Simurgh, the Mysterious Giant Healing Bird in Iranian Mythology


Image from the Shahnameh of the Simurgh (benevolent Persian mythological creature) carrying Zal (held in her claws) to her nest.

The image of the serpent is widely acknowledged in western culture to symbolize medicine. One of the most recognizable symbols for medicine today is the rod of Aesculapius with its entwined single serpent. It was originally a symbol representing Aesculapius, the Greek god of medicine, from around the 6th century BC. In the early 20th century the US Army Medical Corps (USAMC) adopted the caduceus of the Roman god, Mercury, with its double entwined serpents capped with wings as a medical symbol, although it had no medical association in early Greek or Roman tradition. In contrast, Iranian mythology has no recorded evidence that the image of the serpent was ever associated with the practice of medicine or pharmacy. Instead, it was the mythical bird, Simurgh.

Simurgh (Image: Jahan-e-Khosrau / Free use)

Simurgh (Image: Jahan-e-Khosrau / Free use )

The Simurgh was described as a peacock with the head of a dog and the claws of a lion. She was a creature big enough to comfortably carry an elephant or a whale. The Simurgh was said to be so old that she had seen the destruction of the world three times over. This afforded her so much wisdom and learning that she possessed the knowledge of all the ages. In one legend, the Simurgh was said to have lived for 1,700 years before plunging herself into flames, much like the Phoenix. The figure of the Simurgh can be found in all periods of Iranian art and literature, as well other regions that were within the realm of Persian cultural influence. In the Avesta, the Zoroastrian holy book, containing the oldest record of the Simurgh, the Simurgh is written as Meregho Saena . Later, the name ‘Saena’ was also associated with healers. In Farvardin Yasht , verses 97 and 126, several physicians have also been mentioned bearing the name ‘Saena’. In the Dinkard, a 10th century compendium of the Mazdaen Zoroastrian beliefs and customs, it is mentioned that there was a physician by the name of ‘Saena’ who was born 100 years after Zoroaster and who trained 100 students to be physicians, during his long life.

The Birth of a Hero by the First Caesarean Section

The Simurgh represented the union and served as a mediator and messenger between the Earth and the Sky. She lived in the ‘Tree of Knowledge’ and, when she took flight, her powerful ascent shook the tree’s branches so violently that the seeds from every plant that had ever existed, were scattered throughout the world, bringing a wealth of valuable plants to mankind.

http://www.ancient-origins.net/history/simurgh-mysterious-giant-healing-bird-iranian-mythology-0010030

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A Grateful Graduate Reminisces the Wonderful MFCAI – and Oliver Goldsmith’s poem: The Village Schoolmaster!


Standing at the open door of the slowly moving B.B.&C.I.R. train from Ahmedabad to Bombay, a distinguished Mobed in flowing beard beckoned a Cooley to carry an old metal trunk and alighted on the Andheri station platform with his tender age son. The three slowly walked up the hill across the street to that magnificent architectural Boarding School building.

The mango trees on the vast grounds were heavy with the fruits. The Mobed was ushered in the Acting Principal Faramroze P. Patel’s office. After exchanging greetings, the son’s name was duly registered with his entire details of birth date, grandfather’s name, the Mobed “Panth” (family) etc. in Patel Saheb’s one and only complete School register as the 70thstudent this year in the School and 288th overall from the beginning!

Then he strikes the metal plunger bell and orders the assistant Keshoo to bring the first standard teacher. And here comes a Gujarati gentleman, in his Dhoti with a wonderful smile, the most respected, loving, wise, the one and only teacher Kantilal M. Upadhyay!

 

Kantilal Saheb escorted the young recruit to the last class room, informing on the way that he has taught all his 4 brothers before him and they were very good students! We entered the class room with all the students standing up for the teacher and Kantilal Saheb introduces me as Soli Pirojshah Kawasji Dastur from Tarapur and requests me to occupy the only empty desk left! After a few minutes, Kantilal Saheb had to leave the room and he brings his “Dhoko” (club) to me and says: “Sorabji! You are the monitor of this class and take care of it in my absence!”

 

Thus started my initiation to this magnificent Boarding School, The Muncherji Framji Cama Athornan Institute (MFCAI)! The fateful day was June 20th, 1945 and it started the most formative 9 years of my life until I passed the S.S.C. (High School) exam in March 1954! And all that I am today is due to the wonderful training we all had in this Institute, under the tutelage of those unbelievably dedicated Teacher Sahebs like Kantilal, Kaikhushroo S. Daruwalla, Rustomji S. Sanjana, Mobed Tehmurasp P. Sidhwa, Acting Principal Faramroze P. Patel, Dr. Peshotan K. Anklesaria, Rana, Khambata, and many others! And as a monitor of this unusual class, I was fortunate to have as my class mates, nay as my brothers, in our last years, Ervads Dr. Kersey Antia, Dastoorji Feroze (Framroze) Kotwal, Noshir Bharucha, Late Gustad Andhyarujina, and many others!

 

Alas, gone are the glory days of this Institute with 70+ students and 12+ teachers with teeming activities around the clock from the peel of 100 bells at 5:20 AM to “Khudaavind Khaavind Parvardegaar” Monajat at 9:00 PM before going to sleep!

 

The Village Schoolmaster

Whenever I think about our wonderful MFCAI, I always remember that beautiful poem The Village Schoolmaster by Oliver Goldsmith from his book: The Deserted Village. Besides bringing the memories of MFCAI, the poem also brings back the memories of my small Tarapur school where we had our first 2 – 3 years of education. I am sure it will bring back similar memories of your school to many of you.

This poem brings back the vivid memories of what the school was in its glory days when I was a student and what has become of the school today: a magnificent structure with no student and one Principal (?!), unkept, not maintained and left empty to itself! (please see the attached photos of the school in 2004).

Whenever I visited the school in recent years, it brought tears to my eyes to see the deplorable condition it is left in. Changing the last two lines of Goldsmith for MFCAI:

“But past is all (its) fame. The very spot

Where many a time (it) triumph’d is forgot.”

 

So, here is that beautiful poem by Oliver Goldsmith:

The Village Schoolmaster

by Oliver Goldsmith (1728 – 1774) (read by Tom O’Bedlam)

Beside yon straggling fence that skirts the way,

With blossomed furze unprofitably gay,

There, in his noisy mansion, skilled to rule,

The village master taught his little school;

A man severe he was, and stern to view;

I knew him well, and every truant knew:

Well had the boding tremblers learned to trace

The day’s disasters in his morning face;

Full well they laughed, with counterfeited glee,

At all his jokes, for many a joke had he;

Full well the busy whisper, circling round,

Conveyed the dismal tidings when he frowned;

Yet he was kind, or, if severe in aught,

The love he bore to learning was in fault.

The village all declared how much he knew —

‘Twas certain he could write, and cipher too;

Lands he could measure, terms and tides presage,

And e’en the story ran that he could gauge;

In arguing, too, the parson owned his skill,

For, e’en though vanquished, he could argue still,

While words of learned length and thundering sound

Amazed the gazing rustics ranged around;

And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew

That one small head could carry all he knew.

 

But past is all his fame. The very spot

Where many a time he triumph’d is forgot.

 

SPD Explanation:

  1. The school has meant to all of us a steady influence throughout our lives, in thick and thin, and we owe everything that all of us have accomplished to that great philanthropist and far-sighted Parsi Zarathushtri, late Meherwanji Mancherji Cama who built this Boarding School for the uplifting of the Athornan families! Many of us school graduates still remember late Meherwanji and his father Mancherji in all our Afringan Deebache even up to this day, a tribute of our gratitude to them!

Addendum

  1. The alumni of the Institute form the bedrock of priests on this Continent, to name a few: among them are Ervads Kersey Antia, Kersey Bhedwar, Noshir Karanjia, Parvez Patel, Adi Unwalla, Peshotan Unwalla, Behram Panthaki, Dara Sinor, Kobad Jamshed (Andhyarujina), Tehmton Mirza, Jimmy Panthaky, and Soli Dastur
  2. This institute has produced three Dasturs: Dastur Navroze Minocher Homji, Dastur Feroze Kotwal, and Dastur Peshotan Hormazdyar Mirza.  Dastur Minocher Homji and Ervad Manecksha K Panthaki, the father of Ervad Behram and Ervad Gustad Panthaki were the first batch of 36 students enrolled in the institute in 1923 and Ervad Manecksha was the first Navar from this Institute on 2/11/1928.
  3. In addition there were two Mobeds from Iran, Dastur Firooz Azargoshasp and Dastur Rostam Shahzadi, who also received their training at the Cama Athornan Institute. They were sponsored by the Yazd Anjoman e Moobedan and the Bombay Irani Anjuman, under the leadership of the late Dinshaw Irani.  
  4. Now the MFCAI Ex-Students are trying to revive this Institute and they deserve all the help from our community worldwide! They used to hold 2 weeks Refresher Course on Religious Prayers, Rituals, History, etc. with Guest Speakers coming to speak. However, the Principal and the Trustees stopped them to hold these annual course for some flimsy reasons and the MFCAI is not involved in any Zarathushtri Programs.
  5. Now they are holding these courses at Cama Baug. We wish them all success, and help!
  6. And finally, I leave you all with that haunting echo in my ears of the last lines of our nightly “Khudaavind Khaavind Parvardegaar” Monajat: “Maneh Paasbaani maa taari suwaad, Bhalaa kaamo karvaa savaareh uthaad!” (Let me sleep under your watchful eye and wake me up in the morning to do good deeds (again)!”

May the Flame of Fellowship, Love, Charity, and Respect for all burn ever eternal in our hearts so we can do HIS work with humility, diligence, and eternal enthusiasm!

 

In HIS Service 24/7!

Atha Jamyaat, Yatha Aafrinaamahi! (May it be so as we wish!)

 

Love and Tandoorasti, Soli Dastur

 

MFCAI Photos

Parsis were pioneers of cricket in India


A minority community in India – only about 60,000 live there now – Parsis are the pioneers of cricket in India. Being anglophile in the 19th century, they were the first to learn the game of cricket from the Englishmen. When the Hindus and Muslims had little idea of what cricket was all about, the Parsis took a cricket team to England in 1886.

Kersi Meher-Homji

That was much before the legendary Ranji and Duleep mesmerised Englishmen with their elegant run-making.

Originally from Iran, the Parsis (also called Zoroastrians) – followers of prophet Zoroaster – settled in India about 1200 years ago because of religious persecution in Iran.

In all, 11 Parsis have played Test matches for India from 1932 (the first ever Test India played) to 1975. In alphabetical order they are: Soli Colah (2 Tests), Nari Contractor (31), Farokh Engineer (46), Jehangir Irani (2), Rustomji Jamshedji (1), Kharshed Meherhomji (1), Rusi Modi (10), Piloo Palia (2), Rusi Surti (26), Keki Tarapore (1) and Polly Umrigar (59).

Three of them; Engineer, Meherhomji and Irani were wicket-keepers.

Only Contractor (aged 84 years) and Engineer (80 years) are now alive. Umrigar and Contractor captained India with distinction. Handsome Farokh Engineer was a flamboyant personality, scoring runs aggressively and keeping wickets like an acrobat.

Enough is written on a majority of these Parsi Test cricketers. This article features two less known Parsi cricketers who played only one Test each and while batting, remained unbeaten.

As I reported in Parsiana magazine (India) earlier this month, two “ji”s of Indian cricket were unique characters. Both were good-looking Parsis, one was a slow left arm spinner, the other a wicket-keeper and a dare devil batsman – an earlier day Farokh Engineer.

They were Rustomji Jamshedji Dorabli Jamshedji (1892-1976) and my uncle the dashing debonair Kharshed Rustomji Meherhomji (1911-1982).

Jamshedji the first Parsi left-arm spinner

 

Jamshedji was the third Parsi to play Test cricket. The first two were Sorabji (Soli) HM Colah and Phiroz (Piloo) E Palia who were selected in the first ever Test match for India; against England at Lord’s in London in June 1932.

Jamshedji played only one Test, on Bombay Gymkhana in December 1933, the first Test on Indian soil.

Click here for the full article with some interesting pics and facts

 

The business of family — The Tatas


“We do not claim to be more unselfish, more generous or more philanthropic than other people. But we think we started on sound and straightforward business principles, considering the interests of the shareholders our own, and the health and welfare of the employees the sure foundation of our prosperity. ”

The words were uttered memorably by Jamsetji Tata, the man who broke new ground for Indian entrepreneurship much before the term was coined. Some time back we brought to you a podcast about how the idea of the great big Indian business family continues to endure at a time of brash, young but uproariously successful ideas. And no business exemplifies this resilience better than Tata Sons.

https://embeds.audioboom.com/posts/6825355-podcast-the-business-of-family-the-tatas/embed/v4?eid=AQAAAMEh31qLJWgA

As we mentioned in the last podcast, entrenched family businesses are more politically savvy than new players and understand how to adapt to India’s ever evolving social and entrepreneurial landscape.

Even as two of Tata’s flagship companies, Tata Motors-owned Jaguar Land Rover and Tata Steel Europe, navigate international negotiations currently, the headlines today state that Tata Sons has appointed former foreign secretary S Jaishankar as president, global corporate affairs. This is clearly a well-thought out move and bodes well for the company. He will be overseeing Tata group’s global corporate affairs and international strategy development.

In an official statement, Jaishankar said that he looks forward to working with an iconic institution known for its value-based leadership.

His statement conveying in not so many words that a pioneering business enterprise evokes more than just numbers.

So let us today, talk of a success story that is not just about products but legacies. A legacy which now includes TCS, the freshly minted USD 100 billion company. It is also time for us to acknowledge on this podcast the irrefutable fact that even those of us who have never worked for a Tata company have been touched in some way by its services, products and messaging.

Tata Sons, the family that pioneered CSR

Many of us still remember the vintage ads about their steel legacy, where the Tatas used this key phrase, “We also make steel.”

It was in 1988, that the Tatas first ran an ad on Doordarshan, not about a product but nation building. It showed us the impact conscientious corporate policies have on employees and even consumers. That ad captured in a few seconds the idealism of the founding fathers of Tata Sons. 1988 was also the year, Tata Steel became the only integrated steel company in the world outside Japan to win the Deming Application Prize for excellence in Total Quality Management.

The ad with the punch line, “We also make steel” also summed up what we would come to understand in the years to come as CSR (or corporate social responsibility).The Tatas in a way pioneered the idea of philanthropy being intrinsic to corporate philosophy.

And so it turns out that the term family in the case of Tatas has always had a broader meaning. And as was evident in the famous ad, The Tatas did not just build a steel plant. They built a city for their employees where there are more amenities than some of the biggest metro cities in India. The city has multiple academies for varied sport disciplines, golf courses, a hospital, leafy avenues, stadiums, a local power utility and a lot more.

Jamshedpur or Tata Nagar was built in 1907 and today the Tatas’ contribution to its infrastructure even includes an Rs 100 crore, 11-km highway. This level of investment in human capital is what lasting legacies are built of. And that is why, too many Tata employees, being part of the Tata family means that often succeeding generations also end up working for the company.  And yes, Tata Steel hasn’t seen a day of strike since 1928.

CSR with constant diversification and global dominance

And we are just beginning to scratch the surface of what the Tata family stands for.

Even as first generation entrepreneurs in India challenge entrenched business houses with out of the box ideas like Flipkart, old warriors like Tata Sons are striving to remain relevant by diversifying and exploring new avenues constantly. Tata sons continue to exemplify the undiluted power of a family owned business, having weathered storms of all kinds through the decades.

And the Tata family is thriving still in a country far different from the one it was first conceived in. Many Tata companies have achieved global prominence over the years as they redefine their skill profiles to suit the ever evolving business environment. Tata Communications for instance is a leading international wholesale voice provider and Tata Motors is among the top ten commercial vehicle manufacturers in the world.

While Tata Steel, the heritage brand of the Tate empire is among the top fifteen best steel companies, TCS is the second largest IT services company in the world. Tata Global Beverages continues to be the second-largest tea company in the world and Tata Chemicals is the world’s second-largest manufacturer of soda ash.

How a homespun success story began

The Tatas originally arrived in Mumbai from Navsarii, Gujarat and the first man in the family to strike gold was Jamshedji Tata.

Jamshedji Nusserwanji Tata was not just the patriarch of the Tata business empire but the father of modern Indian entrepreneurship.

It was in 1868, that Jamshedji Tata founded the Tata group which went on to become a global enterprise, comprising over 100 independent operating companies operating in more than 100 countries across six continents. In 2016-17, the cumulative revenue of Tata companies, was USD 100.39 billion.

According to the Tata website, there are 29 publicly-listed Tata enterprises today with a combined market capitalisation of about USD 130.13 billion (as on March 31, 2017). Tata companies with significant scale include Tata Steel, Tata Motors, Tata Consultancy Services, Tata Power, Tata Chemicals, Tata Global Beverages, Tata Teleservices, Titan, Tata Communications and Indian Hotels.

The original vision that fuelled the conception and expansion of industries of steel, hydro-power, hospitality and airlines went on to create path breaking entities. Entities such as TCS, India’s first software company, and Tata Motors, which has to its credit  India’s first indigenously developed car, the Tata Indica and the smart city car, the Tata Nano.

Tata Sons however continues to be the principal investment holding company. A remarkable aspect of this story is that sixty-six percent of the equity share capital of Tata Sons is controlled by philanthropic trusts supportive of art and culture, education, health, livelihood generation etc.

The majority shareholders of Tata Sons, have routinely endowed institutions to research science and technology, medicine, social studies and the performing arts. The trusts also provide aid and assistance to non-government organisations working to improve education, health care and livelihoods.

The company’s mission statement in its own words continues to be based on, customer-centricity, innovation, entrepreneurship, trustworthiness and values-driven business operations. All this while the company balances the interests of diverse stakeholders including shareholders, employees and civil society.

Jamshedji Tata, the man in a hurry to build an aspirational business idea

And it all began with Jamsetji’s vision of building India’s first steel mill and hydro power plant that would galvanise industry in India.His most important contribution though was to create an aspirational idea of India where Indian entrepreneurship could claim its place proudly on the global stage with other industrialised nations.

He was energised by the patriotic idealism of a man who not only wanted to create an empire but to root it in humanism.  That he envisioned the House of Tatas spanning generations at a time when India was colonised and was crushed by poverty is even more remarkable.

On March 3, 1839, in Navsari, Gujarat, he was born to Nusserwanji Tata, into a family of Parsee priests. His father paved the way for him by breaking away from the tradition of priesthood and establishing a banking business. Jamsetji was enrolled at Elphinstone College, from where he graduated in 1858 and soon he joined the small firm that his father ran. He was just 20 and soon began to learn about commodities, markets, trading and banking.

In 1868, aged 29 he started a trading company with a capital of Rs 21,000. Already a visionary, he acquired a defunct oil mill in Chinchpokli, in Bombay, and converted it into a cotton mill. Even though, he sold the mill two years later, he went to England, to exhaustively study the Lancashire cotton trade.

In 1874, Jamsetji founded the Central India Spinning, Weaving and Manufacturing Company, with a seed capital of Rs 1.5 lakh. Three years later, his dream project. Empress Mills came into existence in Nagpur. He was 37. From about 1880 to his death in 1904, Jamsetji devoted himself to three of his big dreams, setting up an iron and steel company, generating hydroelectric power, and creating a world-class scientific institution.

He died without fulfilling these dreams but his spadework resulted in future generations giving shape to his unrealised ideas. His heirs would remember his heroic efforts to build a steel company despite the odds presented by a scornful British empire and road blocks at every step. Eight years after his death, the first ingot of steel rolled out off the plant’s production line. The year was 1912 and helming his vision were now his son Dorab and cousin RD Tata.

Jamshedji Tata’s encompassing vision for the extended Tata family

In his lifetime, Jamsetji also laid the foundation for the company’s well-known worker friendly policies by offering his employees shorter working hours, well-lit and properly ventilated working spaces, and provident fund and gratuity benefits even before they had become mandatory in the West.

We have already mentioned Jamshedpur and it was Jamsetji who had visualised the concept of an idyllic workers’ township at a steel plant five years before even a site for the enterprise had been chosen. He had visualised wide streets planted with shady trees, plenty of space for lawns and gardens, areas for football, hockey and parks. The secular nationalist also wanted spaces earmarked for temples, mosques and churches. It was poetic perfection that when his vision became a reality years after his death, the city that was built would be named after him and called Jamshedpur.

Inspired by his dream to encourage India’s brightest minds with the JN Tata Endowment in 1892, the inheritors of this legacy established Tata scholarships. They would go on to touch so many lives that by 1924, two out of every five Indians in the Indian Civil Service happened to be Tata scholars.

To establish an Indian Institute of Science, Jamsetji had set aside Rs 30 lakh of his money, had even drawn a blueprint and beseeched the Viceroy, Lord Curzon, and Swami Vivekananda for their literal and ideological support. But despite these efforts, he did not live long enough to see the Indian Institute of Science come up in Bangalore in 1911.

The hydroelectric project too was completed after his demise. Among the dreams he lived long enough to realise was the Taj Mahal Hotel in Bombay. He wanted to build a world class hotel showcasing Indian hospitality after being denied entry into one of the city’s hotels. It cost Rs 4.21 crore by the time it was finished and was the first building in Bombay to use electricity and as the trivia on Tata website states, this was the first hotel in the country to have American fans, German elevators, Turkish baths, English butlers and whole lot more.

The house of Tata that we know today was hence built on the shoulders of this man whose founding ideals were then carried forward and interpreted by succeeding generations making the family business more than just about the immediate family. As he wanted, the name Tata today stands for not just cutting edge entrepreneurship but philanthropy. He passed away in Germany in 1904 and the chairmanship of the Tata group passed to the elder of his two sons, Sir Dorab Tata.

Apart from displaying their entrepreneurial verve, many Tata scions like Sir Ratanji Tata: Jamsetji Tata’s younger son, have used their resources to touch, change and enhance lives of the less privileged. It was Ratanji who created a trust fund for “the advancement of learning and for the relief of human suffering and other works of public utility.”

The Sir Ratan Tata Trust is today the second largest of the Tata trusts. Another Tata scion Naval Tata also contributed liberally to the fields of business, sports administration and labour relations.

On the other end of the spectrum was the unstoppable energy of JRD Tata (Chairman, Tata Sons: 1938 – 1991) who put India on the aviation map and pioneered civil aviation in the subcontinent in 1932 by launching the airline now known as Air India.

More than just another family business

The true capital of the Tata group of companies is its work force of over 6,60,000 people worldwide. And as the company says, “Taking good care of this large family is a priority for the Group.” So as we said before, clearly the word family has more than just one meaning when it comes to the Tatas.

Sacred fire alive for 1,550 years at Iranian Zoroastrian temple


Iran’s central city of Yazd is home to one of the fire temples most sacred to Zoroastrians worldwide with a flame that has been burning for nearly 1,550 years.  The Yazd temple is one of the world’s nine Zoroastrian fire temples which hold the sacred Atash Behram, meaning Fire of Victory.

Zoroastrian Eternal Flame at the Fire Temple in Yazd, Central Iran Photo by Adam Jones (watch related video by Press TV)

Atash Behram is the highest grade of fire in Zoroastrian fire temples and its preparation, which took place several centuries ago, involved an elaborate purification ritual that took almost a year.

The Yazd fire temple was built in the Iranian central city of Yazd in 1934 in the Achaemenid architecture style in brick masonry, similar to fire temples in India. It is located in the middle of a vast garden of pine, cedar and fruit trees with a vast circular water pool in front of it.

The sacred fire of the temple is said to have been burning since 470 AD in the Sassanian Empire. It was originally started in the Pars Karyan fire temple in Larestan County, Fars Province, but it was later transferred to several other temples and secret locations to keep it burning until it was finally consecrated in the Yazd temple in 1934.

The sacred flame is currently preserved inside a bronze vessel visible from behind a glass wall and only Zoroastrians are allowed to go to the sanctum. A person called Hirbod is in charge of keeping the fire burning.

Zoroastrians are required to perform special rituals to enter the temple. Apart from personal cleanliness, the pilgrims have to remove their shoes. Men have to wear white caps and women need to put on white scarves and light color clothes.

 


Zoroastrian Fire Temple in Yazd, Iran (Yazd Atash Behram)
By Zenith210 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

 

In 1999, the Yazd fire temple was registered in Iran’s National Heritage List and some sections of the temple have been open to visit for tourists where they can see the fire behind the glass wall.

Origins of fire temples

Zoroastrianism is one of the world’s oldest known monolithic religions and, contrary to some misperceptions, fire only represents purity and the brightness of God in its belief system. Documents indicate that Zoroastrians initially did not have fire temples and they normally prayed at homes or on top of the hills.

The tradition of fire temples originates from the times when Iranian communities developed fire houses to keep fire burning for everyday uses. In this way, people did not have to make fire separately and could take the fire they needed from fire houses.

The fire houses finally turned into an essential part of Zoroastrian communities called Astash Kadeh or Atashgah and they gradually served multiple community purposes, including as places of worship, courts, educational centers and health clinics.

The construction of fire temples flourished during the Sassanian dynasty (224 to 651 AD) during which Zoroastrianism was announced as the official religion of the Persian Empire.

Nowadays, most of the world’s active fire temples are located in India which is home to the world’s largest Zoroastrian community.

Meanwhile, the Zoroastrians in Iran, who mainly live in the central provinces of Yazd, Esfahan, Tehran and the southern province of Kerman, still have their own fire temples where they perform their religious rituals.

… Payvand News – 04/04/18 … —

Source: Press TV

http://www.payvand.com/news/18/apr/1011.html

Road to Enterprise


Part 1 : The Rise of the Parsis

The Parsis are one of Indias most well-known business communities. Catch the story of their journey from a predominantly agrarian beginning to the pioneers of Indian industry.

Part 2 :

Naushad Forbes, Co-Chairman, Forbes Marshal, shares his thoughts on his family legacy , the Parsi way of doing business and the way ahead .

 

Looking for Old Pictures of Bharda House – Udvada


I am interested in any old pictures that you may have of the old Bharda House in Bharda Street, Udwada.  That house was occupied by my grandmother and aunts and uncle from the Katila family and I spent almost all my school vacations there in that house.

This is of sentimental value to me and I would be very grateful if you would oblige.

Thanks ,
Mrs. Nawaz Vijayakumar

nawaz.vijayakumar@gmail.com

Valiant Parsis in War and Peace


I am happy to announce that my new book VALIANT PARSIS IN WAR AND PEACE was
released by Dasturji Khurshed Dastoor at Iranshah Udvada Utsav on 24th
December 2017.

You may take a printout of the outer jacket and display it at your nearest
agiary/colony notice board.

I am currently in Mumbai for three weeks.

Marzban Giara

SYNOPSIS OF THE BOOK VALIANT PARSIS IN WAR AND PEACE

VALIANT PARSIS IN WAR AND PEACE

320 pages, hard bound, illustrated, printed on art paper

Foreword by Air Chief Marshal Fali Major (Retired)

An index of names – surnamewise of 550 Parsi officers and men with 200
photographs.

Price:Rs.700/- plus courier chargesRs.200/- per book in India

Available from:

Marzban J. Giara,  WZO Trust Funds Senior Citizens Centre,  Pinjara Street, Malesar, Navsari,
Gujarat, India Pin 396445

e-mail: marzbang@gmail.com

Available from 1st January 2018 at Mumbai:

  1. Mr. Hoshedar E. Ichhaporia. Desai Building, ground floor, (opp. Bank Of
    India). 668, Katrak Road, Dadar Parsi Colony  Tel. 24124303

  2. Rustomfaramna Agiary Dadar

  3. Karani Agiary, Cusrow Baug, Colaba

  4. Tata Agiary, Bandra

  5. Mevawalla Agiary Byculla

  6. Parsiana book shop, K. K. Chambers, A. K. Nayak Marg, Fort, Mumbai Tel
    22074335/22074347

  7. Jame Jamshed office, 2282020223

The author Marzban Giara has documented the lives and contribution of Parsi
officers and men of the armed forces, police, fire brigade as a labour of
love. It has an index of names surnamewise of 550 Parsis and 200
photographs.

This book has an attractive outer jacket with colour pictures of all the
Parsi service chiefs on the front cover and Lt. Generals, Air Marshals,
Vice/Rear Admirals on the rear cover. It has a foreword by Air Chief Marshal
Fali H. Major (Retired)

There is a special section 24 pages with colour pictures of medals pre
independence and post independence and life sketches of the Parsi service
chiefs – Field Marshal Maneckshaw, Admiral Jal Cursetji, Air Marshal Aspi
Engineer, Air Chief Marshal Fali H. A. Major, as also Vice Admiral Rustom
Contractor, Director General, Indian Coast Guard and Khusro F. Rustamji,
Director General, BSF; Keki Dadabhoy of Black Cat Commandos and Lt. Col. Adi
B. Tarapore, the only Parsi winner of Param Veer Chakra.

There is a chronological record detailing the contribution and preparedness
of the Parsi community during the Second World War. Pictures of the two War
Memorials at Khareghat Colony, Mumbai are included. A list of Parsis who
died during World War II, Indo Pakistan Wars and Indo China War of 1962 is
also given. Date of disbanding of the Parsi Battalion is also given as also
obituaries of several Parsi officers and men.

—————————————————————————-

Table of Contents

Title

Dedicatory page

Table of Contents

Foreword

Preface

Introduction

Recipients of Awards and Medals

Pictures of Awards and Medals

Life sketches of Parsi officers and men (arranged alphabetically
surnamewise) 200 pages

Parsis in Police Service

Chronological record from 1919 onwards

Parsi Ambulance Division

War Memorials

Index of names – surnamewise

Press announcements

Bibliography

Acknowledgments

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Marzban Jamshedji Giara is the author and publisher of books on Zarathushti
religion and Parsi history.  In the eighties he helped Dr. Bahman Surti to
publish seven volumes of SHAH NAMAH OF FIRDAOSI in English Prose.  What
started as a hobby has become a full time obsession.  During the past 33
years he has produced many firsts including the first illustrated Global
Directory of Zoroastrian Fire Temples in 1998 and its 2nd edition in
December 2002, The Zoroastrian Pilgrim’s Guide in 1999, Parsi Statues in
2000, All India Directory of Parsi Institutions in 2010 and its 2nd edition
in 2015 and The Contribution of the Parsi Community during the First World
War (1914-1918). He has to his credit thirty six other books, some authored
or compiled by him, some translated from Gujarati into English.  He is
perhaps the only one who has had a track record of consistent performance in
bringing out new and informative publications that meet the needs of the
community and most of these with his own resources, without seeking any
sponsorship. A keen student of Parsi history and Zarathushti religion, he is
an independent thinker, writer, public speaker, free lance journalist and
research worker.

His parents and his teachers have been the inspiration for him.   Right from
childhood, his father ingrained in him the idea: “Son, be a creator and not
a spectator in life.  We must give back to society more than what we have
received from it.” These words have motivated him to pursue his noble work
of bringing out new and innovative books in the service of the community.
Married to Bapsy (nee Daruvala) since 1969, they have a son Zareer and a
grandson Farhad. The family’s support and encouragement from friends and
well wishers drives him to carry on with his work in his chosen field of
endeavour.

He has been featured in The Times of India, Jam-E-Jamshed, Afternoon
Despatch and Courier, Indian Express as also in Parsiana and was interviewed
on Doordarshan TV and ZEE TV alpha Humata Hukhta Hvarashta for his
publications. He is interested in devotional music and has compiled and
published two song books Jarthosti Gayan Sangrah, and Gaavo Maari Saathe
Singalong Treasure Trove of Parsi Songs and also produced audio CDs of
devotional hymns Zoroastrian Melodies, Khushaline Bandgina Geeto, Ame
Chhaiye Parsi.

Mr. Rusi M. Lala has acknowledged his contribution in his book For The Love
Of India biography of Jamsetji N. Tata. His article Through the Lens on
Parsi photographers co-authored along with Dr. Nawaz B. Modi is included in
Vol. III of the tome Enduring Legacy published in 2005. His article “Statues
in the making of Bombay” has been published in the tome Threads of
Continuity by PARZOR in March 2016. He has presented slide shows on Parsi
statues highlighting their contribution to humanity.

Ancient Persian temple discovered in northern Turkey could rewrite religious history


Archaeologists have uncovered an ancient Persian temple from the fifth century B.C. in Turkey’s northern Amasya province that could rewrite the history of the region.

Istanbul University Archaeology Professor Şevket Dönmez said discoveries at the ancient Persian Oluz Höyük settlement in Toklucak village have the potential to change long-held notions of religion and culture in Anatolia.

In 11 seasons of excavations, the team uncovered thousands of artifacts, as well as temple structure.

“In this settlement from the fifth century B.C., we discovered a temple complex which is related to a fire culture, more precisely to the early Zoroastrian religion, or to the very original religious life of Anatolian people,” Dönmez told Anadolu Agency.

Zoroastrianism, one of the world’s oldest extant religions, is believed to have originated from the prophet Zoroaster in present-day Iran. The discovery of a temple for fire worship suggests the religion may have had roots in Anatolia, as well.

“No 2,500-year-old artifacts have been found in Iran, yet they appeared in Anatolia. [With this discovery] Anatolia has entered the sacred geography of today’s Zoroastrians,” said Dönmez.

Describing the temple, Dönmez said it includes a holy room for burning fires and other stone-paved areas with many goods used in worship practices.

“They built a massive religion system here,” added Dönmez.

Dönmez also said Oluz Höyük is the only known Persian settlement in the region.

Excavations at Oluz Höyük started in 2007, after the site was first discovered during surface research near Tokluca village in 1999.

Dönmez and his team plan to continue research work at the site, possibly working on restoring the temple area in the future.

https://www.dailysabah.com/history/2017/11/06/ancient-persian-temple-discovered-in-northern-turkey-could-rewrite-religious-history

The mystery of Gustad Merwanji Hathiram


Today is the 44th death anniversary of my grand uncle and world cyclist Gustad Hathiram and an apt day to recount his incredible adventure and tragic disappearance… A real man, incredibly brave, a true hero… They don’t make them like him anymore!

The three men knelt before Pope Pius XI, thanking God for their luck so far, and asking for blessings from the pontiff for their onward travails. It was 15th October, 1924. Dressed in khakis, Gustad Hathiram, Keki Pochkhanawala and Adi Hakim were once again at the outset of a dare – one in a series of adventures that had started off exactly one year ago, from the dusty streets of Gowalia Tank, Mumbai, from where 6 gallant Parsi youth had set off on an unbelievable expedition – to circumnavigate the globe – on bicycle.

After weaving an intricate web of lies to avoid their parents’ ire, holding secret conclaves and making fledgling attempts to gather money, these 3 along with their colleagues Jal Bapasola, Rustam Bhumgara and Nariman Kapadia had set off with a few clothes, a battered second hand compass, and copies of the map of the world. They choose their route to make sure that they passed through some of the most inhospitable terrains on Earth, for their objective was to show the world that Indians could do something never done before, even though the British ruled them.

From Mumbai the cyclists headed to Delhi passing through various parts of central India. After meeting the Viceroy, Lord Reading, they cycled through the Punjab and on to Baluchistan, crossing the Duki pass at 11,000 feet in three feet of snow and temperatures of minus 13° C, finally reaching the last outpost of colonial India – Varechhah on 20th January 1924. From there, the group sent its first post card to their parents, giving them details of their real journey and assuring them that they would soon be home. Crossing into their ancient motherland – Iran, the 6 Parsis eventually reached Tehran in May 1924, meeting Reza Shah Pahlavi. At Tehran, Nariman chose to return back to India, while the remaining 5 proceeded on to Baghdad. Despite dire warnings to turn back, the cyclists set a new record – crossing the Mesopotamian desert from Baghdad to Aleppo – a distance of 956 kilometers. Struggling through shifting sand, temperatures over 55° C and delirious with sand-fly fever, the cyclists were saved from certain death by Bedouins and reached Aleppo after 23 days.

At Damascus, the 5 split into 2 groups. While Gustad, Keki and Adi proceeded onto Europe, Jal and Rustam went on to Jerusalem. The trio reached Brindsi in Italy by steamer and then went on to Naples and Rome – receiving the Pope’s blessings for another audacious dare – crossing the Alps on cycle. The three reached Zimplo and proceeded to cross the Gothard pass. After getting caught in a relentless storm, suffering from severe frostbite and bleeding, all three passed out and were buried in the snow, and would have perished had the Franciscan monks and their St. Bernard dogs not rescued them! They reached Paris and proceeded thence to London, where they received media coverage and adulation. After 23 days of travel through England, they caught the steamer to reach New York.

Here Gustad announced to the others that he had no plans of going further or coming back to India – he wanted to live in New York. The other two cyclists who had separated at Damascus soon reached New York. All four went to convince Gustad to change his mind. But Gustad refused to meet them and instead slipped a letter under their hotel door. ‘Think that I drowned in the Atlantic, my friends, for the Gustad you knew is now no more…’ Heartbroken, Gustad’s soul mate on the trip Keki returned back to India by steamer. The remaining three decided to go on and cycled throughout the States. On 15th October 1925 – their third anniversary, they set a new record, cycling non-stop for 16 hours covering 307 kilometers.

From America, they crossed over to Japan and from there became the first cyclists to enter Korea. Crossing Korea they entered Manchuria and cycled through some of the most difficult terrains, braving the intense hatred for foreigners, often starving for days. They became the first cyclists to cross the great Gobi desert and reached Canton in October 1926. From there they proceeded to Hong Kong, and cycled through Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Burma and the North Eastern states to Calcutta and from there to Colombo, the whole of South India and eventually reached Mumbai to the accompaniment of over 1000 cyclists and widespread media coverage on 18th March 1928 after covering nearly 71,000 kilometers in 4 years, 5 months and 3 days.

Amid the festivities, one family nursed its grief. Dinshawji Hathiram, the elder brother and guardian of Gustad, and my grandfather, was inconsolable. In 1930, he received a letter from Gustad warning him against trying to contact his brother and asking for some Sudreh and Kusti and a prayer book. My grandfather kept his word – and that was the last we heard of Gustad Hathiram. The last link in the chain was lost when Dinshawji passed away in 1987. The question remained unanswered – what happened to Gustad?

Many years later I was giving a talk on the importance of the Muktad and the need for Parsis to remember their dear departed. The next day as I sat down for prayers I doubled over in pain as though someone had punched me in the stomach. Still gasping for breath, there was only one thought in the mind – ‘you talk of remembering the dead, what about your Gustad kaka?’ After the prayers were over, I thought long and hard about what had happened. I realised that Gustad kaka would have been over 100 years old and was most probably dead. Yet no prayers had ever been done for him. Shortly thereafter, on Roj Fravardin Mah Fravardin – All Souls Day and the day to remember those whose date of death was not known, I performed the first Baj for Gustad kaka and begged forgiveness for my carelessness. A few months later, while praying, I was once again punched in the stomach by an unseen force and the same thought: ‘what about Gustad kaka?’On the next Fravardin Roj, I consecrated a new Karasya for him and put the same on our family table during the Muktad. A few days after the Muktad, I got my final blow in the stomach and the thought: ‘You are not doing enough! Search for Gustad kaka!’.

A few days later, in September 2002, as I was browsing the Internet at office, a headline ad banner flashed: ‘Search for your lost ancestors!’. As I clicked the ad, I was redirected to the genealogy site Ancestry.com. Half-heartedly I typed in ‘Gustad Hathiram.’ A few seconds later I was staring at the screen that read: ‘One death record found.’ The record revealed that Gustad Hathiram had passed away in the sunny town of St. Petersburg, Florida on 27th November 1973. In this manner, through the power of our prayers and my constant thoughts about his destiny, I was able to locate my grand kaka, nearly 30 years after his death! My joy at finding my grand-uncle was tempered with sadness at the circumstances. The details on his death certificate told us he worked as an auto mechanic, and he had never married. Why did he not contact us all these years? Did he have any friends? What were his final thoughts? These and a myriad other questions will haunt me for the rest of my life.

Thereafter, on 24th November 2002, I performed the first four days ceremonies for Gustad Hathiram and continued with the other prayers later on. As the prayers progressed, more and more information became miraculously available on him. Old photographs tumbled out of cupboards, a newspaper article written by me resulted in the relatives of the other Parsi cyclists contacting me. A few months later, we all met – descendants of the original 6 who had taken off from Bombay in 1923. Through these interactions and the hard work of the Hakim family, the original book written by Adi Hakim on their fantastic journey was re-published by Roli Books.

Readers of Frashogard! We have often recounted the miracles which happened many hundreds of years ago on this blog. But this is a miracle which took place just a few years ago – to an average and hardly pious person, in an age filled with pollution, materialism and no respect for God. If our Avesta prayers have this much effect that they can verily locate a person long dead in an alien land and pull his relatives back on track, can we imagine the power of Avesta when a really pious and holy man were to utter it? There is no lack of miracles, there is only lack of faith – in ourselves and in Ahura Mazda.

On 24th November 2003 – exactly one year after performing Gustad kaka’s four days ceremonies, I was appointed as the Panthaky of the Ustad Saheb Behramshah Nowroji Shroff Daremeher at Behram Baug Jogeshwari. Today, as I finish seven years in that post I offer my deep and humble thanks to the Creator and the Holy Fire for allowing me to attain what I always wanted and for giving me a chance to serve Him in this day and age. My thoughts are also with the Ruvan of Gustad Merwanji Hathiram – may it progress from whatever station in nature it may be and may it continue to watch over me and guide me to my ultimate destiny.

Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram

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