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Chapter LV


We had written from New York and made arrangements to stay at the boarding-house of a retired British officer of the Indian Military Service. Accordingly, on reaching London by the end of August, we boarded there. The first Parsi to set foot in this capital city of the British Empire was the son of Rustom Maneck Seth, the one-time broker of the East India Company, who had gone there in 1723 to settle his claims with the company. But the first to establish a business firm and to settle there was the Cama family in 1855. Thereafter, some large and small firms or shops were opened there, most of which have closed down now. A good number of students continue to go for studies to England and Scotland. Indian doctors carryon a panel practice in the poorer quarters of London, amongst whom approximately fifty Zoroastrian physicians have made a good beginning. Besides these, a few other families have settled there permanently. On Jamshedi Navroze or Pateti there is a fairly large gathering of Parsis who go there for a change of environment or as tourists.

On the Parsi New Year's Day the customary public dinner was organised by the Parsi Association of Europe for all the Parsis of London and prominent guests of our sister communities. On this occasion I had taken the New Year toast. On Khordad Sal day I performed the Navjote ceremony of Dr. Faredoon Boomla's son, Darayus, before a cosmopolitan audience at the conclusion of which I gave a talk on the significance of the ceremony. I was elected the first honorary member of the Association and a function was organised to felicitate us. [561]

Other gatherings and lectures were also organised by them and by others in generous appreciation of my humble services. In addition, I had the opportunity of speaking on eight occasions including the one held at the residence of the Duchess of Somerset under the auspices of the School of Oriental Studies and other public organizations.

At the end of one of those lectures. Khwaja Oamal-ud-din, the Imam of the mosque at Woking who was present, placed in my hands his book entitled Islam and Zoroastrianism. He was the Imam at London of the newly established sect of Muslims, known as Ahmedias.

In the eighties of the last century when Dayanand Saraswati, the founder of the Arya Samaj was denouncing the Christian missionaries on the one hand and the Muslim maulvis on the other, Mirza Ghulam Ahmed, the Mirza of Kadim, a village in Gurdaspur, a district of the Punjab, established the Ahmedia sect under his own name.

The Muslims are awaiting the advent of the Mahadi and the Christians talk of the return of Jesus as the Messiah. This new prophet claimed to be the Mahadi and the Messiah himself at one and the same time. Later he also introduced himself as a new Avatar of the Hindus.

In 1913 Khwaja Saheb came from Lahore to London and began to propagate this new Muslim sect. He succeeded in converting Lord Hadley and a few other Englishmen.

In the above-mentioned book he praises the Zoroastrian religion first and then writes that like the Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, and Christian religions, Zoroastrianism too has not been able to preserve its pristine purity. The Quran alone reveals God's true and final teaching. For its diffusion [562] amongst mankind in the present times the Almighty has sent the great saint Mirza Ghulam Ahmed as His messenger.

May God save tormented mankind from such so-called messengers who spring up from time to time in various places!

Upon request from many to express my views on the several questions that were being repeatedly debated most bitterly in our community in India the Association asked me to tackle such subjects.

Prominent amongst these were the utilization of bull's urine, ceremonies for the dead, prayer in intelligible language, the question of proselytising, crematorium, the practice of smoking, the wearing of the sudre and kusti, etc. Of these, the first five questions have already been dealt with in earlier chapters of this book, hence it is not necessary to repeat my opinions. Some new light was called for on the question of crematorium, so it is essential to give a brief review here.

In Europe and America, after cremating the corpse it is packed in airtight glass or china jars. These are usually buried and a tomb or tablet is raised over them. Some people drown the ashes of their loved ones, while others inscribe verses on these jars and hand them over for preservation in the precincts of the crematorium. Just as the system of disposing of the dead body by intensive heat seems perfect from the hygienic point of view. if its ashes are given an aquatic burial there would be a great saving of lands which are reserved as cemeteries in large cities like London and New York with a population exceeding seven millions. But this does not happen due to the common yearning of people to cherish the memory of the departed ones and just as large and expensive edifices are erected over jars containing [563] the ashes as over the dead that are buried. There is no saving either in space or in expense. In New York we had seen splendid sepulchres costing twenty-five and fifty thousand to two and five lakh rupees built over the jars of ashes that had been buried. The only advantage in burning and then burying the ashes, over ordinary burial is that the unsanitary conditions that are created by myriads of bodies buried and rotting in the earth is avoided. But the land that should be preserved in the interest of the living is equally occupied by the dead and the wastage over the construction of monuments continues. Both purposes are served by burning the corpse and drowning the ashes. The corpses of some co-religionists have been cremated in public crematories and their ashes have been buried in our cemetery in London and the usual tomb-stones have been raised over them. Instead, a suggestion was made from certain quarters that a deep recess open to air and sunshine be dug, and ashes of all placed therein so that there be no need for tombs and the custom of purification by the rays of the sun can be preserved. As the suggestion seemed impractical it was deferred.

The questions that seemed to perplex people the most and regarding which, even after returning to Karachi some carried on a private correspondence with me for months, were about smoking and the compulsory wearing of the sudre and kusti. These gentlemen argued that if a person leads a life on the principles of Humata, Hukhta, Huvarashta good thoughts, good words and good deeds he was an avowed Zoroastrian and it mattered little whether he moved about bareheaded or smoked or did not put on the sacred shirt and girdle. He should be considered a Zoroastrian on all accounts and should have the right to all Zoroastrian privileges. In other words a bare-headed Parsi or one with a cigarette between his lips and without the sudre-kusti on his [564] body may be permitted to enter Agyaris and Atashbehrams, and be present at ceremonies performed for the living or for the dead.

Many changes have been wrought in our way of life during the last fifty years, as also in our manner of dress. Formerly to go about bareheaded was not only a fault but a crime. Today thousands of men and women move about bareheaded. Formerly men wore the Jama-Pichodi at weddings and funerals. Gradually the Jama-Pichodi gave way to the white dagli or daglo and some bridegrooms were garbed in the Persian styled sahaya. By degrees these in turn were supplanted by Parsi coats of all colours. Since some time men are attending Navjotes and weddings in European attire and both men and women come with heads uncovered. Today many gentlemen smoke and so do some ladies. A few have bidden farewell to the Sudre and Kusti in their personal lives. But no one has yet been found publicly attempting to attend religious ceremonies performed at religious premises bare-headed or with a cigarette in his mouth or without a sudre-kusti. This is because they realize that they may behave as they please in their private lives they may even wear the sudre-kusti or not and no one has the authority to try to reform them or to excommunicate them, but should they try to enter religious institutions or meetings, the organizers can object. Some gentlemen from London vouch that by moving about bare-headed or with a cigarette poised between the lips or by discarding the sudre-kusti a Parsi does not become a lesser Zoroastrian or a non-Zoroastrian. He was born a Zoroastrian hence until he gives up the Zoroastrian faith and gets converted, whether he wears the sudre -kusti or not, without the least restriction or limitation, he has the birth-right to enter into religious institutions and to participate in religious ceremonies. Should he be a bachelor and desirous [565] of marriage, he may get wedded without the sudre-kusti and should he die he may will to have his body put in the final resting place without the Zoroastrian custom of garbing it in the sudre kusti. The fact is that Ahura Mazda evaluates a man's worth according to his good and bad deeds only. Virtue and vice have no relationship whatever, with man's bare-headed ness, his smoking or his wearing of the sacred shirt and girdle.

All the religions of the world are based on the same fundamental principles of good thoughts, good words and good deeds and those alone bear testimony to a truly religious life. But the diversity of countries, climes and conditions is responsible for the differences of religious opinions, philosophies, customs and conventions. Together with the eternal verities of every faith, due to times and circumstances, certain good or bad, true or false customs and conventions are always interwoven. Because of their mingling with basic religious teachings they are accounted to be sacred and as time passes they form an essential and integral part of religion. Socio-religious customs, in the name of religion and religious sanction, become binding on those who follow that faith and they cannot escape from practising them. Just as laws of marriage, divorce, inheritance, etc. differ from community to community and from nation to nation, these socio-religious practices become like essential commandments of that faith. Conventions are invested with the garb of authority and the believers must of necessity adhere to them.

Could we but for a moment peep into the Kingdom of the Creator we would find out that His Divine Justice is very different from our earthly mode of judgement. In the High Courts of Bombay when there are social claims, if the claimant is a Hindu, justice is meted out according to Hindu law, if a Muslim by Muslim law, and if a Parsi by Parsi [566] law. In God's courts there are no such community wise law-books. When a Parsi soul enters the portal of heaven he is not questioned whether he has abided by Zoroastrian conventions or not, or whether a Hindu spirit has faithfully followed the social customs of the Hindus. The same is the case with Muslims, Christians, Jews and others. No questions are asked as to the practice of the various customs and conventions connected with the diverse faiths. Moreover, Meher Davar, the Lord Chief Justice does not distinguish anyone as a Zoroastrian or a Hindu or a Muslim or a Christian or a Jew. He looks upon each as a thinking being, having lived on earth with a free will and examines only his thoughts, words and deeds as a man. The person whose thoughts, words and deeds are pure He declares to be virtuous and pious and if impure, that man is judged as sinful and vicious.

Since it is the destiny of mankind to be continuously quarrelling over differences of opinions, there is no choice but to abide by the true and false beliefs of the majority of a community. Hence the sudre-kusti which has become a traditional symbol of purity and genuine Zoroastrianism since ages cannot be disclaimed by a handful of fanatics. This explanation seemed sound to some of my brethren in London, while others found it meaningless. The member of a respectable family, after eight months of such correspondence wrote to me at Karachi that it was regrettable that since I was not as economically independent as a Christian Archbishop or Bishop, I was not able to voice my independent opinion with courage.

In 1930 as we had voyaged directly from Karachi to New York and returned via Japan and China we had not been able to go to London and so we could not meet Shapurji Saklatvala. This time before we reached London he had crossed the boundaries of this world and gone to the abode of the [567] saints. Therefore, our last meeting with him was in 1927 when he had visited India. He had stayed with us in Karachi at that time and was to give a public lecture under my Chairmanship. As soon as this news was broadcast quite a few bitter controversies commenced. As the officials were opposed to him, his presence was not welcome to influential Parsis in the government also.

In those days the reins of the 'Daily Gazette' were in the hands of Sir Montague Webb. He questioned in his editorial as to what connection the Head Priest of the Parsis had with communism so as to shelter the propagandist of socialism under his roof and to have him lecture to the community. He added that the community was taking steps to dethrone their Priest! At Shapurji's lecture I stated from the Chair that as a Mobed's son, he had been reared on the saying: (“dosi tewu afargaan”) (Learn to cater to circumstances.) And his lecture proved as innocent. It so happened that at the very time that our Parsi propagandist of communism was living under my roof, I was writing a chapter against communism in my new book Our Perfecting World.

Having served the community and the country for three decades to the best of his ability according to his own light, he had now gone to the abode of eternal rest and peace.

I first met Reverend Bhabha in London in 1908. After that we met him twice. He had reached the ripe old age of 82. Inviting us to tea, he wrote that due to age he was bed-ridden since some time, but when we visit him, God willing, he would be sitting up in an easy-chair and having a long conversation with us. And, in truth, God gave him the strength and he was able to talk to us for quite a while. This was our final meeting, for he passed away shortly after our return to India. In youth he [568] had forsaken his religion and was converted, but his love for his dear community remained unshaken to the end of his life. He used to bemoan the fact that, of the young people of the community who came to study at an immense expense, only a few did credit to the money spent by their parents and returned home after completing their studies and settled down happily. The others got entangled in immorality and abandoned their studies. He told us of his efforts to save such youths and added that he always advised them to avoid the temptation of marrying foreign wives.

Marriages between Parsi men and western women have been taking place since a hundred years from the time Parsis started going to .Europe and America for business and education. Today about a hundred such couples are existing. They are living their lives midst conflicting faiths and conflicting cultures. Those who have found homely and wise mates are living happily. Yet, had they sought the companionship of the girls of the community, there would have resulted a desirable decrease in the community's spinsters. This fact must not be lost sight of.

During our five visits to the West we witnessed quite a few unions between Parsis and Christians or Jews. Wealthy boys of the community who could have secured the best girls of the most aristocratic families of the community were being wedded into very ordinary American families. We saw an old acquaintance of ours an American girl from a destitute family who found a rich partner and stepped out of her wretched home into a palatial mansion, moving about in automobiles, and sustaining her poor family in comfort on the wealth of her Parsi husband. We have also seen Parsi wealth running into lakhs go into an alien land and an alien home at the demise of a rich Parsi husband. Some, due to changing times and circumstances, [569] having lost their jobs or being unsuccessful in business, eke out a miserable existence in exile with their foreign wife and offspring. Some we have seen, who, have left the shores of their homeland in youth pine to set foot on it again, but due to circumstances have been unable to do so and are miserable. A few we have seen who have forgotten their community and their country and are avoiding ever to acknowledge them.

Since the turn of the century, from the time the Jooddin problem came up in its most poignant form our community has opposed it in no uncertain terms and passed resolutions against it. But those whose hearts have been pierced by Cupid's arrow do not seem to pay the least attention to the community's objections. Lovers enamoured of their youthful sweethearts are bent upon making them their own without any consideration of the past or future. Thus mixed marriages cannot be stopped.

In the years that followed the Jooddin struggle, we saw eight Parsis marry American wives during our various trips to America. What was strange about all these marriages was that the husband and wife did not continue with their own individual religions and get married according to the Civil Marriage act out but young men adopted their wife's Christian faith and were wedded according to Christian rites. Talking to some of these we were informed that taking into consideration the resolutions that were being passed by the Bombay Anjuman against performing the Navjote of the offspring of non-Parsi wives, instead of the children being harassed in the future, it was thought advisable that they themselves be converted into Christianity so that the children be reared in the Christian faith.

This is quite understandable. The threat of not taking the offspring of non-Parsi wives into the [570] faith does not in any way deter the men from marrying but instead they forsake the faith and go out of our very small community. We have performed the Navjote of hundreds of children born of Parsi fathers and non-Parsi mothers. There is wisdom and foresight in avoiding impractical talk of placing sanction upon such Navjotes.

Our work had come to an end. There were rumours of a war breaking out in Europe and it seemed as though our experience of 1915 of returning from America through an environment of war was to be repeated in 1938. As arranged by the Secretary of the World Fellowship of Faiths, at this critical time I lectured on the Zoroastrian teachings on war from the 'Mazdaznan' platform. On that very day the comforting news of a peace pact being signed at Munich by Chamberlain and Hitler was received, so this lecture was delivered midst everyone's rejoicing. By God's grace for the time being the terror of war had been set aside so we commenced our return voyage to our native land. On board the ship I delivered one lecture.

After delivering ten lectures in Bombay under the auspices of various associations we returned to Karachi.


Chapter LVI


Ever since man came out of his original pastoral state and settled down to agriculture, through labour and experience he gained a great deal and a variety of things from his land, and as he prospered his culture developed. The land yielded all kinds of grain, vegetables and fruit for him. Some of these which were the means of his livelihood remained fresh and unspoilt for a while, but even the things that could be preserved had to be consumed within a year or so. If some fertile soil produced more than he could utilize he would send it to neighbouring villages and in exchange he got something that they could spare. Experience taught him that some things were such that could not be sent far. For example, in some places the grape-vine yielded such a rich crop of grapes that, after consumption In the village there was a surplus which would be spoilt in transit and would lie in the village and rot. As time passed some clever person succeeded in discovering that if the grapes are filled in large vats they ferment and finally turn into a sweet and sour juice which does not spoil even if kept for a long time, but the longer it remains the tastier and more nourishing it becomes. So now the surplus of grapes was no longer a matter of regret. On the contrary men put in more effort, sowed more plants and tried to grow more grapes and produced more wine. This nourishing sap served as an additional sustenance throughout the year.

According to Persian legend it was in King Jamshed's time that grape wine was accidentally discovered and it began to be used as a tonic and a precious remedy for illnesses. It is said that a beautiful maiden in the King's palace was harassed by a persistent head-ache. Despite all kinds of [572] treatment it could not be cured. One day her eyes fell on some fermenting grape juice which she drank and her malady was immediately cured.

As time passed new discoveries at different places revealed that just as this nourishing drink which remains unspoilt for long is produced from grapes, it can also be derived from rice, barley, maize, cereals, wheat and various kinds of grain, as also from potatoes, fennel seed, dates, apples, pears and other fruit and many kinds of perishable vegetable. This gave farming and agriculture a new impetus. Besides growing these for edible purposes farmers sowed seeds in wider areas in order to produce wine and gardeners planted fruit trees in great numbers. Grape-vine began to cluster many regions of the globe, industry grew and people prospered. All nations of the world began to use this drink as a tonic and a stimulant, as a relaxing beverage after a hard day's labour, as a generator of heat when the temperature dropped to zero and below, as a relief to mental strain and worry and as a safe guard against the strains of life. Men began to regard wine as an essential part of their meal.

On sacred occasions like thanksgiving Jashans for a season of abundant harvest, when everyone worshipped the spirits of nature's flora, a portion of the product of fruit crop formed part of the ceremonies as an offering of gratefulness. Together with solid foodstuff this liquid juice which was pressed from them was offered to the divine beings with deep religious feeling. When the ceremony was over the priest who had performed it plus those present tasted of these things with fervour. Four thousand years ago, even before the Indo-Iranians separated from each other, they made use of this drink with a clear conscience. Besides the Som-Haum drink, they used a mild drink known as Madhu and a strong drink known as Sura in [573] Sanskrit, and Hura in Avesta in their sacred ceremonies and drank the same with reverence. Modern Indo-Iranian scholars of religion compare this ancient Sura-Hura with today's strong intoxicants made from rice, dates and other substances.

Founders of major dynasties after parting from Indo-Iranian families and settling in Iran, and Persians, Parsis and Zoroastrians who ruled up to the seventh century, have been using it throughout history as part of their daily repast and in ceremonies as a sacred offering to God and His ministers and to the pious souls of their departed forefathers. For approximately three thousand years Zoroastrian religious books written from time to time in Avesta, Pahlavi and Pazand, proclaim unanimously the advantages of a moderate use of liquor and state that it helps digestion, strengthens the body, develops the faculties of mind and memory, enhances fluency of speech, induces sound sleep and refreshes life generally. Never in the history of Zoroastrianism has the partaking of liquor been deemed sinful, but considering drunkenness to be a crime, it has been commented upon in Pahlavi law-books. The Zoroastrian religion teaches temperance, not prohibition.

At this end, just as the Aryans in all matters of religious thought, philosophy, ceremonials, modes of living and behaviour differed from their Iranian cousins, as time passed their dietetic habits also underwent many changes. They abstained from flesh-eating and became vegetarians. Manu and other religious law-books prescribed prohibition. Yet all sects of the vast masses known as Hindus did not completely ban the use of liquor. Chankya Kautalya, the wise and learned minister of Chandragupta, the famous Emperor of the Maurya dynasty, comments in his famous dictionary upon the processing of liquor in his kingdom, the regulations regarding its sale etc. [574]

The renowned Charakmuni declares that it is obvious that excessive drinking is harmful but liquor within limits is a tonic, a reliever of fatigue, a nectar that wards off sorrow and brings joy. Sura derived from cereals and rice was used in various ceremonies like Sautramani, Vajpaye etc. Of the vast Hindu population that inhabits this country, large numbers of Hindus are liquor-consumers and use it in their ceremonies. For decades in Karachi wine business was mostly in the hands of Parsis and Goans. Now it has gone into the hands of the Sindhi-Hindus. In place of Palanji and Pereira, Palumal and Pitambardas are now minting money from this flourishing business.

Amongst the major religions of the world the Zoroastrian, Jewish and Christian faiths are well-known for commending the use of liquor in their sacred ceremonies. Buddhism preaches prohibition, but millions of Japanese and Chinese who follow the faith partake of wine like water. Three-quarters of the inhabitants of the world use liquor. Everyone everywhere preaches temperance. In communities that opt for prohibition, more harmful drinks and drugs than liquor are freely used. Intoxicants made from poisonous drugs like hemp, opium, bhang etc. are responsible for ruining the physical and mental health of millions of people in these communities that are regarded as regions of partial or total prohibition.

Three decades ago, from the time of the First Great War, Russia, the United States of America and certain smaller kingdoms introduced prohibition in varying degrees. All these ultimately failed in their purpose. After prohibition had been introduced in America we had the opportunity of visiting that country twice at intervals of seven years. For eight months on each occasion, we were disgusted to see the farce that was conducted there by the American government under [575] guise of prohibition. When we were there in 1922 five years had elapsed since prohibition had been introduced in America. Yet controversies, regarding it were in full swing. Those against prohibition were known as 'Wet' and those in favour of it as 'Dry'. Many famous people in the country were against the government's policy of prohibition. The basis of their argument was that no social reform can be wrought by force. A law passed without the will and the consent of the public was a rebuff to national freedom. It was a fatal blow to the nation's democratic constitution. While putting it into practice, falsehood. immorality, bribery, deceit and treachery were on the increase.

Despite prohibition wine flowed like water in all the towns and cities of America.

It was served freely in hotels and restaurants. Almost every home had a bottle of liquor. All this was a fact. Liquor was distilled within the country and liquor came from without. In public and private gatherings and assemblies every type of liquor was available. Cheap and poor quality liquor caused havoc to the poor. Newspapers published such vehement articles in favour of prohibition and magazines gave so much publicity to it, that in the beginning everyone was amazed to find that such a large majority was sold on prohibition. But it did not take long to reveal its insincerity. More literature was being published by the bootleggers and smugglers who were hoarding money, thanks to prohibition, than by genuine advocates of it. At an expense of lakhs they were constantly endeavouring to beguile the public, for as long as prohibition lasted their business could flourish. Such wide-spread roguery was going on allover the country. When we visited America again in 1928 the fabrication was still prevalent. As though to [576] refresh our memories, we had a taste of it on the high seas a night prior to our entry into Boston harbour. It was about 9.30 p.m. The passengers were pacing the decks. It was pitch dark and the blanket of night covered the horizon. Suddenly everyone was startled by a flash of light not more than a hundred yards away from the ship. Turning our gaze towards it we discovered that a launch had tagged along with us while our lights were off, and all of a sudden about fifteen electric lights were switched on, on that boat. It was a detective launch of the prohibition department. At a signal from it our steamer stopped. Officers from the launch boarded the ship and when they left after half an hour our steamer moved again. Only the detectives and God know the truth, but the fact that the ship was allowed to proceed meant that the steamer was not carrying contraband liquor. Ships coming across the Atlantic and the Pacific brought plenty of liquor and the F. B. I. and the shipping department understood each other. Such hypocrisy we had witnessed time and again.

Just as all kinds of liquor poured into the country by sea, it also came in night and day through the three thousand mile land boundary between Canada and the United States. Over and above that liquor was being brewed in various places of the country itself. But when stories of the tomfoolery of prohibition were publicised abroad and the policy of the American government made a mockery, the detective squad was alerted and a semblance of some arrests was made for some time. An American gentleman was staying in our building with his family. Both of us lived on the sixth floor and we met and conversed daily. Vats and trunks of liquor were stacked in his basement and he was carrying on a roaring trade. One day there was some tumult and he was arrested for selling illicit liquor. A trial was conducted and he [577] was sentenced to a month's imprisonment, during which he came home every night and enjoyed his sleep and at dawn returned to his cell. When the month was over he was back home permanently and began his business once again.

Liquor was not available as freely as it was in 1912 but it was served in hotels and restaurants. We went with friends one day to dine at a Turkish restaurant and seeing the word 'Alibaba' on the menu card my wife enquired as to the nature of the item. Some glassfuls of fennel seed wine were placed before us and the waiter smiled and introduced them as 'Alibaba’. There was prohibition in America but liquor was available in homes, in clubs, in restaurants, in hotels, in picture houses, in trains-wherever you looked for it, it was available. The rich and the poor drank; masters and servants drank; men and women drank; wholesalers and retailers drank; the police and the law-givers drank; the savants and the scientists drank; professors and priests drank; all who relished drinking, drank. The consumption of liquor increased with the introduction of prohibition. Those who did not drink before began to drink. College students displayed scenes such as had never been witnessed before. A boy unadorned by a 'hip flask' of whisky was dubbed by the girls as effeminate.

There was a huge deficit in the government treasury. Just as a group of 'nouveau riche' springs up in society in times of war, a sect of snobbish aristocrats was created in American society comprising of pirates. This new aristocracy was made up of millionaires, multi-millionaires and even billionaires. Looking at it from a moral angle, prohibition left the American nation a heritage of falsehood, fraud, bribery, immorality, treachery, deceit and pretended sanctimoniousness. [578]

In January 1930 Gandhiji placed before the government a manifesto comprising of eleven demands and informed them that if the government granted those demands he would retract the nation from launching the non-cooperative movement. The very first demand was total prohibition. On this occasion I gave a series of lectures in Karachi under the heading 'At the dawn of independence'. In one of those lectures, speaking about the effects of independence on the economic condition of the community, I touched upon the question of prohibition. I stated that if prohibition were introduced in the country our community would suffer a great loss. Under British jurisdiction as well as in many native states wine and toddy distilleries were in the hands of the Parsis since a very long time and we were managing innumerable retail wine-shops. lakhs of date palms yielding toddy were owned by Parsis. A great deal of the community's wealth was invested in liquor and toddy trade, and it was the means of livelihood of hundreds of co-religionists. The fear of prohibition was not imaginary. The political movement in the country was facing many trials and tribulations and it was therefore temporarily dormant, but before long it would surely and steadily forge ahead. In the near future some sort of initial independence was bound to come-if not complete at least in half-measure, if not ripe at least raw, if not perfect at least imperfect. On the other hand even if a semblance of Swaraj were attained, the infatuated pillars of the Congress who were bent upon introducing prohibition would, without doubt, hasten to hang its yoke forcibly around the nation's neck.

And that is exactly what happened. With the advent of provincial autonomy the congress abandoned non-co-operation. The reins of administration were in its hands. As expected, on coming into power, it introduced prohibition as time and opportunity permitted. Unemployment grew. The [579] delight and pleasure on auspicious occasions in a large city like Bombay were curtailed. The splendour and glamour of hotels, restaurants, cinemas, clubs, parties and gatherings faded. Complaints were registered requests received. They fell on deaf ears. Provincial governors were approached to use their authority but they refused to intervene. The government was not prepared to displease the Congress. The officials acted in accordance with the orders received from the Indian government to placate the congress. No one paid any heed. No appeals touched the power-intoxicated ministers. With the attainment of narrow provincial autonomy the majority community, in its newly-won sovereignty, snatched away the freedom of thought, speech and action of the minority communities - it smothered their voice of conscience it trampled their right to act according to their traditional customs and beliefs - and thus giving an insight into how subjugated and helpless they would be when, with time, complete independence was achieved, they began to tremble at the name of the Congress.

At present prohibition has been curbed to some extent under the subtleties of law. It has abated but it has not been permanently abolished, It is merely hanging fire. The Congress government is bound to regain power, and as soon as that happens it will make necessary changes in the constitution, and steeped in its fanciful notions about prohibition, is sure to drag it in again. The Congress will deprive people of their birth-right to eat and drink as they please and it will force temperate and civil society to stop the moderate intake of wine and toddy for the benefit of their mental and physical health. It will refuse to differentiate between moderate drinking and drunkenness. Because of some vices of drunkenness it will put brakes to the divine right of hundreds of temperates to choose their own nourishment. What [580] autocratic Hindu rajas and maharajas and Muslim navabs and padshahas did not do, congressmen who are the advocates of freedom have done in this age of freedom and independence and they will repeat the performance. They will freely use the tools of authority to enforce reforms which according to them, seem to be for the benefit of society.

These gentlemen flatly refuse to learn from the evil results of prohibition in the United States and other countries. They argue that India is not America. They boast that they will succeed where America has failed. As Muslims and Hindus are united on this single question these devotees of freedom, these propounders of non-violence, with the reins of government in their hands, become violent and, at the point of the sword, have come into the battlefield to attempt the impossible task of reforming the Indian nation and to make it pious and religious. It is not as though America were made up of men and India inhabited by angels. Temperamentally and by inclination men are alike. Fashioned by Nature, men's inherent tendencies are unconquerable. World-conquerors have not been able to subjugate them. America attempted the impossible and it failed. The decade and a half of prohibition was a reign of disgraceful defeat for America. The result of this thoughtless step in India is sure to be the same. These dominant congressmen will not bend with persuasion, but will undoubtedly break under the pressure of defeat.


Chapter LVII


The Revolt of Youth - this phrase was first heard in the West after the war 1914-1918, war and later it resounded amongst the various nations of the East. In one form or another this rebellion of the rising generation against the rule and authority of age is still raging everywhere. In our community since some time a new awakening and a fresh vitality is apparent amongst a group of people known as the reformist party. Three decades ago the Rast Goftar, the powerful instrument of the reformist party, the 'Parsi' and similar reformist monthly magazines had to close down. Old newspapers giving publicity to orthodox views gathered strength and new journals supporting them came into existence. The only reformist organization, the Rahnumai Mazdayasnan Society, on reaching its seventies was withering with age, whereas a couple of new associations were born which propounded orthodoxy. With the demise of the Zoroastrian Conference the reformist group disintegrated while, as in the present political chapter of the country the Congress has become the only coordinated, constituted organization, the members of the orthodoxy, through their societies, and the regular publication of their newspapers and magazines have formed the only consolidated body. They waged war against any movement that was distasteful to them, or emanated from the reformist party. Through the press and from the platform they maligned them at every opportunity. With the help of an army of the faithful by sheer numerical strength, they succeeded in dispersing meetings of the reformists.

In the absence of an organization or a constituted body the reformists were unable to unite and adopt their resolutions, yet their opposition and [582] dislike of the orthodox party is ever on the increase. Due to their irritable temperament they have now lost patience and have become aggressive. They are eager to give vent to individual outbursts, and, what they abstained from doing twenty-five years ago in ventilating their rash ideas respecting the sentiments of the community, they have now started to express without limitation through writings and speeches. Since a long time there have been stray cases of people not wearing the sudre and kusti, but that was in private. Today many people do not hesitate to speak and write and inform the masses that they have discarded this sacred symbol of the Zoroastrian faith. Those who formerly smoked in secrecy today blow puffs of smoke openly. Those who silently regarded with contempt the system of disposing of the dead at the Tower of Silence now publicly vilify it as an uncivilized and gruesome custom. They do not stop at vilifying it but have begun to take practical steps against it whenever opportunity arises. Twice since the start of the century have they been unsuccessful in their move to dispose of the corpse by cremating and now they are turning their attention to burying the dead. It is obvious that the question of burial would not meet with as strong an opposition as that of crematorium. Although in utilizing the crematorium the fire does not touch the corpse at all, yet the majority believes that if not directly at least indirectly the corpse comes in contact with fire. As fire is the most sacred symbol of the faith, its use in disposing of the corpse in any way is accounted as a desecration of the holy fire and an unforgivable sin. Since 2500 years the Vendidad lists cremation and burial as sins. Yet public feeling is stronger against cremation than against burial. There are two reasons for this. The first is that the corpse is considered to be the greatest impurity in the Zoroastrian religion and fire the purest of God's creations. According to science fire burns and purifies the uncleanest and impurest [583] thing. Nothing can make it impure, as it is God's supreme medium of purification. Yet, carried away by sentiment, Zoroastrians faithfully believe that the contact of fire and the corpse are sacrilegious. The other reason is that the community is accustomed to the traditional idea of burial wherever it is not convenient to have a Tower of Silence.

It is nearly twelve hundred years since our forefathers came to settle in this sub-continent. The community's history of the first centuries is very incomplete. Notes regarding the Tower of Silence can be found only in the beginning of the 14th century, while those on the system of burial at the end of the 18th century. In 1777, as plague broke out in Bombay, the proportion of deaths increased, so that the two existing Towers of Silence proved insufficient. As a result the Bombay Panchayat enclosed a piece of land near the Doongervadi by high walls, dug a hole in the centre and placed the excess corpses in it. The Panchayat asked for the opinion of the Navsari Anjuman whether this mode of disposing of the extra dead bodies was valid or not according to the religion. Taking into consideration the unusual circumstances the gentlemen at Navsari decided that it was justified. It is to be noted that the Bombay Anjuman did not bury the excess corpses, but left them open to the elements near the Tower of Silence. This is worth keeping in mind. Is it possible that in those days, in places where there was no Tower of Silence, the custom was to leave the corpse open to the sun's rays on the top of a hill or mountain between four walls as mentioned in the sixth chapter of the Vendidad? For lack of sufficient evidence it is impossible to pronounce an opinion with authority.

The first written comment to be found regarding burial is in 1793 when a pit was made [584] near Talcheri along the Malabar Coast. From the middle of the 18th century our co-religionists started going to various parts of India and outside India to China, Colombo etc. for trade and commerce. Thereafter, wherever they went cemeteries were established to bury the dead. Later, in cities whose population grew, a Tower of Silence was built and with its establishment the cemetery was no longer utilized. Under somewhat strange circumstances an exceptional example has been noted at Madras. In 1796 a small 'Dakhma' was built there. But it is said that superstition was circulated that it was necessary to place the corpse of a young girl, first in the newly-made Tower of Silence. Guided by this superstitious notion the use of the Dakhma was avoided and the cemetery continued to be utilized.

Thus the practice of burying the dead in a cemetery was accepted as a last resort by the majority of the community in the absence of a Dakhma; although it is a sin to do so, God would bear in mind the desperate circumstances of those doing so and would forgive them. But those who are patronizing the cemetery since some years are doing so because of their personal disapproval of the Dakhma and their own love of burial, and they are eager to scorn that ancient custom. Since a decade a small section of the community has started publicly opposing this age-old practice of placing the corpse in the Tower of Silence. So far no one had ventured to bury where a Dakhma existed. The first two examples occurred in Surat and Poona during the last decade. At the death of a wealthy lady at Baroda, her dear ones did not place her corpse in the existing Tower of Silence there, but took it to Godhra for burial. During that period those in favour of burial obtained from the government a plot of land near Poona on behalf of the community. On receipt of an objection from authoritative sources that those people had no right [585] to ask for the land in the name of the community, the government withdrew its permit, so they challenged the legality of this action and managed to secure land elsewhere.

The new controversy of burying the dead even where a Dakhma was in existence reached its zenith in Bangalore. At an invitation from one party, my wife and I went to Bangalore in the beginning of 1941 to lend our humble services in cementing the rift there.

Approximately three hundred Zoroastrians reside in Bangalore. There have been examples of establishing a Dakhma in cities that are inhabited by so many Zoroastrians, hence there was nothing surprising in leading, wealthy, co-religionists living there or those visiting Bangalore annually for business, making a move to establish a Dakhma there. The orthodox rich do charity in the name of religion or the middle-class give their share and believe they are reaping a reward of virtue. Such people attach prime importance to establishing Agyaries, Atashbehrams, Dakhmas and similar religious institutions. This is the custom in all the communities of the world. As soon as the scheme of building a Dakhma at Bangalore was made known this large section welcomed it with open arms as a noble and pious enterprise and gladly acclaimed it as a practical scheme. Never before has a move to establish a Dakhma met with such a persistent, vehement, systematic and constitutional opposition as was put forth by a small group known as the Aramgah party. Dissensions and disputes, speeches and articles for and against kept mounting. The Bangalore battle began to be fought in Bombay papers. Those in favour of the Dakhma warned the community to beware of their opponents whom they termed as heretics, non-Zoroastrians, corpse burners etc. and to donate generously towards this religious and virtuous [586] enterprise so as to witness its fruition. And the community from all quarters lost neither time nor energy in contributing double of what was needed. The majority, both in Bangalore and in Bombay was against the Aramgah party, but from the beginning the latter had managed to win the full sympathy of the Divan, Moreover, even before a proper permission was given to build a Tower of Silence, they had constantly endeavoured verbally and in writing to secure a promise from the high authority of the government that even after the construction of a Dakhma those who desired to bury their dear ones in the old cemetery may have the right to do so. Somehow when the Anjuman had first secured from the government land to use as a cemetery, a clause had been added that if in future that land was not utilized as a burial ground, the government had the right to reclaim its management. On the strength of this queer condition the Divan comforted the Aramgah party that even after the Dakhma comes into existence those who wish to make use of the cemetery may continue to act according to their own inner beliefs without anyone's interference. Similarly the Aramgah party insisted upon the Anjuman that even though the Dakhma be constructed and thrown open for use it would allow members of the opposition to follow their own inclination and use the cemetery as a burial ground. Fearing that the Divan would not grant permission to construct the Tower of Silence without such an assurance and consequently the scheme would fall through; and in the hope that once the Dakhma was built, the opposition party would respect the will of the community and deem it wise to withdraw their opposition, some of the office-bearers of the Anjuman in order to appease the advocates of the Aramgah privately and publicly, unwittingly gave them half-hearted assurances to allow them to do as they pleased. When the Dakhma was ready and its inauguration ceremony over, the Anjuman [587] sealed the doors of the cemetery and announced that henceforth its use as a burial-ground would cease. The Aramgah party ;immediately took up the cudgels and requested the government to take away the management of the Aramgah from the Anjuman and to hand it over to them. Before any decision could be arrived at, the government issued a warrant against the Anjuman warning them that should they refuse to grant anyone permission to use the cemetery, the government would, as per agreement in the documents, take over the management of the Aramgah. In addition the Aramgah party, exerting its influence, acquired a new plot of land adjacent to the city, so that, just in case the old burial ground was not available, the new land could be used and their aim could be achieved at any cost.

Never has such an occasion arisen before. In places where a cemetery existed, on the establishment of a Dakhma, without any opposition, automatically and with the unanimous consent of the Anjuman, the use of the cemetery has ceased. According to tradition the Bangalore Anjuman had the right to close down the cemetery. But the assurance that it is supposed to have given that even after the Dakhma was inaugurated, those who desired may continue to use the cemetery; the clause included in the document at the time the government granted the land to the community that on the cemetery not being used as a burial-ground it reserved the right of management; and the Divan's i.e. the government's obvious sympathy towards the advocates of the Aramgah all went against the Anjuman.

Viewed from any angle, the Tower of Silence had been established and, according .to the practice of centuries, the cemetery should be closed. For, should it be otherwise, it would deal a severe blow to the sentiments of the extraordinarily large [588] majority of the orthodox group of the community by the admission of a new custom of conflicting systems of disposing of the dead in a single city at one and the same time. Under the circumstances my main job was to appeal to the good sense of the saner members of the Aramgah party to exhibit a broad-minded attitude and to desist from hurting the community.

The ladies of the Aramgah party informed me that they did not wish to hurt the feelings of the majority of the Anjuman. They were not in any way obstructing those who wished to patronize the Tower of Silence in accordance with the dictates of their conscience and their own religious principles. But just as they viewed the sentiments of the majority with respect and tolerance, they asked for naught but a similar treatment towards the minority. Our community was educated and cultured and their only request was to be granted their individual rights.

Individual freedom of thought and speech is the precious heritage of civilization. After thousands of years of struggle and sacrifice man has just managed to secure that right. And yet he has not attained it in all fields of life, nor in its fullness. In spiritual and religious matters individuals are not yet able to act according to their inclinations, their intellect and their convictions. In minor and less important matters they can do so by cultivating public opinion and by persuasion. But in major and more significant questions concerning a community or a nation, while they continue to remain members of that society, it is not possible for them to act according to their own will. What the majority believes to be correct and true, it tries to enforce universally, throughout the ages. At such times those who honestly differ from the demands of society have no recourse left but to obey or to bifurcate and create a new and independent party, [589] sect or creed. This has been so since ancient times and it continues to be the same today It happens in the old-fashioned, slow-moving and lethargic East, and it happens in the active and vigilant West. There is no evidence in any society of the world to permit anyone, anywhere to act as he thinks, as he wishes and as he believes in social and religious matters. It may come to pass in some distant, idealistic future, because mankind enjoys today freedom in many fields of knowledge and science which it had never enjoyed before. Formerly inventive or creative scientists who discovered or taught anything that was contrary to established belief were made to suffer intensely. Socrates was forced to drink a cupful of hemlock for daring to preach a new code of ethics. In his old age, to save his life, Aristotle had to flee from Athens because of his philosophy. Bruno was burnt alive for writing that there are more planets in existence like our planet earth. Copernicus did not dare to publish his discoveries to the end of his life. Galileo publicly retraced his principle that the earth revolved round the sun, in order to save his life. To escape from the assault that was directed against him, Hobbes burnt the documents of his discoveries. Descartes was not able to publish his research magazine stating that the world works like a machine. After spending his whole life teaching philosophy at the University, Kant resigned from his professorship in his old age and went into seclusion because his book was proscribed from being published. This has been going on in every age both in the East and in the West. Today man has earned the right to express his views freely on matters of learning and science. It is therefore possible that, as generations pass, man will enjoy the freedom to act according to the dictates of his conscience in his spiritual and religious beliefs regarding contact with the other world and [590] converse with the souls of the dead. However, it must be borne in mind that at present he does not have that freedom.

The religion of society is an adulterated conventional religion. It is water-tight, rigid and austere. Its history is as tyrannical as that of the Spanish Inquisition. Its oppression is bound to end, but that will take a long, long time. No one can achieve it at one stroke and within the twinkling of an eye.

For the first time in the history of religion, three decades ago, it received a striking blow in Russia. Putting an end to the tyrannical regime of the Czar, the new government tore to pieces the country's political, economic, social and religious traditions and took upon itself the responsibility of remoulding the life of the nation. It announced that the abyss into which religion had descended had intoxicated the nation and obstructed its progress. The Bolshevik government grew impatient and began to abolish and annihilate the slightest semblance of religion from the land. Thousands of bishops were imprisoned, many shot dead. It confiscated five arabs worth of churches, property, goods and valuables. Those who defied the government and congregated for prayer were imprisoned and their leaders exiled. 'The League Militarist Godless' comprising of fifty-five lakh members was set up. Millions of anti-religious pamphlets and pictures ridiculing religion were distributed throughout the country. Education that scoffed and scorned at religion was introduced in all schools.

A country-wide survey in 1933 revealed that religion was as alive as ever and that prayer and worship continued clandestinely and in seclusion. The government came to its senses and the Russian Orthodox Church became free. [591]

Life without religion is barren and futile. If everything is present but religion is lacking, then all is empty. The sun will eventually set on conventional religion. Dogmatism and fanaticism will abate with time and man will profess a religion unhampered by society I according to the voice of his own conscience and the dictates of his own soul. But it is not so now and that fact must not be forgotten.

Another argument of the Aramgah party was that their request to bury their dear departed ones did not contravene any original principle of religion. Dakhmashini was merely a custom, hence they had the right to make alterations, as it was the nature of customs to change with times, conditions and circumstances.

Amongst God's creations, custom is as old as man. Both were born twins. In the Frawardin Yasht Ahura Mazda says that Gayomard the first man was the first to accept his word. In other words religion did not exist until man set his foot upon the earth. The religion that was Gayomard's, and after him that of myriads of souls that have lived eon upon eon, was custom. All prophets, saints, and rush is that have brought great religions into the world have come only since the last seven thousand years, whereas mankind has existed on earth for more than five lakh years. During this long period the moulders of his social, mental, intellectual, physical and spiritual life were the customs that were born from time to time in various places. Custom was man's manifested religion and the traditional and legendary handing down of customs from one generation to another became the social religion of the family or the tribe.

Man, by the nature of his physical make-up and by birth is an animal. He is a thinking, speaking, intelligent animal. Albeit he is a beast. Moulded [592] by the experience of ages and the blossoming of intellect he has to reach humanity and as time passes he has to refine the qualities of his heart and attain a spiritual status. A child is born ignorant and acquires understanding as he grows; even so does a man begin his life in a wild, unprotected and savage state and as time passes and his experiences accumulate and enlightenment dawns, he goes through a semi-savage, semi-civilized stage and reaches a state of civilization. Keeping in mind the things and deeds that bring pleasure and comfort in his daily life, he continues to act accordingly and fears and avoids the conditions that have caused sadness and sorrow. He remembers that by behaving in a certain manner under specific conditions he is benefited and, when occasion arises, his deeds conform to that behaviour pattern, and he encourages those around him to act likewise. The elders of a tribe retained the memory of such customs, methods and conventions because it was not a literate age. Thus customs accumulate and the elders, as their custodians, keep a strict control over their adherence. Guided by the superstitious belief that should a single member of the tribe break those rules of conduct, the deities are annoyed and the whole tribe suffers, the wrong-doer is punished accordingly. In this way customs become the guiding principles, aides, guardians and directors of men's lives. The part that ethics, hygiene, sociology and legal and religious codes play in an advanced society is fulfilled by conventions that are passed on from generation to generation. These customs are later collected by a Hamurabi, a Manu, a Solan or a Justine and made into law books.

Herodotus says that custom is the king of mankind. This is a fact for, like a king it commands and rules over mankind. Masters and moneylenders, noblemen and emperors are alike not able to disregard it. Man has wholeheartedly accepted its authority. Not only is custom a king, [593] but it is an autocratic king. Its kingship is not benevolent but tyrannical. No one can escape from its clutches. We know that time conquers everything. It even wears away rocks and stones. And yet custom can hold its own against so mighty a foe as time. The domain of its sovereignty is extensive and all-pervading. Its influence is felt in every field of life. It directs man's attire, diet, thoughts and speech. It is unwilling to surrender the unlimited authority it exercised over man's barbarian state even now when man is ascending the peak of civilization. It is heedless of man's experience of thousands of years and its advancement in knowledge and science. Such arrogance is not to be found elsewhere on earth. Like the Roman Catholic Pope it believes itself to be infallible. The Creator has not taught it to differentiate between the essential and the unessential. Foolishly it seeks immortality for all customs good or bad, true or false, beneficial or harmful, virtuous or vicious, progressive or retrogressive. It has not been taught to consider times and circumstances. It is blind to the constant changes of climes and conditions. When man was not enlightened mentally and spiritually it rendered valuable service in putting his feet on the pathway of progress. We have never refused to acknowledge its priceless contribution. But it does not rest satisfied at that. It yields neither to persuasion nor to pleadings. No one can wean it away from its purpose only defeat can destroy it. To keep man enslaved is his sole intent. It hates to see man refuse to be goaded on like dumb, driven cattle, to study, to learn, to think for himself and to listen to the voice of his own conscience. Due to these reasons the conflict between an educated and enlightened man and handed down customs remains undecided.

With the blossoming of man's mind through education and science he begins to examine the customs that have been handed down by his forefathers [594] and to evaluate whether they are genuine or faked, good or bad, beneficial or harmful. This scares the masses who have thoughtlessly lived with the idea that all customs that have come down through the ages are bound to be good. They march out into the battlefield to wage war against educated reformers who claim to weigh the worth of age-old customs and dare to challenge them. Instead of sound arguments they fight with weapons of fanaticism. Moreover, when highly qualified people, harbouring staunch orthodox views who are great adherents of ancient customs venture to defend them, matters become much worse. To give longevity to the most unsuitable and undesirable customs they muster all their wit and with a multi-coloured patch-work of interpretations and imaginary explanations they endeavour to paint them as rational. Thus they lengthen the life-span of customs which are better dead than alive.

No one had raised any objection to the traditional practices that had been going on for a thousand years that followed the dark age of ignorance after the downfall of our empire. But, during the last hundred years, thanks to higher education that has been admitted amongst the masses for the first time in history, there has been a flowering of minds of men and women of our community, and customs are being sifted in the sieve of discussion. During these hundred years there has been a change in the community's habits and mode of living. Feeble customs have been worn away by age and wiped out by knowledge. In the perilous struggle that has ensued, some are half-dead, while others are still alive and aflame. Let us recall the jihad that was waged against some customs.

It is a very old practice of ours for corpse bearers to carry the corpse on their shoulders to the Tower of Silence. We have witnessed the sorry [595] plight of corpses drenched with rain during the monsoons. Since decades there have been complaints particularly in Bombay against the indecent appearance, despite all caution, of corpses covered with rain-drenched sheets being carried along the roads and viewed from the 4th or 5th storey. Thought-provoking arguments are put forward, stating that since a corpse is impure and particularly that of a person who has died of an infectious disease like plague water dripping from it onto the ground carries germs which are harmful to the well-being of the living which is wrong according to Zoroastrian principles. On such sound pleas, a reform to take the corpse in a vehicle has been suggested since the middle of the last century, but is still being vehemently debated. In 1879 Seth Jamshedji Dadi Sethna had an iron carriage made in England and sent it to the Trustees of the Bombay Panchayat. A strong protest was raised and the votes of the dasturs were invited. They voted against carrying the corpse in a carriage as being against the codes of religion, hence the iron vehicle was not utilized. Seventy years have gone by since this event. A carriage has made an appearance at some places but it has not been able to gain ground in Bombay and elsewhere.

The main objection to carrying a corpse in a carriage is that it is more respectful to carry it on the shoulders. Due honour is not given to the departed one, if the dead body is conveyed in a vehicle. Many educated and learned people argue in this way with deep feeling. After twenty-five years of unsuccessful attempts at conveying the corpse in a car in Karachi, it has come into use since a few years. Many orthodox families are not utilizing it yet. Those who do use it do not place the corpse in it right at the doorstep, but as if to pay respect to the dead walk a short distance carrying it on their shoulders. Thereafter it is placed in the car that. awaits at a distance. This system is not only [596] cumbersome but presents an unpleasant sight when the bier carrying the corpse is placed in the middle of the road.

For thousands of years man was content with light radiating from coconut and kerosene oil-lamps, candle sticks etc., but since the last century it has been in search of brighter and ever brighter illumination and is now reaping the benefits of that research. At the end of the last century when there was a move to install electric lights in our Fire Temples there was a strong vote of censure against it and fanatics termed it irreligious. Their main objection was that electric wires were handled by non-Parsis throughout the town and when fitted in temples their sanctity would suffer a set-back. Another objection was that as the radiance emanating from electric lights was more brilliant than that of the sacred fire installed in the Daremehers and Atashbehrams it would be an insult to the holy of holies. Such ridiculous protests were raised not only by uneducated or less-educated orthodox dasturs and mobeds but even by young ervads who had taken Avesta and Pahlavi as their second language and received their B.A. and MA. degrees from the university, thus causing unnecessary hindrance in the progress of the community. Years of discussion have finally ended in success. Although recently, when there was a talk about introducing electricity in Udvada, there were cries of disapproval that it is wrong and sinful to install electric lights even on the streets of so sanctified a place like Udvada and it is only now that that town has, for the first time in its history, been illumined by electricity.

While the tug-of-war concerning burial and the Tower of Silence was going on between the reformists and the conservatives, certain members of the reformist party enthusiastically proclaimed that the days of orthodoxy were numbered and that it was [597] breathing its last. These innocent folk are mistaken. Orthodoxy has been born with the benediction of a long life. It will live as long as man exists. Depending upon a nation's mental development, it will exist in a weak or strong form. As a community we are educated and cultured; yet due to hereditary priesthood or practising priests, the sect that is the custodian of our customs and conventions, (excluding the few exceptions of university-trained dasturs and ervads) due to a lack of opportunity to study beyond the four or five standards of the vernacular as taught in the old tutorial schools or the 4th or 5th grade in English as per the new system at the Madressah, will remain narrow-minded and conservative. Consequently, side by side with the advance in education of lay men and women, orthodoxy is bound to thrive and flourish.

In spite of that the scourge of time somehow enfeebles even long-lived orthodoxy. The educated sons of many an orthodox dastur or panthaky are garbed in European attire today. Similarly their daughters and daughters-in-law move about openly with uncovered heads. To start the day with the application of taro on the face and limbs and many other customs are being frowned upon in these families. A hundred years ago it was impossible to find a home in which a woman's menstrual period was not observed. This has been changing decade by decade. Only the last six years of the present war have dealt almost a dealt-blow to this age old custom. In Karachi alone, approximately one hundred girls from lay and priestly families work in the defense services on high salaries every day of the month. The proportion of women working in other cities may be calculated from these figures. So the embankments of orthodoxy are definitely being washed away by degrees. The clash between the onward march of the community and the customs that obstruct the [598] reforms that follow on the heels of time, is sure to continue. We must not forget that while remaining within the fold, sound and solid customs not customs that are weakened and worn-out by all consuming time cannot be scoffed at, unmindful of the majority. One such obstinate custom is that of Dakhmanishin. Having flourished for two thousand five hundred years it has become deep rooted. Ancient Avesta, Pahlavi, Pazand. Persian and Gujarati writings have unanimously acclaimed it sacred. It is admittedly a custom but a sacred custom that is accredited to be a religious principle. A war is at present waging between the age-old practice of Dakhmanishin and the modern age. We cannot say what the future foretells. But this much is certain that a hundred years ago it would have been extremely difficult to find anyone opposed to this custom of disposing of the dead. Fifty years ago at least fifty families were struggling to be released from the burden of this custom. Today their strength has increased, so we can only guess what may be in store. However at present an exceptionally large majority of the community looks upon it as sacred, religious and virtuous and deems any other system of disposal as impure, irreligious and sinful. Therefore to remain a part of the community and yet to endeavour to effect an alteration that annoys it is impractical and improper.

My humble attempts to bring about an understanding have proved unsuccessful. The Aramgah party has already legally secured the authority to manage the cemetery that was sealed by the Anjuman party. Consequently, side by side with the Tower of Silence, those who wish to bury their dear departed ones will continue to do so.

Next to the Jooddin problem, the major question that has tormented us since the start of the century, is this question of disposing of the dead. Various communities either cremate or bury or [599] drown the corpse. In the age of the Vendidad we gave them as prey to dogs and birds and today only to birds and leave them open to the rays of the sun. Each nation looks upon its own custom as the only sacred one. Each regards it as an inviolable and eternal commandment and considers all others irreligious.

The system of Dakhminishini has been in vogue since the days of the Vendidad, hence it is quite understandable why it is so vehemently defended when opposed. But, at times, carried away by emotion, we say and write things which seem to cross the borders of common sense and appear quite ridiculous. It is declared that the composition of the Gehsarna and other funeral rites is so mysterious and infallible according to divine laws that Dakhminishi and giving the corpse as prey to birds is the one and only system that suits it to perfection. Should a Zoroastrian corpse be disposed of by any other method then all the prayers and ceremonies would be wasted and instead of reaching heaven, the soul of the dead goes astray.

Times are changing. The population of modern cities exceeds fifty to seventy-five lakhs, and is constantly increasing. Due to this even burial is gradually becoming impossible. Since the end of the last century a protest has been raised against it in the West. The newly-enlightened system of turning the corpse to ashes through 'crematorium' is acclaimed by sensible people as the most rapid and most hygienic way of disposing of the rotting and diseased corpses.

Fifty years ago, when the crematorium movement began in the West, there was a strong protest against it. Bishops and priests started a regular jihad against it. Priests openly refused to perform the final rites of those who scorned public opinion and cremated the bodies of their dear [600] departed ones. Eventually the bishops and priests have had to relent. Now they give extreme unction to those who are to be cremated. Today many great ones are openly cremated. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the High Priest of the entire Protestant Church was cremated in public only last year according to his own wishes.

In the recent events that occurred in Poona to bury the dead, our dasturs and mobeds have refused to perform the Geh Sarna ceremony. Like the priests, our Zoroastrian dasturs and mobeds of the East will have to surrender. Dakhminishi is not a system created by the Almighty it is a manmade system. This system of disposing of the corpse has been rendered a sacred custom because of its practice for three thousand years. Yet, even its three-thousand-year-old tradition of sanctity has not endowed it with immortality. With the change of times and circumstances its sway has come to an end. Dakhminishi is merely a tradition. The demolition of a tradition is not the destruction of religion. Tradition is not religion. In understanding, digesting and acknowledging this fact lies the wisdom of all concerned.

All these years the minority has obeyed the majority in all matters, out of sheer respect for its feelings. But now that time has changed. The minority too has feelings. Just as the sentiments of the majority are injured when their wishes are not respected, the minority's sentiments are hurt too. Therefore, in this age of individual liberty, the orthodox party must be prepared to have the broad-mindedness to let each one follow his own inclinations in the observance of conventions.

There is sanity in allowing each to do as he wishes with regard to Dakhminishi, burial or crematorium. It is the birth-right of the new age.


Chapter LVIII


When man's conscience is aroused he develops, cultivates, refines and enriches his own species and that is called his individual culture. Religion, ethics, philosophy, law, customs, language, literature, knowledge, science, art, crafts, architecture, carving, music, dance, drama, industry all these are medias which raise him from his original savage stage to a state of culture and civilization. The culture of our community began to be moulded in Iran at the dawn of history and after the downfall of our Empire it continued to thrive in that country.

About four thousand years ago after parting from our Aryan neighbours we came into direct and close contact with Chinese, Babylonian, Assyrian, Chaldaean, Jewish, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Syrian, Armenian, Arab and many other smaller nations and their cultures. Just as Achaemenian and Sasanian Iran was the centre of the confluence of the cultures of the Old World, it was also the headquarters from where it spread out in all directions. During this period of contact with various cultures we contributed much and also received a great deal from them. On the whole we have received more than we have given.

Peshdadian and Kyanian Iran speaks of our contacts with the Chinese, the Turanians and the Tajias or the Arabs. Insensitive generations have failed to preserve any ruins, writings, coins or any other insignia of that ancient age. In the priceless Avestan literature alone is confined all the heritage of those days. Achaemenian Iran presents another picture. At that time Iran had vanquished the mighty Babylonian and Assyrian Empires. She had conquered Egypt, Arabia, Sind, the Punjab and [602] many other countries. The cultures of the conquered countries had greatly influenced the culture of Iran. In the winged statue of Cyrus, the crown on the king's head is fashioned in Egyptian style, while its eyes give evidence of Assyrian-Babylonian workmanship. The form and features of the gigantic winged bulls with men's heads which can be seen on both sides of the front porch in palaces are Assyrian. The forms that are known as Farohars have come down to us from the Assyrians and Babylonians. The supernatural animals with whom King Darayus is seen fighting are an imitation of the handiwork of these two countries. The cuneiform writing on the Behistun Mountains and in other places is the heritage of the culture of these great Semitic nations. Ionian craftsmen have worked to lend splendour to the palaces. The marble and metal statues that adorn the interior of the palaces are made by the G reeks. Rather than creative, original work we have imitated others.

At that time the Iranian system of calculating the year had an influence on the calendars of Capadocia and Armenia. Zoroastrianism had a direct influence not only on these two but also on the Jews, which later through them, extended to the Christian and Muslim faiths.

In 250 A.D. since King Asoka accepted Buddhism, the teachings of that religion spread from Eastern Persia to Capadocia. The effect of Buddhist culture was prevalent in Kabulistan right unto the 9th century.

Byzantine -Roman craftsmanship had already found its way into Persia even before the Sasanian regime. The statute of Goertz is a sample of Roman craftsmanship. The carvings representing winged angels of success that can be seen in Takhte Bostan near Kermanshah give evidence of Roman handiwork by Byzantine craftsmen. [603]

The Christians found a foothold in Persia from the time of the Parthians and the monasteries of monks and nuns existed in Sasanian Iran. The Bible was translated into Pahlavi and Pazand. With the intention of converting Zoroastrians to Christianity, religious and philosophic Christian literature was freely distributed amongst them. Despite the strictest vigilance some Zoroastrians were converted and a few, like Maraba the Great, have reached the ranks of a patriarch. From time to time there were disputes and dissensions between Christian and Zoroastrian priests, each vying with the other to bring the opponents' religion into disrepute.

Through Neo-Platonists and Nestorians, Greek philosophy made an appearance in Persia at this time. Tansar, the reformist Dastur of Ardeshir Babagan, himself believed in Neo-Platonist philosophy. King Noshirwan and many other nobles and lords, scholars and savants, studied Greek philosophy most enthusiastically. When King Noshirwan ascended the throne it was said that Plato's pupil had been crowned. Many books on Greek philosophy were translated into Pahlavi. Books on philosophy, whose origin was Pahlavi, were later taken to Europe by the Arabs and in those Dark Ages, the heirs of the olden Greeks through Arabic, were taught the Greek philosophy of their forefathers. The philosophers that had been exiled by King Justian lived with honour and glory at Zend-e-Shapur, the University founded under the patronage of King Noshirwan.

By order of this wise king who was a lover of learning and a patron of art, Hindu scholars cooperated in the translation of many valuable books from Sanskrit into Pahlavi. Just as tyrannical times have prevented the manuscripts of Pahlavi translations of books on Greek philosophy from falling into our hands, these Pahlavi versions of [604] Sanskrit books have not been preserved. However, Panch Tantra's and Hitopadesh's Syrian, Hebrew and finally Arabic translations derived from them managed to reach Europe. The Indian game of chess went to Europe via Persia.

The history of religion tells us that every nation acclaims the language of its own scriptures to be divine. Thus Avesta is also regarded as being celestial. But in the history of languages, what is strange in our case is that the sacred literature that had been composed by Zarathushtra and his close associates in Avesta and in the script of the Avestan period has come down to us as prayers in the Avestan language but they have been written in a completely unknown and alien Semitic script. Should the Prophet and his disc1ples happen to arrive amidst us and a copy of the Vendidad be placed in their hands, they would not be able to read it. Thus the language is our own, but its attire is alien, its script is Semitic. The Aryan languages are written from left to right, but our Aryan Avesta which is garbed in Semitic garments is written from right to left. The court language of the mighty Sasanian Empire was Pahlavi, and Pahlavi is originally Aryan; yet it is written in Semitic script. Its Aryan vocabulary contains many Semitic words of everyday usage, its construction is mainly Semitic and its grammar is also Semitic.

A kingdom was lost, a country was lost; but together with these went something much more precious and that was its literature. A part of it has found a place in Arabic. In the Pahlavi literature that has escaped the scourge of time, not a single song or lullaby or even a line of poetry can be found during the four hundred years of glorious reign of the Sasanians. .

Herodotus is universally acknowledged as the father of history. The science of history originated in Greece. We came into close [605] contact with the Greeks for two thousand five hundred years. The narratives of our Peshdadian and Kyanian era are not authentic history. We are in possession of a collection of legends and folk lore. In the field of history the Arabs are the direct pupils of the Greeks and real historians. Our history, written by sons of the soil, does not exist. The Book of Chronicles compiled by them dealing with the history of Achaemenian Iran is lost. Whatever is available is therefore what has been written by the Greeks who are regarded as their enemies. The Pahlavi writings of the history of Sasanian Iran are lost, hence it is written on the authority of Armenian, Syrian, Jewish, Chinese, Muslim and Roman historians. The world-renowned epic of the heroes, the Shahnamah, which revives the greatness of ancient Parsi kings and warriors has been inspired by the now lost 'Khudai - Nama', the legends of kings and heroes that are recited by the villagers and written by the great Muslim poet Abdul Kasam Tusi (Firdausi) a poet of the people who destroyed the Parsi Empire. Such is our misfortune.

As the sun set on the Empire, Zoroastrian Iran became Islamic. Conversion was conducted in all quarters. Many authors, well-known in history as Arab composers, were in truth converted Zoroastrians. Instead of the resonance of the prayers of Mobeds, the Muezzin's call to prayer could be heard. Zarathushtra's name began to be despised and Mohammed's worshipped. Allah reigned in the seat where Ahura Mazda, the creator of Arya Vaija had resided. Century after century the darkness that had descended upon the Zoroastrians deepened. Troubled and tormented, their ignorance and wretchedness increased and, as time passed, they dropped to the level of backward and illiterate people and Parsi culture languished. Islamic culture flourished all around them. They lacked even the [606] strength to reap its benefit. This dark age of Iranian Zoroastrians lasted almost to the middle of the last century.

The Zoroastrians who became Indians grew up in an environment of Indian culture. The people of Europe, speaking a variety of languages, on settling in America forgot their own languages as two or three generations elapsed and adopted American English. Similarly we forgot our own Parsi Pahlavi language and adopted Gujarati. The Persian names of men and women gave way to Hindu names. Instead of Katayun and Manushcher, we became Cooverbai and Maneckji. Many such Hindu usages did we adopt. Later, with the advent of Muslim culture in India, these two cultures developing side by side influenced the mode of living of the Parsis. We adopted the dress of both cultures, their food, habits, their superstitions, their rites and rituals, and astronomers and astrologers. Thirsty for philosophy and starving for spiritual knowledge, enquiring Parsis went in search of light to the headquarters of Hindu Yogis and Muslim Sufis.

Two thousand five hundred years ago, from the commencement of the Achaemenian dynasty, we came in contact with western culture. This relationship lasted for nearly eleven hundred years and, with the downfall of the Sasanian Empire in the middle of the 7th century, it came to an end. It has been revived in this modern age. The culture that the white Aryans, living on the other side of the Mediterranean, brought with them into our midst is commonly known as western culture. Just as the Hapta Hindu or the Sapta Sindhu gathers strength with the confluence of its tributaries and flows along as the mighty Indus River, this culture too was watered by more than one culture and had bloomed before it reached us. This western culture is primarily made up of Greek and Roman culture, then of the Islamic culture known as [607] Saracen, Moorish or Arabic culture that had spread in Europe during the Middle Ages and, amongst the greater religions, the cult and colour that was lent by the Jewish faith and Christianity. The modern age is the machine age the age of scientific advancement. In the physical sphere science has made unprecedented strides. Even as science wag born in the West, its inventions also originated in the West and they have come to us via the West.

When two different cultures combine, there arises a steady I imperceptible and intimate exchange in social customs, moral standards and mode of thinking. However, when both are stimulated and grow in self-esteem, there results a clash of ideologies. Western culture came into our country and brought with it many new things. Until recently we had worn the headgear of Hindus and Muslims, their loose flowing garments and their slippers. At one stroke the dashing Englishman's necktie and collar, coat and pantaloons turned the rajas, maharajas, navabs, nizams and our community also into Europeans. The Hindus gave us a taste of sev, ganthia, laddoos and jalebi. The Muslims served biryani and palav and we relished them equally. And then English men delighted us with sweets, cakes and macaroons, together with chicken-pies and fish curry and these too found a place in our recipes. We never believed in half-measures we always went the full length. Although our mobeds, during Barashnom, from ancient times ate with a spoon, the young and old of the community always used their fingers. The English ate with knives and forks, so now we were ashamed to eat with our fingers and we started relishing dhanshak with a spoon and digesting meat-balls only when placed in the mouth perched on the prongs of a fork. Besides, those people dined at table, so they were to eat a little more as they sat upright on chairs, whereas we were uncomfortably curled up on low stools or [608] squatted on carpets, hence could digest much less. 'Why had we been such fools?' we mumbled, and began to enjoy God's grace in comfort.

With the loss of our empire, a small group of our people first settled in Kathiawad and Gujarat twelve hundred years ago, and the language of the inhabitants of those places became our own, Some of our scholars adopted Sanskrit of their savants while the masses used its later corrupted vernacular, Gujarati, as their current language. Our coreligionists in Iran used Persian which was derived from Avesta and Pahlavi. The educated mobeds who had come to India had studied it. The Arabs who had conquered Iran could not foist their language on the Persian people. The language of Iran remained Persian, but the Arab conquerors succeeded in encumbering our Aryan. Persian with their Semitic script. With the help of Zoroastrians who had been converted to Islam, in 749, the Abbasid Khalifa brought an end to the Umayyad dynasty and drove the Arabs out of Iran. From that time Persian was raised to the status of a state language. When the Muslims who spoke Persian became the emperors of India, Persian found its place as the language of the court and of the scholars, so our learned dasturs and mobeds used it widely. Now when the English language reigned as the queen of the many varied languages of this country, our educated class began to study it. Perhaps fifteen or twenty mobeds studied Sanskrit during the Hindu era. During the Muslim period at most a hundred or two hundred Parsi scholars became proficient in Persian. But with the advent of English, hundreds and thousands of common people studied it. In the Sanskrit and Persian eras not a single Parsi lady knew those languages. Hundreds of Parsi maidens learned the English language. The thorough knowledge of a language enables its students to enjoy the benefits of its fine literature. Very few had been able to take advantage of the [609] great Sanskrit and Persian literature. Gujarati became the communal language of the learned as well as the illiterate. But the Parsi Gujarati that was used for social communication remained very backward compared to the high Gujarati of the literate Hindu. Despite our contact of over a 1housand years with this language, yet, even today, we cannot find even a thousand Parsis who could enjoy the pleasures of good Gujarati literature. Since some decades our sons have been studying Persian as a second language at the university level. Barring a few exceptions after attaining a degree they hardly utilize this language again, hence the community does not reap the benefit of its rich literature. But English is the language of courts and kings. It is the language of business. It is the common language that links the people of the land speaking a variety of languages. Since it is the language of social intercourse of the educated masses, its knowledge is ever fresh and ever blossoming. Again English is the most widely-known language of the modern world, both in the East and in the West. It is the distinguished language that. holds the boundless treasures of the Old world and of the New of learning and of science. In the history of the community during approximately four thousand years, we have become the devotees of eight languages Avesta, the ancient Achaemenian Irani, Pahlavi, Pazand, Persian, Sanskrit, Gujarati and English. But the ease, thoroughness and facility with which we can read, understand and digest the beauties of the English language and its rich literature have surpassed our knowledge of any other language at any time.

The political awakening that has come into the country since the last six decades and the consequent uprising against the British government, at a cursory glance seems purely political and economic. But its root causes are more profound. At present we are experiencing a clash of [610] conflicting cultures a battle of cultural ideologies is waging all around us. When the English brought the culture of the West into our midst our two vast sister communities the Hindus and the Muslims were worn out by centuries of conflicts with each other and were in a deep political lethargy. They too were enamoured of the new, western culture and, at the sacrifice of their own, had begun to embrace it. But, with the resurrection of self-respect and self-esteem, a reaction was effected. Hindu Muslim cultures have waged war against this new culture of the west. On the other hand these two communities themselves are contesting with each other about their conflicting cultures.

We are placed in the midst of this collision of cultures. We have a kinship with all these opposing cultures. Four thousand years ago, when the seeds of Hindu culture were sown, because their culture and ours had grown from the same roots they were alike in form and feature colour arid contour. Later, new lands, new life and new experiences guided the two along differing ideologies. With regard to the religious principles, the optimistic philosophy of life etc. of western and Islamic cultures, the direction that Parsi culture had given 2500 to 3000 years age to Jewish and through it to Christian and in time to Islamic culture, is present in them even today. Living midst the contention of these great conflicting cultures we have imbibed one thing or another from them, each according to his disposition and inherent temperament.

The British government brought into the country the new education that fostered an acquaintance with western culture in the language of the West and on western lines. We were the first to take advantage of this. We pursued education and science with enthusiasm and eagerness, [611] and were enlightened. Dispersing the clouds of intellectual stagnation that had set in from the time of our immigration, the sun of our culture is shining once again since the turn of the last century. The 19th century was the auspicious century of the renaissance of our culture. In this new era we are gaining a greater insight into the ancient languages of our religion. The historical writings which had lain dormant since centuries have become vocal once more. But much of what has happened and whose benefit we are reaping, has not come about through our intellect or our research. The chaste text of the Avestan language has been revealed to us by western scholars. On the strength of philology the vocabulary, grammar and translations of the Avestan language have been made by western scholars. They have unravelled the cuneiform script. Western scholars were the first to inform us that Cyrus, Darius, Xerxes and other kings were Parsis. Western scholars, at an expense of millions, have brought to light the places and symbols of Parsi glory by excavating the ruins of Persia. They have revealed to the modern world an invaluable collection of its pictures and paintings. Since the last sixty or seventy years we have begun to publish all these things in the Gujarati language.

After coming to the sub-continent we have established about one hundred and seventy-five fire temples. Their construction is not such as to create a spirit of reverence on entering them or to stimulate a devotional atmosphere. The external appearance of Hindu temples, Muslim mosques, Christian churches or Jewish synagogues reveals their identity at a glance. Looking at our places of worship they give an idea of a warehouse or a villa or a bungalow. In building them we have not in any way utilized ancient Parsi architecture. Recently there is an awakening amongst us and we are satisfied with replicas of our ancient Persipolitan [612] scenes on the frontage. The Muslims reaped the rich heritage of the round, elliptical domes of our Sasanian architectural skill and they have lent splendour to their palaces, mosques and tombs throughout the world by employing it in their constructions. We perforce build a dome over the central room that holds the sacred fire in our temples but by raising a tiled roof over it we hide it and destroy its beauty.

Since settling in this country we have gained from time to time from different cultures and we have tried to contribute our mite in return. In using a variety of languages we have given thought to creating some literature in these languages. We have written fiction in Persian. We have written narratives, impressive books on customs (Rivayats), composed Satayashts and Monajats. Much has been written in poetic form also. Yet this Persian literature comprising of lakhs of lines written over the centuries are today accumulating dust on shelves. A very small portion of the Rivayats and Satayashts are being used today, and those too, through their Gujarati and English translations. Only a handful of students find it necessary to examine the original Persian writings. This literature created in Persian gave knowledge and guidance to our studious forefathers in their days, formulated their characters and put them on the path of progress. It is not considered sufficiently important to be translated into Gujarati and English, hence now that Its use is over it is being forgotten.

During the last thousand years the Muslims have also written in Persian. Amongst Muslim authors who have written in Persian are Firdausi, Sadi, Hafiz, Omar Khayyam, Jami, Nazami Faredoon Attar, and innumerable others who have gained immortality through their memorable writings. Not a single Parsi author or poet's name ranks in this list of literary luminaries - it has not [613] been deemed worthy of repute. Superior literature that can be universally acclaimed and can find world-wide renown has not been produced. The scholastic world has not acknowledged Parsi Persian literature as having any particular value. We have written more in Gujarati than in Persian. The style of Parsi writings differs from that of Hindu writings. It is said of Thomas Carlyle that the 'Sartor Resartus' composed by him must have been read by only three people himself, the compositor and the proof-reader. The same could be said of us where good Hindu-Gujarati literature is concerned. Excluding a few exceptions, the majority of the community regards it as written in some alien tongue like Tamil or Telagu and keeps away from it. We have written both in new Gujarati and in old Gujarati, in prose as well as in poetry, in Hindu Gujarati and in Parsi Gujarati. Narratives, history, articles have been written. Gujarati translations of English novels have been made. Stories of Parsi social life have been penned. Plays of Persian history have been written. Songs and poems have been composed. We have created light literature, informative literature, -popular literature. We have not been able to produce classic and refined literature.

While writing in English, John Bull stands like a sentinel to see that the King's English is used. A strong authority on language which can enforce rules of 'Maharaja's Gujarati' is non-existent. Thus, unmindful of the laws and limitations of the science of language, our compositions contain errors in spelling, style, chasteness and they lack flavour. We have failed to keep before us a vision of the beauty and elegance of literature. Right from the beginning we have not cared to emerge as excellent and inspired poets, authors and fiction-writers, and to wield the pen with grace and skill. Due to this carelessness we have lost a great deal and [614] endured untold hardship. Should we but resolve to excel, we can surely contribute our share, however meagre, to the world of literature.

Time fulfils its own purpose. Fifty years ago when the attention of our editors and novelists was drawn to the purity of language, many replied haughtily that if they were to bother about the intricacies of spelling and syntax, they would lose sight of their more important work. Moulded and chiselled by taunts and criticisms, many have come to recognize the rules of decorum and style. We have also come to realise that it is preferable to create original works than merely to imitate. We find a few of our authors paying attention to beauty of style and skill and writing in chaste language and with a facile grace, relating their writings to cultural standards. They have come to realise the greatness of creativity. For the first time Gujarati Hindus have carved the name of a great Parsi poet - Ardeshir Khabardar - on the plaque of literary luminaries in the Hall of Fame of Gujarati literature.

The most precious treasure of a community is its literature. It is the crown of its culture. The history of literature teaches us that the high and the low, the learned and even the illiterate who have been endowed with an innate inspiration, have produced remarkable literature. Jacob Beaumont was a cobbler by profession. He wrote divine philosophy. Kabir was a weaver. He composed devotional songs that stirred the heartstrings of all who heard them. In ancient Alexandria Amoneous Sacas was originally a porter. He founded the seat of the great Neo-Platonic philosophy. The history of literature shows us that many a tailor, an oil-presser or a betel-nut vendor has become a world renowned literary luminary. The despised, disdained and rejected Jewish nation has produced some unique literature. Today we are a minority, but it was not always so. Today we are [615] reduced to a community. Twelve hundred years ago, during our two thousand years of sovereignty we traversed the earth as a mighty nation. Even in those times we have not created any literature of wide-spread fame, capable of going beyond the Parsi fence and appreciated by all creeds and communities, in all countries of the world. These words may sound pessimistic, but they are not born of idle sentiment. It is an established historical fact. Lovers of literature throughout the world have not accepted a single Parsi as a literary genius of international and universal repute. This is because we have failed to produce inspired artists endowed with ingenuity and creative talent who could be universally acclaimed for their immortal masterpieces. Even today we sing praises of our own works and applaud them profusely. Unprejudiced neighbouring critics attach no value to them. Without waiting to reflect on this fact, we rejoice, considering self-praise to be the evaluation of our success. We are elated by this self-appraisal. It is time we rid ourselves of this conceit.

Without being led away by emotion, we need to examine this question with an open mind and from a purely scholastic angle, with the purpose of research. Why is our field of science and literature so bare and barren? Why are we so impoverished in inventive intellect and lacking in creative capability? There is no wisdom in blaming the ravages of time and pacifying ourselves that there was a great deal in the past but time has annihilated everything. Some remnants, however insignificant, of whatever we have written during our history of three thousand years have surely been saved. Therefore we can weigh the worth of what was destroyed by comparing those remnants. Twenty one Nasks were lost or ruined, but details of their contents have been preserved for us through Pahlavi and Persian books. Even the minutest scrutiny does not reveal anything that can be [616] remotely placed in the annals of universally acknowledged literature. This is indeed a pessimistic picture but it is not written in a stupor of pessimism.

Amongst the famous Arab authors that sprouted during the ascendancy of Arab prowess after the downfall of our empire, some were converted Zoroastrians or their descendents. Parsi blood was flowing in their veins. Besides, some of the Muslims who produced superb literature that can attain immortality in Persian which is an offspring of Avesta and Pahlavi, were of Parsi lineage. Then, how was it that what they could not achieve as Zoroastrians, as converted Muslims or their second or third generation, they were able to acquire? Surely it cannot be argued that the miraculous effect of a new faith had in some strange and incomprehensible manner quickened the inherited intelligence and made it more creative and intuitive. Nor can it be said that what Ahura Mazda withheld, Allah endowed. Then from whence flowed the scholarship into the minds of converted Islamic sons and daughters of Zoroastrian descent?

The flame of Arab culture and progress which radiated allover the globe, had been enkindled during the auspicious era of unrestrained freedom of thought. Later with the expansion of the conquest of the Caliphs of Baghdad, the ascendancy of their religious fervour, the establishment of their religious authority, the increase of the control of the Mullahs and the snatching awi1Y of the freedom of thought, the flame dimmed and was finally extinguished. The history of religion teaches us that when fanaticism and dogmatism are in command, thought is fastened by bonds of tyranny, the wings of imagination are clipped and the mind contracts. Culture does not flourish in such a clime. It fades and falls into a trance. Hence, [617] it is neither strange or surprising that it should be so in Sasanian Iran when the church and the state were in collaboration.

Two types of priesthood exist amongst the nations that follow the major religions of the world. One is hereditary. Here no one but those born into the priestly family can enter. In the second group any member of society can join on merit. Our Indo-Iranian society was formulated on class basis. Both comprised of four sects. These four castes still exist amongst the Hindus, whereas amongst us, just this one sect of priests has managed to survive as a distinct caste and that is our Athornan group. The history of religion tells us that when a religious group dominates, it becomes narrow-minded. Under pretext of being the direct representatives of the Almighty, it exercises its authority over all from the king to the pauper. The priest class becomes authoritarian and in time leans towards ignorance, fanaticism and intolerance. The Hindu community has suffered and is suffering a great deal due to the backwardness of the majority of their Brahmins. Yet Hindu literature, art and science have not ceased to thrive and flourish. The main reason is that their population has always been vast and even today can be counted in crores. Hence in their history at every turn new religious sects have been established, infusing into the people a fresh vitality and giving a renewed impetus to their culture and development. The condition of our community has always been different.

Our community is smaller than any other community of the world today. Formerly it was large, but was never extensive. We are constantly hearing and reading that thirteen hundred years ago, at the sunset of our Empire, our population ran into crores, but due to thirteen centuries of conversion it has thinned down to a mere lakh and a quarter. [618] It is true that there was mass conversion in Iran. Similarly from the time the Muslims set foot in the sub-continent, there has been an equally large scale conversion here also. In spite of that the present Hindu population is twenty-eight crores. No famous historian of any standing has believed that Parsi population has ever exceeded a crore at any time, which is quite true.

Our population was limited, its learned section was limited and the scope to speak openly and write freely was also limited. Knowledge and learning were mainly the prerogative of the religious sect. The priests were religious leaders as well as rulers. Since priesthood was hereditary, apart from excelling in ceremonials, the proportion of people proficient in general knowledge was limited. Although living in this free age of the 20th century and enjoying a reputation of mass education as had never been heard of or imagined before, we are not able to display any tolerance, then how can we expect it of our forefathers who lived 1500 years ago in the Sasanian era?

The devotional faith of the time of Zarathushtra's sacred Gathas turned into a ceremonial conventional religion in Iran. The condition of the Brahman religion in India was the same. But in India there continued to be a revolt against it and from the Upanishad era new philosophical faiths, devotional faiths, intellectual faiths, continued to originate. Keeping ceremonial religion apart, the founders of those faiths and their learned followers, through mental independence and freedom of thought went on producing first-class new, original and creative literature. On the other hand our religion in Iran remained static in ceremonials and conventions. Iran did not have an environment that could create scholars and philosophers of exceptional intelligence, capable of original thinking. India continued to create high philosophy that [619] could successfully compete with the great philosophy of Greece. We could do nothing of the kind. The most we did was to translate important books on Greek and Indian philosophy in King Noshirwan's university at Zend-e-Shahpur. We were capable of imitating, not of creating.

Our priestly fold was staunchly orthodox. In modern parlance they may be termed 'best orthodox'. Orthodoxy always exists in every nation to a greater or lesser degree, and it will remain so. But where priesthood is hereditary it becomes inflexible and invincible, because the majority of such a religious fold has unfortunately been deprived of high, general education and will continue to remain so. Orthodoxy is deep-rooted in our Hindu cousins, but just as they have thirty-three crore deities, their innumerable new sects that have been founded give scope for preserving individual freedom of thought. In Zoroastrian Iran thought was in bondage and in Parsi India thought is still in bondage. Hereditary priesthood will never permit the breaking of those fetters and until they are broken we will not be able to produce literature that can be universally acknowledged and universally honoured.

It is a hundred years since we have started writing in English. In 1840 an account of a trip to England was published by a Parsi. Since then we have begun to write fairly well. No other language has given us what English has given us. But no one can tell how long the language will last with us. There is an unfortunate move to make the numerous native tongues of the land the medium of instruction from the primary to the postgraduate level and to give English secondary importance.

Delivering the Convocation, address at the Silver Jubilee function of the Benares University, Gandhiji declared that it was shameful to write and to speak in English. [620]

Through the nectar of knowledge and science of the whole world and the entire era, western culture has refreshed our intellectual ability and revived us. We will never be able to applaud it sufficiently. Yet, due to defective understanding, we have come to vilify it rather than praise it. Our age is the modern age, the age of science, the age of discovery, the age of the dissemination of the latest knowledge. Western culture is garbed in the attire of such an age of' unparalled discoveries. New knowledge has taught man many new things. It has made him view matters from a fresh standpoint to think new thoughts. In the light of research he has come to realize that much of the old was wrong. He has become a seeker of truth, so what seems false to him, he keeps shedding. This is difficult to endure, since we have been brought up on false ideas that what is old is proper and pure and sacred. Hence the new culture is slandered as irreligious, atheistic and unpatriotic. The old age was steeped in seeking man's esoteric life and the other side of existence and it has given to man a precious heritage of religion, philosophy and rituals. The new age is carrying on a scientific research into man's living world that exists between heaven and earth and is making man's life more enjoyable and more comfortable. As though this new culture of the new age were void of a spiritual element it is termed materialistic and we find pleasure and pride in maligning it. Formerly knowledge moulded man's destiny today science is improving, refining and making life more pleasant. Knowledge and science are leading our culture to an ideal of perfection. Both are needed equally for our real refinement.

We should not in any way deter from taking full advantage of whatever contacts time and circumstances give us with oriental or occidental [621] cultures. We should hold the cup of their benedictory ambrosia to our lips and drink deep and with sacred intent. Gleaning from them all their content and draining their very essence we should become adoring devotees of worth-while literature. Developing a scientific attitude we must give to the world thinkers, orators, visionaries, discoverers planners, creators, poets, artists, philosophers and scientists capable of enhancing the honour and glory of our small community.


Chapter LIX


Experience is necessary for the perfection of any profession or skill. In the beginning I had none of the prerequisites of a writer. High school education had given me a smattering of Gujarati, Persian and English. Of these three, having studied unto the 7th standard, the knowledge of English was the best. Yet it was certainly not sufficient to enable me to write in that language. On the strength of four years of scanty knowledge of Persian it was impossible to dare to write in Persian. The knowledge of Gujarati that I had received was also very flimsy, but as it was my mother-tongue, without ability or experience, during my eighteenth year, I ventured to write in Gujarati. For three years I wrote short and serial stories and of those years two were spent in composing about one thousand lines of poetry of the following calibre:

Gujarati quote

"The dog did bark seeing the cat,
And with a bang down came the rat."

Besides, I wrote three books in Gujarati on religious subjects. Since then, as I had started writing in English, after a long lapse of forty years I published my first edition of the Atma Katha in Gujarati, four years ago. During that long span of time, I had published twelve leaflets and pamphlets in Gujarati for free distribution on important matters that were being discussed in the community. Besides these, a few articles were penned for the journals, 'Zarthoshti', ‘Asha' and ‘Rahnuma'.

In 1905, in our philology classes at Columbia University, while studying the style and system of [623] writing oriental and occidental prose and poetry we evaluated their good and bad qualities and their intrinsic worth. Eastern prose, normally, was declared to be imitative, heavy, difficult to understand without the help of a critic like Sion, and exceptionally flowery. The author was depicted as writing five sentences for what could be expressed in a single sentence and taking the trouble to arrange the words in a manner that would sound sweet and melodious. It seemed as though the writer was bent upon exhibiting his own scholarship and his control over language and by his verbosity he would endeavour to divert the attention of the reader from the subject-matter to beauty of style. On the other hand western prose was judged as being natural, straight-forward, simple, terse and easy to understand on the whole. It was appreciated and praised. I could not relish this. It was my firm belief that beauty of style in writing was most essential.

Man puts to use the endless blessings and innumerable gifts that God has bestowed on him. He utilizes them not in their natural, raw state, but after moulding, shaping, chiseling and refining them to suit his intelligence and to respond to his emotions.. If he is building a house it does not suffice merely to give protection against cold and heat and storm. He endows it with craftsmanship and skill and tries to make it as comfortable and as beautiful as possible. He is not satisfied with clothes that can protect him from the vagaries of weather and serve as a means to safe-guard his modesty but he endeavours to fashion them so that they appear beautiful to the onlooker. He does not stop at taking food that can keep the machinery of the human body in order and upon which he can exist, but he hungers to make it as delicious as possible. He does not pass his living hours like an animal, but day and night he strives to make his life pleasant and worthwhile. Then [624] how can he be content at expressing his thoughts, either through speech or through the written word, in unseasoned. dry and drab language? The aim and end of speech and writing is not merely to communicate a man's thoughts to another. While speaking or writing he wishes to display his emotions as much as he wants to transit his ideas. The writer and the reader both are intelligent and emotional individuals. While the intellect of the reader demands clarity and correctness, his emotions crave for elegance and beauty. Just as food is rendered more palatable by the addition of salt, pepper and spices, the structure of language becomes more fascinating and captivating. On auspicious days if we prepare 'sev' or 'ravo', by sprinkling a few drops of some essence on it, we relish it all the more. But with a craze to make the dish extra-delicious if some avaricious cook pours spoonfuls of flavour into the pot. the whole course will be spoilt. Similarly, if there is an over-emphasis on style while writing, it loses its lustre and becomes heavy and unmelodious.

Hence writing must also be suitably adorned. Such reading I appreciated, hence my attention was first drawn to the style of writing in the books I chose to read. Even a serious subject like philosophy can be rendered attractive by a skilful author. This I realized when we were studying Plato's 'Republic' in the philosophy class. It seemed as though he were writing poetic-prose. This work of his appealed to me as much for its deep, philosophic thought-content as for its incomparable beauty of expression. During the long summer vacation I read more of his dialogues. I found the style of the famous pessimistic German philosopher, Schopenhauer, equally beautiful. Even when choosing an English novel or a Gujarati story, after turning the first few pages, if its language did not appeal to me, I would not proceed further. [625]

When I commence writing a book, I first arrange its entire structure with great care. It takes me nearly a year to cull out over three thousand passages befitting the subject of each chapter for every book of mine relating to Zoroastrian religion, ethics, philosophy, ceremonials, prayers, culture and progress from all the Avestan, Pahlavi, and Pazand books. During that period I keep pondering about the overall construction of the book, making the necessary amendments. When the time for writing arrives, considerable thought is given to the subject-matter of each chapter and a mental picture of it is carefully drawn up. Thereafter each chapter is penned including suitable arguments. It is revised, weighing all the pros and cons of the arguments presented. I read it once again from the view-point of style. If by a change or sentence the meaning becomes clearer, that sentence is altered. If the addition or alteration of a word makes the writing more pleasant, that word is altered. There is an abundance of amendments, alterations and corrections. While taking a walk in the evening, or awaking at midnight, if some argument or some sentence-structure or some suitable word suddenly comes to mind, I jot it down on a piece of paper which is always in my pocket or I jump out of bed and make a note of it on the memo-pad that lies on my desk. Later it is relevantly applied. The theme of the writing is examined by the mental eye and weighed by emotions. If the purpose of a particular passage is to play upon the reader's feelings rather than influence his intellect, time is spent in altering the structure of the sentence so as to appear more beautiful and to sound more melodious. Just as time is spent on the contents of the book, thought is also given to its presentation and phraseology.

In the world today there is a great deal of heavy writing which is an outburst of whatever comes into the mind. Disgusted mother-earth [626] mercifully drowns it in the sea of oblivion. In this age of steam and electricity, when it is preferable to run than to walk and to fly than to run, where is the time to glance over an author's artistry, is the question that is asked. Whatever the writer wants to convey to his busy and hard-pressed listener he should express as briefly, as simply and as tersely as possible. Speed is the ideal of the machine age. Speed has brought with it many advantages, but it has also sapped much of a man's life, it has dimmed the poetry of his existence. It is the bounden duty of every lover of literature, every admirer of art to check the tide of man's life from being dragged into the stream and to make it more graceful and more poetic.

The main media of progress of this modern age are the press, the pulpit and the platform. The brilliant and adventurous mobed, Fardoonji Marazbanji, a writer, a publisher, a sailor, a businessman, a banker, a doctor and proficient various skills, designed and made the type, the mould and other paraphernalia of a printing press, established the first Gujarati printing press and gave us the first Gujarati newspaper a hundred and twenty-five years ago. Our press does not stop at giving us news of our homes, our city, our country and the world. It is the community's 'big stick' today. Verily it is the tutor but as it is not able to bear the clean controversy on public communal questions, it gives to them a personal colour and, cooperates only with its own relatives throughout the year thus disgracing its own tutorship. Were it to learn the lessons of tolerance first and then step out to wield the pen, it would surely indicate the path to progress. I n proportion to the strength of our community, on the whole we have comparatively more newspapers and magazines than our sister communities. They contain articles concerning every topic that exists on earth. Their news editors do not rest at publishing news of the four [627] corners of the world, but give information on matters relating to the stars and the moon and the sun and all the things that happen in the realms of eternal light. They enlighten us on all subjects of literature pertaining to science and knowledge, sacred or secular, spiritual or material. The wealth of knowledge contained in big books under various headings is revealed to us through the modern press. It has contributed a large share to the progress of the community.

Newspapers to some extent, and magazines to a very large extent, exist on the worth of the articles contributed by writers. In this respect, from the outset I have disappointed the proprietors of newspapers. As a writer my services are restricted to my books. I do not write short articles. If I were to contribute to one newspaper, I would have to contribute to several. Parsi daily papers and quarterly magazines as well as cosmopolitan magazines of Karachi and other places, constantly invite articles on various occasions. I am obliged to turn down their requests politely every time. This attitude annoys some and others are disgruntled. Some do not remain silent but prefer to punish me. However this habit has advantages. It makes it possible for me to publish my books one after the other instead of frittering away my time and energy in all directions.

I deem it of prime importance to contribute my mite to the scanty literature of the community. I discovered that by participating regularly in cosmopolitan functions and cooperating constantly with civic activities, year by year there was such a growing demand on my humble services that it became impossible to do so except at the increasing sacrifice of my main work of creating literature. Hence, to my great regret, I was obliged to withdraw gradually from public service. [628]

This is an age of encyclopaedias of general knowledge, science, literature and religion. In the West such substantial volumes have been published containing information regarding Christian, Jewish, Islamic and other religions. I had planned to publish one such encyclopaedia of Zoroastrian religion in five volumes, each containing five hundred pages. In the West the publishers of encyclopaedias pay their scholars a good remuneration per page to secure material from them. The writer was paid a guinea a page for contributing to the 'Encyclopaedia of Religions and Ethics', an encyclopaedia of thirteen large volumes containing information on all the religions of the world. t had also received such remuneration for writing in it. Without such payment it is not possible to get any works of great writers in the West. I had arranged to give an honorarium of five or seven rupees per page and to fulfill my mission. Due to the vastness of the population of other religions it is possible to consume the expensive volumes that are printed. There is no such hope in our small community. Therefore, unless the rich subscribe generously to such an expensive project, we cannot venture upon such a major scheme. Eighteen years ago I had tried to muster assistance in that direction. One gentleman offered to contribute the generous sum of five thousand rupees, but as sufficient help was not forthcoming from any other quarter, this important project had to be abandoned with deep regret.

Civilized man has acquired the right of publishing his honest thoughts at a high premium and heavy sacrifice. In an ardour of fanaticism zealots in the East and in the West have been prejudiced in believing that theirs is the one and only true and perfect religion and have dared to burn the books of other faiths and at times even their authors. Even today Roman Catholic priests [629] who are in power, in their narrow-mindedness black-list the names of books they do not approve of and command their congregation to abstain from reading them. A plant needs air and sunshine. Even so does the tree of literature need freedom of thought to flourish. The atheist should enjoy the same freedom of the pen as the theist. While listening to the spiritualist we must be prepared to lend ear to the materialist also. There should be no restriction on discussing religious and social questions — questions concerning this world and the next from all points of view. Freedom of individual thought should not be fettered in chains of social opinion. Only then will culture and progress flourish.

Thirty-two years ago I had an experience of such narrow-mindedness of the community from the time of the inauguration of the Zoroastrian Conference when there was a strong protest against me. There was a need in the community for a book in abridged form revealing the panorama of Zoroastrianism from its inception unto date. After examining it from a historical stand-point I had made a humble effort to fill this void in my book entitled Zoroastrian Theology published in 1914. It contained brief descriptions of the varied facets of the religion of our Iranian ancestors prior to the Gathas, the religion as expounded in the Gathas by Zarathushtra himself, the religion as explained by his followers in the Avestan era, the religion during the dark ages, the revived religion of the Pahlavi period, the impoverished condition of the religion after the loss of the empire, etc. Innumerable Avestan, Pahlavi and Pazand references had been supplied on every page in support of each sentence that had been written. The book was penned purely in search of truth, without being led away by any preconceived ideas or prejudiced opinions. [630]

In the funds under the jurisdiction of the Bombay Parsi Punchayat there is one called the 'Sir Jamshedji Jeejibhoy Translation Fund'. Copies of books written by Parsi or non-Parsi authors on Zoroastrian literature are purchased from this fund to encourage writers. The fund is utilized generously and, keeping in mind the community's paucity of literature, the writers of all books and magazines, whether of major or minor importance, are helped in one way or another. In this way scholars who have made a name in literary circles as well as students who are still fresh in the field are able to dispose of a number of copies of their works through these funds. For the first time in the history of the fund the management refused to sponsor my book. At first the worthy Trustees had resolved to purchase twenty-five copies, but due to pressure from orthodox circles, that resolution was withdrawn. It was declared that the book was not worthy of patronage as it was irreligious.

A heated controversy arose in the papers regarding this matter. On principle I took no part in it. To avenge the injustice meted out by the Trustees, a generous lady purchased fifty copies of the book and, besides sending me the sale proceeds forwarded an additional cheque of one thousand rupees. Another enterprising friend of hers similarly purchased another fifty copies, sent me an extra amount of a thousand and together with it wrote a letter of deep appreciation. A person who had intended to buy one copy purchased five and those who had no intention of buying also bought it. Thus, within a very short time, a thousand copies of this edition were sold.

Murzban Muncherji Murzban, the barrister who had translated into English Les Parsis written by the famous French lady, Madame Manant requested permission to translate into Gujarati this book which had been mercilessly criticised. But as [631] I had the intention of publishing a Gujarati edition myself, I rejected his kind offer with gratitude. However, due to preoccupation in writing other books I have not been able to do so unto date. Later I published a revised edition of the book under the title 'History of Zoroastrianism' with several additions,

Literature and art have, from early times flourished only under the patronage of appreciative kings, emperors, noblemen and the rich. Those good old days are gone. Since the last century with the spread of education in the West. the reading public increases year by year and books are increasingly in demand, Good authors are able to sell their books in thousands and become economically independent. Proprietors of newspapers and magazines are able to pay their writers generously. Like other professions writing too, has become a profession in the West and hundreds of authors earn a livelihood through the pen. In eastern countries writers are not able to earn an income through writing. Yet, due to the Hindu, Muslim or Chinese population running counted into millions, their good writers are not faced with the problem of sale. The picture of our community is completely different. In a total population of slightly over a hundred thousand, naturally the reading public is very limited, hence it is absolutely essential that literature should have a patron. A good number of such helpers were available amongst the affluent of the community right unto the end of the last century. Whether they were lovers of reading or not, whether they read the book or not, they were sure to willingly purchase twenty-five to fifty copies. Some took the trouble to see that the purchased books reached deserving students as gifts while others were not bothered. Under such circumstances fraudulent house-keepers sold them to the rag-man and earned a few paisas. Within a month or so of the publication of [632] the learned Dastur Peshotan Sanjana's Denkard a friend of mine purchased portions of it costing five rupees each at eight or ten annas from the Kalbadevi Road and forwarded them to me forty years ago. The student world of the last century is not unaware of the fact that our ancient manuscripts were available at grocery stores. At the beginning of this century, while excavating the ruins of Chinese-Turkistan, a huge pile of Prophet Manis Pazand manuscripts which was set aside as fuel in the public baths of Turfan, came into our possession. Such misfortune which is the recompense of the labour of authors is well-known throughout the world.

With the spread of education our reading class has increased. Novelists are able to eke out a little. The condition of writers of educational books is precarious. With regard to religion, the large orthodox section of the community is eager to know about spiritual matters, ceremonials, conventions, the esoteric side of the religion and details relating to the life of celestial beings. A fair amount of literature pertaining to these subjects - whether it be good or bad, authentic or imaginary and in support of superstitions - is sold out. The plight of worth-while literature - religious literature revealing the author's scholarship - is not the same. The sale of such literature is dependent mainly on the writer's influence, obligations and publicity skills.

Our community is not athirst for literature. Nor is it a lover of literature. The sensitivity and curiosity for literature is lacking. In our community there are only a handful of devotees of Saraswati the goddess of learning only a handful who can appreciate thought-provoking and character building literature of superior quality.


Chapter LX


Ahura Mazda, through the sacred Gathas, tells us that the one person who listened to the precepts of his great religion and shouldered the responsibility of spreading the light, was Spitama Zarathushtra. Therefore, He adds, He wished to bestow on His messenger the power of oratory that can turn the hearts of men. Because man is a thinking and speaking creature, he holds the highest position in the animal kingdom. The ability of fine, fluent and effective oratory has been regarded as a divine gift from ancient times, and man prays to the Almighty to be endowed with it. Oratory has been developed as an art since ages and even today it is a compulsory subject in the curriculum of the advanced seminaries of the priests of the West.

Yet the songs that were sung in praise of elocution in olden days are barely heard now. When I delivered my maiden speech from the public platform in 1895, elocution was being 'slighted. The concentrated effort to speak forcefully and eloquently was disdained. A speaker's only qualification was his capability to deliver his speech in simple, straight-forward and unambiguous language so as to afford a correct evaluation of the facts and figures presented. It was stated that in this industrial age of more work and less leisure there was no place for long-drawn-out, tiring discourses, lacking in sound and intelligent arguments which taxed the patience of the listener. Yet man, who is made up of intelligence coupled with emotions, in the East as well as in the West, even today is directed and drawn by elegant oratory. The poetry and sweetness of speech of an elocutionist proficient in his art, never fail to charm the audience. The art of [634] oratory is still applauded. People still yearn for speech that stirs the heart-strings and plays upon the mental chords.

Although I was inexperienced in the art of writing I had started to write. Similarly I ventured upon speaking. On the morning of Jamshedi Navroze in 1895 I delivered my first talk on "Fire our resplendent altar". I was nineteen years old. I had written out the speech and 'I read it aloud to the audience. Thus I delivered four lectures on various occasions. After that, once there was no time to copy out in ink my pencilled draft so I started to read from the latter. I was not able to read with my right eye, hence depended entirely on the vision in my left eye. I needed glasses, but there had been some delay about that. Midway down the lecture my vision dimmed and it was not possible to read the lightly written script. Taking the situation under control I delivered the rest of the lecture from memory. I was successful. That gave me confidence. I resolved that in future instead of reading I would deliver my speeches from memory. Yet, as a precaution, for quite some time I wrote out the whole lecture and kept it carefully in my pocket. On the table in front of me I kept a ready reference in points. With a little more practice I found that there was no need either to refer to the notes or to write out the lecture. My control over language had developed and I had more courage, so now I merely drew up a mental picture of my talk. jotted down some points on a piece of paper, and memorized them. It was easy for me to memorize references from the Avesta, Pahlavi or Pazand in support of my speeches and I was able to quote them fluently together with their chapter and paragraph. Just as I liked to lend lustre to my writings, I pondered upon a proper word or a befitting sentence and utilised it as occasion arose, thereby adorning my speeches. I used to read the sermons of priests like Spurgem [635] and Mordy who had gained eminence in England and America for their oratory and since I firmly believed in heaven and hell at that time, I spoke with priest-like fervour and fist-banging, trying to terrorise the audience with stories of the keen edges of the bridge that engulfed heaven and earth, the flaming fires of hell and the threat of demons and devils. To make my lectures more interesting and palatable I related an appropriate anecdote or two. Even as I introduced a touch of humour in my talks, I did not fail to make a sarcastic remark when necessary.

After six years of experience and dexterity as an orator in Karachi I made my debut on the Bombay stage. The very first lecture made a good impression. At that time I was a very voluble speaker and Khurshedji Cama compared my speech to a flowing stream. But this flowing stream of words proved cumbersome to me and to my listeners. In a single lecture I was obliged to use words that would suffice for more than one lecture and the audience had great difficulty in grasping my ideas. From the daily reports of my lectures that appeared in the papers I realized that fresh problems were arising. The system of taking notes In short hand of English lectures did not exist for Gujarati, hence the meaning of my words was twisted, resulting in grave injustice to me. This went on for some time. Then I requested the editors of newspapers not to take the trouble of sending their reporters to my lectures. In return they requested me to send a summary of my own speeches to them which would eliminate the complaint of irresponsible reporting. Amongst the religious scholars of those days, Ervad Jeevanji Mody was the main lecturer. Giving his own example, he too advised me to do so. As a great deal of time would be wasted in writing out those lectures I did not follow the advice and had to suffer for it. [636]

The business of reporters is to advance their own prestige in society. Many a high and mighty person tries to pamper to their whims. If there has been a large assembly and the names of important personages present are to be published in the press the following day, some delight in seeing their own name in that list. Fearing that the reporter may overlook their presence they wave to them obviously and, opportunity permitting, shake hands with them. In the West the press reporters of popular papers are extremely influential. Aristocrats invite them to tea and dinner. They fawn on them and try to please them. Reporters interview them under some pretext, print their photographs in the papers and write many flattering things about them. Reporters can play an important role in society. They can turn the tide of dynasties.

At the same time the reporter's work is unrewarding. In the West there are training courses for newspaper reporters and editors. Such a school of journalism was established and affiliated to Columbia University forty years ago. Its graduates and post-graduates hold leading positions in the press world today. In spite of that there are constant complaints of false or misleading reporting of lectures from members of Congress and Senate and from innumerable organizers of societies and gatherings. At this end there is greater cause for such complaints. Not all our reporters are well-educated or trained. Besides, in controversial matters, they are prejudiced according to the trend of their clientele. At times when a lecturer gives lengthy arguments in clarification of his topic, the reporter tries to give a sketchy review or ignores it completely and reports it in his own language according to his own understanding.

After the opposition against me at the time of the Zoroastrian Conference, I had to endure a lot of injustice in this respect. Incomplete, improper and [637] biased reporting have often caused a great deal of misunderstanding. Much that I have not uttered is believed to have been said; balanced speeches have been given an extreme colour, sound topics have been presented in a silly light; politely spoken sentences have been turned into rude speech. In doing so, there has been many a storm in a tea-cup, injustice has been done, clashes and quarrels have ensued.

My maiden speech in English was delivered in New York in 1906. Professor Jackson and others had praised not only the subject-matter of the speech but also my style of speaking. On the other hand a graduate Hindu friend of mine studying at the Teachers' College had questioned me on the necessity of becoming eloquent in my speech. Instead of concentrating on style, would it not have sufficed to speak in plain, simple language? We had lengthy discussions on various topics quite frequently. Similarly this matter took up much time in argument. We could not agree yet, within a very short time I realized that there still existed many admirers of good eloquence. This lecture attracted the attention of the Hindus and Muslims residing in New York. They founded the Pan-Aryan Association at that time and asked me to deliver the inaugural address. Whenever I visited America in subsequent years on my mission to lecture on the Zoroastrian religion, the Indians living there as welt as the Americans appreciated my humble services and my oratory. Three years ago, during our last visit to America, a week prior to our return to India, a large gathering was held in connection with world peace. I was one of the three Indian and five American speakers. When it was my turn to speak a, fresh wave of enthusiasm was perceptible amongst the audience and when the meeting was over, ladies and gentlemen gathered around me showering congratulations. The organiser of the meeting wrote to me the following day that he regretted [638] he had not made my acquaintance earlier and as we were to leave New York he had Got been able to give the public further benefit of my services. The fascination for skilful eloquence has not yet faded.

People are not easily enticed to listen to sermons and lectures on serious and thought-provoking subjects like religion, ethics and philosophy. Those who do come find it fatiguing if the talk exceeds forty-five minutes or an hour. People like to listen to fantasy rather than to facts, and more than the lecture they appreciate narratives of the lives of kings and heroes culled from the Shahnameh and couplets recited in melodious tones. At such times people come in greater numbers and do not mind sitting for an hour or two. Again, when religious sermons and ethical talks or historical surveys of heroes and warriors are set to music and song, the audience comes in still greater numbers and listens for hours on end. Legends rather than lectures and the singer of devotional songs rather than minstrels are naturally more popular. Keeping this in mind I always try to conclude my talk within the hour and my discourses from the Shahnameh are limited to an hour and a half.

It is fifty-three years now since I emerged as an orator. My talks during the first fifteen years are very different in form and style of delivery from those of the last thirty-three years since the renaissance of my thinking after my years of study in America from 1905 1908.

I do not believe that the 'Mathravani' is a celestial language and that merely by its recital all wishes and all desires are granted. I do not give to conventions a religious status. I do not give credence to the belief that ceremonies have the power to open the gateway of heaven and to save [639] the soul from hell. I do not consider the Gathas and the Vendidad of equal standing. I do not regard everything that has been written from time to time by people of varying intelligence in the name of religion as invariably and completely infallible and worthy of acclaim. Hence it is comprehensible that my words are discredited and frowned upon by the orthodox people.

Yet my expressions are true - and truth is the only Zoroastrian religion.


Chapter LXI


Christians use the 'Prayer Book' in their churches and recite the prayers contained therein composed by different people in comprehensible languages. Together with this they use the 'Hymnal' and sing the hymns composed by various musicians to the accompaniment of the organ. The Rehnumai Mazdayasnan Society had taken the lead to initiate such a reform when the learned Ervad Sheriarji Bharucha was delivering his sermons. At first the assembly would rise and recite in unison a verse or two from the Avesta and thereafter sing the substance of that verse in Gujarati, accompanied by the harmonium. There was an uproar from orthodox circles against such prayer set to music and this practice was abandoned in time.

Later, in all sections of the community, public religious meetings commenced with the congregation reciting such devotional prayers. The audience recited passages of the Avesta followed by readings of the translation in Gujarati. This custom prevails to the present day. However complete a translation may be, it is bound to be drab and dry. Devotional songs and hymns that can regale the mind and heart are best suited to such congregational gatherings.

The followers of all the major religions of the world possess devotional literature that would suffice to satisfy its devotees. In this respect we are sadly lagging behind others. Knowledge and devotion ought to be entwined in religious literature. To the sensitive devotee literature that is replete with knowledge but lacking in devotion seems insipid, unresponsive and uninspiring. The devout worshipper needs God's grace and love in his daily life more than he needs knowledge of God. He needs [641] prayers, devotional: songs and benedictions that can bring radiance into the darkness of his life and hope to his despairing heart, assuage his wounds, wipe away his tears and drown his sorrows. He yearns for songs that can soothe and stir the innermost recesses of his being, that can enkindle the flame of divine love in his heart so that it bursts into songs in praise of the Almighty. Listening to such prayer, he is inspired to lay down his life at the feet of the Master and his spirit takes wings and floats in the realms of imagination. They lend joy, sweetness, serenity and inspiration to living.

In 1909, just as I became the High Priest, the Young Men's Zoroastrian Association was founded. Under its auspices the community had taken the lead to meet at the Fire Temple for prayers and sermons on every Hamkara day. On these occasions before the lecture, we recited one or two verses from the Avesta and then we recited poems befitting those verses which I had composed in Gujarati.

During the days of the Zoroastrian Conference, Sir and Lady Hormusji Wadia requested me to give five public lectures at Bombay. At the commencement of those talks I used to pray a verse from the Avesta and recite its meaning in Gujarati in verse form. Thereafter they urged me to compose inspirational benedictory songs in English and Gujarati;

In the years that followed, four substantial books, each containing 400 to 525 pages, were being published, hence the above work could not be taken in hand. In 1938, on my way back from New York, I began this work on the Atlantic Ocean and continued it across the Mediterranean and the Arabian Sea. On reaching Bombay I composed quite a few devotional and inspirational prayers in English. [642] Mr. Pirojshah Nusserwanji Mehta, a patron of literature and the person who was maintaining the model Parsi School at Nasik, once asked me what I was engaged in writing. When I told him, he at once remarked that as soon as such material was ready it should be forwarded to him so that he could publish them personally and distribute them free of charge. Thus he distributed thousands of copies of 'Homage unto Ahura Mazda' and later its Gujarati interpretation, 'Ahura Mazda ni Nemaj,'

On receiving and utilising these, many coreligionists wrote to me stating that, despite all their honest efforts, when they had simply failed to have any desire to pray in Avesta, which they could not understand, they had turned in despair to Christian prayers. But now that they had found Zoroastrian prayers in a comprehensible language they had started using them every day.

The learned author of many books on varied erudite subjects, Mr. Doongersi Dharamsi, appealed to the Trustees of the Karachi Parsi Anjoman for permission to translate 'Homage unto Ahura Mazda' into Gujarati and to have it printed at his own expense and to distribute one thousand copies free of cost. But as a very large section of the community was of the opinion that the book be translated in 'Parsi Gujarati', his very generous offer was rejected with real regret. A Hindu scholar from abroad wrote to me that 'Homage unto Ahura Mazda' was not meant for Parsis only. A Swamiji stated that he replaces the nomenclature of Ahura Mazda by Shri Krishna and uses many of the prayers contained therein together with the Bhagvad Gita. Muslims and Christians alike, in a very open and generous spirit, did not fail to send congratulatory messages. [643]

At present thanks to Pirojshah's generosity, a second volume comprising of sixty four additional prayers in English and Gujarati has been published and, God willing, on completion of the books in hand, a third volume may also be p1aced at the service of the community.

In this manner my resolution made forty years ago while I was studying at Columbia University to compose in Gujarati devotional and benedictory prayers for daily use and for congregational purposes is at last being fulfilled by the grace of God.


Chapter LXII


In a world where God and Satan are continuously in conflict for supremacy, the school of life has taught me varied lessons of hope and despair, success and failure, joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain and I have culled from them the delicate device of living. This mortal world is not unreal, it is not an illusion, it is not a miserable abode. Certain scholastic philosophers of the Middle Ages stated that this immature earth had been fashioned by some unskilled craftsman. Some remarked that had the Creator concentrated on it, He could have created a much better world. Others replied that it was not possible for Him to do so. There is no need to get entangled in the labyrinth of such misgivings and to grieve unnecessarily. This world is ours. We have to accept it as it is. We have to learn how to live in it. Life is God's greatest blessing. Life, a good life, a glorious life, a joyous life, a long life - this has been mankind's most fervent prayer since the beginning of existence.

The 'ledger' of my daily life begins at dawn. The childhood habit of rising before daybreak has eliminated the need for an alarm clock. Two whole hours are available until morning dawns when I can read and write without artificial light. Living is comprised of thinking and doing, so these early hours are occupied in thinking.

"In the name of the Almighty" is the invocation with which all our Pazand prayers commence. As my revered Prophet has taught me, I pray to see Ahura Mazda with my mind's eye. I crave for conversation with the Creator in the language of the heart. I concentrate and meditate upon His name. I worship Ahura Mazda in silence. My lips do not [645] move, no words are uttered, the hands are not folded, the body is not bent. Only my mind bows in reverence and adoration. My heart stoops, it is athirst, it is steeped in worship and prayer. With a purified heart and an inspired mind I take up the reins of daily duty. At night, before gliding into dreamland, I examine my soul in silence and serenity and, if the guiding angel of conscience approves of my conduct, I sleep in tranquility.

Even animals manage to exist. Man has to shed his bovine nature and live graciously. There is subtlety in maneuvering the mechanism of life. Living itself is an art. Man has to learn that art. The earth has not remained as it was created by Ahura Mazda millions and billions of years ago. Man, who is endowed with intelligence, has changed its face and form. He has made it habitable and has beautified it with skilful hands, pouring sweetness and joy into living. At the same time self-centred man has made many mistakes and has given birth to untold hardships and social disharmonies. Man's own mistakes will grind him in the mill of experience and refine him through stumbling and stress and strife and struggle till in time he himself turns this very life into the Garden of Eden

The world is so full of wonderful things that give pleasure and peace and happiness. Like the wanton humblebee that is intoxicated with the sweet sap of flowers and the scent of their fragrance, man is bewildered with such a wealth of loveliness. Steeped In the temptation to glean from it the greatest possible gain, he creates for himself despair where there is no despair, sorrow, where there is no sorrow. He is not able to procure all that he desires. He succeeds in getting only a small portion of what he covets and at times, gets nothing at all. In proportion to what he is unable to attain, he deems himself unhappy. There is no limit to his [646] wants and he is constantly asking for more from his benevolent Maker - more than he needs, more than he can hold, more than he deserves. Within the recesses of his own inner being there are unlimited resources of acquiring mental peace. Within the depths of his heart is hidden an inexhaustible store of happiness. These he cannot conceive. He does not even know how to gratify his own desires by deriving benefit from Nature's boundless gifts that are given for the asking. Consequently, he roams through life like a confused beggar with arms outstretched, seeking for happiness.

Wordsworth complains that the days of 'plain living and high thinking' are no more. This is truer today than it was in the days of the poet. Scientific discoveries are daily on the increase and, as man's mind is enlightened, he keeps adding to the store of physical comforts, pleasures and pastimes, food and drinks, games and enjoyments. On the strength of science man continues to conquer the world. He has succeeded in excavating the boundless wealth hidden deep down in the earth. Population has grown by leaps and bounds. Money has increased and it has been circulating more widely and more people are utilising it. In comparison to the emperors, aristocrats and merchant-kings of olden days, there are many more rich people and landowners and there are millionaires and business-magnets who possess wealth that can outweigh the proverbial treasures of Karoun and Croecus. Hundreds of happy couples are living in grandeur and style that could surpass the splendour and dignity of Khushru-Purveez's gorgeous palace. Historians have written about Parsi pilgrims of old who gorged themselves with rich food and flagons of wine from various countries. Herodotus writes that these Persians ridiculed the 'Greeks who ate less than themselves and said that they rose from the dining-table only half satisfied. Today there are all sorts of new, delicious dishes, the varieties of [647] intoxicating liquors have increased and there are far more voracious diners and drinkers than the ancient Iranians. It is stated in the third verse of the Vendidad that man should eat to live, he should not live to eat and drink. Today many are turning the tables of this commandment.

Food strengthens the body, but only when consumed adequately. Civilised man eats more than he needs. The rich imitating western custom, begin their lunch and dinner with soup which is followed by three or four courses. They end with a dessert, fruits and nuts. The middleclass have a side-dish and main rice dish for lunch and a two-course dinner. In our home we have one course for lunch and one for dinner. In our family of fourteen a bottle of brandy is consumed every month. on auspicious and inauspicious occasions as well as a remedy for coughs, colds, headaches, stomach-aches etc. It is mostly taken with hot water. As the price of brandy has gone up four or five times, since some time we use locally produced liquor. My wife makes it milder by adding some ingredients to it. Six bottles of Mohuda are poured into a large china jar and black-currants, dried rose-petals, fennel seeds, cardamoms and sugar-candy are added to it and left to stand for a month or so. It is then crushed and strained and put to use. Since the last ten years or so I do not take any dinner but just coffee and biscuits. Of course when someone sends Navjote, wedding or gahambar meals, I relish them heartily.

The sages have reckoned life to be a duty or a service or a sacrifice. In 400 B.C. the great Greek philosopher, Epicurus, regarded 'pleasure' as the goal of life. But the 'pleasure' that he preaches is a high type of mental joy. Many of his disciples of the 20th Century, following in the footsteps of the Persian poet, Omar Khayum, are placing a premium on excessive physical joys of [648] eating, drinking and merry-making. From earliest times it has been believed that youth is meant for hard work and hardship so that in the evening of life, old age can be comfortable and serene. Today many of our indolent youths say that lost youth can never be regained and are determined to 'make hay while the sun shines'. Youth, they say, is the time for pleasure and fun. Besides the necessities of life they hanker after luxuries. They spend beyond their means and honest channels of income are insufficient to meet their demands. Consequently they become gamblers and try their luck at the race-course and in speculation in the hope of rapid returns. In doing so they incur heavy debts and ruin themselves and their innocent children.

Zarathushtra sings in the sacred Gathas: 'Contentment of mind is everything'. I have wooed contentment and made her my own. I have espoused contentment of thought, contentment of conception, contentment of emotions, contentment of desires. I have bridled the horse of ambition that draws the chariot of my life and gained control over it. I live a contented life. In eating and drinking, dressing and enjoying, my tastes are simple and moderate. It is necessary to curb desire in order to lead a life of simplicity. My Heavenly Father has bestowed upon me the capability of controlling my mind.

When nuptial benedictions are showered on a couple the following words are recited; 'Be ye more renowned than thy father'. To endeavour to e1evate ourselves above the conditions in which we are born by honest effort and by an industrious and useful life and to bring glory to our own name and the name of the family, is a Zoroastrian quality. Ahura Mazda had poured into my heart such a noble ambition. Self-confidence is essential for this. Those who are diffident cannot succeed, despite ability, and people with [649] lesser intelligence and lesser qualifications defeat them and forge ahead. The Creator has kindled the flame of self-confidence in my veins. On the strength of that I have not lost courage in face of difficulties, I have not despaired in times of failure, but with God's guidance, I have been able to bring honour to my humble name.

Physical well-being, physical strength and physical endurance are of fundamental importance in our prayers. Our religion enjoins upon us to develop bodily health and strength in order to be able to do good deeds inspired by a healthy mind, to fight evil deeds fostered by an unhealthy mind, and to wage war against the handicaps, hurdles and hardships that are encountered in the search for righteousness. I have always endeavoured to make my body alert, industrious, active and supple. Even today, before my morning bath and before retiring at night I do some light exercises for a quarter of an hour. In the evening I take a two hour walk in the open air. I never leave my bedchamber without folding the sheets and blankets and tidying the room. I prepare and carry my own bath-water. I personally dust the ten cupboards, the table and the chairs in the library. I wash my own cups and saucers. I do not lord over servants by having them at my beck and call. I prefer to be my own servant and fulfil my duties with great pleasure. I make it a point to move about as much as possible in the house on some errand or mission. The demon of laziness is forever grumbling because I never let him succeed in his knavish contrivances to drag me backwards from an energetic and industrious life.

My working day is very long. It begins at dawn and stretches to ten at night. In the afternoon I rest at my desk for an hour or so. In between, three or four times I go into the compound for about fifteen minutes and pluck the dry leaves [650] off the plants, dig and weed or do something and refresh myself in the garden. Recently my wife makes me play carrom or chess or bezique with the dear ones at home with the intention of affording me some mental relaxation.

The greater part of the day, of course, is spent in writing whatever book is in hand. Some time passes in preparing for the lectures that have to be delivered now and again. Side by side with all this, in order to continue to develop the mind constantly. I lay aside the regular writing work for an hour or two and busy myself with general reading. My reading is mostly in English and a part of it in Gujarati. The subject matter of my reading ranges from fiction to philosophy. Every day I read a few pages from two or sometimes three books a time. Together with reading that demands concentrated attention, I read for pleasure, books that are simple and light but sound. Whatever I find of value and of use for possible future reference during my reading I Jot down on a slip of paper.

Many people have a habit of making notes on the books they are reading or of marking them, without caring in the least whether the books belong to them or to others. Many have taken books from my personal library which are returned with copious marginal notes or heavily underlined in red and blue pencil. The best of people do this. Once a reverend father of the Episcopalian Church borrowed a volume of the "Hastings Encyclopaedia of Religions and Ethics”. When it was returned I looked through it, after he had left and found that the pages he had read, had notes in ink which were characteristic of his temperament with frequent markings along the margins. It is a pity that gentlemen who are considered wise and venerable see no wrong in thus misusing books belonging to others.

[651] Man is a forgetful creature. Many a time my borrowed books are never returned. In some homes even goats and sheep munch their pages.

I enjoy the monopoly of preparing parcels for the whole family's mail that has to be sent abroad. It has always been my role to cover the children's school-books and to sew the pages of their exercise books. Forty-four years ago when I had gone to Bombay to study at the Madressah for three years, I would come to Karachi during the vacation. During that period I would prepare exercise books that would last throughout my four months' absence. When it was decided that I was to go to America for four years, I left behind me a huge pile of such books, working at them every night, months ahead. At times I felt that I was fostering a lazy habit in the children in that they were prevented from gaining experience by making their own books. In my enthusiasm for work I was serving selfish ends and was unwittingly harming the children. Now I teach them how to make their own books.

Ahura Mazda has bestowed on man innumerable blessings and gifts that can be put to use. All that He asks in return is that man should utilize them and not waste them wantonly. In the fifth stanza of the Vendidad [Vd5.60] it is stated that the young lady spinning at the wheel is strictly commanded not to waste even a tuft of wool on the spindle. In this machine-age man manufactures a great deal, utilizes much and wastes a great deal also. Wealth has increased in the world, the rich class has increased. But misery and wretchedness have also increased and the ranks of starving people craving for stale bread is growing every day throughout the world. To put up a false show, to spend extravagantly and carelessly and to indulge [652] in wastage seems to be symbolic of modern greatness. Careful spending, cautious expenditure and thrift are looked upon as being miserly, niggardly and worthy of ridicule.

I am most grateful for God's many gifts. Just as I use the precious things of life with care, I expend the same caution in utilizing minor things. The fact that millions of men are deprived of even the smallest blessings that fall to my lot never escapes me. I never have the heart to throwaway as useless the most insignificant thing that can be put to use. The blank sides of invitation cards are utilised for lecture notes. The rich and even many middle-class people use superior quality stationery for ordinary correspondence. If only a few lines are penned on the front page and the other three pages are blank. I preserve them for future use. Used envelopes are re-addressed and sent out. After the war of 1914-18 and more during the 1939-45 war, this system was introduced in Government offices. The good brown paper and string from shopping bags or parcels are preserved carefully. When necessary, I deem it valid to use five articles, but not a single thing do I use carelessly and unnecessarily. If there IS something lying about in the home due to the carelessness of others, I pick it up and put it to use. This has a double advantage. It is a sort of object lesson for children who do not value those things and throw them away and they are salvaged from the waste-paper basket and made use of. I revere the rule of the Vendidad and practise what is preached therein.

My life's partner, known as my other half, till the last day of her life carried not only half, but more than half the burden of my existence. I have never been bothered with the running of the household, nor have I known the responsibility of getting my children married. Since forty-three years I have not been to the market nor have I climbed the steps [653] of any shop. I have never known the price of wheat or ghee. I only know that money slips through my fingers what happens to it afterwards I am unaware of. I pass on the envelope of a gratuity of five rupees or a purse of five thousand, unopened to the Finance Minister of the home. t have neither a bank account nor an invested capital. I am not burdened with any such responsibility. Moreover, if money were in my charge I do not possess the know-how of saving it. All too easily it goes out of my pocket only to rest in another's. Should I be writing in the compound and someone appears on the scene with a tale of woe-or should some fakir in loose flowing robes recount his misery adding that there were many of his kind in Karachi but the reason for not approaching them but coming to me instead was that he had heard many good things said of me and besides I belonged to the lineage of Noshirwan how could I remain silent? If there is anything in my pocket it is immediately handed over to him. But my pockets were forever empty, so I would have to persuade my treasurer. At first she would invest the visitor with encomiums of 'good-for-nothing,' 'lazy-bones' and other like epithets while I would plead on behalf of my guest, drawing attention to his dignified personality, his imposing beard and his judgelike attire, hinting that at least five rupees were due to him. With great difficulty she would compromise at parting with one rupee. I would retort that it ill-befitted the giver as well as the receiver. But failing effect, the deal was settled at one rupee and the poor man departed with threats not to come again. Such feigned list-bearers did not fare welt at her hands. Although I did not deal in finances I was well respected. My Minister of Finance was not popular but the treasury was safe in her charge. Had it been under my control it would have been empty in no time. [654]

Sages have said that it is better to listen than to speak. Listening offers much knowledge and great gain. My wife's constant complain was that 1 talked more with a visitor than I1istened to him. There was no denying the accusation. This was not because I desired to exhibit my eloquence. Nor was I so proud as to imagine that my words had greater value than those of my guest. The fact was that thirty-two years ago there were strong articles against me in the newspapers of Bombay and Karachi. Because I never replied to these publicly, a great deal of misunderstanding ensued. When my admirers visited me, they naturally touched upon topics that were being discussed about me. Hence I deemed it appropriate to explain my opinions at length. This was to my advantage also. The person who listened spoke to five others who conveyed my true ideas to fifty. On the whole I led a secluded life. I never visited anyone, did not dine at Navjotes or weddings, did not attend any other function except lectures and public gatherings hence there was no opportunity of conversing with people. Consequently, when visitors called on me I had a chance of talking to them and I took full advantage of it. Despite all excuses, it is true that it is wiser to listen than to speak.

It is common knowledge that during this present war-period letters coming from abroad are minutely censored before they reach us. What I say and what I write is never publicised, not only in war-time but in peace-time also before it passes through my wife's censorship. I ask her to read through all my articles and I discuss them with her. Only then are they published. Whenever I am to talk on controversial questions I never appear on the stage without consulting her and giving a detailed account of the pros and cons of my arguments to my censor. Usually we agree but at times when we do not and I am determined to put my [655] plans into practice, then just as our provincial governors and viceroys exert their authority to veto a proposition, I exercise my right and work against her wishes. But on the whole my greatest pleasure is to present my speeches and articles to her ladyship and to win her loving approval. In all our public undertakings the love-lit guidance of our most beloved partner in private life infuses eagerness and enthusiasm, courage and strength into our veins. Winston Churchill rehearses his memorable speeches that are to be delivered in parliament to his wife at home before wending his way towards the House of Commons. Not only do hen-pecked husbands behaved in this manner but all wise folk do.

Children play with man-made toys and we play with God's living toys. Wherever there is a child, there is laughter, rejoicing, song and dance. A child is the fragrant flower in the garden of humanity. A child is an angel walking on earth in human form. His sweet babble and prattle wipe away sorrow and pain and bring a smile in place of a tear. He delights us with his pranks and regales us. A child is our most precious treasure, our love's wealth and our sweetest joy. A child is a king and albeit a selfless king. We must be prepared to serve him. He is guided by his inner urges and reigns at will.

I may be engaged in the most important work or immersed in deep thought but my darling grandchildren rush into the room, without either seeking permission to enter or caring to knock and perch upon my desk. Should they imagine that there are errors in my articles, they take the pencil from my hand and put scratches across the pages. Hence I. too momentarily set aside any article that I may be writing on philosophy, ethics or sociology and become a child amongst children and join in their childlike glee, speak their childlike language, [656] sing their songs, play and laugh with them and send away my child-friends happy and full of fun. I then set to work once again.

Our religion pours sweetness, fragrance, enthusiasm and hope into existence to prepare us for a good life, an industrious life, and a successful life. To make life worth living I am ever eager to accept all that God and men have to offer. I recognize the need for physical rest after hours of hard work and of mental relaxation after concentrated study. In spite of living in a city I prefer the simple country life and the refreshing sight of green fields. I endeavour to create such an environment around me. In my compound I have planted small trees which enclose a 15x20 feet area. A bamboo roof with entwining creepers serves as a canopy. A wooden gate opens into the enclosure wherein is arranged some rustic furniture. Once within this palm-grove naught is visible save greenery, hence I have given to this cozy recess its Persian appellation 'Nakhlistan'. Enfolded in its seclusion I read and write in solitude. All my books have been prepared there. I had built a tiny wooden rustic bridge over the water that overflows from flower beds. I try to create a village atmosphere midst city dwelling and alter the arrangement from time to time. Subjects may ask for a great deal but can a government meet all their demands? Similarly I have to restrict my whims and fancies and keep my hobbies within the budget provided by my Finance Minister.

I maintain a small aquarium of gold and silver fish. I enjoy watching them swim and dive and twist and turn. There is always a parrot or a canary or a cockatoo in the house but I keep birds in the garden too. A large cage is filled with fifteen or twenty birds of brightly coloured feathers having melodious voices. Another contains various parrots. Once a snake was found in the bird-cage, lying [657] listless after having swallowed a sparrow. I had uprooted a small tree and transplanted it in the parrot-cage. Eight parrots flitted gaily from branch to branch. I painted it to blend with the surrounding foliage. The next morning the first thing to meet my eyes was the sight of three dead parrots and the rest in a faint. They had eaten the paint. Such misfortunes had to be surmounted frequently.

When we talk of beautiful song-birds, something must be said about crows also. Disrespectful man has disdainfully scorned these poor creatures as 'natures' scavengers'. They too fulfil their purpose in life. If we watch a herd of cattle resting, we notice that the cows and bullocks remain still with their mouths fixed to the ground and just as monkeys pick lice from the heads of tigresses and cats and eat them thus cleaning those animals, crows clear the dirt from the eyes, ears and noses of cattle and swallow it. Their service does not end there. It extends to the lion who is called the king of animals and also to his minister, the tiger. These wild beasts prey upon the deer and the stag and in doing so bits of membrane get entangled in their teeth. They cannot pounce upon other prey until these pieces are removed, so they lie helplessly on their backs with their mouths wide open and the crows pick their teeth and feast on the flesh. We constantly bemoan, "It is a selfish world". This weakness applies to the animal kingdom as well. The lion and the tiger need the service of the humble crow. Therefore it is but natural that both work in co-operation.

In childhood we had learnt a poem: 'No one keeps a crow as a pet' - Gujarati quote Whether we keep them or not, these humble creatures are so good and so noble that they come uninvited and crow on our window-sill and offer us their companionship. About seven happy families build their nests in the branches of our banyan and neem trees. [658] When the whole family comes and perches on our balcony they number about thirty and regale us with their tricks. As soon as we step out with a slice of bread between our fingers they swoop down from every nook and corner and vie with each other so strenuously to win the prize that even the most sulky person cannot but smile and join in the frolic. At times they tease us by carrying away a gold or silver fish floating on the surface of the water in the tank. It is safest to pamper them and not to annoy them. They are most vindictive and pester him who dares to displease them. Even from a group of ten or fifteen they recognise their victim and arrest his movements. They flutter around him and, opportunity arising, peck at his pate or pluck his hair. I keep them satisfied so they are very friendly with me.

The cuckoo who is reared in the cradle of the crow is equally black, but because of its enchanting tone is everyone's pet. She swings on the branch of our banyan tree and sings sweetly. I stand at the window and whistle in response to her call. She coos back more lovingly making my heart dance with joy and brings peace to my mind.

I delight in the fun and frolic of seasonal birds and perennial squirrels. It is a real pleasure to watch aquatic birds play on the surface of the water. Their wings flutter as they dance and dive and enjoy their daily dip. With their own beaks they clean and comb their beautiful feathers. The sight is more ravishing than that of a maiden standing before a triple-mirrored dressing-table, brushing her lovely tresses.

The gentle breeze swaying the boughs refresh and regale the winged creatures perched on the branches. A mother rocks and lulls her baby to sleep. Before man learned to live on the ground in huts and tents he had his abode in rocks and caves [659] and even on trees. We had tied a hammock onto a strong branch of our neem tree. Formerly I used to lie in it and read in the company of my winged companions. Quiet contemplation under a canopy of greenery gives solace to the mind. The music of moving winds arouses strange and pleasant emotions in my heart.

In the Zoroastrian faith it is considered virtuous to exterminate creatures like snakes and scorpions that defile the environment. They are known as "Gujarati quote" ‘kharvaster'. People who lead an impious life are given the same epithet in the Gathas. Kharvaster is a misnomer applied to mischievous young boys. The mouse is also classed amongst creatures worthy of extermination as it breeds plague and it creeps into the edible cargo of ships that sail from port to port and spreads germs and infectious diseases. We had been taught that a cat is a blessing to the home so we had one too. The dog and the cat are not on friendly terms normally but as they had the same headquarters day and night they lived in co-operation in our house. Besides common cats thrice we kept Persian cats as pets. As these come via Basra they are known as 'Basrai Biladis' but the best pedigree comes from Kurdistan in Iran. They are most beautiful to behold. The frolicking of cats and kittens too gives me great joy.

The sight of bunnies with upright ears and silken fur romping and hopping around happily is also extremely delightful. I kept them as pets too. While blessing someone with an increase of progeny it is commonly said: "May one become twenty-one". Rabbits rapidly fulfil this wish. They soon inhabited our whole compound, nibbled at the saplings and pestered the gardener by digging into rose-beds and uprooting the jasmine creepers. So our companionship ended. [660]

In this scientific age man has honoured the monkey above all other animals. From the time of Darwin, the great discoverer, he has been considered as man's forebear and ancestor. His companionship too I cultivated. He had the knack of enlivening the most miserable person, so he spent ten years in our home. Suddenly one day he broke his chain and set himself free. Having won his freedom after a lengthy imprisonment he escaped as fast as he could. He jumped from roof to roof and broke many a neighbour's tiles. Upon entering some home he must have been annoyed to find cups and saucers scattered about hence he ventured to break them into bits. After a great deal of difficulty we managed to capture him and tried to secure him with a stronger chain. But now there was a great change in his temperament. Having once tasted the joys of liberty he could not endure bondage. He became irritable and bit someone, so my wife packed him off to the Municipal veterinary. This candidate for humanity who can make a miserable man forget his woes is indeed superb. He has made me wiser.

Of all animals the dog is my most faithful and favourite friend. Nearly seven decades ago when I first set foot in Karachi we had in our home a snow white dog named Tipu. Since then there has never been a day when our home has not harboured one, two, three or even four dogs at a time. Tipu, Tiger, Tom, Rover, Mickey, Maru, Moti, Sam, Hailey, Fiddle, Blacky, Jackie, Ginger and various such spaniels, terriers, boxers, have been my four-footed friends at intervals. Although the Vendidad has been written long after Zarathushtra it deals with the pre-Zarathushtrian pastoral age. Three full stanzas describe the dog's pedigree, his temperament, habits and many other details. A dog's eight main tendencies have been described. A dog's characteristics depend upon his pedigree. It is stated that he possesses varied qualities of a religious [661] leader, a warrior, a farmer, a minstrel, a thief, a plunderer, a prostitute and a child. We can study these carefully through our close association with him. Every evening when I go far a walk he leaps with joy and joins me in my jaunt. The two hours of comradeship afford all kinds of amusement. If he encounters his kith and kin en route, his behaviour varies with the kind of dog he meets. Should the dog be stronger than himself, he behaves in a particular manner; if weaker, in another way. If he sees a cat it is quite different. He pounces upon the crabs that play on the sea-shore, but if they defy him he is scared and romps around in circles and barks. Such diverse attitudes make me smile with joy. The physical benefit I derive from the fresh air and the exercise is matched with the mental relaxation through their frolics and I return home healthier in body and in mind.

Our home is alive with the joyful co-existence of birds and beasts.

How fascinating is Nature! How wonderful is its variety! She attracts every passer-by. She calls to those who are favoured by fortune as well as those upon whom it frowns. She beckons to the poor and to the suffering. Her invitation reaches the unhappy, the unsuccessful and the unwanted. She caresses all the miserable ones who regard life to be a curse and wipes away their tears with her affectionate embrace. Nature does not recognise man-made barriers between the rich and the poor. Position and rank play no part in her domain. She considers every individual, from the prince to the pauper, to be equal and proclaims that each one has an even claim on her. She directs one and all to be happy, to dance and sing and laugh and play. She wins every heart. She enjoins on all to drink their fill from the overflowing fountain of peace and to take from it all that it has to offer. She gives endlessly. Day and [662] night she pours out all she has on everyone and yet she loses nothing her sources are ever replenished. She gives to all in a single breath gives generously and blindly in a thousand ways. She is a giver. It rests with the receiver to know how to take. A skilled artist paints a beautiful picture with great labour and critics look at it. They view it with concentration, admire It and find happiness. Nature's artist goes on painting wonderful pictures at dawn and at dusk every day The sight of four white celestial steeds drawing the chariot of Mihr Yazad to meet Khurshed Yazad as he sinks into the sea or as he rises above the horizon is such that gladdens the heart of the onlooker. The gorgeous oriental sunset described and admired by travellers are Ahura Mazda's daily work of superb art offered as a gift to the world. Before one can absorb one exquisite scene it changes form and colour and presents another even more beautiful. My heart leaps with happiness to behold the variety of inspiring shades and shapes.

The 'Sirius' (Tishtar Tir star) that brings showers of refreshing rain is recognised by everyone since olden times. Innumerable beings have faith in it, in varying degrees while some even bear a grudge against it. God's bounteous gift of food is under its jurisdiction. It does not pour down its benediction equally on all. Such complaints are universal and of ancient origin. The Persian poet who composed the 'Tir Yasht' two thousand five hundred years ago bears witness to this. It is stated therein that birds and insects, cattle and sheep, beasts and men strain their eyes heavenwards and appeal to Sirius to come down in torrents to refresh the thirsty earth. But the poet says that at the same time the faithful are forewarned. Only those who have suffered can fathom the pain. The worshippers of Sirius have endured great hardships. Their experience is that it is benevolent to some and harsh with others. Even while [663] he prays the devotee doubts whether Sirius will heed his pleadings or pass him by.

Karachi does not come within the orbit of its grace. While it blesses its favoured Bombay which lies five hundred miles across the Arabian Sea with an average rainfall of seventy to eighty inches, it is not gracious enough to give even seven or eight to Karachi. Sometimes it grants barely two or three inches throughout the year, while at others it completely neglects this main aerial gateway of India.

In a city where its advent is so rare, whenever it does make its welcome appearance I put away my reading and writing and sit by the window watching the frolic of the drizzle, the light shower or the downpour and listen to its pitter patter on the roof, I do not fail to reap its blessing to the fullest capacity.

The Greater has drowned mankind in His magnificent ocean of beauty. The sky and the sun and the moon and the stars, land and water, trees and birds and beats and all creation captivate him and give him peace and joy and make life worth living. I long to sink into Nature's loveliness, to unite with its elegance and to absorb its inspiration. When I sit beside a waterfall or watch the play of light breezes on the green fields I lose myself in their exquisite charm and fall into an ecstasy that makes me oblivious of space and time.

Since youth I have sought the companionship of Nature's serenity. From 1901- 1904, while I was studying at the Bombay Madressah, every Sunday I set out from home at three for Andheri and walked to the railway station. With the enthusiasm of a child eager to win a window seat, I stepped into an empty third-class compartment and sat at its extreme end watching the scenery outside [664] as the train glided by. On reaching Andheri I would climb a high hill in the distance and sit there in solitude under the shade of a tall palm tree. Here my mind strided the stallion of fantasy and stalked around. I was steeped in thought and dreamed day-dreams and at eventide, with a mind as light and fresh as a flower I took the train back home.

This habit of remaining rapt in thought gave birth to absent-mindedness from a very tender age. With the waxing of woolgathering, the power of observation and prompt decision waned. Forty two years ago I was to deliver a lecture in Bombay one evening. Dressing in haste, I put on my shoes and stockings and tucked the ends of my pyjamas into the socks, but forgot to wear the apparel that goes over the pyjamas. I walked out of the house and while the people encountered on the way greeted me, it seemed as though they were staring at my legs. Wondering why folks were becoming so critical I cast a glance downwards to examine myself. No wonder my attire shocked my admirers for I looked like a jockey. Immediately I wended my way homewards, put on the additional garment and went to the new Atashbehram to deliver my lecture four minutes later than the appointed hour.

Such blunders occurred frequently. A loving couple cooperates in filling the gaps and eliminating deficiencies in each other's characters. Common-sense and quick-wittedness were highly developed in my consort so she was always my saving-grace. Many a humourous event has been recorded in the annals of history. It is said of Archimedes, the renowned mathematician and scientist, that he was always so immersed in thought that at times he had no idea of what he was doing or of what was going on around him. One day he went to a public bath. While he was bathing he was contemplating upon a problem that had been puzzling him. Suddenly, to his immense [665] joy, the problem that had been tormenting him since days was solved. He had found the required result. He came to the surface immediately, rushed out of the bath completely naked and ran towards his home shouting 'Eureka'. Seeing their wise and learned co-citizen in such a condition the passersby were filled with fear. Everyone came to the conclusion that their great genius had lost his mental balance. Deeply grieved, they followed him. Seeing the crowd, the fact of his ungainly condition dawned on the scientist. His wife should not have sent her puzzled spouse alone to the public bath.

Whenever I dressed and stepped out of the house my devoted partner never failed to scrutinize me from head to foot. Many a time I failed in this daily test. Sometimes the collar would be unbuttoned or the bows of my 'jama' unevenly tied, or the 'pichodi' loose, or the shoe-lace ill-knotted. But at times the devil played major tricks on me. Should I forget to place over my shoulders my shawl which was a symbol of my high-priestship, it would mean the harbinger of calamity. Should Karachi's enthusiastic news-reporter of my 'pet' Bombay paper see me in such a state and dash off a telegram to Bombay, the following day's daily would print in bold type 'The Zoroastrians of Karachi have dethroned Dastur Dhalla from his dasturship'.

A set of false dentures has replaced the thirty'; two genuine teeth that Nature had gifted me with. When Satan is in a tantalizing mood I forget to wear my dentures on lecture days!

My wife always advised me to glance into the mirror after dressing to confirm that all was well. One day I said quietly: 'The mirror is meant for ladies for applying powder, paste, lip-stick, rouge and vanishing cream to the face, for penciling plucked eye-brows and for shadowing eye-lashes with [666] mascara; if there be a bun for fixing ten or fifteen hair-pins or if short-hair needs to be set, for sticking forty to fifty curlers, or for manicuring long and pointed nails like a tiger's claws as worn by Shivaji".

"Hm, is that so? And for whom do women go to all this trouble? For ourselves or for our men folk? Can you answer me?" was her quick retort.

Reply? How could I reply? What could I say? I had no words to answer her. I remained silent.

The truth is that the descendents of Adam and Eve, primarily for protection against the weather and later, for the sake of modesty began to cover themselves with leaves, hides and finally with clothes. Man has a keen sense of beauty, so he began to adorn himself with clothes. The evolution of clothing reveals that even today we do not dress merely for personal comfort and pleasure but to appear more handsome and pleasing to the spectator. Since man has established his authority over women from ancient times, he demands from her what he wills. It pleased him to see a woman garbed in becoming garments. So, to be admired and adored by men, women adopted colourful clothes and decked themselves with a variety of ornaments. Two thousand years ago Pliny writes about Rome that from the pearl fisheries stretching between India and Arabia, pearls worth a hundred million sesterces (coins) are imported into his country. He complains that the nation's epicureans and its women are such a drain on the country. There were times when even men dressed foppishly and flippantly merely to appear dandyish in the eyes of their lady-love. They dyed their beards and hair with henna, wore diamond earrings and hung ropes of pearls around their necks. Only [667] recently did it dawn on them that such ornamentation ill became their kind and they abandoned the habit. The custom of adorning the body, that has come down from the days of Adam and will continue until the Day of Judgement, is a natural tendency. Men are indeed responsible for setting women in front of the mirror.

It is also a fact that people's positions and behaviour are evaluated by their attire. This has been our constant experience. A single example will suffice. In the days of the Zoroastrian Conference when we visited Bombay every year, our friends arranged for our accommodation with some kind family. Twice we stayed at the residence of the late Maneckji Cowasjee Petit. He was a happy and jolly person. His hobby was to keep small mechanical gadgets in his home and make things. Once he made a small sandalwood replica of a 2 feet dome of the Atashbehram, placed a fire-urn and the figure of a Mobed offering incense and a bell hanging on one side in the centre all of sandal-wood and presented it to Professor Dr. Jackson. Whenever he stepped out of the house from his personal 'mini-factory' naturally some sawdust would cling to his clothes. In his home attire of shorts and shirt-sleeves, he did not look like the master of the house. Some Parsi stranger came from abroad one day to meet him On entering the house and encountering Maneckji, the stranger asked somewhat haughtily "Is your Master at home"?

"Yes sir, He is inside. Please be seated", So saying Maneckji took the visiting card from the guest and went in.

He donned his suit, came out and to the astonishment and discomfort of the visitor, announced politely: "Sir, I am the Master. I am Maneckji Petit himself". [668]

This much is therefore certain that though we may wear clean and simple clothes these must be donned carefully and in a proper manner.

Pahlavi writers, as well as foreign authors, amongst whom are Shahrastani and Makhurd in the East and Pliny and others in the West, have written that it is common knowledge that a new-born child cries at birth; but they state, Zarathushtra, contrary to nature's law, laughed when he was born. We are told in the Pahlavi Denkard and Zadspram that Zarathushtra laughed as he saw the light of day because 'Vohumano', God's divine messenger of joy. resided in the mind of the holy child. Sometimes a smile plays around the lips of a sleeping babe and our older women say: "Vahmai is making him laugh" - 'Vahmai' is but a misnomer of Vohumano. Those whom 'Vahmai' regales from time to time are truly blessed. Joyous laughter is the panacea for worry, intranquillty, agitation, anxiety, alarm, fear, failure, despair. distress, suffering and sorrow. A smiling countenance is evidence of man's inner serenity and tranquility. Life's laughter and merrier moments make a man healthy in mind and body. Joy is a God-given gift. Zarathushtra states that Ahura Mazda's bliss is in his mind. Zarathushtra teaches us to be happy, light-hearted and full of joy. A true Zoroastrian is ever cheerful, happy, enthusiastic and optimistic.

I exploit laughter whole-heartedly. I laugh without restraint while reading a humorous book or watching a comedy. It is also true that my eyes soon fill with tears reading a sad story or looking at a tragic play or picture.

Diverse professions require different temperaments and qualifications from its adherents. From the law-giver and the religious leader it asks for seriousness. I know how to be serious, dignified and poised when occasion demands. When I was [669] studying at the Columbia University Professor Jackson often told me: "Young man, you are a philosopher". This was not inspired by a face that beams only on the new-moon day or by a serious countenance that reflects the world's burdens. He had observed that I always endeavoured to be composed, calm and patient midst changing circumstances of hope or despair, success or failure, joy or sorrow, gladness or grief.

In the Gathas Zarathushtra calls heaven 'Garothman' or 'the abode of song', Music has the magic power to soothe sorrow and grief and, with sweetness and affection, to turn disharmony and discord into delight. Song is God's great and divine gift to man to lend hope, courage, solace and serenity to life. The melody that flows from a musical throat brings peace to a troubled mind. My childhood's love for singing and for listening to music remains as fresh as ever. Some time was spent in my youth learning to strum on the concer1ina and the violin and to play the harmonium, but I had neither the patience nor the perseverance to master these skills, so I gave up playing but I am always eager to listen to others and take delight in their performances.

Honour does not elate me nor am I dejected by insults. I do not bear a grudge or harbour any hostility against those who criticise me or wreak vengeance upon me. I have wronged no one. No man is my enemy. Yet frequently the phrase slips out of my lips, 'May God be good to the foe as well". Vindictiveness, enmity and envy are beyond me. Courtesy and civility are my companions. The young and the old, the poor and the rich, the illiterate and the educated are all addressed with respect. Since the last forty-three years at least, I do not recall addressing a servant, a barber, a launderer or a sweeper with 'thee' or 'thou'. I have forgotten to use these expressions even when [670] talking in endearing terms to my loved ones or while playing with children: 'Thou, 'thee' and 'thine' are words used for Ahura Mazda and holy Zarathushtra alone. All this may seem extreme or even strange and queer to the listener. But because of habit formed over the years it has become impossible for me to address disrespectfully even a two-year-old child or an individual of the lowest rungs of society regarded as an untouchable.

Persian writers have compared this world to a caravanserai wherein man rests a while in his journey between birth and death. In Karachi we have two Sezde-gah-ravan bungalows and there are many such at the Tower of Silence in Bombay. Similar ones in Iran are known as jandomurg 'birth and death'. The corpse is brought here before it is placed in its final resting place. In doing so the corpse is carried in through an entrance and taken out of the exit as though to signify that at birth man enters this mortal inn through one gateway and at death leaves it through another. After gaining admittance into this transient tavern we have to do a great deal of work during our short sojourn on earth. Time is short. If God can grant my wish that the days be lengthened and nights curtailed, it would be my constant prayer. Should I happen to awake in the dead of night and find it is but one or two o'clock, I feel sad, but if it be three or three thirty I am happy knowing that dawn is approaching and is bringing with it the opportunity to work. My beloved lady behaves in quite a contrary manner. She is happy if the time for sleep is of longer duration and sad when morning comes.

My uncle had believed that he would quit this world at sixty eight but he lived for another twenty years. At present I am seventy-one. Like my uncle I want to live two more decades. From our home recently two elderly people have passed [671] away at short intervals. My sister left us at eighty two after a brief illness of barely five days. My wife had brought her mother to our home after her father's death twenty years ago. At a hundred and four, in complete possession of her physical and mental faculties she has bid us 'good-bye' and has gone to her heavenly abode, having lived a happy life and being in bed for hardly four days. The blessing of longevity seems to have been bestowed on us. And I too like to live many more years. It is true that I am already advanced in age, but my youthful enthusiasm has not abated my zest for work has not dimmed. My sense of hearing is beginning to diminish otherwise I am physically quite strong and sound, my mind is active and my heart is eager. My life's work is not yet over. Work is the food of life. I am interested and happy in my work. I live to work and work keeps me alive. There is never any dearth of work for those who are willing to work. Of late my beloved does not let me work in artificial light in order to preserve my eye-sight. Of course on an average I do get nine or ten hours to read and write from dawn to dusk, so I utilise the later hours in preparing for the next day's work and pondering upon it. Plato completed his philosophical writings at 81. Sophocles wrote his last book, 'Panathenaicus' at 94. I too wish to follow in their footsteps and continue to write to a ripe old age.

Longevity may be my desire, but man's wish to live does not ensure his life. Hence the pattern of my work is not dependent upon my hope to live long. Ever since Russia published its Five-year-plan, talk of five-year work schemes is heard from all quarters. A nation or a public institution can draw up such a programme of work, because if one of the organizers leaves another takes his place and prevents the project from failing. But an individual cannot afford to work on those lines. Therefore I do not make five or seven year plans. Before the [672] day's work is done I draw up an agenda for the hours between yesterday and tomorrow.

Before one book is completed I find myself pondering upon the next. This 'Atma Katha' is coming to an end. (1942) I have already drawn up a mental picture of the subject, structure contents of my next book. By the time this book is printed and published, a major portion of the next must already be penned. The title of this new English Book will be 'Ancient Iranian literature'. But that will not be my last book. The names of the books to follow have certainly been written on the plaque of my mind. King Darius in describing his splendid adventures in the memorable inscriptions on Mount Behistun adds that he has achieved much more than what has been noted, but he has detered from describing the entire events fearing that future readers may think them exaggerated. Even so, keeping before me the rule to announce less but to accomplish more, I have deemed it wise not to express in too many words the details of the works that are to flow from my pen during the next decade.

At the end of a book is normally written the "The End". This book of mine, 'Atma Katha' "The Saga of a Soul" ends here, but the composition of the song of my soul goes on. At some appropriate moment in the future I may continue to relate the story of my life. Meanwhile my finale to this book will be: 'Continued'.

"Invoking God's guidance".

With this article in the beginning of 1942 published the first edition of my Atma Katha.


Chapter LXIII


My wife's form and features were such as to beguile the beholder. Her cheerful and smiling countenance and her numerous activities led people to believe that she was the embodiment of health. Yet it was not so. Half her life was spent in pain. For forty years she had been sustained on medicines, injections and x-rays. For many years doctors had diagnosed her ailment to be colic. Later they were of the opinion that there was a blood-clot in her stomach. It would grow with age and some day it would burst suddenly, causing instantaneous death. Yet they had come to the conclusion that it was inadvisable to operate upon her. From time to time she suffered acute pain but as soon as it passed, due to her restless temperament she was immediately engrossed in her social engagements and public duties. Consequently her delicate health received little attention. Wherever I went to deliver my lectures she was always by my side. Thus she had voyaged four times to Europe and America, once to Iran and Iraq and once to China and Japan.

1942 was the sixty-fifth and final year of her life. She had experienced two major joys in that year. One was the immense satisfaction of seeing my 'Atma Katha' published. She had had the pleasure of reading passages of praise that had flowed in from all quarters.

Together with that she had been granted the strength to hold in her hands and to caress lovingly the first American edition of my 'Homage unto Ahura Mazda', for which she had been yearning. This small book caused us two years of great anxiety. In 1940, within three months, the press [674] composed the whole matter and forwarded the proofs to me which I received after three and a half months. There was trouble in sending back the proofs after scrutinizing them. The Post Office refused to accept them. At last they left Karachi with the sanction of the Reserve Bank; but, instead of reaching New York, the ship that was carrying the scripts was torpedoed and the Atlantic Ocean accepted them as an offering. After some time at the end of 1941 the press informed me that the book was ready and that the case containing the books would be forwarded by the first ship heading for Karachi. Fearing that some untoward incident may occur again in the ocean, I had the forethought of cabling to them to send me ten or fifteen advance copies of the book by registered post These arrived and my wife was able to greet them. Had they not come she would have left this world pining for them. It took four months for the ship to bring 1he books to Karachi. It arrived safely in the harbour, the case was unloaded, but at the last minute an unexpected obstacle was put in the way of handing it over to us. A protest was raised that the money that had been sent for the printing and binding of the books from Bombay through the Bombay branch of the City Bank of New York and through the Reserve Bank of India was illegal. Due to this the Collector of Imports delayed the delivery of the books and levied a fine of one thousand rupees on them. So the books that had reached almost our doorstep could not be handed over to us until the objection was cleared. The objection could not be cleared at this end so a correspondence commenced with the Government at Delhi. Taking into consideration the fact that the book dealt with religious matters and that its copies were for free distribution, the fine was waived. This news reached us after a month and my wife heard the glad tidings. The next anxiety was to clear the case from the docks and to bring it home. It did arrive eventually, but my wife did not live to [675] hear the good news; for, strange as it may seem, while she was breathing her last the case was carried into the compound.

In June 1942 we were living in the Hotel at Malir. She was in good health. On Wednesday, the 24th we lunched as usual and sat chatting happily and discussing various matters. She then rose to go to the wash-room. She had barely taken a few steps when suddenly a little blood oozed from her mouth. She immediately surmised what the result would be. To her it was a sign of impending danger. She told us at once that it was not wise to remain in Malir any longer but to return home. We made immediate arrangements to return to Karachi. As a precaution she motored those ten miles in a reclining position. On reaching home the doctor examined her, prescribed some medicine, gave her some injections and instructed her to lie flat on her back without any movement. On leaving he informed us in confidence that the case was extremely serious.

She remained calm for quite a while and, with a smiling face put her hand in mine affectionately and said: "Hold on to me. Do not let me go. Do not let me die. There is much more work for me to do." But I could not hold her back. I could not prevent her from leaving. I could not stop her from death. I could not fulfil her wish to let her live and to work.

We pretended to make light of her remarks and tried to cheer her and to give her courage. She relaxed under the effect of the medicine. Half the night passed restlessly then she vomited blood. The time was drawing near for the fear of past years to become a reality. We tried to console her that the vomit was an omen that all is well and that God will assuage all her ailments. But the truth was that death was hovering over her and [676] whispering to her that her sojourn on earth was at an end. The vomit was the death blow dealt by the axe of the executioner.

The doctor administered more drastic treatment and gave her morphia so that she may lie perfectly still. Thus morning came and she uttered a few words in a semi-conscious state, but the doctor drugged her again. He gave up hope as evening fell. Her expectation to live and to do much more work was shattered. The noble intentions bubbling in her heart were lulled to eternal rest.

A death-like silence pervaded the home. We sat around staring at her. Gradually her face turned pale and serene. The ever-cheerful demeanour was losing its glow. The ever-laughing eyes were losing their glamour and her vision was dimmed. The flame of life was flickering. My dearest beloved breathed her last, Life flowed out of her body. The empty shell remained. She found the bliss of heaven.

After sixty years of constant companionship and cooperation my co-partner who had made our wedded life more fragrant and beautiful left me and went her way. United in thought and deed, the fabric of our lives was woven with the warp and the woof of sublime love. We had lived a life of mutual understanding and devotion and our twin lives had mingled, making us one in form and one in spirit. The co-mingling of our lives was the completeness of our love-lit existence. The queen of my heart was ever willing to lay down her cherished life at the feet of her beloved lord and master. Our home, brimful with love and laughter was shattered. It was overshadowed by a canopy of darkness. Death's void filled the atmosphere. With the stopping of the heart-beats of my ever-faithful co-mate who had always given me [677] warmth and courage, the thread of all my hopes and ambitions snapped within seconds. My heart-strings were strained to the utmost. Tears refused to give relief to my eyes, but my heart was wounded and it wept. And who can extinguish the flaming fire of the heart? With the ebb of the ocean of her affection and tenderness my heart which had eternally bathed in it became like a fish out of water, struggling for existence. The separation from her hurt me deeply. How would I be able to endure my loneliness? In the journey of life I would remain a lone wayfarer. No more would I hear her loving footsteps. In the Pahlavi Bundahishn it is written that a state of void lies between the good and bad spirits. My life became equally empty and meaningless. Whatever was noble in my life lost half its lustre. My heart became a wilderness. My world was drowned in the sea of oblivion.

What a terrifying word is 'death'! Man is ever absorbed in solving its mysteries and intent on unravelling its intricate complexities, but he can neither comprehend nor conjecture its enigma. When death whispers to kings and courtiers, heroes, hermits and prophets that their time has come, even such great personages follow him in silence. In this world death alone is invincible. Some look upon him as the Angel of Death but the majority believes he is man's most fatal foe and rightly so.

It is difficult to bear physical pain. Mental suffering is harder to endure. But the anguish of the heart is most distressing. The pain of death is heart-rending and unbearable. Wherever death's disagreeable footsteps descend there is mourning. Some moan and groan. Others attempt in vain to lighten the burden of their woe by sobbing and weeping some people pine until they die. Some beat their breasts, others wound their bodies. [678] Some tear their clothes, others pullout their hair. Amongst certain communities bewailing has become a social duty. Paid mourners join in the mourning of the relatives. Some stop clocks, reverse mirrors, empty water vessels. Many wear black as a symbol of their grief. The Vendidad mentions the duration of mourning according to the relationship of the deceased, yet at the same time has written against excessive mourning. It is stated in the Ardaviraf Nama that tears of grief form a stream that blocks the soul's progress to heaven! Greek writers like Homer, Aeschylus, Eurepedes and Plato are opposed to extreme mourning. Rightly does Shakespeare say that adequate grief is the privilege of the dead, whereas mourning beyond bounds is the enemy of the living. For the living there is no escape but to continue to live and to fulfil their obligations.

"What is to be, will be". Whatever is destined cannot be averted. There is no other way but to bow to the Will of the Creator. My mind wandered in various directions. I became steeped in the sea of thought. I was pensive and reflective and a diversity of thoughts raced through my mind. Religions of the world reminded me that our separation was not permanent. When the sands of my own life have run and I reach the shrine of the Almighty, we will meet again that will be the grand re-union. But that was a long way off. That distant hope brought no solace to my perturbed mind it gave me no relief. That would only mean that in my eagerness to meet my chaste and virtuous wife I should dislodge as early as possible from the camp of this living and vibrant earth and join the caravan that leads to the world of the dead. This was not to my liking. My desire was to live in this world, for my mission of life was not yet over. The longer I lived, the more could I serve the community, the country and the world at [679] large. I was eager to serve. That alone would bring joy to the soul of my beloved. I abandoned despair and courted hope. I reflected that it is true that she has become invisible physically she was far from me but in spirit we were still together. I resolved that henceforth my heart would reflect the flame of my beloved. The vision of her beautiful face would ever remain before my eyes. My former physical passion would turn to divine adoration. Her memory would be ingrained in my heart forever.

This is how I live from day to day and do not let the zest for life subside or evaporate. I belonged to her then and I am still hers. She is close to me even today. She is before me, she is by my side, she surrounds me. I believe that she is watching over me, encouraging me in my mission, blessing me and widening for me the pathway of life. With this faith in my heart I go on fulfilling the humble duty of my life. I remain engrossed in my work. Work is the goal of my life. Work is my religion.

I banished the atmosphere of mourning from my home. I succeeded in winning over my dear children to my way of thinking. My daughters and daughters-in-law did not wear black as was the custom of the community. In sacred and reverential memory of their dear, departed mother, within the very first month each member of the family stepped out of the house to perform his or her own individual mission of selfless service.


Chapter LXIV


In 1942 and 1943 two Parsi students studying at the Sophia College in Bombay were converted to Christianity with the purpose of renouncing worldly life. The question of their conversion was discussed in the community with intense emotion. Even other communities were distressed and a move to disaffiliate the College from the University and to disrecognize it, gained grave proportions. To add fuel to the fire our forceful, orthodox paper urged Parsi parents to withdraw their daughters from the institution. Not stopping at that, they made an ardent appeal to prevent our girls from attending any high school run by Christians in Bombay and all convents in other cities as well. As time passed correspondence and editorials airing various views appeared one after another. Under those circumstances we came across a letter written by the social worker, Mr. Burjorji Bharucha. In it he had suggested that I be invited to Bombay to deliver some lectures. After a few days we read a reply penned by Mr. Faramroze Kamdin supporting Mr. Bharucha's request. Not content with merely writing, he made a generous appeal to offer Rs. 700/— as expenses so as to give a practical bias to the suggestion. Reading this I felt that it would not be surprising if I were called upon to set aside my 'creative occupation' for a while and go to Bombay. Soon I received a letter from Mr. Pirojshah Mehta, Chairman of the Rahnumai Mazdayasnan Society, inviting me on behalf of the association to deliver a series of eight lectures at Bombay. I accepted the invitation and at the appointed time went to Bombay with my eldest daughter, Dinbanoo.

I was going to Bombay in response to the invitation from the Rahuumai Mazdayasnan Society to give eight lectures, but from my previous [681] experiences I knew that I would have to accept invitations from other organizations and deliver other talks as well. I therefore prepared the subject matter for fifteen lectures. As expected the number of talks increased and ultimately I delivered seventeen lectures in all.

The topics were practical as the times and circumstances demanded and such as would throw unbiased and scientific light on the perennial questions that were given a religious colour and which confounded the community. The atmosphere was rife with the question of the Sophia College conversion. Hence the topic of my first lecture was: "Today for the betterment of life or for salvation and emancipation conversion is an anachronism".

As the superstitious would say, the inauguration itself was inauspicious. I was not able to offer to the majority what it desired in the controversy concerning the Sophia College. My opinions were contrary to theirs. It was not possible for me to pamper to their aroused sentiments.

I placed the facts at length before the community and stated that in the field of education, mission schools and colleges run by Protestant and Catholic priests and convents run by sisters and nuns had rendered yeoman service to the country. Recently the Mission School at Surat had celebrated its centenary and besides Surat, the prominent Zoroastrians of various cities had cooperated with pleasure. A gem of the community like Behramji Malbari had graduated from that School.

Carried away by emotion we were demanding that parents should withdraw their daughters from convents throughout the country. This suggestion was impractical and harmful. Parsi High Schools [682] for girls do not exist in every city, hence our daughters are obliged to study in convents. In Karachi the Mama Parsi Girls High School has come into existence since the last two and a half decades. Prior to that, for years girls of the community passed out from the Karachi Convent. The community has always harboured good feelings for that institution. Khan Bahadur Nusserwanjee Mehta had paved the flooring of the School building with tiles manufactured in his factory free of charge and had contributed a clock for every class-room. During the last twenty-five years more than one Parsi girl has been a boarder at the Simla Convent. In the sixty years' contact of the community in Karachi with these missionary institutions there has not been a single instance of conversion. At the conclusion of the talk Mr. Burjorji Bharucha questioned me from the second-floor gallery as to whether under the circumstances I would have withdrawn my grand-daughter from the Sophia College had my family been residing in Bombay. I replied in the negative.

Three years have gone by since this event. Sophia College still stands safe and sound under the jurisdiction of the University. Neither have the Parsi parents of Bombay removed their daughters from it nor have guardians prevented their girls from going to convents in different parts of the country. In some stray instance if a girl having a devout and reverential frame of mind and capable of being carried away easily by her feelings succumbs to a scheming nun who transcends the bounds of duty and, prompted by the temptation to win a place in heaven, plays upon the sentiments of a tender mind, it is not appropriate for the community to lose its mental balance and to behave as though the sky were falling.

The economic condition of the community is weakening day by day. In cities like Bombay and [683] Karachi thirty to forty percent families have to be given the benefit of poor welfare funds. To the same extent provision has to be made for the fees of school children, free medical assistance in Parsi hospitals and charitable housing projects. A helping hand is given in a hundred other ways to enable the poor to eke out a miserable existence. On the other hand, to the most modest estimate, the community is throwing away not thousands but lakhs of rupees every year on ceremonials and sandalwood under cover of religion. As though all this were insufficient, from time to time glaring and spectacular advertisements appear in the most widely-circulated leading orthodox, communal paper, dramatising the news regarding the sandalwood that is burnt in almost two hundred Atash Kadehs of India and in the temples at Iran and the ceremonies performed in them. Just as we purchase all kinds of articles in the market in the mistaken belief that an admittance into heaven can be attained by buying virtuous deeds cheaply, men and women of the community welcome this commercial project that wears a religious garb and spend lavishly on it.

Threatening news was pouring in from the war-front and, at a time when every heart was bursting with fear, a condoling message was advertised that a huge log of 'Agar' such as had never been offered before was to be offered to the sacred fire at the Udvada Atashbehram. The offering was made and incidentally the British forces won a victory over Libya, so a prominent gentleman announced publicly in Udvada that this memorable event had taken place as a result of the offering!

Bearing all this in mind, in my next lecture I spoke somewhat bitterly, though honestly about the Parsi press. I reminded the audience of the memorable contribution made by the press in the progress of the community during the last hundred years. [684] Thereafter I politely criticized the newsmen who, though complete reformists in their own private lives, became like 'dummies and mummies' and gave the reins of their papers into the hands of irresponsible orthodox propagandists and remained aloof themselves. I also censured them for publishing advertisements that boosted superstition. The annoyance of the orthodoxy was vented upon me in no uncertain terms through the editor of their newspaper.

We may hold a variety of diverse opinions, but each must respect the views of the opponent. We do not follow that principle. We lay greater stress on sentiment than on serious thought and remain entangled in meaningless dissensions and disputes. Many articles were published criticising me. The sanctimonious delivered many stinging speeches against me. Sheikh Shadi has said: Silence is golden. Thus, disregarding their fury, I remained silent.

At that time I was giving evidence in the Vansda Case.

Presently some of our friends brought the tidings that some people were scheming to disrupt our series of lectures. As a precautionary measure they went an hour in advance to the hall on the day of the talk and found that the microphone was dead. That lecture was on: "Education in the era after the Great War" and Divan Bahadur Krishnalal Mohanlal was to preside. From the time I entered with my daughter Dinbanoo, cries of 'Shame, shame,' reverberated throughout the hall. They grew louder as my lecture commenced and, as the microphone was not working, my daughter placed in my hands a slip of paper informing me that no one could hear what I was saying. Upon request from the Chairman, Mr. Burjorji [685] Bharucha asked those present whether they wished that I should continue the talk or end it. Except a few gentlemen in the opposition, they all requested that the lecture be continued. The talk re-commenced, but of course no one could hear it. Meanwhile the news reporters who were sitting off the stage were invited to take their seats beside me and a note was handed over to me that I should summarize as though I were speaking to the reporters and conclude the talk. I continued as instructed.

It is the privilege of ladies to ward off evil by breaking eggs. The agitators had engaged a woman to perform this duty. From the gallery to my right, one after another she pelted three eggs at me; but the person concerned must not have practised sufficiently, for not a single egg touched me. The first egg fell on a prominent lady sitting on the stage and her lovely sari was soiled. The second alighted on a well-known gentleman and the third hit the good Chairman. Together with the shower she shouted: "Who on earth made you a Dastur?" and advised me to go back to Karachi. My daughter informed her from the stage that I could not hear a single word, but that on reaching home, she would relay the benediction.

A year and nine months had elapsed since this occurrence. I was to lecture in Karachi on the occasion of the death anniversary of the patriot, Dadabhoy Naoroji. I had to tie the white turban that day. Making a mental note of the hour, I placed the turban and cap by my side and went on with my writing. In doing so I forgot to wrap the turban and, when I did remember, I was to leave home within three-quarters of an hour. Now, since some of my turbans had shrunk, a ten or twelve inch length of cloth was stitched onto them. While wrapping the turban I had to keep in mind to begin from the attached end. In the haste this fact [686] escaped me. The turban was tied and only in the last round did I realize the mistake and found that the seam showed right in the centre of my forehead. This could never be overlooked. There was no way out but to unwrap the whole turban and to tie it again. Looking at myself in the mirror it struck me that I had become a Dastur and yet was not aware of how a 'dastur's paghdi' is wrapped. I burst out laughing, recollecting the words of the dame who had showered the benediction of eggs upon me, and suddenly I said aloud: "Who on earth made you a Dastur ?" Nargesh, my second daughter-in-law hastened from the adjacent room and gave me a bit of her mind. Eventually I re-tied the turban and set out.

The topic of one of the lectures of the series was: "The controversy regarding the Navjote Registration Act that has reached dizzy dimensions."

The centuries-old question of accepting the offspring of Zoroastrian fathers and non-Zoroastrian mothers into the fold, still threatens the community, despite the resolutions passed at the meetings of the Anjoman against it. With the intention of putting an end to this problem once and for all, the orthodox section of the community started a move to get a law passed in the Legislative Assembly that, like marriages. all Navjotes also should be compulsorily registered in government offices. In other words, just as only a marriage performed by a Zoroastrian priest of a Zoroastrian man and a Zoroastrian woman can be registered, the Navjote of children born of Zoroastrian parents only could be registered. Thus the navjote of the offspring of a union between a non-Zoroastrian mother, whether she be a mistress or united to a Zoroastrian by the Civil Marriage Act cannot be deemed legal and hence could not be registered. The reformist party is against this [687] movement, so the orthodox section is depending upon the strength of the majority to get this law passed.

No other community in the world is as tormented about the' Jooddin' problem as the Parsi community. Nations believing in proselytizing either keep their doors wide open for all or submitting to changed times, conditions and circumstances, close their gates against all forever. Ours is the only community that has behaved in completely another manner since the last twelve hundred years. Since the seventh century. from the time we lost our empire, we have had to lower the banner of conversion from the flag-staff. Yet, since twelve hundred years we have continued to accept children of mistresses of Zoroastrian men and, since a century, those of Zoroastrian fathers and non-Zoroastrian mothers united according to the Civil Marriage Act.

As a result of the ideas expressed in my lectures and the evidence given by me in the Vansda Case, all kinds of altercating opinions appeared in the papers and were being discussed by people. With the purpose of removing misunderstanding in the matter to some extent and presenting the facts before the people, Mr. Burjorji Bharucha made a public appeal through the press that those who wished to ask me any questions should send them to him in writing. Later a special meeting was held for this. Amongst the several questions asked, there was one relating to the Jooddin problem. The reply that was given then has been dealt with at length in another chapter of this book.

Having completed the series of lectures at Bombay, we proceeded to Ahmedabad and Broach and delivered lectures there. Taking a lead from Bombay, this time at the conclusion of lectures at [688] both these places, I was asked to explain some controversial questions and I replied to them in detail.

Thereafter, the following year, an invitation was received from Bombay to deliver some talks. I delivered sixteen lectures under the auspices of various organizations.

At this juncture I gave evidence in Bombay before the Commission that was appointed in the case regarding the Bangalore Anjoman Aramgah.


Chapter LXV


From the time of the first sessions of the Zoroastrian Conference in 1910, the leading newspaper regarded as the religious guide of the majority-orthodox party has been continuously pouring out a vile tirade against the reformists. A great deal of slander was directed personally against me. This pained my associates and they urged me for permission to file a libel suit against the editors. I dissuaded them from taking such a step. In the middle of 1914 I went with my wife to New York to have the Zoroastrian Theology printed and to deliver some talks. Taking advantage of my absence, the Conference, on its own authority. filed a libel suit. The case was conducted in the court of the Presidency Magistrate. The Hon'ble Justice, Sir Dinshaw Daver, considered to be the leader of the orthodox party, had come to bear witness against the Conference. In the course of his evidence he said with disdain: "That 'andhiaru' Dhalla had no right to come from Karachi and disturb the peace of the Parsis of Bombay." Despite the evidence of a renowned authority who presided over the High Court, the charge of libel was accepted and the main mouthpiece of orthodoxy was fined.

About the end of 1943 I received a letter from a lawyer's firm in Bombay stating that a case was being filed in the High Court of Bombay concerning the Jooddin Navjote that had been performed at Vansda. I should prepare to come to Bombay when called upon to give evidence on behalf of the complainant. Despite my aversion to getting involved in legal matters, it seemed as though I would be obliged to shoulder this burden, so I requested that if my evidence was absolutely necessary, a [690] commission may kindly be sent to Karachi for the purpose. I received a reply from the solicitor that they would try to comply with my request. Immediately after that, due to unexpected circumstances, I had to go to Bombay to deliver some lectures. Hence, although the case was not yet registered, arrangements were made to take my evidence.

The community was aware of my views regarding the Jooddin question. They had been publicized through my booklet on the subject in 1919. Later, in 1938 in the History of Zoroastrianism and in 1942 in the Atma Katha I had written at length about it. At that time the community was divided in four groups on the matter.

A very large majority of the community was opposed to accepting into the faith any non-Parsi or any child born of a Parsi father and a non-Parsi mother under any circumstances or on any condition.

Another section was positively against taking in non-Parsis, but advocated the acceptance of offspring of a Parsi father and a non-Parsi mother.

A third and minor group firmly believed that Zarathushtra had preached that his religion should reach the four corners of the globe and, as such, the community was obliged to take into the fold those who wished to enter of their own free will.

The discussions that had arisen since the first decade of this century, regarding the acceptance into the religion of a French lady born of Christian parents, gave birth to a grave announcement by some students that from the very beginning the doors of the Zoroastrian temples were not open to all and sundry. The Almighty had sent His holy prophet, Spitama Zarathushtra, into the world with specific instructions to admit into the faith only those [691] people belonging to a particular tribe who lived on Iranian soil in those days! This fourth group, in order to maintain the validity of this weird statement, was attempting to annul at one stroke all the Pahlavi, Pazand, Sanskrit, Persian, Gujarati and English translations of ancient Avestan writings in support of conversion.

The history of religions reveals that there will always be some credulous adherent of the most ridiculous and absurd declarations. Similarly in our own community there appeared one such small group of men and women.

All the religions of the world are essentially missionary in origin and dream of converting the whole of humanity into their own faith. Today, not all religions have retained their pristine position. Christian and Muslim priests and mullahs, in the vainglory to make their religion universally acknowledged, continue their missionary work. Changed climes, times and conditions have arrested other religions from doing so. Yet, should anyone be willing to come into their faith, he is accepted.

After extending a joyous welcome at the birth of Zarathushtra, the Frawardin Yasht breathes a prayer that his faith may pervade the seven continents (haft keshwar jameen). Every Yasht and Niyayesh concludes with the same wish. Beginning from Zarathushtra's Gathas down to the Yajashne [Yasna], Visperad, Yashts and Vendidad throughout the entire Avesta, clear and unambiguous commandments to spread the sacred faith can be found.

Precious books composed in Pahlavi, the court language of the Sasanian kings, strictly enjoin the acceptance of non-Zoroastrians into the Zoroastrian faith. A great book like the Denkard states that the most virtuous deed a 'Jooddin' can [692] perform is to relinquish his own religion and embrace the Zoroastrian faith. Moreover, it is written in the Denkard that with the assistance of the learned Dastur Adarbad, King Shapur II performed memorable deeds to revive and radiate his religion. The Denkard further adds that if persuasion and placation do not prevail, then it is correct to convert non-Zoroastrians into Zoroastrianism forcefully. Even a ritualistic document like the Aerpatistan gives evidence of conversion, Madigane hazar dadistan which relates to legal and constitutional matters informs us that if the Christian slave of a Zoroastrian master abandons Christianity and becomes a Zoroastrian, he should be set free.

At the time of the 'Jooddin' case, the committee that had been appointed by a meeting of the Anjoman called by the Trustees of the Parsi Panchayat at Bombay in 1903, nominated a sub-committee consisting of conservative as well as radical Athornan and Behdin scholars to consider and present a report on whether it is valid according to the Zoroastrian religion to accept non-Zoroastrians into the faith. They presented a unanimous report that Zoroastrianism permits the acceptance of 'Jooddins' into the faith.

Bishop Ilysus who has traced the history of behaviour patterns, writes that in Armenia King Yazdagard II used both persuasion and pressure in order to convert into Zoroastrianism, the Christians living there. In order that these Christians become Zoroastrians, the Persian Government bribed them with promises of position, rank, honour and titles and exempted them from the tax levied on them. The King's Minister, Narsih, through a royal proclamation informed the Christians that those who did not accept the Mazdayasnan religion are blind and deaf and that Satan was leading them astray. In Georgia, Albania and other countries also, Zoroastrianism was being widely spread.

[693] Then the scourge of time enveloped mighty Iran in clouds of untold calamities. The Iran that Cyrus had crowned the Queen of Asia fell on evil days. The Zoroastrian Empire was destroyed forever. Naturally, together with it, the Zoroastrian religion immediately became non-missionary.

About twelve hundred years ago, our fore-fathers felt that the continuance of the community depended upon following in the footsteps of the Hindus and living a distinct and closed community life. The question of conversion was closed permanently. Yet it clung to the community like a leach. Our men folk who went for agriculture into fields and forests, at times established a relationship with women of the untouchable class and the children born of such unions were taken into the fold. Those who were well-off purchased poor boys as slaves to work on their fields and with the passage of time, admitted them into the faith. The majority of the community did not lose sight of its proud heritage. They were strongly opposed to the infusion of low-caste blood into the veins of the community. However, they would grouse and grumble, scream and shout but eventually be silent. Moreover, when the dear ones of those opposed to such an admixture of blood or at times they themselves got entangled in such involvements, the discussions remained at a standstill.

In the fifteenth century our contact with the co-religionists at Iran was more firmly established, so we sent couriers from this country and invited the opinions of the dasturs who dwelt there on matters concerning ceremonies, conventions and customs. Regarding the Jooddin conflict, replies came from there that Prophet Zarathushtra has thrown open the gateways of his religion to all humanity; hence there was no objection to performing the Navjote ceremony of such children or of slaves. They went further to state that to bury or [694] burn a corpse is regarded as a major sin in Zoroastrianism. And yet it is proper to accept into the faith even those Jooddins who are practising such professions. However, at times they would utter a note of warning to beware and be cautious that in doing so it did not prove detrimental to the community.

Later, when the British conquered Honk Kong, Canton and other cities of China, our forefathers established vast and flourishing businesses there. The proprietors who carried on trade with China employed their agents on condition that no one should take his wife along with him. Their boarding, lodging, laundry, medical treatment and sundry expenses were to be borne by the master's firm, and once in seven years they were granted leave to return to India for five or six months. As a result some of them brought back with them children born of Chinese women and their Navjotes were being performed.

A hundred years ago we started going to England for trade and commerce or for study. There some got married to English ladies according to the Civil Marriage Act and the Navjote of their children began to be performed.

At the commencement of the last century the Parsi Panchayat at Bombay, due to its wide-spread influence, framed regular rules on the subject in 1818 and 1830 and announced that the Navjotes of the children of non-Parsi mothers that had been performed up to date had to be taken for granted. But, henceforth, should any Mobed perform such a Navjote, he and those responsible for having the Navjote performed, would be excommunicated and penalized in other ways. This ruling of the Panchayat remained on its records as an ornament. It could not be enforced in any way. [695]

In 1882 a leading dastur of the community performed the Navjote ceremony of nine people of varying ages born of Zoroastrian fathers and non-Zoroastrian mothers in the presence of an assembly of Sethias of status at the Maneckji Seth's Wadi at Bombay.

In the first decade of this century, at the time of the 'Jooddin Case', the General Body Meeting of the Anjoman called by the Parsi Panchayat at Bombay passed a fresh resolution in 1905 against the Jooddin Navjotes and sent copies of the resolution to the various Anjomans in every town and city. After that, similar resolutions were passed by meetings called by the Anjoman or the Athornan Mandal and publicized amongst the entire community throughout the country. In spite of all this, such Navjotes are being performed up to date, because the resolutions of neither the Anjoman nor of any other body have ever been unanimously accepted by the community. The members of the Anjoman were never united; they were always split into parties. It won the cooperation of the majority but could not gain the unanimous acceptance of each and every member of the community. Besides it had no authority to enforce the resolutions on everyone. While giving its verdict in the memorable Jooddin case the High Court, on the strength of the documentary evidence of the usages and practices prevalent since twelve hundred years, approved and sanctioned as Parsi, Zoroastrian children born of Zoroastrian fathers and their mistresses and later of Zoroastrian fathers and non-Parsi women according to the Civil Marriage Act. This ruling of the High Court stands intact even today. Hence, on the strength of the majority vote of the community, the Anjoman or the Athornan Mandal or any other institution may pass whatever resolutions it wishes and as often as it wills, but lacking legal sanction they cannot be binding on the community. [696]

In 1942 an unprecedented event in the twelve hundred-year-history of continuous performance of the Navjotes of children of Jooddin unions took place. The Jooddin Navjotes of children and adults, middle-aged and aged men and women, totalling seventy-seven and thirty-five respectively were performed at Vansda and Bharudi. This gave rise to an outburst of emotion in the community and resolutions were passed stating that the benefit of religious institutions and organisations should not be extended to those whose Navjotes had been performed under such circumstances In consequence, as a 'test-case', a gentleman who had passed through the Navjote ceremony, filed a suit in the High Court against the Trustees of the building, establishing his right to enter the portals of that Fire Temple. My evidence was to be taken prior to the commencement of this case.

Taking into consideration my handicap in hearing, it was arranged that my daughter would relay through the ear-phone whatever was said by the lawyer or the Hon'ble judge. The hearing was conducted for three days. My evidence, commensurate with my above-mentioned opinions on the injunctions of admitting Jooddins into the Zoroastrian faith, was based on three main factors.

One was that Zoroastrianism advocates conversion.

Secondly, that history bears infallible evidence that since the advent of Zarathushtra till the Seventh Century when the Parsi Zoroastrian Empire fell forever in the reign of Yazdagard Shehriar, the last Sasanian King, Jooddins were admitted into the Zoroastrian faith.

Thirdly, a tradition of almost twelve hundred years has been established amongst Zoroastrians settled in India since the loss of the empire, of [697] performing the Navjote of children born of Zoroastrian fathers and Jooddin women and of taking them into the fold. Despite the frequent restricting resolutions of the Anjoman, such Navjotes are being performed up to date.

A stern criticism was levelled against my evidence that the Navjotes of the offspring of Zoroastrian fathers and Jooddin mothers "are being performed up to date." The defendant declared that my statement was not correct as such Navjotes are no longer being performed. My statement was founded on facts, but the lawyer refused to accept its validity. As a result the Hon'ble Judge requested me to quote a definite case mentioning specific names and other particulars. Consequently, I announced-giving details of names and places that in the very year that the case was being conducted, a Zoroastrian gentleman had come to me at Karachi from abroad and had laid bare to me the details of his predicament. He informed me that at present he was married to a Zoroastrian lady, but he was anxious to have the Navjote ceremony performed of an eleven-year-old girl staying in his own home who was born of a Goanese woman. When I told him that such a Navjote could not be performed in Karachi, he had enquired who would do it and where it could be performed. I gave him the name of a revered Athornan gentleman who was residing outside Karachi. He wrote directly to the person concerned and there was an immediate reply that if the person concerned would come to his town with the girl he would willingly perform the Navjote, deeming it his duty to do so. The father took his daughter there and that Navjote was performed in the presence of five good people. This event had happened only five months ago.

This was the sum and substance of my two days' evidence based on the authority of Zoroastrian religion, history and tradition on the validity [698] of performing the Navjote ceremony and admitting into the fold children of Zoroastrian fathers and non-Zoroastrian mothers

On the third day the case was presented in a different form. A question was asked whether a son born of a Zoroastrian father and his non-Zoroastrian mate who on attaining maturity, had married a Hindu woman according to Hindu rites, could then have his Navjote performed and be admitted into the religion. The question had quite a new flavour. In the seventh century after the loss of our empire, our religion had become non-missionary hence the religious and historical authority that had been exercised up to the end of the dynasty had ceased to function. From that time onwards the Jooddin question was limited to the practice of taking into the faith the offspring of a Zoroastrian father and a non-Zoroastrian mother. The principle basis of permitting the performance of the Navjote ceremony of such children rested on a twelve-century-old tradition. But this did not hold good in the above-quoted instance. If the son of a Zoroastrian father and a Jooddin mother becomes a Hindu according to Hindu rites and marries a Hindu woman, the twelve-hundred-year old tradition of the community does not hold good. This question belongs to a completely different category and comes under a different heading, hence the entire Anjoman alone has the prerogative of solving it.

This evidence of mine given on the authority of Zoroastrian religion, history and tradition was impartial, unbiased and unprejudiced.

The Vansda party thereafter requested the High Court and withdrew its claim permanently and the curtain was drawn on the incident. [699]

The condition of these unfortunate residents of Vansda and Bhimdi is most pitiable. Although they are recently converted Zoroastrians they are disdained and disregarded by Zoroastrians of longer standing. When the community refuses to extend a helping hand to these frustrated candidates who stand at the threshold crying for admission into the fold then God alone is their saviour and their guide.


Chapter LXVI


The progeny of Adam and Eve, inhabiting the five continents of the earth, is increasing by eleven million every year. In this vast sea of humanity of approximately two thousand million people, we exist as a microscopic minority of one hundred twenty five thousand that can easily be merged. In the national and social survival of mankind, numbers are of prime importance. Our numerical strength has not endured and has become most insignificant. In the history of tribes and nations, stories of slaughter, massacre and carnage have been written in letters of blood. But there has been one devastating general massacre of complete extinction that can obliterate the memory of all other destruction and that is of our community.

In the seventh century we lost our kingdom forever. Thereafter, year after year and century after century, the Muslim sovereigns of Iran converted thousands of Zoroastrians to Islam and brought our community to the verge of extinction. That it has not died out is a marvel and a miracle. A proverb is prevalent in India to the effect that, had Shivaji not been born to check the onslaught of the Muslims and to destroy it, innumerable other Hindus would have been converted to Islam.

In our case two incidents have saved us from complete annihilation and have kept us alive and active.

Primarily the courageous men and women who, twelve hundred years ago, left the shores of their motherland and set sail for the Kathiawad coast, kept the flame of our lives ablaze. Had they not ventured forth, but trusted to providence [701] and remained in Iran like the others, they too would have been entrapped in the whirlwind of Islamic conversion.

Secondly, since a hundred years with our assistance and our financial support there has been an influx of Iranian-Zoroastrian families into India. Today they have enlarged our meagre population by about ten thousand. At the same time we became alert, posted a representative in Teheran and, through the mediation of the British Embassy, aroused our co-religionists and prevented them from further conversion.

If these two events had not occurred then, like the proverb associated with Shivaji, we too would have been carried away by the current of the onrush of Islamic conversion and drowned in the ocean of Muslim population. This is not a mere fantasy. It is a fact.

In keeping with the requirements of our religion, we practice the precepts of peace and goodwill more faithfully than our larger sister communities and live happily in amity with each other. For the alleviation of pain and suffering and for the enhancement of health the community has provided charitable maternity homes, hospitals and sanatoria. Due to these factors our death-rate has remained lower and our birth-rate is higher than those of our sister communities and to date we have succeeded in gradually increasing our numerical strength.

Since some time the following causes that can deal a fatal blow to the strength of the community have been created.

  1. The number of marriages in the community has been decreasing year by year. [702]
  2. With the spread of the knowledge of 'birth control', married couples are having fewer children.
  3. In order to save their children from future conflicts regarding their Navjotes, recently young Zoroastrian men get themselves converted into the religion of their Jooddin mates prior to the civil marriage. Some have accepted Hinduism and Islam and have married according to the rites of those religions.
  4. For the first time in twelve hundred years, an ever-increasing number of girls of our community is boldly and unhesitatingly getting converted and marrying Jooddins.
  5. A large number of Iranian-Zoroastrians in Iran and a few in India are embracing Bahaism. To date they number approximately four thousand in Iran and one thousand here.

For political reasons nations have always endeavoured to build up their numerical strength. In the Akamenian dynasty families that produced many children - particularly sons - received help from the State. At present Germany is working on those lines, and its birth-rate is higher than that of other European nations. The meagre birth-rate of its peace and pleasure-loving neighbour, France, has been considered its evil destiny. Formerly in the West and now gradually in the East, educated youths have begun to regard married life as an unpleasant burden. Since quite some time the wind is blowing in that direction in our community, and many who can afford to live a wedded life, look upon it as a yoke and avoid shouldering the responsibility. In the West girls who have become economically independent prefer a gay, single life [703] to marriage. Our educated and refined office-going girls are also leaning in that direction. The facts stated above are absolutely correct. A remedy does not present itself. Communities and nations that can be counted in millions can afford these luxuries. But for a community whose total strength is so meagre, the decrease of marriages and children is a major calamity. The matter has gone too far. Persuasion or threats can no longer change the state of affairs.

Besides, whereas communities that are estimated in millions welcome people of other faiths into their religion with open arms, we have placed the placard of 'No Admission' on the gateway of our microscopic Parsi-Zoroastrian enclosure since the loss of our sovereignty, and turn away those who are eager to cast their lot with ours and become one with us.

Instead of seeking a solution to those tremendously perplexing problems that face the community, we are behaving in a manner that magnifies matters and accelerates extinction. According to a twelve hundred year old tradition, we have been admitting the children of a Zoroastrian father and his mistress into the fold. Since years Zoroastrian men have been wedded to Jooddin women by laws governing Civil marriage. We are now agitating to have a 'Navjote Registration Act' passed, barring the admission of the offspring of both the above-mentioned unions.

In the mighty ocean a full-tide follows an ebb-tide. If there is eternal ebb and the flow never comes, the topography of the land in that part of the earth is completely altered. The low-tide of our community's population has set in and signs of high-tide are fading fast. How can that be endured? We are barring the entrance to the fold and simultaneously the exits are widening. How can we afford this? [704]

The Jooddin question is the question of prime importance to our microscopic community. Its span of life already extends over twelve hundred years. Time and again it has harassed our forefathers and is pestering us today. If we minutely examine the pros and cons we will find that they fall into two distinct categories:

  1. The question of admitting into the fold children born of a Zoroastrian father and a Jooddin mother.
  2. The question of opening the doors of the community to completely Jooddin children born of Jooddin parents.

For twelve centuries thousands of children born of Zoroastrian fathers and their mistresses and of unions by Civil Marriage since a century, have mingled with the community, thus a fair-sized group of such semi-Zoroastrians has been accepted without objection.

But the question of taking into the fold Jooddins whose parentage and lineage is absolutely non-Zoroastrian is of a completely different nature. Excluding a few exceptional examples, the whole community is staunchly opposed to admitting people of other communities and other religions into our community.

The distressful condition of the community which became like a flock of sheep without a shepherd after the loss of our empire, made it essential to prevent others from coming into the fold. Hence, when we are reminded that our religion ordains that we accept Jooddins into the faith, providing evidence that it was done in the days of our sovereignty and supremacy, and are told that in order to increase our strength we should also throw open the doors of our community [705] and our faith to people of all religions, we are taken aback. We are honestly afraid that by doing so the solidarity and particularly the characteristics of the community will be endangered. Our fear and our foreboding are not unfounded.

Setting aside all self. praise and self-approbation and just viewing it with an open mind, according to the facts presented by history, it can be said that the achievements that have been manifested by this community, which is like a needle in a hay-stack from the time of its ruined and tottering condition to its present level of progress, are truly unparalleled and unprecedented. The leading position that has been attained in shipping, textile, banking, steel, hydro-electric power, airways and numerous other industries; the memorable part played in national movements; the three Parsi members only who found admittance into the British Parliament; foremost in social reforms; excellent in charity; the first and, to date, the only community to introduce universal education; and innumerable other ventures could be definitely eulogised. We naturally begin to think that there must be something rare and wonderful in our race, our species, our genes, our disposition, our temperament which enables us to reach such heights and to re-capture the ancient Iranian glory that was diffused and lost twelve hundred years ago. We are now living on the laurels of the proud belief that all this applause and affluence is due to the 'blue' Kyanian blood that runs in our veins.

Ever since our meritorious predecessors gave prestige to the Parsi name, everyone has regarded our literature with respect and honour. Even in our own motherland, Iran, where for centuries we were scorned and scoffed at, a national awakening has come since the start of the century and the opinions of the educated and learned people of that country have altered. We had the [706] opportunity of visiting Iran twenty-five years ago, when Rezashah had not yet ascended the throne, and was the Commander-in-Chief of the Army. We experienced ample evidence of it in all the large cities and particularly in the capital city of Teheran where we stayed for twelve days. Even the Mullahs, who are commonly known as being fanatical, praised the Parsi community in glowing terms. Some compatriots went to the extent of saying that it was a misfortune that Zoroastrian Iran became Islamic. If the Zoroastrian religion had remained in Iran, they would have continued to progress like the Parsis of India and would not have fallen into the miserable condition in which they are at present. Some youths even expressed their anxiety to become Zoroastrians. A queer example of this we experienced in Karachi some time ago.

The son of a famous Zoroastrian family of Tehran had come on a tour to India with his young Muslim friend. They stayed at Karachi for a few days. They came to visit us twice. The Muslim youth was most alert and enthusiastic. Having completed his education in Iran he had taken higher education in England. He was an ardent admirer of the Zoroastrian religion and, were I to encourage him a little, he was prepared to embrace Zoroastrianism. On hearing that this was impossible, he as well as his Zoroastrian friend were extremely sorry. They made a strange request. Both the friends urged me at least to take them once into the Fire Temple at Karachi. They were most disappointed to know that even that was not possible. In this matter I found the youths so serious and determined that on their departure I thought it advisable, as a precautionary measure, to warn the Panthaky of the Daremeher to be prepared to prevent the young men from taking any thoughtless step. [707]

With regard to unions by Civil Marriage, I came across some examples when the Christian women of Zoroastrian men were eager to join the faith of their husbands and of their children.

As we have stopped taking Jooddins into the fold since generations after the downfall of our empire, we are naturally nervous that their admission may undermine our exalted heritage. In 1943, among the several questions that were asked at the Question-and-Answer sessions that had been arranged at the conclusion of my series of lectures, one concerned the solidarity and nobility of communal living. It will be relevant to quote hereunder the reply I gave to that question on that occasion. A learned gentleman of the community asked:

"At present all kinds of attempts are made to improve the breed of horses, dogs and other animals, and their pedigree is carefully preserved. Then is it not more important to safe-guard the lineage of man who is God's most precious creation? There is a saying in Persian which means that even if a wolf's cub is reared in a human environment, he will ultimately grow to be a wolf.

"Does the belief not hold good today? We agree that it is not always true that the sins of the parents are meted out upon the children. But for the preservation of the race should there not be a barrier against admitting illegitimate offspring into the faith?" To this I replied as under:

"No religion, at its inception, ever gives even a single thought of converting only a particular group of people, examining their colour, form, features, behaviour patterns, morality or mannerisms. In fact every prophet deems it his sacred and primary [708] duty to take into his faith particularly people who are wicked, vicious, villainous, nefarious, heinous and demoralized and to make them decent, reputable individuals. After the prophets pass away, as the society that follows the faith flourishes and is refined, it begins to distinguish between high and low, white and black, rich and poor, gauging people by their worldly and economic status. Every caste and community conceitedly considers its own creed to be of an exalted origin, to be having pure blood in its veins to be the highest and the best and to proudly believe, like the ancient Jews, to be the 'chosen of Yahweh’.

"Today, of all the religions, Christianity and Islam view people, ranging from untouchables and destitutes to kings and courtiers as one from the religious stand-point and, without restriction or limitations, accept them into their respective faiths. But, thereafter, they keep them at arm's length socially. The Hindus who were converted in the days of the Portuguese are known as Goans. In the United States of America there exist ten million Negroes who are Christian converts. The white people shun even their shadow. In India the progeny of English men and Indian women form a distinct group called Eurasians or Anglo-Indians. The Bohras, Khojas, Memons and other communities made up of Hindus who have been converted by the Muslims live their own individual existences.

When we perform the Navjote ceremony of children born of foreign mothers, they and their progeny are absorbed in our community and become a part of it. This is a fact.

The poet's saying that a wolf-cub reared amongst men will eventually become a wolf has been heard by all and even taken for granted. Like physical and mental weaknesses, emotional qualities can also be inherited. These good and [709] bad qualities are found in reformed and refined people as well as in uncivilized and illiterate folk. Now, the people whom civilized society commonly regard as 'low' are illiterate and uncivilized but it has certainly not been proved that they are devoid of fine qualities of the heart. Nature has not endowed the uncivilized with meaner qualities than those showered upon the civilized. They too are born with tendencies to learn and to be refined and, like the nobler people of civilized society, to forge ahead on the pathway of reform and progress. The cultured people of today who are regarded as 'high' are but yesterday's low-bred, ill refined, illiterate and uncivilized savages.

Those whom we consider of low caste are not low by birth, disposition or constitution. Those whom we disdain as the scum of society, are not bereft of nobility, but of knowledge, means and material wealth. At present they are the ‘raw material' of humanity regarded as its 'backward classes'. Tomorrow they will be educated, employed and advanced and like us, they too will be refined, and society will look up to them as 'high caste'.

The world is inhabited by millions of uncultured and uncivilized people who are classed as 'backward'. It is not as though wolves are born and bred amongst them only. Wolves are to be found 'midst the learned and the unlearned, amongst the refined and unrefined communities, castes and creeds alike. Hence, from the seed of the supposedly low can spring a progeny as tender-hearted and as mild as a Iamb and with qualities that can make its men and women shine like stars in any community and in any country. This may sound surprising but it is true. It has been the experience of all and cannot be denied. [710]

"Unbiased examination reveals that not only the offspring of white women wedded by the laws of 'Civil Marriage', but even the children of Bhils, destitute and untouchable Hindus and of wheat-complexioned Muslim as well as yellow skinned Chinese mistresses of Parsi fathers have become cultured, adventurous merchants, industrialists, bankers, people of position and status, charitable and of noble character and religious minded - in short, people whom everyone would deem it an honour to call their own. Such worthy sons of the soil have mingled with our community in fairly large numbers in every town and city and can be found living illustrious lives even today."

No one can deny these facts.

Amongst the vastly populated nations of the world, the Hindu population is estimated in millions. Until the middle of the last century Muslims as well as Christian priests penetrated into Hindu habitations and converted thousands of the faithful. A sound remedy was found by Dayanand Sarasvati, the bold founder of the Arya Samaj. Through vehement propaganda and an extensive jihad. he began to re-admit into the Hindu faith those who had been converted to Christianity and Islam. Moreover, he threw open the closed doors of Hindu temples to those of other faiths who wished to enter of their own free will.

Although the Muslim flag fluttered over India, there remained pockets under the rule of Hindu rajas and maharajas; hence it was possible that a Shivaji would spring from them. After the loss of our empire, stray signs of Parsi kingship endured in Tabristan and other places, but later they were annihilated forever. Hence, it did not seem possible that a Parsi Shivaji would be born in the stronghold of Muslim Iran nor was one born. [710]

Moreover, we did not let any Parsi Dayanand Sarasvati unfurl the flag of conversion over the Parsi fold nor are we allowing him to do so even today.

Our press and our communal organizations are continuously waging a bitter controversy over the Jooddin question. Throughout all these bickering there runs a major strain of prejudice, conflict and vengeance. The Jooddin question is surveyed on the surface without going into the root of the matter. We never care to study this poignant problem calmly, delving deep down into its intricacies and working on it in a scholarly, scientific and statistical manner. It is essential for our revered orthodox group as well as for our reformists to scrutinize patiently and intelligently whether the forceful and frightening causes that have been presented regarding the decrease in marriages and births, the marrying outside the fold of increasing numbers of men and women and of conversion into Bahaism are sound or suppositions, real or illusory, truly threatening or unnecessarily alarming.

Everything in this industrial age is based on statistics and calculation. Unfortunately we are not working on those lines when the Jooddin subject is tackled. Instead of collecting all the data and examining this question of social upheaval scientifically and systematically, we look at it in a shallow way with frenzy and fanaticism and continue to create an uproar. Regarding our girls and boys who go out of the fold and marry non-Zoroastrians, when there are about five or seven incidents, the Parsi press gives publicity to one or two. The community is not aware of all such events.

Just as all movements and associations in the world change shape and colour, the Jooddin question too appears from time to time in altered forms. [712] The large numbers in which formerly children born of Parsi men and their alien mistresses were added to the community is now decreasing due to fear of social censure and urbanization.

Examples of marrying non-Zoroastrian girls through Civil Marriage or by being converted into Arya Samajiite Hindus, Christians or Muslims are on the increase.

Formerly there were scattered incidents of Parsi girls being converted into other religions and leaving the fold. Today they are steadily increasing. In Karachi, fifty-four years ago one Parsi lady married a Muslim. That incident was considered most unusual in those days. Fifteen years ago an educated and good-natured girl of a respected family of Karachi got married to a Hindu outside Karachi. Her parents succeeded in persuading her to see me before she took such a step. The girl had a high opinion of me and respected me. She came. But neither my wife's persuasion nor mine had any effect over the passion she felt for her Jooddin husband. A noble lady came to my house one evening with her Muslim husband and as they were to leave Karachi by train within an hour they received my hurried farewell blessing During that same period I received a long letter by post signed 'Nine Parsi Girls'. It informed me that each one of them was deeply in love with their respective non-Parsi friend and wished to marry him. Stating this fact they wanted to know whether the Zoroastrian faith prohibited such a union. They further requested that my reply be given in the 'Parsi Sansar' and in English so that their non-Parsi friends could also read it. The 'Parsi Sansar' published in its issue that X. Y. Z. be informed that the question they had asked being of a delicate nature could not be discussed in public, hence they should personally meet the gentleman to [713] whom they had addressed the letter. In order to place the facts before others, I collected twenty-five ladies and gentlemen who were social workers, through the Secretary of the Anjoman and discussed the letter with them. When this matter came to light, within a few days I received another anonymous letter stating that I should not have given such publicity to their letter. Shortly after this, six Parsi girls of Karachi got married to non-Zoroastrians. Recently a Muslim youth published his name and address and announced in an English newspaper that from that date he was divorcing the Parsi wife whom he had converted to Islam. An educated and reputable young lady of Bombay, in her keen desire to marry a non-Parsi youth, has at present asked my advice to solve her problem. Frequent events are now occuring in many a town and city, of Parsi girls abandoning their dear and renowned community. Similarly, the oppression of the Bahais is hanging over us as a threat here and even more in Iran.

This fresh facet of the Jooddin question has captured my special attention since some time. Five hundred miles away from the heated atmosphere of Bombay suffused with party-spirit, strife and conflict, after quiet and careful consideration in Karachi I have come to look upon the Jooddin chapter with trepidation.

In the last century, a western scholar who was a well-wisher of the community predicted with a heavy heart that a hundred years hence the Parsi community would cease to exist. Only the historic memory will remain that a world-renowned nation bearing that name had reigned for centuries over Persia and its microscopic progeny lived a glorious life in India.

Taking into consideration the permanent blockade to an influx from outside, the abandoning [714] of the fold by an increasing number of both men and women, and the ever-falling birth-rate of the community and pondering upon them carefully, this fearful foreboding does not sound altogether unsound.

Without the slightest sentimentality it can be said that this Jooddin question has become the thread on which hangs the very existence of this microscopic community of all-told a hundred and twenty-five thousand. If the community endures then all is well. If it succumbs then all is lost. My hand trembles as I write this and my heart aches.

The time has passed for trying to solve this question through party-politics. Sane and serious thinkers, learned and educated leaders and intellectual social workers of all sections of the community have remained aloof from this intricate problem. I humbly appeal to all these to unite on a common platform and to call a Conference to examine with an open mind this difficult and gigantic question on which depends the very existence of the community.


Chapter LXVII


All major railway stations have an Inquiry Office. Details regarding travel and other information can be had there. In the whole of the United States of America there was only one centre where information regarding the Zoroastrian religion, its language, its history, the life-story of its founder prophet, his birth place and many relevant matters could be had, and that was Columbia University at New York. The person to give such information was Professor A. V. Williams Jackson. It was possible to study Sanskrit literature at Harvard and other universities besides Columbia, through Lenman, Bloomfield, Hopkins and others, but the study of Iranian literature could be carried on only at Columbia and under Jackson alone.

At the end of the last century the students of oriental religions and languages were taken aback. Suddenly, a religious scholar came into the public eye as a rival to Jackson. Verily he seemed to have dropped from the sky, as he came with a claim to prophethood. He was God's messenger of this age - the Zarathushtra of modern times. On the strength of his sanctity he even invested himself with the title of Zardoost. He had an intuition in ancient Babylonia. In the Desert of Gobi and in Tibet he had found Avestan manuscripts! Many such bombastic statements did he make to astonish the scholastic world. That august person was Dr. Ottoman Zar-Adoost Hannish.

In the first decade of this century - i.e. in 1905 just when the sacred stream of this revered gentleman's captivating words was flowing in full force through the length and breadth of Uncle Sam's land, I happened to go to America for my [716] studies. A Christian by birth, he was founding a new religion. Gleaning stray concepts from the Zoroastrian, Christian, Hindu and other religions commensurate with his own understanding or ignorance, he was offering a medley or hotchpotch to everyone. The simple-minded and credulous found it sweet and savoury and swallowed it unintelligently. Many a curious and well-informed person came to Jackson or wrote to him seeking clarification on various problems. Naturally some came to us also. Some asked whether all the strange things that Dr. Hannish wrote and spoke about Zoroaster, the prophet of ancient Iran, were true or false. In reply we referred them to Jackson's 'Zoroaster, the Prophet of Ancient Iran', and other authentic books. Although he was completely ignorant of the rudiments of the Avestan language, yet to give a new form to Zoroastrianism and to drape it in new garments, he began to give ungrammatical constructions and imaginary pronunciations. The word Mazdayasna - believers of Mazda - he turned to Mazdaznan. Anaheet, the attribute of Ardvisur Yazad he dubbed Ainynahit. Spenta which means 'sacred' he changed to Speyent. The Chinwad bridge became Khinvat. Armaiti, ‘devotion', through him turned to Armaiy. The law of Karma became 'Kharma'. Avesta he chose to bifurcate into 'ave' meaning 'living' and 'sta' meaning 'word', and thus he measured and weighed many words according to his choice. A usurper must manifest something different, hence he assigned to Zarathushtra ridiculous statements wound up in legend, such as, Asho Zarathushtra had never meditated upon, believed in or expounded. 'Mazdaznan' was an addition to the pretensions that arise age after age of bringing a message from divine sources.

News of this novel movement reached our shores. On my return from New York after four years, I received anxious letters from co-religionists in Surat, Bombay and other places, wanting to [717] know what was going on in Zarathushtra's name on the other side of the Atlantic. Moreover, whenever news of our having returned from America was published in the papers such enquiries kept pouring in. Later, many were impressed by the information received here that those white Mazdaznans had sent for 'sudres' and 'kustis' and were organizing 'gahambars' there.

While we were in New York in 1938 we knew through newspapers coming from Bombay that the lady disciples of Hannish had delivered a series of lectures there. They returned in due course and at the headquarters beautified by the 'mighty American' dollar, a 'Mazdaznan Centre' had sprung up. After some time when I read in Karachi about the discussions that were going on in Bombay regarding this institution, some very queer things came to my notice for the first time.

Dr. Hannish was born of Christian parents. His family had come from Germany and settled in the State of Illinois in U.S.A. In spite of all this, leading co-religionists of Bombay who were overenthusiastic about the Mazdaznan Movement, created a myth by printing in our papers that Hannish Saheb was the descendent of an ancient royal family of Iran and born of a Zoroastrian mother. Moreover, this supposedly Zoroastrian lady, passing through India, had died in Surat and her body had been placed in the local Dakhma! Not limited to columns of gossip in newspapers, this downright falsehood was published in the 'Parsi Prakash' which records noteworthy events that happen in the life of the community. Hence, if a future Parsi historian writes the history of the community, this event can pass as an authenticated fact. This was most distressing and disturbing for the community. Here is a living example of the type of charlatanry that goes on in the name of religion. [718]

Wherever faked pirs and prophets come into the limelight, their movement is always founded on falsehood. Some receive inspiration from the angel Gabriel or from Srosh Yazad; others are informed by secret Mahatmas; while others still go into seclusion and live amongst an invisible tribe for a long time and attain some esoteric knowledge that throws strange new light on ancient scriptures. The history of the religions of the world reveals that such things have been taking place everywhere. So-called saints who give birth to such mendacity seem to beguile themselves that their deeds cannot draw God's wrath upon them since they do not serve any selfish ends. Such fakery, they believe, is necessary and in the interest of the people themselves so that they may have faith in their message, listen to their teachings and learn. When the original preachers are of such a calibre, what can be expected of those who place their faith in them?

At this time the Bombay government served a notice on the organisers of the 'Mazdaznan Centre', requisitioning the premises for war work. As the government was not permitted to commandeer the vacating of religious houses, the commonplace 'Mazdaznan Centre' suddenly became the 'Mazdaznan Temple'. Overnight the centre of religious learning turned into a temple of worship.

The hearing of the case was to commence in the High Court within four days. Hannish was not a Zoroastrian but a Christian; to declare his teachings and the teachings of his American disciples publicized since the start of the century as a genuine revival of the pure and pristine faith of Zarathushtra was absurd and astonishing. I had commented upon this matter in my 'Atma Katha' in 1942 and I had chanced to see that this had been published at the time in the Bombay papers by the Secretary of the Panchayat. In the interest [719] of the community, and with the honest intention of removing this deceit, I fulfilled my sacred duty by sending a timely wire to the Panchayat. The case did not proceed further and the matter ended there. An embarrassing situation was avoided.

It is true that these American Mazdaznans who believe in Mazda and love Zarathushtra abide by a certain faith. There is a constant accusation levelled against them by our scholars that since sprinklings of Christianity can be seen in their teachings, they are contriving to convert us to Christianity. These gentlemen are mistaken in their surmise. In America those who have become Vedantists or Bahais or Muslims or Mazdaznans have completely abandoned their Christian faith. Even today, just as in Europe and America, we find in our own country, white men and women Vedantists of the Ramkrishna Mission, who, like the well-known Sister Nivedita and others, were converted to the Vedant faith as a result of Swami Vivekanand's religious expansion. We had met such a man in Bangalore and a woman in Virpur. Like them, others have been dissatisfied with their Christian faith and have been converted to their adopted religions and have adhered to them faithfully. The condition of these white Mazdaznans is identical.

Hannish's Mazdaznan religion is heterogeneous and eclectic. He believed in it himself and made others believe it was true. He died as a staunch Mazdaznan and not as a Christian. The followers of his creed are honest. They believe that the religion they have adopted is true and excellent. They are true and faithful devotees. They are certainly not Christians in Mazdaznan disguise. We have not made them Mazda-worshipping Zoroastrians. They have themselves appropriated [720] that role. If the doors of the Zoroastrian faith were open to Jooddins today, they would enter and add to the fame and lustre of the community. The fold is made up of such noble, qualified and learned people. This is the truth. This new facet of the Mazdaznans of Chicago is posing a fresh problem to the Jooddin question.


Chapter LXVIII


With the downfall of the Sasanian Empire our vast population suffered all kinds of attacks and has now dwindled to a mere hundred and twenty five thousand. The major portion of the present Muslim population of Iran comprises of converted Zoroastrians. Conversion into Islam has, to a large extent, ceased since the last hundred years. Instead, since about seventy-five years, a similar threat has arisen from an entirely different direction. Every year, in Iran, as well as in India, an increasing number of Iranian co-religionists are being converted into the new Bahai religion that was born in Iran in the last century.

Time and again, without request or reason, messengers claiming to bring the latest and final message from divine sources, have been narrating the same story that all the old religions have got entwined in the web of superstition and have lost their pristine purity. The new religion that they have brought is unadulterated. It is as clear as crystal and as pure as nectar.

Astute Bahais are saying the same thing today. They affirm that no religion exists that can meet the demands of the twentieth century. The unparalleled religion of Bahaullah alone is capable of fulfilling mankind's needs today and will remain so permanently. These good people forget that followed and practised by educated and illiterate adherents of diverse mentalities and passing through the vicissitude of time, the plight of Bahaism will be the same.

Heralds of all religions have always said that they are the last and that no prophet will come [722] after them. But ere their bones mingle with the dust, a new and even more powerful messenger arises and will continue to come.

Bahaullah came and he has gone. Innumerable such Bahaullahs will come and go, generation after generation.

The history of the religions of the world teaches the same lesson.

Alberuni and Mirkband write that the disciples of Mani, the prophet that came into prominence in Sasanian Iran, declared him to be 'the very seal or the last messenger of God'. Yet newer messengers have kept on coming.

Mirza Ali Mohomed, who was known as 'Bab' or the 'Gateway of God', proclaimed his religion in Iran in 1854. At the age of thirty, by order of the Shah, he was shot dead at Tabriz. His successor, Mirza Husainalli, rekindled the religion and he became known as Bahaullah or God's manifested form, God's aura or radiance, the fulfiller of God's will, the perfect man, God's messenger, God's voice, the Almighty's prophet of the modern age. It was announced that previous prophets had spread the light in their own age but it was incomplete. Bahaullah is the 'sun' of the age. He had come to complete and perfect the unfinished work of all the prophets. He was 'the Promised One of all Prophets'. Every prophet had predicted his advent. As spring follows winter, bringing with it freshness and new life, he had come in this new age to elevate humanity to a higher level. Many a whimsical pretext was professed about him.

A great deal of harm has been wrought by the teachings of the great religions about the advent of a future Soshyosh, a Messiah or a Mahadi. At least fifty faked and pretentious prophets and God's [723] messengers have beguiled mankind from time to time. Some have succeeded in establishing new sects, but more have failed to do so.

Dreading the oppression of the Muslim Mullahs of Iran, the Bahais carried on their work clandestinely in the beginning. They could not construct public places of worship. Practising of the faith and even conversion when the occasion presented itself, were conducted behind closed doors. For generations our community had been disgruntled by the persecution of the mullahs. We had been rebuffed, repudiated and rejected. At such a stage of existence the Bahais welcomed us with open arms. They invited us to dine with them. This was something to gladden the hearts of our unfortunate co-religionists in their homeland, Iran. They were naturally drawn towards the Bahais. The shrewd Bahais played upon their religious sentiments and deluded the ignorant Zoroastrians that the prophecy in their scriptures that Shah Behram Varjavand would come one day has been fulfilled, for Bahaullah himself was Shah Behram Varjavand.

In some of the unauthentic Pazand and Pahlavi books written after we lost our kingdom, it has been foretold that Shah Behram Varjavand of Kyanian lineage will come some day. At the age of thirty he will raise an army of Hindus and Chinese and attack Iran and conquer it and will reinstate a Zoroastrian regime in Iran.

It is understandable that uneducated Zoroastrians of Iran, fifty or sixty years ago, believed these fictitious fairy tales; but for highly qualified and cultured Parsis of India to gulp down such fantastic stories today is truly regrettable. Certain gentlemen inform us that Shah Behram Varjavand will be born between 1941 and 1950 and that 1940 to 1990 will be very bad years for the world. These people write that, with his spiritual powers and the [724] strength of his prayers and purity, he will perform universally renowned miracles by arresting electricity in the atmosphere that suspends aero planes high up in the air, will poison the planes engaged in warfare and bring them down! What a miserable exhibition of the intellectual prowess of men who have qualified and stepped out of the portals of the Bombay University!

At first some Zoroastrians of Iran and later Iranian Zoroastrians settled in India accepted Bahaism. The secret movement of this new religion had misled us in the past. We have been misguided by their deceptions up to this day. The Bahais have no churches, they have no priests, they are free to marry non-Bahais. The President or Secretary of an association takes the place of a priest in their marriage ceremonies. Some such prominent person recites a short prayer. Thereafter the couple, their guardians and leading men of the assembly sign the document. At the time of the wedding an 'Alvaha' chosen from the Alvaha composed in Arabic by Bahaullah is recited. Under the canopy of their faith it is permissible to retain the 'sudre' and 'kusti' when necessary, to pass as Zoroastrians when need arises, to derive benefit from communal funds and its institutions. The corpse of the deceased they bury in their own separate cemetery.

In 1905 when I commenced my studies at Columbia University in New York, the Mazdaznan, Vedant and Bahai movements were active. The Mazdaznan movement had just begun. The Vedant movement had started in 1893 when Swami Vivekananda had made a memorable debut at the Conference on World Religions at Chicago. The spread of Bahaism had started in 1892 by a Syrian Muslim, Ibrahim George Khairullah, who had been [725] converted to Bahaism. While the expansion of the Mazdaznan sect was still in its infancy, the Vedantists and Bahais were already well-established.

During my stay in New York from 1905 to 1908 I saw that the Christians who were converted to the Bahai religion ceased to be considered Christians and were known as Bahais only. On returning from America in 1907 I drew the attention of leaders in Bombay to this fact, but scholars and eminent people alike refused to countenance the Bahai Movement as anything more than an innocent institution, or a Brotherhood, like the Theosophical Society. The Bahai religion had not found a footing amongst the co-religionists of Karachi at that time. In 1914 when I went to America a second time with my wife, the Bahai movement appeared to have gained a firmer foothold. This was the result of a wide-spread propaganda in Europe and America from 1911 to 1913 by Abbas Effendi who had adopted the name of Abdul Baha.

Our visit to Iran in 1920 brought us in contact with Bahais at various places. In Kazvin we found that all Iranians credited as Zoroastrians had already become Bahais. They had called an assembly of all the Muslim and other Bahais residing in the city in my honour. As a priest or a mullah is intent upon making people believe that theirs is the one and only true faith, I found their leader debating with me during our discussions.

Mr. Ardeshir Edulji Reporter, who had been residing in Teheran for nearly four decades as a representative from Bombay of the 'Society for the improvement of the condition of the poor Zoroastrians of Iran', informed me that the Zoroastrians of India are making a serious mistake and their indifference is extremely harmful to the community. Every year an increasing number of Zoroastrians is abandoning the religion of their forefathers and [726] becoming Bahais. Despite repeated warnings the coreligionists of Bombay are not being alerted.

Even today Bahais are organizing feasts on a grand scale and extending a gracious invitation to our credulous Zoroastrians with the purpose of attracting them to the Bahai religion. With many such devices the Zoroastrians are being converted. At this end the conversion of our Iranian co-religionists is conducted chiefly in Bombay and Poona and recently in Karachi. Destitute co-religionists coming from Iran are immediately approached by converted Iranian-Zoroastrian Bahais, are employed in their shops, are helped in setting up separate shops of their own, or are given employment in other ways and are later converted to Bahaism.

Due to our indifference and carelessness such Iranian Bahais have, up to date, blatantly and freely taken advantage of our communal schools, hospitals, maternity homes, rest houses, sanatoriums, charitable chawls, and innumerable such institutions and benefitted by our various funds. Thousands of Iranian-Zoroastrians of Iran and India have already been converted to Bahaism and the number is ever on the increase. The most distressing fact is that in our country it is not the Muslim Bahais who convert our co-religionists but our own one-time Iranian-Zoroastrians themselves.

Since the last five years the community has become aware of this calamity that is staring it in the face and the Trustees of the Parsi Panchayat of Bombay and Karachi have published in the press that henceforth the benefit of communal institutions and funds will not be extended to these non-Zoroastrian Jooddin Bahais.

In Karachi a recently converted Iranian youth repented his error and honestly appealed to be taken back into the Zoroastrian religion. In the [727] presence of an assembly of prominent people I performed the Navjote ceremony of that youth. Similarly, constant efforts should be made wherever possible to reinstate into their ancient faith converts who have gone astray.


Chapter LXIX


History has recognised us as an erstwhile mighty nation of the world. Ancient Iran of the days of Cyrus, two thousand five hundred years ago, was known as the Queen of Asia. The flag of Akamenian Iran fluttered over the boundaries of Asia, Africa and Europe. Afghanistan, Seistan, Baluchistan, Sindh, Punjab, Armena, Capadocia, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Egypt, Arabia and other countries were tributaries of the great Persian Empire.

All the nations of the world commence their calendar from their prophet or from an emperor who has expanded his empire, or from some memorable event in their history. We have had to conduct our affairs in a completely contrary manner.

There is no historical data regarding the exact time of Spitama Zarathushtra's era, yet its latest age has been recorded as over two thousand six hundred years. Leaving aside the imaginary timeline of six thousand and eight thousand years declared by Greek writers, scholars have, on the whole, opined its existence to be over three to three thousand five hundred years.

We do not calculate our era from the time of the advent of our exalted Prophet, nor from a Jamsheed or Kaikhushru of Peshdadian or Kyanian descent who dwelt at the dawn of history, nor yet again from the names of King Cyrus or Darayus whose reigns have a definite date in the annals of history.

We have been known as Iranians from prehistoric times. Since the advent of Zarathushtra we have been known as Zoroastrians. From the [729] beginning of the Akamenian dynasty two thousand five hundred years ago, we have been known as Parsis. And yet today our year is calculated as being 1315. That means our era is not associated with the name of any renowned emperor of the brilliant regime of the Persian Empire. On the contrary, our epoch is connected with the name of our last King Yazdagard of the fourth and final Sasanian dynasty who was eventually defeated by the Arabs when the sun set on the Persian Empire and when Aryan and Kyanian glory vanished forever. The reason for this is, that according to tradition, when a king or a queen ascended the throne an era commenced by his or her name and ended at their death. The calendar started afresh in the name of their successor. Due to this abstruse system of calculating according to the regal year ,our era has been associated with the unfortunate event of the conclusion of our empire.

Not taking into consideration the uncertain times of Prophet Zarathushtra or of some ancient Peshdadian or Kyanian King, if we were but to effect an improvement and calculate according to the authentic date of the coronation of the Parsi King Cyrus of the Akamenian dynasty, we could proudly declare our year to be not 1315 but 2504 today.

In the interval between twelve and thirteen hundred years, from the time our forefathers boarded the ship of destiny and set sail from Iran and came here, they had to 'begin from the beginning'. They had to start life afresh, to shoulder fresh ventures. At that time they were absolutely ruined, struggling against great odds and completely penniless. But they did not forget the Zoroastrian message: "Oh, Mazdayasnan Zoroastrian, stand up on your own feet, lift up your arms, keep your mind alert." They did not go on merely meditating or hesitating. They were not feeble-hearted, [730] nor did they succumb to despair. They did not hang down their heads but with heads held high they arose and stood erect and, not content with standing, they walked. Not content with walking, they ran. Not content with running they flew. They were able-bodied, active, industrious and adventurous. They tightened their belts and worked hard. They ploughed fields, carried burdens and crossed the seas. They prospered and became eminent wherever they went. They became shining stars of the community and illustrious sons of the soil. The name of our microscopic community was uttered by all with respect and with honour.

The nineteenth century was the most wonderful in the history of mankind. Our community did not fail to derive due benefit from it. We reached heights of prosperity as we had not attained during our twelve hundred years' stay in the sub-continent. For the first time in our four thousand year old history did we touch such unparalleled zeniths of enlightenment. For the first time in the history of mankind did universal education find its way in the West. At this end our community took the first and foremost advantage of this. In the vast population of this land, the average literacy rate is estimated at 12%, whereas every girl and boy of our community is being educated. In schools established by us, approximately 35% children of the community are being educated free, due to straitened circumstances of the parents. As a result, in the last century, we were in the vanguard of service and in clerical jobs. In Karachi, during my youth, Parsi clerks were being increasingly employed in commercial firms, government offices and banks, and they were head clerks, salesmen, cashiers and accountants as well. With the infiltration and expansion of education in sister communities, the situation has completely altered. In [731] proportion to their millions, for every Parsi that steps out any amount of members of other communities come forward.

As the example of cricket seems to apply to all matters, we will keep that as a criterion. Seventy years ago only Englishmen land Parsis participated in cricket matches. Two of our teams went to play in England in 1882 and in 1884. When the Lord Hawke, Vernon, Oxford Authentics and other teams came from England, Englishmen and Parsis played with them. Due to this, we seemed to harbour a queer pride that the game of cricket had been ordained for Englishmen and Parsis only and that God had revealed the rudiments of the game to them and to no one else. Hence, when our Hindu brethren first ventured into the field and sent us a verbal invitation to play a match with them, we disregarded them somewhat haughtily. In the many matches that we have played in recent years we have not been able to emerge as champions. The primary reason for this is that our meagre numbers can never compete with the many excellent players that Hindus and Muslims produce. Besides, it is also true that, resting on the laurels of past glory on the cricket field, we became slack and turned to less strenuous games like tennis and billiards, with the result that we gave up practising cricket and have not been able to re-capture our past glory.

Seventy years ago a large number of our coreligionists were able to earn a livelihood through service in the railway department. The B.B. & C.I. Railway running between Bombay and Ahmedabad had become proverbial in that matter. Its guards, drivers, station-masters, ticket collectors were all Parsis. The situation is not the same today. In Karachi, up to the start of the century, we could find fifteen to seventeen Parsis employed in the North-Western Railway. On their retirement not a single Parsi has been able to replace them. Parsis just do not have a place there now. The situation is the same in all other fields of service.

As man is a thinking being he holds the highest position amongst all living creatures. By intelligence man has been able to gain supremacy over the muscular strength of animals.

Just as man has been arrayed with varying degrees of physical beauty and fitness, even so has the Almighty endowed mankind with graded levels of intellect, ranging from an exceptional abundance of intelligence to a drastic dearth of it. Thus, it is not possible for all to be equally wise and learned and to live by their mental prowess. The world abounds with people of little or no thinking capacity.

The group of people which does not form the intelligentsia is known as the labour-class or people who eke out a livelihood through their hands through hard work and manual labour. They are not fit for governmental, political, legal, commercial, banking or any other form of service. From the point of intellectual employment they could be termed as unemployables. This unintelligent section of society is destined for physical labour only.

Without exception, every nation and every community of the world is made up of these two categories of society those who live by the head and those who live by the hand. Hence, it is but natural, that our small community too is comprised of these two groups. Seventy years ago, in the days of my childhood, together with the intelligentsia the labourers sought work suited to their strength and capability and earned their bread, carrying on self-reliant and independent existences. Hundreds of Parsi men served as cooks [733] and caretakers in rich and middle-class families. Hundreds of Parsi women worked as domestic servants in Parsi homes. In this way men and women earned a stipulated salary as well as food and clothing. On any auspicious event in the homes of their employers or on festive occasions they were given gifts in cash and kind. Moreover, many masters and mistresses helped in educating the children of their employees. As the children grew up, they performed their Navjote ceremonies and helped in getting them married and in a hundred ways stood by those poor families participating in all their joys and sorrows.

To earn a livelihood through personal effort and physical toil was regarded a moral obligation, a religious duty. The aged and feeble women of those days worked hard to save a few paisas and from the accumulated savings of years of honest toil, purchased gold bangles which they wore round their wrists. This was a sort of security for the performance of the four-day funeral rites when they died, which they took good care to provide for, so that they would not in any way have to be dependent on their heirs or on legal executors of their will.

In those days in Karachi Parsi women fetched pure water from the well that was situated on the borders of the Parsi locality, ,for use in preparation of meals for rituals. We had grown up seeing one such lady called Avanbai Paniwalla carrying water for years on end. When she was old some charitable gentlemen respectfully requested her to give up such hardship at such an advanced age and told her that the Anjoman would pay her a monthly stipend from the funds reserved for deserving people. That poor lady who cherished her self respect and her independence, rejected the offer with gratitude and continued to carry water-vessels [734] until her frail bones could bear the burden no longer and eventually went to her heavenly abode with dignity and with honour.

That spectacle of childhood days of poverty being shouldered with self-help and self-respect is not seen in my old age.

With the passage of time our community has lost sight of the dignity of labour. A life of labour seems unworthy and undignified. Poor Parsi men and women remain at home and Parsi houses and bungalows harbours thousands of non-Parsi bearers and butlers. khansamahs, peons, ayahs and governesses. In a city like Karachi Parsi men cannot be found to cook for and serve at Navjotes, weddings or gahambars. For some time my wife and others experimented by making chapattis, cooking and serving at social functions but it failed to create an impression where necessary. Goanese, Hindu and Muslim servants are doing that job now.

The community stands at the beck and call of co-religionists who have retired from a life of manual labour. Even before a Zoroastrian sees the light of this world or, in other words, from the time of his mother's pregnancy, Our strong hand of charity stretches out in prenatal care. The community caters for her confinement, rears the child, educates him and performs his Navjote ceremony. As he grows to be an adult his marriage is provided for, he receives medical care his old-age is safeguarded and at death his funeral rites and the four days' ceremonies are performed and paid for, thus helping him to cross the bridge between the two worlds. The community does all this; but in doing so, it fosters a sense of shame for work in the mind and heart of the individual destined for a life of labour. The community prevents him from standing on his own legs, encourages him to extend his hand for alms and ruins his self-respect. [735]

To help the sick and suffering, the blind and insane, the disabled and disinherited is our religion. But in our attempt to do good through our munificent charities, we have done great harm. We have given beyond limits and thoughtlessly. This has ruined the morale of the community it has broken its back-bone and crippled it. We are responsible for turning the able-bodied into beggars who cry for alms night and day. 30% of our community is being sustained on charity today. Seventy years ago matters were not in such a mess. With the march of time, instead of going forward we are going backwards. This is most deplorable.

Fifty years ago there were complaints that the former adventurous spirit of leaving the home and family and going hundreds and thousands of miles across the seas in search of livelihood had vanished from the community. Accusations were also on the increase that young people were unwilling to forego the pleasures of club-life and the theatre that Bombay offered to go to smaller towns and cities.

At this juncture when the war has just ended, a very strange, healthy and welcome change in this direction has come over the younger people. Youths have travelled to all sorts of places by land and have not hesitated to go abroad. Nothing has come in the way of their joining the army, navy or air force. They have not deterred from being divorced from home and homeland; undaunted they have courted danger and have not feared to lose their cherished lives. Such qualities of the sons of the community have gladdened all hearts.

May God develop such enterprising qualities in our rising generation and instill in them a sense of pride for diligent work. [736]

Emperor Jamshed's era has been known as the Golden Age in the history of humanity. The second stanza of the Vendidad and the Jamyad Yasht inform us that in his reign there was neither excessive heat nor perennial extreme cold, no famine, no sickness, no old age, no death. As time passed he fell into disfavour with his Creator, his spiritual powers disappeared and pain penetrated into perennial happiness. On the other side, father Adam and mother Eve were enjoying perfect joy, !but flattered by the deceit of the devil the mother of mankind disobeyed God's commandment. so evil was born beside the good; or, in other words, this world became a world of tug-of-war between good and evil between the essential and the non-essential.

Everyone everywhere has always been recollecting that Golden Age. God's great Messengers have consoled despairing and dejected mankind that ultimately all V\fill be well, that the Golden Age will come again, and that the world will be made new. A Soshyosh or a Messiah or a Mahadi will come and the sun of the Golden Age will shine once more. Jesus himself has promised to come again.

Philosophy followed in the footsteps of religion. There is a semblance of it in Plato's immortal 'Republic'. In the seventeenth century Andreale gave the good tidings about Christianopolis. Bacon cheered everyone by 'The New Atlantis'. Campanella sent word of 'The City of the Sun "Now here".' Thomas Moore related narratives about Utopia. H. G. Wells has grown old singing songs of 'A Modern Utopia'. Everyone has been saying since ages: "It is coming. It is coming." But nothing is in sight yet. So man has lost his patience -he has become restive.

In the middle of the last century in England Karl Marx proclaimed in resounding terms: "Do [737] not believe anybody. They are all talking of airy nothings. They are giving you hopes and deluding you. Deities and goddesses are not going to usher in the Golden Era. On this solid earth, you, the poor people of the world, are the only ones who know the secret of its birth, who can make all things resplendent with its radiance. You are the ones who have been trampled upon and crushed by the strength of the mighty and the selfishness of the wealthy. Therefore, proletariat of the world arise and unite."

The masses have awakened throughout the world. 'Might is Right' is now a closed chapter both in politics as well as in economic affairs. The regal jurisprudence of larger nations over smaller nations that "What is mine is mine, and what is yours is also mine" is now tolling its death knell. The time has come for the West to disgorge its ill-gotten gains of the East.

Democracy is fast replacing autocracy everywhere. The proletariat has replaced imperialism. The prowess of wealth and position is tottering. Poverty that has been despised and disdained since the dawn of history is beginning to be regarded with respect and is being recognized.

During the reign of Queen Victoria the ‘utilitarian' philosophy of John Stuart Mill was admired. Prime Minister Gladstone and other thinkers like him viewed it with respect. In 1906 in our class at Columbia University we contemplated upon the principle of “the greatest good of the greatest number" and I became a disciple of that school of thought. It reminded us of the immortal injunctions of Zarathushtra, Jesus and Confucius of being unselfish and of seeking for happiness in the happiness of others. [738]

Even in this atomic age with exceptional facilities of communication, man's march towards the 'Golden Age' is going on at a snail's pace - tumbling and tottering it moves just one step forward. But this much is certain - humanity is marching onwards. Gayomard, the original man, took the first step toward the goal of "the era of long duration" mentioned in the scriptures. Thousands of years have elapsed since that event. Generation after generation has taken up the challenge. Innumerable men and women have given a share in bringing it nearer. I too have contributed my humble mite. Its sum total could be compared with a grain of sand in proportion to the Himalayas. But, beginning from mankind's original parents, the microscopic contribution of their countless children will eventually make a mountain that will surpass the mighty Himalayas. Thus will man give birth to the Golden Age that has been proclaimed through the sacred words of Spitama Zarathushtra:

Atya toyi vyam khyama yoi eem fershaem kayraynaoon ahoom
"May we be the moulders of your New World, Oh Ahura Mazda".

Fejfet pavan shaatih oo raamyshinh
"In peace and serenity and joy is this concluded".


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