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Volume III No. 11 

January- February 2003:  Mah Behman Fasal Sal 1371

Prayer For Interfaith Meetings



ord of all creation, we stand in awe before You, impelled by visions of the harmony of humankind. We are children of traditions – inheritors of shared wisdom and tragic misunderstandings, of proud hopes and humble successes.  Now is the time for us to meet – in memory and truth, in courage and trust, in love and promise.  In that which we share, let us see the common prayer of humanity; in that, which we differ, let us wonder at the freedom of humankind; in our unity and our differences, let us know the uniqueness that is God. May our courage match our convictions, and our integrity match our hopes. May our faith in You bring us closer to each other.  May our meeting with past and present bring blessings for the future: Amen! [Source: Transcendence – Westminster Interfaith.] 

From Life of Jamshed Nusserwanjee 



n June 1928, Jamshed performed the opening ceremony of the Cosmopolitan Housing Society Ltd. In his speech on the occasion, he let out many of his heart’s desires and aspirations. He reiterated his great anxiety and desire for remodeling the whole of Lyari Quarter where the poor lived and for which he said he had plans and schemes ready.  To him every laborer, every man in the street had a right to be well clothed, well fed, well educated and well housed and for all these, housing to him was the most essential for it meant a congenial atmosphere for the proper growth of body, mind and soul. Laying stress upon the sense of civic duty, and letting himself into a rapturous joy, at the thought of God, he said: “I dream of the day when we all shall sit here on the pleasant little hill and think of unity with all and God, without any personal bias.  This means a growth of tolerance and tolerance is a straight path to God.”  God was the inspirer of his heart, the lifter of his soul, the kindler of his mind, the searchlight that always flashed continuously and mysteriously, showing him the way for the speedy progress of life’s plans. [Source: Jamshed Memorial Volume] 


02 THE MYSTERY RELIGION: Dastur Maneckji Nusserwanji Dhalla

03          HEROINES OF ANCIENT IRAN: Story of Shirin: The Marchioness of Winchester

06          SAOSHYANT [Part Two]: Ali A. Jafarey   

10        25th DECEMBER –BIRTHDAY OF MEHER YAZAD: Dorab J. Patel



Dastur Dr. Maneckji Nusserwanji Dhalla 


here are three passages in the extant Avesta, which reveal to us the existence of what is known in the History of Religions as the Mystery Religion.  Haurvatat, later Khurdad, is the sixth Amesha Spenta and is emblematic of Perfection.  The Yasht dedicate to him in the Later Avesta opens with the statement that Ahura Mazda created him for the help, joy, comfort and pleasure of the religious ones.  The greater part of the Yasht, however, is dedicated to the recital of Manthras or holy spells, which enable one to smite the legion of demons.  Ahura Mazda is then depicted, to enjoin Zarathushtra not to teach these Manthras to any one, except by the father to his son, or by the brother to his brother or by an Athravan to his pupil.  A similar injunction is found in the Yasht 14.46 (Bahram Yasht) dedicated to Verethraghna. Yet further in the Sad Dar (99.34), a later Pazend-Persian work, it is said that this knowledge is to be imparted to a priest and his intelligent descendents and to none other.  

      Examples of similar instructions to guard such knowledge of the recital of a holy spell to be handed down from generation to generation and to be transmitted from father to son, or from teacher to pupil are found in the sacred books of other religions. For example Brihad-Aranyaka Upanishad 6.3.12 tells us that one should not give such knowledge to one who is not a son or to one who is not a pupil. The Chandogya Upanishad 3,11,5,6 says that a father should teach this to his eldest son or to a worthy pupil, but to none else. Even if one may offer him this earth that is filled with treasure, he should say, “This (knowledge) truly is more than that (earthly treasure)”.  The Mundaka, Svetasvatara 6.22 and Maitri Upansihad 6.29 add that this profound mystery should not be given or even mentioned to one who is not a son or a pupil or a tranquil person. 

      In ancient Egypt the king was the head of the guild of diviners and magicians.  When Cambyses was in Egypt he is reported to have sought initiations to the Mysteries of the Goddess Neit.  The initiates were asked to guard the secrecy of the mysterious wisdom.  In Babylonia, the books on the art of divination were highly treasured and scrupulously guarded.  Those that were not instructed were debarred from reading the secrets of divination.  St. Paul speaks of the hidden wisdom intended only for the initiated. 

      The Mysteries were rites performed in secret and concealed from the view of the public.  The priests who were solemnly initiated for the service could perform these rites. When the cult of Mithra entered Rome, the Mithraic rites were performed in the caves and grottoes and the fire was kept burning perpetually in the deep recesses of the subterranean crypts. 

      The Divine Knowledge was thus a sacred possession.  It was to be closely guarded and kept secret. The initiates everywhere, were strictly forbidden to divulge the secret of the Mystery-Religion.  The neophyte, everywhere, was subjected to rigorous tests to prove the power of physical endurance.  Before initiation he had to purify himself by repeated lustrations and bodily tortures.  He had to perform magical rites and pass through degrees of initiations before he was finally admitted as a participant in the Mysteries. 

      A passage in the Yasht dedicated to Mithra (Yasht 10.12) reminds us the custom of flagellation.  Ahura Mazda is depicted as saying unto Zarathshtra they alone are well-versed in the sacrificial ritual all wash their bodies three days and three nights and undergo thirty stripes and under other circumstances wash their bodies two days and two nights and undergo twenty stripes before they drink the libations prepared in honor of Mithra. 

      We find from the history of the Mystery Religions that have prevailed in the past in different parts of the world that the initiates were supposed to wield great occult power.  They claimed exclusive right to approach the celestial beings and hold communion with them.  It was through their medium only that one could obtain divine favors in this world and deliverance from suffering in the next world.

[Source: The Centenary Volume of B.V. S. Parsi High School, Karachi] 


The Marchioness of Winchester

Story of Shirin 


hirin was a Princess, whose name is handed down to lasting fame in all later Persian romantic literature.  According to Firdausi, she was of Persian descent and came from Khuzistan.  She became the consort of the famous Sassanian monarch, Khusrau Parwiz, and the poets never tire of recounting the King’s devotion to her.  Khusrau Parwiz first fell in love with the beautiful Shirin during the lifetime of his father, King Hurmuzd.  As narrated in the previous story, when Hurmuzd was deposed, Bahram Chubina raised a rebellion, and Khusrau had perforce to devote himself to the war against the would be contestant for the crown.  After a severe struggle, Bahram was compelled to seek refuge with the Khan of Chin.  Meanwhile, Shirin wept in solitude that Prince Khusrau, in order to support his royal father’s interests should thus neglect her.  Khusrau returned victorious and shortly afterwards succeeded to the throne.  

      One day, while hunting with several other Princes and Knights, Khusrau chanced to draw nigh to the palace where Shirin dwelt.  Hearing news of this, she donned a beautiful gown of red brocade of Rum and bedecking her-self with rich jewels, placed a royal crown upon her head.  She then made her way to the terrace, and, when Khusrau Parwiz appeared in sight, addressed him in the following sorrowful words: 

                        O Shah! Great Lion!

                        O framed to be leader of the host!

                        O blessed hero lion conqueror!

                        Where is that love of thine? Where are the tears

                        Of blood once staunched by looking on Shirin?

                        Where are all those days which once we turned to nights,

                        Tears in our hearts and in eyes, smiles on our lips?

                        Where are our loves, our troth, our bonds, our oaths?  

Khusrau, hearing her, became stricken with remorse at having so neglected his beloved.  In the care of his most trusted chieftain, he sent Shirin to his golden bower, and, as soon as the chase was over, returned to the palace to marry her.  The nobles heard these tidings and advised Khusrau against taking her as his Queen; but the Shah defended the lady, assuring his loyal retainers that she had ever been true to him.  The nobles were therefore satisfied, and gave their assent.  It happened that King Khurau had still another wife, a daughter of the Kisra of Rum, named Maryam.  She was a wise and beautiful Princess, and Khusrau Parwiz was very fond of her, and had made her the chief Queen in the royal bower. After her death, however, which occurred shortly after the King’s marriage to Shirin, the latter succeeded her in the golden chambers, and took her place as the chief Queen. 

      It may here be observed that Firdausi entirely omits the tragic episode of Shirin and her sculptor-lover Farhad.  This doubtlessly true story is, however, given by Nizami in his romantic poem of Khusrau and Shirin, and may here be appropriately recounted, in order to complete the story of one of the most fascinating personalities of Ancient Iran.  The following is the tale told by Nizami. 

      Kuhsurau Parwiz became jealous of Farhad, the renowned sculptor, who carved in stone imperishable records of the King’s fame, but who had fallen in love with Shirin. To encourage the work of the artist’s chisel, Khusrau promised him the favors of the fair Shirin.  Unceasingly the sculptor toiled, and wrought miracles in the living rock, which are still to be seen.  But when the achievement was almost accomplished, the monarch sought for some means to postpone the fulfillment of his promise.  He therefore called his courtiers to him, and asked their advice as to how he might rid himself of this rival. The courtiers suggested that he should appoint Farhad some task that would occupy him throughout the whole of his life.  Now, Shirin had asked of Khusrau a “river of milk”. Khusrau, recalling this, summoned Farhad in his presence, and bade him hew a passage through the great mountain Bahistun, so as to join the river on the opposite sides.  Farhad, the true love, replied that he would accomplish this upon one condition: namely, that the fair Shirin be given to him as the reward for his labor.  As Khusrau Parwiz was certain that the work would never be finished since it would surely require superhuman power, he consented. The sculptor then began his work, thinking but of Shirin all the while. He toiled without pause on the mountain, described by Nizami thus: 

                        The mist of night around her summit coils,

                        But still Farhad, the lover-artist, toils,

                        And still---the flashes of his axe between—

                        He sighs to ev’ry wind, Alas! Shirin!

                        Alas! Shirin!---my task is well nigh done.

                        The goal in view for which I strive alone,

                        Love grants me power that Nature might deny;

                        And whatsoe’er my doom, the world shall tell,

                        Thy lover gave to immortality

                        Her name he loved—so fatally---so well!  

The poor sculptor continued his work, ever hopeful of winning Shirin, and completed it within a short time.  In the front of the arch he constructed the statue of Shirin surrounded by attendants like a queen, and in the middle he carved in high relief the statue of Khusrau Parwiz seated upon his favorite horse, Shabdiz, and panoplied in armor.  Under this arch, which is called Taq-i-Bustan1 the rivers were made to flow either side, as Khusrau had commended, and the chance traveler can still gaze in wonderment upon the triumphs wrought by the sculptor-lover’s chisel.  

      The romantic artist’s end was tragic.  When Farhad’s wonderful work was complete, Khusrau was much distressed.  He was advised by his courtiers to bring about the death of Farhad.  Accordingly, one day, while the sculptor was at work high upon the rocky precipice, he sent an old woman to tell him that Shirin was dead.  In a croaking voice she called aloft to him that he had now best prepare a tomb for her.  The true lover, when he heard this news, raised a cry to Heaven: “Alas, Shirin!” flung from him chisel and mallet, and sprang from the towering cliff, to perish at its base. When Shirin learned of the fate of her artist-lover, she wept tears of bitter sorrow.   

      We shall turn once more to Firdausi’s narrative of Khusrau and Shirin.  Maryam had left a son, named Shirwi, also known as Kubad.  Now, Khusrau Parwiz knew that Shirwi was not worthy of the crown or throne, so he put him to prison, in comfortable quarters.  He was, however, later released by some of his chiefs, and rose in arms against his father, with the help of his grandfather, the Kisra of Rum, and succeeded in overpowering and taking him prisoner.  Shirin was devoted to Khusrau and shared his grief in captivity.  Finally enemies of Khusrau Parwiz demanded his life, whereupon his treacherous son Shirwi, a timid man, hired an assassin to kill him.  When this was brought to pass, Shirwi actually wept and mourned his father. Such, according to the Shanama, was the end of Khusrau, the mighty monarch of Iran 

      After the death of King Khusrau, Shirwi came to the throne, and when two months has passed, he sent for Shirin.  She returned the answer that she would come into his presence if the wise men of his court were assembled for the occasion. Shirwi accordingly summoned all the soothsayers, and Shirin thereupon entered the new royal presence, unveiled her face and spoke thus: 

                        There is my face,

                        Such as it is.  If there be falsehood show it.

                        My hair was all my hidden excellence,

                        For none on earth e’er used to look thereon.

                        What I display is all my sorcery,

                        Nor necromancy, fraud, and evil bent.  

      Shirwi was quiet dazzled at the sight of her lovely face, and promptly asked her to be his Queen.  Shirin replied that she would consent, provided he would assign to her all her treasure.  Shirwi acceded to her request, and Shirin forthwith distributed her wealth to the poor, at the same time freeing all her slaves.  She then told Shirwi that she had one more request to make: this was to have the charnel house of Khusrau Parwiz opened that she might look upon her dear lord’s face again. Shirwi instantly granted this wish.  Whereupon Shirin went, weeping and wailing in anguish, to the tomb, took poison on the spot. and dropped dead by the side of her deceased husband. 

      Concerning Khusrau’s own genuine love for Shirin there can be no real historic ground for doubt.  Fiction is borne by fact. In support of this statement may be cited that a later Persian writer definitely records that, at Kasr-i-Shirin, “Palace of Shirin”, in the regions of Khanikin2 there was to be seen on the palace portal an inscription, which was prepared by King Khusrau Parwiz. The rhyming couplet ran as follows:  

huzhira, ba-gaihan anushah bi-zi

jihan ra ba-didar toshah bari 


Ah, Beauteous One! Upon this earth, happy for aye do live!

Since to the world by thy mere glance such joyance thou dost give. 

      Shirin is the only woman of the heroic past whose statue is still preserved in Persia, if we are to believe an anonymous Persian poet of more than a thousand years ago, who identified the figures in the sculptured arch of Taq-i-Bustan as Khusrau, Shirin and the high priest Magi.  But some modern scholars are inclined to interpret these bas-reliefs differently. In any event, Shirin stands out for all time as one of the most romantic characters in the Shanama of Firdausi and later Persian poetry.

1.Situated in western Persia, near Kirmansha of today. 2. Situated in western Persia. 


Ali A. Jafarey

Part Two 

Saoshyant in the Later Avesta 

      Although the present order of the extant Avesta is not based on chronology to help a full view of the evolution of the idea, we better follow it for data reasons. It will give us a fair vision to make a good conclusion. 


      The entire story of the three Saviors as given in the Pahlavi scriptures is woven around the passages quoted from Farvardin and Zamyad Yashts.  Astvat-ereta is also mentioned in the Vendidad.  All the three scriptures are compositions accumulated with later additions. [To be continued] 


Dorab J. Patel 


n 25th December the Christian world and some others celebrated Christmas, the annual holiday commemorating birth of Jesus Christ. The word Christmas entered the English language sometime around 1050 AD as the old English phrase Chirstes maesse, meaning “festival of Christ” or Christ’s Mass. Christmas is based on the story of Jesus’ birth as described in the Gospels according to Matthew (1:18-2:12). Roman Catholics first celebrated Christmas (Feast of Nativity) as early as 336 AD.  

      Although the Gospels describe Jesus’ birth in detail, they never mention the dates.  Many attempts have been made to pinpoint the date of Jesus’ birth, using all possible means. Search is pursued with the help of the celestial event that accompanied his birth.  The celestial event is that commonly known bright star that appeared at that time, which the three Magi followed to reach baby Jesus.  Historically and astronomically three celestial events are taken into consideration:

1. A comet that appeared in March 5 BC and lasted 70 days. 2.Conjunction of Jupiter and Venus in June 2 BC, and 3.Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the summer of 7 BC. which lasted for several months. 

      Basing research on this last event, which took place during the reign of King Herod, so far historians have been able to point 29th July as Jesus, birthday.  Whatever the findings one thing is sure that Christ was not born on 25th December. Then why celebrate his birthday on that day? 

      Before human beings learned to control and use fire, Sun was the only source of energy available to them.  Like water it was extremely important for human survival.  So much so that ancient people everywhere considered the sun to be a god and worshipped.  So did the ancient Aryans. 

      The Aryans, before they separated into Indian and Iranians groups were called Indo-Iranians.  They worshipped many gods and one of them was the sun god Mithra. After separation of the two groups Mithra rose to great eminence and became premier divinity of the Iranians.  They called it Meher. The sun bestows light and life to the totality of cosmos, with his unblinking, all-seeing eye, he is the stem guarantor of justice, with the almost universal connection of light with enlightenment or illumination the sun is the source of wisdom.  Zarathushtra preached about one god Ahura Mazda.  But after passing away of the Prophet his followers and subsequent priests brought back the pre-Zoroastrian gods in the religion.  They brought back the old gods as Yazatas [angels].  Mehre Yazata [Mithra] became the most prominent angel in the Younger Avesta.  Of the twenty-three Yashts [hymns in praise of Yazatas], which were composed between 300 and 1000 years after the passing away of Zarathushtra.   The Yasht in honor of Meher is the longest and eight times longer than the Yasht dedicated to Ahura Mazda. 

      Besides other attributes, according to Avesta; Meher Yazad is the genus of light that radiates from the sun.  He is the warden of truth and guardian of contracts.  He is a war divinity. He administers justice at the heavenly court and presides over judgment of the soul at death –Meher Davar He is the Yazad of battles and victory.  He is heroic and most beneficent, as well as courageous and weal giving. 

      During the Achaemenian times, because of their vast empire Mithraism was surcharged with Semitic accretion and spread far and wide.  In the Roman mysteries Mithra was united with the sun and called sol invictus or the invincible sun.  The war like trait of Mithra appealed strongly to the martial instincts of the Romans, and worship of Mithra took very strong roots in Rome. 

      From very early times [Sumerians before 2000 BC] had observed the movement of sun very carefully and had noticed that length of day [time taken from sunrise to sunset] varied and that in winter there were days much shorter than nights.  They took this as a sign of the sun retreating from the night.  But there was a day when it stopped retreating [Winter solstice] and from the next day the day started becoming longer.  This was the day the sun was starting on its march of victory.  This was the day to celebrate.  In all cases of sun worship this was the day of rebirth of the sun, Sun’s Birthday. The Romans were celebrating this day, the celebration for sol invictus on 25th December.  This was triumph of light over darkness.  

      Herod who was recognized by the Romans as King of the Jews, in 40 BC, and was ruling when Jesus was born, his birthday was officially celebrated on 25th December. In the early days of Christianity, when Christians were being persecuted, they chose this day as feast of Nativity of Christ, so that they could celebrate mass under the camouflage of the official festivity.  Scholars believe that Christmas originated in the 4th century as a Christian substitute for celebration of the day after winter solstice. 

      So why not celebrate the Birthday of Meher Yazad along with Christmas.  

“It is with words as with sunbeams, the more they are condensed, the deeper they burn.”

[Robert Southy] 


Marie Snider 


nce upon a time, there was a prominent king.  This king was the richest man in the world; consequently he had every thing he wanted.  According to the story, when the king was a baby, a procession of ants was seen carrying grains of wheat up side of his cradle and placing them between his lips as he slept.  When wise men were asked to explain this omen, they said the child would grow up to amass great power and great wealth.  Their prediction came true.  He was a good ruler, but power and wealth came first.  The king once rescued a friend of Dionysus, the god of wine, and Dionysus wanted to reward him.  The god granted the king one wish for anything he wanted. 

      The king knew immediately what he wanted and he wished that everything he touched would turn gold. Dionysus warned him about the dangers of such a wish, but King Midas insisted. Midas was thrilled at first as one artifact after another turned to gold.   But then, he walked in his splendid garden among his prize roses and they turned to gold.  And he became hungry and thirsty, his food and drink turned to gold.  Seeking comfort, he embraced his small daughter and she turned to gold.  Heartbroken, he saw the error of his ways.   

      This is Midas Myth.  But the myth is somewhat based on fact. There actually was a King Midas in the ancient kingdom of Phrygia in about 700 BC.  He was a rich, powerful king who committed suicide at a young age.  This tragic story makes me think of a chapter in the book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey.  In the chapter, “Begin with the End in Mind,” Covey said, “People often find themselves achieving victories that are empty, successes that have come at the expense of things they suddenly realize more valuable to them. King Midas thought he wanted gold – lots of gold.  But when he achieved his goal, he was crushed.  He had traded the most important things --- his roses, his beloved daughter and his own life – for dead, worthless gold. 

      Like King Midas, many people from all walks of life struggle to achieve a higher income, more power, more recognition and to become successful as they define it --- only to find later that they have traded the most important things in life for something dead and worthless. Unfortunately, life is very short and you don’t get second chances. That’s why it is especially important to get your priorities right early on.  So how about you?  Do you know what are the most important things in your life? Do they get as much care, emphasis and time, as you would like to give them?    

      Why not answer these questions today?  Keep in mind this wisdom from 19th century German writer Goethe: “Things which matter most never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” Visualize what you most want in life and always keep that picture in the front of your mind.  Put first things first and act in accordance with your priorities.  Then, one decision at a time, you can create true successes and avoid the Midas tragedy. [Source: “Active Life”. The author is an award-winning healthcare writer ands a syndicated columnist.] 

Please send your articles or queries to: Virasp Mehta

4235 Saint James Place, Wichita KS 67226, U.S.A.


Published for Informal Religious Meetings Trust Fund, Karachi