ghaas phoos (grass and hay) and therefore most consider eating eggs as quite acceptable and some go even further to believe that eating fish or even fowl would be perfectly legitimate. “Aquatic creatures with fins and two legged fowls are not Goshpand”, it is argued! To each their own! I believe that there is no point observing the month of the Good Mind unless it is observed with faith, humility and understanding.
In the Gatha, Prophet Zarathushtra asserts that the path leading to Ahura Mazda is through Vohu Manah. In other words propitiating Bahman Amshaspand takes one closer to God. Interpreted at a moral and ethical level, exercising the right moral choice with the help of the good mind can only take one closer to Ahura Mazda, who in Zoroastrian theology is seen as the very Lord or Master of Wisdom.
In certain later texts, the Sudreh that every Zoroastrian wears is referred to as Vohu Manah Vastra or the garment of Bahman; just the way the Kushti that is tied around the waist is referred to as the girdle of Sarosh Yazata. It is believed that wearing the Sudreh which is the garment of Bahman Amshaspand gives the wearer wisdom, while tying the kushti over it gives the wearer Sarosh Yazata’s Divine protection.
According to historians, the Achaemenian emperor Artaxerxes II had Vohu Manah as the second part of his throne or court name and which when translated into Greek appeared as ‘Mnemon’.
I have memories of observing Bahman Mah as a child and one of the most vivid is eating just plain khichdi (rice cooked with daal and turmeric) with spicy-tangy Bafenu (a ripe Mango Pickle) or Doru (a tangy-runny concoction made with tamarind). Does any one cook Doru any more? I wonder!
In the Zoroastrian calendar of 365 days there is not a single day for total fasting from food. The only fast that is traditionally observed is the fast from eating meat throughout the month of Bahman. No special prayers or ceremonies are performed during this month. One is only expected to turn to a simple vegetarian diet as an act of spiritual discipline.
There is no Yasht or Niyaesh dedicated to Bahman. There probably was an Avestan Vohu Manah or Bahman Yasht but which is now lost to us with the vicissitudes of time. What we have is a Pahlavi commentary called Zand-e-Vohu Manah Yasna. However, unlike Avesta and Pazand, Pahlavi is not Manthravani or the traditional language of prayer. However, many do pray it. Once again, to each their own article of faith!
Historically, Parsis Zoroastrians have never been a vegetarian community. In fact one of the strongest arguments supporting the non-vegetarian theory is the observance of Bahman Mah. “If Parsis are mandated by religious tradition to be vegetarian all year round, why all the fuss over this month?” is a common refrain! However, the fact is: ‘we are what we eat’ and a vegetarian diet is considered good for spiritual development. Spiritually advanced Zoroastrians like Dasturji Jamshed Kukadaru were all staunch vegetarian.
In the Gatha, Asho Zarathushtra urges us to acquire happiness through wisdom, which in turn can be acquired by reflective thinking and exercising moral choices within an ethical framework. Much later, the Chinese philosopher, Confucius echoed the same thought: “By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest”.
May Bahman Amshaspand Bless our community with Wisdom!
The course, to be held at BORI (Below), is open to all. Avestan is known as the language of Zoroastrian scripture
BORI, in collaboration with London University, to hold 10-day course in Avestan, an ancient language now fading into oblivion.In an attempt to resurrect the ancient Iranian language Avestan, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI) is conducting a 10-day course from July 6.
The ancient language, sacred to Zoroastrianism, has few takers and even fewer scholars. “It is the language of Zoroastrian scripture and is close to Vedic Sanskrit. For instance, just as ‘asur’ means ‘powerful’ in Sanskrit, the corresponding Avestan word is ‘ahur’. The course, titled ‘An Introduction to the Avestan Language’ is being held in collaboration with the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London,” Dr Shrikant Bahulkar, honorary secretary in charge of BORI, told Mirror.
This course is supported by Unesco Parzor, started for the Preservation of Parsi Zoroastrian Heritage, which has now developed into the Parzor Foundation. The course will be taught by Almut Hintze, Zartosthy Brothers Professor of Zoroastrianism from SOAS, one of the very few teachers left from the stream.
“The course is free of charge and we have got a great response, with people coming from as far as Ethiopia and Germany. This could be phase two of the Jiyo Parsi programme. The whole point is to create awareness within the community and across the world about the value of this ancient civilisation and the importance of the language. When a language dies, wisdom too is lost,” said Shernaz Cama, of Unesco Parzor. India has around 60,000 Parsis, though the number is seen to decline by 10 per cent every census. The number of people knowing Avestan is possibly even smaller.
The course will contribute to Oriental studies, Vedic studies and Indian Culture by teaching Avestan from a comparative perspective that takes into account the common Indo-Iranian heritage shared by Vedic and Avestan. It is open to all and there is no eligibility criteria. “The point of the course is to preserve the language and develop people’s interest in it which in turn will lead to more research in the field,” added Dr Bahulkar.
“Avestan is a beautiful script and must be understood in order to understand the wonders of the Zoroastrian faith, a religion older than most. Starting courses is a brilliant initiative to honour the language and will hopefully encourage hundreds to uncover a piece of history. I hope the courses are advertised and promoted well,” said Freyan Bhathena, founder-editor of The Parsi Times. a community newspaper.
UNESCO Parzor is happy to announce the first of the Educational Outreach programmes in collaboration with SOAS, University of London.
Professor Almut Hintze, Zarthoshty Brothers Professor of Zoroastrianism, will be offering a 10 day Course at the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune this July. Due to a kind donation there is no fee for this course. At the end of an intensive programme the student will have acquired an Introduction to Avestan, with a comparative perspective of the Indo- Iranian heritage shared by Vedic and Avestan.
Therefore this Course is of interest to all those who are students of Vedic Studies and will add to their knowledge.
I will be grateful if you could circulate this information and the attached Course Structure and Registration Form on your websites and Facebook groups to reach as large an audience as possible at the earliest. Kindly print out the Poster for display at popular sites on your Campus as well. Interested individuals are most welcome as well.
Ketty Shroff stood first in her MA in Awesta Pehlavi from Mumbai University
Ketty Shroff, 71, with husband Cyrus at Bhatia hospital in Grant Road. Ketty, who pursued MA in Awesta Pehlavi, language of Zoroastrian scriptures, and stood first, suffered a heart attack after the convocation
As a young girl, Grant Road resident Ketty Shroff, 71, always wanted to be a post graduate. However, she could not fulfill her dreams because of financial constrains. But she did not lose heart and 50 years after her graduation, Ketty fulfilled her dream by doing what she desperately wanted to do — getting apost-graduate degree.
In fact, Ketty stood first among 2,342 students who appeared for MA in Awesta Pehlavi — the language of the Zorastrian scriptures — this year from the Institute of Distance Open Learning (IDOL), Mumbai University. She was felicitated on the occasion of the convocation ceremony in the university.
After graduating from Navsari in Gujarat Ketty moved to Mumbai. She served the Central Bank of India for 35 years and retired as a manager. Ketty had decided to do her MA in 2011.
After the convocation day, Ketty suffered a heart attack on February 3. She was immediately admitted in an ICU of a nearby hospital.
Recuperating in the general ward of the hospital now, Ketty shared her experience with this reporter. She said, “My financial condition was not that stable. I completed my schooling and graduation with scholarships. I did my graduation in Economics from SB Garda College in 1964 at the age of 21.”
Talking about her life after graduation, Ketty said, “Since I got married and had kids, I could not do my masters. But I learnt the basics of Zorastrian language for five years. After that I took admission for MA in Awesta Pehlavi. It was a big task in getting admission here because I am a graduate from Gujarat. However, I managed to get provisional admission for the first year and in the second, my admission was confirmed only a day before my MA Part II final exam.”
During her Part I exam, Ketty’s husband Cyrus, 80, was getting operated in a hospital. Cyrus, said: “I clearly instructed Ketty not to worry and to go and attend her exam for which she worked so hard for a year. It is her dedication that led her to pursue her dream.”
“I am grateful to the IDOL authorities that they cooperated with me and helped me to complete my post graduation in the subject I was interested in. I felt like a celebrity when during the convocation students came to get photographed with me. May be, I could not digest this excitement and landed up in hospital the next,” said Ketty with a smile.
Saturday, 7 February 2015– 6:20amIST | Agency: dna | From the print edition
A Site for Zoroastrian Religious Education Teachers
Welcome to the FEZANA Religious Education portal..
The site is designed to assist Zoroastrian Religion Class Teachers at various Zoroastrian organizations in North America.
The site has teaching material that is used by religion class teachers at the various Zoroastrian associations in North America. The two main groups of lessons are Zoroastrian History and Zoroastrian Religion.
Within each group the lessons are designated by their age appropriateness.
We thank all the religion class teachers who have contributed to this website and welcome contribution from all religion class teachers.
by Late Mr. Cursetji M. Patel ( Not a scholar but a Kind Spiritual Zarathushti soul who has given us many gems in his life time )
[Time is the predominant factor in evolution and, as such, when the time comes, things happen as destined in Nature. The time is now ripe when all the Zarthushtis of the world should become aware of the coming of the Saviour, RAENIDAR BEHRAM VARZAVAND. It is possible that some unfortunate skeptic may not believe in it. So be it, but at least let him/her be aware of it so that when it does happen, that individual will not be absolutely at sea.
“Truth is stranger than fiction” is known to many. Still, due to lack of faith, they mistrust and fall in doubt. Although in today’s world, there are charlatans, one wishes to be cautious, but by having intellectual faith, one can avoid falling a victim to such dubious persons. True faith can take a person towards salvation.
As mentioned in the scriptures, after the advent of Raenidar Behram Varzavand, for 500 years the world will experience a better and peaceful period, having sway of more spirituality and less materialism but before that, mankind will have to pay a very heavy price to Nature for all the wrong committed by thoughts, words and deeds.]
The world deluge or “Jag Rael” or the popular story of Noah’s Ark is mentioned in all the main religions of the world. Before the world gets submerged in water due to heavy rains, floods and melting of the ice-cap of the North Pole, as per the Zarthushti Deen, “Soshyos”, whose status is only next to Prophet Zarathushtra, leads the beings of the world towards the North Pole to a place called Pamir the roof of the world. After a lapse of some thousand years, when the water on the earth recedes, and the world seems inhabitable, the people the “Anjuman” which comes down from the roof of the world – is led by Gayomard, the father of the Aryan race. From this event, Gayomard starts another cycle of Time known in the Zarthushti Deen as “Zarvane Daregho-Khadat”. (In Jasame-Avangahe-Mazda, a Zarathushtis daily prayers “Thwashe Khadatahe, Zarvanahe Akarnahe, Zarvanahe Daregho-Khadate” all these three denote cycles of Time.) “Thwashe Khadatahe” is a person’s individual time cycle, viz., one round of Time, i.e., before birth, birth-death and after- death. “Zarvane Daregho-Khadate” is the time cycle of 81,000 years from Gayomard to the world deluge and “Zarvanahe Akarnahe” is trillions and zillions of years of unaccountable cycles of 81,000 years, i.e., “Zarvanahe Daregho-Khadate”.
We are at present concerned with “Zarvanahe Daregho-Khadate”, in the beginning of which very high souls descended on the earth, namely, Nabanaz-disht and Poryotakesh Ravans who upheld the white side of Nature and fought with the dark side. This was the bygone era of Mazdayasnis; till we come to King Lohrasp’s reign who, being a very holy and pious monarch, gave away his kingdom to his son, Gustasp, in whose reign, due to the “Pukar” (call) of Spenta Armaity (Mother Earth), Dadar Hormuzd sends to this earth, the Prophet of Prophets, Asho Spitaman Zarathushtra . This took place somewhere around 5,000 years after Gayomard. In Gustasp’s reign, Asho Zarathusht teaches the Zarathushti Deen, and breaks the cloud of Tur-bara-Tur, the pinnacle of formation of gross accumulation of the dark side of Nature, which gets vanquished and white side of Nature is the victor. After this, dynasty after dynasty with their rise and fall, come and go on the earth, one by one. Different religions came into being and from time to time, Raenidars came, taught and went. The last Raenidar Adarbad Marespand, under whose jurisdiction we are still, at present, was during the reign of King Shapur II (309-379 AD), about 1600 years ago, whose Avesta we pray today and whose reign will end when the new Raenidar Shah Behram Varzavand (blessed be his name) will rule in Iran, renovate and renew the Mazdayasni Zarathushti Deen and protect with peace and prosperity, the citizens of the world.
Here, we will try to understand about the coming Raenidar of the near future Shah Behram Varzavand who will not only be Holiest of the Holy, but who also will rule as monarch and will be the guiding spirit of humanity at large.