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This electronic edition copyright 2003 by Soli Dastur. Used with permission.


Chapter XXVI


Gujarati has been our language ever since we landed in India more than twelve hundred years ago. Yet Persian continued to be used in Iran and as it was the state language of the kings of Delhi and of their governors at Surat and at other places, many learned men of our community wrote articles in Persian also.

Azerkaivan and his intimate disciples who believed in the Muslim faith, philosophy and practices, and who had left Iran in the seventeenth century and settled in the Punjab, had compiled many books on religion and philosophy in Persian. They tried to explain the Zoroastrian religion in the light of Sufism and other alien philosophies. About a hundred years ago we find Gujarati translations of books by Kheshtab, Jeradest, Afsar, Zuideh Rooh, Makashefateh Kaivani, Jaanee Kaikhushru and others. In 1875 we get an idea of this philosophy in Bag-e-Parsa or the Garden of Purity by Dastur Jamshedji Kamdin of Broach.

Our priests excelled in ceremonial worship. With the march of time they had not moved onwards to the pathway of intellectual religion through knowledge. From amongst the approximately eight hundred Athornans there could be found hardly twenty-five who were capable of guiding the community by their written or spoken word.

In 1875 enthusiastic Zoroastrian theosophists came into prominence. In quest of knowledge these noble men conducted daily classes in their own organization, studied books and, through their own scholarship, were sincerely keen to enlighten the community. They led a simple and honest life. [254] Self-sacrifice was their watch-word. Some chose Brahmacharya, others Hattayoga. I held them in high esteem. Yet, at the same time, I was in honest opposition to their methods of transmitting their knowledge.

Theosophy means the study of religion. Who can be opposed to such divine knowledge? All the religions of the world teach spiritual enlightenment but their founders have differed in their search for its knowledge according to the country, conditions and times in which they have lived. The Theosophical Society founded by Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott to spread spiritual knowledge was in essence purely Hindu and Buddhistic. If our theosophists would look at it in its true perspective, appreciate it or even have complete faith in it and reveal it in its true aspect, I would have no objection. But these good people believed and tried to make others believe that theosophy alone was right and that alone was the truth and without it all else was incomplete and indefinite. They even tried to explain Zoroastrianism in that light. This attitude I could not conform to. I would not accept their assertion of possessing the sole miraculous master-key that could unlock and unravel the secret doctrines of all religions. From about the middle of the last century there was a controversy raging between the conservative section of the community and those who were known as reformists. Members of the former group whose staunch supporter was 'Mansukh', time and again accused the reformists of being bent upon suppressing ceremonials and of changing the Zoroastrian religion to a 'religion of convenience', and under the influence of Christianity, trying to convert it into a 'protestant faith'. Dadabhoy Naoroji, Khurshedji Cama and other learned reformists were labelled as Parsi Protestants. Parsi theosophists, supporting the conservatives, claimed that they had saved the community in the nick of time from being ruined by [255] Parsi reformists who, in the mode of Christianity, were trying to introduce reforms such as praying in a language that could be understood and the like. Before going to America to study, my protest was that, suppose for the sake of argument, the reformists were attracting the Zoroastrian religion towards a Christian-Zoroastrian faith,. Parsi theosophists were drawing it towards a Hindu-Zoroastrian or Buddhist-Zoroastrian religion.

Prior to my departure they had published many large and small booklets like the one entitled 'Zoroastrianism in the Light of Theosophy'. Later, another book, 'Zoroastrianism in the Light of Vishnuism' was published by Swami Govindachariya of Mysore.

Recently a Hindu professor of the Punjab has written 'The Vedic Origin of Zoroastrianism'. In this book its author states that Avesta, known as the sacred language of the Parsis, is a dialect of Sanskrit or of one of its offshoots. The suffix 'Ved' meaning 'to know' is used in its various forms in the Gathas. Arising out of this the learned writer states: 'Zarathushtra prays to Ahura Mazda and asks: "When will get the knowledge of the Vedic religion ?" On the basis of similar ridiculous explanations the author informs us that the Zoroastrian religion of the Parsees is an offspring of the Rig Veda!

All I had to say to my theosophist co-religionists was that just as we did not want a Christian-Zoroastrian religion we did not want either a Hindu-Zoroastrian or a Buddhist-Zoroastrian religion. We needed a pure Zoroastrian religion, a Mazda-Zoroastrian faith. These earlier thoughts of mine were strengthened by my contact with Professor Jackson and other scholars and through my four years' study of languages and of [256] the different philosophies of the West at Columbia University.

One of the lectures I had delivered at Bombay was on a comparative study of the Zoroastrian and Hindu philosophies. In that I had mentioned that the religion that is found in the books after the Gathas is mainly the ancient Indo-Iranian religion prior to Zarathushtra. There is a striking similarity between that and the old Vedic religion. But the advanced philosophy of the later religions born of the Upanishads, the Brahmas etc., and the Zoroastrian philosophy are poles apart. Avesta, Pahlavi and Pazend literature recognize a Personal God. Parsi theosophists, finding such a form of God incomplete, have attributed to the term 'Zarvaneh Akerneh' — 'Limitless time' — the meaning of 'Impersonal God', placing Him above Ahura Mazda. This concept was Hindu in essence.

The philosophy of reincarnation and other principles are the heritage of later Hindu religions and it is absolutely fruitless to attempt to search for their parallels in Zoroastrianism. I declared that the far-fetched endeavours of Parsi theosophists to attribute those teachings to the Zoroastrian religion are false and do not reflect sound scholarship.

Later, when I delivered this lecture in Karachi, I explained at length how the ideals of the Hindu and Iranian elders of the Indo-Iranian era were identical but in later years when they were separated and settled in India and Iran their way of living differed in every detail.

In Iran a married life was deemed equally sacred for laymen and for priests. The man who took upon himself the responsibility of a married life was dearer to Ahura Mazda than he who remained single. Celibacy in priesthood never found a place in the four thousand year old history [257] of Zoroastrianism. The life of renunciation and freedom from worldly cares, prevalent in the third and fourth of the four Ashrams of the Hindus, never found a foothold in Iran. It has never been an Iranian belief that this world of desire is a complete illusion. To renounce the world in an endeavour to be free of its ties and temptations has never been extolled in Iran. With many such examples, as an unbiased student, I depicted the advance of Hindu religion and philosophy towards renunciation of worldly life and that of Iran as a step towards social progress.

Dependent upon the Hindu philosophy of the Avatars of gods and goddesses, Parsi theosophists declared that Zarathushtra was no ordinary human being but an Avatar of the Ameshaspenta. I announced that this teaching was completely unfounded and alien and that Prophet Zarathushtra was a man of practical common sense. From this arose a controversy that I had insulted our Prophet by calling him a common man. After some time, during the Zoroastrian Conference, when the orthodox Parsi papers of Bombay waged war against me, many misrepresentations were propagated on the basis of the above. As a result, for a number of years, I had to print and distribute amongst the entire community of the subcontinent three small booklets explaining my statements. Some important passages from one of those booklets are quoted below in order to throw light on the diversities in the Zoroastrian and Hindu philosophies.

"Whereas the Zoroastrian religion lays emphasis on man's achievements in conquering the apparent evils that exist in the world, the philosophy of the Upanishads and the Vedas, on the whole, gives utmost importance to gaining freedom from the fetters of the cycles of birth and death by breaking through the darkness of ignorance and [258] attaining the bliss of Nirvana through knowledge of God — "Brahmagnan"

At the conclusion of the lecture the members of the audience were invited to express their opinions if they wished to. A learned Hindu gentleman thanked the speaker and said: 'I differ from the views of the lecturer on one point. The speaker has stated that the Hindu philosophy lays greater emphasis on knowledge than on action. I feel that no work can be done without knowledge. The scholarly talk that we have heard today IS the outcome of his laborious study. The invaluable Bhagvad Gita of the Hindus preaches the pathway of action together with other pathways.'

In reply I stated: 'Our learned friend has very rightly pointed out that knowledge must precede action. Besides, every student also knows that the Bhagvad Gita holds in high esteem the value of action. What must be remembered is that when the Hindu religion is referred to in general, the philosophy contained in the Bhagvad Gita alone or in any single book is not considered individually but it is known by the main ideals embodied in all. It is for this reason that we hear learned men say time and again that the religion of Iran preaches optimism while that of Hinduism and Buddhism is pessimistic. It paints a sad, despairing picture of life. We know that this is true regarding the philosophy of the Vedantas, Upanishads and the Buddhist religion, but not of the ancient Vedic religion. When the forefathers of the Parsis and the Hindus lived together, many of their ideas about life were similar. As scholars rightly reveal, the Hindus of the Vedic period were as optimistic as their Iranian brothers. They were lovers of life and workers in this world of joy and sorrow. Times have changed since then. When two brothers who have grown up together having common ideals part and do not continue contact with each other, each goes his [259] own way, imbibing the customs and cultures of the lands he adopts. Thus these two sister communities who at one time had a common philosophy, living in different countries amidst different environments, began to cultivate completely contrasting ideologies. On the whole, Hindus started shedding the older values, began to meditate more than to act and, instead of living in the world and fighting evil forces and cultivating nobler qualities, preferred to renounce the world and to seek refuge in retirement. The Hindu was athirst for the knowledge that could win for him the salvation of his own soul rather than work for the uplift of mankind. He became pessimistic, believing in a philosophy of despair whose final reflection can be seen in the great Buddha who preached that life was a curse, existence was evil and happiness can only be found in relinquishing worldly ties. To quote Professor Olden berg, 'The one-time perfectly practical Vedic religion turned into a philosophy of despair and hopelessness'.

"A Zarthosti did not go into seclusion in search of salvation. To subdue his senses and his emotions he did not relinquish life and become a yogi. He did not withdraw into isolation contemplating or meditating upon the knowledge that could gain freedom for his soul. He did not fast or perform penance or torture his body in order to conquer illusion and ignorance. On the contrary, he tried to put into practice the philosophy of life that his beloved Prophet Zarathushtra had taught. To fight against evil, to do deeds, to fashion his character midst the every-day experiences of joy and sorrow, goodness and evil, to perform such actions that could lighten man's burden in this world ere he thought of the next, to destroy Satan’s sway and to establish Ahura Mazda's kingdom on earth, was his mission in life. His age-old philosophy of life did not alter as did that of his [260] Hindu Aryan brother. On the contrary it strengthened through the grandeur of the teachings of the religion of Zarathushtra. This teaching did not underestimate the importance of this world. It did not concentrate merely on the life to be at the sacrifice of the necessary comforts and pleasures of this life. It did not preach the philosophy of pessimism, nor did it aim at enlightening a handful of Mahatmas or philosophers only. The aim of the Zoroastrian teaching was to help the entire family of man to enjoy the benefits of a good life and to exert its influence on the day to day practical life of men. Asho Zarathushtra revealed in himself the finest qualities of practical, common sense, emanating from his own sublime religion.

"Let us examine the above questions and answers in the light of the opinions of some of our well-known scholars. Professor Max Muller was a devotee of Hindu literature from the time he translated the Upanishads three decades ago right up to the end of his life. Devout Hindus knew him as 'Max Muller Bhat' which was to assign to him the sacred appellation of 'The Enlightened Muller'. Hindu pundits and scholars said that apart from a literary translation he was able to cull the essence latent in its philosophy and enter into the true spirit of the Hindu religion. Comparing the ideology of work in the Zoroastrian religion and in the philosophy of the Upanishads he writes on page 190 of his book entitled 'Theosophy or Psychological Religion': "The opinion cherished by the writers of the Upanishads that knowledge and faith are superior to good deeds and that the man who meditates attains a higher level of immortality than the man of action, is contrary to the Avesta". After explaining at length under what circumstances Zoroastrian and Hindu ancestors began to differ about the philosophies of life and religion after their separation, Reverend Fugel, whose writings Herbert Spencer, Gladstone, Professor Max Muller [261] and others hold in high esteem, states on pages 89-91 of his book, 'Zend Avesta and Ancient Religions, that India put a high premium on the pessimistic and secluded life of the sanyasin. Iran manifested effort and perseverance. Thus in India the meaning of virtue and religion became synonymous with relinquishing life, enduring physical torture, seeking for serenity, surrendering life and its joys and desiring naught save Nirvana or Oneness with God. Therefore Hindu philosophy expounded that this world was an illusion, life and existence were a curse, the body and nature were sinful and impure, that nothing but Brahma existed. In Iran man's source of sustenance springs from his desire to work and endeavour. Hence its religion is not the relinquishing of life, of meditation, of fostering seclusion and becoming a sadhu and enduring fasting and sacrifice. Zarathushtra has laid great emphasis on action and daily continuous effort and has declared that these qualities were most appreciated and effective in the eyes of Ahura Mazda. Personal and political reasons gave birth to the renouncing of life, and becoming a sadhu or a sanyasin, meditating and looking at life from a pessimistic angle in India. In Iran, together with the belief in one God, the existence of the dual forces of good and evil were taught. To accept the existence of evil in this world and to wage war against it was man's bounden duty. There, religion and virtue meant: 'Help thyself; work for the good of mankind; be industrious and fight courageously against physical, mental, social and spiritual evils.' Thus, the philosophical religion of the worshipper of Brahma believing in one God is such that it upholds one principle only, preaches the existence of a single ideal in the world and considers a rife of seclusion as the quintessence of virtue. The Zoroastrian religion, believing in one God, is a practical religion. It is founded on the principle of the co-existence of two forces in the universe, and its [262] essence is practical morality and industrious alertness. The Hindus became desperate in the face of physical and social difficulties; they lost courage; they gave up the struggle against evil and took refuge in renunciation and Nirvana. They declared life to be a curse and creation a wretched dream. The teaching of hopelessness in India turned into a philosophy of fighting evil and conquering it, in Iran. The Hindu philosophy ends in Nirvana; the Parsi believes in the final victory of Soshyosh (Resurrection) and the defeat of all evil".

Another great philosophic religion founded in India is known as the Buddhist religion. Its teachings also are completely contradictory to those of the Zoroastrian, Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths. A single sentence comparing it to the Zoroastrian religion is quoted below:

Professor Jackson, on page 2 of his book, Zoroaster, the Prophet of Ancient Iran (1901) writes: 'The ideal of the Buddhist religion is to relinquish life, to teach serenity and seclusion, while the teaching of Zarathushtra is a life-long struggle, the manifestation of activity and reform'.

Dr. Martin, in explaining why work is given the greatest significance in Zoroastrian religion states on page 72 of the 5th number of the 14th Volume of 'The Gospel of Zoroastrianism is Universal Religion': "What a vast difference there is between the teaching of the Brahma religion of those times, of concentration, meditation and fasting and of this teaching of 'Arise and work'. Also the optimistic philosophy of conquering evil taught by Zarathushtra and the pessimistic philosophy of Buddha to be free of the ties of existence !"

[263] We have seen how, the erstwhile sister nations whose aspirations, philosophies and religious beliefs were similar, changed in their mode of thinking after they had drifted apart, and how much in opposition grew their philosophy of life. On the whole a Hindu seeks the knowledge that can free him from the world of desire and illusion. Lack of knowledge and ignorance lead him to believe that he is a being apart from Brahma. What appears to him as separate entities is due to the veil of ignorance that divides him from God. He believes that Divine Wisdom will unveil this curtain and he will realise that this world is an illusion. God alone exists. To achieve this knowledge is his greatest ambition.

"A Zoroastrian does not consider this life as maya or an illusion. If he considers himself apart from Ahura Mazda, he does not believe this is due to his ignorance. The link that binds him to Ahura Mazda is similar to that which binds a father to his son. The son enjoys the same independent existence that the father enjoys. The Zoroastrian faith gives the self or the ego the greatest importance. In this temporal world a good Zoroastrian lives an independent, individual existence. Even so, in the other world, his individuality will not be merged like a spark in the radiance or effulgence of Ahura Mazda. It will not lose its identity, but in the heavenly abode of his spiritual Father he will continue to serve in the spiritual world. The final word of the Zoroastrian faith is not knowledge but action. Asho Zarathushtra teaches him that thought is great but action is greater. The ultimate aim of the Zoroastrian is not only to seek the salvation of his own soul through knowledge, but through the spiritual knowledge, bequeathed by his great prophet, he has to strengthen himself for the victory of the spirit and the conquest over evil. He has to live in the world and work for the welfare of humanity. If [264] he were to meditate with folded arms and attain the highest spiritual enlightenment but fail to cultivate the quality of diligence and work hard for the welfare of this temporal world, he is not the beloved of Ahura Mazda.

"The Zoroastrian religion and after it Judaism, Christianity and Islam teach about a Personal God. They inform us that existence is created from non-existence and that man is born but once into this world. They teach that the final end is the Resurrection when the world will be perfected. These four great religions of the world expound the above-mentioned precepts. Later, a completely different concept of religion is born in India. It places an imaginary Impersonal Energy over the Personal God conceived by those four religions. In place of the teaching that the universe has been created by an Omnipotent Being as a separate entity apart from the Almighty, it preaches that as sparks fly out of a fire, the universes have emanated as parts or divisions of God Himself.

"Thus are they divided into opposing camps of thought regarding the philosophy of life hereafter. Since the time of Pythagoras, the Indian philosophy of reincarnation has reached the West where it has spread in some circles to a larger or lesser extent, and the mystics and sufis — the esoteric seekers — propagated the theory in the East. At present our Parsi theosophists are enamoured of it and try to explain our religion in the light of reincarnation.

"Reincarnation and other allied opinions are quite contrary to Zoroastrianism and there is not to be found the slightest direct or indirect suggestion of it in the existing literature nor is there the least mention of it in any of the indices of the Denkard, Vijikard-e-dini and the Persian Rivayats which give the contents of the destroyed Nashks. These gentlemen affirm as incomplete the existing [265] Zoroastrian religion which contains no reference to reincarnation. Therefore, lured by the teachings of alien religions they proclaim such doctrines as emanating from Zarathushtra. They believe that such teachings are flawless and declare that as time passes the West will accept these ideas and at that time we shall have to lower our heads in shame in acknowledging that such teachings are not found in our religion. Hence these people with foresight and forethought, apply the principles of the Vedantic and Buddhist religions and try to lend support to our religion. The fact is that the masses are not aware of the original philosophies and main principles which distinguish one religion from another and therefore no voice is raised against the deeds of these gentlemen. Those who are in opposition to them are branded as trying to do away with ceremonies. to disrupt ancient beliefs and customs etc. and thus the common people are easily led astray.

"It is improper to deem the Zoroastrian religion incomplete and in the attempt to turn it into a philosophic faith, to attach a layer of borrowed philosophy to its pure precepts. With the purpose of giving such a direction I used the words quoted in the beginning. The learned Samuel Lang refers to the beauty of the practical facets of Zoroastrianism in his book, A Modern Zoroastrian on pages 207, 213, 214, in these words: 'This balanced, practical knowledge or, as Mathew Arnold terms it, 'The quality of scientific intelligence', is the hallmark of the Zoroastrian religion. For, in the final analysis, the practical side of a religion is more important than philosophical ideologies. Examining it from that standpoint the Zoroastrian religion qualifies as being the finest of all religions." "In the Avestan proclamation of faith a devout Zarthosti claims his religion as 'Majistecha, Vahistecha, [266] Shreshtecha' — 'the grandest the best and the highest of all religions." In justification of this and also to show how wrong it was for certain people to try to initiate the philosophies of alien faiths into the unadulterated teachings of the Zoroastrian faith, I used the above-quoted words. While speaking about the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, learned men affirm that Aristotle's philosophy is more practical than that of Plato. Similarly I gave my opinion that eminent Ulemas have supported the statements quoted above regarding Asho Zarathushtra's great religion. Just as the genius Aristotle is naturally often termed commonplace because of his practical philosophy, I had justly applied the same epithet to our revered prophet due to this kind of quality prevalent in his enlightened religion. In doing so I had also applied the word 'common sense' in relationship to this quality of practicality.

"Each man loves his own religion; yet all must revere the religion of others. But that reverence should not turn into a desire to introduce the ideals of those faiths into our own faith. I have thought it necessary to quote at length the opinions of the above scholars merely to show this and to explain how exalted is the Zoroastrian religion without the borrowed philosophies of other religions. As far as it is only a question of ethics and honest living, the people of all religions are united and can work hand in hand on a common platform. But when the question arises of differentiating the religions, of recognizing their distinctive philosophies, then we can justly differ from each other. Similarly, so long as our Parsi theosophists work to radiate the light of virtue and goodness, we can work side by side with them. Even if they would themselves believe in some philosophy particularly dear to them and stop at that, we could be tolerant and let them carryon. But when they go further and strive at any cost to [267] admit those philosophies into our faith and declare that those are the teachings of Zarathushtra, we cannot but differ from them. Each man chooses his own philosophy according to his own mental make-up and temperament. Sacred, ancient literature is to be studied with the understanding that they are historical documents and we have no right to add to it any opinion or philosophy of our own choice and to present them as original teachings. That is not true scholarship. The controversies regarding questions of religion have begun from the time of Gayomard and will continue till the coming of Sosyosh. Yet it is necessary to avoid embittering those controversies and exciting people to fanaticism."

We shall end this chapter by quoting the late poet Narmadashanker regarding the opposing ideals of 'a passionate zeal for life or strenuous activity' and a longing for the passive life of renunciation.

"Hindu society has been established since very ancient times. Although there have been many changes in religious and practical thinking within the three great eras beginning from Manu and coming up to Yuddhishter, yet between renunciation of the world and living in harmony with it, the nation has given prime importance to renunciation — has believed in it and has cultivated it. It remained thus for a long time. After this, came the period of the active Buddhists and the passive Brahmans. Both sects believed implicitly in renunciation. From the commencement of the Vikram Savant era to the twentieth century, Shanker, Vaishnav and Jain religions, with all their followers and Kabir, Nanak, sadhus and sanyansis, and yogis together with all their various sects, have given to renunciation a place of prime importance. The Hindus have believed through the ages in the philosophy of renouncing the world rather than in a life of active service." (Vishvanath M. Bhat. Narmad Mandvi — page 508).


Chapter XXVII


Khurshedji Cama had the good fortune to know that his desire to establish a seat for a Dastur (High Priest) for the Zoroastrians of north-west India had been fulfilled, but he did not live to witness the final nomination of its first Dastur. He died just a month before that auspicious occasion.

If the portals of priesthood had been open to laymen, then Darmesteter's 'Parsi Lay Dastur' would have entwined the threads of his destiny with this pious calling through his own choice. If that had come to pass, the Athornan fold would have certainly gained a resplendent reputation. But just as Jabooli Jal was not destined to be the Shah of Iran yet he did become a king-maker, Camaji did not become an Ervad or a Dastur himself, but he certainly was the maker of ervads and dasturs. In the sixties of the last century, from a class of mobeds that had been neglected and taunted as 'Andhiarus, was born a new class of learned mobeds who for the first time in India, taught laymen to respect the religious leader and to regard him in a new light. It goes to Camaji's credit for creating this priestly class which though lacking in material wealth was rich in learning and of sterling qualities. He had endowed them with gifts of money too, but he had bestowed on them the even more precious gift of education. Educating them on philological lines he had sent forth into the world many a bright, young mobed, well-versed in Avesta, Pahlavi, Pazand and Cuneiform. Thus, to the last days of his life, through monetary assistance, through his own innate wisdom and his personal upright character, he had succeeded in persuading them to be staunch upholders of the faith. My link with him was forged at the ebb of his life. During my period of study at the Madressah [269] when I lived at Bombay, I had the opportunity of meeting him many an evening. Wherever there were lectures or sermons or gatherings of savants he would be present and I would also be there. Returning together from the weekly meetings of the Gatha Society or from the Society for Conducting Research into the Zoroastrian Faith I would secure for him a seat in a tram car for Mazagaon and would take leave of him. On many such occasions I had the opportunity of associating with him.

Camaji was a reservoir of tolerance. He viewed all religions and creeds with respect and he was always keen to glean whatever information or knowledge they had to offer. Thus, although his views were not in consonance with the teachings of the Theosophical Society. he would attend lectures or study classes organised under their auspices. His learned disciples like Ervad Sheryarji, Ervad Tehmurasp and others did not approve of this. They argued that a strong-minded scholar like Camaji would be in a position to listen to all and weigh its worth and accept only what was of value, recognizing the real source of things. But those incapable of forming individual opinions on matters of religion or philosophy would be wrongly Influenced by Camaji's presence at such meetings. It was possible that under the mistaken impression that Camaji adhered to the teachings of the societies he frequented, they too would be led to follow in his footsteps and accept their doctrines. Their fear was not entirely unfounded. It has been a long-standing practice to associate the names of famous people with some sect or society and to attempt to give an impression that they are in sympathy with their teachings and thus raise the status of that society. In the history of religion it has often happened that some great scholar or scientist has been an atheist all his life, yet taking undue advantage of the weakened condition of [270] his mind when he is old and feeble, some Christian priests have widely publicised that on his death-bed the deceased had realised the mistake of his life, had repented and with his dying breath had expressed his belief in the existence of God.

By doing so there is immense satisfaction that those of faltering faith would in good time beware of irreligiousness and abstain from it, seeing that such good and wise men who had gone through life disbelieving in God had at long last recognised their error and had repented and ultimately had died with God's name on their lips. All this has been done with pious intentions and with noble ideals, but it is divorced from truth. Camaji attended all religious meetings, respected all their founders, listened to all, but to the end of his life he believed only in the Zoroastrian philosophy regarding material and spiritual life about which he had written and spoken in public.

Khurshedji Cama's life was simple, pure and austere and he had high ideals. All seasons to him were alike. Summer did not drive him away to some sea-side resort or to a hill-station. Work, industry, service — these were his sole physical and mental recreation and relaxation. In thought, word and deed he led an honest life and thus put into practice the precepts of the religion. Yet to the orthodox he was not included within the ranks of the pious. The majority of men evaluate a person's piety not by the uprightness of his thoughts or the purity of his heart, but by the empty outward semblance of his religious practices. But Ahura Mazda's evaluation is based upon a man's innermost thoughts and ideals and upon the purity of his feelings. And from that standpoint Camaji was an ideal 'Nar Asho' — the most righteous man.


Chapter XXVIII


The culmination of the move to appoint me as a Dastur took a whole year. During that period I had given serious thought to the risks and responsibilities involved in a dasturship. Every evening my wife and I enjoyed the exercise of a three-mile walk. Usually we rested in a secluded nook behind the hillock at Bath Island. While we walked or relaxed we talked about my appointment as a dastur which was under consideration. I was to be a dastur and she would become a dastur's wife. So we would make various plans, build up various hopes and formulate various ideals.

'Mobed' is a word of deep significance but it does not command the same respect as the term 'Ervad' by which the first batch of Camaji's educated priests were known. To a certain extent I had already attained some publicity as an ervad. Now I was to become a dastur. Dastur is an elevated position. But the word 'dastur' had become cheap and commercialized in the community. It was an appellation given to white-turbaned men and was freely ridiculed. Should any mobed pass by, laymen joked about him as a jokta, badsha or dastur. He who distributed invitations for a wedding or a navjote was a dastur; he who prepared food for ceremonials was also a dastur; the supervisor of some inn in a small village of twelve or fifteen Zoroastrians was also a dastur; he also taught little children the alphabet and he was of service to laymen in many small ways. The illiterate and the educated alike used the word 'dastur' flippantly and the Parsi press also most unconcernedly carried on this confusion of terminology. If I could raise the status of my priestly class by accepting the dasturship, then I was eager to do so. I was confident that I would be able to do so by [272] my humble services, hence I had accepted the offer. Another reason why I wished to become a Dastur was that a life of study was very dear to me. Our sacred literature has suffered many set-backs due to the scourge of time. There is a great dearth of good literature amongst us — we are completely starved of it. By lectures and by sermons I was eager to render verbal service to my religion, and it was my ardent hope to contribute as much as I could towards the enhancement of Zoroastrian literature. By accepting the dasturship my mind, heart and my whole being longed to offer them~ selves to the service of my priestly class, to its literature and to my community at large. That was the aim of my life, my ideal and my religion.

This was not the first attempt at establishing a dasturship at Karachi. Karachi under British sovereignty is a hundred and twenty-five years old, and since we had obtained a footing here from its very inception, a century and a quarter of Parsi settlement has also been completed. During this period the community had twice nominated its dasturs but they had not lasted. In 1848 the community had elected as its high-priest Ervad Fardoonji Behramji Jamaspashana, who had translated into Gujarati the Persian 'Farajyat Nama' written by the well-known Dastur Darab Pahalan. His dasturship ended within a year. Again in 1871 the Zoroastrians of Karachi had appointed Ervad Kawasji Jamshedji as their dastur. He belonged to the dastur family of the Shahanshai Atashbehram at Surat. This second attempt of the Parsis of Karachi to avail of a dastur failed within four years. Thirty-five years later, I was the third probationary candidate.

The community has made no arrangement for the maintenance of our dasturs of — the subcontinent. Some dasturs have their own clientele in larger or lesser numbers. Such punthakies [273] are able to earn a good income from the prayers and ceremonials performed for the laity who come within their jurisdiction. Those who are not punthakies themselves perform marriage ceremonies, navjotes, fareshtas, jashans, afrinagans, and uthamnas and earn a smaller income than the dasturs of the first category. I was neither a punthaky dastur nor did I wish to earn a livelihood by spending many hours of my days and nights in performing ceremonies. I did not wish to become a ceremonial dastur. As a dastur my desire was to be a student of religion. The kind of arrangement that had been made for my maintenance differed from the traditional practice of our community. The Anjuman had decided to pay me a monthly emolument of Rs. 150/-. It had collected this amount by voluntary monthly or annual donations from members of the community.

My financial standing was unstable. When I had incurred my life's very first debt through the publication of "Goolshan-e-Danesh", my uncle had advised me to beware of the malady of becoming a debtor. But I could not save myself from this weakness. I was unable to repay the debt incurred when I disassociated myself from the dairy. A member of the community had loaned me one thousand five hundred rupees. It was with great difficulty that I was able to pay interest on this amount every month. When I was studying at the Madressah at Bombay. certain organizations paid me a lump sum for lecturing under their auspices. At such times I would repay four or six months' interest in advance, which the gentleman accepted willingly. But once I was not able to pay interest for two months whereupon the loanee in stern terms reprimanded me that such a lapse should not be repeated. As his rate of interest was high, a mobed friend secured the amount for me from a Sindhi gentleman at an interest of four annas lower than his. From that amount I cleared my debt to my [274] coreligionist. But fresh troubles arose with this new creditor. My wife always controlled all house-hold expenditure, so the promissory note was presented under her signature. This was not acceptable to him. He became suspicious because I had not signed it myself. The Sindhi gentleman refused to credit my friend's statements regarding my status and my reputation. When he was told that my library alone at that time was worth Rs. 2000/-, he ridiculed the fact, adding that, should the sheets be sufficiently large someone might even deign to buy them on the worth of their weight; but if the leaves are torn from a book they would be of no use even to the grocer and he would not purchase them! For two years the interest was paid, but as the capital remained unpaid he became impatient. He demanded that the loan be repaid immediately, so my friend brought a wealthy Vora gentleman who loaned money at the rate of 15% interest. This gentleman knew me and held me in high esteem, but he was not prepared to curtail the interest by a pie.

The allowance I was to receive was not sufficient for the upkeep of my family. Every month I bought books worth Rs. 12/- or Rs. 15/-. At short intervals booklets of varying dimensions were being printed and distributed gratis. My life of learning demanded certain unavoidable expenses. To meet these expenses, I had the support of the illustrious family of Tatas, the patrons of literature. I had an admirer in Sir (then Mr.) Ratan Jamshedji Tata, the revered gentleman who valued literature, science, art and craft and who had spent thousands on excavations and discoveries at Patlipatra (Modern Patna). He had declared his willingness to bear the cost of my life of learning. Camaji and Jeevanji had built up hopes. On the strength of this support and thanks to his generosity, I was able to accept the dasturship of Karachi.

[275] On Amerdadsal 19th September 1909, my 35th birthday, I was invested with the dasturship. On the occasion I delivered a lecture before the assembly. The contents of that talk I compiled into a booklet entitled, "Why I accepted the Dasturship" and distributed it amongst the members of the community. To give an idea of my views of that time upon what the duties of a dastur should be, the same is published hereunder:

"When a community advances in education, its outlook on certain matters undergoes a change. Similarly its ideas about what the duties of the priest-class should be also alter. Under such circumstances, if the priestly class also changes with the times, not many difficulties arise. But if the condition of the priest class remains as it was and laymen advance on the strength of their scholarship leaving them behind in the race, then step by step the feelings of respect for that illiterate priestly class abate. Thus when sentiments slacken for the custodians of religion, then ultimately faith itself falters.

"This is the state of affairs of the community at present. When the younger generation notices a lack of respect and independence in the priestly profession they refrain from following that profession. This complaint is prevalent in the advanced countries of the West also. Today highly educated young men do not become priests as they did in days gone by. At present there are complaints in Europe and America that, barring youths of mediocre capability, the intelligent and exceptionally brilliant young men are drifting away from this vocation. Many a young, well-educated mobed graduates from our Madressah every year, but all of them turn away from that vocation and not one seems eager to attain the dasturship. This may be due to more lucrative outlets in other professions, or the lack of prestige, or, possibly, [276] they fear that they may not be able to enjoy the freedom of thought commensurate with their high training. The Kadmis have not yet been successful in persuading any educated young man to accept the leadership of their group. But when a religious leader selfishly claims his own clientele and makes it hereditary, decline sets in. Thus a custom commences whereby capability, character or quality is not evaluated but the right of succession is the only criterion of nomination. This is harmful to the mobed flock itself. Religion suffers and people lose faith. This is also one of the reasons why educated youths do not embrace priesthood. They also deem it safer to remain aloof from this profession for fear of coming into conflict of thought with their uneducated brethren and also because they find that laymen do not distinguish between the work of educated and uneducated priests and appreciate their services accordingly.

"Our community is dynamic — it moves forward with the onward march of advancement. It is not a static community — a community that remains inert, inactive. In such a community the position of a dastur is difficult. Problems that our forefathers never dreamt of are being justifiably discussed amongst us; and in such circumstances it is not easy to satisfy a cultured community and to set its footsteps on the path of real reform. In order to be able to do this, there is need for true knowledge, worldly experience, common sense and far-sightedness together with courage and the capability to endure the onslaughts of the conservative section of an easily-excited and sentiment-ridden community.

'-The orthodox members of the community believe that the duty of a dastur is only to safeguard zealously age-old customs and traditions. These gentlemen place the precepts of religion and [277] practice of its rituals on the same level and firmly declare that these cannot be altered. If some necessary alterations are suggested to suit the clime and conditions, they begin to harbour imaginary fears that the foundations of the faith will be weakened. When such an attitude stretches beyond limits it transforms into blind bigotry. Such a religiosity has never borne good results anywhere. Among the many causes of the downfall of Persia, one was that during the Sasanian period our priest class had become less tolerant. Blind bigotry is not the true test of faith and it is improper to evaluate a community's strength of faith on such findings. .

"This is also one of the important reasons why an educated mobed does not join the priestly fold. When he begins to evaluate things in the light of knowledge, begins to distinguish the true from the false, is able to weed out the unworthy, and the majority of the community has not the vision to accept his freedom of thought, then he does not shoulder the responsibility of such a thankless profession. In this case both parties are at fault. If educated youths shirk the responsibility of a public career, and fear public censure and criticism then there can never be true reforms in the world, Our educated mobeds should understand their responsibility and even at the cost of personal sacrifice and discomfort, they should be prepared to serve the community.

"On the other hand, the orthodox section of our community must realize that, however noble their intention, in the absence of the fore-sight to work in tune with the times and to cling doggedly to false and superstitious customs merely because of tradition and to oppose all attempts to alter them, is not true service to religion.

[278] "The history of various sects in the world reveals that, due to such opposition, the truly capable cannot remain within the church and eradicate its errors. In their role as reformers they are obliged to conduct their work from outside; for, once they consent to join an association, the older members take it for granted that the newcomer must blindly accept all its ideals and objectives. If someone joins such an organization and endeavours to suggest any changes from within he has to endure great hardship and ultimately to abandon it. Hence men of independent thought prefer to remain outside the profession; while others who are educated but lacking in courage suppress their beliefs and, with feeble hearts, work merely to please their patrons.

"Focusing our attention on our social history of the last few decades, it will be noticed that any necessary reforms or changes that have been made have not originated from our leading educated men of religion but from outsiders. Among the many reasons why religious men do not take a lead in such matters is that it is necessary to adhere to the wishes of a large majority of the community. But the wheels of time turn on accomplishing their objectives. Truth rises to the surface from the depths of opposition and is ultimately accepted by all. Yet, day by day for guidance and leadership people are turning away from men of religion regarding such reforms. Consequently their need is not so keenly felt and respect for them is on the ebb.

"People must realize that the duty of a dastur is not the blind guardianship of ancient creeds and customs merely on the strength that "old is gold"; nor is it to pamper popular sentiment. Such an attitude may be simple; it may evoke applause, it may gain cheap renown; but it does not behoove the stature of a dastur who bears upon his shoulders [279] the responsibility of being a true disciple of Zarathushtra. Those who are under the impression that a dastur has no concern with our so-called irreligious educated youth, but only to affiliate with the orthodox and to uphold old ideas, are quite mistaken. This is not true leadership. It is not the path of righteousness preached by Prophet Zarathushtra. Such a mode of working is not beneficial in the long run. The onslaught of education is in full force and today's illiterate will be the enlightened ones of to-morrow. Thus every year a fairly large batch of educated boys and girls is drifting away which our community can ill afford. It is the bounden duty of a true dastur to check our educated youths from becoming irreligious or irresponsive to religion, for which they should be prepared to serve according to changed times and circumstances.

"In our community the word 'reform' has become distasteful and unpalatable. This is to twist the purport of an innocent word. Reform means to form again for the better. Any thinking man must need be an admirer of law and order; but at times, while trying to introduce a reform if some error is committed, people do not have the patience to find out the error and to correct it, but wrongly implicate the word reform. This is a grave fault. According to our religious literature the greatest reformist was Prophet Zarathushtra himself. His religion was a religion of reform. It was a faith that wiped out false practices from a nation and introduced newer and better ways of living. If, with the passage of time and the alteration of dynasties, the true spirit of religion has been lost sight of and undesirable elements have crept in, it is the duty of a true Zoroastrian to remove such misunderstandings and to bring in reforms. These discrepancies might have been born out of centuries of ignorance or through [280] contact with different nations. It is a sacred injunction for a dastur particularly to introduce such sound and necessary reforms.

"This is an unrewarding and thankless task. Long-standing beliefs, however erroneous, have the stamp of longevity, making them so precious to the general public that the mere mention of the slightest change grips them with a genuine fear that religion would be endangered thereby. Severe criticism is leveled against the reformist. But time turns its own tides. Unwarranted and miscalculated reforms die a natural death, whilst true reforms ultimately come to light. They who had previously harassed the reformist for daring to raise a voice against age-old practices, later themselves or their descendents honour his memory. The history of various nations abounds in such examples. An excellent example is that the greatest reformists of the world like Zarathushtra or Jesus or Socrates or Bruno or Galileo have had to lose their lives because they dared to introduce reforms and because their ideas were not in conformity with those of their own times. Yet today enlightened mankind remembers them with love and reverence.

II As a true reformer a dastur has not to introduce reforms merely for self-aggrandisment or just for the sake of doing something new. His is not the role so much of a destroyer as of a coordinator. Despite his breadth of vision he should go forward with care and caution. He should hold before him Zarathushtra's example of tolerance and perseverance. Without support or sympathy of a single soul, and in face of opposition from all quarters, Zarathushtra wandered from place to place, ti11, after ten long years he was able to win his very first disciple. Our beloved prophet had to face [281] untold hardships and hindrances, all kinds of attempts were made to defeat his noble work, yet he did not despair or lose hope. Upholding the aim and ideal of his own sacred mission, he cared not for worldly opposition and suffering. Just as it is necessary for all public-spirited individuals who take part in public life, it is also essential for a dastur to have the qualities of courage and endurance. A dastur will never be able to please people of all sects. Should he be a conservative, he will attract the displeasure of the reformists; even so, should he himself hold more advanced opinions he will be disliked by the orthodox. At the same time a dastur must remember that he is not true to his vocation if he endeavours merely to please a certain section of the community, or to win favour of another; or, fearing the annoyance of some group, abstains from expressing his own opinion. The most important characteristic of a religious leader is independence of thought. Undeterred by seeming benefit, he should not become a parasite or a dependent, but be prepared to endure any opposition arising from following the dictates of his own conscience.

"Each has his own ideas about the obligations of a dastur. Certain people believe that his main duty lies in performing ceremonies or in supervising them. Some lay stress on the purity of his own private conduct, while others evaluate his services by his contribution to literature through the publication of books, or his religious lectures and sermons. A dastur's duty is not encompassed in any single branch of the above, but he has to work through all these channels. Besides, he has to take a leading part in a community's social controversies, he has to establish new organisations that can fulfill the awakening religious, educational and other [282] needs of the community, strengthen existing organisations and he must be prepared to serve the community with enthusiasm in a million other ways. Again when a nation is in the infancy of enlightenment it believes that a religious leader is concerned not so much with this world but with the next world. In other words he is looked upon as a link between this world and the next, one who is able to secure an unearned place in heaven for the laity by the performance of certain ceremonies and by his influence as an agent of the other world. Our community has passed that stage and fully comprehends the compass of the priest's work. Besides, according to the precepts of Zarathushtra, each man is responsible for his own actions. No confessor's influence can gain for him heaven's happiness. To obtain it he has to live a pure and righteous life. The only assistance that the religious leader can render is by his own religious teachings which can show the layman the true path, make him conscious of his duty to himself, to mankind and to his Maker — in other words enlighten him to become a true Zoroastrian. Although a community appoints a dastur to be its religious head, he must understand that the greatest of men even the prophets themselves-felt that their prime duty was to serve mankind. likewise he too must always come forward enthusiastically in the social service of his community.

"Since I have made known to you my views about the obligations of a dastur, you will realize how I regard the responsibility of the honour you have conferred upon me. To be of service to the community, to have the strength to contribute something towards the uplift of the priest class, to be a channel for attracting young, educated mobeds to the vocation, are the ideals that have prompted me to accept this dasturship today. Only 283 the future can tell how far I am able to fulfill my ambitions or how much satisfaction my work will give you. I seek your sympathy and your cooperation in the work that lies ahead and ask only that should my future deeds evoke your displeasure, do not be led away by emotion and assign to them motives of your own imagination but do me justice, and have the largeness of mind to understand that I have acted according to the dictates of my innermost conscience."


Chapter XXIX


In 1909 two important questions demanded my complete attention. One was the approaching appointment of a high priest and the other was to establish a kind of association that could organize a Zoroastrian Conference to ponder upon and discuss problems pertaining to the progress and betterment of the community. My primary thought was that due to religious and economic conditions our priest class had been divided into many sects after coming to India. The rift between them was so wide that no longer was there any cooperation in the performance of ceremonies or the recitation of prayers amongst the present followers of Zarathushtra.

The Athornan fold had no constitution. There did not exist amongst them a central organization like an integrated Athornan Anjuman. The united, authoritarian Zoroastrian Church had broken down with the fall of the Parsi Empire.

It was my desire and my hope that all the dasturs, mobeds and ervads of all the varied sects could meet on a common platform and ponder upon their own condition. But upon more serious thought it seemed that, however noble the idea of calling a conference of Athornans alone may be, it was impracticable at the present juncture, taking into consideration the rift between the panthaks, the rivalry among the dasturs and other disruptions. So I thought that there would be greater chances of advancement if some impartial scholars, behdins like Khurshedji Cama or Meherwanji Cama who truly loved and revered the group of religious teachers were included in this movement. Many an evening passed in discussing this question while on our daily walks. Finally, on [285] 12th August 1909 I sent the following letter from Karachi to all the dasturs, leading mobeds, educated ervads and some Jay members of the community.

“At present we hear of annual congresses, conferences and conventions being held allover the world to discuss questions of importance to a nation. Thus the representatives of different nations assemble on a common platform to exchange their view-points. Light is thrown on literature, religious tolerance is enhanced, scope is created to cultivate public opinion and many other benefits accrue.

"On this occasion I wish to make a suggestion that, on some such lines, we should call an annual Zoroastrian Conference in different cities, at which some service could be rendered to the community by reading out papers concerning religious questions and social customs of the community. Thus by giving an opportunity to the dasturs, mobeds, ervads, and panthakies of various panthaks to collect their own Anjomans on a common platform, the diversity of opinions regarding religious ceremonials or other problems could be solved in a healthy atmosphere. Our learned dasturs and ervads and our lay scholars with their combined thinking will be able to find a way to improve the condition of our priestly class. Everyone realises the importance of this improvement yet no concrete steps have been taken. Although we recognize and fully realise that our calculation of the calendar year is faulty yet due to sheer carelessness we either bye-pass it or we do not have the courage to alter and improve it, knowing the difficulties involved. Should some representative today express its views upon this, the community would consider it valuable.


"Moreover, we are not so advanced as we imagine, that there is no scope for improvement. Despite all the talk about being educated, there are many among us who continue superstitious practices like dev, dehrans, pirs and kabirs. Some such organization would be of immense value to resolve many a problem of this sort. Besides, we shall be able to stimulate an interest and arouse a sentiment about religion at places where such conferences are organised. It may be argued that such conferences are necessary for backward societies but not for an advanced community like the Parsis. In response it is well-known how beneficial have proved conferences organised at high levels, in the very advanced countries of Europe and America, where such conferences have been deemed most necessary. Such bodies confer upon not only religious matters but also on various branches of scientific importance. It may also be argued that this is not necessary for a small community like the Parsis and our need can be met through our newspapers and other channels. In reply to that we can only state that in western countries the various small sects of different Christian churches, or the theosophists in our land whose strength is smaller than ours, the Arya Samajists and others hold such meetings which doubtless prove of immense value.

"Upon receipt of replies we shall announce when and under whose chairmanship the first conference will be held."

It was my idea to offer the Chairmanship of the first conference to one who by birth was a behdin but a true dastur in conduct and in wisdom — Ulema Khurshedji Cama. But fate had ordained otherwise and, within a week of publishing my circular, all of a sudden his heart failed and he passed away to meet his Maker. The suggestion to hold a Zoroastrian Conference was [287] welcomed with enthusiasm by a large majority, but in order to make it more effective many people from Bombay advised that the Conference be thrown open to the entire community so that any communal question regarding its improvement could be discussed. Keeping this in mind I circulated another pamphlet at the conclusion of which I added the following:

“At this stage the conference as a body should refrain from announcing the opinion of any one party as its own. Let gentlemen of learning express their own opinions on the strength of their scholarship, each bearing the responsibility of his own opinion. Discussions should be avoided in the beginning and the work carried on in an atmosphere of tolerance and with an open mind."

It was decided to hold the Conference at Bombay on 16th, 17th and 18th April 1910 and both of us went to Bombay a month in advance to make arrangements for it. Eventually I personally met many leading men of the community and won their sympathy for the movement. I persuaded the learned Dastur Darab Sanjana of the Wadiaji Atashbehram to accept the Chairmanship of the ad hoc committee and requested the deputy Dastur Rustom Sanjana to work as the Secretary. Both these gentlemen willingly agreed to take up these responsibilities. At the first meeting of the committee the enthusiastic young advocate, Dhunjishaw Madon and the solicitor Rattanshaw Dadachanji volunteered as Joint Secretaries which the committee accepted with gratitude. The first three meetings of the committee were held under the Chairmanship of Dastur Darab and the work went on smoothly. The Committee circulated a confidential memorandum amongst those who had expressed a desire to read their own papers or those who were appointed to propose resolutions and to second them, which read as follows:

[288] "While placing for adoption before the Conference resolutions relating to the religious, social and educational uplift of the community, particular care should be taken not to offend the feelings of any sect nor to raise questions that would create undue controversy. Only such resolutions that are liable to be adopted fairly unanimously without much argument shall be allowed,"

Up to this time the community had welcomed the preliminary Conference with one accord. Daily and weekly newspapers spared no pains in giving it their whole-hearted support. Yet within a short span of time some imaginary misgivings were afloat about some work that was to be conducted at the Conference, the echoes of some unsound complaints were heard, the wings of unfounded rumours began to flap amidst Parsi circles. It was whispered that the conference was not in reality all that it appeared to be in public. Just as an elephant's tusks differ from its grinders, even so the apparent character of the Conference differed from its secret motives. It was equivocal and ambiguous. It was misleading. It was deceitful. It was scheming to reverse the customs and traditions of the community. In this atomic age just as a mechanized army advances in full force and with lightning speed scatters its enemy, the present-day press that hardly allows breathing time to the reader and attacks morning, noon and night with all the force at its command, is able to enfeeble the opposition. Doubt arises even in the minds of the thinking group; the majority thoughtlessly believes that when so many people write so much so many times, then it is bound to be the truth! Our adventurous, forceful, daily communal newspapers, through eight editorials a week and twelve articles scribbled during the twelve hours between dawn and dusk, completely confused the community. The more conservative members resigned from the committee and the Zoroastrian Conference that had its birth [289] and its existence without any sect or party or opinion, bent only upon making it all-embracing, suddenly came to be regarded as a separate, extreme, reformist party and henceforth took the semblance of what it was not.

Many accusations and condemnations were leveled against the Conference. Not because of any crimes that it had committed but that, finding an opportunity it would do so, was the imaginary basis on which it was unthinkingly deemed guilty. These accusations were of two kinds. The first of those were unidentified and uncircumscribed. Those included far fetched and fiery accusations that stirred the sentiments of the common people and excited their feelings. They presumed that the organizers of the Conference were endeavouring to coat with a veneer of the West, the customs and traditions of the community and were craving to correct the errors of our prophet and to reform his religion. Others were definite and pointed. Among these, the main were that the Conference was trying to seize the Gahambar funds; that it was determined to limit the burning of sandalwood, that it desired to throw open the gateways of the community to non-Zoroastrians; and that it was creating a sentiment of doing away with the age-old custom of the disposal of the dead and were advocating cremation.

The complaint regarding the Gahambar fund was not entirely unfounded. The opinion of the leading organisers of the Conference was that with changing times and circumstances, instead of conserving lacs of rupees for communal dinners on certain days of the year in Bombay and other places, they could be utilized in more beneficial ways to the community. This suggestion was not new. Before going to America I had publicised these views. Besides, this question had been considered in various places [290] at various times, and in certain places to some extent it had been put into practice also. Above all, the most that the Conference could have done about it would have been to try to cultivate communal opinion about it. Hence if there had been some discussion on this question or some suggestive resolution adopted, it would not have endangered the religion in any way.

The question of sandalwood that had arisen was built up on the strength of the opinions expressed at a lecture in Bombay, a month prior to the Conference. In that lecture I had made known that since fire had a sanctity in our religion, it was our prime duty to keep it eternally fragrant and flaming in our Atashkedeh. There is a vast difference between the fragrant fuel that was used in Iran ages ago and is still being used there and in that which we are using since we came to India. We are using extremely expensive items like sandalwood and frankincense most lavishly. This was not done in Iran. Even today, we will not be able to find a piece of sandalwood in the most aristocratic Zoroastrian home of Iran. We are using a much more expensive fuel than the fragrant fuel used there. Each machi costing approximately twenty to twenty-five rupees that we have been offering in the Atashbehram and Atashkedeh at Udvada and other places counts up to more than three thousand machis annually. At times there have been instances when some wealthy lady or gentleman has even offered agar machis costing three hundred rupees. One such machi had been recently offered at Udvada. Taking that as an example I explained that Ahura Mazda does not estimate a man's faith according to the weight and value of sandalwood and frankincense, but he examines only the latent purity and honesty of mind and heart. A pure heart is the noblest offering that can be made to the sacred fire. A piece of sandalwood or agar is but an outward symbol of the [291] gift. A round of applause greeted my expressions and when they were publicised in the press no objection was raised against them. But now, when a jehad had been started against the conference, then forceful articles began to excite and arouse the community and to injure its feelings.

In the first decade of this century, the jooddin question was raised with such force, it created such bitterness and such wide-spread bickering as was unparalleled in the history of the community. A fierce battle of words and of writings was raging between those who were for and against the jooddin question. Its echoes resounded from Karachi to Calcutta and from Kashmir to Cape Comorin. The Parsi community of every village and town had been aroused and excited. If it could be proved that the Conference was being invited only to revive the jooddin question that had just recently abated, then it would become so unpopular in the community that it would be suicidal. And the opposition spared no pains to do so. A large expenditure was to be involved in having the resolutions, reports and agendas of the Conference printed. Sir Rattan Tata who had the betterment of the community at heart. had been approached to help in this direction and he had readily accepted to do so and I had conveyed that information at a committee meeting. Seizing this opportunity members of the opposition deliberately associated the name of Mr. Rattanji Dadabhoy Tata who had a direct link with the jooddin question instead of Sir Rattan Tata, thus stirring up the sentiments of the community. The fact was that when the movement for convening the Conference commenced, he was in Europe and knew nothing about its organization. He had returned just a week prior to the inauguration of the Conference. He had not the haziest idea of the existence of a Conference. In my booklet entitled "The Jooddin Question" published in 1919, I stated that it was as ridiculous to [292] consider Mr. Rattanji Tata as the father of the Zoroastrian Conference as it was to say that the German Kaiser was involved in its establishment and that was the truth. There were some gentlemen who had never been interested in the working of the Conference nor had they attended any of its sessions but had joined it only after an uproar had started against it. He was one of those gentlemen.

Rumour has no established birthplace. It emanates from a single breath yet spreads like tongues of wild fire. It is not immortal yet it is certainly long-lived. It passes down from generation to generation and becoming universal, rumour turns into legend or, at times, it even gets entwined into the pages of history.

The fictitious theory that the Zoroastrian Conference had come into being with the support of Mr. Rattanji Dadabhoy Tata was not buried. Long after the Conference had ceased to exist, when Mr. Tata died, some people could not be rid of this false impression, and in the articles notifying his death they did not fail to comment that he had played a prominent part in organising the Conference. Sir Dinshaw Petit had in the beginning kept aloof from the Conference, telling me that it would not be workable nor would it benefit the community in any way. But when a fierce controversy arose against it and its sessions were being endangered, he expressed his willingness to support it. Within a week he sat at the head at a dinner organized by the Conference and the following year he became its Chairman. Just as the opposition towards the Conference had driven away the orthodox group from us, it had at the same time, brought into our fold many indifferent individuals of more reformist views who had not bothered to concern themselves with communal questions or to take part in any of its movements. Hence, gradually the Conference became a reformist [293] body, although serious, balanced moderates like Jeevanji Mody, Meherwanji Cama and others continued to take an enthusiastic interest in it.

Another accusation against the Conference was that it wished to introduce crematorium in the community. The crematorium question was raised in the community for the first time at the start of the century. A rumour was afloat that a certain gentleman who had gone on vacation to Europe was making arrangements in London to establish a crematorium in Bombay for the use of the community and that he intended to bring with him the necessary wherewithal. Later, when he returned, he belied the rumour and announced that he had no connection whatever with such a movement. The conservative members of the community invited authorative opinions of Zoroastrian scholars on the question. Among other western savants, Professor Jackson had also received one such questionnaire from Bombay which he showed me. It desired enlightenment upon whether according to the precepts of the Zoroastrian religion the dead could be cremated. In Bombay this question had raised quite a bitter controversy for some time. At the initial stages of organising the Conference the leading sympathisers of crematorium had not become its members, and, but for a few exceptions, they were not present at its first annual meeting even as spectators. In the light of this, the blame leveled against the Conference of wanting to dispose dead bodies by cremating had no foundation.

Besides such accusations against the Conference of contriving to disrupt religious customs and practices, the indictment of insulting the prophet by calling him an ordinary man was leveled against me with full force. At the same time an anonymous booklet was published attacking the custom of certain observances by women during their menses. Later the name of the author came [294] to light as that of an elderly layman. Another leaflet was also published stating that the expense incurred at funerals was a wastage and that the ceremonies performed did not in any way benefit the deceased. All this was like adding fuel to fire. The organizers of the Conference were not even aware of these nor were they in any way responsible for them; yet daily impassioned articles to the effect that they are the originators of all these troubles and that everything was being done under their direction created a great deal of excitement in the community. In such an inflammatory atmosphere the work of the Conference was inaugurated.


Chapter XXX


The joyous couple enters into marriage with dreams of a life-long honeymoon but as soon as the threshold is crossed, rumblings of discord are heard. The bride sulks and the groom frowns and the home is founded on disputes and disharmony. Even so, as I crossed the threshold of dasturhood, the majority of the community frowned on me. Daily the suppliant begs forgiveness for 'O em goft, O em kard' — 'for whatever I may have said or whatever I may have done'. In my case, 'O em na goft, O em na kard — 'for whatever I may not have said, and whatever I may not have done', the violent opposition leaders succeeded in branding me guilty in the eyes of the masses. Making capital out of my not being a 'maratab', messages started pouring in from Bombay not to recognize or acknowledge me as a head priest. From all sides I was accused of having presented Zarathushtra as an 'ordinary' man. I was charged with harbouring vain presumptions of reforming the religion of Prophet Zarathushtra. Five people read those messages, fifteen heard them and re-told them to fifty. Soon the rumour spread to five hundred and within the twinkling of an eye five thousand minds had labeled me as a dangerous dastur and an irresponsible reformist.

I knew that I was being vilified without rhyme or reason. In Bombay I had noticed that such false notions about me were prevalent not only amongst the masses. I discovered that even some educated and thinking men and women, and some public personalities considered as the priceless gems of the community, in their innocence, also believed this hearsay. The famous Behramji Malbari voiced such an opinion. Sir Hormusji Wadia reminded me how cautiously the learned Judge of the High [296] Court, Mahadev Govind Ranade had conducted proceedings from the time of the establishment of the Hindu Social Conference. I have always considered it wise to listen respectfully to anyone who levels frank and honest criticism against the conduct of an institution and invite him to join that organization. By doing so, the good critic realizes the difficulties that confront that institution, and perchance his views change. I persuaded Sir Wadia to grace the Conference with his presence and to preside over it. By presiding over the Conference and by attending the meetings of its Working Committee throughout the year, he got acquainted with the true nature of its work and became our sympathetic colleague. I received an extremely well-written anonymous letter in Bombay, full of friendly and sound advice. Very respectfully he had reminded me of Shakespeare's sentence: "Discretion is the better part of valour", thereby incidentally hinting that I was lacking in discretion. This advice, to recognize the sum and substance of a thing, and to work in consonance with the time and tide of events, was golden. But it was not new to me. I was not divorced from it. It was ingrained in me. "Spenamainu", God's ethereal craftsman, had mixed a fair share of common-sense and discretion together with a fairly good memory, imagination, comprehension and the power of composition while moulding the matter of my mind. And I never fail to evaluate its worth and recognize its importance. My wife was not very highly qualified, but the Creator had gifted her mind so lavishly with these two invaluable human qualities that she was capable of solving the most complex problems of everyday living more aptly than could be done by learned professors of logic who, unfortunately, were not endowed with these two incomparable gifts. As I was not wont to writing or speaking in public to explain the injustices done to me, I had to [297] endure them patiently. Among the fine gentlemen who were in the vanguard of our Conference, was a leader who had recently retired from a very high position. He jested that he was not prepared to lose favour with the community to the extent that I was. He added that as many years of life lay ahead of me, there was ample time for me to win back the confidence of the community. But it did not befit a person of his advanced age to incur such severe displeasure of the community; for, should he lose their love and respect at his age, he did not have the time to regain them. Time was in my favour, so I continued to do my humble duty silently.

A mammoth meeting of the opposition party was called at the Faramjee Cowasjee Institute to read out the protests against the Conference that had been collected from various cities of Gujarat by string-pulling from Bombay. At this meeting I was attacked in unrestrained language. A very highly qualified university graduate, well-known for his impetuosity, with the purpose of playing upon the sentiments of his audience, even crossed the limits of common courtesy to say that only a wretched community like the Parsis would tolerate such an insult to their Prophet. Had it been the Muslim community they would have immediately put an end to such a person. Such incitement would not always fall on deaf ears. Some weak-minded men would surely try to act upon it. To write anonymous letters is an unfortunate weakness of our community; hence it was but natural that I started receiving threatening and profane letters. One man had given not only his own name but also the pseudo-names of his father and grandfather; and, pretending to give his residential address, informed me that he had the courage to write to me openly; should I so desire I was free to forward that letter to the Police Commissioner. The letter, besides being full of filthy language, [298] threatened to break my bones should opportunity avail. And all this, he wrote, he was doing as his sacred duty towards his Holy Prophet! I informed my wife that this man who is making a show of giving the names of his family back to two generations and boasting about courting police custody, must not be existing under such a name in the whole wide world. In order to test him I wrote a courteous reply to the given address. After congratulating him for being inspired to write to me because of his staunch fidelity to Asho Zarathushtra, I told him that the spirit of that holy man must have been extremely distressed at the filthy language he had used in the letter — language that ill-became a gentleman, and least of all a Zoroastrian. At the conclusion of my daily worship I would pray to Ahura Mazda that He may bestow greater wisdom on him, and on other co-religionists like him, and to wean them away from the habit of such foul speech. Should there exist a being of the given name, such a reply would have a salutary effect on him, otherwise it would be returned to me by the Dead Letter Office. As expected, not a soul was found to answer to that fictitious name and address, and the postal authorities sent the letter back to me.

At the conclusion of one of my lectures delivered at the hall of the new Atashbehram, about twelve or fifteen young men surrounded me and began to speak against me somewhat insolently. An altercation ensued between them on one side and my wife and party-men on the other. I invited those youths to come the following day to my home and to discuss with me politely and to tell me what they wished to convey. One of the young Joint Secretaries of the Conference did not approve of this. Taking into consideration the violent passion that they had displayed against me, this gentleman thought it unsafe to call them home for a close discussion. If I insisted upon inviting them, [299] this young man persisted he would also like to be present for security purposes. The youths objected to his presence at the meeting. Pacifying the Secretary, an appointment was finally fixed with the young men for the following day. They arrived at the appointed hour, but the Secretary grew restive and came along too. The quarrel started again, but my wife admitted the young men into the house and closed the door upon the enthusiastic Secretary. The argument continued for an hour and a half. The young people brought up the question of having insulted Zarathushtra by calling him an ordinary man; of restricting the burning of sandal-wood; of putting an end to ceremonies and of stopping the recitation of prayers in Avesta. Regarding the rumour about Zarathushtra, I took three-quarters of an hour to explain the underlying philosophy concerning this question. At the end of the explanation many voiced the opinion that if the matter was as I had stated, there was nothing objectionable about it. They said that they had been led away by press reporters. I explained to them very calmly and courteously that it was comprehensible that the illiterate listening to such rumours and reading such exaggerated reports may be led away like sheep without a shepherd; but most regrettable that the educated young men and women of a community that is considered advanced in science, should be steered by sentiment. They should examine and study any controversial question that arises, ponder upon it and then arrive at their own independent opinion about it. Regarding the other questions too, my exposition impressed them favourably. They had arrived as antagonists — they departed as friends.

I had grown accustomed to hearing hissings and booings at whichever gathering I attended or wherever I lectured. Certain people felt obliged to attend on purpose to disturb and to create a commotion. A kind family had placed their carriage at [300] our disposal to take us to and bring us back from the Faramji Cowasjee Institute where I was once lecturing. The horse that was attached to the carriage was very strong and sturdy and said to be having five auspicious marks on its body. When the lecture ended my wife and I took our seats in the carriage. Immediately cries of "three cheers" went up from the reformists and in response, the orthodox party to run this down, rent the skies with their hisses. Confused by the inharmonious sounds created by conflicting cries of congratulations and criticism our so-called auspicious horse leaped forward unbridled. The friends who followed were left behind, but fortunately, the horse was brought under control after he had galloped away a great distance without any untoward incident.


Chapter XXXI


The courageous hero returning victorious from the battlefield. is welcomed by a nation intoxicated with joy. The young and the old, with smiles and with songs, with acclamations of triumph and success, rush to the frontiers of the land to receive the returning hero with due honour and glory. Dancing and singing to the tune of bands and bugles, they leave their homes and hearths and go to greet their valiant saviour. Every street and every home is adorned with flags and garlands, and the victor with wreaths and laurels is driven home in state in the chariot of victory. At every street corner is heard naught but praise of his valour. But the unfortunate one who has been defeated has God alone to greet him. Nature frowns upon him, the sun itself refuses to send out its rays to welcome him and people are ashamed even to look at him. With sheathed weapons and bowed head, in silence and in shame, disgraced and desolate, he sneaks in by the back door.

My co-religionists of Karachi had sent me to Bombay to crown the conference with success. The opposition party left no stone unturned to stop the meetings from being held. Yet we succeeded in holding them. They strained every nerve to break up the meeting but we did not let them break it up. According to schedule, on the third day, midst the commotion caused by conflicting sentiments and despite conflict and confusion, we methodically completed all the items on the agenda and thus the session of the first conference came to a conclusion. They did everything possible to vex and worry us. Sometimes they failed, sometimes they succeeded. They had planned to drown our stage with the help of a hose-pipe that had [302] been provided as a precaution against fire or fumes. That attempt was not successful. A full force of brave soldiers was awaiting at the front entrance to hiss and hoot as we left the hall. Our workers got wind of this and guided us out through a side exit, thus depriving those gentlemen of the pleasure of honouring us with their hisses. However, they derived satisfaction by reporting in the newspapers the following day that we had to make good our escape through the back-door.

Rumours had already reached the realm of my dasturship even before my return to Karachi that I had been disgraced in Bombay and that the Parsi stalwarts of that land had made it incumbent upon me to flee from the Conference Hall by the backdoor. Regarding the Conference, the community at Karachi was divided into various factions. A very strong party was in the opposition. Under the leadership of the Managing Trustee of the Saddar Daremeher, twenty-five people had made an impassioned appeal to the community through handbills, to dethrone me from the seat of the High Priest. A violent storm ensued. Much was spoken and written. Some of it was discreet and judicious — the rest ridiculous. These gentlemen were not satisfied with weighing my worth in the community alone. The leaflets that were printed in Gujarati were freely distributed amongst Hindus, Vohras, Memons and Khojas, while through letters in English they tried to impress upon European officers not to consider me as the High Priest of the Parsis any longer. Such letters were sent to the Commissioner, the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, the Collector, the City Magistrate, the Police Superintendent, the Chairmen of the Chamber of Commerce and the Port Trust, the Collector of Customs and many other heads of similar institutions. Since the conference had been held in Bombay, these men did not forget to [303] apprise the Governor of Bombay also. Just as in trade and commerce, the rise and fall of prices depends upon the good or bad tidings of supply and demand or as the stock market ascends and descends accordingly, it was happening in our community. Should anything favourable appear in the weekly newspapers of Bombay which arrived in Karachi, my admirers would be elated and some of my more enthusiastic supporters — both priests and laymen — would try to defend me through heated arguments, each according to his own light and in his own individual organization. But when daily newspapers came from there, carrying articles and editorials galore, all against me, their enthusiasm would abate and that of the opposition would augment. As arguments kept mounting, Khan Bahadur Sir (then Mr.) Kawasjee Hormusji Katrak and four other leading gentlemen came to me and informed me that they intended calling a meeting of the Anjuman to pass a vote of confidence in me. I thanked them for their kind thought but prevailed upon them not to do anything of the sort. They further argued that it was necessary, not so much for our own community but for those of other communities also and particularly for government officials, to be cognizant of the true feelings of the community. However, these kind gentlemen respected my firm faith that there was no necessity for such a step and desisted from taking further action.

My well-wishers even offered varied advice according to their own understanding. On a sick visit people do not fail to submit all kinds of counsel as an expression of their kind feeling and sympathy. They vie with each other in advising the relatives of the sick person to change the doctor who is treating their patient and to try another in whom they have greater faith; or to alter a given treatment for some other mode of cure. Some even suggest to stop consulting physicians [304] or homeopaths and to seek the guidance of some saint or sadhu. The dear ones of a long-suffering patient are naturally dejected. They are confused with these conflicting warnings and are prepared to try any quackery or deception.

Similarly, my supporters, in their honest endeavour to help me out of my difficulties, were ever eager to proffer some sort of counselor remedy. One kind Behdin gentleman who always recited five or seven various Yashts throughout the day and night, strongly urged me to recite the Gosht Yasht daily so that all my troubles and tribulations may be eradicated. He narrated how his many troubles at various times had been assuaged by the power of that prayer. Having my welfare at heart, in good grace and in the light of his own understanding, he spoke with real feeling and concern, so out or sheer respect I listened to everything in silence. Of course he had not the faintest idea of the contents either of the Gosht or any other Yasht. His sole refuge was his unbounded faith. I did not consider it fair to weaken his faith in any way. I listened patiently to each one who expended advice according to his own intelligence and let him depart with the utmost satisfaction that he had done his duty towards me.

One day a priest, attached to the American Mission, came to visit me. He informed me that since years he had been spreading the holy religion of Jesus Christ in South Africa. At present he was here for a few days en route his return to his own country for a few months' vacation. While glancing through the Daily Gazette — the daily local newspaper — at his hotel, he had read that I was working as the Head Priest of the Parsis in Karachi. My views were very advanced and there was a strong feeling against me in the community regarding my religious principles. As though pitying me, he told me I was not at fault. Western [305] education had broadened my vision, hence it was but natural that the teachings of my religion did not satisfy me. That was not surprising, as there was only one religion in the whole world that could respond to the intellect of learned men and help them to solve the secrets of life in an enlightened manner — and that was the Christian religion. No other faith could assuage the thirst and hunger of the soul. Thus sermonizing, he took out a copy of the New Testament from his bag and handed it to me saying that, that holy book would give me the light as I had hitherto not seen and would show me the true path of life. Accepting the book with gratitude, I informed him that I possessed both the New and the Old Testaments and had studied both. On hearing this he replied that my study must surely be imperfect, as it was impossible for any sane person to study that sacred book carefully and not become its devotee. Very courteously I explained to him that God, His holy angels, the soul's immortality, Resurrection — all these precepts were to be found in Zoroastrianism also. Immediately he interrupted that these must necessarily be incomplete. Christianity, which is God's only perfect religion, is destined to supplant all other religions. In reply I further enlightened him that all the Christian teachings commencing from Angelology right up to Eschatology were well-known as the basis of Zoroastrianism, centuries prior to the birth of Christ. He started laughing and declared my statements to be nonsensical. I immediately brought out two or three books from the cupboard and placed them before him, adding that just as he was an American priest, the universally renowned professor of the Oxford University, Rev. Dr. Lawrence Mills was also an American and albeit a priest. Similarly the learned Professor Jackson of the Columbia University was also an American. I turned the pages of the book and showed him passages in support of my statements. He neither read them nor did he handle them. [306] Rising from his seat hastily, he walked away informing me rather haughtily that he was a busy man and had no time to enter into arguments, Following him to the compound gate I bid him good-bye and sent him on his way.

I did not scorn the sentiments that had been growing against me in the community. I fully realized the seriousness of the situation. Due to my having changed from a conservative to a reformist, I had personal experience of the strong and staunch sentiments of my childhood and youth. My views were not in conformity with those of my critics, yet I respected them. Had knowledge and circumstances not wrought a change of heart and had my ideas remained intact even after reaching reasoning adulthood, I would have welcomed the opposition of the antagonists. I listened to all that was said against me, read everything that was written to run me down. That did not annoy me, nor was I offended by the authors of such lectures and writings.

If anyone wished to seek an explanation, I did not grudge him the time or the opportunity. Those who met me personally usually left as friends. Once a wealthy person wrote to me in an authoritative tone that, complying with the request of the opposition committee, I should resign my dasturship within forty-eight hours otherwise legal steps would be taken against me. This was a novel surprise. I read this queer "notice” in a happy frame of mind. Neither did I disregard it with ill-humour, nor did I assign it to the waste-paper basket. I simply sent the writer a message, requesting him to meet me. He felt awkward to meet me in my home, but should I go to the Parsi Virbaijl School, he was willing to meet me there. We met and discussed matters. He was pleased and we parted friends.

[307] Most of the things that were spoken or written about me were not true — they did me injustice. Yet I refrained from replying to anyone. My supporters were displeased with this attitude. I advised them to let time take its own course. Not pacified by that, they reminded me of the adage 'Silence is consent' and coaxed me saying that my silence created a great deal of misunderstanding and people found reason to believe that I avoided replying because I had no reply. I persuaded them that my work was my answer. There could be no greater conqueror of the questions of my tormentors than my duty and my service.

Besides delivering sermons and speeches I often recited passages in Persian from the Shahnamah. Such passages I would write out for boys and girls and tutor them to recite those with correct intonation at the functions arranged by the Y.M.Z.A. With great enthusiasm I prepared young mobeds to deliver sermons and speeches.

During this period I commenced publishing a monthly magazine entitled 'Asha', containing valuable articles on Zoroastrian ethics, history, philosophy etc. Due to insufficient circulation it faced a deficit and had to be abandoned. Strange as it may seem, amongst the clientele, the number of the orthodox clients was greater than that of reformists.

Every Sunday I conducted a class at the large hall of the Parsi Virbaiji School on Zoroastrian ethics and history. Over fifty young boys and girls attended those classes.

Once a week ten or twelve youths came to my house to study the Avestan language.


Chapter XXXII


Till the beginning of the last century the system of the priests of our community giving religious instruction to their flock through sermons was unknown; nor did the literate laity spread any such knowledge to the masses through lectures and talks. Those who had been to vernacular schools and learnt to scribble a bit on slates for three or four years and credited as learned, read aloud the Gujarati lithographed narrative of our Iranian forefathers or the Arda Viraf Nama, Jamaspi, Bundahishn and Saddar to the members of their family or to neighbours. For political reasons, at the turn of that century the government made a sort of a start to deliver and to direct sermons and speeches. The officers of the East India Company tried to disseminate teachings that could keep the subjects loyal to the authorities. After Surat came under the jurisdiction of Bombay in 1600, its Governor, Sir Jonnathan Duncan, sanctioned a monthly salary of Rs. 50/- to Dastur Cowasjee Rustomji, the Head Priest of the Shanshais of Surat, instructing him that in order to remain loyal to the government it was incumbent upon him to give religious teachings to the Parsis from time to time, and whenever the government required any explanation regarding the customs and practices of the Parsi community, the same should be supplied. During that period the community had commenced being educated to some degree and a new group of young men who had studied English had been created. Navroji Darabji Chandaru, the active and alert editor of the 'Halkaru' (the Herald) and the 'Chabuk' (the Whip) of Bombay, gave a talk in Gujarati at the Town Hall on 'The Customs and Practices of the Parsis'. Later, when Rev. Wilson waged a jihad against Zoroastrianism, he gave [309] talks refuting the same. From ancient times the pulpit has been an integral part of the Christian Church. Under the direction of Rev. Wilson the youth of our community who had acquired English education, were attracted to Christian Churches to listen to their sermons and were deeply influenced by them. It was their earnest desire that our religious leaders should give similar service. The Rahnumai Mazdayasnan Society, which had been established in 1851, later organized sermons and lectures from time to time. But we did not conduct regular Sunday services or sermons as is done in Christian Churches. The reformist press and the educated youths of the community were constantly calling for them, but no practical steps were taken to cater to their needs.

During my period of study at New York I frequently attended one church or another on Sundays; at times when some good and famous speakers were to deliver sermons, I attended both the morning and afternoon services at different churches. At that time I had made up my mind that on returning to Karachi I would arrange to organize regular prayer meetings at the Daremeher on the four Hamkaras of each month. This hope of mine was fulfilled on my attaining the head-priestship. With the eager cooperation of some 'enthusiastic youths and the sympathy of our leaders, an organization, based on the principles of the world-famous Y.M.C.A. came into existence amongst the Parsis of Karachi and it was called the Y.M.Z.A. With the founding of the association, from its inception, we gave prime importance to congregational prayers and sermons on every Hamkara.

We had taken every precaution that no one should have cause to complain, yet, at its very inauguration, an unexpected cause resulted in an uproar. The noble Khan Bahadur Nusserwanjee Mehta, presented a platform of pure teak to the [310] YMZA at this time. For the convenience of speakers It had railings reaching up to the chest on three sides and it was bounded by planks 9" broad. As soon as this news reached the public, those who were inclined to view every move of mine with suspicion, came to the conclusion that there was some grave mischievous import in this. The lecturing platform was not as innocent as it appeared. They assigned to it the appellation of a pulpit and created an agitation that by admitting a pulpit in the Agyari similar to one in church, I was paving the way to bringing an organ too in the future. Humourous tales were afloat about having a requisition signed, appealing to people to be present at the meeting and to tear down the pulpit. What was even more ridiculous was that the opposition party itself informed the police that there was to be a disturbance in front of the Agyari, hence due arrangements should be made. The Hamkara day arrived with a flourish of trumpets. Excitement had been mounting since days through the press and through people, hence the congregational prayer meeting of the Hamkara was inaugurated midst a large assemblage of the rich and the poor, the young and the old of the community. The opponents had contrived to be present on purpose, but they had the grace neither to disturb the prayer nor disrupt the sermon. Merely to save face, some empty threats were thrown out after our departure. No harm befell the pulpit. Many an honoured man and woman from all walks of life and from every town and city has spoken from that dais and even after thirty years it is in sound condition.

Hardly had the impediment of the pulpit been overcome when a new one arose. We had arranged that, on assembling on the Hamkara day, after performing the ablutions and the kusti with the Srosh Baj, Gehs [gahs], etc., all present should rise and recite the Atash Niyayesh before the sacred fire that had been kindling in the urn which was placed in the lecture [311] hall on a raised dais. The sacred fire was thus brought and placed in the hall on occasions such as Navjotes, Jashans and Uthamnas, hence we followed the usual practice. Yet we were accused of insulting the sacred fire that had been enthroned in the sanctum sanctorum. Those pious gentlemen were not prepared to listen to our arguments. At last, when the aspersions cast against us did not abate, we were obliged to abandon this practice. We decided to recite the prayer in the room adjacent to the sanctuary where the sacred fire was kept. As that room was small, only a few could be accommodated, while the rest had to remain in the hall. Now it was their turn to complain. Their plea was that they derived no inspiration when they had to pray with a wall screening them from the fire. After reciting the Niyayesh, the Doova Nam Sataish and the Tandarosti, I used to recite a short benediction composed by me in Gujarati which lasted for about twenty minutes. The whole meeting did not exceed forty-five minutes, so that no one should have cause to be bored or lose patience. In spite of that as the initial excitement abated and our work could be carried on in peace, the enthusiasm also slackened and the congregation gradually thinned. Some leading men informed me that it was impractical for them to attend fifty-two weeks of the year regularly. My reply to them was that it would suffice if instead of fifty-two times they could be present only twenty-two times or even twelve. Leave aside twelve, they did not bother to turn their steps towards the prayer-ceremony even twice a year. The excuse of some was that they found it tiresome to spend four evenings a month in this way, after a full day's hard work. Many were eager to listen to the sermon, but were not keen to participate in the compulsory congregational prayer that preceded it. As time passed we set aside this obligatory prayer and instead recited eight or ten lines from a chosen Avesta passage together with a short explanation in [312] Gujarati, printed copies of which were distributed in the beginning of each month. That recitation was followed by a short sermon. This took approximately half an hour. For seven years we continued these Hamkara prayer-meetings, despite the very poor participation. But when it became impossible to attract people to those meetings despite all our varied efforts, and in the absence of enthusiastic co-operation of the community, we had to end with a heavy heart this religious movement meant to foster a feeling of devotion.

This endeavour to conduct prayer meetings similar to the Sunday services of Christian churches was in response to a long-felt need amongst the educated section of the community. Then why was it a failure? We could not offer hymns sung to the accompaniment of the organ as is done in churches and the majority orthodox section of the community would not have tolerated it. Apart from that we catered for everything that is offered in churches. Side by side with ancient Avesta and Pazand prayers we supplied translations in current languages. We provided for instructive and informative lectures on religious, ethical, social, economic and other topics together with devotional sermons; yet why did we have to abandon our initial attempt in this direction? Even those who went to pray at the Daremeher every day of the month or those who felt it their duty to be present at least on the four Hamkara days of the month, did not cooperate with us in those congregational prayer meetings. Again, why did some people have individual ceremonies performed in another room of the Daremeher at the same time as our prayers or sermons were being conducted?

The prayers that are conducted in Christian churches are congregational. Therein everyone present sings hymns to the tune of various instruments [313] and all recite together the same prayer. This practice has been prevalent amongst them since hundreds of years and the faithful of that religion are accustomed to this. This has become their socio-religious tradition. Our prayer has never been congregational — always individualistic. Every individual devotee opens his own secret heart to Ahura Mazda, His holy angels, Yazads and Farohars. Even on the most auspicious occasions when two to five hundred young and old assemble at the Agyari or Atashbehram, each one chooses his own special prayer, recites it at his own individual speed, in whichever tone and air he prefers, filling the place of worship with murmurings that resound and reverberate. In Jashans or at Uthamna ceremonies the priests recite portions of prayers in unison; barring that all prayer is always individually recited at various places. The flowers and fruits which bloom and blossom in a particular clay and crime, may not flourish in another. Even so the precepts and practices suitable to a certain nation in its own peculiar circumstances and surroundings, may not be in consonance with those of another. Similarly our attempts at fostering religious knowledge and devotion could not stand the strain of continuity.


Chapter XXXIII


Since the last seven decades, certain questions seasoned with a measure of bitterness and bickering, are being discussed repeatedly in our community. No decision is arrived at nor are they finally settled. At break of dawn a question is raised, at noontide it subsides; then once again at eventide it waxes and at night it wanes again, leaving behind the message of its re-birth at another dawn. One such question which is as old as the hills, yet always seems fresh, is the question of praying in a current and comprehensible tongue.

In one of our issues of the 'Rahnuma' of 1926, I had penned an article about this. Passages from the same are quoted below:

"At the dawn of history, a section of the Aryan race departed from its native habitation and spread in the four corners of the globe. From time to time some of its tribes came to a place known as Iran on the map of the world and settled there. History identifies this group as Iranians. When they arrived at their new destination they were already semi-civilized. They brought along with them certain good and bad customs, traditions, and superstitions. Certain deities they accounted as good and others as evil. They worshipped the good spirits and feared and .reviled the evil ones. They revered the former as Yazads and repelled the latter as demons. The prayers which they recited for revering the Yazads and reviling the demons were known as Manthras. The holy word 'Mantra' they had inherited from their ancestors. Their Indian cousins too, took this word with them and on the banks of the Indus, they termed it as Mantra.

[315] In Iran, when Prophet Zarathushtra composed devotional songs in praise of Ahura Mazda, he too called them the Manthras. He did so because, in the Iran of his days, this word seemed most appropriate in the vocabulary of the current language in which songs of divine praise were composed. The mother-tongue of Zarathushtra and his compatriots was Avesta in those days. They spoke and thought in that language, so it was in that same language that Zarathushtra composed his Gathas.

"During their life-time prophets are ground in the mill of hardships, but after their death there is a reaction and they are idolized. Devotion is blind and the devotees of the prophets present them as they were not and as they would not wish to be. Fantastic tales and legends are woven around the memory of their lives till they can barely be recognized. It is given out that not only the religions that they have founded, but also their sacred scriptures have been handed over personally to them by the Creator. And people begin to believe that the language in which those holy books were written did not emanate from the minds of men but that they are celestial, spiritual and divine. A credence is established amongst Hindi Aryans that the Vedas have been written in the celestial and supernatural Vedic language, amongst the Muslims that the Quran is in Allah's sacred Arabic, and the Jews and Christians believe that the Bible is in the sanctified Hebrew language. In Iran, after the death of Zarathushtra, the language in which the words he had uttered and the Manthras that he had composed commenced to be credited as hallowed, holy and heavenly and that the twenty-one nasks had descended directly from Ahura Mazda.

“Asho Zarathushtra had proclaimed that the recollection and recitation of the verses of the Mantras that he had composed were meant to [316] purify thoughts, to guide them, to create a feeling of devotion and to develop man's character. But this spiritual ideal of the Mantras could not be maintained very long after Zarathushtra's death. The child-mind is delighted with miracles and marvels. Even so, the sacred scriptures are evaluated not by the wealth of knowledge and idealism they contain, but by their supposed miraculous potentiality. The Manthras, instead of being the source of spiritual inspiration, became the main-springs of magic and miracles. There was created a conviction that due to the supposed miraculous powers of the vocabulary, the recitation of those verses would wipe away all woes and procure all desires. When the very basis of the Mantras is supernatural, it is impossible to utter them without benefit. And so the belief grew that if an amulet of the Manthras is worn around the neck or a talisman is tied around the wrist, no enemy can attack the wearer and any work in hand is successfully accomplished.

"The Avestan language attained a celestial status, but it could not be saved from the clutches of earthly laws. The history of languages reveals that like all living things, a language also blossoms and withers; it either spreads or is smothered, is enriched or impoverished, gains strength or weakens reaches old age and dies. Avesta retained its status as the state language even in the days of Zarathushtra's disciples, so the comments on the Prophet's works continued to be made in the same language. New literature continued to be created and new prayers continued to be composed. But gradually the tone and texture of that tongue altered. Practically two centuries elapsed before ancient Avesta turned into modern Avesta; but during that length of time, just as Avesta kept losing its place in the rank of languages, the thinking of Zarathushtra's descendents grew increasingly superstitious. In spite of that, even the new literature [317] produced in that ineffectual Avesta continued to be accounted as Mantras and they found a place on an equal footing with Zarathushtra's inspired scriptures.

"Two and a quarter millenniums ago, from the time the sun started to set on the regal glory of Zoroastrian Iran, with the admixture of cultures and communities and the clash of languages, Avesta which was credited to be sacred and believed to be divine, the supposedly immortal language, true to the laws that govern all creation, perished!

"The Avestan language died, but it did not fail to leave behind a heritage. The source from which Avesta was derived was Aryan and its offspring, known as Pahlavi, was also Aryan, but not pure Aryan. It had alien blood in its veins. Avesta was nurtured in the Aryan environment of western Iran, whereas Pahlavi was reared in the alien atmosphere of the neighbouring Semitic nations of eastern Iran. It had assimilated words of day-to-day utility which were Semitic in origin, it followed certain Semitic rules of syntax and moreover it had borrowed the characters of this Aryan language and even structurally had become Semitic.

“Even before the Sasanian dynasty started, Pahlavi had become the current and common language of the people. Avesta was the language of religion, and prayers continued to be recited in that language. But the number of people who could understand Avesta was decreasing decade by decade. With the passage of time the laity became completely ignorant of it, and even the section of the priestly class knowing that ancient language was losing in strength. Those learned Athravans who knew that language, started to translate together with commentaries, the entire Avestan literature into the current language of the country. They began to write essays of varying dimensions on religious subjects for the guidance of [318] the masses. Thus a limited amount of Zoroastrian literature in Pahlavi came into being. In this way everyone prayed in Avesta which was considered sacred, although it was not understood, and they read books written in Pahlavi, the current language in order to gain an insight into those religious teachings and commandments.

"It is a known fact that even those who feel it obligatory to pray in the language in which the prayer has been composed, believing it to be supernatural, at the conclusion of that prayer pour out their heart's secrets to the Creator. Besides, in moments of personal stress and strain, man naturally turns to his Maker, seeking His succour and His strength and pleading for forgiveness and forbearance. All this natural, spontaneous and intimate conversation between man and his Maker can be carried on only through the medium of a language in which he thinks and speaks and performs his daily deeds. It has been so since the world began and it is so even today. Even those who faithfully believe that prayer recited in the Avesta alone is acceptable to God and all other prayer is futile, in their day-to-day living, whenever their hearts are bursting with emotion, their devotion and their gratitude spring forth in Gujarati. And again, after the standard Avesta prayer has been completed, benedictions, appreciations and requisitions are expressed in Gujarati. Man has this innate hunger of the soul and therefore it is impossible even to conceive that a nation that knew how to read and write and speak in Pahlavi was void of this longing. During the Sasanian dynasty, and even for a while after its downfall many such prayers have been composed in the language of the nation and we have inherited them.

"The language of such prayer is known as Pazand. We have seen that an alien Semitic element had found its way into the Pahlavi language. [319] When Pahlavi that is an admixture of Aryan and Semitic languages, is passed through a sieve and the Semitic words sorted out, the remaining Iranian portion of it is this purified Pahlavi or Pazand language. The prefaces to the Niyayeshes and Yashts, the Doova-Nam Setayashni, Patet, Tandarosti, Afrins, the marriage benediction, the Dhupnirang, prayers recited at an Uthamna ceremony etc. are composed in this language. Even after the empire passed out of Zoroastrian hands, this continued. For example, in the Pazand introductory passage to the Khorshed Niyayesh, certain sentences in Arabic have crept in. In fact the faith that Avesta is a supernatural and celestial language not having wavered, these Pazand prayers have not replaced Avesta, but they were prayed as a complement and a completion of the latter and that practice continues to the present day. These new prayers composed in Pazand which was born a thousand years after the prayers composed in Avesta which was considered to be an extraordinary language, are the second phase of Zoroastrian religious literature.

"The life of languages like the lives of men is either long or short. Some enjoy longevity, others are short-lived. Pahlavi was born during the Parthian period, then it was used for four hundred years during the Sasanian dynasty as the state language in the palaces of kings and at court and even after the kingdom was lost it definitely lived for at least three centuries. Pahlavi-Pazand lived for almost one thousand years, which is not a short span. It did not win the honour of being considered spiritual as its forerunner, but it did reach the realms of royalty and was fortunate to live a life of glory and renown. In its Pazand form it found a place beside Avesta prayers, and it also played a part in the religious literature of Mani, the prophet of the non-Zoroastrians of Sasanian Iran. But in this temporal world, the appointed task of [320] Pahlavi-Pazand was over and it passed away to find its niche amongst the dead languages of the world, leaving behind an offspring called Persian.

"As time passed, Persian became the current language, the state language and the language of literature. Translations of Zoroastrian scriptures and articles on various subjects were written in this sweet language. Since Pazand and Persian were very alike it was not deemed necessary to replace the Afrins etc., which were composed in Pazand with Persian translations. But in later ages a fair amount of devotional literature was published in that language. These consist of the Niyayeshes and the Monajats. As was the practice of praying in the current Pazand tongue after the recital of Avesta prayers, it has become a custom to pray in current Persian after the recital of Avesta and Pazand prayers. This custom is prevalent even today to a certain extent.

"From the beginning of the last century, the youth of the community began to study English literature. Many years of the students were spent in acquiring this knowledge. This was the first time that Zoroastrian youths were availing of such high and wide education and spending fifteen or seventeen years of their lives in its pursuit. The new age of religious and social movements had set in, first in the Province of Bengal and later in Bombay. In the middle of the nineteenth century our community too came under the influence of this new age. There was a clash of new and old ideologies and heated debates ensued on certain questions. One of these questions was this topic of prayer in an intelligible tongue.

"This question of praying in a language that can be understood was born of the group of youths who had attained this new type of education. It felt that to pray in a tongue which was beyond its ken was [321] mere meaningless babbling. This section of the community was demanding a reform similar to the services in Christian Churches conducted in a comprehensible language, or like the reforms introduced by the Brahmo Samaj and the Prathna Samaj amongst the Hindus. Despite the lapse of seven decades its demand has not been met. Its appeal continues and the opposition too, is as strong as when it started. This question is of grave importance to the religious life of the community, hence we will examine its main causes in detail.

"The foremost and strongest opposition against the request to pray in an intelligible language was that Avesta was a celestial language. This concept is not the outcome of present-day disputes, but as noted above, this has been the firm and honest belief of our forefathers since centuries. The language in which there was an exchange of questions and answers between Ahura Mazda and Zarathushtra, the language in which, according to the Gathas, Ahura Mazda taught His religion by word of mouth to His holy prophet, Zarathushtra, cannot be ought but divine. It is not at all surprising that our ancestors considered the language of the scriptures as sacred; for as pointed out previously, the history of other religions tells the same story.

"Language is not born in spiritual realms but it has its source in the physical world. The angels do not rear it, it is nurtured by men. The science of language, philology, has been known since a century and a half. It has thrown a great deal of light on the birth, growth and composition of languages. Man's institutions are akin to himself; and, in the same manner, his languages too, follow the laws of progress in that they are born and they bloom and blossom. At first an infant cannot speak, but it can cry and laugh and produce certain sounds and it expresses its feelings through the [322] movements of its hands and legs. Then it utters single syllables like ma, pa and so on, and as time passes it first says a few disjointed words then bursts into perfect speech. Similarly mankind in its infancy expresses its emotions through signs and gestures, then hearing the sounds of animals imitates them. The child born into a nation knowing a language, learns from its environment, but mankind in its infancy had no such help, hence after a very long spell of trouble and tribulation and experimentation and experience it managed to frame the skeleton of speech.

"In like manner the Aryan language was born as the Aryan race progressed gradually through generations. As the heirs of this Aryan root-race segregated, they took along with them the heritage of their own pattern of speech. The Indo-Iranian offspring of this race remained unsevered for a long time and their language continued to flourish. The time came when these two groups also separated, and when each set forth to seek its own habitation, their language was similar in all respects. Each found individual existence in India and Iran, and as time passed the language of each group assumed the characteristics of its own clime and conditions. In spite of that, even today, thousands of years later, a glance at their vocabulary, their grammatic form and their structure reveals that they can be recognized as offsprings of the same parent born in pre-historic times on Aryan soil. These sisters are known as Sanskrit and Avesta.

"Avesta was the language of Iran when Zarathushtra began to compose his verses. He had studied in that language and it was also in common use, hence it was natural that he should write in Avesta. Had Tamil been the language of Iran in his days the verses of the Gathas would have been composed in Tamil or had it been Telegu he would [323] have composed them in Telegu. Had that been the case, the faithful would have considered Tamil and Telegu as celestial even as they do Avesta today.

"Should it be presumed that Avesta is composed by Ahura Mazda Himself, and that its source is spiritual, then its prime quality must need be its perfection. But Avesta is not infallible. When the question of praying in an understandable language first began to be discussed, barring a few learned exceptions, almost everyone believed that Avesta was entirely composed by Asho Zarathushtra himself. When western scholars studied it on the basis of philology, and constructed its vocabulary and its grammar and translated it, they examined in detail the differences in levels in the language of various Avestan writings, its structural variations, its construction, its inherent purport, etc. and began to publish their findings as to the times in which the various literature was composed. Primarily they divided Avesta into two main branches. They declared only the five Gathas as composed by Zarathushtra himself and the rest as written by his disciples. There was a strong opposition to these views and the idea of dividing Avesta into that of former and later times, was considered to be a blow to the believers. Many years have gone by since those preliminary arguments and today all who examine with an open and unbiased mind know that, after Asho Zarathushtra composed his Gathas, there is a lapse of not merely twenty-five to fifty years but over two hundred years in the composition of later Avestan prayers. The Yajashne, Visparad, Yashts, Vendidad, etc. have been written by different people at different times. If five different people write five different chapters, there is bound to be variation in the style and quality [324] of writing. Besides, the purity of language and its imperfections can be easily discerned when comparing the writings of proficient authors and amateur writers and both are found in Avestan literature.

It is true that the Avestan literature that has fallen into our hands has undergone the ravages of time, hence those who have tried to copy it in one age or another have, either through error or ignorance, admitted many imperfections. Despite taking into consideration these factors, all that can be said is that Avesta gives no evidence of the completeness and correctness to be expected of a language that may be conceived as celestial.

"The perfect writings of a spiritual language should be such as would apply equally to mankind at every stage of his existence. But the major portion of what has been written is merely a portrayal of the local movements, traditions, superstitions, customs and the social life of the people of those times. It is impossible to apply them to changed times and climes, conditions and circumstances. To speak the truth is good and to lie is evil, is equally virtuous, abiding and infallible at any age and in any place under all circumstances. But the Avesta is not replete with just these eternal verities. For one such line there is bound to be a hundred others which tell of materialistic transactions and mundane descriptions of this mortal world. Spiritual writings and works composed with a knowledge of spiritual laws must needs be constant and universal, infallible and unchanging, perfect and final. There can be no scope for additions, amendments or alterations. Any knowledge related to them cannot be reformed or remedied. They remain unaltered until the Day of Resurrection. All that is contained in the Avesta is not so, because the authors of the Avesta write about the conditions existing in their own times and whatever [325] is written on general subjects is according to their own light in the age in which they lived. Man's work is never perfect. Even so the Avesta, written by man, is not perfect.

Whenever there is any discussion about Avestan literature and the quality of its writings is criticized on the same principles as any other literature is examined, it is immediately stated that Avesta cannot be ranked with other ordinary and commonplace literature, and therefore it should not be criticised. It is a spiritual literature composed according to spiritual laws, hence it can be examined only on divine principles. But living as we are in this age of immorality we are unaware of spiritual laws. hence we have no right to become critics of that divine literature! It has been proved that this is not a fact.

Whatever Avestan writings are existing with us are utilized as prayers. These prayers can be divided into two parts. The first class is comprised of the Gehs, Niyayeshes, Yashts and certain portions of the Khorda Avesta, which make up our daily prayers. The second contains the Yajashnes, Visparad, Vendidad, Afrinagan, Afrin and other liturgical prayers recited by priests in ceremonials. It is thought that all this religious literature from beginning to end is prayer. The truth is completely contrary to this belief. A very small part of all that is recited is actual prayers. A variety of subjects like theology, ethics, religious sayings, rituals, legends, psychology, history' geography, sociology, political economy, jurisprudence, genetics, physiology, pathology, hygiene, science of the universe, astronomy, geology, botany, zoology, biology, etc. are included. Even those who have not studied Avesta can easily find this out by reading the late learned Ervad Cowasji Kanga's Gujarati translation of the entire Avesta. It is an invaluable document of the development, thinking, customs and [326] conduct of our forefathers who lived more than three thousand years ago. But history is not prayer, geography is not prayer, pathology is not prayer and biology, too, is not prayer. Only some verses of the Gathas, a few passages of later Avesta, and a couple of lines that can be gleaned on close examination can be termed prayer. All else is only a composite collection of the various aspects affecting the life of the Iranian nation of those days.

It is obvious that once Avesta has been proclaimed a celestial language, it becomes contradictory to declare that the subjects contained in it are born of the activities of one of the existing nations. It is just possible that the Almighty may personally write the lessons of religious and moral instructions, He may personally teach the path of rituals, but He would not write out the life-stories of Kianian Kings that have been depicted in the Yashts, and He would not describe the physical features of the cities and mountains that are encountered on a journey from mankind's prime habitat to Iran as given in the Vendidad, nor would He prepare the account books showing the physician's charges for treating the sick and suffering. In short if the Avesta contains all kinds of matter pertaining to this mortal world, its spiritual value would not last.

This difficulty is immediately overcome by blind faith. We are told that the meaningless tales that we have enumerated above are definitely not mentioned in the Avesta. If perchance such an impression is conveyed through reading the translations, then the translation is positively faulty. All the Avestan writings are allegorical, ambiguous, mystical, concealed, figurative and symbolic. What can be read on the surface is not the truth — the underlying purport is completely different. Now these translations are not the outcome of the [327] linguistics of the so-called modern materialistic age. Philology has amended and altered many of the former translations but their overall meaning today is the same as found in the Gujarati translations of the beginning of the last century before philology reached the shores of India, or of the two to four hundred year old Persian translations, or the even earlier Sanskrit translations of Neriosang Dhaval and even before that the Pahlavi translations of the Sasanian era. On reading any of the above-mentioned translations it will be readily seen that the subjects enumerated above as contained in the Avesta scriptures are correct, and the same has been declared with one accord by Pahlavi, Sanskrit, Persian and Gujarati translations in different ages.

Ignorance is bliss as long as vision that is impaired by blind faith is unable to see the truth. But the eyes cannot remain closed forever. They have been destined to see the light sooner or later. Today smoke-screens are created so that the enemy may not see the movements of the troops. This can give rise to temporary confusion, but eventually the rays of the sun clear the mist. Similarly it is not possible to remain secure and shielded behind a veil of secrecy, for some day the light of knowledge is bound to disperse the clouds.

The main objection that is raised against composing prayers in an intelligible language is that such pious and learned men as were capable of composing them are dead and gone — none such exist today, nor will they exist in the future. Mankind has always painted the past as perfect and has glorified it as 'the golden age' and held it up as an example worthy of emulation by the present generation. But merely because this has always been done it is not necessarily right. Man's life in the past was as replete with vices and virtues as it is today. It is not as if men exist in the present [328] age whereas angels inhabited the earth in bygone days. Man is always marching onwards. Like the swinging of the pendulum, his progress oscillates backwards and forwards but on the whole it is a forward march. The world is moving on from imperfection to perfection. It is paving its way from this gross and mundane age to a golden goal. If Ahura Mazda gave to Iran three thousand years ago the monopoly of raising pure and pious people and prohibited the production of such sons today, He would be termed unjust. It is not at all true that in the Avestan era Ahriman, in the form of Zohak, was fettered in chains upon Mount Demavand and has been let loose today, hence formerly there was naught but piety and today there is evil only. Nowhere in the Avesta has it been mentioned that all its Athornan composers were the quintessence of morality. Even in those days, side by side with honest, industrious and learned athornans, dishonest, indolent and ignorant athornans also existed, and it is against those that the Vendidad wages a war. Only those men and women who are as innocent of all knowledge as children are, can beguile themselves with fancies and imagery, that the people of that age were aware of spiritual laws, that they were in direct contact with the spirits of nature and that they knew the rules that governed the progress of the universe. Where religion is concerned, the majority of mankind is not able to cross the threshold of childhood and come out in the open to see the light.

Another argument in support of the belief that prayer in Avesta has miraculous qualities is that at the conclusion of such a prayer the heart is uplifted and feels light and elated and the whole day passes happily; but perchance if a day slips by without such a prayer, the heart is heavy and burdened and the whole day is spent in a depressed and dejected mood. This elevating experience [329] of the devotee is neither false nor far-fetched. It is perfectly comprehensible that the devotee derives a feeling of elation after reciting a prayer. But this joyous experience is the consequence of the influence of the strength of his faith. When a man is wrapped up in prayer with the absolute faith that God will be pleased and will hear his pleadings and grant all his desires, that He will be his helper in difficulties, his faith brings solace to his disturbed soul and serenity to his mind. When he completes worship, he feels that a fresh hope and strength fill his being and he faces life's problems with renewed courage. This welcome attitude is born of the psychological effect of the good thoughts, high ideals, noble emotions and divine love that pervade his being during devotion. The Avestan language of the prayer as such has no part in it nor has the magical utterances of its vocabulary. Instead of the Avesta, should the devotee recite something that no stretch of imagination could term as prayer, with the same firm faith, absolute belief, complete credulity and loving feeling, he would experience a similar exaltation and light-heartedness. At first this may sound like an exaggeration but a cursory examination will immediately reveal that it is not so. Let us take an example.

Three decades ago a Pahlavi book entitled Boman Yasht was prescribed by the University in the syllabus for the study of Persian languages. In our existing Avestan literature the Boman Yasht is not to be found, but all sorts of stories about its miraculous powers have been prevalent amongst the superstitious section since ancient times. It is said that formerly the magical power of the Boman Yasht was so great that anything could be achieved by merely reciting it. But people began to misuse it and to utilize it to destroy their enemies and to derive selfish benefits through it, so [330] the Almighty retrieved that Yasht. When this text was first printed and published for college students, some enthusiastic publishers of the Khorda Avesta began to include this Pahlavi Boman Yasht also in their Gujarati version of the Khorda Avesta. No prayer that is written in Pahlavi which has a mixture of the Semitic tongue is ever recited, nor is this a prayer. It is an essay wherein its authors write about the rise and fall of the Persian Empire, of the evil days that are to befall it at the hands of the Romans, Turks and Arabs and they write as though they are foretelling the coming end of existence. In sheer ignorance many recite this Pahlavi document as a prayer and believe that they are reaping a harvest of virtue. Without the slightest doubt and with complete conviction many innocent co-religionists recite this narrative as a miraculous prayer, hence it is not at all surprising that they derive thereof a mental relaxation and a sense of physical well-being. Blind faith can move mountains.

The hunger of our soul has not abated after a lapse of two thousand five hundred years, the community's well-spring of devotion has not dried up, its love for the Creator has not diminished. There is as great a need for prayer today as there was before — prayer that arises from the depths of the heart, spontaneous and natural. The Zoroastrian heart longs to pour out its secret aspirations to its Maker. But a wide gulf divides them. He that is athirst for divine love understands not the language of an interpreter. The language of the love-link between man and his Maker must necessarily be unique. It can be understood by the two only, and none other. If an illiterate wife wishes to correspond with her absent husband, she needs must seek the assistance of an outsider, hence she has to restrain her feelings and emotions and dictate within bounds of modesty. She is not able [331] to express her innate longings — her heart's secrets. Those have to await the re-union of the man and his mate.

In this respect the position of other communities of the world is different from ours. A glance at the religious chronicles reveals that they possess excellent devotional literature in the current language of their land. During these twenty centuries, gleaning inspiration from the Bible, priests, monks, writers and poets have created a rich treasure of devotional writings, and have built up a sizeable store of daily prayers. All these prayers are taken into daily use. Our Hindu brethren also have a similar wealth of devotional literature. Bhajans, prayers and songs composed in the comprehensible language of the country supply the spiritual sustenance so necessary for day-to-day dealings and which the language of tile Vedas, though considered sacred, being obsolete is unable to provide. A limited amount of devotional material composed in Hindu-Gujarati and Hindi is enthusiastically made use of by our community also. For example, the poetical compositions of Kabir, the enlightened reformist, are read most devoutly even today in Parsi homes and Parsi editions of them are being published. Every human being has this spiritual longing and when such devotional material is not to be found in his own literature, he stretches out his eager hand to the devotional treasures of his neighbours. When other nations have spiritual literature sufficient to submerge a seeker, ours is suffering from a drought. Due to unfounded and imaginary fears that the Avesta would be forgotten and forsaken, any attempt made in the direction of supplying such necessary prayers, is nipped in the bud. The jihad that was waged against Ervad Sheriarji Bharucha, a true and noble Athornan scholar of the last century, for taking the initiative about fifty years ago, to recite prayers in Gujarati together with [332] each verse of the Avesta and to sing Gujarati devotional songs during the sermons delivered by him, under the auspices of the Rahnumai Mazdayasnan Society, is still fresh in people's minds. Such perversity is responsible for stemming the creation of devotional literature in understandable language in our community. Fanatical religiosity keeps the devout and thirsty soul starving and unsatisfied — our impoverished devotional literature is gasping for breath.

The purpose of prayer is to guide and inspire the devotee. Its effect should touch his innermost soul. This penetrating influence can be exerted only if he knows what he is praying. A deaf and dumb conversation brings no results. Fantastic legends that Avesta is mystical and supernatural, that strange vibrations are wafted heavenwards by the mere utterance of its words, exerting miraculous influences, do not enhance its worth — they devaluate it; its utility value does not increase — it diminishes; it does not gain in esteem — it loses. Such a concept of prayer pulls it down from its spiritual heights to the lowest rungs and instead of inspiring, it turns it into sorcery.

We have seen that to him who has absolute faith and undoubting belief, prayer whether in a language that is understood or not, is just the same. Faith seeks no reward — it only knows how to bestow what is requested. Faith is not concerned with the prayer of the suppliant — it is sufficient that he prays. With uplifted hands and a humble heart he reads and recites the narrative of the conflict that is carried on between the angel of rain and the demon of drought. (i.e. between Tishtar Yazad and Apaosh) or, in a melodious voice he prayerfully chants the description of the length and breadth of the River Ardivisur. The man in whom faith has infused serenity, contentment and joy, questions not the need for comprehensible [333] prayer. For him, ignorance is bliss. But the awakened soul and the questioning mind are not at peace. For him this problem needs to be solved. But, just as ignorant parents threaten and quiete the questionings of an intelligent child, instead of enlightening him, our excessively orthodox people threaten with a whip and prohibit any questions concerning incomprehensible prayer. As a result a section of the community is being reared today that does not pray at all because it believes not in unintelligible mumblings and is faced with a barrier against its urge for intelligible prayer.

How can all prayer be alike? A child's prayer differs from that of an adult. The prayer of the enlightened is not the same as that of the ignorant. The pious man's prayer is contrary to that of the evil-minded. The prayer of joy is not the same as the prayer of pain. Each man's prayer is his own. Prayers composed by the wise ones prior to Zarathushtra are different from those composed by Zarathushtra himself and different again from those of his disciples. Prayers alter with times and circumstances and the cultural development of a society. They change with the progress of nations. Prayer by proxy is not the same as personal prayer. A prayer in a language that is understood cannot be compared with an unintelligible prayer.

"Prayer is the language of the heart. The heart's language is the language that can be understood. An intelligible prayer is true prayer. An unintelligible prayer is mere prattling of the tongue and muttering of the lips, but the mind wanders and the heart is lulled to sleep. Is that prayer?"


Chapter XXXIV


Ten years ago as an Ervad I had traveled to Gujarat in order to deliver sermons and lectures. I decided to repeat the performance. All the arrangements were to be made by the Standing Committee of the Conference at Bombay. The Secretaries of the Conference had written to various places. One of the Secretaries of the Conference was to accompany us and he was appointed to make advance arrangements for our entire tour. Starting from Ahmedabad we were to deliver three or four lectures in every town before reaching Bombay. Our committee had received intimation that as the news of our arrival was spreading in certain towns, they were inciting adverse propaganda against me.

My wife and I left Karachi and arrived at Ahmedabad. Many prominent Parsi men and women had come to the station to welcome us. Our good secretary had reached Ahmedabad a day earlier. At this place I gave three lectures in Gujarati to the community and one in English to a cosmopolitan audience. No reference was made to the Conference in those four talks nor did I offer any reply to the accusations leveled against me for disturbing conventional religion. Yet my over-all ideas regarding the basic principles of religion or the extent to which ceremonials should playa part in religion, etc. had a fairly good effect on the listeners. During our stay there, many people came to visit me. Naturally some of them would ask me particularly about the Conference. My explanations dispelled many misgivings concerning the Conference and my ideas impressed many people. Our mission proved very successful in this first city of our journey and we moved forward taking along with us good-will for the Conference.

[335] On reaching Baroda I was busy at my desk, when my wife suddenly exclaimed: "What have you done?" Turning around I noticed that she could barely check her amusement. Displaying a towel she asked: "Is this the way you repay a person's hospitality? You have brought along with you your host's towel." Normally my wife would lovingly pack all my things, but in Ahmedabad I begged of her not to take the trouble and to let me do my own packing. It seems that while doing so, I had packed the towel which my hosts had put out for my use. Eventually it had to be parceled back to them.

Our success was even greater at Baroda. We were 'state guests'. His Highness, the Maharaja, was at Simla. His minister and other Hindu-Muslim officers as well as two Hindu gentlemen who had returned after studying with me at Columbia University, looked after us with loving concern. The rich and the poor of the community showered their affection upon us. By chance, on the day of our farewell dinner, Sir Pherozesha Mehta happened to come there in order to plead at the Supreme Court on behalf of his client. Taking my toast at the dinner he wished my mission success with genuine feeling. Having conquered Baroda for the Zoroastrian Conference we went forward with éclat.

But our entrance into Broach presented a different picture. A number of leading men and women welcomed u~; at the station. We were informed that preparations were in progress amongst certain people to oppose us. A prominent Parsi barrister had forwarded a written appeal to the Collector of Broach that my lectures would create a disturbance in the community, hence they should be prohibited. The Collector Mr. Otto Rothfield who had served Sindh previously was a scholar himself, and he knew me well. He invited my wife and me to tea and acquainted himself [336] with all the details. He arranged my English lecture before a cosmopolitan audience first, and presided over it personally. That event passed off peacefully. The opponents attended the following lectures which were delivered to our co-religionists. They were seen taking notes during my first lecture, but the atmosphere seemed to mellow. The antagonism subsided and the leader of the opposition requested the Chairman of the Anjuman to bring both of us to visit his home before leaving Broach. We went and were given floral tributes, gifts of gold and the shawl of honour and we parted as good friends.

Surat, the city of Gujarat with the largest Zoroastrian population and the first to send its protest against the Conference, presented rather a grim appearance yet there was no public demonstration against us. There were two sections there — the Dasturs and the Davars. The leader of the latter was making due arrangements for our lectures as per written instructions from Bombay, so the Dasturji of the former group absented himself from the lectures. We had exchanged personal visits and he was present at my English lecture over which the Collector of Surat had presided. Our Secretary was an inhabitant of Surat, so he introduced us to many of the leading people there, some of whom were against me. On meeting a well-known physician, a staunch orthodox gentleman who believed that the sum total of religion was the strict observance of all its customs and practices, he narrated a lengthy oration on his religiosity with the idea that it would have a salutary effect on me. He informed me that he neither ate nor drank without performing the Baj ceremony, nor did he execute any of the day-to-day rituals without its performance. He used the taro freely always sanctified the utensils, and drew drinking water from the well himself, took the purification bath on auspicious and inauspicious occasions and [337] related many such instances of his care and concern about the observance of purity. That was his religion. The established religion which we inherit and which history has handed down to us is the same for all. But each man's personal and individual religion differs according to his own mental make-up, his intelligence, his education and his environment. I[may be a ritualistic religion, conventional religion, incantational religion, Gnostic religion, philosophical religion, materialistic religion, spiritual religion, devotional religion, esoteric religion — religion of all shades and variations.

From there our steps turned towards Navsari. At the station an officer of the army, an officer of law, a police officer, the head Desaiji, the junior Desaiji and many laymen came into view. Neither a single Dasturji nor a lone mobed could be seen. My own kith and kin — my own kind — were absent. The fact was that of the cities which were to lodge a protest against my arrival, Navsari was the foremost. The leading men of Bombay who were going to oppose the Conference were inhabitants of Navsari and their following there was large. On receipt of true or false reports of the opposition that was to be raised at Navsari, the organizers of the Conference at Bombay had written to Baroda. As a result, the Diwan had informed the Governor of Navsari, hence the presence of various officers to welcome us. After the formalities of exchanging pan-sopari in the waiting room, we were garlanded and directed to our dwelling place. On reaching there I wrote to the Acting Head Dasturji and asked for an appointment. After due arrangements we visited him in his home. Meeting him and other mobeds who had assembled there, we returned with bouquets and garlands. The lecture to the cosmopolitan community was organized under the Chairmanship of the Governor, and the head Desaiji presided over the three lectures delivered to the community. Our friends told us that [338] certain members of the opposition also came to these talks to see how things were going. My first lecture must have impressed these gentlemen favourably, for they were seen applauding together with others at subsequent meetings. At the conclusion of the final lecture one of the leaders of the opposition invited us to visit the gardens with him. We accepted the invitation with pleasure and went directly with our companions. To strengthen the bonds of this new-fledged friendship, we drank to each other's health and prosperity with pots of toddy according to the custom of the place. The revered Dasturji paid us a return visit with his followers. During the course of the conversation he informed us that those who had prevented him from coming to the station to welcome us and from attending our lectures were now one with us and that they had unnecessarily deprived him of the honour of doing so. I respectfully requested him that should he take the Chair, I was prepared to deliver another lecture. As he was willing to do so, one more talk was arranged. He took the Chair and thanked me for having come to Navsari to deliver this series of lectures. Our kind friends gave us a dinner in the compound of the Rana Club on the final day and the following morning the Dasturji, Desai and friends bid us a fond farewell at the station.

Leaving Navsari behind we reached Bulsar. Here a new kind of drama was to be enacted. When we were in Navsari three gentlemen from Bulsar had visited us. They had informed our Secretary that there were two parties in Bulsar. Should we hold our meetings under the auspices of the opposition, there was bound to be trouble, so we should go as their guests and arrange all the lectures under their patronage. Our energetic Secretary went with them to Bulsar to make advance preparations. When we reached Bulsar we saw Parsi youths in uniform with batons in their hands [339] lined along the platform in order to control the situation. They saluted us in military style. Taking our seats in the Maharaja of Dharampura's car, we drove to our destination. We were informed that the Trustees were not amongst those who had come to respectfully welcome us as they were not on good terms with this party. We sent them a message and visited them and returned with floral tributes. Those gentlemen did not attend my lectures, but they were present at my public lecture which was delivered under the Chairmanship of the Maharaja. The Maharaja presented me with a shawl of honour over each arm. One thing that pleased us particularly at Bulsar was to see the youths who had welcomed us at the station making all the arrangements at the meetings. Besides, they were continuously at our service. As was done elsewhere, here too twelve to fifteen guests were always invited to lunch and dinner in order to entertain us. On such occasions these kind young men served the food themselves, cleared away the plantain leaves on which we dined and helped us to wash our hands.

We were taken around to see the famous sights of the city, one of which was the shrine of the well-known 'quivering' case which had been filed against the Jame-Jamshed. To our great surprise there we saw an aged Parsi lady in a sort of meditative quivering. Under the intoxicating influence of some strong drug like the white thorn apple, she was shaking so violently that she was not even conscious of our presence. At that moment we saw a young Hindu girl rise from her tremulous trance and attempt to climb the railing that surrounded the tomb. In doing so the loose end of her sari had slipped from her and the state of her clothing was bereft of any semblance of modesty. But that unfortunate woman was completely unaware of it. As we looked around we saw an elderly Parsi man and his son, [340] approximately fifteen, in one of the rooms. On enquiry we were told that he was that lady's husband. He was a farmer, but according to his story there had been three consecutive deaths in his family and great sorrow had befallen them. Therefore he had been recommended to come here and his wife was advised to go into this weird trance. I explained many things to him and the co-religionists of Bulsar made due arrangements and, later, sent that superstitious family back to its native place. The trustees did not wish to return our visit at our residence. Complying with their request, when we were departing from Bulsar, we arrived at the station a quarter of an hour earlier, and they bid us farewell with flowers and garlands in the rest room. Thereafter the party whose guests we were extended their customary courtesies and we left Bulsar.

I was to deliver six lectures at Bombay. There was such a rush at the inaugurating lecture that it was impossible to accommodate the crowd, so the following lectures were arranged in the compound of the Banaji Atash Behram. Between Ahmedabad and Bombay I had given about thirty-two talks. In generous appreciation, kind co-religionists everywhere had presented me with gifts in cash which amounted to four thousand five hundred rupees. This was a welcome initial installment towards my cherished aim to go some day to England and America to lecture on the Zoroastrian religion and on allied historical subjects. Successfully completing the tour organized under the auspices of the Zoroastrian Conference, we returned to Karachi after two months.

As soon as we arrived, I received a letter from a respected, elderly Parsi lady from outside Karachi. After praising me for my enlightening and ennobling tour, she wrote that one thing which [341] according to her, was objectionable in my trip was that I had taken my wife along with me. In strong language she stated that such an act was particularly unsuited to a Dastur.

Since generations a woman has been looked down upon. Her status was high in the Vedic age. Their scriptures state that where woman is revered, the gods dwell. At the same time they add something similar to what is written in the Chinese Book of Rites, that at no stage in her life — whether as a daughter, or a wife or a mother — should she be independent of man. From the time of the Sutras, woman's position has been continuously falling. Mahavira considers her to be the root of all evil. St. Paul states that man is an image and glory of God but woman is man's handiwork. Milton chants that sin springs from womankind. Eastern and western celibates who have renounced the world consider her to be the one who deludes and deceives and draws mankind towards the gateways of hell. The Chinese philosopher, Lao Tse advises man never to listen to a woman. Rousseau, the noted French champion of the fight for freedom, bemoans the fact that men allover the world are bound in iron chains. He clamours for their independence, yet, in the same breath, he says that woman must always be kept under man's control.

Dastur Adarbad Marespand who had taken a leading part in reviving Zoroastrian religious literature during the Sasanian era, counsels his son never to reveal his secrets to his wife. The Denkard supports such advice. The Pahlavi books tell us that woman's first and last duty is obedience to her husband and hell is the final abode of her who disobeys that commandment. The Sad Oar states that though man's duty is to pray to God three [342] times a day, it is a woman's main duty to bow humbly before her husband three times a day and with folded hands to enquire about his needs and his commands and to fulfill them faithfully.

When saints and sadhus and hermits avoid all contact with women, it was but natural that the pious lady who had penned that letter to me, found it improper that a dastur should take his spouse from place to place on his mission of spreading the faith!


Chapter XXXV


It has been recorded that a few Zoroastrians visited Lahore, the capital city of the Punjab. even three centuries ago. Mohsin Fani, the writer of Dabestan, informs us that he had seen some Parsi Yogic disciples of Azar Kaivan in Lahore in the 17th century. But it was only about a hundred and twenty-five years ago that Parsis established a business footing in the Punjab and Sindh. From the time of the Afghan war in 1829, Parsi enterprise extended from Kabul to Karachi. Parsi businessmen, tradesmen, bankers. contractors. postal couriers. proprietors of ice factories and of aerated waters flourished. The first opportunity we had of visiting Lahore was in 1913. At that time signs of Parsi glory attained in the past century were apparent; yet, at the same time, it seemed that their prosperity was at an ebb.

Two prominent Parsi families of Lahore were to be linked by marriage. From one side the ceremony was to be performed by Dastur Kaikhushru Jamaspji, the Head Priest of the new Atashbehram at Bombay and I was to officiate for the other party. Taking advantage of this. opportunity four lectures in English and Gujarati were organized there. We were to proceed from Lahore onwards to Rawalpindi, Peshawar and other places to deliver talks. As we were approaching Lahore both of us were preparing to alight, when at an intermediary station two gentlemen and a lady boarded the train and settled in our compartment. They informed us that they had come particularly to receive us with due respect. From their talk it transpired that there was a rift in the small community at Lahore and matters had reached such a state of dispute that the opposition party had even started a temporary Agyari of its own. They [344] pleaded that instead of leaving Lahore as scheduled at the conclusion of our programme, we should stay back and endeavour to bridge the unfortunate gulf between the two parties and save the community from the unnecessary expense of maintaining two fire temples. We expressed our willingness to render whatever humble service we were capable of in this direction. On reaching Lahore we were received at the station by men and women belonging to both parties.

The Governor of the Punjab with his wife and many prominent ladies and gentlemen from every community were present in large numbers at the wedding. At the end of the nuptial benediction I spoke in English on the significance of the Zoroastrian marriage ceremony. I completed my scheduled series of lectures. During that period the representatives of both parties kept in touch with me and explained their individual objections. Gleaning the root causes of the differences between the two sections, by the grace of God I was able to establish peace between the two parties after a fortnight’s persuasions and pleadings. It was decided to close down the second Agyari. Just then a major and unprecedented difficulty arose from an unexpected quarter. News of the intended performance of the Navjote ceremony of the off-spring of the Muslim mistress of a well-known and respected elderly trustee of the Anjuman came to light. Leading trustees of the Anjuman and their friends were bent upon preventing this step from being taken, whereas the revered Dasturji Kaikhushru, true to his honest belief, had agreed to perform the Navjote himself. Those who had set up the new Agyari expressed their strong opposition to this and told me in no uncertain terms that should this come to pass the understanding that the two parties had arrived at would be dissipated and they would re-open the Agyari that had been closed down. It took us [345] another twelve days to end this dispute. Those associated with the Navjote agreed to avert it, hence peace was restored. In joyous gratefulness for the dissolving of long-standing disputes, the Anjuman organized a Jashan ceremony followed by a dinner. Zoroastrians from neighbouring townships also participated in this thanks-giving ceremony. As usual toasts were exchanged most enthusiastically at the dinner. My wife urged her sisters of the Punjab to start some ladies' organization like the Karachi Zarthosti Banu Mandai or the Bombay Stree MandaI. Our visit to Lahore was most successful. Instead of staying at Lahore a week as scheduled, we remained for three and a half weeks and went forward.

After we had lectured at Rawalpindi the office-bearers of the Anjuman arranged to take us to a village about eighty miles away. Since some time quite a bit of excitement had been going on in the Bombay press concerning the Atashkadeh at Nurpur. We went to see that. We were shown a small square structure tapering at the top, erected on four stone pillars, somewhat similar to the incense-burning places that can be seen at Nashk-i-Rustom in Iran, but open on all four sides. A fire was smouldering there. As there was no protection from air or water, it was not possible to keep the fire kindling but faithful fakirs informed us that notwithstanding rain or storm the fire kept burning miraculously. From ancient times many nations have revered the fire to a lesser or greater degree. Once a similar story was afloat regarding a small house in Baku. It was said that it was a Zoroastrian fire-temple. later from a Sanskrit writing called 'Shree Ganeshai', which was found there, it was revealed as the dwelling of some Hindu sadhu at some time. Similarly a sect of Muslim fakirs were tending the fire there. It was not a Parsi Atashkadeh as was given out in Bombay.

[346] We spent four days 'midst the small Zoroastrian settlement at Peshawar, the capital city of the North West Frontier Province. The road from there to Afghanistan is not safe. As there is constant danger of highway bandits, and life and property are in continuous jeopardy, caravans carrying goods travel only on certain days under military protection. Travellers coming to the subcontinent via Central Asia, Persia and Afghanistan have always entered through what is now known as the Khyber Pass. The ancient Aryans had come through this Pass, the Pishdadian and Kianyan, Aakeamenian and Sasanian Persians had used it, Baber and Noshirwan had travelled through it, and during the last century, Britishers who went to attack Afghanistan wended their way through it. Tourists were allowed to go only 1wo miles beyond Peshawar. Our friends took us up to that point.

Just as it is necessary to tame beasts of burden like horses and bullocks from their wild ways and train them to serve mankind, it is necessary to wean away hill men from their savage state and educate them to be members of civilized society and to learn to live with each other in peace and harmony. Beginnings have already been made to refine this raw material of humanity. Various schools and educational institutions are carrying on their work. Higher education too has begun to be imparted. At present all men, young and old, move about with daggers dangling at their waists, and at the slightest provocation become like wild. beasts and attack each other. After spending eight to ten years of their lives in institutions of learning, the youths will shed their bestial instincts and will emerge as human beings. In place of the dagger they will brandish a walking stick and they will become cool and courteous [347] citizens. Side by side society will make them dandyish and ostentatious and, as time passes, they will forego their industriousness and become weak and delicate.

When Brahmanism banished Buddhism from this land, Buddhist monks in departing left landmarks of their religion on the way and proceeded towards Central Asia through these Passes. After seeing one such Buddhist ruin near Peshawar we returned to Karachi.

As soon as we reached Karachi a letter was received from Lahore stating that the Navjote that had been prevented had eventually been performed. Party spirit revived and bitterness waxed high. I started a lengthy correspondence and begged of them to forego ill-feelings and to submit to circumstances and to be tolerant. Common sense prevailed at long last and the threat to re-open the closed Agyari was finally abandoned.


Chapter XXXVI


We had celebrated my uncle's 88th birthday with great rejoicing. The sinews of his body were still rendering laudable service. His day still started at dawn and he was energetic and industrious. He went to the Agyari daily and If he found any casual ceremonies to perform, he performed them. His vision, too, was clear and he could read and write at night by artificial light without: spectacles.

He was happy about the turn of events in my life. He realized that it was wise that I had not gone to China. Five years had elapsed since I had attained the head-priestship. He believed that the Almighty and his holy angels and the noble souls of departed ones become man's guides and safeguards and lead him on to the path of success. He always reminded me that I should never be so arrogant as to believe that whatever success had come my way was the outcome of personal intelligence or special skills. Nor should I be so ungrateful as to think that accidental circumstances had befriended me. Whatever had happened in the past and whatever would happen in future were due entirely to the inspiration and guidance of Ahura Mazda and His ministering spirits. Shayast la-Shayast teaches us that each man must choose a particular Yazad as his guardian angel and some pious man as his guide. His angel was Behram Yazad, from memory he could recite the Afrinagan and other prayers. I would tell him that when Ahura Mazda Himself was the Creator of all angels and archangels, where was the necessity of seeking shelter under anyone but Him? In spite of, that, upon self-scrutiny I realized that consciously or unconsciously I too did not place all my [349] hopes and desires at the feet of the Maker alone. We are comforted to know that more than one person helps us through our difficulties. In the same way, since childhood I was accustomed to understand that two heads are better than one, and four better than two. At the end of my prayers I sought the guidance and guardianship of Ardibesht Amshaspand, Srosh Yazad and success-bestowing Behram Yazad along with that of Ahura Mazda. The very composition of our later prayers is such that with one accord, and with one voice and at the same level we worship and adore Ahura Mazda and His divine agents.

When the storm of opposition engulfed me even as I attained the office of high-priest, he consoled me with these words: "Even this shall pass away".

Daily he would read the newspapers that arrived from Bombay and the leaflets that appeared from time to time from members of the opposition and listen to the rumours that were afloat in the Agyari. At such times he was satisfied with the manner in which I conducted myself and he was very happy to see the way in which I carried on my work regularly in silence without replying to anyone or entering into undue controversy. Now, instead of his usual habit of writing to me, he would sit with me and convey his ideas and impressions. He was extremely pleased to see that my studies began at dawn and continued late into the night. He delighted in praying aloud to me the passage from the eighteenth chapter of the Vendidad stating what a true Athornan should be and to recite to me verbatim the fifteen qualities of a real Athornan that were mentioned in the later books. He himself was such noble and exemplary Athornan and God had granted me the happy privilege of being reared under his training and companionship. Alexander used to say that he was obliged to his father for his [350] birth. To Aristotle he was grateful for the knowledge of living a noble of life. My father had begotten me. My revered uncle had inspired me to lead an idealistic life.

Though poor, my uncle knew how to help others poorer than himself. He was friendly to all and people of all communities honoured and respected him. Formerly in our home there was no other child. Now there was an increase in the inmates of the household and he found real pleasure in playing and joking with our children.

The journey of his life had been truly fruitful. He had fulfilled his obligations to his dear ones to the best of his ability and had served the community faithfully. At times he bemoaned the fact that he was not privileged to enjoy the benefit of an English education which could have enabled him to fulfill his mission in life more effectively. Considering his innate intelligence, his diligence, his perseverance and his courage he would have certainly rendered invaluable service to the community and to the world in general. All men are not fortunate to have sufficient means and opportunity to utilize to the fullest capacity the blessings bestowed on them by the Creator. Many a brilliant and talented mobed passes his entire life performing the Afrinagan or Baj ceremonies due to a paucity of means to acquire knowledge befitting the age in which he lives and leaves this world without rendering to the community service commensurate with his inborn gifts.

He who has an active and alert mind cannot live without sufficient food for his thoughts. He whose limbs are lithe and nimble cannot let his body rest without deriving from it a full measure of work and exercise. From dawn to dusk my uncle demanded ample service from his mind and his body. He was very interested in carpentry since childhood, so he had all the requisite tools at hand, [351] and during leisure hours, he would make or mend one thing or another. It was his job to fix shelves wherever necessary and to tie and untie ropes and clothes-lines. To cover the children's text books or to bind their exercise books was his duty. In his free moments he would stitch together ruled and blank sheets of paper and prepare books of different shapes and sizes and derived pleasure from presenting them to the children on demand. That talent I had inherited from him.

Since some years he had considerably curtailed his food intake. A scrambled egg with a chapatti and some milk was his breakfast. His lunch comprised of any single course that had been prepared at home with some fruit and he took no dinner. Every week he would swallow a dose of powdered 'hardeh' (myrobalan) with tea as a purgative. He enjoyed excellent health and his acquaintance with doctors ended with an exchange of greetings.

One day he felt that his obedient and ever willing servant — his body — did not respond to his commands. For eighty-eight years it had rendered faithful service so it was hardly possible that it would suddenly turn indolent. At last in token of its helplessness it slumped onto the bed. At last the infirmity of age had conquered it. The physical fortress was falling, but the keeper of the castle was still surviving. His mind was awake and it did not take him long to realize that the journey of his life was nearing its goal. There was no anxiety to make hectic preparations to meet the angel of death for he was completely prepared. On the credit side of the account-book of his destiny could clearly be seen industry, nobility, purity and piety. The debit side was blank. His had been an honest and virtuous life. Having lived an exemplary life for eighty-eight years he now lay serene, awaiting the end. And the final sleep did not keep him waiting long. The next morning his eyes were closed forever.


Chapter XXXVII


My book entitled Zoroastrian Theology was nearing completion. I intended to have it printed in America. Like everything else, printing was very expensive there. But as printing and binding in India were not as good as they were there I had resolved to have all my future books published in America. It was not necessary to go to America personally to have this work done. With a little delay and botheration it could have been accomplished from this end also. But when I had left the shores of America in 1908 I had determined that if God ever places any money in my hands I would save it and utilize it in the service of my community and my faith by lecturing on Zoroastrian religion and its history in the countries of the West. My hopes were raised as a result of my lecture-tours to Gujarat, Bombay, Poona and the Punjab. My wife accumulated in her own account all the cash gifts that were given to me by the various Anjomans of different places. She had managed to collect nearly Rs. 6000/- in this way. This amount would suffice merely to have the book published there. Of course there was the hope of recovering some of the expenditure from its sales later. Ten years ago when I had gone to America to study, I was obliged to go alone. But now I did not wish to go without my wife. With a little more, the two of us could manage to cover our board and lodging, but her coming would definitely increase the expenditure by about Rs. 2000/- due to passage, traveling and other necessary incidental expenses. It did not take us long to solve this problem. As my income did not suffice to meet our household expenditure, since some time my wife had been ordering certain articles from outside Karachi and selling them here, thus earning a bit of income. It is a well-known [353] fact that Hindu widows shave their heads. Such poor widows of Gujarat and Kathiawad are famous for their fine embroidery. Their saris and borders worked in French knots are very popular. My wife collected orders from Parsi families in Karachi and had them executed by these women. Not only was she able to get something out of it, but the poor widows also were able to eke out a meagre livelihood and hence were very fond of her. She also sent for bales of silk cloth from Bombay and derived a fair profit through selling those. She took up the challenge of meeting her travel expenses by purchasing curios and novelties from the States and selling them here. A kind and admiring friend displayed a willingness to loan the requisite amount of Rs. 500 to Rs. 700 for this venture, free of interest. That facilitated matters and eased the situation. We now started to prepare for our intended trip. The Steamship Companies allow a certain discount in their passage to Christian Missionaries in order to assist them in their endeavour to spread their faith. We had no right to such a discount. Yet, thanks to the contrivance of some Parsi authorities in the shipping company and to the kindness of the officers, as Zoroastrian missionaries we were given a rebate of Rs. 150/- in the fare. The Anjuman called a meeting to bid us Bon Voyage and together with their good wishes the community presented me with a purse of Rs. 2500/-

On the 22nd of April 1914 we set sail for Liverpool in the 'City of Karachi'. From there we were to cross the Atlantic in another ship. It would take us five weeks to reach New York. As both of us were good sailors we took a fair amount of work along with us. The script for my book was ready, yet there were many alterations and amendments necessary. My wife took good care to take an ample stock of plaids for sari borders, together with sufficient amount of silk [354] skeins, silver and gold zari and other requisites to embroider the borders. Hence every morning I would sit at my work, while she would spare many hours for her own work after joining in the games and sports provided on board.

As the ship leaves the harbour and enters the high seas, except for a vessel or two passing by, it becomes a tiny world of its own afloat on the surface of the waters with the sky as its sole shelter. It seems as if the passengers on board make up the entire population of the world and no one else exists. The different levels of society that city-dwelling engenders, disappear immediately. On the whole even the mightiest forget their greatness and become one with the humble folk and greet them. For a while the whites shed their colour complex and mix freely with the brown and black. Acquaintances are born, friendships formed and couples linked. Many things appear pleasant, yet at the same time, some very unpleasant things too become apparent. We eagerly inhale a fragrance but close our noses when some unpleasant odour pervades the atmosphere. In the same way we delight in beauty with open eyes, but they are best kept closed on the approach of some evil sight.

There is never a dearth of food and drinks on board, but the food of ships of different nationalities tastes different. From amongst European cuisine, French, Italian and Hungarian food seems to be more to our liking. English dishes do not taste so good. We were even given Indian meals every afternoon. The crew of City Line steamers is comprised of Bengali Muslims. The chief Engineer of the ship, fondly called Uncle Raison was a Scotchman full of good humour. He never tired of reciting the poems of Robert Burns or telling us tales about the Highlanders. In turn I would narrate to him stories from the Shahnamah. He had ordered [355] the Chef to cook some tasty native food for us every afternoon, so we were served delicious chapattis with ghee, some meat dish, palao, etc. Under the Chairmanship of the Captain I delivered two talks. Uncle Raison had made arrangements to show lantern slides on the ruins of Persia, during one of these lectures.

When our ship anchored at Liverpool we stayed there for a day and the following day we boarded the Carmenia, a steamer of the Cannard Co., and set sail for New York. This ship weighed 35,000 tons. We had never voyaged in such a huge ship. The steamer had six decks. We were on the lowest deck, which was many feet below sea-level. We utilized lifts to go up and down. Every morning a newssheet was published on board, which gave us all the latest news of the world. On a voyage from India to Europe several ships are encountered, whereas on this mighty ocean this happens very seldom. Besides, coming from India, Aden, Gibraltar and many other landmarks are touched en route to Europe. It is not so on this ocean. Leaving Liverpool, land simply disappears and is sighted again only after a week on approaching New York. On our ship there were 2,250 passengers, including those of the first to third classes plus the steerage. Although the dining room was spacious, meals had to be served in two sittings in order to accommodate the diners. We had registered our names for the first session on the first day, so we were able to have our breakfast, lunch and dinner early every day. On the tenth day we reached New York.

Shortly after I had returned to India on completion of my studies in America, Prof. Jackson's wife had expired. After some time he had married again and they had visited India via Persia. On that occasion the Karachi Anjuman had given a [356] grand reception in their honour. The Anjuman had presented them with a photograph of the assembly set in a large Persipolitan-style silver frame. This beautiful picture always adorned their sitting room. We had informed them from England of our arrival and of our ship's schedule. The husband and wife had come to the wharf to welcome us and were very happy to see my wife accompanying me for the first time.

We rented a small room in the vicinity of the Columbia University and had our meals at an inexpensive restaurant nearby. At noon we lunched individually as suited our convenience. At eight every morning my wife went down-town to learn some fancy handicrafts. She lunched there while I had mine at the University. We met again in the evening. I wore American clothes, while my wife wore a sari at home, but when she stepped out she became a western dame. At the annual function of the University, I sat next to Prof. Jackson attired in Jama-Pichhodi and she beside Mrs. Jackson in a sari.

I started my series of lectures on 'The Culture of the East' under the Chairmanship of Prof. Jackson. Already I had given six lectures.

As the printing of my book had commenced, Prof. Jackson together with Drs. Ogden and Haas did the proof-reading. We met daily for this purpose. The work at the press was progressing rapidly and to keep pace with it, I had much work to do on the manuscripts before submitting them to the press. In order to fulfill these responsibilities I had to commence work at dawn every day. Our room was lit by a gas lamp, so we did not have the convenience of an electric fan. The heat in summer was intense. As soon as the alarm-clock rang the hour, my wife would leave her bed despite all my dissuasion, and would sit by me and fan me while I [357] wrote. In order to relieve the tension of my mind, she never failed to remind me every week to visit the barber-shop for an electric facial and head massage. This brought real relaxation to my tired brain.

At that time an unprecedented war broke out in Europe-a war such as had never been recorded in the annals of history.

The American nation is composed of a conglomeration of twelve crore people of various nationalities from the four corners of Europe who had come and settled in the New World. In this New World a great, new nation — formerly European but now American — comprised of allies and enemies, linked together in bonds of blood and friendship, lived side by side in peace and harmony, without infringing upon the rights of others or interfering in their regime and enjoying a life of splendour and glory as had never been experienced before. Some had recently arrived from Europe in search of a decent livelihood while there were others who had settled on this propitious soil since generations. However all had come to this New World from the Old World that was Europe; hence this great World War had placed Americans in a very embarrassing situation. An Englishman may have a German wife or a Frenchman an Austrian mate or the offspring of the allies may have been married into enemy families. Everywhere conflicting ideas and emotions were obvious. In gatherings or in cinemas if some news came regarding one side or the other, on one hand were heard cries of rejoicing, yet from another end came hissing and booing. Crowds would collect around the offices of the press to hear the latest news, and even there disputes arose for and against different parties. President Wilson appealed to the nation to maintain benevolent neutrality and to remain detached and, despite being entangled in an extraordinary [358] perplexity and confusion, the nation controlled its feelings and conducted itself admirably.

At the end of my lecture to the Vedant Society the Swami entertained us to a vegetarian dinner. Many newly-arrived Indians were present at that function. Among them were the famous scientist Sir Jagdeshchandra and Lady Bose, the Punjabi patriot, Lala Lajpatrai, whom I had met several times in 1908 in London and Maulvi Mohommed Barkatul'ah of Bhopal whom I had met regularly in New York from 1904 to 1908. Toasts were taken at the table and my wife replied in Gujarati to the toast that had been taken for the ladies. A Hindu gentleman translated it into English.

Sir Jagdeshchandra Bose had become famous in our country as a great scientist because of his discoveries. Mrs. Annie Besant said that the discoveries that had been made on the banks of the Ganges by the great Rishis of ancient India, Sir Bose had made, in this age, on the banks of the Thames and had enhanced the prestige of the country. Rabindranath Tagore sang praises of him in his poems. In spite of all these encomiums, the scientists of England had not recognized his services. In our conversations he complained about the fact that Britishers avoided to appreciate the efforts of a native discoverer.

The Indian residents of New York had organized a public meeting to honour Sir Jagdeshchandra Bose. At this gathering he mentioned that Marconi's recent invention of wireless telegraphy had originally been made by him, but as Marconi made a similar discovery and immediately commercialized it, hence Marconi had become famous while he had remained in the background.

[359] During his life-time another Indian scientist like him, Mr. Raman, had been given the Nobel Prize. No such honour had come his way. Not all are equally fortunate to witness their work being sufficiently appreciated.

Rev. J. T. Sunderland of the Unitarian Church had arranged a tea-party in our honour and he took us around the environs of New York. He was one of the leading Americans residing in New York who was in sympathy with the political movement of the Indians. He gave a luncheon at the Civic Club to Sir and Lady Bose, to Lala Lajpatrai and to us and he invited many priests to that function. After lunch Sir Bose spoke for about half an hour on his discovery. Lala Lajpatrai spoke on the Arya Samaj and I talked to them for the same length of time on Zoroastrianism.

Lala Lajpatrai met us several times. He was desirous of examining the problem of the one crore Negroes of America with a view to enhancing his knowledge regarding the very vast populace of untouchables in India. For this I introduced him to Dr. Giddings, the renowned head of the Department of Sociology at the University. Thereafter we assembled four times to discuss this question. Rev. Dr. Hume, the one-time professor of the Wilson College at Bombay, was working as a professor at the eminent theological seminary (where Christian priests were being trained) and which was affiliated to the Columbia University. He had invited Lala Lajpatrai and us to lunch one afternoon. After lunch he showed us around the various classes for nearly two hours and explained their mode of instruction. That evening, while parting, Lajpatrai lamented and wondered when impoverished India would be so fortunate as to be in a position to impart religious education to the millions of ignorant Brahmans so that they could become real religious leaders and guides of society. [360] He added that Hindus may or may not do so, but the proverbially generous Parsi community would surely rise to the occasion. My reply was that it was not possible for a similar institution to be equally successful in the completely different conditions of eastern and western countries. The priests who were prepared at the American Seminary were able to go to the five continents of the world in order to spread their religion or to render other services to the public at large. In the West novices were tested on the touch-stone of knowledge to become priests, whereas in India Brahmans and Mobeds inherited their right to priesthood. In spite of that, there was a vast field amongst the 22 crore Hindus for educated Brahmans to offer their services; whereas. though there would surely be someone who would establish an institution to educate the Mobeds, there was hardly any such scope for the educated mobeds who stepped out of that institution to render service through which they could maintain themselves. For, on the one hand the entire community totaled one lakh and even amongst those. families capable of providing a secure maintenance have been monopolised as clientele by certain priests, leaving no place for new-comers. He agreed with my ideas.

Maulvi Barkatullah's motives were beyond my comprehension. He was a radical and belonged to the extremist party in India. That I was aware of but there was more in it than met the eye. In a few days he left New York. It came to light later that he remained in Turkey and worked against the Allies. After two years, when the English court-martialed a large band of Indian spies working for the Germans (one of whom was a Parsi Youth) and had them shot at Kermanshah in Iran, it was rumoured at first that he was [361] amongst those. But as he was destined to have a long life he managed to escape to Afghanistan and save his life.

At that time two co-religionists of Bombay who were on a world tour had been to China and Japan and had arrived in New York via California. They had experienced the notorious treatment that WI8 see depicted on the cinema screen about American gangsters. Their train had been stopped in a valley by highwaymen. All the passengers were forced to alight and were stood in a row. They plundered whatever valuables were available in their luggage or in their pockets. One of the Parsi gentlemen was wearing a large diamond ring. In an attempt to save it he cleverly put the same in his mouth. When it was his turn to be searched a bandit struck him on the stomach with a staff and asked where he had come from. In an endeavour to answer, the hidden ring tried impishly to peer out. Just as he was struggling to replace it under his tongue, that fellow slapped him hard. As a result the ring pierced his jaws which bled profusely and the hidden ring fell out. The bandit not only snatched the ring but as a punishment for attempting to cheat him, he struck him again. These gentlemen could not complete their trip. It was no longer possible for them to tour Europe, so it was decided that they would voyage back with us when we returned to India on completing our mission and so they remained in New York for two more months.

My main job of publishing the book was over. My lectures had been delivered. My wife had learnt many new things. She had purchased goods worth Rs. 6000/- with a view to sell them in India. News from the war-front was growing increasingly alarming, daily. The new threat and terror of the submarine was well on its way. Ultimately, with God's name on our lips, we and our traveling [362] companions had our passages booked on the 'Transillvania' a newly commissioned ship of the Cunnard Coy. which plied between New York and Liverpool.

The ship started from Liverpool on its maiden voyage. She struck against a mine along the Irish coastline but escaped with minor damages. Hearing this news our friends lost courage. They cancelled their passages and arranged to return to India via Japan and China. They tried to persuade us to do likewise. We had return tickets from Liverpool to Karachi. We did not have the money for a voyage via Japan and China, so, with a prayer in our hearts, we set sail for Liverpool by the same ship.




The sea gets stormy during the monsoons at our end. During that season the Atlantic Ocean which stretches between America and Europe, is calm, and thousands of wealthy people and businessmen voyage to various countries of Europe for pleasure, for health or for business. As schools and colleges enjoy their long vacation then, professors, teachers, scientists, writers, tourists and others explore the old world at that time. Every year, during this season, the proprietors of hotels and restaurants of Europe, its shops, theatres, cinema houses, opera houses, eagerly await the advent of American tourists. During that period, Fortune's favourites, who are rolling in wealth, lavishly spend their millions and gladden the hearts of the recipients.

For at least three months in winter, it snows there. It is extremely cold. Huge gales sweep the oceans during that season. Gigantic ships weighing fifteen to fifty or even seventy-five thousand tons, toss and roll and struggle along their course. Naturally the sailing strength falls considerably at that time, and the steamship companies curtail their rates. By voyaging in this season we were saving Rs. 200/-, which was indeed a very sizeable sum for us.

There were very few passengers on board and everything seemed so lonely and desolate. Even the diners were very few and one sitting sufficed. On days when glaciers glided down and gigantic waves dashed against the ship and made it roll and pitch and lightning winds made it dance at will, only a handful dined at table. We encountered three gales en route. Two storms caught us in daytime. Thanks to the daylight and the companionship [364] and reciprocative courage of people, they did not seem so awful. The approach of the third storm was heralded by evening and by nightfall its torment attained great proportions. Darkness and desolation always render every difficulty more dreadful. Under such circumstances sleep is out of question; but when the steamer starts pitching, a terrible fear grips us as it dips into the depths of the sea lest it should never come up again. Similarly when it begins to roll from side to side, just as empty cases rumble when tossed about, this huge, steel case makes such a thundering noise that every limb in the body seems to turn limp and lifeless.

Owing to the stormy sea we were expected to reach Liverpool on the 13th day after leaving New York. Nearing Liverpool the sea became very calm. On the ship's Notice Board it was stated that afternoon that as the steamer was to anchor at eight that night, dinner would be served an hour earlier than usual. In anticipation of sighting land after almost a fortnight's turmoil on the sea, everyone completed his normal routine quickly and dressed with more care than customary and began to pace the deck. Even those who for twelve whole days had lain almost semiconscious were refreshed and revived. Apart from the steamer not casting anchor, no city lights could be sighted as is seen at night-time miles away from land. The ship was moving forward in darkness. Eight o'clock turned to nine and ten and eleven, but there was no hope of a single ray of light to dispel the gloom of darkness that enveloped us. Everyone was growing restive and soon impatience gave 'way to anxiety. The passengers anxiously questioned the passing crew, but they went their way giving some evasive answer.

[365] We stood against the railings making all kinds of conjectures. Just then a white man whom we did not care for much, came and leaned against the railing not far from us. For some inexplicable reason we had not taken to him, for his behaviour had seemed somewhat peculiar from the very first day and his movements appeared rather shady. In the beginning his cabin was across ours. The following day our heater went out of action and as it was unbearably cold even in the closed cabin, we had our cabin changed. There was this advantage to it that we were somewhat removed from the vicinity of our unpleasant neighbour. In spite of that it would so happen that he would always be sitting beside us in the sitting room. Often we would catch him staring at us and it appeared as if he were trying to over-hear our conversation. Not once in thirteen days had he spoken to us. He was an Englishman of about forty. After a while he came near us and to our great surprise greeted us in Gujarati and spoke a strange sentence that shocked us. He said, "Now you must be anxious to get back to Navsari to enjoy 'Papri-nu-umbariun and Bhujan' (typical Parsi dishes) and to drink toddy". Thus, he not only spoke Gujarati, but seemed well-versed in Parsi customs and ways of living. During the course of the conversation it transpired that he had been serving in the police department in Gujarat since fifteen years, six of which had been spent around Surat, Dumas and Sachin. Since the last three years he had been sent as a detective to New York and he was now returning to India. We did have some slight suspicion that he may be a detective, for we were aware that there were some Indian CI Ds in New York. When I left New York in 1908, I knew of the mutinous movements of some Indians. Later, as their numbers increased and they were under suspect, they turned their steps towards California. During our stay in New York this time, the Hindus residing there complained about the detectives. Besides these paid detectives of the [366] police department we had also heard that some Americans who had been to India offered their voluntary services and on receipt of some information conveyed it to the British Consul. Rev. Dr. Justice Abbot of the American Mission was a professor at the Wilson College at Bombay for many years. Retiring from his post he had come to New York since some time and had settled there. He wrote a treatise on the lives and works of Sant Tukaram of the Deccan and of other Maratha hermits. Indians regarded him with suspicion and did not countenance him in functions arranged by them. Later the Zoroastrians of Bombay were also employed by the Indian government for such activities. Now that the secret of our disagreeable fellow-traveler was revealed we parted on a happier note.

Liverpool that was to be reached at eight was nowhere on the horizon even up till midnight, so eventually the disgruntled and disappointed voyagers crept back to their berths. Fear dispelled sleep so after a restless night, even those who were wont to lie in bed till late, left their cabins by dawn and re-assembled on the deck. All eyes strained in search of the longed for land but no sign of Liverpool could be sighted. As time passed facts came to light. It seemed that the Captain, having received intimation of German submarines seeking their prey in nearby waters, had wisely diverted the ship's course and steered it out of danger. Now that the "all clear" signal had come the steamer was heading towards the harbour. By noon the ship reached its destination.

We had to return to Liverpool in order to take the steamer for Karachi; so we left all our luggage including the six trunks that contained my wife's purchases which were meant for sale, in the warehouse of the steamship company and proceeded to London.

[367] Shapurji Saklatvala had gone abroad with his family for a short stay. We lodged at a boarding house that had been opened by a Zoroastrian. After 1855, the year in which Dadabhoy Naoroji, Muncherji Hormusji Cama, and Khurshedji Rustomji Cama established the first Parsi and Indian firm in London — the Cama Company — several other firms were founded and many Parsi families started to settle there. When their children were of age the parents took them, to India and performed their Navjote ceremony. This practice was beset with many difficulties, Some child may be ready for the Navjote but due to business commitments it was not possible for the elders to leave the place for three or four years, then their uneasiness increased. Mr. Rustomji Rattonji Desai, an enterprising Athornan gentleman, who had been a practicing priest in his earlier days but had taken to business later and was carrying on a flourishing trade in. London since years, took advantage of my presence and requested me to perform the Navjote ceremony of his grown-up daughter. I willingly complied with his request, Because of the Zoroastrian Conference all my activities were impeded under, one pretext or another, hence we had taken all possible precaution. not to give cause for complaint. We had managed to obtain sandal wood and frankincense with great difficulty and from a great distance we had secured the leaf of a pomegranate. Care had been taken to bathe and purify the initiate according to custom. What was lacking and upon what was founded all future controversy, was the Nirang, i.e. the sanctified bull's urine. My wife had collected all the requisites of happy augury as per Parsi practices. Empty salmon and sardine tins had been perforated in auspicious designs of fish and cocoanuts and prepared as boxes to imprint chalk on. the doorways. Nor had she failed to fill the sopara with chocolates and sweets. The Caxton Hall was adorned with garlands and 'chalk' imprints and the “ses” [368] 'sais' was duly prepared. This very first Navjote in Europe was performed with due ceremonies and rejoicing 'midst a large and distinguished gathering of all the co-religionists residing in London, many prominent Englishmen and Parsi doctors who had come from Brighton and other places to serve in the military due to the war. At the conclusion of the Navjote I delivered a sermon and Sir Muncherji Bhawnagari thanked me.

By the grace of God everything passed off very happily. But later the question was raised in Bombay whether this Navjote could be considered valid or not. Dasturs and Ervads spent many precious hours in trying to solve this perilous problem and certain revered orthodox Dasturs and Ervads expressed the opinion that the Navjote was null and void. The reason given was that the custom born in ancient times-which has found a footing in the community considered to be educated and progressive, namely that of giving the child the consecrated taro together with the pomegranate leaf — was not adhered to.

Thus the first Navjote performed in London came under fire but today the performance of Navjotes there is quite common. Students of the priestly class going there for study or doctors who have been initiated as Navars and are practising in London, wear the white turban when necessary and go to the assistance of co-religionists living in far-flung places, and fulfill their pledge to the faith. At that time I gave five talks in London.

The big and small nations of the world were engaged in fighting the most disastrous, bloody and unprecedented war of all times. Nations that were full of joy and laughter were steeped in sorrow and tears. Half the world was in mourning. England was wearing the widow's weeds. Innumerable hearts in every home were shedding [369] tears of blood for the loss of loved ones in the prime of youth. A great deal of ill had already been wrought, but unbearable evils were yet to come. That was the London of 1915.

Steamers had become scarce, so we had to remain in London for six weeks, At last, on securing passages we set sail from Liverpool for India by the 'City of Cairo'. Amongst the passengers were thirty English maidens The war office was sending them to India at government expense. On reaching India the priest would help them to secure suitable military mates and to get them married. This seemed beyond our comprehension. But the day following the arrival of the ship, it was published in the press that the priest had procured a partner for each young lady. God alone knows how many of these were fortunate to remain unwidowed by the time the war ended in 1919.

We had to pass through all kinds of trepidations while passing through the Mediterranean. It was pitch dark at night on board the ship. At intervals submarines of the Allies would appear and leave various messages with the Captain. Near Malta, a British torpedo boat stopped us for several hours from proceeding further and allowed us to go forward only when the sailing was safe. Some months later, at the same place, the ship that had set sail from Karachi with the well-known scholar of Zoroastrian literature, Rev. Prof. James Hope Malton on board, was sunk, As the students of his college had gone to serve in the war, he had come to work in India under the patronage of the Y.M.C.A. In the beginning he remained in Karachi for five days. During that time he spent two or three hours every morning in my library. Two months prior to his leaving London he had lost his wife. After some time news of his son's death in the war reached India. He returned to Karachi [370] after lecturing in Bombay and other places for six months and as his ship was delayed he stayed back in Karachi for eight days. He lectured to cosmopolitan crowds in Karachi. The Anjuman had arranged a big tea party in his honour to bid him bon-voyage. Unfortunately his voyage was not destined to be successful. The terror of submarines was increasing and at times in the course of his conversation he displayed some anxiety as to whether he would reach his native place in safety or not. He boarded the 'City of Paris' after bidding us good-bye. Nearing Malta a German submarine sunk his ship and this fine Christian scholar of Zoroastrian literature found a billowy burial in the Mediterranean Sea.

The entire coastline along the Egyptian border of the Suez Canal was wedged in by lacs of sand bags. The secret German steamer "Emden" was showing its prowess elsewhere. No one knew where it was then. Night and day our ship was on guard, fearing it might give us the honour of a meeting.

We disembarked at Bombay as I had been nominated to preside over the Zoroastrian Conference which was to be held in Bombay on 25th March.

In Bombay delivered eight lectures.


Chapter XXXIX


The first sessions of the Conference had waded successfully through a tumultuous atmosphere, but the agitation against it had not subsided. Constant and combined attempts were made under direction from Bombay to show that the Conference was in no way the mouth-piece of the community and that, besides the Zoroastrians of Bombay, those of other cities too were against it. The protests that were prepared in Bombay were sent to various towns and cities for their signatures. and such signed manifestos were exhibited in public meetings to prove that the co-religionists of the whole country were against the Conference. Over and above that, later a joint protest bearing the signatures of approximately three hundred and twenty-five mobeds from Bombay, Udvada, Navsari, Surat, Broach, Gandevi, Bulsar and Nargol was sent to the Trustees of the Parsi Panchayat at Bombay. It was stated therein that as the reins of the Zoroastrian Conference were in the hands of people whose views on religious matters were far too liberal, the community had no confidence in it and that the Conference was not a communal organization.

When the Conference was inaugurated it was intended that it would be held at a different city every year, but as this could not be done, four consecutive sessions were held in Bombay only. The chairmanship of the fifth conference in 1915 was offered to me.

In spite of the exhaustive efforts such as had never been experienced by the community to prevent the birth of an organization, thanks to Dadabhoy Navroji's benedictory message, Pherozeshah Mehta's complete cooperation and the collaboration of the representatives of many leading families like [372] the Camas, Petits, Wadias, Tatas, Banajis, Dadachanjis, Kangas, Narimans, Sethnas and others, the meetings of the Conference had taken place regularly year after year. The Conference had succeeded in securing the cooperation of the community's wealth, rank. learning and nobility, but quantity was in opposition from its very inception. The Conference had been able to attract the influential minority but it could not secure the affiliation of the masses, hence it failed to be the instrument of the entire Anjuman. The opposition press waged a war against it in full force for three whole years and eventually ceased its persecution — it eradicated it from its annals — obliterated it from its records.

That opened a new chapter for the Conference. It found scope to exist in a serene atmosphere. The season to engage in efforts for the up-lift of the community had set in. It had the chance of proving the necessity of its existence. But the Conference failed to seize this golden opportunity. It proved itself incapable of meeting the challenge of changed circumstances. It could not create the intelligence and vitality necessary to exist in the sunshine of a new era. Those brave warriors who had stood by it and defended its fortress while the opposition was bent upon destroying it with shafts of criticism and reproach, seemed to feel that their work was over — their obligations fulfilled — and each returned to his own abode. Their emotions had been aroused and their sentiments incited to come to its aid during the critical times of its inception. But when calm ensued, they had neither the selfless spirit of service nor the enthusiasm to become the servers of the community.

Besides, as the years passed, those associated with the Conference realised through experience that the resolutions passed from the platform of [373] the Conference and the projects formulated, were as difficult to put into practice as they were simple to put on paper. This has been the common experience of congresses, conferences, seminars and committees allover the world; and it is for this reason that they have been ridiculed as 'a three-days' annual drama.' Due to the lack of sufficient enthusiasm of its supporters and the absence of 1he cooperation of the masses, the Conference closed down after holding its seventh sessions in 1919.

The lesson that the activities of the Conference had taught was that our community was incapable of getting around a conference table and working in a spirit of give and take. Since a long time the community had been divided between the orthodoxy and the reformists, the conservatives and the liberals. The two sections already viewed each other with suspicion; but since the struggle on the non-Parsi problem had commenced, the gulf between them had widened. Nowhere could be witnessed the broadmindedness and tolerance to work on the principle of 'live and let live'. The schemes and ideas of one party were never approved of by the other. Since the middle of the last century the reformist group seemed to be gaining ground. This century started with a reaction against it. Such a situation seemed apparent everywhere. In the Victorian age the new philosophy of evolution of Darwin, Spencer and Huxley had shattered age-old religious concepts and had agitated the minds of the educated elite. Cries of 'Back to Religion' were heard at the commencement of this century everywhere. In the Mansukhian era the conservatives labeled the reformists as disbelievers, rebels and infidels. In the new age, in season and out of season, they qualified the 1iberals as 'anti-Parsi', 'corpse-burners', etc.

[374] The powerful voice of the Parsi press resounded mainly in favour of the conservatives. The life of the reformist press was being increasingly endangered. The first-rate and famous 'Rast Goftar' founded by Dadabhoy Naoroji, having rendered memorable service to the progress of the community, died a natural death shortly after celebrating its jubilee. Sound and solid monthlies and quarterlies, rich with Zoroastrian religion, ethics, philosophy and history, published by the reformists found their heavenly abode no sooner than they were born; whereas immature pamphlets fostering superstition blossomed from their inception. New societies born with the purpose of immortalizing orthodoxy flourished. Amongst the organizations that had been founded during this period, the 'Athornan Mandal' was one that echoed my longed for ideals. But as its founders, advisors and supporters who, though born in the priestly fold were not in the profession, the very gentlemen who were waging war against the reformists, this one and only organization of the Athornan fold came into existence as a one-sided and biased society and there was a flaw in its usefulness right from its inception. For !his reason I cou1d not co- operate with it.

Due to its quantitative strength and the support of the press, the orthodox group was able to forge ahead of the reformist party. As a result, not only did ancient customs, conventions and rituals gain a firmer foothold, but side by side belief in astrology, palmistry, horoscopes and other superstitions revived and regained strength.

Despite every care and caution, the Conference floundered on the rock of religious controversy and was ship-wrecked. The reformists and the conservatives could not work hand in hand. Man's infant religion is the religion of rituals and ceremonials. It is an objective religion. It is bent upon [375] attaining spiritual guidance through external aids and through the strict adherence to customs and conventions. With enlightenment man learns to search his inner self. The prophets teach him the religion of morality and devotion. This higher form of religion is subjective — it is the religion of the mind, the heart and the soul. It contemplates upon the merits of good thoughts, good words and good deeds, and knows that man is the designer of his own destiny. Asho Zarathushtra propounds this noble ideal of religion in his Gathas. But this pure and unadulterated form of religion could not endure long after him. Setting aside the Indo-Iranian religion which was based on ceremonies and rituals, he gave his devotional religion to the world; but in the days of his disciples the ancient Indo-Iranian religion re-captured it and made it a part and parcel of itself. From that time Zoroastrianism became a ritualistic and conventional religion and has continued to be so to this day. Even today the conservatives measure the excellence of the religion not in the scales of its high idealism and its deep philosophic teachings but in those of the finesse of its conventions. They are untiring in their affirmation that the Zoroastrian religion is finer than a strand of hair. They seem to imagine that such statements enhance the stature of our religion.

Our religion is said to have derived this qualification of being finer than hair from the association that Sultan Mahumed Ghaznavi had with our forefathers. It is said that from time to time the poet, Firdausi, composed the Shahnameh at the King's command, the verses were recited continuously at the King's court. The Mullas, nobles and courtiers did not approve of these narratives in praise of Zoroastrian kings and heroes of old, so they complained about them and excited the Sultan's feelings against them. The Sultan summoned their leader to the court and ordered [376] that all of them should embrace Islam, and should they fail to do so they were threatened with immediate execution. The leader of the Zoroastrians pleaded their cause and explained the fine qualities of the religion to the king and begged of him to allow them to continue to practise their faith. The king demanded that he should perform some miracle to prove the validity of their religion. The Zoroastrians accepted this challenge. The mobed began to perform the Yajeshni ceremony and the king and his soldiers beheld its performance from a distance. After a while angels clad in green, riding green horses were seen in the sky. The following day the angels were sighted clad in white and the king and all his men were bewildered. On the third day a black demon riding an elephant was visible in the northern horizon. When the king asked for an explanation the mobeds, after some investigation, revealed that a hair of the beard of the priest performing the ceremony had fallen into the ceremonial implements. In an endeavour to remove it another procession of angels in red passed across the sky. The purport of the narrative was that the religion was so refined that a single hair could compass such changes in the atmosphere.

Such exaggerated notions about the importance of conventions have placed us in the ranks of the most orthodox of all the nations of the world. There is no exaggeration in such a statement. A single example will suffice to clarify the point. According to our religion a noble person is said to be pious, whereas an evil or sinful one is called in Avesta, 'dragvant' and in Pahlavi and Persian 'darvand', Convention classifies all non-Zoroastrians as 'darvands' and they are kept aloof from all our ceremonials. Everyone is at liberty to enter the places of worship of the Jews, Christians and Muslims. [377] Unshod, anyone is permitted to enter even a Hindu temple. We allow no one to step into our fire temples.

Today we frequently hear the term 'best orthodox' being used during a controversy between the liberals and the conservatives. The phrase was born during the decade of the Conference in relation to Sir Pherozeshah Mehta. The constant complaint of the Parsi press against him was that while he was rendering exceptional service to the vast population of the country, he seemed to be completely neglecting his own beloved community and was disassociating himself from all its activities. Four days prior to the inauguration of the First Conference he had invited both of us to tea at his residence. On that occasion I requested him to accede to the call of the community and to give it the benefit of his fine mind and his rich experiences and invited him to honour the Conference with his presence. He laughed and replied that as we were as zealous as the Jews he thought it wisest to keep to himself. He agreed to be present on the final sessions of the Conference and to address it on that occasion. On the third day the atmosphere of the Conference became highly inflammable. He rose to speak and in praising me as the founder of the Conference he remarked that by my stay and study in the free atmosphere of America, my thoughts had been moulded. No sooner had those words escaped his lips than shouts of 'shame, shame' and hissings and booings rent the air and remarks to the effect that 'We do not want such an Americanized dastur', were flung at me. Later he humourously reminded me of his remark regarding our Jewish zealousness.

The very next year, under unforeseen circumstances, he had an opportunity to evaluate the feelings of the community towards him. He had gone to England at that time. According to the [378] ruling of the High Court there was to be an election of the Trustees of the Parsi Panchayat as per its constitution. Bombay was alive with controversy and contention. There was a regular 'tug of war' going on between the conservatives and the reformists. The latter tried to put up as its candidate the most suitable and the most brilliant person. Sir Pherozeshah Mehta's name was on all lips, yet everyone felt that it was almost impossible to get him to contest the election. Telegrams and messages of appeal were sent to him and midst everyone's surprise and joy, his reply accepting the request of the reformists reached Bombay. The opposing camp was terror stricken and the orthodox majority was stirred up through speeches and articles to vote against Sir Pherozeshah. A leader of their group openly declared that as the very important question of the preservation of the religious rights of the community depended upon the Trust Board of the Panchayat, the community should exercise great caution, and beware of being bewitched by the grandeur of a name, and to select only the 'best orthodox' from amongst themselves. This shining star of the community did not seem a suitable candidate in the eyes of this group. In the destructive conflicts of public life, so many incidents are humourous while many more are really ridiculous that part of the bitterness and sting is removed, and there are moments of amusement. Pherozeshah Mehta proved immature on the touchstone of orthodoxy whereas his close friend and equally keen reformist, Sir Hormusji Wadia, won thrice the number of votes secured by Sir Pherozeshah, and he was elected as the 'best orthodox'.

As man differs from man in form and features, he differs in his mental make-up also. When I was studying in New York, at a meeting that had been organized to welcome the delegation of educationists that had come from England to [379] study of the American mode of education, Carnegie, the Steel king, had uttered words which had so impressed me that I had conned them by heart. Narrating an experience of his youth days he said that he was once invited to dinner by an elderly official. Going into the library he had noticed three sentences by Sir W. Drummond carved upon a marble slab. He liked them so much that he immediately resolved that should God ever make him a rich man and he be so fortunate as to build his own house, he would have a library constructed therein and he would surely have those sentences engraved there. Later he did become a wealthy man and had a palatial mansion built in New York. There, and also in the library of his home in Scotland, he had these lines engraved:

"He that cannot reason is a fool;
He that will not, a bigot;
He that dares not, a slave."

Truly, a very large majority of mankind lacks the capacity to think for itself. As he grows man becomes physically an adult and even old, but mentally he remains an infant. Like dumb, driven cattle, he feels safe and secure only in following to the letter all that his forefathers conceived, said or did. Another group believes that 'old is gold'; that only what has gone before is true, and shuts the doors of its mind to any new and independent ideas, refusing to think in terms of altered times and circumstances. It is fanatical — dogmatic. It obstructs man's enlightenment and hampers his progress. The final group comprises of the learned. They are capable of original thinking, but they lack the moral courage to raise a voice against established concepts. They are afraid of public opinion — they dread the taunts and thrusts of the flock. They are always nodding their heads in the [380] affirmative. This pitiable group harbours a belief contrary to its speeches. They live an ambiguous life and possess a slavish mentality.

Man is a credulous being. He is a believer. He has faith. He believes what is worth believing as well as the worthless. He believes what is sane — he believes what is foolish. He believes what is true and what is untrue. Without examination or inquiry, he believes blindly. As he believes all sorts of things — fanciful and imaginary, there are always people everywhere who are ready to mislead and to misguide him. All kinds of jugglery go on in the name of religion. In our supposedly advanced community even today, in broad daylight, before our own eyes are enacted such scenes of deception.

True education broadens man's outlook and helps him to think more clearly, to observe more carefully and to reason more logically. During Lord Sydenham's regime when the controversy regarding changes in the constitution of the Bombay University was going on, the government emphatically stated that the main purpose of education was to make students capable of examining, evaluating and solving every problem that confronted them and to save them from the credulous mentality of believing everything they heard, and to develop a mind that could function on scientific principles.

In their tirade against reformists, the advocates of orthodoxy unknowingly supported and strengthened superstition and weakened the thinking capacity of the community. The capability to think clearly was diminishing. Some weak-minded person would step forward and announce that he had encountered Behram Yazad while praying at the sea side. One person translated the Gathas into English and sent me a printed copy of it. In the preface to the translation he had proclaimed [381] himself to be Lord Soshyosh and wrote to me urging me to propagate his advent in the community through my lectures. Like the Jewish prophet Isaac, the Sasanian Ardaviraf and the Italian poet, Dante, stories were afloat of some people having visited the spiritual realms in the physical body.

On my return from America by the end of 1908 I heard that a Parsi gentleman of Surat had recently come into the limelight making some queer claims. At that time we happened to be on a lecture tour of the towns of Gujarat and we had the opportunity of seeing him at Udvada with his first two main disciples. We listened to his lecture. He claimed that he had been to Persia via Peshawar and had stayed for three years with a mysterious and secret tribe called Saheb Dalaan which lived in the Damavend Mountains and had studied the esoteric side of Zoroastrianism from their leader, Dastur Stroshvarej Murzban! He stated that the tribe was invisible and could not be seen if searched for — so mysterious was it. Later a noble and prominent co-religionist of Peshawar who came and settled in Karachi permanently, related the details of the hardships that had befallen a simple and credulous Athornan who had set out in search of that tribe.

Many a learned and educated man and woman had come forward to accept as gospel truth this fictitious story so far removed from fact and from common sense. After a hundred years of the spread of higher education, a section of the community had developed this pitiable mentality.

This tale of the supposedly Zoroastrian sect that is imperceptible coincides completely with another similar event in our community that took place exactly a hundred years ago. In November 1840 a Muslim, named Sayyed Hussain, had come to Bombay. He introduced himself as an [382] inhabitant of Shri Khatau Khotan in Central Asia. He used to say that it was a Zoroastrian kingdom and that its capital city, Khanba Lake, was ruled by a Parsi king called Gustasp Bahman. In that country there were many fire-temples and 'towers of silence’ and the people spoke Zand and Pazand. Many had been enticed by the narratives of this adventurous gentleman and their hearts throbbed with joy to know that the Zoroastrian dynasty still survives. Seth (later Sir) Jamshedji Jeejibhoy called a meeting of leading co-religionists and Irani Moguls at his orchard at Mahalaxmi and after questioning Sayyed Saheb, resolved that letters be sent to some country near Khotan to find out further details. Another similar meeting was called by Seth Khurshedji Cowasji Banaji. At that meeting: Seth Navroji Fardoonji who had been to Kabuf cross-questioned Sayyed Hussain but he was unable to supply satisfactory answers. In spite of that, many people from the community, led away by emotion, approached the learned Mobed Dossabhoy Sohrabji Munshi, a patron of orthodoxy to compose an address in Persian poetic form and forwarded it to HRH King Gustasp. At the conclusion of the address was added a benediction that 'as long as there is the canopy of the skies above us, may your crown and your kingdom remain resplendent'. Together with that they presented a purse of a thousand rupees to Sayyed Mian and with due honour sent him forth to the Parsi Padsha's court. And he went forever — never to return. Seth Navroji Fardoonji immediately wrote to the British Ambassador in Kabul, Sir Alexander Burns, informing him of the details and requested him to investigate. The Ambassador's reply stated that Khotan was under the Chinese Government and the majority of the population there was Muslim. Neither there nor in its vicinity was there any sign of the existence of a Parsi kingdom. He added [383] as a jest that the Sayyed must be aware of the fact that Parsi pockets are weighty, hence he had contrived to lighten them.

The above incident took place a hundred years ago. But even at the dawn of the 20th century university graduates and collegians with logic for a subject, have inherited the acceptance of such fairy-tales and continue to believe them even today.

From the middle of the last century from time to time the feelings of the community had been stirred to acquire an educated priest class. They longed to have wise and scholarly dasturs like the learned bishops, archbishops and cardinals of Christian churches. Now it seems that they have had a surfeit of educated dasturs. It has been publicly proclaimed that rather than have such so-called educated American dasturs, it is preferable to have less learned but strictly conventional 'Yojdathragars' who religiously abide by rituals and traditions. Conventions and ceremonials were given preference over knowledge. The prestige of performing priests was in the ascendant and many trustees of fire temples honoured their own panthakies by giving them shawls of distinction and elevated them to the ranks of high priests. There was an increase of dasturs in the community.

The decade of the Zoroastrian Conference — 1910-1919 — ended by thrusting the reformists into the background and promoting the prestige of the orthodox party. Side by side it succeeded in becoming an event that confounded ritualism with devotionalism, credited fanaticism as piety, supported superstition, fostered fancies, encouraged gullibility and created a credulity in the community such as would shame the intelligence of the most simple-minded.


Chapter XL


The problem of proselytising which had created such a furore in the community in 1902 again became a burning issue when in 1915 Bela's Navjote was performed in Rangoon. A high ranking Parsi official had first approached me to perform this Navjote. I did not consent. In reply he wrote back to ask what was the purpose of my posing as a reformer. I responded that I did not believe that initiating children born out of wedlock into our faith was a progressive step. After two weeks we left for America. After my becoming a dastur I was often approached to perform such Navjote ceremonies. As I had been appointed the dastur by the orthodox section of the Parsis I made it a point to refuse to perform such Navjotes. This annoyed the reformists and they branded me with having no moral courage. Such rumours often reached my ears, but so far no one had had the courage to say this openly to me.

When we went to Bombay to deliver a series of lectures during the 1919 Zoroastrian Conference, an intelligent and progressive Parsi lady who was respected by the cosmopolitan community and who was an admirer of mine, requested me to perform the Navjote of a relative of hers who was born of a European mother. When I did not comply with her request she retorted: "Then you have no moral courage".

On our return from Bombay to Karachi, after delivering my series of lectures, I resolved to publish a booklet on this issue. Without making any reference to the elderly lady who had blamed [385] me, I published a booklet under the caption "Joodin Saval" and had it freely distributed in different parts of India. Extracts from this publication are being reproduced below.

"If for the last fifteen years a problem has divided the community, it is the issue of proselytisation. It is our misfortune that during the last hundred years, whenever this question has appeared before the community no one has expressed the desire to spread the wonderful religion of Zarathushtra among the people, nor has anyone expressed fear about the dwindling strength of the community and the desire to add to its numbers. But it has always been associated with the issue of marriage with women of another community and on the question of initiating children born of such wedlock with Sudreh Kusti and even more so, has it been associated with the question of bringing into the Zoroastrian fold the offspring of the mistresses of Parsi men. A hundred years ago, in 1818 the Parsi Panchayat of Bombay had resolved to control and stop the admittance of such children into the community. Twelve years after this, the Anjomans of other Parsi settlements resolved to excommunicate people who initiated such children into the faith. In spite of this, we have not been able to stop such Navjotes being performed publicly or in private. In 1882, under the patronage and leadership of some leaders of the community the Navjote of the persons of varied ages was performed at the same time. Even today such Navjotes are being performed publicly and privately. For such Navjotes, not one section of the community — i.e. the progressive group — can be held responsible. The orthodox, the theosophists and the Ilmexnoonites are equally responsible. From my intimate personal experience of the last ten years, I have seen that those who are otherwise very conservative in their views, and who normally oppose tooth and nail the question [386] of proselytising — even they, when the question affects the children of mistresses kept by their relatives or friends, strangely take the lead in getting such children initiated into the faith.

From 1909 to 1919 I was asked to perform Navjotes of fourteen children between the ages of eight and twenty-two, young and old, born of Parsi fathers and their non-Parsi mistresses in Bombay, Karachi, Lahore, Rangoon, Sukker and other places. According to the Zoroastrian faith it is permissible to welcome people of other faiths into our fold. I know full well that in the time of the Zoroastrian Empire people of other faiths were taken into the fold. But at present when Zoroastrianism is no longer a missionary religion and its gates are closed to outsiders, so long as they are not thrown open by common consent, I have not thought it proper to give my sanction to admitting the children of such unfortunate unions through the backdoor. All these Navjotes have been performed through different sources.

After the middle of the last century marriages between Parsi men and non-Parsi women, especially with European ladies, were performed according to the Civil Marriage Act, where the father declared his own faith and the mother continued to maintain her own religion. Yet, the Navjotes of the children of such unions continued to be performed. With the exception of the last few years, children of marriages with European women were welcomed into the fold. But now circumstances have changed. So far men had gone out of the community in search of foreign wives and had enjoyed certain privileges. These were now demanded by Parsi women themselves. This has shocked the community and even those who at one time favoured the marriages of Parsi men and non-Parsi women, have strongly opposed the idea of Parsi women marrying non-Parsi men. The [387] reason for this one-sided viewpoint is obvious. Historically man has, from earliest times, in his private and public life enjoyed certain privileges over women. Even in his moral life he has enjoyed greater freedom. Now, gradually women have begun to voice their feelings and are carrying on a battle against the privileges granted to men and demanding similar rights themselves. Yet traditionally man believes that what he can hoodwink in his own behaviour, he has the right to suppress in the weaker sex. Secondly, lineage is continued through the male. Non-Parsi women are welcomed into Parsi homes, while Parsi women marrying non-Parsis go out of the community. Because of this, we see a King Behramghor or Noshirwan or Khushro-Purvez marrying a Roman or an Indian princess, while we rarely come across an example of a Parsi princess marrying outside the fold. But mankind has now begun to realise that moral codes applicable to men and women cannot differ. Hence, according to this precept if the Parsi Anjuman made up mainly of men, wish to resolve to stop their women marrying out of the community, they will have to agree to observe the same rule themselves also.

"Through years of burning controversy, this problem of Jooddin marriages has on the whole become more confusing and difficult to solve. We have seen at the commencement that this question has not been tackled with the purpose of spreading the good faith or of increasing the dwindling population, hence the value of this has been reduced. Our religion, history and common sense tell us to spread the light of Zoroastrian faith among the unfortunate people, yet just for the sake of giving our sanction to Jooddin marriages, in welcoming their children into the faith and above all initiating into the faith children born out of wedlock (illegitimate) practically the entire community has opposed the issue. As a result, the innocent [388] children born of mixed marriages, have become the victims and Navjotes which were once performed publicly or privately have now been opposed and steps taken to apply sanctions against priests who perform such Navjotes.

Such resolutions are accepted by the majority of the community though there exists a minority which questions the right of the so-called Samast Anjuman to pass such resolutions and are not prepared to give countenance to them.

Lately such resolutions have continued to be passed in one form or another, yet at the same time such jooddin marriages and Navjotes have also continued. Since the turn of the century approximately fifteen marriages have taken place in Europe and America besides India, between Parsi men and foreign women according to the Civil Marriage Act. Apart from that the Navjote ceremony of the offsprings of Parsis and their non-Parsi mistresses have been performed in larger numbers either publicly or clandestinely. On this question there is a rift in the community and the problem is demanding so much attention, that no opportunity is afforded to spare time for other questions relating to the progress and improvement of the community. The true advancement of the community has been arrested. Our sister communities are forging ahead by their own progressive actions, leaving us behind in the race. Caught up in the rivalry of party factions and engaged in maligning one another, we are blind to this danger. In our own interest it is time we put an end to this state of affairs and found some solution to the embittering question.

"At the stage at which this controversy stands at present, the main question that has arisen is whether the majority of the community which is trying to take steps against the mingling of alien [389] traits with their own by demanding resolutions prohibiting jooddin weddings and Navjotes, have the right to do so.

"Freedom of thought and the freedom to worship according to the dictates of conscience are man's precious rights gained during the last century. Since every individual has attained the right of such freedom in equal measure, it remains with society to ensure that the person who wishes to enjoy such privileges should exercise his rights in such a manner that he does not encroach upon the rights of his neighbour — in other words none has the right of unbridled freedom. For by doing so, a neighbour's rights are bound to be trespassed upon. If everyone tries to exercise his own rights outside the limits of law and without any control, society would soon be disintegrated. Therefore, in their own collective interest, members of society have, by their own free will and by their own choice, created laws to control men's deeds. The advanced society of the West has set rules of dress for set occasions. In hotels and restaurants of status in England or 1st Class passengers of the P. & 0. Steamship Company are obliged to don formal dress at dinner-time. On certain ceremonial occasions men in Western attire are obliged to uncover their heads. Thus, from the ordinary rudiments of attire to the more important branches of living, man is not able to be the master of his own desires. If a person belonging to a certain group or a certain social circle does not abide by the established customs and practices of those in authority of that group, then that society can dissociate him or can deprive him of his privileges. It is the privilege of members of a club or a gymkhana to decide whom they would accept as a co-member and whom they would reject. The wealthy and the aristocratic members of communities and nations have thus established a class system whereby they have artfully contrived to keep [390] at arm's length those whom they consider of a lesser status. Due to colour complexes the white races have formulated regulations debarring Asiatics from establishing a firm footing in their countries. Even the American nation which considers itself the fore-runner of freedom, keeps aloof from their daily living nearly a crore Negroes, however learned they be, howsoever wealthy or advanced and professing their own Christian faith. Thousands of male and female converts of noble heritage even, are unable to mingle with the white missionaries who convert them, but exist as a separate society made up by unions and marriages within their own converted group. Thus, when advanced communities, nurtured in an environment of freedom, can set up barriers, admitting or keeping out people at will, our community should also have the right to ban entry into the fold the offspring of mixed marriages or illegitimate children.

"Similarly, the religious leaders of a community being themselves members of that community, cannot go against the wishes of the majority of the community and force it to take within the fold persons they do not approve of. As a priest, having just and pious beliefs, he has the right to initiate non-religionists into the faith, yet, at the same time, as a member of the community he has to obey the social constitution of that community. In the enlightened Christian community we will see that the priests of different denominations cannot always follow the dictates of their conscience where questions of religious significance are concerned. In countries of the West as well as of the East, a priest is bound by the beliefs and wishes of his laity; and, if his own conscientious promptings do not agree with concepts of his congregation, he has to leave the group and establish a fresh circle comprising of people willing to accept his reforms or his alterations.

[391] "Minor reforms relating to superstitious customs can be made from within the fold, but major changes that affect the individuality or solidarity of a community, questions that bear direct significance upon the preservation of the purity of a group or problems of proselytising cannot be dealt with by remaining within that community. In respect of proselytising, those religious leaders who firmly believe that it is their bounden duty to enlighten those non-religionists who come to seek the truth and crave for the light that the Zoroastrian faith offers, yet find that a very major group of the community stops them from doing so, nor have they any hope, by writing, or by preaching to turn the tide of people's thoughts to their convictions, then, they are at liberty to form the nucleus of a new religious group comprising of those who are one with their own beliefs.

“It would be truly regrettable if a new schism be created in our small community but rather than remain within the circle in a state of constant bickering and ill-will and expend all energy on the self-same problem, it would be preferable that a small group of believers be formed who would conduct their lives according to their own convictions and members of the old and new folds while going their own way learn to work in unison. When the Shahanshais and the Kadamis found it impossible to compromise, they divided into two groups, each conducting its life according to its dictates. Today there exists no enmity between these two sects. This has been the case throughout the history of man's religious life. When some individual, on the strength of his own honest convictions, begins to think differently, from the established precepts and practices of a traditional religion, he naturally is enthused with the desire that others should believe what he finds so true and so righteous and he attempts to spread the new light. This results in controversy. The [392] reformer is branded as the disturber of the serenity of the community. Serious aspersions are cast against him; yet he is able to gather around him a small group of believers. If the new belief is not built upon anything substantial then within a short span of time the reformer and the reformists lose interest and that reform is forgotten. If there is any intrinsic worth in that reform, then gradually the opposition fades and the one-time critics become its adherents. It sometimes transpires that the small and therefore weak group of believers of the new thought cling with tenacity to their newly-acquired light and wisdom, being deeply convinced of its reality. The huge majority that is in opposition to its beliefs, does everything within its might to obstruct the smaller group from following its convictions. Out of sheer desperation the minority group bubbling over with the fullness of its faith, finds release and refuge in weaning way from the parent body.

"Now, the smaller of the two groups that has been created out of the Jooddin question, and which upholds Jooddin marriages and Navjotes, and is trying to drift away from the majority group and establish its own sect, should be endowed with certain rare and predominant qualities in order to give birth to and to sustain a new sect. Within its breast must rise a fire that cannot be curbed. It must burn with a passion that brooks no opposition so as to keep aloft its intended alteration. Over-flowing enthusiasm should be its watchword. Those of the community who profess to join this reformist group appear to have reached a stage of bankruptcy in both feeling and in enthusiasm. As mentioned earlier, since the foundation of this controversy has not been laid on the noble ideal of spreading the grandeur of the Zoroastrian faith, any structure raised thereon cannot be assured a sound existence. Reference has already been made to the orthodox gentlemen, who to serve their own [393] purpose, have joined the ranks of those who favour Jooddin Navjotes. Such gentlemen often avow that they have been obliged to take into the fold the innocent victims of unfortunate circumstances of their friends and relatives, yet they are opposed to such a tradition being established in the community. When a sect is born out of mere selfish ends and only to justify its own purpose by admitting into the fold children of parents married under the Civil Marriage Act or of unlawful unions, it cannot enjoy a prolonged existence nor can it serve any beneficial purpose.

"While advising such a minor group against establishing a fresh faction, we should keep in mind their own pitiable circumstances. The taboo of initiating into the faith already existing children of Navjote age, born of parents married according to the Civil Marriage Act as well as any other issue within their lifetime should be done away with. Those in opposition to the jooddin question should withdraw the resolutions passed by them up to date, because they are one-sided and therefore, despite all their threats, mixed marriages and jooddin Navjotes continue to be performed. May be they will try drastic remedies; as in the case of marriage, they may take steps to demand that clandestine Navjotes be registered, so as to check the performance of such Navjotes, yet the result will be the same — viz. that their resolutions will be prejudiced and one-sided. As far as possible such resolutions will be disregarded as they have been during the last fifteen years, and certain people will continue to perform such marriages and Navjotes. Finally, by their constant efforts if the majority group succeeds in bringing the smaller group that is opposed to its views to the brink of desperation, the responsibility of creating a faction in the community will rest squarely on its shoulders. Even at this juncture; if the two parties would jointly come to an understanding to let bygones be bygones and formulate [394] fresh resolutions to preserve the future solidarity of the community, then at least for the time being this dilemma could be brought to an end.

"Indeed such a decision would not bring a lasting solution to the problem. No one can foretell the effect on future generations of resolutions that will seal the gateways of the community's progress. At the moment, until the social atmosphere of the community undergoes a change, it is understandable that, due to the high death-rate consequent upon living in a congested centre like Bombay, the high cost of living, the restriction in the number of marriages because of the dowry system, the fall in birthrate due to family planning and other reasons, the strength of the community shows a downward trend. When we or the generations to come become aware of the danger of our decreasing numbers, then fresh answers will be found to suit the changing circumstances. It is just possible that after decades the community may create an enlightened and educated priest-class and a popular understanding that to spread the good faith and to increase our strength is not only commensurate with the precepts of our religion but also in the interest of our social well-being. The old order may then change yielding place to the new and today's resolutions may dissolve in the light of newer ones. Laws of the greatest nations are liable to change — no laws are infallible or permanent. The tide of time and location have turned their flow to suit circumstances. Let the future community decide for itself what is in keeping with its conditions fifty years hence. Today let both parties bear in mind the present state of the community and in cooperation resolve the jooddin question In a manner suitable to the times and circumstances. It is necessary now to draw the curtain on this question."

[395] When copies of the booklet reached Bombay, an Athornan pleader sent me a legal notice that what I had written about the Ilmexnoom group performing jooddin Navjotes when need arises, was completely contrary to facts and downright insult. No member of the Ilmexnoom group would ever stoop to such a sinful act. Therefore, I should publicly withdraw the accusation immediately otherwise legal action would be taken against me. Every word of what I had written was on the strength of detailed, reliable and responsible sources. A very staunch champion since 1908 of the founder of the Ilmexnoom movement whom we had had the opportunity of meeting at Udvada together with his tutor, had taken with him from his own township to a distant town a mobed who had performed the Navjote ceremony of children of advanced age who had been born of that gentleman's dead brother and a Muslim lady. Before that event a third high-ranking upholder of that movement had come to me in Karachi in company with an elder and had requested me to perform those Navjotes but I had declined the request. As expected, while returning that person had given vent to his opinion to the other gentleman that people said that Dastur Dhalla was a man of courage but that transpired to be false!

Replying respectfully to the notice I stated that what had been written was founded on facts but that I was not in a position to reveal any names. In response another notice arrived. Hence I sent details of the case on to the gentleman who had had the Navjote performed. I was sure that by doing so, he would at once write to the Ilmexnoom lawyer at Bombay that what I had stated was true and that was exactly what happened. In reply to my letter that elderly gentleman wrote to me that in all other matters he was very conservative, but [396] with regard to the jooddin question he believed that it was within the right of our religion to welcome non-Zoroastrians into our fold. He further added that if he had done any particular good deed in his lifetime it was this, of having made it possible to admit the children of his dead brother and his alien consort into the faith. Had he not done so, he would have deemed himself failing in fulfilling the greatest duty of his life and would have been responsible to Ahura Mazda.

Unfortunate circumstances weaken a man's convictions and divide his opinions. I have such personal experience of Zoroastrians coming to Karachi from abroad. They would come to visit me and try to convince me about their faith in their own religion by their heated discussions regarding the sinfulness in moving about bareheaded, in not taking taro, or in not observing the customary taboos. Yet, perchance, should the talk turn to the jooddin question, they would profess that it was obligatory to perform the Navjote of children born of mixed parentage, that it was a mandate from Ahura Mazda himself and so on. From that I would surmise that there was something amiss and it would gradually be revealed that either they themselves or their close relations had been affected by the problem. When the hand of destiny strikes the greatest of the great, then within the flash of a moment their fierce opinions take a somersault. Some day it may be the lot of one person to become the victim of such sorry circumstances and immediately his neighbour, pretending to be very sanctimonious, pelts him with threats and advice. But when it is the neighbours, turn to be caught up in the net of self-same circumstances he seems to become completely oblivious of the past and feigns to be the most broad-minded individual. Some orthodox father happens to send his one and only [397] pampered son to England to be educated. The prodigal son squanders his father's hard-earned twenty-five thousand and returns as ignorant as when he had gone; yet, to crown it all brings with him the additional encumbrance of a fair-skinned offspring of some good-for-nothing mother. Immediately the one-time conservative father sheds his orthodoxy and dons the garb of reform. Man is a strange creature and his behaviour patterns are stranger still. Life is a versatile tutor and experience a skilled sculptor!


Chapter XLI


I had almost finished writing my new book entitled Zoroastrian Civilization. The quotations for its printing, approximately Rs. 7225/- had been received from America. Our intention was to enter Europe via Iran, Baghdad and Damascus and to proceed thenceforth to America; but as shipping arrangements could not be made accordingly, we were to come to Karachi and set sail from there. Our son, Ervad Nariman was to accompany us to join Columbia University to study Persian literature. News of our going to Iran being publicised, a wealthy and enterprising co-religionist of Karachi was ready to come with us. His accompaniment was to be a great advantage to us. He was generous and large-hearted and it was possible that he would shoulder the entire financial burden of the trip thereby relieving us of a great responsibility. But that good gentleman had heard the airy stories of the Ilmexnumites and, believing them to be true, on their strength hoped to make some research concerning them. That there existed in Iran an esoteric Zoroastrian group which had a secret fire-temple there he was certain and he wished to seek it out. Eventually his plans to come to Iran fell through, but he very kindly offered to loan me, free of interest, the quoted price of printing my book and the same day he sent me the required cheque of seven thousand two hundred and fifty. The Anjuman organized a farewell function for us and presented me with a purse of Rs. 2000/- and they also gave me the amounts that had been gifted by Khan Bahadur Nusserwanjee Mehta and Sir Hormusjee Wadia which, together with the interest, had accumulated to Rs. 4000/-

[399] Banished from their own homeland our forefathers had come here twelve centuries ago. Since then there are records of a few Irani co-religionists coming in after a long interval. At the end of the 15th century this influx had increased. From that time those who desired clarification on questions relating to religion, ceremonies and customs wrote to Iran. In 1478 Nariman Hoshang, an inhabitant of Broach, with the assistance of Changa Asha, a wealthy citizen of Navsari, had first gone to Iran as a representative of the Zoroastrians of Navsari, Surat, Broach, Khambat and Anklesar and thereafter many had traveled back and forth. About the middle of the 17th century, a clever esoteric priest, Azar Kayvan, had come here with some of his colleagues and settled in Patna. In 1727 an Irani Zarthosti, Jamasp Vilayat, had come here and awakened the community to the question of our calculation of the days of the year. Thus our direct contact with the co-religionists of Iran kept growing gradually. The chaos that was going on in Iran could not be curbed. At this end the Zoroastrians of India were prospering and under the peaceful and just rule of the British many venues of livelihood were open to the community. As such news spread in Iran, large numbers of destitute Zoroastrian families migrated here during the last century and settled in India permanently.

James Darmesteter, the famous French scholar of Persian literature, had predicted that day by day Iran would become so weak that King Gustasp's northern Iran would go to Russia and King Darayas' southern Iran would be conquered by the British. But the great Designer of the destinies of nations had desired otherwise. The last autocratic King of Iran was Nassiruddin. With him ended the irresponsible regime of the country.

In the beginning of the last century, Japan, the small and insignificant eastern country defeated [400] a mighty nation like Russia and shocked the entire East out of its lethargy. A strong wave of reawakening of a new life and new consciousness pervaded the near and the Far East. In Iran, too, was revived a new hope, a new ambition and a fresh vitality. King Muzzafarddin bid good-bye to the traditional high-handed and dictatorial regime and granted the nation a voice in the government of the land. With the reactionary rule of his successor, King Mohommedali it was lacerated, confused and convulsed but not subdued. After the Great World War of 1914-1918 Iran found its saviour. Iran was re-born. At the dawn of this new Iran, we entered the country.

Despite the centuries of exile from our motherland, Iran, our feelings for that country have not faltered — our sentiments remain the same. Iran is our spiritual home. Iran is the birth-place of our religion, our culture and our glory. The ruins, the historical writings, the pillars, the coins that remind us of our past heritage are all in Iran. Poet Firdausi writes that through the pages of his immortal Shahnamah he has revived Parsi kingship. Similarly we are indebted to the scholars, travelers and archaeologists of the West for having spread the name and fame of Parsis throughout the world by digging up the monuments of Iranian glory from the dust and debris of the ages at the risk of their health and wealth and to have given speech to the writings of King Darayus and his heirs which had been silent for 2500 years. It was impossible to see everything during our trip, because the ruins were scattered in all directions, and those that did exist were unsafe due to bandits and thieves. Besides, to examine them from a scholarly angle much time and money were needed. We had neither at our disposal. We had set sail from Karachi in September 1921 for Bushire and at the end of the same year — i.e. within four months — we were due to take the ship bound for the States. So, just as [401] Thomas Cooke & Co. advertised their round-the-world tour in six months, we could get only a glimpse of the whole of Iran within four months. We had set foot in the country in the time that elapsed between the sunset of the old and sunrise of the new Iran. Kajjar Iran had perished — its last king had left Iran for good and migrated to Paris. But Pahlavi Iran was yet unborn. Its progenitor was still merely the Minister of Defense. When we met him at Tehran this brave warrior was known as Rezakhan.

The discoveries of steam, electricity and other scientific researches had ushered in a new era in the West. Garbed in the strength of these discoveries the West had started to subjugate the East and wherever it had conquered, the implements of the new scientific age had been introduced. Iran had not yet come under its sway. Trade and travel were carried on as in the times of King Jamshed. Railways had not yet found their way into the country. Of all the ships that sailed across the seas, that touched the northern and southern shores of the land, not a single one belonged to Iran itself. There were no electric lights, no factories. Even in a metropolis like Tehran, drinking water was not conducted through pipes. The telegraphic wires that connected India and England passed through Iran but were the property of the British Government. Nothing of the new age could be seen in Iran. Everything was as it had been in the by-gone days of the Vendidad. During the Great War Iran remained neutral and it was used as the headquarters of the armies of the Allies in the East. Small cars and large trucks would be seen moving along the roads of Iran carrying military officers and their stores. When the war ended some enterprising businessmen bought over these dilapidated vehicles and started to run them on hire along certain roads. These modern motor-vehicles now began to compete [402] with the four thousand year old means of transport — caravans of horses, mules, donkeys and camels that had served our Aryan ancestors. It was our destiny to travel in Iran at the dawn of this interchange of caravans of beasts of burden and machine-manned vehicles. As cars were not available on the roads between Bushire and Shiraz, the preliminary journeys of our tour started in caravans. The distance that is easily covered by car today within twelve hours took twelve days.

The discoveries of science have given to man many newer and better comforts; but side by side they have taken away from him many joys and many blessings. When we move about a town on foot we find the opportunity to meet people and enquire about their well-being. Traveling by bullock-cart or in horse-drawn carriages we get the satisfaction of waving to people and greeting them; whereas if we whiz past in automobiles we barely have time to see or recognize people crossing us in other cars. As for flying, cities and towns and inhabitants — all have to be sacrificed. Journeying by caravans causes much delay and many inconveniences and discomforts, but the pleasure it provides is unique. In joining a caravan all kinds of people come our way. Beasts of burden become our companions, Passing through fields and farms all sorts of birds meet us. There is an extraordinary joy in crossing and climbing rivers and lakes and hills and valleys. All the way Nature meets us and greets us and keeps us ever alive. At intervals of fifteen or twenty miles we get the opportunity of seeing and knowing varied forms and features of men and women, their speech, their customs and their mode of life, their homes and the furniture and utensils they use. I had read much about caravans that had come into existence from the time man began to tame and train animals [403] to serve him, but my desire to be part of a caravan and to gain first-hand experience of it was fulfilled only on reaching Iran.

During our travels we had the chance of meeting and getting acquainted with leaders of all classes. Throughout the length and breadth of this new Iran, what we had for years read and heard about the ill-feeling and improper attitude of the Iranian government, its Mullahs and its Muslim masses towards our community seemed like a fairy-tale having no foundation. The mental attitude of the rich and the poor, the young and old seemed to have completely changed. With the upsurge of patriotic zeal throughout the country, all eyes naturally turned to its illustrious past. Hopes and aspirations to revive the renowned greatness and glory of Jamshed and Noshirwan rose high in every heart. One and all viewed with love and respect the religious heirs and descendents of those famous kings who lived in India. They were untiring in their eulogies of the handful of Parsis who, forced by calamities had settled in India, and by their innate qualities, their diligence and their enterprising spirit had come to the forefront of the teeming millions of that country. Wherever we went we were told that if the one-time sons of the soil who were enduring exile could exhibit such ability in far-flung lands as to lift themselves to such surprising heights from the muck and mire of circumstances, then these rightful heirs of the land should come to the assistance of their motherland, Iran, which had with great difficulty, been saved from subjugation, slavery and ruin and living with a fresh faith and hope was struggling to revive the ancient glory of its ancestors. Rezakhan the soldier, had said this to us, and, five years later, on ascending the Peacock Throne, this same Reza Shah said the same thing to Sir Jivanji Mody. The Iranian press wrote in a similar strain and it was the call of the Iranian nation also. The students, [404] the wealthy, the businessmen and the industrialists who visited Iran after us heard the same story that we had heard in 1921. This open-hearted invitation to return to the motherland, to enhance its economy, to elevate its prestige in the kingdoms of the world, to create a new Iran that could revive the memory of the renowned Iran of old, was real and genuine.

At this end too there was great enthusiasm in the community. There was real rejoicing and hopes waxed high. The 'Iran League' was established. A great deal was written. Many new schemes were formulated and goodwill missions were sent. Plans were made to set up mills and factories with Parsi capital; blue-prints were prepared for founding agricultural societies; many stories were afloat about consolidating miscellaneous trades. Twenty-four long years have gone by since this story started, but Iran has not attained what it desired. It was Iran's wish that we return to Iran. become Iranians and participate in the progress of the country and link our destiny with theirs once again. Our request was that as our fore-fathers went to China and greater China for trade and commerce and, having amassed a fortune, returned to their country and lived in peace and comfort, we too should remain as British subjects, continue to be credited as Indians, go to Iran in search of livelihood and, participating in its economic progress through our investments, bring back to and utilize in adopted India the wealth accumulated in the motherland. As these were conflicting ideologies, neither did Iran achieve its aim nor did we.

Nearly a hundred years have gone by since the foundation of the Society for the Welfare of Poor Zoroastrians in Iran and since its first agent, Maneckji Limjibhai Hataria, went to Iran in 1855 to shoulder the responsibility of improving the condition of our co-religionists there. Within these [405] hundred years our community has made wonderful progress in our country. True that progress to the same extent cannot be expected in Iran, because in the beginning its condition was most precarious; yet, even the improvement that could be reasonably hoped for did not take place.

In our country the community has been able to produce sons — and now even daughters — who can gain an honourable status in any branch of science who can compete with boys of exceptional intelligence in our sister communities. No such signs are visible amongst the Zoroastrians of Iran.

We are for ever bemoaning the general condition of the priest class of the country. The condition of the mobeds of Iran is infinitely worse. In vain do we seek a single enlightened Athornan who can guide the people by his knowledge. Making capital out of this miserable plight of our co-religionists, shrewd Bahais constantly convert our Zoroastrians into their faith.

Amongst the Zoroastrian population of Iran there are today about ten or twelve people who could be considered as millionaires. But while on our side generous donors contribute thousands and millions towards charity, no such large heartedness is forthcoming in Iran. Are they, then, so miserly? It can be said in their defense that practically up to the end of the last century, the accumulated riches of the wealthy were not secure. Should the king or his courtiers come to know that someone had a great deal of money, their gaze would concentrate on him and by fair means or foul his wealth would be extracted from him. Such a state of affairs no longer exists. We can wish that the more fortunate co-religionists of Iran will learn to extend their helping hand and their generosity for the betterment of their community.

[406] We saw all the ruins that were encountered en route and I lectured in Shiraz, Isphahan, Tehran, Kazvin and other places. Arbab Kaikhushru Shahrukh gave us a farewell dinner at Tehran and presented me with a precious Persian carpet and a silver vase of Persian workmanship. We returned to Karachi via Baghdad and Basra. The following year my wife published a book entitled My Travels in Iraq and Iran.


Chapter XLII


After an eight days stay at Karachi, we set sail with our son, Nariman, in the 'City of Harvard' for Southampton with stoppages at Port Sudan and Port Said. The captain of the ship was a well-read man who took an interest in the affairs of the world. He conversed with me on various topics. Referring to Ireland and the separation of Ulster, he said with feeling that religion was the main cause of the division in Ireland. The Protestants were against the idea of the rule of the realm falling into the hands of the Catholic majority. They honestly believed that the conservative Catholics would definitely hinder the culture and progress of the country as they were the enemies of any sort of real reform. I gave a lecture under the captain's chairmanship. We spent the festive X'mas and New Year season on the Mediterranean.

We spent a day at Southampton and boarded the "Carmenia" bound for New York. This was the second time we were sailing by this ship. During the war it was equipped with guns, etc. and converted into a man-of-war. Now once again it had resumed its former task of carrying passengers and mail across the Atlantic. After enduring eight days of severe cold and snow and storm of January we reached New York.

We took up lodgings opposite the university. There was a cafeteria on the ground-floor of our premises, where inexpensive food was available so we took advantage of it. I was preoccupied with the publication of 'Zoroastrian Civilization', and whenever an opportunity arose I delivered lectures. My wife went downtown daily to learn varied handicraft.

[408] Kind friends had sent us two return tickets to visit the Niagara Falls and had written to relatives to arrange about our stay. We stayed there three days and returned after seeing these fabulous falls of nature. As our work was over we left New York for Europe.

Shapurji Saklatvala had purchased a house in London where we resided as his guests. This time we had not planned to stay long in London. Arrangements had been made to load our heavy luggage on our ship which was to sail from Liverpool, but we were not due to board the steamer from that port. My wife had borrowed Rs. 7000/- from a well-wisher at Karachi in order to purchase material. From part of this amount she had bought two expensive sewing and embroidery machines from New York. The balance she intended to utilize in purchasing things from Germany, Austria and Italy. She had received authentic information that goods were available at reduced rates at these places as their currency was being devalued. Our ship was to anchor at Naples so we had planned to board the ship from that port.

Four days we spent in Paris, purchased some material and went to Berlin. As a result of the war the people were enduring unbearable hardships. Both the conqueror and the conquered had become bankrupt. Misery, wretchedness and grief greeted us everywhere. The whole of Europe had been wrecked. But the distress of Germany and Austria was dreadful. People were starving and infants deprived of the nourishment of milk looked pale and haggard. The pound sterling which is in normal times valued at twenty or twenty-two German Marks, had now fallen to 3500. And it seemed that the Mark was dying a slow death. My wife had the satisfaction of having purchased good stuff at cheap prices.


From Berlin we went to Vienna. Here the chapter of currency had reached its zenith. One pound fetched three lac seventy-five thousand Krones. We had to fill our pockets with notes of a thousand to a lac Krones. The daily hire of the hotel room was eighty thousand Kronin, Breakfast, a cup of coffee and toast for the two of us cost eighteen thousand Krones. Everything was calculated in these terms. My wife displayed the large heartedness of tipping waiters and porters in thousands. At one large store she purchased stuff worth three and a half lacs at a stroke and piled notes of lacs and thousands on the Manager's palm. For the first time in our lives we had become millionaires. But our destiny to dispense with thousands and lacs ended within five days, for we crossed the Austrian border and stepped into Italy. Starting from the States we had dealt with six different kinds of currency — American, British, French, German, Austrian and now Italian. It was a real botheration to exchange the balance of one currency into another every time we crossed a border and went into a new country. Even more confusing was the checking of passports and the custom's clearance at every frontier.

In Venice and Milan we bought many locally made things and proceeded to Rome. Here we were informed that a patriot named Senor Benito Mussolini and his compatriots had staged a military coup d'etat and established a dictatorial rule. Martial law had been declared. All commerce and communication had ceased. At last we went to a hotel near the station and the porters conveyed our luggage there on trollies. For two days we walked wherever we could. On the third day, tram-cars were back on rails and cars moved about. In spite of that a military man accompanied every tramcar and rows of soldiers could be seen stationed along the roadside.

[410] In every big city we visited its museums, art galleries, palaces and places of interest and looked through them carefully. Besides seeing all these things in the cities of Italy we spent much time in looking around the churches and places of pilgrimage of Milan and Rome. Of all the museums that we had seen in America and Europe the Vatican Museum appealed to us the most. Our tour ended at Naples. The ship was to leave within four days, so we took the opportunity of viewing the ruins of Pompeii and the Vesuvius volcano. The papers announced that the Vesuvius had become active; yet having come so near it we felt we should have a glimpse of it. So we joined the band of tourists and visited it. In the Pahlavi Bundahishn it is stated that at the time of the Resurrection the earth will be overrun with the burning, flaming, fiery floods of the metals of Sherevar Ameshashpand and the souls of all who have existed in the world will have to pass through that river of molten matter. The Vesuvius when it erupts has from time to time burnt to ashes everything that surrounds it. The people have become accustomed even to its terror. Mounds are formed of the lava that is thrown out of volcanoes and people build homes on them and live there. As though it were emptying upon us the heat of the anger hidden within its vast infernal regions, for a minute or two it emits huge clouds of smoke and steam all around.

"The City of Calcutta" which had set sail from Liverpool with most of our luggage arrived at Naples. We had voyaged by this steamer previously. Besides, Uncle RaIson, the Chief Engineer of the "City of Karachi" had also been transferred to this ship. He was getting on in age and was to retire soon. For the first two or three days the passengers were enjoying some jokes at our expense, [411] and all unknown to us, Uncle Ralson added to their amusement. Eventually the story reached our ears. According to our usual habit and temperament the two of us always moved about together and enjoyed each others companionship. There was nothing unusual about it. But our co passengers fancied that we were lavishing exceptional attention upon each other and were engrossed in each other all the while. 0nly newlyweds could behave thus and they came to all sorts of queer conclusions. There was a difference of only three years between us, but strangers were led to believe I was much older. Pointing to my wife someone in New York had once asked whether she was my daughter. Our fellow-voyagers concluded that I was married a second time and was on a honeymoon with my young bride. They may have enquired of Uncle RaIson and that merry old man in good humour had confirmed their fancy. Eventually when the story came to light my wife showed them the photograph of our family and informed them that she was the fortunate mother of six children. I gave two lectures on the steamer.

On reaching Bombay my wife got busy disposing of the goods she had purchased.

During the decade of the Conference I visited Bombay every year and delivered a series of talks on each occasion. We had no suitable accommodation in Bombay in those days, so the members of my party arranged for our stay with one kind family or another. Invitations poured in from various organizations so we had to extend our stay longer than desired. In doing so we were obliged to trouble our good hosts even further which we did not favour. Hence we gave up the idea of going to Bombay every year. This time as we had to return to Karachi via Bombay, I gave nine lectures [412] under the auspices of different associations. These speeches were being delivered after an interval of three years since the cessation of the Conference. As usual the audiences were very large although there were some controversial articles that flowed from the pen of the opposition party.

After a five-weeks' stay in Bombay we reached Karachi after a ten months' absence.

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