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Chapter XLIII


All things revolve around man. Had man not been born many things would not have existed. Religion is born because of man. Morality exists because man exists. Man cannot live without religion and ethics. The latter cannot exist without man. They are linked from birth and remain together throughout life. In the Frawardin Yasht Ahura Mazda informs us that Gayomard, the first man, heard the prime message of his religion. Religion and morality appeared with the advent of man. Religion and ethics were born twins. Man is their maker, creator and producer their seedling, their sustenance. Man gives birth to both, rears them and radiates them.

Insects, birds and animals can exist only by mingling with their own species. Man too cannot exist without the cooperation and companionship of other men and communion with them. Life cannot be lived alone and in solitude. Not only in closeness of the family but in the solidarity of kith and kin and companions and tribes can men make up a happy group life. In co-existence alone lies the safety and security of their life and property. There alone lies the way to progress.

Large and small groups comprised of people of varied tastes, talents and temperaments, cannot endure without some set rules of conduct and deportment. The necessary laws, regulations and customs that guide and govern, conduct and control the behaviour patterns of members of a tribe are called as ethics.

[414] The infant begins life with a blank page, then sees and hears and imbibes all kinds of experiences from the drama of life and learns new and fascinating lessons every day. With the passage of time such customs and rules of conduct of tribes, sects, creeds and communities continue to increase. Later, amongst them is born a Manu or a Hammurabi or a Solan of exceptional intelligence. Such exalted men collect these customs and regulations and reforms and reconstruct them and frame them into a code of ethics. All are bound to abide by the rules and regulations set in such authentic laws of behaviour. On the honest and faithful adherence of the individual to these laws depends the safety, happiness, peace, prosperity and progress of society.

In the school of life man begins to learn the rudiments of religion and ethics at one and the same time. He sees the sun, the stars, the skies and the moon above him. At times torrential rains pour down from the clouds that float overhead. All around him he sees land and water, mountains and fountains, rivers and lakes, flowers and fruits. Everything evokes joy; yet at times, some things cause sorrow too. He experiences thunder and lightning and earthquakes and floods. Enjoying a sound and strong body, man goes along happily with his work, when some day suddenly he falls ill and becomes disabled and bed-ridden. Then something happens that clouds all other joys and sorrows. Some loved one who erstwhile had walked and talked, sung and danced, laughed and smiled, suddenly dies. All these things and many more eventful experiences he can barely comprehend. Gradually light dawns on him. Within his tribe he finds good as well as bad persons. Similarly, he begins to believe that he exists midst some invisible, secret forces of good and evil. He decides to please and pamper the good spirits and to destroy the evil ones.

[415] As the horizons of his mind expand he begins to understand the difference between virtue and vice; he believes that all good qualities emanate from some hidden, good beings, angels and gods, whereas all evil qualities have their source in demons and devils. From time to time and in different places, amongst men is born a saint or a sadhu, a rishi or a sufi, a predictor or a prophet who enfolds the secrets of life and death, and enlightens them about the realm of the spirit, the soul, the Supreme Being and many other matters of extreme importance. Religion and morality work side by side and have similar duties to perform. Both are the moulders of man's character, making it forever finer and nobler. The difference between the two is, however, that morality is supported by social sanction whereas religion has divine sanction as its mainstay.

Society is the custodian of the codes of morality and the chastiser of those who transgress these laws. Spiritual angels are the guardians of the commandments of religion and the souls of those who violate them will be judged after death by Ahura Mazda's divine jurors.

It is true that the function and purpose of religion and ethics are one and the same, but codes of morality have been framed by mortals and they are their keepers and their dispensers, Religion did have its birth through man and it bloomed and blossomed; but finally the prophets of God perfected it and the ultimate justice of religious or irreligious people is meted out by Yazads and Amshashpands; hence, naturally, religion ranks higher. Because of this morality has always been known as the handmaid of religion.

After our advent to India, a hundred and fifty years have gone by since public schools have been opened for the children of our community. Such [416] schools were at first known as 'institutions for teaching Zend Avesta and Gujarati. The Parsi populace of Karachi dates back to about a hundred and twenty-five years. The first institution established in 1859 was called, as in the township of Gujarat and the schools of Bombay, The Karachi Parsi Balakshala for teaching Gujarati and Zend Avesta. Of course the knowledge of Zend Avesta in such schools was limited to making children learn by rote the prayers necessary for the Navjote ceremony and whatever moral instruction the mobed was capable of imparting.

Later some amendments were made and modern methods of imparting religious and moral instruction were introduced. In 1876 Ervad Edulji Kershaspji Antia published a booklet entitled 'The Zoroastrian Religious Instructor'. From 1885 the Rahnumai Mazdayasnan Society commenced the publication of its series on Zoroastrian Religion and Ethics. As a result of the enthusiasm enkindled by Prof. Jackson on his first visit here in 1901, "The Society for the teaching of Zoroastrianism and the spread of its knowledge' was established in 1903. Under the auspices of this Society its new series was published from 1907 to 1910. Besides these, a few books on religious education were published by various authors.

The Rahnumai Society's series is utilized by the schools that are sponsored by it. The books published by the society established in 1903 are used by schools run by the Parsi Panchayat. The largest number of schools of Bombay impart religious and moral science through the teachers appointed by the 'Bombay Jashan Committee'. These teachers, instead of using any of these books, instruct according to their own choice and ability. In this way, in all Parsi schools of the subcontinent, religious instruction of some sort is given compulsorily.

[417] In spite of this, constant complaints are heard that our younger generation is growing up without any knowledge about their religion. Particularly if some un-Zoroastrian event happens in the community, the orthodox and even the reformist press voice such opinions. If we consider this question dispassionately and carefully we will soon find that the children and adults of our community receive a larger measure of religious and moral instruction than is given to the members of any other faith. In our communal institutions religious education has been given since at least sixty to seventy years. Over and above this, innumerable organisations of varied ideologies that exist in our community for the diffusion of religious knowledge are constantly delivering lectures and sermons. Some associations run special classes for the spread of religious knowledge. On religious festivals elocution competitions on religious subjects are organized for boys and girls from public platforms. Readings from the Shahnameh are held for them. They compete for prizes through writing essays on various religious topics.

In proportion to our numbers more Parsi daily and weekly newspapers and monthly and quarterly magazines are published than any other community is fortunate to receive. Of these at least five are meant particularly for publishing articles on Zoroastrian religion, ethics, philosophy, history, philology, etc. But to eclipse all these our newspapers are shouldering the pious responsibility of a strange sort of venture in religious education. This is not the job of the general press. It is not their duty nor their purpose. But our newspapers, forgetting their prime obligation to serve and guide the community in its economic, political and national policies, are posing as religious experts and filling their pages with articles ranging from spiritualism to materialism. When [418] these are the facts, then on what grounds does the press and the public continuously chant elegies bemoaning the ignorance of the community about the faith of its ancestors?

Schools all over the world impart their particular mode of religious instruction in their institutions. In the West the Christians conduct Sunday schools. Yet it is the opinion of many thinking people that the moral science necessary for character-building is acquired by children everywhere through the medium of various subjects. Even on the sports field they learn lessons of morality. Hence there is no necessity to give specific religious instruction. Another plea in support of their statement is that as all religions are divided into various denominations, it becomes impossible to meet the demands of all sects in cosmopolitan schools. For example Protestants would not approve of the instruction imparted by Catholics. The demands of the Unitarians differ from those of the Trinitarians. And there are innumerable such denominations. In India what the Hindu instructor of the Senat imparts cannot be tolerated by members of the Arya Samaj. Such examples are inexhaustible and apply to people of all faiths. Due to this, there are separate schools not only for particular communities, but, wherever possible, even for different denominations. The purpose of religion is to teach the peoples of the world to unite; yet, because of the differences of opinion in matters relating to religion itself. this purpose is nullified. Communal and denominational schools foster communalistic feelings and the solidarity of a nation suffers.

Our community had a very bitter experience of this during the first decade of this century. Through Prof. Jackson's exhortations the elders of our community founded a 'Society for the teaching of Zoroastrianism and the promulgation of its knowledge’ [419] with the specific purpose of giving religious education in all our schools. When the question of giving such instruction in schools under the auspices of the society was considered, a great controversy arose. For this purpose an excellent series in seven volumes containing a wealth of religious and moral lessons published by the Rahnumai Mazdayasnan Society was ready for use. Nothing that would trespass upon anyone's sentiments or conflict with any ideology was included in those books. No extreme views on religion were expressed therein. Yet the orthodox majority took objection that these books were not acceptable for use in schools, merely because the Rahnumai Society stood for the reformist party. Many attempts were made in vain to bring the orthodox party and the reformists on a common platform to bridge this rupture. A great deal of discord and dissension rent the community. At a combined meeting held at the new Atashbehram, a Joint Secretary died of heart failure on the spot. All sorts of rumours were afloat concerning the meeting that was to settle this problem finally. The meeting was open to the public and the verdict was to be arrived at by a majority of votes. Stories were in circulation that the orthodox party had brought a black-turbaned learned Athornan Mobed and a young reformist mill-owner had brought Parsi labourers to the meeting. On counting the votes the orthodox majority won and the Rahnumai Society's series was rejected. The task of composing a new series was assigned to the learned Ervad Jeevanji Mody and to Mr. Sohrab Balsara and it was completed in 1910.

Arrangements to educate the children of the community in Karachi commenced from the time the Parsis settled here. As time passed the schools progressed and within three decades fine and spacious separate High Schools situated in large compounds started functioning for boys and girls. [420] From the beginning the pupils of these schools were being taught prayers that were necessary for the performance of their Navjote. Formerly, when the boys and girls schools had not yet been separated and classes were conducted only up to the Gujarati 6th grade, an Athornan teacher took the children to the Agyari on every Hamkara day and made them recite the Atash Nyaish and other prayers. Thereafter highly qualified and high-principled headmasters have continued to impart religious and moral instruction in their individual regimes.

In 1926 the benevolent heirs of the Eduljee Dinshaw family donated a sum of Rs. 100/every month to the Trustees of the Anjoman here. on condition that I give certain periodical religious instruction in both the schools. Not on the wide scale as is done in the schools of Bombay of teachers being appointed by various organizations to impart religious instruction daily, but I was to teach combined higher classes in both schools only twice a week and for half an hour at each turn.

How can there be a limiting line to religio-moral instruction? It is an all-encompassing subject. There is no way except to begin from the beginning.

Zoroastrian religion means the faith that was propounded by Zarathushtra after his birth. The question arises What religion did our forefathers follow before the advent of Zarathushtra? Where did our ancestors live? We are known as Parsis and Iranis besides being called Zarthosties. Whence and how did this originate? Hence it becomes incumbent upon us to go into the details of the history of our community. It becomes necessary to study the life and character sketches of those great men and women who dwelt during that period.

[421] Zarathushtra propounded his faith in the Avestan language, but today our prayers and ceremonies are conducted in Pazand also. Apart from the sacred languages, ancient Persian of the Achaemenian dynasty, the later Pahlavi and the still more recent new Persian have been used by our ancestors and we are in possession of their literature. Hence we should know something about these languages and their sacred literature too.

It is also essential to understand the main principles of the religion of Zarathushtra. Some slight acquaintance with Zoroastrian ceremonials should also be made. Some knowledge must be gleaned about Navjote, marriage and other ceremonies. There should be a clear conception of the Atash Dadgah, Atash Adran and Atash Behram. Some idea of religious festivals is necessary. It is necessary to know how the dead body is disposed of, something about heaven, purgatory and hell and of the Day of Judgment. In short, the student should know 'something of everything'. It must acquire at least a nodding acquaintance with a variety of topics.

In matters of religion the opinions of religious instructors may differ and they are at liberty to promulgate their own individual ideologies as forcefully as they desire from the public platform. But the seat of a teacher of religion and ethics is not an open rostrum. His role is to impart true knowledge in simple and straight-forward language, in an unbiased and dispassionate manner. When speaking on non-controversial subjects like the quality of virtue and truthfulness, he may certainly use all the force and feeling at his command to inspire his students to lead a life of honesty, idealism and purity and to become true, noble and ideal Zoroastrians. It is not the task of the religious instructor to attract the growing generation either to the orthodox or the reformist fold. As they grow up to [422] be adults who can understand and judge matters independently, it should be left to their own free will to choose the party of their own individualistic inclination and mental makeup. At present it is the sacred duty of the tutor to make them aware of their religious heritage and to guide them to become men and women of character.

According to my views regarding Zoroastrianism and ethics as expressed in detail, I have been teaching religious and moral science in the Parsi boys' school as well as the girls' school year after year on subjects set by me without following or using any particular religious series or scriptures. [423]

Chapter XLIV


From ancient times man's services to humanity have been recognized by conferring titles, by some presentation, by unveiling photographs or by erecting statues. There is bound to be some measure of imperfection in all human institutions or endeavours. Similarly there can be no assurance that honours conferred by the king or by a government always crown the deserving. It is possible that the truly deserving may not be appreciated, while at times, politics, prestige, pressure, obligation, bribery etc. are responsible for the undeserving contriving to steal undue honours.

The custom of putting people on a pedestal, prevalent in the annals of political and social history has found its way into religious circles also. In the Roman Catholic religion, after close scrutiny of the conduct of those who have lived a pure, idealistic life, they are canonized and elevated to a state of sainthood and deemed worthy of worship.

In our community the memory of those who have enhanced the welfare and glory of the community by their valuable contribution has been preserved through their photographs or their statues; or after their death, the 'Hama Anjoman' meets to pass a resolution of appreciation which is recorded in the offices of the Anjoman or their names are recited in the Dhupnirang ceremony at public Jashans or at Uthamna ceremonies.

In our sister communities there is a custom that when their church or temple or religious institution is founded, it is named after their gods, goddesses, saints or religious sects. Christianity associates [424] the names of St. Paul and St Peter with their churches or they are known as the Trinity Church, the Unitarian Church and the Presbyterian Church.

It is the weakness of our community since long that when an individual, through his munificence, establishes an Agyari or an Atashbehram or an Atash Dadgah, it is named after him or his relatives. From references in the Atash ni Nyaish we find from the names of different types of fires that this was not done in the past.

The Muslims do not place any portraits in their Masjids. Christians usually etch pictures of Christ, his revered Mother, the Virgin Mary, and their saints in stained glass windows. Hindus place the images of their gods and goddesses in their temples.

In this respect we do something quite different. In this sub-continent there are about two hundred Atashkadehs. On the establishment of these religious centres, along with the picture of Prophet Zarathushtra, as if by virtue of right the photographs of the donor or his forefathers also find a place of prominence. With the passage of time photographs of leaders and benefactors of the community are added. In many such religious centres in various cities, it sometimes happens that along with the pictures of the deserving, those of people of dubious or questionable character also find a place. When the collection of pictures becomes cumbersome and there is no wall-space left, if there is no one to question the right of some person or no heir remains to enquire, the care-takers quietly remove the picture and store it away in some unknown corner or niche.

In our ceremonial prayers we recite the names of ancient Iranian kings, heroes, religious teachers, famous women and others. The earliest reference [425] to this is found in the Frawardin Yasht, written in the Avestan language. Today we are quite ignorant about some of the personalities mentioned therein. After Alexander's invasion we lost our Empire and the Avestan language was discontinued in daily usage. After a period of nearly five hundred years, when the Persian Empire revived, the names of great men and women of the Sasanian dynasty are not referred to in this Avestan prayer, the Frawardin Yasht. In the meanwhile, during this period, many new prayers were composed in Pazand, the living language of those days. In the latter part of these new prayers the names of the Sassanian kings upto the last King Yazdagard Sheriar are mentioned. In our Afrinagan, Satum, Farokshi, Dhupnirang ceremonies we recite and remember all these names. In sacred memory of our dear departed ones, in our own homes or in temples, after the recitation of the above names, the priest includes the names of the deceased of the family.

We consider it a great honour to include in public Jashans or at the Uthamna ceremonies and the Dhupnirang prayers, the names of people who have worked for the welfare of the community or have led an exemplary and noble life. After our arrival in India, the names of three famous religious teachers were mentioned in our prayers viz. Mobed Shapur Mobed Sheriar, Mobed Hormuzdiar Ervad Ramyar and Mobed Neryosang Dhaval. Centuries later, no name of any religious leader or layman or historic personage residing at Surat, Navsari, or Broach was included in the Namgharan recital. This custom has been revived only since the last three hundred years, beginning with the name of the reputed Dastur Meherji Rana who died in 1592 at Navsari. The sacred fire, originally consecrated at Sanjan and later at Navsari, Surat, Balsar and other places was first brought in 1742 to Udvada by two Mobeds, Bhikaji Rustomji and [426] Rustomji Sheriarji. A fresh beginning was made by mentioning their names in public prayers by the Punthaky of Udvada. Thus the Mobeds of different punthaks at different times started including the names of famous people of their individual panthaks in their prayers.

As the custom of placing photographs of charitable men and women who are instrumental in establishing places of worship continues, even so are their names remembered in the prayers together with those of other well-known personalities. Hence, in the approximately fifty-two Agyaries and Atashbehrams of Bombay, each recites the names of its own particular group of people. Together with that the names of their chosen followers or helpers are constantly being added. The result is that the names recited in one Atashbehram or Agyari may not be heard in another. Thus, the names recited in different punthaks, different Atashkadehs or different cities vary in nomenclature and in number.

According to custom, the right of the declaration of an additional name to the Namgrahan rests with the Dastur or Punthaki of a religious centre and it is done before the assembly at the Uthamna ceremony of the deceased. At the Uthamna ceremony the high priest proposes that the name of the deceased be recited in all future religious ceremonies, and in complete silence and solemnity it is understood as passed. There are times when, among the assembly there are some who opine that the deceased is not worthy of the honour of having his name included in the honour roll of the Namgrahan, and are not in agreement of having that particular name remembered in public prayers, yet out of sheer respect for the solemnity of the occasion they are unable to voice their opinion, and return home disconcerted.

[427] In the Bombay press, among the communal questions that were being discussed with great bitterness about six or seven decades ago, one was the custom of the Namgrahan. The main objections of the press and of the educated class of the community were that on such a sad and solemn occasion as an Uthamna, there should not be the undue haste of raising this question nor should the dastur or panthaky have the sole right of executing such a task.

Most of our Atashbehrams and Agyaries are of private proprietorship. The Anjoman has no jurisdiction over their administration. The trustees of the Atashkedeh or of the Anjoman have no right to interfere with the ceremonial prayers and performances of the dasturs and the punthakies. The decision of a request to include the name of a departed one rests entirely with the dasturs or punthakies and it appears that no one has the authority to question their traditional privilege. Despite the sound backing of the Bombay press the voice of the majority was suppressed and a necessary reform was shelved.

Mankind's progress commenced with the rule of sole authority of tribal kings, emperors and chiefs; today, after ages of constant and continued struggle, nations and societies have wrenched that sovereign right from their hands and have created a democracy for themselves. At our own doorstep we have witnessed that formerly the trustees of our punchayats everywhere exercised supreme authority and were answerable to none. A hundred and twenty-five years ago, the Punchayat of Bombay had the authority to excommunicate a Zoroastrian, to fine him, or, with the sanction of the government, even to mete out the punishment of spanking him with slippers. Upto the beginning of this century the community had no voice in their administration. When one of the [428] five trustees died the remaining four filled the vacancy at will. In our own times we have witnessed the change of this age-old custom. The Zoroastrians of Bombay, Karachi and other places secured the right to vote and began to elect their trustees. To-day allover the world, social and political administration is conducted according to these rights secured by society and nations. From the beginning it has been my opinion that at such a time, it is improper for the dastur or punthaky alone to have the sole right of deciding whose name is to be included in or excluded from the Namgrahan. From the time I accepted the role of High Priest in 1909, whenever an occasion arose at an Uthamna ceremony of admitting the name of some deserving personage into public prayers, I would sing praises of that person's fine qualities and end at that. Then the panthaky would propose the inclusion of that name in public prayers. His proposal was virtually a command, hence it was accepted. In 1924 under unpredicted circumstances a storm arose against this practice. What had not been achieved by Bombay after years of struggle was attained overnight in Karachi.

On the death of a prominent member of the community, prior to steps being taken regarding the announcement at the Uthamna of the inclusion in public prayers of his name, a diversity of opinion had arisen in the community. The rival parties brought conflicting pressure upon the panthaky. Eventually, the panthaky proposed his name before the assembly at his Uthamna, and, as was customary the Mobeds observed respectful silence and it was adopted. When the Uthamna ceremony ended, everyone departed peacefully, but the question gained impetus. The opposition party sent a requisition to the Trustees of the Anjoman requesting them to call a meeting of the Anjoman to regularise this question. At the meeting of the Anjoman it was resolved by a majority [429] that when the community wishes to include a certain name in the Namgrahan, after the expiry of a month from the time of the person's death, the community should send a requisition to the Trustees of the Anjoman. The Trustees would then call a meeting at which any member of the community over the age of 21 has the right to vote. No discussions would be allowed at that meeting, but votes would be secured by secret ballot, and if 80% of those present voted for the inclusion of the name, then it should find a place in public prayers.

The Mobeds who work in Karachi come mostly from Udvada. So the Anjoman passed a resolution to the effect that should either of the two Dastur Sahebs of Udvada or their heirs happen to die, then the sole right of including their names in public prayers will rest entirely with the Mobeds. On the strength of this resolution the Mobeds have included the name of the recently demised learned Dastur Kaiyoji Mirza.

It is twenty-two years since this resolution has been passed and practiced. At times it happens that due to the customary carelessness of the Parsis, not even one-fourth of the signatories of the requisition bothers to attend the meeting. When such an emergency arises, members of the community residing in the vicinity of the Daremeher have had to be sent for and requested to come in order to carryon the business of the meeting.

Man has secured the freedom of vote at great pains but, just as it is difficult to attain, it is equally difficult to maintain. It is well-known how this right to vote has been abused allover the world at times of local or national elections. Yet, no other way of electing representatives seems to present itself. [430]

At present (1946) such a delicate situation has arisen amongst the Parsi community of Karachi. As a requisition had been received requesting the inclusion of a certain name, the Trustees of the Panchayat called a general meeting. But, as the proposition did not get the necessary support of 80% of the members present, the requisition could not be passed. The party that was not successful in its purpose has been sorely offended and is threatening to obstruct all future requisitions of the kind by vetoing the inclusion of the name of any deserving member of the community. In the heat of controversy it seems to say “If you accept our nominee we are willing to accept yours". Among all the Zoroastrians of the sub-continent, only the community in Karachi has been able to secure this necessary and welcome reform of conducting the question in consonance with the times. But at present there is a dead-lock confronting us, and some, losing courage, are even prepared to forego this privilege won by the community and to retreat into the ancient dogmatic system of selection, so contrary to the fast-advancing and progressive principles of the modern age.


Chapter XLV


All my energy was channeled to serve the community through the medium of sermons, speeches and readings. I had noticed in New York that in Roman Catholic and other orthodox churches the priests restricted their sermons within certain bounds. They believed that the duty of a religious leader was limited to delivering lectures on matters dealing with religious precepts, God and his angels, the lives of monks, saints and prophets, the soul, heaven and hell, divine justice the Resurrection and like subjects. On the other hand, many advanced thinkers of the Protestant Church and radical Rabbis of the Jews proclaimed that religion was not concerned merely with man's condition after death. The prime function of religion was to teach man how to conduct his life as a human being and as a good and useful citizen. Instead of working only to attain the reward of heaven hereafter, its purpose should be to make him noble, happy and contented as long as he lives in this world. Religion should not turn man into a seeker for salvation and serenity after death, but to help him to be the protector and benefactor of life on earth. Religion and life are not two separate entities but a single whole. Religion is life. Man must relate his daily deeds to religion and live so that he makes of life a continuous religion and of religion a living force. Therefore, a religious leader must guide his flock in social, mental, economic and political spheres even as he sermonizes on religious and ethical commandments. All these questions are not distinct in themselves but closely linked together. The work of the religious leader in political matters was to keep clear of party politics or of all political propaganda and to studiously probe into political problems, to guide and direct the framers of the constitution of a country and to make them aware [432] of the influence and effect of those laws on the moral, social and economic condition of the nation. I began to work on those lines and my discourses covered a variety of subjects.

In this sub-continent our community is like a needle in a hay-stack and the microscopic minority has to survive midst the vast majority of sister communities, hence it IS essential to win their goodwill and favourable opinion. With the specific purpose of establishing an intimate and affectionate relationship with the sister communities, from the very outset I started to lecture under the auspices of their associations and participated in their meetings. I lectured in English in the Brahma Samaj, Arya Samaj, Sanatan Sabha, Amil Association and various other societies. To the Bandhu Mandai, Jain Samiti and other like bodies I spoke in Gujerati. Although Karachi had been my home since childhood, for this purpose I had to go to places I had never seen before. My humble services were being increasingly sought after and in fulfilling them my experiences were enlarged. Certain religious institutions of the city tried to promulgate their own ideologies. In doing so, they sometimes clashed with other institutions of opposing opinions. At such times I was most cautious. The Arya Samaj was the leader of such institutions. At times it came into conflict with Christian priests, or with Muslim brethren or with the religious men of the Sanat. The opposing parties unfortunately vied with each other for the superiority of their faith through the public platform or the press. On two occasions some members of the Muslim community approached me and informed me that as the adherents of the Arya Samaj attacked their religion from time to time, they had challenged the Arya Samajites to call a public meeting and argue out matters with their Maulvis. The members of the Arya Samaj had accepted the challenge and both parties were urging me to preside over that [433] meeting. I advised them very strongly that it was unwise to call such public meetings to discuss religious matters, for such activities were bound to cause disturbance, hence they should refrain from such involvements. I was able to keep the two parties apart for a while. Eventually, after a year, the leaders of both the opposing parties the Arya Samaj and the Sanatan Sabha came to me and assured me of maintaining peace and patience and pleaded that I should preside over a function that had been organized to discuss 'Whether the Vedas were divinely inspired' and 'Does birth establish man's status in society or the caste system?' They added that as qualified scholars of both parties were to come from the Punjab to participate in the debate, there was no possibility of any untoward incident. On the contrary the audience would benefit a great deal from the contribution of such learned men. At .last the meeting was held one evening. There was such a crowd that every corner of the auditorium was packed and people had squatted in every convenient spot. Upon a table to the right of the Chairman, the head of the Samaj had settled himself cross-legged. In front of him was a pile of books. Behind him stood a man fanning him leisurely with a beautiful large fan. On a chair to the left was seated the Pundit of the Arya Samaj with some books on a table in front of him. Inaugurating the meeting I spoke to them from the Chair explaining the length of time that should be spent on the subject matter, on questions and answers, etc. I urged upon them to conduct themselves so that no one's feelings would be hurt by their speeches. The meeting commenced at seven and continued upto ten. Only the first question was still being discussed. The pundits' speeches were most informative and worth hearing. But as time went on, there were signs of restlessness. Applause and encouragement began to mingle with expressions of antipathy. As the hall was over-crowded. the atmosphere was most stifling, [434] so I suggested that the meeting be adjourned until the next day. The members of the Arya Samaj agreed but those of the Sanat stated that the proceedings should be completed even though they be prolonged into midnight Persuasions did not prevail, differences of opinion augmented, heated words were exchanged, the parties came to blows, chairs were thrown at each other, window panes were shattered. The police force intervened and dispersed the crowds at eleven in the night.

The Hon. Mr. Harchandrai Vishindas C.I.E., a prominent Congress leader of the Province of Sind and the Chairman of the Karachi Municipal Corporation, together with other eminent citizens belonging to the political party of Sir Pherozeshah Mehta, founded the Citizens' League with the purpose of developing public opinion on civic problems. I was requested to deliver the inaugural address of that association, and at times I lectured under its auspices. Sir Montague Webb had established a branch of the British Empire League at Karachi with the Commissioner of Karachi as its President. The activities of that body were limited to an annual function on Empire Day. During its five years' existence I lectured every year at its meetings. Apart from these, the college professors had founded the Graduates Association here. In its short span of existence I delivered the inaugural address and a few other talks under its auspices. For years together I also lectured on behalf of the Literary Debating Society organized by the collegians. Other communities treated me with respect and affection. Once I was asked to preside over the two days' sessions of the Social Conference of the active Amil Community.

Guided by a spirit of service I thus made humble attempts to be of some use to cosmopolitan communities; yet, at the same time I was careful not to let these activities interfere with the prime [435] necessity of a life of study and the development of Zoroastrian literature. The Collector of Karachi requested me to accept the post of Honorary Magistrate but I turned down the offer. I would agree to speak at public civic meetings and to pass resolutions, but I refused to be a member of any of the committees that were formed on these occasions.

Temperamentally I courted study in solitude and apart from obligatory duties I did not care to step out of my temple of learning. The development of literature was my greatest source of mental satisfaction and the greatest joy of my life was to dwell in the garden of literature. I was not a gloomy person. I never failed to appreciate the intrinsic value of humour and happiness in life; yet when I found the increasing invitations to government house and civic receptions and tea parties and dinners hindering my studies, I rarely accepted them. Many disapproved of this attitude. It is the custom in large cities for eminent citizens to visit the Government House at least once a year and sign the Visitors' Book that is maintained there. It is considered to be a mark of respect for the representative of the government. For three years after accepting the Head-priestship of the Parsis I did not follow this practice. For no other reason but that by doing so it would prevent invitations being sent to us. In this respect my wife's views were contrary to mine. I was not able to comply with her wishes, and was sorry that because of me she was prevented from participating in public life to her heart's content. Yet it was not possible for me to alter my inclinations. Prominent members of the community also did not favour my attitude and they frequently advised me that whatever my personal ideas may be as a High Priest for the sake of the community's prestige I should keep in touch with the Government House. Just then by chance the Commissioner happened [436] to preside over one of my lectures and while parting he requested me to be present at the function which was to be organized within five days to confer the title of Khan Bahadur on the enterprising co-religionist, Nusserwanjee Mehta and to dinner thereafter at the Government House. From that time, most unwillingly, I accompanied my wife to such parties that continued late into midnight. And since I accepted government invitations it became obligatory to accept invitations to public civic functions also.

From the time I accepted the role of High Priest I had participated in the public meetings called by the Karachi Citizens' Association. My cooperation with such meetings was viewed with disfavour both by high officials as well as by prominent Parsis who enjoyed the support and patronage of government. Two incidents that occurred in 1917 gave a serious turn to my activities in this direction. At the Uthamna ceremony of Dadabhoy Naoroji, I delivered a discreet and relevant discourse on the need to emulate the example of this great patriot and to participate in the political activities of the country. That very evening the story reached the ears of those in authority. Within two days a kind Muslim official came on a private visit. He informed me that the Collector was a fine gentleman and was eager to contact leading citizens. He would be very pleased if I visited him. I explained to him that barring the obligations of public duty I preferred to remain in the seclusion of my library. On those principles I declined to visit even the Collector. He came back after three days bringing a direct message from the Collector stating that he would be happy to make my acquaintance and should I pay him a private visit he would be pleased to return it. On the strength of that invitation my wife and I paid [437] him and his wife a visit. That same week both of them returned the call an d for the time being that ended matters.

Annie Besant, a woman of exceptional talent and superb strength, came into disrepute with the government in connection with her activities through the Home Rule League which she herself had founded, hence the Madras Government had interned her. Protest meetings were held in every city. For this purpose a public meeting had been organized by the Citizens' Association under the chairmanship of the Hon'ble. Hirchandrai Vishindas, the President of the Municipal Corporation and the first citizen of Karachi. I was assigned the task of moving the first resolution at this meeting. When this. information was announced through the press, a very kind-hearted Anglo-Indian Assistant Commissioner courteously advised me to keep away from this meeting. Four distinguished gentlemen of the community came to see me and tried to impress upon me that taking part in such a meeting amounted to working against the government and my participation as a dastur would endanger the rights of the community. I explained to them very politely that I was not participating as the High Priest of the community, but was rendering my humble service as an ordinary citizen. Those good gentlemen parted from me most displeased. I took part in the proceedings. Two days later there was a courteous invitation from the Commissioner stating that he would be very pleased if I were to call on him privately before office hours. I went but I was not able to please him. A very interesting argument ensued for a whole hour, but the differences of opinion could not be eradicated and we parted bidding each other good-bye. Ever since the foundation of the National Congress in 1885, like the Muslims, we too, as a [438] community kept it at arm's length. When the ruling class frowned upon Dadabhoy Naoroji, Pherozeshah Mehta and Dinshaw Vatcha, and the Anglo Indian press denounced them, on more than one occasion we did not hesitate to disown these three illustrious stars of the community. Our communal newspaper, in its attempt to exhibit its fidelity to the benevolent government, frequently announced that the community was in no way concerned with the ideas and opinions of these three gentlemen. They were not the real representatives of the community. Once a highly qualified Parsi gentleman had gone to London, where he published a letter in 'The Times' that Parsis were the natives of Persia and that they had no sympathy with the political activities of the country. Barring a few honourable exceptions, these were the ideas of practically the whole community. Whenever there was a move in Bombay to have a public hall built through communal funds, a term was always included in the rules governing the utilization of that hall that it could be used for religious, social, educational and economic purposes but no meeting that had any connection with politics would be allowed therein. Hence it was not surprising that Karachi followed the same principle. A similar prohibition was provided in connection with the Y.M.Z.A. and its spacious hall.

The gradual awakening that came to the country did not fail to influence the youth of the community. This matter was being discussed since some time amongst the younger members of the Association. They demanded that as the platform was open to various subjects, the prohibition against spreading knowledge regarding the political condition of the country should be removed. This did not meet with the approval oft he older members and dissensions were on the increase. Once when we had gone on a lecture tour to Bombay, Mrs. Sarojini Naidu had come to Karachi. [439]

The enthusiastic organizers had requested her to speak on non-controversial subjects like 'Women's Education' and had publicised the same through hand-bills. The elders of the community raised an objection that she was playing a leading role in anti-government movements and they prevented this patriotic woman's lecture. The younger people lost patience and they made a move to place a resolution of no-confidence in the Managing Committee against the authorities that had stopped the talk from being delivered. Some saner minds intervened and succeeded in delaying this delicate matter until my return from Bombay. I reminded the older generation of the German word 'Zeitgeist' - 'the herald of time' - and explained to them that the tide of time cannot be stemmed and there is wisdom and sagacity in sailing along with changing circumstances.

Just as the community had a sprinkling of brilliant sons of the soil like Dadabhoy, Pherozeshah and Vatcha in the forefront of the nationwide struggle for Home Rule in the 70's of the last century, from the commencement of this century also we have offered about ten Zoroastrians of all India repute in the service of the country. There have been others with knowledge and experience but lacking in continuous inner impulses who have been rendering service at will. Not such seasonal patriots, but among those who have dedicated their lives to the service of the motherland, who, year after year, through sunshine and shadows, at ebb-tide or at full-tide, in success or in failure, through bouquets and brickbats have with the self-same enthusiasm, perseverance and courage continued their work-the microscopic community of Karachi has contributed two shining stars-Jamshed Nusserwanjee Mehta and Rustom Khurshedji Sidhva. This is indeed a very auspicious augury for the entire community. Both these men have gained renown and respect throughout [440] the land and both have been accepted in the ranks of national leadership. Selfless and straight-forward, God's good man, Jamshed, the servant of the nation, has dedicated his services to humanity and to the country and is leading an ideal life of service and sacrifice. The 20th century name sake of Tehmtan Rustom, Rustom Sidhva, is sailing on the stormy seas of Indian politics on the Congress ship and, through strain and stress, is rowing strenuously and courageously towards the shores of self-government. According to individual temperaments, through their own original thin king, may these patriotic sons of the soil conduct their lives. We pray that Karachi may produce not just these two but twelve such sons who have the welfare of the nation at heart and who dedicate their lives to the service of the country.

At that time Jamshed, at his own expense printed and distributed my pamphlet on "Is it advisable for the community to participate in the country's political activities?"


Chapter XLVI


In 1929 I received a letter from the President of our Columbia University. It stated that the College which had been founded in the reign of King George III of England as the 'King's College' and had, in time, become the world-famous Columbia University, was to celebrate its 175th Jubilee with great éclat. It had been resolved that an honorary degree was to be conferred upon those students who had passed through the portals of the Columbia University and had contributed towards the enhancement of literature and science so as to be a credit to the University during the last twenty five years. I was informed that it had been decided to offer me a Litt. D. on this auspicious occasion and that the council would be very pleased if I could be present to accept it personally. By chance this unexpected invitation had arrived at a very opportune moment. My new book entitled, 'Our Perfecting World-Zarathushtra's Way of Life' was nearing completion. I was eager to go to America to have it published and, as usual, to deliver lectures.

When this news went around, a most unusual and wonderful thing happened. I received an envelope from a wealthy and learned gentleman of Karachi in which was enclosed a cheque for Rs. 10,000/with a message to keep this matter completely confidential. I abided by his request but only to the extent of not revealing the sender's name. When the Anjoman graciously organized a function to bid us farewell and presented me with a purse of Rs. 2000/-, in thanking the community I informed them in ambiguous terms that although that year Karachi had received only 1 1/2 inches of rainfall, in our compound Tir Yazd [442] had sent a silver shower that could be valued at Rs. 10,000/-. Besides this, when we had gone to Kathiavad we had received a certain amount. I had been invited to Jamnagar to perform a marriage ceremony. On that occasion the renowned cricketer, Jam Saheb Ranjitsingh had honoured me with a shawl and a gift. I delivered three lectures there. At Bhavnagar I gave four speeches in English and in Gujerati over which Sir Prabhatshanker Patni presided. He had also taken the Chair when the Anjoman gave us a farewell dinner. The royal court of Bhavnagar presented me with a silver vase. At Porbunder the former Maharana Natvarsinghji was very kind and, on parting, gave me a generous gift. These amounts given during the Kathiawar visit had also come at an appropriate time.

An American cargo ship, Galveston, was to sail from Karachi directly to New York. Only ten passengers could be accommodated on it. As the fare for this cargo boat was much lower than that of a passenger ship we booked our passages on it. Our ship set sail to the resonance of the orchestra of enthusiastic boy-scouts and carrying best wishes and blessings of one and all.

Ours was not a steamship but a motor-boat. It was newly built and this was its maiden voyage. Our cabin was like a small room with an attached bath and other conveniences. As it was a cargo ship, its speed was naturally slower. At the pace at which it sailed it would take us forty days to reach New York. On the second day after leaving Karachi the ship suddenly stopped moving. On enquiry we were informed that there was some engine trouble and after a two-hour delay we started again. Three days later it stopped again and set sail only at nightfall. As we were nearing the Suez Canal the Captain advised us that the ship would take time to cross the [443] channel and reach Port Said. Besides it would have to stop at Port Said for half a day for repairs. As there was sufficient time we should disembark at Suez, go to Cairo to see the famous Pyramids and reach Port Said directly by train to be in time for the ship. All the passengers preferred to do this, hence we disembarked at Suez at night, went through passport and health regulations, spent three hours in the offices of the ship's agents arranging for transport and left for Cairo. In the morning we reached Cairo and visited the museum and other places and went to see the Pyramids. We spent two days in this beautiful city and boarded the train for Port Said. The desert that has to be crossed while going from Karachi to Lahore is nothing compared to the stretches of sand and dust that had to be endured before we reached Port Said.

On boarding the ship we received the distressing news that the pulse of the boat was not yet under control and although the ship's engineers were working night and day they were not able to start the vessel. Morning turned to night and night to morning for full five days, and no one could tell how much longer we were destined to exist on the produce of Port Said. It was necessary that we reach New York in time. The good captain was aware of this. Begging pardon for the inconvenience caused to us, he informed us that another ship of the same company 'The Unicorn' had arrived at Port Said and was to set sail for Boston shortly. My wife urged him to arrange for our onward voyage on this ship at any cost. The kind captain agreed to do all that he could and immediately lowered one of the ship's lifeboats and sent a message through a sailor to the captain of the Unicorn to accommodate us on his steamer. After a while word came that as there was not a single cabin available, it was impossible to comply with the request. Undaunted, my wife [444] decided to take matters in her own hands. To humour her the captain sent a sailor with her to the Unicorn. The captain of the latter ship deeply regretted his inability to help. My wife prevailed upon him that it was absolutely essential for us to reach in time and pleaded with him that we would be prepared to bear any inconvenience. Eventually the captain got into conference with the chief engineer and made room for us. In mid-ocean all our luggage was transported from one ship to another and we moved onward.

Man has changed the face of the earth by his wonderful discoveries of science. If only man were to direct his fine intellect to utilizing modern inventions for the good of the common man, he could bring so much comfort, happiness and peace into the lives of the unfortunate millions who dwell in misery and wretchedness, in starvation and ignorance, in unhealthy and unsanitary surroundings, in torn and tumbled-down hutments in villages people who are born in misery, live in misery and die in misery. We were thousands of miles away from the living, vibrating world. We could see nothing but the sky above and the sea beneath. And yet we were in contact with the whole of humanity; we were aware of what was going on in every part of the world and we could listen to all that was being spoken.

Besides the various wireless messages transmitted daily from allover the globe, we anxiously read the news of the exploits of General Nadir Khan of Afghanistan every day. In Karachi we had seen the indiscreet and inexpedient King Amanullah. Together with other communities our community had also given him an address of honour. The thoughtless remarks that he had made while replying to this address had alarmed the audience. It was well known that he had become most unpopular amongst his subjects because of the unpremeditated [445] reforms he was introducing, unmindful of the existing circumstances and conditions. Karachi was the first stepping-stone on his memorable tour of Europe and in Karachi commenced the series of replies that he delivered in response to the toasts taken in the capitals of Europe. In his maiden speech he had denounced the ignorance and obstinacy of mullahs in severe terms. I admired the reformist views that he had propounded, but there was a lack of wisdom, sagacity and fore-thought in their exposition. It was similar to a forceful and fiery speech that could be delivered from the platform of the Rahnumai Society to censure and condemn Mansukh's orthodox party. It befitted Amanullah the radical mullah but not Amanullah, the king. The speech was an exhibition of fist-banging and gesticulations and an outpouring of enthusiasm and excitement. While this unfortunate young king was giving vent to his unbridled thoughts and tasting the regal hospitality of the capital cities of Europe, the days of his own regime were being numbered in Afghanistan. News of the sun having set on the short-lived sovereignty of the water-carrier Bacha-e-Shako who had over-thrown Amanullah and usurped his throne, reached us in the Atlantic Ocean.

The new steamer took us to Boston instead of New York, our intended destination. From there we boarded the first train bound for New York and reached a day prior to the function at Columbia. We rented a room in the vicinity of the University. The first week passed in the morning, noon and night functions of the University. The Litt. D. degree (Doctorate of Literature) was conferred on me. By that time I had completed arrangements regarding the printing and publishing of my new book, so the proofs started pouring in and I got busy with those. My wife, as [446] usual, occupied her hours visiting women's industrial homes and factories to study handicrafts. At intervals, under the auspices of various organizations, I delivered nine lectures.

On New Year's eve a sad event took place midst the eleven Zoroastrians living in New York and the unfortunate circumstances in which it happened made us very unhappy. A youth of a respectable family of Bombay had come here to study. He came to see us thrice. He was a kind and humble young man. Twelve or thirteen days after our acquaintance we heard that he was to marry an American girl in a Church on New Year's Day. A day before the wedding he was to accompany his bride-to-be to purchase the trousseau. They had arranged that the girl should meet him at four o'clock at the University subway station, whence they would proceed for their shopping. As arranged the girl arrived at four and exactly at the same time for some unknown and inexplicable reason that unfortunate young man swallowed some acid and committed suicide in his own apartment.

That night a Bengali youth came to us and informed us that the deceased was a friend of his and that they boarded together. He wished to cremate the corpse early in the morning. Personally I preferred cremation to burial yet I refused to sanction such a move and told him that it was just possible that by doing so, the feelings of the relatives of the deceased residing in Bombay may be hurt, hence no one had the authority to take such a step. On hearing this the man lost his temper and began to prattle as he pleased. Venting his anger upon me he said that India was full of old-fashioned and outmoded people like me hence the country had come to such a sorry state. His excessive impatience to cremate the corpse as quickly as possible made us rather suspicious of his motives. My wife [447] asked him that since he was a friend of the deceased, he must be aware of the cause of his suicide. The dead man was ready to wed, then what had driven him to take this drastic step at the last moment? To the many replies he tried to give to those queries, he added that the deceased was not marrying that girl for love, nor for her wealth or her beauty. My wife then questioned that if he was not marrying for these three natural reasons then why had he decided to wed? He replied that the deceased, the girl and he himself only those three knew the answer to that question. ‘And God is the fourth', my wife gently intervened. With disdain he stated that he was not so foolish as to believe in the existence of God. Without even wishing us farewell he stalked out of the room. Eventually the body was buried. Later the police scented foul play and tried to investigate but nothing came to light.

America, credited to be the world's most opulent country, was passing through a great financial crisis at that time. Banks were closing down and firms were becoming bankrupt. Approximately ten million people were unemployed. Amongst such unemployed people, together with labourers, porters and clerks, were included thousands of educated and highly qualified people, clever craftsmen, skilled mechanics and trained technicians men who had attained high qualifications in scholarship, science and skills. Agriculture is the most ancient and important industry of India. At present our country is gaining ground in trade and industry and factories are springing up everywhere. Just as unemployment is threatening all the nations of the world, in our country also the learned, together with the illiterate, are facing the challenge of unemployment. For this everyone is blaming our educational system and they are advocating vocational and technical training as the panacea for unemployment. There was a pressing demand for [448] this type of education in America from 1904-1908 while I was studying there. Large-scale arrangements were in progress everywhere to provide for such training. Polytechnics and other institutes offering training in a variety of industries, trades and crafts were being founded. When scholars and scientists produced by institutions run on the most modern methods of industrial, scientific and mechanical training are not finding sufficient means of livelihood the educational system alone cannot be blamed, but the responsibility lies squarely on the shoulders of the system of trade and commerce of this industrial age, its standard of currency and its economic regulations.

As my book was printed and published we made preparations to return home. Instead of returning by way of the Atlantic we made arrangements to cross the Pacific Ocean and voyage via the Far East. For this we had to travel to San Francisco to take the ship going to Japan. We entrusted our luggage to the American Express to do the needful. As the trip there would take four days we decided to break journey for a day at Chicago and another at the Mormon settlement of Utah.

Since America is known as the New World, the Universities of Columbia and Harvard are said to be old, while the Chicago University is one of the newer ones. About fifty years ago this university had earned an unfavourable reputation. Indians who had never stepped into its portals corresponded with it and on payment of a certain fee suddenly attached the important degree of M.D. to their names and posed as physicians. Yielding to taunts and taboos, eventually such quasi-doctors ceased their quackery.

Chicago is a notorious city. The world's greatest and highest percentage of murders are [449] committed there. The land of the Yankees excels in all things. That includes the bad with the good. At that time the President of that great country said something publicly that shocked everyone: "In no country in the world is man's life and property so unsafe as in the United States of America". Let us consider only one such alarming institution. An extraordinary gang known as Ku Klux Klan was formed in Tennessee in 1865. Its chief was called the Grand Wizard. His helpers bore the titles of Grand Dragons, Grand Giants and Grand Titans and its ordinary members ranked as Grand Ghouls. Only the eyes of all these dragons, giants and wizards were visible the rest of the face was covered and they wore white, pointed hoods that reached down to their necks. Marauding and murdering was their job. In 1871 the government took stern steps and stemmed their activities to a certain extent, but it could not be uprooted. After some time it re-appeared in Georgia. In 1915 they started mass slaughter of the Negroes. Later they spelled terror amongst Roman Catholics and Jews. In 1943 they engineered the conflict between the blacks and the whites at Detroit and in the Harlem quarters of New York. The scenes of base forgery and crime that we at times witness on cinema screens are actually enacted frequently in this most progressive country of the world.

In order to economize we always looked for inexpensive hotels, so in Chicago too we boarded at a hotel situated in a poor locality. Within a very short while we discovered that the inmates of the hotel as well as people in its environs were undignified and ignoble. We had arrived at the hotel at dawn. Early that morning we saw the labourers collecting in the yard in front of the hotel. Within seconds the crowd grew into thousands and arranged itself in rows. On enquiry we found that people gathered there in search of daily employment [450] and for hands required by the government. Presently police officers arrived at the scene. They employed a large number of people for their daily duties. Those who were selected moved forward, while an equally large number of unfortunate able bodied men, craving for livelihood, were most dejected and stood grousing and grumbling and creating a commotion. Many faces were worn out and haggard and miserable; others seemed blank and bewildered, while yet others looked wild and reckless and ready for vengeance. From this class of people emerge many thieves, criminals, murderers, convicts and wretches. The wrong-doers of society are not all basically evil. Not all inherit vile tendencies. Circumstances and environmental forces turn many into criminals. Society is responsible for this class of people. Society allover the world is trudging along the path of progress, but it has not been sufficiently reformed. Modern society is still too putrid. It has to be purified and perfected.

Leaving Chicago behind we spent a day at Utah, the headquarters of the highly controversial Mormon sect born in America in the middle of the last century which claimed to reveal Christianity in a new light and which initially advocated polygamy. Having seen their large church and other sites we proceeded on our journey. Indians are settled in many cities of California. The Sikhs and the Vedantists have their temples there. As there were a fair amount of Indians in San Francisco and we had four days in hand before our ship sailed, I gave two lectures there. We boarded the 'Tanyo Maru' of the Nippon Yusen Kaisha and set sail for Japan.


Chapter XLVII


Ere now we had had the opportunity of voyaging by English, French, Italian and American steamers. This was our first experience of a Japanese ship. Japanese steamers sail to all parts of the world. Of the ships that go to distant places, those that ply between America and Japan are the largest, swiftest and most comfortable. These vessels weigh fifteen to twenty-five thousand tons or even more. The precise and perfect management of these ships is superior to the facilities available on the best steamers run by any European or American agency.

Both Japanese and American meals were served on this ship. We used to order American food. We had experienced Japanese food and we did not relish it. In New York there are innumerable Chinese Restaurants and some Japanese ones too. Of the two, Chinese food is more delicious and hundreds of Americans have acquired a taste for it. In comparison Japanese dishes taste rather insipid.

The passengers included Americans, Japanese, some Chinese and the two of us, Indians. The attitude of the Japanese passengers as well as that of the ship's crew towards the Chinese voyagers was distinctly prejudiced. Ever since Japan had won a victory over China in 1905, it had acquired a certain amount of pride as a conquering nation. A similar animosity was perceptible amongst the Japanese and Chinese students studying at Columbia University.

The Japanese had made great strides in craftsmanship. Its effect could be felt even during our short voyage. The ship's Captain invited the passengers twice to his own deck. A tiny rustic garden had been set up. The fence of that garden, [452] the seats therein and its gate, had been constructed of rustic furniture, giving a beautiful overall effect of a distant village scene.

In order to attract tourists to their land, beautifully illustrated literature depicting Japan's sightseeing resorts and its natural beauty is freely distributed in many countries. The Chief Steward also presented exquisite gifts to the passengers as souvenirs of their pleasant voyage.

Our steamer anchored en route for a day at Honolulu, the principal air-base of the East. Trees that could not be found in Europe or America could be seen in this warm country. The blossoming mango-trees were reminiscent of home.

From Honolulu we went to Yokohama. Our twenty-one days' voyage from America across the Pacific had been most pleasant and enjoyable. The islands en route, the innumerable fishing-boats that came within view three days prior to reaching the harbour, the canoes that plied between the islands, were a sight to behold.

Formerly Zoroastrians were living in Yokohama for business purposes. Since the devastating earthquake of 1923 they have made Kobe their home. Thanks to the correspondence of some Japanese friends at New York, a kind Japanese family offered us their generous hospitality. We were entertained at Tokyo by Prof. Araki who had studied Avesta and Pahlavi at Columbia University and was now at the Tokyo University. Here I delivered one lecture.

Japan has nothing to show in the way of places of historical interest or ruins as can be viewed by tourists in our country or in Iran or in some countries of Europe. Instead, nature has bestowed upon her the exquisite gift of mountains [453] and valleys, streams and rivulets, fountains and lakes, grass and greenery that delight the eye and bring a sense of serenity and joy to all who behold them. This land is an invitation to the devotee to turn in every direction and greet in gratefulness the Giver of so much beauty. Viewing with delight Spenta Mainu's creations of inexpressible loveliness we proceeded to Osaka via Kyoto, stayed there for two days and went on to Kobe. A small colony of co-religionists resides there. After enjoying their warm and affectionate hospitality we left for China.

Today, seventeen years after our visit, Japan has been completely razed to the ground.

In 1895 Japan defeated China and in 1905 it subdued Russia. Since that time the name of this little island-country has been on everyone's lips. It instilled fresh hope into the hearts of all eastern nations. In this industrial age, three little words like 'Made in England' or 'Made in Germany' are mighty important. Side by side was seen the stamp 'Made in Japan' and the effect of its domination was felt in the five continents of the world.

For an interval in world's history beginning from 1542, the Portuguese, Spanish and other western nations had found a foothold in Japan, but that ceased in the seventeenth century.

Japan's direct relationship with the West dates back to 1853 when Commodore Perry went there from America. The American system of education made its debut there in 1868. The curtain fell on the ancient feudal system in 1871. This rich country now channeled its immense wealth into mechanized industry. She sent her sons to America and England to attain higher education particularly in the field of industrial and technical engineering. Mills and factories were established, steamships and railways were [454] constructed and whatever industrial advances were made in the West, she imitated. She was most successful and found a footing in the markets of the world. One of the reasons for this was that Japan's labour class was still passive. She employed thousands of workers at miserable wages in mills, factories and dockyards and produced the cheapest articles in the world thereby harassing all the white nations.

Then she launched upon a series of conquests. She conquered Korea. Manchuria and a portion of . China and announced boldly that her sole idealistic aim was ‘Asia for the Asiatics'. In fact this was downright deceit. Her intention was not to subjugate Asia alone but to gain mastery over the entire Orient. She prided herself on the thought that the Almighty had ordained her to fulfil that role.

In the history of mankind innumerable great and small nations have reached the heights of glory, gained supremacy over the world, have had their downfall and gone their way. But the surprising progress that Japan made in the short span of a hundred years, the zenith of greatness she attained has been unparalleled in history.

As a comet flashes across the sky with lightning rapidity, casting its brilliance and radiance around, the fleeting supremacy of Japan, has waned today. Not satisfied with paring a lion's claws, an attempt is made to enfeeble him by breaking its backbone, by pulling out his teeth; even so, frantic efforts are in progress to impoverish and eradicate Japan by tearing it into fragments.

Our contact with China and Greater China is as old as our history. Even after we lost our Empire, some of our tribes are said to have migrated to China and settled there. Writing in the beginning of the 12th century, AI Shahrastani [455] refers to Persian fire temples in China. All signs of Parsi places of worship and Parsi habitation seem to be buried under the dust and debris of time. From about the middle of the 18th century members of the community have found a foothold in this country for business purposes. Trade relationships with China have contributed greatly to our economic well-being. Times have changed. The flourishing trade of by-gone days has not survived and firms of long-standing are closing down.

The alterations in dress that have entered since the beginning of the last century have ushered in at least half a dozen changes in men's headgear. Amongst the latter the Chinese turban is a symbol of the Sethias who have visited China. It has become very popular in the community. We spent a fortnight in the cities of Parsi settlements like Shanghai, Hong Kong, Canton and other places. During this period we saw only one elderly Parsi gentleman in Canton wearing this headgear. He too has passed away, hence it does not seem as though the Chinese turban could be found in China now. When we disembarked at Shanghai, some kind families residing there came to the wharf to welcome us. Later I learned that everyone was most surprised to see me robed in a jama-pichodi. The next day the punthaky of the place came to visit me. I did not recognize him at first, so he reminded me that he had met me at Karachi once. I immediately recollected the meeting, but the reason for not recognizing him initially was that I had seen him in a white turban in Karachi whereas he was in a fentah here. He explained that the Anjoman was averse to his moving about the city in a white turban; hence he had to be content with wearing the coronet of his priesthood only while performing ceremonies within the cloister of the Anjoman's premises. Receiving a respectful and hospitable reception from small communal [456] groups at various places, and delivering some religious talks, we boarded the 'Tamba Maru', a ship of the Nippon Co. with the blessings and good wishes of all and set sail for India.

This was the fourth ship of the company that we were voyaging in since we left San Francisco. This was smaller and older than all the previous vessels. As usual, when we left Karachi, my wife had borrowed Rs. 10,000/from friends. From this amount she had purchased goods from America, Japan and China, so we had thirty-five pieces of luggage with us. To add to these was a pet canary we had picked up in New York. Over and above these my wife had bought from Shanghai for sale a cockatoo, an Indian jay and three canaries. It took quite some time to settle all these after the ship started. It was a slow-moving steamer and with the many stops it had to make en route, it would take us three weeks to reach Bombay. The cabin was not comfortable so my wife was anxious to change it. Reminding her of Kabir's lines I quoted: ‘ and sometimes lay down your head in a hutment', but she was not prepared to endure discomfort. In a Tokyo newspaper an article had appeared together with my picture, introducing me to the public. Sorting this out my wife took it to the captain. Within fifteen minutes she returned all smiles together with the Chief Steward and four sailors. Our luggage was removed to a 1st class cabin. We were to come to the 2nd class for our meals but it was decided that we should stay in a first class cabin. Throughout the voyage the kind captain looked after us most diligently. Our ship docked at Penang, Singapore and Colombo for a day. At the last two halts we met the few Parsis there, delivered a talk at Colombo and moved onwards. My wife engaged herself in her customary business and I delivered eight lectures at Bombay. [457] After an interval of eleven months we arrived in our home-town, Karachi.

In token of the degree that had been conferred upon me by Columbia University, the Karachi Anjoman honoured me with an address.

Within a short time the Punjab University celebrated its golden jubilee where representatives of the Universities of the East and the West had been invited. Columbia University nominated me as its representative. After participating in that celebration we went to Hyderabad, Sukkur, Lahore and Multan and in these cities I delivered various lectures to cosmopolitan audiences.


Chapter XLVIII


In the animal stage of man's evolution a wild struggle for existence is continuously going on. Day in and day out large fishes swallow myriads of small fish and stronger beasts devour thousands of weaker animals. This is the law of the jungle. Man is born in a savage state and with the passage of time he becomes semi-civilized and ultimately reaches a state of civilization. On him is bestowed a rare intellect, the capability to distinguish between right and wrong and the precious privilege of listening to the dictates of conscience and conducting his life according to his own free will. In every age and at all places God's great messengers, prophets and pious people have endeavoured to instill into him attributes of kindness, compassion, contentment, love, friendship, selflessness, brotherhood and peace and to raise him to spiritual heights. A handful hearken to His divine call, while many are deaf to those messages. In his physical make-up man is but a beast. He has to develop the qualities of his head and heart and control and conquer his lower emotions and elevate himself from his animal state to that of a human being. Religion and culture put him on the path of progress and help him in his onward march. Man has travelled far on the road of reform, yet he has not been able to annihilate man's inhumanity to man, nor the differences, deceptions, enmity, animosity, vengeance, selfishness and avarice that exist between communities and nations. He has become a city dweller but he has not been able to surrender in totality the standards of the jungle. Animal force has remained his guiding principle and, on the whole, his life is governed by the law of 'might is right'.

[459] The world belongs to the powerful. The strong conquer and rule and enjoy complete independence. The weak abide by their command, bow down to their will and slave for them. The human population today is estimated at approximately two thousand million. The majority is made up of weaker beings. The population of the subcontinent is forty crores. Barring courageous warriors like the Muslims, Sikhs, Rajputs, Marathas, Jats and Punjabis, the nation's major population is made up of the passive poor. Since the dawn of existence, the weak and cowardly have sought safety from the strong and courageous in a defeatist policy. Even before philosophers, saints and hermits can teach them this lesson of life, nature itself guides them to follow that principle. They dare not match blow with blow or a kick with a kick, because nature has not endowed them with so strong a physique. They lack physical prowess but they are the masters of their own mental might and the sovereigns of their spiritual strength. Physically they are unable to resist the onslaught of the strong, yet they are able to vex and vanquish the mightiest by their mental and emotional strength. Even a child has been able to conquer his parents by his inner strength. A child commits an error and the mother is annoyed. In her anger she smacks the child. At times the child neither screams nor cries, but bears the blows with fortitude, strength and silent resentment. Suddenly the mother realizes her mistake in losing her temper. She lets the child go, repents, and even sheds bitter tears of regret. She curses herself for having beaten the child. Through trials and tribulations, suffering and sacrifice the weak ultimately lead the strong to realize their own error, to repent and to reprove themselves and to harbour a sense of sympathy and compassion. Since the beginning of creation man has been governed by the axiom, "My strength is my superiority”., and the weaker creature and weaker nation has been [460] surrendering to that same principle. This defeatist policy of surrender and sacrifice, of returning good for evil, of non-violence and endurance has been propounded by Lao Tze in China, Gautama Buddha in India and the stoics of Greece. Two thousand years ago this was Jesus Christ's clarion call to humanity. This great prophet taught man to offer his right cheek to the one who strikes the left. Should someone snatch away your coat, instead of trying to win it back, remove the shoes off your feet and give them to him. Those who have faithfully adhered to this teaching have refused to serve as soldiers even when their country has been involved in war. Of those who follow this principle are the Inspirationists of Amana, the Dukhobors, the Friends, Cristadelphians, Plymouth Brethren, the Tolstoyans and other simill1r institutions that have existed in the West.

During the final decade of the last century there was a rift in the Indian National Congress which split the sons of the soil into opposing camps of moderates and extremists. An eminent champion of the latter was Tilak. Through lectures and articles published in his two newspapers, 'Kaiseri' and 'Maratha', he carried on a more systematic and sustained crusade than the moderates. Then the great learned scholar, Mrs. Annie Besant, founded the Home Rule League and by speeches and articles gave a forceful leadership to the nation. Yet all these movements reached but a handful of educated men and women of the country. The vast majority of the so-called illiterates did not come under their influence. No one had ventured near these voiceless millions of the nation. No one had cared to make them realize their miserable plight in a language they could understand, or awaken them and give them speech to demand their rights. Men had been found to show the path to the privileged few, but a leader to guide the teeming millions was lacking. [461]

To a certain extent man is indebted to some animated reformer or some restless leader for his progress. On the other hand it is also due to changing times and circumstances ever since the birth of civilization. Both causes substantiate each other. At times an individual of exceptional aptitude and sincere enthusiasm is able to execute a reform, whereas on other occasions if he has not the support of favourable circumstances, he is thwarted in his noble cause.

Mass education was on the increase in the subcontinent; highly qualified men and women were gaining in strength; political activities were waging on all fronts. Patriots who had been pleading of the benevolent government for their rights were losing their patience, and getting disgruntled.. Thinking members of the nation 'were alive to their rights and privileges and were dreaming of independence. Society and circumstances were demanding some changes, some revolution, some upheaval. On the horizon of this new era Gandhi appeared.

Gandhi, the Indian disciple of Tolstoy, though despised and tormented by the whites, took the Indians of South Africa along with him in 1907 and 1913 and declared civil disobedience against the existing government. Through the medium of strikes, picketing and .courting imprisonment in large numbers rather than seeking the shelter of law against injustices, he succeeded in harassing the government.

In 1915 he came to India. He commenced the non-cooperation movement in that country for the first time in Gujerat and Bihar from 1917 to 1919. Meanwhile circumstances arose which stimulated country-wide movements of a similar nature. The high hopes that had been held out by responsible [462] ministers had not been fulfilled. As most of the promises had been violated there was disappointment throughout the land. The Allies had disintegrated the Turkish Empire, which had greatly annoyed the Muslims and they started a forceful campaign called the Khilafat Movement. Barring a few exceptions, so far the Muslims as a community had kept aloof from the country's political activities and avoided cooperating with the Congress. Now the Congress and the Hindus found a fine opportunity to attract them to their camp and they took full advantage of it. Both these major communities joined hands to work against the government. Just then two other extremely provocating incidents occurred from the governmental side. One was the Rowlatt Act and the other was the unfortunate affair of the Jalianwalla Baug. These three causes ignited an unprecedented flow of anger throughout the country. Never before had such an opportunity arisen to rebel with success against the government. Gandhiji seized the opportunity and stepped forth into the arena. This commander took up the cudgels and he proved himself strong enough to wage an intensive war of non-cooperation against the government. History had never before witnessed civil disobedience in such large proportions.

I n the beginning, as long as the nation's voice was not sufficiently powerful, the government gave no countenance to it. Sir Samuel Hoare, the one-time Secretary of State of India, speaking with disdain about our demands for rights and privileges once said: "The caravan trudges on and the dogs bark". But no longer were the dogs content merely to bark. They were bouncing forward ready to bite.

The country was blessed with true and honest patriots, talented politicians and people who had won the confidence of the nation. Yet there was [463] no other leader under whose banner millions of men and women would rally forth at short notice as they responded to Gandhiji's call. The reason for this was that within the four years of Gandhi's arrival in India he had traversed the length and breadth of the country and visited hundreds of towns and villages. Leading a life of extreme simplicity, he mingled with the peasants as a peasant, with the poor as a poor man. Clothed in next to nothing, Winston, Churchill's 'naked fakir' went everywhere in the garb of a mendicant.

The chosen representatives of democratic countries of the West have to carryon an intensive campaign to awaken the people, to create public opinion and to win their votes. At the time of election the earth resounds with the spoken and written word of the candidates and their nationwide fanfare and frolics to gain the confidence of the majority. People of quieter temperaments find this distasteful. At the time of one of the Presidential elections of America, a Chinese religious leader who was studying Avesta at Columbia University told me with a sigh: "They make sho mutch noise". According to the traditions of the West Gandhiji made "sho mutch noise" and would not let anyone rest in peace. He imitated in toto the campaigning tactics of the West. The lieutenants and sages of his secretariat publicised his thoughts and ideas. He guided the masses daily through articles in his own newspapers. Belittling machinery on the one hand, he made full use of automobiles and railways and conducted a whirlwind agitation throughout the country, winning over the hearts of millions.

No leader had come into such direct contact with the country's poor class, its labourers and its farmers. No one had actually lived with them, sharing and sympathising with their poverty and misery and pouring words of comfort and courage [464] into their ears. No one had taken into account the vast majority of wretches that lived in the land in starvation and in squalor. No one had breathed hope into their aching hearts. Gandhiji alone reached their portals, met them and embraced them, mingled his tears with their tears of sorrow, found a place in their hearts and became one of them. Hero-worship has existed throughout the ages. In the sub-continent heroes and hermits have in time become national deities. The country's forests harbour sixty-five lacs of faked and genuine saints, sadhus, sanyasis and hermits, so it was not unusual for Gandhiji to move about bare-headed and unshod. Sadhus courted greater hardships. They would go nowhere near a bullock-cart, a railway carriage or a sailing ship. For years on end they trudge bare-foot over sun-baked soil, rain-soaked marshes, unmindful of the dust or dirt. A few honourable exceptions render social service. Some who are true and honest at least seek their own salvation. Gandhiji, living midst the habitation of towns and villages, seeks the salvation of the masses, meditates upon it and sacrifices his body and mind to the attainment of that ideal. No one else is capable of doing this. Besides, as no one else has sway over such an extensive following, naturally despite the many Himalayan mistakes he makes from time to time and his well-known inconsistencies, he has maintained his reputation as the unrivalled leader of the nation.

A great philosopher like Plato has written that politics is not a straight-forward, honest, clean, unselfish game. It is for this reason that many an upright man has remained aloof from it. This is as true today as it was two and a quarter millennium ago. Working in a party system some somersaults have to be taken now and again, a great deal of disowning and deception has to be done. Despite [465] the greatest care and caution it is impossible to save saints, sadhus or even mahatmas from the slush and slum of politics.

What wonder then that some disparity is discernible in Gandhiji's leadership?

In 1920-21, and even more forcefully in 1930, Gandhiji commenced his campaign of satyagarh in order to subdue and subjugate the ruling authority. This movement was known by various names. Nonviolence, non-cooperation, passive resistance, Civil Disobedience, etc. His appeal to the nation was that students should stop attending government schools; that liquor and toddy shops be picketted and people be prohibited from drinking; that British cloth be rejected; that people should not pay government taxes; that if the government requisitions property to let them do so; that if the police should forcibly disperse their processions they should not disband; that should those in authority lathi-charge them they should bear beatings with fortitude; if they were dragged into courts of law they should not try to defend themselves but court imprisonment without opposition. The government of the country he called the satanic government. In 1930 he himself wrote that to be loyal to the government was sinful, whereas to die unfaithful to It was righteous. In 1921 he had made a bonfire of one and a half lac pieces of British cloth. He and his retinue mercilessly axed down thousands of toddy trees that were heaven's own tonic for the poor man. And all this was enacted in the name of non-violence! Whatever attempts be made to give such activities the innocent and misleading garb of non-violence, they are in essence positively violent. They are made known by the pleasant name of Passive Resistance, yet in every way they are dynamic, aggressive and oppressive. Leaders of non-violence flank a hoarde of soldiers ready to fight. This was the strength and potency by [466] which they were able to subdue and suppress the government. This army did not fight by its physical prowess; by its mental and emotional strength it was endeavouring to confuse the government. Through civil disobedience and courting beatings and imprisonment in large numbers, it presented the government to the world as heartless and merciless and lowered it in universal esteem. This was the impassioned and malicious fight they were waging. These heroic satyagrahis snubbed and, scorned the government at every turn. During the day they defamed it and at night they dreamed malicious dreams. In meditating disgrace for the government, in wishing for its downfall, in scheming its destruction, these non-violent soldiers were violent in spirit. In penning slanderous. reports against the government, in painting it treacherous, in instigating the people's bitterness and hatred against it, they were verbally violent. In the scuffle and struggle of 1922, the scandal of burning alive six police officers and other similar major and minor incidents were actually violent actions:

As long as the labourers who go on strike are able to endure slashes and starvation, the proprietors are harassed and have to bear heavy losses. But time is their foe. With the prolongation of time they tire and take recourse to violence. This spells their defeat. They fail to win their demands. If the non-violent forces could have unlimited patience, unlimited tolerance and unlimited serenity then and then alone would they succeed in subduing the so called satanic government. But they lack all three. Hence they lose their patience, surrender their serenity and their capacity to endure hardship is exhausted. They become wicked and perverse. Were the world habited by angels and saints, passive resistance and non-violence could succeed. But the world is made up of men and so this so-called 'passive resistance' is bound to remain violent in nature.

[467] Under Gandhiji's leadership, the Congress ever since 1920, has tried to crush and over-throw the established government of the land. As the subjects were debarred from taking up arms it was not possible to revolt in the usual way against the powerful British government. Under the circumstances, if not by brute-force, then if by the supposed strength of spirit, the English government could be subjugated, it would suffice. If it were not possible to gain complete control, even half measures would be welcome and if it were out of Question to conquer the rulers by a regular rebellion then even to weaken them and get the second best reward was acceptable. With this end in view even those who were totally violent at heart and ever anxious to eradicate and annihilate the name of the British government, just because they were obviously unable to gain redress through violence, perforce had joined the ranks of non-violence merely to gain their own ends. Even the members of the small group of terrorists and anarchists that had arisen in Bengal and other provinces from the beginning of this century, realized it was possible to spread a certain amount of terror by shooting a few white officers, but that could not destroy the mighty government. Yet the millions who had joined the forces of mass Civil Disobedience may be able to shatter its strength. Guided by such thoughts even these rebellious men set aside their blood-thirsty role for a while and became the torchbearers of non-violence. Each in his own way was bent upon grinding his own axe and gaining his own end.

With a few exceptions, our community, despite all urgings, kept itself at arm's length even from the most constitutional political movements. A few young men and women were enticed to join this political activity which had as its aim the destruction of the British government. [468] A number of young women could be seen in processions chanting anti-government slogans in the streets of Bombay, Karachi and other cities. Some men and women had even courted imprisonment. During this movement, the talented poetess, Mrs. Sarojini Naidu, went from city to city on a fund-raising campaign for civil disobedience and, by the force of her impassioned eloquence was able to relieve many people of the burden of their purses. She had succeeded in collecting certain amounts from various communities in Karachi. When she was to speak before the Parsis, I was in the Chair. I was obliged to criticize her request most politely. On another occasion I seized the opportunity, of staunchly opposing from the Chair Gandhiji's teachings when he was lecturing to our community. In my book entitled Our Perfecting World, Zarathushtra's Way of Life, I have devoted many pages to refuting the principle of civil disobedience while examining various universal methods of battling with evil.

How impractical and improper Gandhiji's teachings were is obvious from the advice he gave in the beginning to the British nation at the time of the last Great World War. The invincible Attila of the Huns who had terrorized the world in the 5th century used to say with pride that not a blade of grass would grow again on the fields that had been trampled upon by his war-horses. He and others as powerful as he like Hulagukhan or Hannibal or Nadirshaw or Jangiskhan were put in the shade by the mechanized Attila of this Machine Age - today's most dreadful and destructive tyrant - Hitler of Germany. Wherever his iron chariots wandered they left behind naught but death and destruction. Those unfortunate nations that were subjugated by him were bound in chains of slavery. Their individual freedom of thought, word and deed was stolen from them; their humanity was wounded. To this heroic [469] nation which was fighting courageously to defend :its self-respect and its independence which were dearer than life itself, Gandhiji recommended that instead of raising its hand to hit back at this barbarous brute it should, with folded hands and bent heads, bow down to him and surrender its land and its resources to his will. Gandhiji advised the people that by doing so their name would be engraved on the pages of history in letters of gold, their honour would be enhanced and Hitler in his lifetime would bend his brow in shame and in his death would be buried under the debris of universal dishonour and disgrace.

Time alone will measure the balance-sheet of civil disobedience. At present it only reveals a nation-wide awakening and that people have come to realise their intrinsic worth. But before glibly accepting the tall talk that as a result of this movement the faint of heart have gathered courage and the weak have become bold, it is wise to ponder awhile. The soldier who shrinks from endangering his life alone, does not fear to go headlong into battle where hundreds combine to face death. Similarly, when thousands bear the brunt of the lathi and enter the portals of prison, even the coward is emboldened to cast his lot with theirs. But only so long as the excitement lasts. The feeble of heart will not change colour and the born coward goes to his grave a coward. Placing a gun in the hands of a weakling does not turn him into a hero. Weakness and strength are inherited by birth and breeding. They cannot be meted out on demand, created through propaganda or derived through education.

The leader of civil disobedience is bent upon gaining self-rule and independence for us through contempt of authority and disregard of law. At the moment this self-government and freedom [470] seem to display that license is liberty and roughness and rudeness are accounted to be freedom and valour. Civil disobedience is dragging the younger generation down to degradation.


Chapter XLIX


Religion has nurtured various arts and crafts. The Semitic races have not contributed to the realm of dance and drama. Amongst the Aryans, the Hindus in the East and the Greeks in the West have played an important role in its development. Although we are Aryans we have claimed no laurels in that field. From the time our forefathers, who had parted from the Aryans, settled in Iran, their contacts with the surrounding Semitic races strengthened and, under the influence of their culture, we adopted more of their customs and traditions.

At this end our Hindu Aryans worked differently from the very beginning. The references that appear in the Rig Veda regarding Sarma and Panyo, Yam and Yami, Puruvaras and Urvasi are the first glimpses we get into the art of acting. On behalf of his celestial colleagues Indra prevailed upon Brahma to create a fifth Veda the Nritya Veda (the Veda of Dance)-from passages culled from the Rig-Veda, Samveda, Yajurveda and Arthveda. The deities became great dancers and Shiva is credited to be their guide and guru. Thus the art of dance and drama won a sacred status in India from ancient times. Under shelter of religion these arts were utilized to instill a feeling of devotion and reverence for religion, and the art of song, drama and dance gave colour and cadence to Indian culture.

Unfortunately we remained divorced from this precious media for lending 1!lstre to life, making it devotional and delightful. Later our attention was directed to music. The Arab historian, Masoodi, writing about the middle of the 10th century, [472] informs us that in the third century King Ardershir Babakan, the founder of the Sasanian dynasty, divided his ministries into seven departments. The musicians he ranked at the fifth level. At court selected singers entertained the regal family by their skill. Their presence was absolutely essential on all auspicious occasions. Even when the kings went hunting or sporting they always formed part of their retinue. The greatest patron of music was Khushro Purvez. Of all the rulers during the four Parsi dynasties, from the Peshdadians to the Sasanians, this music-loving, king excelled in splendour, regality and pomp. Arab and Persian historians have recorded all kinds of fantastic legends about him. Writing about his keen interest in music and song they relate that twelve thousand singers and artistes collected at his court from allover the world. On the large mountains at Take Bostan near Kermanshah at two places there are carvings depicting this king's hunting skill on land and water. Besides other courtiers, singers with their instruments can also be seen in those carvings. Barbad was the most famous singer of those days. It is said, to regale his royal master, he composed three hundred and sixty different tunes befitting the days of the year, omitting the five additional days of the Gathas. The names of all these ragas and raginis have been incorporated in Arabic and Persian literature.

Living midst the Hindus of Gujarat in India, our men and women used to chant their raas and garbas. Later we composed Parsi garbis and garbas and began to sing those. Our men also hummed the khyals and kalgis of the Muslims when they came to live in our midst. We drew upon the music of both these communities, but we remained distant spectators of their dance and drama. The basis of dance was an art of the deities. Just as the gods and goddesses had their [473] celestial satellites, in their temples women known as devdasis were assigned to them. With the passage of time the women who participated in dancing proved of a dubious character, hence dancing lost its prestige and remained so till very recently. Even on the stage we have not made much of a public appearance.

The English brought with them their music, their plays and their dances. For quite some time we were not lured by any of the three. On all festive occasions it was the custom for every community to entertain their guests till late at night with songs and dances. Imitating the Hindus and the Muslims the rich of our community also followed this practice. From the beginning of the last century however, a new trend found its way amongst us. When a Viceroy or a Governor or a British business magnate was to retire, our wealthy Sethias arranged a farewell function at which, in place of local dancers, a western-style ball was organized. A spacious ball-room was specifically provided for in their newly constructed magnificent mansions. The guests arrived at 9 p.m. and while the white men and women danced the natives sat around as spectators. Dinner was served at midnight in which our men participated. The banquet terminated with an exchange of toasts and the dancing recommenced, which continued till two or three in the morning. In Bombay the first ball of this kind was given by Sir Jamshedji Jeejibhoy in 1824 to Remington Crawford. In Calcutta Seth Rustomji Cowasjee Banaji organized a ball at the inauguration ceremony of his newly-built residence in 1837. After that, ball-room dancing became a fashion with the aristocracy. Parsis did not participate in these dances because they were unfamiliar with this art; but even the Hindus, for whom dancing had formed a traditional part of their religion and culture. and the Muslims too did not get involved in it. The reason for this detachment [474] was that the Hindu men and women who esteemed the art of dancing always performed their distinctive dances individually, hence these western dances which necessitated the physical contact of the sexes did not meet with their approval. The occidental waltz, two-step, one-step, fox trot, tango, etc. were alien to oriental culture. Amongst the westerners, by and large, such mixed dances have become an innocent source of social pleasure and entertainment whereas they have been quali1ied as disreputable by easterners. Various nations have individual concepts of morality and at times they are most peculiar. About the middle of the last century when westerners visited Japan for the first time they were shocked at the sight of mixed bathing amongst the Japanese. Not only could men and women be seen bathing thus in rivers, lakes or seas but in private homes too, no distinction between the sexes or ages was observed. They had grown accustomed to the practice since generations and saw no shame in it and were surprised to hear the people of the West remarking upon it. As a result of wider contacts with the outside world this custom has abated. Once our friends took us to see a public bath in Kobe. There were two entrances to the building one marked .male' and the other 'female'. Entering through different doorways we happened to meet at the bath where we were surprised to see men and women bathing together. In spite of this, like other orientals, the Japanese also look upon this western system of mixed dancing as immodest. Time keeps marching on and many of their modern men and women have now taken to western dancing.

Even in our community formerly a handful of men and women participated in these dances and communal newspapers branded their deeds as flippant and frivolous. Today in Bombay, Karachi and other cities, many are constantly enjoying [475] the pleasure. In this respect Karachi seems more advanced than Bombay. Here approximately two hundred men and women have taken to dancing. What Bombay has not yet started is already in vogue here and that is the introduction of dancing as part of the entertainment accompanying Navjote and marriage festivities. Formerly our boys and girls who went abroad to study remained aloof at their college or other social dances and felt out of place, Finding themselves in an awkward and unfriendly position they tried to 'do in Rome as the Romans do', Parsi ladies and gentlemen who moved about in high society were desirous of being called 'modern' and began to join in the dances. Those of the community who are seen smoking are not all enticed by its joys. Many flourish a cigarette between their fingers merely to appear up-to-date in fashionable circles and, once the habit is acquired, it persists. The same is true of dancing. Similarly it is no longer strange to see modern Hindu and Muslim men and women dancing on steamers sailing to Europe and America or in countries of the West.

On the soil that has produced renowned dramatists like Kalidasa and Bhavbhuti, our forefathers may have been ardent admirers of the art, but we have no reference to their being drawn to dramatization or drama writing. We were attracted to it only towards the middle of the last century. In 1853 Dadabhoy Navroji and other educated Parsis founded the first dramatic society. They had performed the play of 'Rustom and Sohrab' and a farce called 'Dhanji Garak', Kaikhushru Kabraji, the renowned reformist editor of the 'Rast Goftar', founded in 1868, the Victoria Dramatic Society, a committee of two Hindus and nine Parsis under the presidentship of a Hindu 'sethia'. Under the auspices of this Society many Shakespearean plays were enacted in Gujerati. The following year they staged the historical play of [476] ‘Bejon and Manijeh' in Persian costumes and in a Persian setting. A love for acting increased in the community and under the directorship of Khurshedji Balivala a drama troupe travelled to different parts of India to perform their plays. Outside India, under the patronage of King Thebo it regaled the people of Burma and in 1855 at the time of the 'Indian and colonial exhibition' held in London, it performed its plays there with twenty-two Parsi actors. During the last seventy-five years we have created talented play-wrights and actors who have produced many Persian historical plays and later some depicting Parsi social life.

Until the beginning of the last century songs and folk music composed by the Hindus and Muslims as well as by members of our community were chanted by us. Western music had already found its way into the country and it had been admitted initially into Parsi homes. At first only our men-folk knew how to perform upon instruments, but later female education seemed incomplete without the accomplishment of music; and so the art of playing and singing was introduced in our families. Strains of sa, re, ge, me, pe, dhe, ni, sa mingled with the cadence of do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do in every home. Since singing and dancing had been elegated to women of low standing in our country, ladies of every community still performed only before their own families and friends.

Our women sang for the first time before a mixed cosmopolitan audience in 1883. Kaikhushru Kabraji had translated the National Anthem of 'God Save the Queen' into Gujerati. Under the Chairmanship of Sir James Ferguson, the Governor of Bombay, a grand function had been organized by the various communities. Inaugurating the function Kabraji delivered a lecture upon the music of the land. The talk was followed by his rendering of 'God Save the Queen' set to western music and [477] sung by twenty Parsi ladies and some girls midst the applause of all present. The first concert performed by Parsi ladies at the Town Hall in 1887 before the Governor of Bombay, Lord Ray and his wife and other prominent ladies and gentlemen, was also organized by Kabraji. Again in 1894 Mrs. (later Lady) Dhanbai Jehangir Readymoney organized a concert at the Town Hall in aid of the Parsi Hospital. Together with other Englishmen she personally participated in the singing on that occasion. After that, such concerts were performed frequently at Bombay, Karachi and other places.

At the turn of the century two Parsi ladies had ventured to take up acting as a profession in Bombay. This gave rise to a heated controversy which resulted at times in opposition against concerts also. In time Karachi felt the effects of the disturbances at Bombay. The presence of non-Parsi leaders in concerts given by Parsi ladies was not uncommon in Karachi. During the great World War of 1914 to 1918 various concerts and fancy dress shows were organized under the patronage of the Commissioner or the General in aid of the soldiers wounded in war. Parsi ladies, together with others, took part in these functions. At a, similar public gathering Parsi ladies had performed before a crowded audience. Yet, only fourteen years ago Zarthosti Banu Mandai organized a successful communal concert in aid of Parsi charities. Upon special request from prominent leaders of other communities to repeat the performance before a cosmopolitan audience and while arrangements were in progress, the Karachi-ites objected to it. Money was refunded to those non-Parsi guests who had purchased tickets for the function. When young girls of respectable Hindu families perform before Parsi audiences from the Parsi platform of the YMZA itself, the conservatives and reformists alike enjoy the performances and applaud heartily. In spite of this, the step that [478] was taken to stop the Banu Mandal from acceding to the noble request of performing before respectable members of sister communities was not only selfish but tantamount to degrading the Mandal and the community in the esteem of other communities. Another excuse that was put forward by the leaders of the opposition for preventing the performance was that it would not be proper for our communal institutions to receive help from outsiders.

After this affair I delivered two talks in reference to it wherein I stated that we valued our self-respect dearly and that everyone was equally anxious to see the community self-supporting and strong enough to stand on its own resources. Yet, under such circumstances, just as we continue to contribute towards the up-keep of other institutions, the gracious acceptance of their assistance at times is a token of respect and a sign of mutual comradeship. To state that we can always give and never receive sounds arrogant at such times. Besides, history tells us that our forefathers did not find it improper to accept assistance from sister communities in their mutual dealings. When they established the first Atashbehram at Sanjan, the gifts that were offered by the Hindu Raja were gratefully and gladly accepted by them. Balajirao, the Gaikwar, had graciously exempted us from paying tax on the sandalwood that was consumed in the Atashbehram at Udvada. The Nizam's government pays an emolument to our dasturs. Vibhaji, the Jam Saheb of Jamnagar, used to contribute Rs. 20/per month towards the upkeep of the local Agyari and Aramgah. From 1926 Jam Ranjitsinghji gave Rs. 50/and, graciously inaugurating the new Agyari himself, announced that henceforth he would contribute Rs. 100/per month. In 1807 Alexander Adams had the death anniversary ceremony of our respected leader, Dadiseth, performed at his own expense and gave [479] a dinner to the Parsis that night. On such occasions it was not a question of cash but of fostering the friendship and good-will of other communities. Nearer home I pointed out examples of Hindu and Muslim dramatic or circus troupes coming to Karachi. At times we request them to contribute the proceeds of some shows to our charitable institutions. There have been instances when they have not charged even for the expenses incurred on the night of the performance, or at most deducted the expenses, and have generously offered to contribute towards our funds and we have accepted their kind offer with deep gratitude. Over and above that, on such occasions we reserve the highest seats for the Parsis and throw open the least expensive benches to other communities and add the income of such shows to our funds. The exhibition of articles made by the students of the Technical Classes of our Girls' School is open to all at a nominal entrance fee. The income from entrance plus the sale proceeds of the articles is credited to the Income Account of our institution. Besides all this, from the time of the last great World War various societies such as the 'Linen League', which have been founded under the patronage of the Commissioner's life, prepare household linen which is distributed to the city hospitals. We willingly accept the share that comes to our Maternity Home and our hospital. Through this graceful acceptance we are cementing the bonds of goodwill and friendship in which lies our security and our self-esteem. Fifty years ago we never heard of a Parsi beggar. Today, to our disgrace and dishonour, despite all the help rendered by our own community which exceeds that given to its poor by any other community, we find Parsi men and women begging for alms from all and sundry on the streets of Bombay. Utopian arrogance will serve no purpose.

[480] The stage has found a place in society since almost two thousand years and from the outset men played the parts of both sexes. Even in the West the custom of women playing their own roles commenced only from the turn of the last century. In our country they made an appearance on the stage as recently as fifty years ago. The audience applauded, but society's disapproval of ladies performing in public continued. Meanwhile, at the beginning of this century, there was a move by women of our community to take up acting as a profession which was crushed by a strong wave of opposition. A decade ago it came to light that a highly educated young lady of a respectable family was to make a debut on the stage as an amateur together with other non-Parsi youths. She was prevented from doing so under threat of picketing. Such strong opposition has abated now.

This controversy was tinged with a new colour in 1935. The appearance of two Parsi ladies on the screen gave birth to a heated discussion in the community. Vehement protests appeared in the press. All kinds of efforts were made to nip this new move in the bud. With the mistaken idea that if such activities were forcefully quelled and conquered once and for all, they would never be re-born, some people offered the impracticable suggestion of buying over the film at a fantastic cost in order to save the proprietors of the company from incurring a loss. Guided by the quaint conception that the intervention of government could prohibit by law Parsi women appearing either on the stage or the screen, Bombay was considering to send to the government a memorandum with the signatures of the Zoroastrians of many places. Whenever some controversial question is being discussed in Bombay, I lecture upon that [481] subject in Karachi. Thus I talked on the challenge posed by society to appropriate individual freedom. I declared that mankind has freed itself after years of struggle from the bondage of such narrow-minded thinking that the state and society are all-in-ail but the individual is not that the individual lives for the sake of society alone. The progress of society is dependent upon the freedom of the individual. Living in an enlightened age, as an educated community we are reared on lessons of freedom of thought, freedom of speech and freedom of conscience. Giving due support to the argument that the morality of a woman appearing on the stage or the screen is endangered, I stated that such a fear is not unfounded; yet in countries of the West many respectable and talented ladies have managed to preserve their honour and have become famous in the art of acting. In spite of that it was necessary to keep in mind the fact that society has no longer the authority to forcefully fetter a person who knowingly heads towards the abyss of evil.

In qualifying my statements I reminded the audience of the event that had occurred in the community. The darkest chapter of the social life of a community is the cheapening of its women's honour through the profession of prostitution. In 1870 when the law regarding contagious diseases was passed, two Parsi women of Bombay applied to the government for a licence to practice prostitution. The feelings of the community were sorely injured and a requisition was made to the Trustees of the Anjoman to take stern action against those women. A meeting of the Smast Anjoman was called at Albless Baug where it was resolved that such women would be debarred from taking advantage of communal charitable institutions during their life-time and, in death, their corpses would not be placed in the Tower of Silence. In other words a resolution was passed that was [482] tantamount to the ancient practice of excommunication that was exercised by the Panchayat against a wrong-doer. Khurshedji Rustomji Cama and other reformists protested against this action taken by the Anjoman and the resolution was shelved. For the first time the community realized that it no longer enjoyed the privilege of preventing an individual from entering, of its own free will, into the cheapest and lowest of professions.

When my opinion was invited from Bombay regarding this move, I informed them of my above-mentioned ideas. The committee wrote to me again stating that if a person harms the whole community by his reckless deed it was the duty of the government to intervene and offer protection against such an action. Stressing the rights of the individual, I reminded them of Herbert Spencer's words that the path of progress is to step from freedom to freedom and the social restrictions on the individual for the imaginary benefit of society retard the onward march of civilization.

Upto date we have succeeded in preventing our women from pursuing acting as a profession, but it will no longer be possible to do so. It is wise to surrender serenely to the changes of time. Two reasons can attract our women towards this profession. One of these is that some who have been born with the natural gift of drama and dance will be guided by an irrepressible instinct to give expression to their hidden talent. Others will be drawn by the pious ideal of earning an honest and independent living through their innate art. Strange and varied are the venues of man's capacity to earn through his intelligence. A Charlie Chaplin or a Greta Garbo or a boxer earns a much larger income than the President of the United States who governs a population of fourteen crore people of the world's richest country or [483] than the Jewish genius, Professor Einstein, the one-time German, but now American citizen and the greatest scientist amongst living men. We cannot but relinquish the idea of forcibly debarring women who honestly believe that they will shine out on the screen from taking to that profession. Before we talk about women losing their self-respect by joining the profession and thus degrading the community, it is necessary to ponder calmly over the fact that, as in all communities, all over the world, amongst us also immorality is now not a veiled evil but has made its shameful appearance in public. Our ancient pride that public prostitution does not exist in the Parsi community does not hold ground any more. We have to live in a world of reality, not in a world of dreams and to direct the course of our lives in consonance with the change of times and circumstances.


Chapter L


We had been betrothed and wedded in childhood, hence our silver jubilee had passed quietly without attracting anyone's attention, while I was studying in America. Now the golden jubilee was approaching, and our kind friends and admirers wished to celebrate it with éclat. The Karachi Zarthosti Banu Mandal organized a function, speeches of felicitation were delivered and, after light refreshments, people parted in a happy mood. During the fifty years of our marriage many changes had been introduced in the community's mode of living. In those days almost all girls of marriageable age were wedded. Today many a home harbours maidens ripe for marriage who, to their parents' distress, remain single. Living has become expensive. The community has advanced culturally. Opportunities for the intermingling of men and women and cementing friendships have increased, yet only a few love-marriages result from such social contacts. Youths usually welcome large dowries. Families that are unable to cope with the dowry system are saddled with spinsters who spend their lives in single blessedness. Not many young men are prepared to shoulder the responsibility of wedded life without the assistance of in-laws.

Thanks to my wife our three sons and three daughters had joined the ranks of matrimony and our progeny had multiplied.

Of our three daughters-in-law and three sons-in-law, one daughter-in-law and one son-in-law are 'behdins'. Even today many families deem it inauspicious for the off-spring of the priest-class and the laity to be joined in holy bonds of wedlock. We do not find any evidence in our Avesta-Pahlavi books of the feelings of people in [485] ancient Iran regarding this matter. In India distinct discord about such marriages was first witnessed in Surat. In 1728 the mobeds of that city called a meeting of their own kind and passed a biased resolution that the priests were privileged to marry behdin maidens but priestly families would not give their daughters in marriage to the laity. As the dispute waxed, fifty years later, in 1778, the Parsi Panchayat at Bombay resolved that the behdins would neither give their daughters to athornans nor would they take daughters of priestly families. In other words, the exchange of girls on both sides terminated. They also resolved to excommunicate those who disregarded this decision and such instances even occurred. As rancour rose the government intervened as mediator and appointed a committee to examine the details. The mobeds claimed that since ages they had the right to marry behdin girls but not to give their daughters into behdin families. They were unable to supply any evidence in support of their arguments. At last in 1831 to end the controversy the Bombay Panchayat relaxed the conditions and passed a fresh resolution to the effect that, should the mobeds agree to let their daughters marry behdin boys, both parties would henceforth enter into partnership irrespective of their lineage.

A hundred and twenty-five years have elapsed since this question was resolved. As a result of higher education the community has become more advanced and cultured. Yet this superstition still lingers in certain families. The responsibility of initiating the superstition lies on the shoulders of the priests of olden days. Today many a behdin family is averse to accepting an athornan bride. A ritualistic priestly sect of Hindus is known as ardhvaryu. In this country our mobeds have been called 'andhiarus' from ancient times a corruption of the word 'ardhvaryu'. Hence even educated men and women today imagine that to accept the daughter of an [486] 'andhiaru' is to invite 'andharu' or 'darkness' into the home. The superstition seems to apply even to those who have abandoned the practice of priesthood since decades and whose sons are prosperous doctors, lawyers, teachers, service-men or businessmen. If perchance some inauspicious event takes place in the home of a behdin family who has accepted an athornan bride, and if such sad situations happen to repeat themselves in rapid succession, the sole cause of the evil destiny is believed to be the unpropitious advent of the offspring of an 'andhiaru'. Some credulous creatures do not desist even from publishing their sad plight in the papers, as though to prove that the acceptance of a bride of priestly parentage is bound to bring disaster into the family. On the other hand, those of priestly lineage, but practising various professions, avoid, as far as possible, to allow their daughters to be betrothed to behdins; and only when a suitable partner of a priestly breed is not on the horizon do they most reluctantly relent and display the large-heartedness of accepting an eligible behdin bachelor.

How disgraceful and degrading is such an attitude for an educated community like the Parsis! If the balance of mankind's joys and sorrows is weighed in the scales of mobed-behdin unions, how blind, unfair and meaningless is divine justice!

The course of our lives was sweet and serene. The bickerings of by-gone days born of my observance of religious rituals were but a phantom of the past, after four decades of adherence to a more devotional, ethical and realistic religion.

The endurance of troubles and tribulations make us more fit to understand the hardships of others and to sympathise with their sorrows. We were ever ready to iron out the differences that divided families or to mediate and smoothen in [487] secret the delicate discords and disharmonies of home life and to cement ties that were about to be severed. The reason for many a strife was the clash of ideals and the conflict of minor and meaningless observances. In such circumstances we pleaded with the elders that they should be grateful to God that their children were noble and industrious and that they should be broad-minded enough to submit to their ideals as far as possible. At the same time our advice to the younger ones was that their primary duty was to lighten the load of age from the shoulders of their elders even at the sacrifice of their own beliefs. We had to be prepared to face strange circumstances created in the name of religion. A young, devoted couple was living in peace and harmony. By chance the young husband got involved with an esoteric religious sect and gradually his thinking took such a turn that he began to believe conjugal ties to be sinful. He slept on a mat spread upon the floor at a distance from his wife and indulged in many such celibate practices. To preserve the honour of the home his wife and family tolerated his whims in silence for quite some time, but eventually they turned to us in despair. Under such conditions we were obliged to deal with exceptional patience and skill for days and even for weeks at times. But when all kinds of stratagem and contrivances ended in a joyous reunion and everyone departed from our home with smiling faces and happy hearts, we enjoyed the deep satisfaction of having done our duty. It is stated in the Bible, Blessed are the peacemakers". If individuals, families, communities and nations were to solve their differences and misunderstandings and arrive at an amicable settlement with common consent to check the tide of disharmony, mankind would enjoy such a wealth of peace and serenity!

It is an ancient practice for the government of a country to confer titles and decorations upon its [488] subjects. The hierarchy of honour has always existed. Democratic countries like America and France whose governing authority is not a hereditary monarch but a president elected by the nation from time to time, have abolished the age-old system of conferring titles. In spite of that some people cherish an intense desire to attach some sort of designation to their names. We ourselves witnessed such instances in the United States. Daughters of millionaires harbour a craze to be known as ladies or duchesses or baronesses by marrying a lord or a duke or a baron. They try to capture the son of some impoverished nobleman in Europe. A double purpose is thus served. Wealth flows into the empty purses of titled aristocrats and the fancy of rich maidens to adorn their names is fulfilled.

In the subcontinent the government has two different modes of conferring titles on Hindus and Muslims. Hindus are honoured as Raobahadurs and Raosahebs whereas Muslims are decorated as Khan Bahadurs and Khan Sahebs. The latter form is conferred upon Parsis. When the laurels of knowledge are placed upon the brows of a Hindu pundit he is honoured as a 'Maha Mahopadhya'. The title of 'Shams-ul-Ulema' is conferred upon Muslims in similar cases.

Four decades ago the Muslim maulvis appealed to the government that as the term 'Shams-ul-Ulema' related to the Ulemas of their faith only it should not be conferred upon Parsis. The government wrote to the Right Honourable Sir Jamshedji to prepare a list of titles from which it could select one for Parsi scholars. Thereupon a committee comprised of some of our leaders was appointed which prepared such a list. One of the suggested titles on the list was 'Vidhya Patti', 'the lord of knowledge'. Ridiculing the suggestion, the 'Hindi Panch' which was being published then, stated [489] that slight alteration in word-structure - instead of 'Vidhya Patti' the title 'Petna Vathya' (a slave of the stomach) better befitted the present-day condition of our religious readers. Eventually the government put an end to the matter and continued to confer upon Parsis the same title as Muslims.

My constant contact with America had helped me to formulate certain opinions regarding the conferring of titles. My opposition was not directed only to the system of conferring honours. The practice of respecting and honouring a person I deemed useful and valuable. Many a time it would transpire that if the government conferred a title upon someone, there was criticism that the recipient had donated to some charitable cause merely for the sake of earning an encomium. I would explain that mankind is not made up of saints. It was futile to expect everyone to give without a hope for reward to give merely for the sake of giving. Rewards, titles and honours were an incentive to beneficial deeds and ultimately resulted in public profit, hence the government's practice of conferring titles and honours should not be disdained.

Thus, in spite of my views in favour of society's need of titles and honours, it was my opinion that should I ever be offered a title I would not accept the same. My life's companion deferred from my ideals and persuaded me of the validity of accepting the applause due to ability. Later, during the Freedom Movement, I participated in meetings that were not in accord with the government's approval and my views regarding the refusal of titles were strengthened. On the other hand circumstances took such a turn that the government's blessings could never be showered on me and the question of conferring a title upon me never arose.

Many years had gone by since then. The need for dedicating all my time to a life of learning and [490] study had weaned my footsteps away from participating in public, national movements.

Rumour reached us that the title of 'Shamsul Ulema' was to be conferred on me. Immediately the mistress of my home commenced lessons on the necessity and advantages of accepting titles. In good humour she taught me that 'Shams' means' the sun'. Hence, by the acceptance of a title of its denomination, the sun would shine more benevolently on me and naturally, my radiance and brilliance would be augmented. Since the moon reflects the radiance of the sun, its rays falling upon me would glorify her who was my moon and my satellite. I became a disciple of her philosophic teachings and made her persuasive mind my own. Later, when the Collector of Karachi enquired whether I would accept the title of 'Shamsul Ulema' should it be conferred upon me by the government, without the slightest hesitation I replied in a single word: 'Bismillah' - (God's will be done).

Since the commencement of the conference of this title upon the savants of our community, it had been conferred upon Dastur Hoshang and Dastur Kaikobad of Poona and Dastur Peshotan, Dastur Darab Sanjana and Erwad Jeevanji Mody of Bombay. All these five devout religious leaders have left this world. I was offered this honour in June 1935. Since some time the holder of such a title is given a life-time's annual emolument of Rs.100/- by the government. The Vendidad demands that a true Athravan should seek for knowledge late into the night. That the government offers to pay for the mid-night oil that a student burns should be considered a boon.

The recent arrangement of maintaining the High Priest of Karachi on a monthly salary dependent upon the monthly subscriptions that are [491] collected. This system is precarious. As these subscriptions have decreased due to various reasons, since some years I have been receiving Rs. 100/less per month from the Anjoman than decided upon. But the effect of this decrease is not felt thanks to the kindness of friends and admirers. Twenty years ago they had purchased a small bungalow and gifted it to us on the occasion of my eldest daughter's marriage. In their thoughtfulness they were now considering to raise a storey over it, but sufficient funds were not forthcoming. Meanwhile an invitation arrived from Jehangirji Hormusji Cama, the extremely efficient Managing Director of the 'Mancherji Cama Athornan Institute' at Bombay, to deliver a series of eight lectures there. The institute presented me with a generous honorarium for it. Besides this, that enthusiastic gentleman won the cooperation of some esteemed leaders of the community and organized my lecture-tour with the Anjomans of various cities. We travelled for three months in fifteen large and small townships of Bombay, Poona, Nagpur and Gujarat and I delivered thirty six talks during that period. At all these places I was presented with purses of varying amounts, the proceeds of which totalled twenty-five thousand. Thus, besides building an additional floor above our premises, the sum helped to a large extent to meet with the expenses of our fifth and possibly our final trip to America and the estimate of Rs. 8000/- that had been received for having my new book printed there. Thanks to the kindness and consideration of the community I have had the excellent opportunity of rendering faithful service as an itinerant missionary by speaking and writing to radiate the noble name, work and teachings of Zarathushtra as described in the ninth 'ha' of the Yajashne, not only in the cities of the subcontinent but also in far-off countries of the East and West five times in Europe and America and once in Iran, China and Japan.

[492] The means to fulfil my religious mission was always fractional. Where a rupee would be needed we had fifteen annas nine pies. After spending a hundred we would have to stinge for a quarter, for that additional quarter was never ours. We exercised extreme economy on our tours. On returning from every trip my wife's first duty was to air my suits and over-coats and to store them away with care. She did this twice a year and when, seven or eight years later we set out for America again, she would give them again to me to wear. She treated her American dresses in the same manner. We voyaged from Karachi to New York by second class. The train journeys in Europe and America were covered by third. Despite the strictest economy, expenses always mounted high. The publication of my book alone cost seven to eight thousand rupees. Due to lack absence of demand, half or more of the expense of every book resulted in a loss to me. Hence in spite of the profits accruing from the sale of my wife's purchases, at the termination of every trip we were burdened with a debt of two or three thousand rupees.

Having lived in Karachi since childhood I have had the chance of visiting Surat the city of my birth but thrice during my life-time and only for three or four days on each occasion. On this visit the kind inhabitants of Rustompara gave me an address appreciating my humble services.

During our travels we were obliged to return to Bombay for a day. I was given the distinguished privilege of performing the opening ceremony of the beautiful building of' the K. R. Cama Oriental Institute which has been founded in the holy memory of the late learned scholar Khurshedji Rustomji Cama. This magnificent mansion will continue to remind posterity of the precious services of two of our erudite and talented scholars. The central lecture-hall of this Institute has [493] been dedicated to the sacred memory of Shamsul Ulma Sir Jeevanji Jamshedji Mody, the jewel which lends lustre to the Athornan fold. Here many a learned scholar will deliver wise and enlightened sermons. Another similar institute built as a memorial to the renowned pundit, Sir Ramkrishna Gopal Bhandarkar. is rendering memorable service amongst us. In like manner the Cama Institute has to create some rare and selective literature for the development of Parsi culture. One such important work is the compilation of a Zoroastrian Encyclopedia. The honourable Chairman of the Anjoman here, Khan Bahadur Sir Cavasjee Hormusjee Katrak. told me some time back that our Governor wished to read the most recent authentic history of the reign of our forefathers. In response to the demand for the latest I could offer nothing but Rawlison's Volumes published seven decades ago in the Victorian era. The Institute has to take up this and other such great works and to render invaluable literary service.

It has been my good fortune to perform the opening ceremony of the Daremeher, and the Sagdi at Karachi, the Daremeher at Sukker, the Young Men's Zoroastrian Association, the Mama Girls' School, the Goolbai Mehta Maternity Home, the Panthaky Sanatorium at Karachi and the foundation-stone laying ceremony and inauguration of charitable chawls, and the unveiling of the photographs of many men and women. My wife had long since cherished a desire to place in a glass show-case the mementoes of these auspicious occasions the many silver trowels, keys, plaques, souvenirs and caskets containing addresses, which had hitherto been packed in a trunk. For a long time I resisted, but ultimately succumbed to her wiles and so those trinkets stepped out of the veil and were displayed in the drawing room.


Chapter LI


In the history of mankind's progress during the last four thousand years, our ancestors, known as Iranians, have contributed their share. Renowned as an extremely mighty nation for almost three thousand years, during the last 1300 years we are existing as the world's most microscopic minority community. The ravages of time have left no stone unturned to cull and glean from all that was ours and to destroy every remnant of it. It has annihilated all signs and significance of Persian aura, Kyanian radiance and Parsi glory. Unappreciative generations have not cared to preserve even a few ruins faintly reminiscent of Peshdadian and Kyanian kingship. The remembrance of all the greatness and glory of the Hakaemenians and Sasanian Empires is encompassed in relics of ruins, writings and coins. Only our unparalleled and supreme treasure, Spitama Zarathushtra’s sublime religion, has escaped the assault of time. Not a single flame of the innumerable fires kindled in the three thousand years of sovereignty remains ablaze. The Atash ni Nyash prayer of millions of Zoroastrian souls through three thousand years to let the sacred fire burn eternally, has not been fulfilled. Each and every fire has been extinguished. Their magnificent Atashkadehs have left no mark on the sands of time, The Fire Temples that are present today in the ancient motherland of Iran are of recent origin.

After the sun set on the Persian Empire, when we arrived in India twelve hundred years ago, the sacred fire was brought to Sanjan whence it proceeded across the Baharot Mountains and through the forests of Bandsda to Navsari and onwards to Surat, thence back to Navsari and Valsad on to [495] Udvada in 1742 where it has remained. This is the oldest and most sacred 'sanctum sanctorum' that unites our community all over the world. The adherents of various faiths have various places of pilgrimage. This is our one and only place of pilgrimage. Our religious fervour and devotion draws us with one accord towards Udvada that has been sanctified by the glory of this sacred fire. Zoroastrian faith and Zoroastrian zeal consider it as the most precious possession of the entire community. And verily is it so.

According to tradition and later as a result of legal verdict, nine priestly families of Sanjan and their heirs are the sole lawful guardians of this ancient 'Kebla' and they alone have the right to enjoy its income. Generations have passed but these servers who pay obeisance to the sacred fire have not moved with the times and conditions and, in the 20th century are still living the life of the 17th century. Deprived of sound education they have remained backward and are ever dependent on alms. On the other hand, their brethren in neighbouring Navsari, not finding sufficient sustenance at their doorstep, left their hearths and homes and plunged into adventure and, by the sweat of their brow, became independent. Education altered their destiny and they have become the community's leaders in public life, thus making the athornan fold more lustrous and luminous.

The community has experienced innumerable strifes and struggles between various 'punthaks' or even amongst the members of the self-same diocese during its twelve hundred years of existence in this land. But in Udvada, during the last forty years, not thousands but lacs of rupees have gone down the drain in courts and high courts and appeal courts in fighting out cases to the chagrin of the community throughout the country. All hearts have been pained at the constant complaints of the [496] misuse and misappropriation of the sandalwood dedicated to the sacred fire for ceremonials. Twenty-five years ago, certain spirited athornans took up the cudgels to cleanse and regularize the Anjoman's accredited disorganization and to set it on a constitutional basis. Since early times, in Bombay and elsewhere, the funds of the Anjomans had been administered through the Trustees of the Panchayats of respective places. The move to regularize its election and to bracket its responsibility commensurate with the times, started in the beginning of this century. When such a legal constitution came into force in the Bombay Panchayat, the Anjomans at Karachi and other cities prepared systematic constitutions on more or less similar lines and began to administer the funds under their jurisdiction accordingly. Hence it was not surprising that there was a demand for such alterations and amendments at Udvada. But here, there was something more than the ordinary request for constitutional changes. Here it was not merely the question of the administration of funds, but the wider problem of the nomination of two dasturs and their rights and responsibilities as well as the complaints regarding the utilization of the sandalwood for 'Machis', etc. that needed to be solved legally.

Whenever a new religion is founded, or a new sect is formed in an established faith, a fresh religious fervour and zeal burns within the breast of its newly-formed following. They believe themselves to be the saviours and reformers of the chaos that has been created in the religious life of men. They feel they are the guardians and the sustainers of ceremonials and rituals, hence they come forward to work with a missionary ardour. Before their enthusiasm abates and their zest subsides and the fervour of their faith cools down, they succeed in bringing in certain changes in the religious life of the society. Such was the state of affairs in [497] Udvada. Through some imaginary, invisible and esoteric Zoroastrian group, a society known as "Ilmakshnum" came into existence in Udavda which made a queer claim to reveal a new light in Zoroastrian ceremonies and conventions. This society found as its faithful adherents many athornans. They came to be known as the 'Unvala Sect' from the surname of the family of their accepted elders. On the authority of the presumed new understanding and inspiration that they had received, these good people introduced certain alterations in prayers and ceremonies according to their own wisdom and became more loyal practitioners of conventions, They were the Puritans who were anxious to design a new pattern in the religious life of Udvada. Like the outsiders and laymen they had become critics. Being inhabitants of the place, they were bent upon finding fault with the established practices of the region, hence were most unpopular with the fold. Their conflicts with the Anjoman increased and, more than once, they dragged the leaders to court. The atmosphere of the town was tense and dissensions and disharmony were mounting. From time to time the well-wishers of the community at Bombay had attempted to intervene and bring peace amongst the parties, but without success.

The selfless and courageous Burjorji Faramji Bharucha, who had since years sacrificed his health, wealth and knowledge to infusing a new spirit into the life and living conditions of Udvada, and the Unvala sect there, requested my humble services in the beginning of 1936 to bring about an understanding between the contesting camps and to crown with success the move to attain a constitution for the Anjoman. I accepted the challenge with great pleasure. Ahura Mazda was my guide and protector and it took two whole years to fulfil the mission successfully with the co-operation of all concerned. During that period [498] my wife and I visited Udvada on four different occasions. Thus, abiding there for weeks on every visit, on the whole we lived in Udvada for two and a half months.

In the beginning of 1936 when we embarked upon our peace-making mission, the Udvada Anjoman was divided into two parties, known as the Anjoman party and the Unvala party. Both the dasturjis headed the Anjoman party and it was definitely in the majority. These parties had been quarrelling since some time. Just then the good priests who had been presiding over them passed away and their successors were nominated according to tradition. The Unvala sect proclaimed these nominations to be unconstitutional as elected without the sanction of the Anjoman, and refused to invite the newly appointed Dasturs on important occasions like the Navar or Nirangdin ceremony or to ask their permission, or to pay respect to them or to cooperate with them. In short they did not accept or recognize them as Dasturs. It was necessary to repudiate this objection before venturing upon the task of framing a constitution for the Anjoman. With the cooperation and coordination of the gentlemen concerned, this question was amicably settled within three weeks. The Anjoman’s meeting that was called on 30th March 1936 passed a resolution of agreement regarding this subject. There was rejoicing in all quarters and as a joyful proclamation of the mitigation of misunderstanding, a procession accompanied by a band marched through the streets of the city.

It was decided that on my return to Karachi I was to prepare a draft constitution within two months and send it for the approval, alterations and amendments of both parties. As arranged, within the prescribed time-limit I sent printed copies of the draft constitution to workers at Udvada and places outside Udvada. Meanwhile the circumstances [499] took a new turn and a great controversy was created as to the personal rights and privileges of the two Dasturs and, over and above the two primary factions of the Anjoman and the Unvalas, two independent parties of the Dasturs were formed, and so, instead of two, three parties came into being.

About two hundred years ago, from amongst the Mobeds who had brought the sacred fire to Udvada, the Anjoman had chosen two leaders as their Dasturs. No rules and regulations had been framed regarding the scope of their authority. Shaikh Sadi has said that ten beggars can sleep comfortably under a single coverlet, but two kings cannot be accommodated within a single kingdom. Similarly, in a small society like the Anjoman at Udvada, it was not possible for two Dasturs to live side by side in the same domain. Yet, the spiritual heirs of both these seats of priesthood had, for two whole centuries, ministered devoutly to the holy 'Iranshah' and reigned amicably and in harmony as guides of the priestly class.

In framing the constitution of the Anjoman it was but natural that the question of the rights and privileges of the two dasturs be of prime importance. The Dastur who was adorning the throne of one party, his family and his followers vehemently maintained the authority of the two dasturs was not at par that one was senior to the other. His colleague and the adherents of that flock argued even more forcefully that the holders of both prelacies were on an equal footing and have always been enjoying equal status and equal privileges.

As if it were insufficient to designate our dasturs of India as the Dastur of a certain city, it has become a rule amongst us to speak of them and write of them as High Priests. There is only one Dastur in Karachi, yet he is known as the High [500] Priest of Karachi. The same is the case concerning the dasturs of other regions. Turning over the pages of the Parsi Prakash it will be found that its famous writer affixes the word 'vada' or 'high' with the name of any previous dastur of Udvada who passes away or in mentioning the appointment of his successor or in discussing some of his public achievements. Hence it follows that A is 'high' and so is B 'high'. Yet when both dasturs are present in an assembly, it was obvious that the scales of rights and responsibilities would be slightly tilted depending upon who sits on the chair placed to the right or who commences a prayer ceremony. In spite of that, if care is not taken to give the heirs of both parties equal authority while drafting the rules and regulations of the first constitution in the history of the Anjoman, the agreement that had been arrived at would be nullified and the progress of framing the constitution endangered. It took a year and a half to solve this problem. As usual in such cases, at times hours or even days of heated discussions arise over every point or every word. The one word whose meaning, derivation, scope of utility demanded our greatest attention and time was 'high'. Ultimately common sense, broad-mindedness and cooperativeness prevailed and two very difficult questions were solved.

Amongst the three factions that had evolved up to that time, a variety of subjects like the nomination of the two dasturs, their privileges and prerogatives, and the constitution of the Anjoman, were being debated. The Unvalas who were in alliance with the Ilmakhusnumites, were conducting ceremonies and prayers in a manner alien to tradition. Certain gentlemen placed in my hands a strong protest to add items in the draft constitution to put an end to such affairs, and informed me in no uncertain terms that unless these have been refuted, their party would not pass the constitution. [501] Two parties had split into three and now a fourth came into existence. The fourth party, composed of sixty members of the Unvala sect, sent a counter protest to the effect that should there be any attempt to stop them from performing ceremonies and rituals as they had done since two decades according to their own religious beliefs, they would withdraw their cooperation from the framing of the constitution. Since a long time the Anjoman at Udvada had been disturbed by the alterations and additions to ceremonies that had been introduced in the name of Ilmakhshnum. Due to this rift many a happy family had broken up. In some homes the father would conduct prayers and ceremonies in the established style whereas his son would work in a contrary manner according to the teachings of the new party. In this way there was disharmony between father and son, brother and brother, uncle and nephew. Many elders complained to us about this with heavy hearts and tear-dimmed eyes. They informed us that as the Ilmakhshnumites exerted an immense influence in Bombay and as ceremonies were being performed through the Boyce Trust Fund towards which generous subscriptions were contributed, the younger generation was drawn towards them to the distress of the elders. This was true. On the other hand, the members of the Unvala clan who had imbibed a faith in Ilmakhshnum, had for twenty years practised the religion in its altered form, and were convinced of its veracity. Both parties viewed their own particular beliefs with deep feeling, and presumed they were in the right, and looked upon the newly-created party as guilty of having introduced thirty-three major and minor alterations in the realm of prayers and rituals. The most important change was the system of performing the 'kusti' ceremony with the Srosh Baaj 'Xnum'. It takes more time to do the 'Kusti' in this new manner than it did to perform it according to established practice. Considering the conditions prevailing in the community at [502] present, it could be surmised that some members must be performing the 'Kusti' ceremony hardly once a day. Another smaller percentage does not even wear the 'sadra' [sudre] and 'Kusti'. In spite of this, disputes regarding religious observances are rampant. Those performing the Kusti ceremony in the new fashion believe it to be the true and correct way. This was their honest belief. It was not a question of proving which method of performing the Kusti ceremony was correct but of safeguarding the sentiments of both parties. While the constitution was being drafted and passed, so many heated controversies arose from time to time regarding certain questions that the agreement was on the point of being abrogated. Similarly this delicate question regarding rituals and prayers dashed against the rock of dissension and the vessel of the constitution was in danger of being ship-wrecked. By the grace of God and the wisdom of all concerned, this impediment too was removed and the draft of the constitution crossed this hurdle. Ten years have elapsed since then, the constitution is being adhered to at will, party spirit has to a large extent been abolished and there is peace and cooperation in the Udvada Anjoman.

Udvada is the sacred centre of the Parsi community. The Zoroastrian life of Udvada is dependent upon the sacred 'sanctum sanctorum'. All means of livelihood are centred around it. The thousands of devout pilgrims that go there every year from every town and city take with them means of sustenance. On them depends all trade and commerce. Orders for innumerable ceremonies arrive from all quarters and are noted there. Large quantities of sandalwood are placed on several 'machis'. Our community offers to the sacred 'Iranshah' silver that can be accounted in thousands. Ceremonies and 'Machis' are under the jurisdiction of 'punthakies' and, as neither of the Dasturs is a 'punthaky' dastur, their income is not [503] commensurate with their status. The Anjoman at Udvada has the problem of their High Priests maintaining their status and fulfilling their sacred duty independently and with honour.

To sing praises of a person's meagre services is the generous nature of our community. True to that temperament, the kind Anjoman at Udvada lavished their respect and affection on both of us for our humble services. They honoured us with an address, their ladies' Society showered on us their sweetness, the people of their 'punthak' who were working at Bombay poured upon us their respects and their colleagues who had been working since nine decades in Karachi gave me an address and unveiled my photograph in the premises of the Daremeher. We render services without any desire for reward and most selflessly, yet when kind folk appreciate them, their generosity and their loving feelings help us to be better servers of humanity.


Chapter LII


The question of supplying highly qualified priests to meet with the demands of a cultured community like the Parsis has been repeatedly discussed since at least a hundred years. The community has spent large sums of money to solve this perplexing problem and has made many a pious attempt. It has not been able to find a way out of this difficulty up to date. After the publication of my book Gujarati quote (The adornment of priests) in 1897 I have delivered several lectures on this intricate subject and have written many articles about it. During the long interval that has elapsed since then, I have pondered deeply on this my pet subject. I have observed keenly and experienced widely. In doing so my views on the subject formed on sentiment fifty years ago have altered and I shall state here-under how I have begun to see and understand this problem since some time.

In the religious and social life of our community a great deal has been handed down to us by the Indo-Iranians prior to Zarathushtra. Among other things the onus of hereditary priesthood has been foisted upon us which has come down from time immemorial, long before the ancient Peshdadian and Kyanian period. The accident of birth creates our dasturs and our mobeds. Our Athornan fold has become a distinct class by itself. The son of a Brahmin becomes a Brahmin, irrespective of calibre or capability. Similarly, every Zoroastrian descended from the priestly flock is invested with the garb of priesthood. If all the men-folk born within a certain fold hold the monopoly of a particular profession, it is not possible for the community to sustain them. Because of this, in India as there are many more Brahmins than the [505] Hindu community can maintain, they are at liberty to carry on any other occupation besides their sacred vocation. In Sasanian Iran, educated priests became prime ministers, ambassadors, judges, dignitaries, teachers, scribes, while those who were illiterate took any ordinary occupation to make both ends meet.

Hereditary priesthood entails:

  1. A conglomeration of an excess of priests.
  2. Their principal qualification a perfection in performing ceremonies
  3. Ceremonials their mainstay of existence.

Due to the above reasons, wherever there is hereditary priesthood, that religion becomes replete with rituals for the maintenance of its priests. The priests themselves perforce make it so. Only then can their fold find sufficient means of livelihood.

Such is the condition of today's heirs of the priestly class. The followers of prophet Zarathushtra’s simple, ethical and devotional religion have turned it into a religion of unlimited rituals.

Twelve hundred years ago, our forefathers emigrating to India, had to start afresh in a new land. Spreading from Kathiawad to Gujarat, as the community established itself in various places, we find our priests making a kind of collective effort to take under their control a congregation at will. In this way separate ‘punthaks' are formed and each ‘punthak' inherits the contract of practising within the appointed limits of its fold. On the other hand the members of each 'punthak' through individual effort, manage to secure a laity of varying dimensions and pose as their hereditary 'punthaks' or their family priests. In former times [506] laymen were usually farmers, toddy tappers, wine vendors, or grocers. As there were more priests than the laity could maintain, besides performing prayers and ceremonies the priests cooked food meant for sanctification, prepared sweetmeats for ceremonies, wove cloth, maintained small shops and carried on various incidental occupations. Their womenfolk assisted them in all their work. Besides, as they had the monopoly of weaving 'kustis' for all Zoroastrians, they were able to earn a little from that profession. To a large extent this routine continues to the present day. In the field of learning our religious leaders were somewhat superior to those who patronized them. Very few laymen were literate, whereas it was essential for every young mobed aspiring to be a Navar or a Maratab to be able to read and write in order to be able to learn by rote lengthy prayers from books written in Avestan script or transcribed in Gujarati. Those priests and laymen who were obliged to keep accounts relating to their business or occupations knew the rudiments of mathematics. The few who had contacts with the courts of Navabs studied Persian. A handful of dasturs and mobeds wrote books in Gujarat and in Persian and contributed to the field of literature. Such a state of affairs continued up to the end of the 18th century.

Conditions changed from the beginning of the 19th century. With the introduction of English education many sons of priests like those of laymen started taking advantage of it. Within two or three decades the number of western-qualified mobeds increased. These young men withdrew from their parental profession, with the result that as time passed on and English education advanced, Athornan youths having similar western qualifications as the sons of laymen came forth to serve. Yet the practicing priests remained as they were fifty [507] years ago. Young Athornan graduates began to put on black-turbaned 'paghdis' or 'phentas'. They were credited as being qualified while those of their family who took to priesthood and whose education terminated at the learning of three or four Gujarat books were called comparatively ignorant. The priestly profession lost its reputation. Mobed and Andhiaru became terms of ridicule. In Parsi dramas and plays the farcical roles were assigned to Andhiarus together with Iranis and villagers. The sons of Mobeds themselves began to believe that to be a mobed was degrading.

The newly-enlightened section of the community drew everyone's attention to Christian priests and complained about the backwardness of our religious leaders. From 1839 when Rev. Wilson converted two Parsi youths and commenced a tirade against the teachings of the Zoroastrian faith, the community became more aware of the necessity of improving the priestly fold. The educated young men and women of the community were attracted to Christian priests because of the quality of their learning and of their character. Well-wishers of the community believed that if the sons of mobeds were given such fine training, the community could attain qualified priests to suit the enlightened age. Until that time the sons of mobeds were trained for the priestly profession at Navsari, Udvada, Surat or Broach, in the homes of experts in the field of religious study. The sons of mobeds went daily to the homes of these savants for seven or eight years to pray, and after being perfectly initiated into the study necessary for becoming a Navar or a Maratab and into the knowledge of performing ceremonies, they stepped forth to practise as priests. Later, Madressahs were opened at various places. In Bombay the Mulla Pheroze Madressah and [508] the Sir Jamshedji Jeejibhoy Madressah for the study of Persian languages and other necessary higher education were established in 1854 and in 1863. The athornan pupils of the learned layman, Khurshedji Rustomji Cama, and fresh athornans and qualified Ervads who had passed through the portals of this Institute came forth to serve and the community welcomed them heartily. In knowledge and character these Ervads could adorn any priestly fold. The community had demanded mobeds who could stand side by side honourably with the most qualified Christian priests and they had received such mobeds in the first few weeks.

But, having received them, how were they to be maintained? Thinking minds of the community had not considered this question. Just as youths passing through schools and colleges found some sort of employment, without thinking or without taking into question the pros and cons of the problem everyone imagined that these scholars who were proficient in seven important languages like English, Avesta, Pahlavi, Pazand. Persian, Sanskrit and Gujarat would be automatically absorbed by the community. So cautious and calculating a community like the Parsis did not take into consideration the fact that the law of the balance of supply and demand applied equally to finding venues of employment as it did to trade and commerce. Soon it was realized that educated Ervads were available but means to employ them were inadequate. Throughout India the dasturs and punthakies of all the existing Atashkadehs had become heads of their institutions by right of lineage. Hence it was not possible for these qualified Ervads to find a place there. Similarly, independent and lucrative businesses had been reserved permanently by groups of laity for their own particular 'panthaky'. Thus the doors of both the priests and the plebeians were closed to these newly-qualified Ervads. The well-wishers of the [509] Mobeds, like Khurshedji Cama and others, verbally and in writing urged everyone to invite and honour these learned Athornans to any marriage, Navjote, jashan or fareshta ceremony that took place in their families. But that was not possible. Only after their own dasturs and punthakies had been provided for and satisfied, could these learned mobeds who seemingly had appeared to share in their profits, be countenanced as extras. Hence it was not possible to comply with that request, nor was it acceded to. So ultimately these Ervads joined some business concern or some trade and eked out their livelihood and in their leisure hours rendered laudable, honorary service by enhancing the literature of the community.

When the Sir Jamshedji Jeejibhoy Zarthoshti Madressah was established in 1863 it was a whole-day teaching institution. It had been started with the pious purpose of preparing learned religious leaders for the community through the medium of English and Sanskrit besides Iranian languages. With the passage of time, due to a dearth of athornan students, behdins were also admitted, and the Madressah, instead of a full day’s school, conducted two or three-hourly classes daily. Meanwhile, about the end of the last century, Bombay University introduced Avesta and Pahlavi as elective 'second languages' for students. Hence many of the mobed or behdin youths studying in colleges who, till then, had taken Persian, French, Sanskrit, Latin or Gujarat as their 'second language', now chose Avesta or Pahlavi. The main reason for many of the pupils opting for Iranian languages as their elective subject was that the Madressah offered monthly scholarships to all such students. Athornan youths received twice the amount given to behdin boys and sons of dasturs got two times as much as the athornans. As a result a large number of athornan and behdin students well-versed in Iranian languages graduated [510] from colleges every year. They earned their livelihood through various trades or took to some clerical job. Those who were lovers of literature and eager to serve, delivered sermons and lectures during their spare hours. In an indirect way with the exception of a few learned dasturs, the community gained a readymade voluntary corps of lecturers comprised of athornans and behdins who served in government offices or business concerns or who joined the legal, medical or some other profession. The condition of the practising punthakies and of those performing incidental ceremonies maintained a 'status quo' that is they remained void of higher education hence the aim of supplying the educated Parsi community with learned religious leaders remained unfulfilled.

In order to meet this need of the community, fresh attempts have been made during the last two decades. Sons of mobeds have lived as boarders at the residential madressah founded under the auspices of the Athornan Mandal at Bombay and the larger institution at Andheri established through the munificent gift of twenty-five lacs donated by Seth Meherwanji Mancherji Cama, the ardent admirer of mobeds. They have been educated in the profession of priesthood under men of learning and integrity. During the period of study in these institutions, besides learning the prayers necessary for Navars and Maratabs, they study general subjects which make them eligible for entrance into the English 4th or 5th standard. These new Madressahs are a great improvement upon the training centres of the townships of Gujarat run by mobeds and tutors in their own homes. Through cooperative living and strict supervision over their education, manners and movements, and the benefit of studying continuously for years under the influence of able teachers, the students who step out of these institutions are more qualified and better-equipped to fulfil their sacred mission [511] than the youths who come from tutorial homes. A sense of team-spirit is developed, self-respect is enhanced and high ideals of living are born in them. Eagerly, enthusiastically and hopefully they step forth in search of livelihood. They have attained sound instruction, but they find no one willing to appreciate their worth. Mobeds have already established themselves as family 'punthakies' with Behdins and in Atashkadehs. There is no room for new-comers. Some find no work at all others find a little. They realize that punthakies who are less educated than themselves earn two and three to five and seven hundred even, whereas they are destined to serve the punthakies night and day on a meagre salary or thirty of forty, have meals in their homes, and earn a gratuity of twelve or fifteen rupees. Their high hopes are shattered; they get dejected and start complaining. One good person belonging to this group wrote to me in 1936 with a heavy heart: "What is it but sheer cruelty to have refined us and enhanced our self-respect and then to let us drift on the plank of destiny?"

In truth the community is not heartless. Nor is it in a position to heed the plea of these young applicants and to pacify them. Much is said and a great deal is written in reply to their pleadings. To a very large extent the answers seem impracticable. It is the opinion of some that the community should establish large funds running into lacs of rupees for the maintenance of this class. But they lose sight of the fact that the community spends lacs of rupees yearly to maintain the ritualistic extravagant priestly class. However, these huge amounts are not expended in proportion to work and worth, but due to hereditary privileges, are distributed unequally. Others say that these young athornans should be employed on decent salaries to render social service and to do ameliorative work on the lines of the late patriot~ Gokhale's "Servants of [512] India Society". It is necessary to keep in mind the fact that the circumstances and conditions of every community differ and therefore an institution that is useful for one community may not be so for another. There is unlimited scope for service in the vast population of twenty-eight crores of our Hindu brethren. To meet all kinds of demands of our small community, in every town and city, highly qualified and skilled volunteers both men and women-render laudable honorary service night and day through various organizations. Other zealous gentlemen proclaim that the condition of the whole community would change for the better if our athornan youths would venture forth to work like Christian missionaries. The entire world is a pasture-land for thousands of Christian missionaries emerging from the theological seminaries of every country. They go from one end of the earth to another to spread their faith amongst civilized, semi-civilized and savage people. This kind of work is outside the pattern and set-up of our community. Missionaries cross the oceans and go to distant lands to assuage the pain of the world's sad and suffering millions who are steeped in sorrow and misery. They go as doctors to cure the diseased and as teachers to bring the light of knowledge to those groping in darkness and ignorance. In our microscopic community we are spending per head more than any other nation in the world, to bring solace to the sick and suffering and to widen the horizons of the mind. The charitable community has not left even this field open to the athornan youths of the Madressahs.

Despite the community's frantic efforts of a hundred years to attain a highly qualified and enlightened priestly class to suit modern conditions, its hopes and aspirations have not been fulfilled. Instead of trying to tackle this puzzling question superfluously we should examine the root-cause of the problem. We can see approximately eight [513] hundred white turbans in our Parsi population of less than one and a quarter lac in India. In Navsari, Udvada, Surat, Bombay, Poona, Deccan Hyderabad, Karachi and other cities, the community is maintaining approximately fifteen dasturs whose monthly income ranges from two to three hundred up to two thousand and more. It provides for approximately three hundred punthakies earning Rs.150 or 200 to Rs. 500 or 700 p. m. Apart from these about three hundred mobeds who do not have a punthak of their own but who take the sacred bath and work on a paid basis with some punthaky eke out about Rs. 75/- to Rs. 100/- p.m. Of the remainder, those who do not take the sacred bath but exist on whatever incidental jobs they may get from time to time from the punthaky, manage to get approximately Rs. 50 to 60 monthly, while some who find no work or do no work are constantly begging for alms and are despised and condemned by all. A few there are, with or without barashnom, who try to supplement their income by doing some other job simultaneously. This means that the community is spending a great deal of money to maintain its priestly fold in fact more than other communities. There is no dearth of money. Where spending is concerned the community surpasses all other communities. If mere finance were the impediment to solving the priestly problem, the community would immediately shower thousands and find a solution. The aggregate income accruing from behdins for the priestly flock is sufficient to maintain everyone most honourably; but because of the hereditary constitution of mobeds, the distribution of the income is unsystematic and unbalanced. By reproducing hereunder certain passages from my article on this subject which appeared in the 'Rahnuma', a quarterly published by my son in 1926, some light may be thrown on the topic.

[514] "When we study sociology or the progress of society, we say that the main unit of society in the east is the family. In western society, however, the unit of society is the individual the independent man alone. Similarly if we wish to find out the causal, central and chief unit of our present day priestly sect, it is not the so-called High Priest but the 'punthaky'. Nominally the Dastur ranks higher - functionally the punthaky supercedes. From the economic angle they are the principal spiritual leaders. The religious life of the community revolves around the punthaky. Knowledge plays an insignificant part. Ceremonials are more prominent. They are the quintessence of life; hence the punthaky who is the hereditary guardian of the family's ritualistic activities is as dear as life itself. The community cares not whether there be a learned Dastur in their midst or not, whether he delivers sermons and speeches or not, whether he develops their literature or not. The community cannot be reconciled to a single day without a punthaky but it can adjust itself to a life-time without a dastur. A punthaky is a necessity in the religious life of a community whereas a Dastur is an ornament and a luxury.

"A Zoroastrian family, besides being composed of its offspring, its parents, its brothers and sisters and other close relatives, takes into its fold the family priest or punthaky as an integral part of its spiritual life. Just as the sacred flame is kept akindle eternally in a Zoroastrian home, unless some unprecedented incident occurs, the punthaky is linked with the family forever. Notwithstanding the death of the senior member of a family, just as the home fire continues to burn, at the demise of the head of a behdin family, the punthaky remains. In case the punthaky himself passes away, his son, by right of inheritance, immediately and automatically secures his lineal linkage with that behdin family. In ordinary terms a behdin youth could say to his family priest: "Your great grandfather [515] was my great grandfather's punthaky," Many times it so happens that if both the behdin and the punthaky are of compatible temperaments and have warm feelings for each other, they participate in each other's joys and sorrows as though they are bound together by ties of blood; in times of trouble they stand by each other, they guard each other's family secrets like joint treasurers, At times the behdin families themselves do not remember the death anniversaries of their departed ones as well as their punthakies do, Where there is such an exemplary relationship between the layman and the punthaky, mutual respect and affection reign supreme.

"In any human institution whenever the question of hereditary rights and responsibilities is involved, the sentiment to safeguard the same is most keen. Accordingly our punthakies are always alert to preserve their own privileges and should there arise the slightest danger of snatching them away, they tenaciously fight against it In Central Europe, wherever Guilds and later Trade Unions exist no non-member is allowed to carry on business there. Similarly mobeds living in a certain city and working through some 'punthak' did not allow any outsider to take the 'barashnom' nor did they grant him the authority to practise as a priest there. Even today in every town and city where groups of mobeds are conducting their own practice, an unwritten but unmistakable law exists not to trespass upon each others' rights. All have the authority to monopolize the business of any newly arrived behdin family. If the new arrivals have some relative already living in that city, the punthaky of that relative has the right to claim the new-comers. But if this new family is perfectly alien to the place, the most alert and enthusiastic panthaky who is the first to approach, wins the race. Since there is wisdom and the welfare of all in abiding by this self-made system, as far as possible, every mobed [516] is careful not to encroach upon the rights of other mobeds. Wherever this cooperative arrangement is sufficiently strong, in times of dissension the layman has to succumb and come to an understanding with his own family priest. But when this cooperation amongst mobeds is slack, then it happens that, opportunity arising, efforts are made to capture each other's business, resulting in rancour. So long as such a situation does not arise and disharmony does not find its way into the priestly fold, each continues to enjoy his own rights and privileges.

"Just as there is an understanding between the mobeds of a place not to interfere with each other's rights, there is a similar agreement between one city and another, one punthak and another punthak. Glancing through the opening entries of the late Khan Bahadur Bomanji Behramji Patel's 'Parsi Prakash', it will be seen that as the population of our community spread in the townships of Gujarat, such bonds of agreement came into existence amongst the mobeds. A limit was laid as to the extent of the jurisdiction and mode of conduct of each punthak and every group of families. No one had the authority to venture beyond his limits to earn a livelihood. So long as everyone abides by such an agreement all is well. But such a period of peaceful co-existence does not last long and as a result at intervals we witness dissensions between punthaks.

"In the manner in which our religion is practised, ceremonies play a major role, and our priests are constantly occupied in performing ceremonies for the dead or for the living. It is but natural that the priests who perform the ceremonies get a large portion of the foodstuff, clothing and other commodities utilized in ceremonials. Thus, in addition to a punthaky's cash income he is given useful articles - the chief among them being flowers, [517] fruits, sacred bread, rice, coconuts, sweetmeat, dry fruits, prepared meals, sacred shirts and utensils, which are used in ceremonies.

"This system of a punthaky's income is very profitable to him. Senior punthakies receive several 'chasnis' daily from their respective laity. On Baaj days sweetmeats and dry fruits are included in the ceremonies. Evening meals are dedicated to the deceased and on many such occasions large feasts are prepared. All these eatables and utensils help a great deal in the up-keep of the family and thus senior punthakies are quite comfortably established.

"It is true that the punthaky gets this income, but in return he is not only the spiritual guide of the behdin family but also the caretaker and contractor of its ceremonial life. Let us examine the kind of relationship between a punthaky and a behdin. Imagine that a death occurs in a behdin family of Karachi at midnight. Immediately some one from the family runs to the punthaky, knocks at his door and informs him. The punthaky's duty commences from that moment. He immediately informs the corpse bearers, brings pure water, fetches a dog, brings the necessary clothes. Should a wealthy behdin so desire, he runs to a blacksmith and orders a new bier and makes all other arrangements. When everything is in order he returns home at dawn. He is the first to arrive in the morning, arranges for the performance of the funeral rites, looks to the seating accommodation of the assembly, arranges for the prayers and ceremonies during the various parts of the day and night and helps the chief mourner to salute the congregation on the third day. The behdin informs the punthaky that all the requisites for the various ceremonies are to be purchased by him e.g. the muslin for the sadras that are to be given to the mobeds together with their gratuity, the sandalwood, incense and flowers, cloth for the shroud, [518] silver, copper or brass utensils according to the means of the family, etc. Similarly on the tenth day, the monthly, six-monthly and anniversary ceremonies, the order for everything needed is given to the punthaky. With the advent of any auspicious event in the family, like a Navjote or a wedding, the behdin informs his punthaky, who prepares the darun, varadhvara, sarya, papad, etc. foodstuff of happy augury in his own home. He brings all the necessary requisites for the ceremony, greets the guests as they arrive and ushers them to their seats. He performs the marriage rites and accompanies the couple to the Fire Temple. In a small town the punthaky takes up the responsibility of catering for the wedding feast. His whole day is spent in cooking and in the evening, attired in his traditional garb he welcomes everyone, bestows the nuptial benediction and, that duty over, supervises the meal and proposes the toast. He looks to the signing of the Marriage Registration Forms by the required parties. In Bombay these signatures are taken on the spot. In Karachi and other places, on the second or third day, the punthaky goes to the respective residences sometimes more than once if the party is not contacted and collects all the signatures, and, as a 'finale' to his mission, gets the marriage legally registered at the office of the Registrar.

"In short, just as a contractor in a military organization or a stevedore in a shipping company supplies the requisite foodstuff and other commodities and earns a livelihood, from olden times the punthaky has been acting as a contractor to a behdin family. If a major punthaky has under his jurisdiction fifty to hundred or even more of such behdin homes he has the contract of supplying all the goods. Ordinarily it will be seen that a panthaky's income accruing from the purchase of these commodities exceeds the proceeds he earns from prayer. In a well-to-do family having faith in [519] prayers for a departed one, the aggregate expenses of all the ceremonials throughout the year. plus the Muktad, Nirangdin, Hamayasht, Navar and other ceremonies, would amount to nearly two to three thousand rupees. Trayfuls of sweetmeats, food, clothing, utensils etc. play a major role in this expenditure.

"A Punthaky later draws up a bill of all that he has spent on his client's account. At times a controversy arises over this bill. Just as a customer bargains with a shopkeeper over the purchase of some article, a bickering and bargaining goes on between the Punthaky and the behdin. Such controversies are not of recent origin - they have been going on since early times. A glance on page 877 of the Parsi Prakash reveals that the Samast Parsi Anjoman of Bombay passed a resolution in 1796 to the effect that: 'In case a punthaky has a demand on a behdin, or a Mobed has some claim against a punthaky, the party has to place the facts before the Anjoman which will decide the case and secure for him his just demands; but with immediate effect no mobed or punthaky shall register a complaint in the mayor's court or at his residence or seek for justice from an Englishman".

"It is not surprising that such arguments should ensue. Our method of repaying our priests for their services is such that it is bound to create misunderstanding. Many a time the matter reaches the court of law, while sometimes both parties arrive at a compromise. Sometimes it so happens that the behdin family incurs a large debt due to the punthaky and owing to strained circumstances is unable to repay anything. At such times the punthaky loses not only the payment due for his prayers but also what he owes to the grocer, greengrocer, fruitier, florist, butcher, fishmonger, egg vendor, wine merchant, toddywalla, sandalwood seller, draper, cobbler and black-smith for the purchases [520] made on account of a death at a client's home. Such losses sometimes run into hundreds and over. The ink has not yet run dry in penning these lines while a good punthaky has come along with his tale of woe that there is hardly any hope of recovering Rs. 20001- which he has spent on behalf of his behdin client. Such events are of frequent occurrence and we can sympathize with the punthakies. But it should be borne in mind that in big business, a firm having a hundred clients, is sure to have one or two bad debts which have to be written off at the end of the year. In spite of that the overall excessive annual profits wipe off these minor losses. A major punthaky's condition does not, in any way, differ from that of a businessman.

“As a punthaky's clientele increases it becomes necessary for him to invite assistance. These paid assistants shoulder the responsibility of all the work. Formerly such mobed-aids earned a monthly salary of Rs. 10 to Rs. 12 from the punthaky, plus meals. In return for his income these helpers are bound to perform all the prayers and ceremonies of the behdin families that are under the punthaky's control. Besides personal tips he gets nothing, but the punthaky has the right to receive payment for whatever ceremonies the paid mobed may have performed at the homes of his clientele. Similarly the salaried priest has no right over any of the articles or foodstuff or clothing utilized in those ceremonies. At present, when there is shortage of mobeds and there is a world-wide complaint of the good old times having gone and expensive days being round the corner, these paid mobeds earn Rs. 30 to Rs. 40 per month plus meals. At some places conditions are slightly better. Yet the aggregate income of such paid priests, including income, expenses for meals, gratuity, etc. does not exceed Rs. 75 to Rs. 100 per month. These mobeds who take upon themselves all the [521] punthaky's work are skilled and professional priests qualified to perform all the major ceremonies. Night and day they pray at the expense of their health, perform various ceremonies, go from home to home on foot, endure untold hardships and earn the above mentioned meagre income.

"In the economic parlance of this industrial age it can be said that the punthaky is the 'capitalist' of the religious class and the paid mobed is the representative of its 'labour' party. In the field of industry it is well-known that the person who controls the finance has the lion's share of the profits with little or no labour, while the worker receives the left-over crumbs. This system on which our priestly fold runs seems virtually like an industrial concern.

“A very large majority of paid Mobeds go through life on this method of more work and less pay, but a few fortunate ones witness more favourable circumstances. These few rise from the state of labourers to the status of the punthakies. We know that as our priesthood is hereditary the punthakies are careful to keep their clientele under their control during their own life-time and see to it that after their death it is handed down to their heirs. At times it happens that this arrangement fails due to certain natural circumstances. It may happen that a punthaky dies without leaving a male issue. Under such circumstances the punthaky's widow carries on the work personally with the assistance of the paid mobeds who were under her husband's control. The widow continues to employ the priests and manages to keep her late husband's punthak in partnership with the paid mobed or she takes a 'goodwill' sum from him and sells the business to him and frees herself of all responsibility. It may even happen that a mobed having a large clientele expires. His son may have studied English and works as a clerk in some office or does some [522] sort of business. He has maintained no contact with the priestly practice. Yet, should his father's punthak be fetching a good return he is anxious not to lose such a lucrative business. He arrives at an understanding of a percentage of partnership with his trusted and experienced salaried mobed and manages to safeguard the income accruing from the family punthak. But this office-going punthaky is naturally unable to keep in constant contact with the behdin clientele, whereas his paid mobed goes daily into the behdin families for prayers and ceremonies and builds up a firm relationship with them. Thus, as time passes, they become more friendly and ultimately the mobed prevails upon the behdin to pass on the business to him and he becomes the punthaky.

"We have seen that there is an understanding and unwritten law between mobeds regarding their respective flocks and each feels it is his bounden duty to abstain from trespassing upon his brother's jurisdiction. Under ordinary circumstances this sort of arrangement is faithfully adhered to, but when the bonds of cooperation weaken or some confusion sets in, then all codes are set aside and 'might is right'. Some behdin may be displeased with his punthaky and is anxious to change him. At such a time a clientless punthaky gets an opportunity of building up a clientele. If a working mobed is honest and noble he wins the favour of a behdin family and becomes its punthaky. On the other hand a paid priest may be crafty and loquacious and may contrive to encroach upon his boss's business and make it his own. At times the layman may have entered into an argument with his punthaky over a bill. He wishes to pay less than the stipulated amount while the punthaky demands more. At that juncture a third party offers to work at a lower rate and manages to snatch away the punthak. The bartering that constantly goes on in business and industry is reflected here. But it [523] may be repeated that it is unwise to blame our priests on this score. Customs and conventions are responsible for such irregularities and malpractices. Wherever priesthood is hereditary, such scenes are of common occurrence. A living example of it is provided by the Brahmins of the Hindu community.

"We have introduced the punthaky as an integral part of a behdin family. The rise and fall of a family directly influences the punthaky. When a behdin fares well in business and he becomes well to do, the gratuity given to the punthaky on auspicious and inauspicious occasions increases accordingly. Besides, the punthaky gets orders at generous rates to perform expensive ceremonies running into thousands - ceremonies like Nirangdin, Zindehravan, Gatikherdd, Hamayasht, Devazdeh Hamayasht, etc. Under his personal supervision, the punthaky gets these ceremonies performed by his meagerly paid mobeds and thereby earns a sizeable profit. With the passing of time, if some layman becomes wealthy he has a Fire Temple erected or he becomes a millionaire and has an Atashbehram constructed. At such times the family punthaky earns the prerogative of establishing these institutions, acquiring the proceeds thereof and eventually becoming the Head Priest. Thus those who hitherto had various families as their clients, now become the leading priests of the Fire Temples. They gain in status and in income. And once they are established as heads of such institutions, the position is permanent. It does not end at that. The headship automatically becomes hereditary.

"Our Fire Temples in various towns are of private ownership. On auspicious and inauspicious occasions members of the Anjoman contribute towards its funds, but they have no voice in its management. Hence, if the Anjoman of a certain city is eager to appoint an educated [524] mobed as head of the Fire Temple there, it is unable to do so. The Trustees of the building will not allow it. In case they display a broad-minded attitude, the punthaky raises a hue and cry and fights tooth and nail for his parental rights and makes a plea of endangering their livelihood by suggesting to place an alien in the family seat and thus wins the sympathy of the proprietors of the premises. Our system is such that the Head Priest of the Fire Temple of a certain city is answerable only to its Trustees. He works for the Anjoman and derives an income from groups of Zoroastrians or from the Anjoman, yet he is independent of the Anjoman. Similarly, the Mobeds working in that place, work for the Anjoman and earn their living, but they are like independent businessmen.

"At present we are maintaining approximately 185 Agyaris and Atashbehrams in the subcontinent. All these are reserved by their respective proprietors for their hereditary present and future Dasturs or Punthakies. This is a kind of 'Trust to safe-guard the interests of a line of Punthakies or Dastur Punthakies', and by virtue of it the son of a Punthaky or a Dastur is born into the world with a sealed and signed guarantee of a ready-made income on reaching adulthood. His position is safe - his income secure. Hence, it is a matter of choice whether he strives to reach his Punthakyship or his Punthaky Dasturship through the light of knowledge or not. If he has an inherent love of learning he attains higher education and wins for himself the laurels of becoming the spiritual leader of the community. The community cannot acquire a learned Punthaky or Dastur for the asking. In case it gets one, it is by sheer chance.

"The income of Dasturs who have no punthak is meagre. If there happens to be an Atashbehram under the Dastur's jurisdiction, the Trustee's of that [525] place allow him to collect the proceeds of the 'Boy' of an important month like Ardibehisht or Adar or even a little more, but it is difficult for a Dastur to live on such precarious income. Due to this he strives to earn a livelihood by performing marriage, Navjote or Jashan ceremonies plus Fareshtas, Afrinagans, Baaj, etc. Despite a great deal of hardship he earns comparatively much less than his brother Punthaky Dastur. Apart from that his income is even less than that of the Punthakies who are considered his aids at his own Fire Temple.

"The doors of a theological career are closed to self respecting and independent minded Athornans. Dadabhoy Navroji and Pirojshah Mehta were precious gems of our small community in the last century. Both were highly intellectual Athornans. Had these great men decided in their youth to follow their parental profession and, together with the general education they had acquired they had attained religious knowledge and shown an inclination to be the spiritual leaders of the community, what opportunities could the community have offered them? In capacity and brilliance they could surely compare with Dastur Tanser or Dastur Adarbad.

If they had aspired to reach the status of a High Priest so as to guide the community, they would have realized that they had no claim to the seat of Dasturship as they were not born sons of Dasturs. If they had thought that a major punthaky is the possessor of a large income, so that if they succeeded in acquiring a large clientele, then, deducting living expenses, from the surplus they would be able to develop literature, travel from place to place spreading the good faith, become members of religious societies, converse with learned scholars and enhance their scholarship, attend religious seminars of the world and read papers there, establish contacts with pundits of [526] various lands and carry the greatness of the Zoroastrian faith to the four corners of the globe. Upon scant examination they would have found they were not eligible even to get permission to become punthakies, as the stamp of hereditary punthakyship has been set on the respective flocks Eventually, out of sheer desperation, they would have sought shelter of some well-to-do punthaky and taken up the job of paid priests. Thus, with great difficulty, they would have been able to secure a morsel to feed their families. But then fresh trials would commence. They would find that after the round of professional duties of Yajashni in the morning and Baaj in the afternoon and Satoom in the evening and Kardo at night and Vendidad at midnight, no time could be spared for their studies. Besides. due to financial difficulty, the high hopes they had built to render religious service to the community would be smothered and stifled. They would also see that the elevated role of a religious leader has been dragged down to so business-like a footing that their enlightened souls could not honestly accept such venues of earning an income. To avoid such conditions these great priestly youths and others like them, in the middle of the last century, turned their backs upon the profession of their forefathers and sought fresh fields of adventure.

In the religious life of the community, there was no room for them - no career whatsoever - no demand for them, no provision for such men. And the conditions that existed seventy-five to eighty-five years ago still prevail. The world has progressed, the country has progressed. The community has progressed in all other branches, but it is static where its priestly fold is concerned.

In countries of the West there are seminaries to give higher education to Christian priests and Jewish Rabbis. On almost the same principles the [527] exemplary institution established in 1912 with a munificent donation of twenty-five lacs by Seth Meherwanji Muncherji Cama, an ardent admirer of the priestly fold, has already witnessed two decades. Within a very short time the wise managers of the institution realized that its establishment was not fulfilling the cherished purpose of providing the community with highly qualified religious leaders. Merely to send out into the world a young Navar or a Maratab with a superfluous general education up to an English 4th or 5th standard level entailed a tremendous expenditure. The endeavour to graduate bright, promising students and to get them to perform the highest ceremonies was not successful. The hereditary Zoroastrian Church had no place for such well-qualified youths. As a result the organizers appealed to the High Court to alter the original conditions of the funds of the institution in such a manner that only half of it should be reserved for creating ceremonial priests while the proceeds from the other half could be utilized in furthering general academic education.

The organizers of the institutions complained that bright students capable of coping with higher studies do not take advantage of this institution. This is but an echo of the complaint registered by Khurshedji Cama and other well-wishers of the priestly class fifty to seventy-five years ago. They used to bemoan the fact that priestly families gave higher education to their talented sons and sent them out into various professions, whereas those of lesser intelligence, who could not fit into any other field of occupation, were trained as practising priests. The organizers have, for the present, stopped admitting youths of such a poor mental calibre. Only those capable of passing the Matriculation examination and studying further are admitted. The orthodox group is protesting against this action. In simple language it is stated that the idea [528] of teaching English and giving higher education to those wishing to practise the priestly profession should be abandoned, and the institution should concentrate on training Athornan students to become proficient in performing the most sacred ceremonies. The original idea of supplying the community with highly educated, scholarly, religious leaders is thus abandoned.

A new danger is facing us. The number of college-going mobed and behdin students, who during the last fifty years opted for Avesta and Pahlavi as their second language and, because of their love of service and of literature, rendered voluntary religious service to the community during their spare time is decreasing. The attention of the whole country is drawn to the necessity of vocational and technical training in keeping with the times. Everywhere fewer students are going in for literature and are attracted towards science, industry, crafts and engineering. By degrees the number of our young men and women studying for B.A. and M.A. is steadily falling. As a result, since some time fewer students are entering our two large Madressahs at Bombay to study Iranian languages. Hence the community will lose the leadership of the learned Ervads and behdin students who had been rendering honorary service during the last fifty years.

In the forties of the last century Rev. Wilson led a jihad against our religion, with the result that our community became aware of the need of educating our priests according to the demands of the age and of giving to the community enlightened religious leaders. A hundred years have gone by since that awareness. In the middle of the last century we established two large Madressahs to teach Iranian languages according to the curriculum set by the University for its provincial colleges. Twenty-five years ago we established two large [529] residential Madressahs at a tremendous expense. For a hundred years the community stinged neither money nor effort to create religious-minded athornans. When this question was first tackled, higher education had just found its way into the community and only a handful of educated gentlemen were found in the community.

The move for female education in the community commenced a hundred years ago. There was quite a tirade against it. Excluding a few exceptions, the query from all quarters was 'What have women to do with education? Being educated, would they be going to offices to work? Their place is in the home and household chores their sole responsibility.' It is not surprising that such views were held by members of our community. Similar views prevailed everywhere in the East as well as the West. The German nation which is today the leading nation in learning and science, believed at that time that a woman's work was in the kitchen, by the cradle and in the church.

It is said that the reformists explained to the orthodox gentlemen of the community that man is a wandering Brahmin. All day he is out of the home, at his business or in his office. During that time if the washer man brings the clothes or the tinker brings the utensils, if the woman can read or write a little she can at least take an account of the clothes and the utensils. This explanation seemed valid to the orthodox and women began to learn the rudiments of reading and arithmetic at the Mehtaji's school. Soon it was discovered that, 'you yield an inch and they take an ell', without anticipating the consequence. Women blindly forged ahead in the field of learning.

Today thousands of graduate and post-graduate men are framing the brilliant career of the community and hundreds of graduate and post-graduate [530] women are lending lustre to the enlightened community. Their numbers are ever on the increase in all branches of knowledge and science and will continue to grow. In the community's onward march in education the priestly class has fallen far behind the laity and will remain so.

If we compare the statistics of education of the behdin flock and its punthaky, we will find graduate and post-graduate sons and daughters in lay families, while at the other end are ceremony performing punthakies who have studied up to English Class IV or V. Without being carried away by sentiment and exaggerating, and without becoming needlessly alarmed, with calm calculation, common sense and impartiality it can be stated that in years to come we shall have to be content with the following number of practising priests:

Approximately fifty to seventy-five graduated Dasturs and Ervads, culled from the descendents of various Dasturs and Punthakies.

A few priestly-aids, educated up to a level of English IV or V.

All other mobeds who have studied only four or five books of Gujarat. It is impossible for a hereditary, Zoroastrian, business-minded, practising priesthood and a sound, highly-qualified class of religious leaders to exist side by side.

Many a time, through sheer ignorance, some people believe that the priestly problem is not as insoluble as it seems and that a solution can easily be found. Twice various gentlemen have sent their suggestions for solving the question to the Trustees of the Fire Temple at Karachi. They have suggested that paid priests should be employed in proportion to the Zoroastrian population of Karachi. Whatever ceremonies any Zoroastrian family wishes to have [531] performed, it should write to the Secretary of the Anjoman. The Secretary should have them performed by the Mobeds employed by the Anjoman, send the bills for the prayers, etc. direct to the party concerned, collect the amount and credit the same to the account of the Anjoman.

This project seems simple on paper, but to put it into practice is not only impractical but impossible. It cannot be applied without very major alterations in the constitution of the community. Primarily, it would become incumbent to put an end to the four thousand year old tradition of hereditary priesthood and to commence the system of appointing salaried mobeds on merit. If that can be achieved, then and only then will the various problems relating to the priestly fold be automatically resolved. Moreover, with the severing of the direct link between mobeds and the laity, within a very short while the performance of ceremonies would be on a decline and there would be a sizeable decrease in the excessive amounts expended on ceremonials every year. But this can come to pass only if we can have a newly constituted community minus a hereditary priesthood. This can be achieved only when we can do what the arrogant warrior Ataturk Kamalpasha did in Turkey by scorning the voice of the entire Muslim world and putting an end to the Khilafat by almost a miracle that bewildered one and all. How is this possible in a community that is like sheep without a shepherd?

Without exaggeration it can be said that the priestly problem is truly insoluble."


Chapter LIII


The Bible is content with assigning to man a life-span of three score years and ten. Having studied in close collaboration with the Hindus we wish our dear ones longevity running into a hundred years and over. According to our Iranian custom, while showering nuptial benedictions we pray that the couple may enjoy a hundred and fifty years of marital bliss. Together with these blessings of happy augury, we are reared on a Gujarat proverb that terrifies us and makes us tremble. This strange saying sounds a warning note: "Wisdom vanishes at sixty". If in truth, at the advent of the sixtieth year, our intellect bids us good-bye and turns its back upon us, who would deign to live to the ripe old age of a hundred or a hundred and fifty? Life without intellect is empty. It is intellect that elevates man from the animal kingdom to the level of humanity. Intellect is our adornment - if intellect departs, everything is over. Family, wealth, lineage, health, naught has value if intellect is lost. What is the meaning of life if it be merely to exist like a moron or a fool or a beast? If that is really so, then our prayer should be that God may recall us into His all-abiding care on our fifty-ninth birthday while we are still in possession of all our faculties.

But God be praised that, just as this proverb proves true in several cases, in many cases it is falsified. This knowledge is welcomed with a sigh of relief and breathes courage into our hearts. In every field of life, in peace time and in critical moments of war, positions of responsibility and reliability are reposed in the hands of experienced and brilliant leaders of sixty, seventy and even eighty, and these aged men fulfil their obligations with glory and honour and win everyone's applause.

[533] We had not been able to visit Bombay for six years since I had lectured there in 1930 on our return from America. On the seventh year, by chance just when I was sixty-one, I had to go to Bombay to lecture. Jehangir Hormusji Cama, the enthusiastic administrator of the Cama Athornan Institute, on behalf of his organization invited me to deliver a series of eight lectures and I accepted the invitation. He had selected the topics of the talks and had appointed chairmen from the orthodox as well as the reformist sectors. All these arrangements I willingly accepted. Besides these talks I delivered six additional lectures in Gujarati and English under the auspices of other societies. The lectures were very well received by both factions of the community. Arising from that, all kinds of rumours were afloat. Some believed that my former infidelity had given way to religious wisdom! Others thought that I had at last abandoned the path of pride and had turned my steps to the pathway of truth. Still others said that I had retrenched my footsteps from the reformist camp and had returned to the orthodox way of thinking! While these queer reports were afloat an elderly gentleman of the orthodox group expressed the opinion that I had given the lie to the well known saying: "Wisdom vanishes at sixty;" for, according to him wisdom seemed to have dawned upon me at sixty!

Only once had there been a change of heart in the innermost recesses of my being and that was during 1905-1908 while I was studying in New York. Since that time I have not experienced any reverses. The change of opinion regarding religious thought, prayer, ceremony, conventions and customs that had been affected as a result of my new education, instead of diminishing, had been strengthened and had become firmer with increasing and advanced study. But as an outcome of my long and close association with the controversies of the East and West regarding orthodoxy and [534] liberalism, the mode and manner of presenting those views witnessed a major change. My critics were misled by this altered manner of presentation.

It seems as though even four decades after my student-life in America, American education continues to direct the course of existence. I have learnt many new things during my four additional visits to the country at intervals of seven or eight years. In the field of religion alone, just as we witness controversies continually waging between the orthodox and reformist groups, there are conflicts there between two parties known as the Fundamentalists and the Modernists. As expected, famous priests were ever in the forefront of the former group the orthodox group. But there was also one who outshone all the others the world-renowned political fighter, orator and the candidate who ran thrice for the presidency of the United States William Jennings Bryan. He was one of those who proclaimed that the teachings of the learned discoverer Darwin, who explained the progress of creation in the new light of evolution, contradicted the concepts expounded in the Bible. In order to confound his opponents Bryan published a book entitled 'God or Gorilla'. In various places he lectured before vast audiences contradicting this philosophy. The result of his wide-spread publicity was most unexpected.

Four states of the U.S.A. passed a law to the effect that the theory of evolution was illegal and prohibited it in those states. Books written on the subject were proscribed and removed from the libraries and it was declared that teachers of High School or College professors who expressed opinions in favour of that philosophy were to be dismissed. There was a great uproar throughout the country and the entire educational world was in turmoil. It seemed most disgraceful that so advanced a country like the United States which had [535] made such strides in freedom had stooped to such a primitive condition as to pass laws usurping the freedom of thought of scholars. Scholars, scientists, philosophers and politicians urged these four states and entreated them even threatened them to save the country from such ignominy but all to no purpose. Legal protection was sought. The heat was intense. Bryan was fighting his own case in shirt-sleeves in the court-room, where he died suddenly of heart failure.

I made it a point to be present on occasions when both parties the orthodox and the reformists expressed conflicting opinions. While listening to such controversies and the zeal and fervour with which other similar questions concerning religion, philosophy, ceremonies etc. were discussed, I was reminded of the Mansukhian jihad. I began to realize that if such conditions existed in a country which had the highest percentage of literacy, where education had reached its zenith, the country which posed as a model of freedom, the wealthiest of nations, the country which was a New World and had a new way of life, a new culture everything new then was it surprising if such things happened in our community living in the Old World?

In England, the land of John Bull (considered a very practical, balanced, discreet and judicious personality), nearly six hundred spiritualist churches can be seen today established upon the belief that messages from the dead can be received, and that the dead can be attracted down to earth to answer questions. In tiny churches that resemble tin-roofed hutments, with naught but small wooden benches, devout monks and nuns with a firm belief in having contact with the spiritual world are able to lure thousands even today. It is well known that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of the famous detective stories, was a great spiritualist. [536] He came to New York. His lecture on his experiences with souls released from the tabernacle of clay have been published. A fee ranging from three to ten rupees was levied for attending his lectures. The 'gate money' from each talk amounted to fifteen to seventeen thousand rupees. Vast numbers of highly educated Yankees from this most advanced New World flocked to listen to imaginary tales of ghosts and spirits.

Later I had a somewhat personal experience in one of the churches. A learned friend of mine who had attained many University degrees was the High Priest of a church. It was said that his wife's inner vision had developed and in moments when she received spiritual guidance she could foretell the future and words of advice and direction would flow from her lips. I was invited to speak on Zoroastrian teachings regarding the soul or the spirit and I accepted the invitation. At the conclusion of my talk, after the customary prayer, as though deriving inspiration from the spiritual realm, turn by turn she called eight persons from the audience by name and told them something that was to happen to them or gave them a message. The seriousness and reverence with which each listened with lowered heads to what this divinely inspired lady had to say revealed that they firmly believed that every word that was spoken was gospel truth and was a message from God Himself. And yet those present, were intelligent and educated men.

Thirty-five years ago I had witnessed in New York the superstitious craze of having the pattern of fate and its effects foreseen. The obsession was on the increase as time passed. Many Indians, amongst whom were included our co-religionists, when unsuccessful at all other jobs became soothsayers. Once a gentleman sent up his visiting card. On it was printed; 'Mr. Maneckchand'. [537] When he came up we saw that he had on the headgear worn by Bhatias, hence we took him for a Bhatia. However, he informed us that he was a Parsi but was a practising palmist.

In a mechanised age everything is done by machines, then why should they not be used in foretelling man's good or evil destiny? Just as by dropping a coin and pressing a button a sweet or a chocolate or a chewing gum pops out, in large stores there are mechanical gadgets for fortune-telling. By putting a coin in a slot and pressing a knob a small printed card drops into our hand with our fortune foretold on it. Again, just as at our end, those who are more superstitious are not content by an ordinary horoscope and have a life-long record of the day today events of their existence, in this metallic machine that can predict the future, by placing a larger coin, a detailed account of destiny comes to hand. When newspapers revel in some new adventure every day, then why should they desist from catering to the whims of their superstitious readers? Hence every Saturday they publish a weekly account of the destiny and fate of each customer. This happened in England and other places too. And all this was done by the West which had taunted the East as superstition ridden and it still continues to do so. Recently, as though there were a dearth of superstitions in our country, our papers too, have unfortunately started such a superstitious propaganda.

Just as there are factions of orthodoxy and reform in the religious life of our community, there are divisions in the West as well. Between the Orthodox and the Reformed Church exist innumerable sections of the one Christian faith. These diversities are founded on a variety of beliefs ranging from the scientific to the superstitious, the deeply [538] philosophic to the mediocre, the spiritual to the material, the serious to the ridiculous, the wise to the foolish.

In the beginning they were continually quarrelling and fighting with each other in the name of religion and breeding bitterness within the nation. Experience taught them that this resulted in a wastage of time and energy. In dissension and discussions regarding imaginary matters relating to the other world, the major and important problems of this world were neglected. They realized that men harbour an infinite variety of religious beliefs according to their own inclinations. They cannot surrender their beliefs in spite of the staunchest opposition. In keeping with the level of their intellect, the true or false, scientific or superstitious beliefs are strengthened and persevered instead of dwindling in face of opposition. Hence ultimately they realized that there was wisdom in letting each one live according to his will. All this I saw and experienced in America from time to time.

In my youth I believed that I was a reformist, a disputer and a debater of superstitious beliefs. So, through speeches and writings I entered into religious controversies with vigour. The Zoroastrian religion enjoins upon man not to be satisfied by being good himself but to make wicked neighbours good also. It is his duty to turn the footsteps of a mistaken brother to the right path. Therefore, at first I believed that in matters relating to religion, ceremonies, and the practice of conventions and customs, should someone fail to behave according to what seemed valid and correct to me or should they preach doctrines contrary to mine, it was my duty to oppose them verbally and in writing. Carried away by this sentiment, at times my sermons and speeches were tinged with criticism and curtness, irony and derision. Replies [539] and counter-replies had to be printed and distributed free of charge in every home. True scholarship demands peace of mind. Instead, I found that these disputes and dispatches hampered my studies. Therefore, I resolved henceforth to keep away from such digressions as far as possible.

Superstition is born of ignorance and knowledge is its sole panacea. Enlightenment eradicates superstitious notions and beliefs. In spite of this many men and women belonging to the most highly educated nations are not able to rid themselves completely of superstition because of their own mental make-up. Superstitions regarding good and bad days, auspicious and inauspicious occasions are found more in the less-educated environment of the East than in the West. Even today auspicious events are not commenced on the New Moon Day or other such supposedly 'difficult' days. At the inaugural sessions of the Zoroastrian Conference its convenor had invited ten or twelve of its chief members to lunch at his residence. It happened to be the 'Kali Chaudas' day. On entering the portals of our leading reformist friend, much to everyone's amusement, we found that eggs had been broken on every threshold. As late as the last century we sacrificed goats and hens on auspicious and inauspicious occasions. The innocent symbols of those sacrifices linger in the breaking of eggs on such 'difficult days' as also on happy occasions like Navjotes, weddings etc. My wife only feeds us on eggs. She does not felicitate even the in-laws with eggs. Such minor and major superstitions prevail amongst the old-fashioned as well as the so called fashionable members of our community. Formerly I waged a tirade against such things. Now I ascribe them to human weakness and hoodwink them as far as possible.

Adversity, affliction, calamity and disease harass men and make them desperate and helpless. At [540] such times even the sane and sensible lose their mental balance and the wise grow foolish. A fatal malady befalls a beloved one and no remedy seems to have any effect. The obstinate illness defies medical science and subjugates it.

In its infancy when mankind was in a savage state, it believed that all illnesses were born of spirits, ghosts, demons and magical influences. In vain did it attempt to destroy the disease by sorcery and witchcraft. Civilized generations have inherited the superstitious legacy of those uncivilized ages. In times of necessity they do not hesitate to practice those crafts. By the mumbling of a few mantras or by swishing a feather or by offering sacrifices at temples and mosques, by coincidence some malady is cured. It is an accidental event. Under such circumstances if the patient has complete faith that a certain remedy is bound to be effective, it is just possible that he can be cured by thought-force.

The 20th century science of medicine which has advanced over thousands of years can cure illnesses. But when some persistent malady overtakes a patient, his dear ones are depressed, they lose hope, weep and wail, and are willing to experiment all modes of treatment at any cost and sacrifice only to cure the beloved one.

Many may recall a film entitled "Bernadetta" about two years ago. It is said that in 1858 Jesus Christ's mother, the Virgin Mary, was seen by a maiden named Bernadetta, near a Grotto in Lourdes, a town in France. As the news spread, crowds of people went to see this miracle. All sorts of rumours resulted and the Bishop of that area appointed a commission to investigate into the matter. After three years of investigation the commission pronounced this imaginary event to be a miracle of actual occurrence! Hence a church [541] and rest-houses for pilgrims were erected there. Even today train-loads of lame and crippled and blind and handicapped go from far-away places to this sacred grotto with the flimsy hope of being made whole. Allover the world are to be found innumerable such sacred abodes which claim to effect legendary and miraculous cures of maladies that knowledge and science have failed to conquer.

Those who do not view a neighbour's religion with tolerance in ordinary times, when assailed by a long-standing, incurable malady, without a moment's hesitation willingly accept any genuine or fake hope of a remedy through conversion. A drowning man clings to a straw. Some Zoroastrian invalids, even today, in the airy hope of being rid of their suffering go through life moaning and groaning, wearing amulets and charms and magical strings of beads and crosses of Hindus, Muslims and Christians. What can we do but extend our sympathy and our prayers to those unfortunate beings weighed down by a fatal and unbearable disease, void of all hope and passing their days and nights in sorrow and suffering?

As time passed I realized that arguments regarding religious beliefs, ceremonials and conventions, such as whether prayers should be recited in the ancient sacred language or in modern, comprehensible tongues; whether ceremonies performed for the dead reach them or not; whether or not the recitation of the Patet 'the prayer of penance' by the living can curtail the sins of the deceased; whether the Zoroastrian faith propounds re-incarnation or not; whether flesh-eating is permissible or not; do not yield the practical result of altering the opponents' opinions. Each, according to his own mental make-up, believes his own opinion to be true and just and is bent upon proving himself correct by expounding all sorts of true and false theories. The soundest of arguments [542] fall on deaf ears and fail to convince. What suits a particular taste and temperament alone seems to be true and valid all else is false. Finally I came to the conclusion that if a certain religious belief, a particular philosophy or the rigid observance of conventions brings peace and solace to a person, is valuable in forming his character and helps him to move onwards on the path of righteousness, it is not necessary to enter into argument with him even if those theories conflict with our own principles. The primary aim of life is to build man's character and frame his destiny. If a person feels that a single incarnation on earth is incomplete and insufficient to solve the problems of life, and if the theory of re-incarnation primarily a Hindu doctrine helps him to unravel the mysteries of life and death; if the philosophy of fate or 'karma' touches the chord of his intellect, and with that faith he carries on quietly along his own path, why should we try to pass judgement on his beliefs? If we do not set up barriers in literature and science and derive benefit from whichever source they arise, from whatever nation they emerge, and give them a place of honour, then why should we interfere in the variety of opinions that are born on matters of religion and the different philosophies that appeal to different people and enlighten them?

Religion is one, but religions are many. Religion is the path of righteousness. He who is truthful and pure in heart is truly religious. Religions differ with countries, climes and conditions and with the passage of time cobwebs of superstition and conventions enmesh their pristine purity. The questions on religion that are ground over and over again in the millstone of argument and create bitterness and dissensions, are mostly related to customs and conventions. Such controversies make us fanatical. I was careful now not to get entangled [543] in the meshes of such intricacies. My long experience of religious life in the West gradually abated my zeal to be a reformist preacher.

Without reasoning and without evidence, I had been brought up to believe that my religion was perfect and that it was the only true and complete religion. Years and years of study and observation have released me from such a fanatical and dogmatic mentality. I am no longer enamoured of qualifying my religion as 'the best' and 'the most beautiful' per the affidavit pronounced in the Zoroastrian prayer known as Jasame Avangeh Mazda. True that in essence such panegyrical axioms of accrediting their own country and their own faith as perfect, help to make men more devotional and patriotic. But it does not end at that. As time passes they become crusaders and narrow nationalists. Such drastic religious and national opinions have wrought havoc in the world. German children are reared on such insolent strains as 'Deutschland uber all' - Germany above all. They grow up with the belief that they are destined to conquer men and to rule over them. Furthermore they are convinced that their culture supercedes all other cultures and that they are ordained to force all men to accept it as their own. Similar slogans of 'My country, right or wrong' are pouring poison into the minds of men and women allover the world. Man's spiritual progress depends upon practising and loving one's own religion, yet being drawn towards a Universal Religion and developing a kind of catholicity. His worldly salvation lies in crossing the barriers of his motherland and becoming a world-citizen.

Lacs of rupees have been ear-marked for Gahambar festivals in many towns and cities. I had publicly lectured against it, initially fifty years ago and continued to oppose it for quite some time. [544] After the closing sessions of the First Zoroastrian Conference, its President and I were given a dinner. About six hundred ladies and gentlemen participated in the feast. The fee for the dinner was Rs. 5/per head. The following day we were strongly criticized by the opposition papers that three thousand rupees had been wasted on food. On the one hand a great deal is being said and written against the Gahambar feasts, while the inhabitants, industrialists, societies and clubs of various towns and cities collaborate to demand additional Gahambar dinners and large sums of money are expended. Besides, a new custom has found its way into the community of celebrating Navjotes with dinners as grand and as expensive as those given at weddings. Likewise, besides birthday, engagement, adarni and madavsara dinners, parties, picnics and entertainment are on the increase. Whereas the average Gahambar meals cost seven or eight annas per person, the multi-coursed dinners at betrothals etc. entail an expenditure of Rs. 3/to Rs. 7/per head. It is not unusual for larger dinners to cost even Rs.10/to Rs. 12 per head. The funds ear-marked for gahambars are easily noticed. But if an unprejudiced account is drawn up of the capital that would be needed to yield an interest to meet with the thousands that are spent on dinners on auspicious occasions annually, it will be evident that the amount will greatly exceed the sums that are set aside as Gahambar funds. Gradually I came to the conclusion that if the community wastes wealth like water for the pleasure of aristocrats, how can we blame various Anjomans for spending in good faith, to feed thousands of poor and middle-class people? With such thoughts I ceased my tirade against Gahambar feasts.

For a learned Dastur to satisfy both the orthodox and the reformist party today is as difficult and as impossible as it is to remain a reformist of the [545] Arya Samaj group and to gratify patrons of an extreme orthodox view-point; or, in politics to remain a radical and please the conservatives. It does not appear as though our community understands this. Neither does the orthodox sect realize it, nor do the reformists. Today the lay congregation of a reformist Dastur comprises of a few reformists and several conservatives. Besides, his co-workers are all orthodox. In spite of that men and women belonging to the reformist group think and believe and desire that even in such an environment a reformist Dastur can scorn all conventions, can proselytise, can cremate the dead and can bring about the most drastic reforms. The history of religions teaches the infallible lesson that this is impossible. Many of the questions that are discussed from religious platforms are restricted to their own fold. It is not possible to put them into practice without creating new and independent sects. Let us take a simple example of this.

A devout Zoroastrian's day begins with the recitation of 'shakuste shakuste shaitan', words warding off the evil spirit. The bull's urine has a place in his daily life and is the backbone of ceremonies. Just as the former Maharaja of Jaipur took along with him pure drinking water, grain, palm-leaves to serve as plates etc. when he proceeded to England for the King's coronation, some Parsis took a bottleful of 'tara' with them when they went to England in olden days. A co-religionist of Karachi proceeding to Africa had told me that he had taken a bottle of 'taro' with him to use on board the ship. Some recited prayers once or twice and with pious feelings drank a tiny bowlful of taro, while others took the annual consecration bath, purified the body with 'taro' and, after holding 'baj' drank it in order to purify the mind and heart. Even today this is done by some people. [546]

Those who have acquired modern education have begun to voice their disgust against the use of bull's urine since the middle of the last century. Dadabhoy Navroji and other reformists had started a major campaign against the use of 'taro'; but up to date no one has been able to abolish its use in ceremonials, nor will anyone succeed in doing so. It seems that there is no latitude for launching an investigation into the good or evil effects or the advantages and disadvantages of this custom. The traditional, sanctified 'taro' or 'nirang' has become an essential ingredient in our ceremonials. If has become an integral part of the most sacred rituals. Since such a high premium has been placed upon it, despite the most vehement propaganda of reformists, it will not be removed from Fire Temples and Atashbehrams, unless and until a new sect is formed in which the Varasia and Nirang have no place and a new Atashkadeh is established, run by new Mobeds.

From time to time as a Dastur of the community people from various cities invite my opinion on a variety of subjects. It is a Dastur's duty to reply to appeals for clarification concerning religious matters. But these days there seems to be no limit to such topics. Very often questions are asked about matters that can easily be solved by applying a bit of common sense. Not stopping at appealing to Dasturs, Ervads and scholars answers are also invited from people who have no scholarly authority to express an opinion. Thus, many printed questionnaires are sent out. No differentiation is made between physicians and quacks. Formerly, for many years, I tried to give mental solace by replying to all and sundry. But now at times I find all bounds of question-answers being crossed, so I am obliged to disappoint a few. The number of questions asked range from five to twenty-five or even more. A kind gentleman living in Karachi sent me a questionnaire containing seventy-six questions on [547] matters relating to philosophy and to ceremonials. I informed him, most politely, that some of his questions were such that each demanded two or three written pages of clarification. Life is short and my personal study takes toll of several hours a day, hence I regretted I could not spare time to answer his numerous questions. He wrote to me again that I should send even very brief replies. I did not comply with his request, so he complained about me in the Bombay papers that I had failed to fulfil my obligations as a Dastur whose duty it was to give clarification to his laity on religious matters. The questions that are asked relate mainly to ceremonies and conventions. While replying to such questions I have to deal in the following manner. Claims that are made in courts of law can be dispensed with only according to rules within the constitution. At times, while passing judgement over a particular case even if the lawgiver feels that the rule in the law-books is faulty, he cannot contradict it and pass a sentence according to his own judgement. At that time he is bound to judge in accordance with the ,established law. Later, he may draw the attention of the government to the defect and, if his objection appears valid, the legislative council would make the necessary alteration in the law and future judgements would be passed accordingly.

In replying to questions concerning ceremonies and conventions I do not give my personal opinion as a thinking individual or as a humble scholar or as a reformist, because I have no authority to do so. I am the Head Priest of an Anjoman that is 75% conservative and of a performing priest-class that is 99% orthodox. These gentlemen consider the later Pahlavi and Pazand books and Iranian Rivayats as authentic law-books on customs and conventions, hence my replies are perforce based mainly in conformity with their teachings.

[548] Even in matters of prayer and ceremonials, in very few instances have I to attempt to differ slightly from the established method. There is a custom amongst us to make the initiate recite the 'Patet' prayer during the Navjote ceremony. It is the opinion of many that the sins that have been enumerated in this prayer are improper for an innocent child to recite. If this prayer were recited in a comprehensible language the proclamation of some of the sins before the audience would seem impolite. The Rahnumai Mazdaiyasnan Society first took up this question in the latter part of the last century. Ervad Sheriarji Bharucha cut out certain objectionable portions and published an abridged edition known as 'Patet-i- Burzigideh.' But the community paid no heed to it On attaining the Head-Priestship in 1909 I tackled this problem in two ways. While performing the Navjote of child of an orthodox family, I recite the Patet in undertones and if it is a reformist family, I do not recite the Patet at all. When I pray the Patet silently, my good mobed brethren do likewise, but at those Navjote ceremonies where I am not present they recite it aloud as usual. With the result that in Karachi two kinds of 'Patet' are prayed during Navjote ceremonies. To find some kind of a solution to this problem we had three meetings with the Mobeds twenty-five years ago. My personal opinion is that the Pazand prayer known as 'Hormuzd Khudai' recited while performing the 'Kusti' ceremony includes a short, innocent 'Patet'. Therein the supplicant prays as follows: "Oh, Ahura Mazda, I repent for all the evil thoughts, evil words and evil deeds that may have been in my mind in this world, and for all sins relating to thoughts, words and deeds, either physical or spiritual, either of this world or the next. May I abstain from all evil always". Besides this, the 'Farestuye Humatoibusche' which forms part of the Confirmation of Faith and which is also recited compulsorily at the time of the Navjote, [549] contains the following declaration: “I admire all noble thoughts, all noble words and all noble deeds through the strength of my good mind, my good speech and my good actions."

The above prayer which is recited by the child at the time of his Navjote should suffice and there is no need for the Patet that is prayed at present. But when Mobeds themselves perform the ceremony, it does not seem possible that they would immediately discontinue to recite the Patet prayer. So we considered reciting a shorter prayer and deriving some satisfaction. The 'Avestan Patet' is the shortest of such prayers. It does not have any resemblance to the original Patet. It contains only the 'Farestuye' of the confirmation, but that already forms part of the essential 'Kusti' prayer. To recite it again as a 'Patet would be mere mental palliation. The Mobeds were willing to do this. But on further consideration they arrived at the conclusion that when they themselves were performing the Navjote ceremony, if some Behdins wished to have the customary Patet recited in totality, they could not be refused. There was truth in this argument so no satisfactory solution resulted. Due to this, in Karachi, two types of 'Patets' the 'silent' and the 'vocal' continue to be prayed at Navjote ceremonies. Formerly I seldom had the opportunity of performing Navjotes without reciting the Patet now such Navjotes are on the increase.

In our community only once, and that in 1915, was there a practical possibility to establish a Reformed Zoroastrian Church. Some enthusiastic, progressive and wealthy ladies and gentlemen were considering the question. There was no dearth of finances. Seven lakhs were collected within a short period. Yet, due to certain circumstances and considerations, the matter had to be deferred. A variety of religious view-points prevails [550] within the self-same religious group and a diversity of our faithful assemble under the roof of a single church. Those who believe that prayers recited in the Avesta alone are acceptable, and those who clamour for prayer in an intelligible language; the ceremonialists and the anti-ceremonialists; the Aslis and the Faslis; the devotional and the conventionalists ; the best orthodox and the extreme reformists; the faithful and the infidel; conformists and the proselytisers ; those who believe disposing of the dead at the Tower of Silence and those who believe in cremation; all these must congregate at the same place to pray and to worship. A Dastur may be an orthodox or a reformist by talent, temperament and learning, but as the dual head of the majority of the community's orthodoxy and the reformist minority he must equally indulge both parties. Again, he has to work night and day with good Mobeds who excel at performing ceremonies but who have at most attained a general education equivalent to four or five Gujarat standards. If a Dastur is a radical having liberal views and of an independent mentality, his allies and coworkers are completely orthodox. Both exist at opposing and conflicting intellectual levels. This kind of ill-matched partnership of an enlightened and reformist religious leader and a staunch and conservative associate priest-class cannot be found in any nation anywhere in the world.

For thirty-seven years I have been a reformist Dastur of a majority of orthodox Behdins and a united fold of orthodox Mobeds. With Ahura Mazda’s blessings and Zarathushtra’s guidance I have been driving the chariot of my Dasturship through an environment of rigid orthodoxy, a labyrinth of rituals and a storm of strict conventionalism. Cautious of times and circumstances, I cross hurdles and pass over quicks and with wisdom and foresight along with my heterogeneous congregation.


Chapter LIV


I was writing The History of Zoroastrianism, the most voluminous of all my English books hitherto published. It ran into nearly 525 pages. Word had come from America that the estimate of printing the book would be approximately eight thousand rupees. Once again, with the blessings and good wishes of appreciative coreligionists, we set sail for Southampton in a steamer of the City Lines, at the end of January 1938 in order to have the book published and to continue my mission of propagating the Zoroastrian faith. Winter was not the season for west-bound voyagers, hence the ship was almost empty. My day passed in giving final touches to my book and in amendments and additions, while my wife knitted and embroidered for her children and daughters-in-law. En route I delivered two lectures under the chairmanship of the Captain.

Anchoring for a night at Southampton we proceeded to New York by a spacious ship of the Cunnard White Star Company, enduring severe cold, snow and storm.

As usual we rented a small room near the. university. There was a kitchenette attached to this room, so with a view to economize, we arranged to do our own messing. My culinary skill ends at making tea and coffee and frying and scrambling eggs. I woke up at dawn, bathed, had a cup of weak tea and commenced my work. As morning approached, before my wife could ward off the onslaught of Satan's untimely sleep and leave her bed, I kept the tea and breakfast ready. Such odd jobs at intervals between my constant desk-work served as a mental relaxation. I was not unacquainted with such work. At home I never [552] left my bed undone. Even so did I fold my blankets and make my own bed in ships and in hotels. My wife did not approve of this. There was some sense in her argument. She would tell me that if we behaved in this manner in Europe and America, the white servants would pity us and think that people of the East were so used to slavery and hardship that they continued to do so even here. Our maid would come as late as ten o'clock to make our beds and our one small room served as a sitting, study, dining and sleeping room combined, so I resented leaving things in disorder. I derived satisfaction in just spreading the bed-sheets over the beds. After an hour or two of writing I turned to the kitchen for relaxation by pruning and pealing vegetables. My wife would serve rice, dal and 'patia' for lunch, so I would lend a hand at cleaning up and would also help with the laundry. Our cooking was done by noon as we dined on leftovers or were content with the modest fare of coffee and biscuits.

Strange are the innovations of time. There were great changes in the extent, environs and enchantment of New York within the thirty-four years since I had first set foot in the city in 1905. Within that period Columbia University had ten more buildings besides its magnificent premises. Changed was the fate of the large-domed, castle like library in whose seminar-room, 'midst thousands of books, I had spent hundreds of hours from eight in the morning to eleven at night to quench my thirst for knowledge. This large library was shifted to a more spacious, new, twelve-storeyed building. Wherever the eye turned, the hand of time had wrought changes. With a few exceptions all the professors of my days had either retired or had passed away. Amongst the scholars who had gone to their spiritual abode was my tutor and God's good man, Professor Jackson-the man who had rendered invaluable service to Iranian literature [553] to the last days of his life; who, for fifty years, reminded the American nation of the sacred name of Zarathushtra and who was a true admirer of the Parsi community. "May Ahura Mazda grant him eternal bliss which is the reward of pious people".

Strolling along the University Campus I could see the modern generation. These care-free youths were unaware that this world-renowned university was once mine and that I belonged to it. Imagining me to be some lost wayfarer of by-gone days, they seemed to be arrogantly questioning my right to enter into the sacred precincts of that temple of learning. Little did they know that three decades hence, time would dismiss them also from this temple in order to give place to new-comers! Devotees will come and devotees will go, but the goddess of learning will defy time and place and will continue to give knowledge to one generation after another and will continue to mould its character.

Midst all the transformations at Columbia University, there were some things that were reminiscent of the time and place of its establishment. Metal and marble statues of great men were interspersed with thought-provoking and symbolic representations of ideals of knowledge, contemplation and work. My attention was focussed on two of these during my youthful days of study and also whenever we visited America. On ascending the steps that were wider, higher, more dignified and more attractive than those of the Town Hall at Bombay, right in the centre was an impressive statue of Alma Mater - the goddess of Learning. At the entrance to the Philosophy Hall where we assembled for classes in philosophy, the statue of a philosopher seated in deep thought with the caption 'Pense' 'Think' induced the passer-by to be lost in the labyrinth of thought. Columbia University had showered a wealth of [554] knowledge on me. It had taught me to think in a methodical, scientific and logical manner. With her Kodak camera my wife took a photograph of me standing by these statues of learning and meditation.

With the death of Professor Jackson the Indo-Iranian Department of Columbia University was in a sad plight. The regular study of the Avestan language had ceased. Whatever remains is in danger of being discontinued. His own private library he has gifted to the University.

About the middle of the last century due to the publicity of Darwin's new theory of evolution and through the circulation of modern ideas of educated people, faith in religion was wavering universally. Even in America atheism, agnosticism and materialism were wide-spread. At a time of such religious instability, when faith in the country's established religion was fading, new religions and new philosophies had a magnetic appeal for those who were hungry for spiritual fare.

Two thousand five hundred years ago, from the time certain philosophers and thinkers of Miletus began to disregard the traditional belief in gods and goddesses, atheism found an entry into Greece. At such a time the spiritual knowledge of Iran and India found a foothold in the West and it received a warm welcome. Pythagoras was born many centuries after Zarathushtra, yet philosophers spread the word that Pythagoras was the pupil of the Persian prophet Zoroaster. From that time onwards 'Light from the East' became proverbial amongst the nations of the West.

From 1830 there was an eagerness in America to hearken to the spiritual message from the East, and Emerson and Thoreau played a leading role in introducing the philosophy of the Vedanta in that [555] country. Emerson's poem 'Brahma' published in 1856 attracted a great deal of attention. The teachings of the Vedanta had influenced Mrs. Mary Eddie Baker's new religion - Christian Science - in the later period of the last century. A more direct diffusion of the philosophy of the Vedanta started in 1893. In that year a large 'World Exhibition' was held at Chicago where a 'Parliament of Religions' was convened. Learned representatives of all the religions were present there. The learned Ervad Jeevanji Mody was to take part on our behalf, but as he was appointed Secretary of the Parsi Panchayat of Bombay just then, he was not able to attend. Instead, Ervad Sheriarji Bharucha wrote a discourse on the greatness of the Zoroastrian religion and sent it to be read at the Conference. From amongst the religious leaders and philosophers who had assembled from all corners of the globe, Swami Vivekanand's very first lecture marked him out as a shining star. He was immediately acclaimed as 'The 'Lightning Orator' throughout the land. He received requests to lecture from all quarters and he remained there for a very long time. Many men and women became his disciples and embraced the Vedantic religion. His thesis on Gnan Yoga and Rajyoga elicited great enconomiums from the famous psychologist of the Harvard University, Professor William James, the well-known Russian writer, Tolstoy and many other scholars. The New York Herald wrote that it was sheer foolhardiness to send missionaries to convert people into countries where lived such great scholars. Vivekanand founded the Vedant Society at that time which still exists. Swamis educated at the Ramkrishna Mission which he later established at Belur in the Bengal Presidency, are employed there.

In the Bible in the Chapter on Mathew, Jesus says: "Many will come from time to time taking my name and calling themselves Christ. They will [556] show true and false signs and beguile the people." Similarly it is said in the Bhagvad Gita that whenever religious life is in jeopardy, Shri Bhagvan sends his messengers into the world. Some imposters do not disturb Bhagvan, but disguised in delusion and deceits, appear in various forms from diverse quarters, announce that they have received divine inspiration and reveal all kinds of religious imageries. These shrewd people succeed in drawing many towards them. Such quackery was most prevalent in America. Side by side with genuine religious movements, a great deal of fraud was going on. These deceivers misled the innocent by promising to reveal the mysteries of the spiritual world, to heal through mantras, to attain for them their wishes, to grant them an audience with the Almighty, to give them a contact with the souls of the dead, and offering many such fraudulent assurances. The saner sector of the nation recognised such movements as fads and avoided them, but the less prudent could not but be influenced to some extent. Besides, those guided by sentiment rather than by reason, though they be educated and advanced, were beguiled.

Under such circumstances, among the new religions that had penetrated into America, besides the Vedant, were the Buddhist, Bahai and Islamic religions, and quite a number of American men and women had been converted to these faiths. Amongst the great prophets of the world Zarathushtra's name was known in the West since ancient Greek and Roman times. As time passed the Knowledge of the Vedant, Buddha and other oriental religions expanded, yet the sacred name of Zarathushtra, known since ages, was not forgotten. The great German philosopher, Frederich Nietzsche named his most memorable book, 'Thus Spake Zarathushtra'. In America itself the famous writer, Marian Crawford, entitled one of her works Zoroaster. However, when the teachings of other [557] eastern religions were spreading in America, there was no move to further Zoroastrianism.

As though to fill this void, a sect known as 'Mazdaznan' came into being in Chicago about this time. Strangely this sect was not established by a Zoroastrian, but an American travelling through the ancient land of Babylonia and other places, created it with fictitious tales of having found ancient Avestan manuscripts in the Desert of Gobi and in Tibet, and under the pretext of his supposed divine inspiration. Dr. Mill's and Darmesteter's translations of the Yasna, Visparad, Yasht, Vendidad etc. had already been published through Professor Max Muller's series of The Sacred Books of the East. Depending on these, adding bits and pieces from other religions on eclectic lines, and skillfully adopting Zarathushtra's magnetic name with its Persian pronunciation - Zer-adoosht - this shrewd man founded this new sect under the name of Mazda.

From Swami Vivekanand's time the study of the science of Yoga had commenced in American Vedant circles. Many American men and women studied it with deep devotion. After fifty years, American interest in Yoga has declined at present. At that time, together with others, we had also seen a young enterprising coreligionist terming himself as the Einstein of Yoga and earning a mite. Keeping in mind the American love for Yoga, the clever founder of the Mazdaznan sect preached that Pranayama of the science of Yoga (the Hindu precept of respiration) was taught by Zarathushtra also and included it in his sect. Due to this, informed scholars recognised this new sect bearing the name of Mazda, as hypocritical and false. Professor Jackson, Dr. Gray and other scholars gave no countenance to it and did not comment upon it in their authentic books on Zoroastrian religion. I did not think it valid to [558] mention this unrecognised sect that cannot be considered an integral part of Zoroastrian religion in my book entitled Zoroastrian Theology in 1914, nor in the History of Zoroastrianism published in 1938.

Besides speaking under the auspices of other American organizations I also lectured from the platform of the Vedanta Society. After my speech, as usual, the learned Swami of the Society entertained us to dinner. But this time he took us and the Secretary of the' World Fellowship of Faiths', Kedarnath Das Gupta, to a store nearby. Here he ordered Iamb chops for the three of us. Gupta gazed at him in surprise and sent for some vegetarian dishes. The swami calmly dined on Iamb chops in our company.

The Vedantic religion and philosophy and the teachings of Islam and Bahaism will continue to be heard in the New World through their organizations, whereas Asho Zarathushtra's name and his message in its pristine form will henceforth cease to ring there.

In 1905 when I first went to America for study, there were eight Parsi business concerns and trading firms in New York and other parts of the United States. With the passage of time this Parsi enterprise is dwindling. Indian boys and girls come from time to time to study at various universities and so do Parsi youths. In spite of that, the Parsi population of the whole of the United States does not exceed twelve or fifteen at any single period. Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs come in good numbers and their temples and societies are to be found at various places. This time I delivered nine lectures under the auspices of different organisations. The energetic secretary of the 'World Fellowship of Faiths' gave us a public farewell dinner under the auspices of his Society.

[559] As my new book came out of the press we set sail for England. I have navigated the seas five times to America the distant land of the West and my wife has been four times. Perhaps we were bidding a final farewell to the Statue of Liberty as our steamer passed by that gigantic iron symbol of freedom which was gifted by the people of the Republic of France to the great people of the Democracy of America.

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