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Volume V No. 2: Mah Ardibehest, Fasal Sal 1373 : April-May 2004

      Katârêm ashavâ vâ    Which of the two courses is greater, the one

          dregvâo vâ verenvaitê mazyô?   the righteous person chooses for himself, or

      Vidvâo vidushė mraotû,    the one wrongful takes?  Let the wise one tell

          mâ e-vidvâo aipi-debâvayaţ;   the knowing, so that the ignorant does not

      Zdi nê, Mazdâ Ahurâ!     continue his work with deception.

          Vańhêus fradakhshtâ Manańhô.   Wise Lord, be the revealer of good mind to us. 

      [Ahunavaity: Song 4.17:Translation by Ali A. Jafarey] 

“IT is evident that this simple and sublime religion is one to which, by whatever name we call it, the best modern thought is fast approximating.  Men of science like Huxley, philosopher like Herbert Spencer, poets like Tennyson, might all subscribe to it.” SAMUEL LAING’S  “Modern Zoroastrian 

      In this Issue: 

                  By Timothy R. Smith 


         14  MOTHER’S DAY!  [POEM]

                  By Farida Bamji 

Don’t try to accomplish something too quickly.

Think of these lines. 

Yard by hard, all tasks are hard.

Inch by inch, they’re all a cinch! 

[Author unknown] 


By Irach J.S. Taraporewala 

“Mazdak might well be termed the first Bolshevik in history.  Indeed, in some respects Bolsheviks might be regarded as lukewarm compared to Mazdak; he not only preached communism in worldly possession but he also advocated an equal division of women among men “ 


UST as Mani’s eclectic Faith was a pointer at the germs of decay in the Sassanian body politic, so also Mazdak’s teaching was a pointer at the inevitable downfall towards which the Sassanian Empire was heading.  Mani came within one generation of the establishment of Sassanian rule in Iran; Mazdak came towards the end of that rule, about a century before the Arabs overthrew the Empire.  Both these movements were fiercely and ruthlessly uprooted in the land of their origin, and to all outward appearances it seemed as if the authority of the theocratic state was amply vindicated.  But the triumph over Mazdakism was short-lived.  There is another similarity between these two movements:  Zoroastrian, Christian and Islamic writers have poured unbounded vituperation against both.  These unfriendly writings are our only sources of information regarding the teachings of Mazdak.  As regards Mani a great deal of new and valuable information has come to light since the Turfan discoveries in 1902.  These have shown Mani as really a great personage and the founder of a new Faith.  But no such finds have yet been discovered to rehabilitate Mazdak. 

      Still Mazdakism may be viewed as a symptom, which indicated a deep-seated cancer in the body politic of Sassanian Iran.   Therefore we should judge this movement after accepting the principle embodied in the saying, “By their fruits shall ye know them. 

      The founder of the Sassanian dynasty was one of the supermen of history.  He was a born leader of men and he led his country and his people to a renovated existence.  A man of great fixity of purpose, he carried out to the full the task he had set before himself, and he left to his son a newly established empire, a renovated religion and hundreds of well-trained and enthusiastic men and women ready to carry on the work to its fulfillment.  Shapur I, the son of the founder, Ardashir I, was worthy of his father, for he also was a great leader, far above the average.  He established the new empire and completed the task of the revival of Zoroastrianism to the satisfaction of all concerned.  He loyally carried out his father’s admonition regarding Faith and Royalty as brothers.  He fixed firmly and finally the theocratic constitution of the newly established Sassanian empire.  By this the Zoroastrian clergy acquired powers second only to those possessed by the king himself. And naturally also the landed aristocracy of Iran came in for a good share of political power and emoluments. 

      Of course, it was never the intention of either Aradshir I or of Shapur I that these two great sections of Iranian society –the Zoroastrian clergy and the landowners – should become the oppressors of the masses.  As long as the king at the top was a strong man he could hold both these sections in check and could stand between them and the masses.  Both Ardashir I and Shapur I understood that the masses would give full support and would be loyal to the state provided they got justice from their king, and so both these rulers were eager to see that justice was done to the meanest of their subjects. 

      But once the strong hand of the king at the top was removed the two powerful sections would naturally try to consolidate their own power over the masses and to gain new privileges.  In justice, however, to the Zoroastrian clergy it must be mentioned that the spread of Christianity throughout Iran was a constant and growing menace to the newly revived Zoroastrian religion.  To add to these difficulties the Christian Roman Empire was steadily growing more and more menacing and truculent.  Rome was always trying to find some pretext to make war on Iran nor was Iran at all behind to find excuses for a fight. Armenia, which held a strategic position between the two empires was itself torn by the religious strife of the Armenian Zoroastrians and Christians; and Rome and Iran being both theocratic, the affairs in Armenia almost always kindled the flames of war.  And in these wars the landholders were ever an important factor for they ensured the victories of Iran.  And so we find the power of both the Zoroastrian clergy and of the Iranian landholding aristocracy daily growing stronger and more firmly established.  When the king was a young man of easy-going and pliable temperament both these sections consolidated their gains and tried to acquire yet more.  And all this was at the expense of the masses.  

      Ardashir I and Shapur I did all they could to ensure that the masses got a fair deal.  But when they were gone a succession of weaker men ruled the empire from 272 to 309 A.D., which gave time enough to the vested interests to work their will in the state. 

      Then came Shapur II (the Great), a unique figure in history.  He was a posthumous son, and he succeeded to the empire before he was born.  The vested interests naturally looked forward to a fairly long period of minority (at least fifteen years) and they had hopes of molding the baby king’s character to suit their own purposes.  But Shapur was a superman, even greater than the first two rulers of his line and at a very early age he gave clear indications that he had a mind of his own and a will also to get whatever he wanted, and he was a true-born ruler of men.  Shapur II wished to curb the powers of the Zoroastrian clergy and of his landholders, for he was wise enough to appreciate the dangers if these were left unchecked.  But other events outside Iran forced him to side with his clergy and his aristocracy..  Constantine, the Roman Emperor, carried away by his zeal for Christianity, proclaimed himself to be the spiritual head of all the Christians in the world (including, of course, the Christians of Iran).  This was more than Shapur II, the proudest of the Sassanians, could tolerate.  The poor Christians of Iran found themselves placed in a very false position, torn between the two loyalties, to the king of their own country and to the head of their faith, the Roman emperor.  Whenever there was a war between Iran and Rome (which was practically always) the Christians of Iran were looked upon as foes and “fifth columnists” and had to pay the penalty.  This gave the vested interests good opportunities to launch fierce persecutions against the Christians, to which Shapur II, with his offended pride, was not unwilling to lend his support.  So on the whole during the long reign of Shapur II (lasting over seventy years) the vested interests had their own way more or less in spite of the strong king. 

      After Shapur II came a long successions of very ordinary kings and during over one hundred years (379-487 A.D.) there was only one king who was well above the average.  That was Behram V (Beheramgore, the Hunter of the Wild Ass), but he was busy most of the time with wars with the Huns.  One important event happened in the days of Behram V and that was the final separation of the Iranian Christian Church from the Orthodox Church of Byzantium.  The fratricidal strife between the Christians and the Zoroastrians had been going on with ever increasing ferocity and bitterness ever since the days of Shapur II.  Thousands had lost their lives; the manhood of Iran was slowly but surely being bled to death.  But after the separation of the Iranian Christian Church from Byzantium the Christians found comparative peace.  Still the religious hatred and fanaticism on both sides were of too long a growth to die out completely.  Violent polemical writings continued on both sides. 

      Meanwhile the masses were being ground down relentlessly by the vested interests and seem to have sunk to the deepest depths of poverty and misery. The unsuccessful wars of Firuz I (459-483) against the Huns added to the prevailing discontent.  The conditions in Iran soon after the death of Firuz I were almost exactly the same as those prevailing in France on the eve of the French Revolution or in Russia at the end of the First World War.  The fruits of these centuries of oppression were soon to be visible in the revolutionary and communistic preaching of Mazdak, who began his work about 488 A.D. 

      We can but make a guess at the social conditions of Iranian masses by observing the extra violent language in the preaching of Mazdak and the extremes to which his doctrines went.  Even more significant was the extreme rapidity with which Mazdak’s teaching was accepted by the masses.  Within the course of a few months his followers could be counted by the hundred thousand; and in every part of the vast empire they were drawn from every stratum of society from the king downwards.  The king at that time was Kawadh (488-531 A.D.), and in the beginning he openly declared his sympathies with the new preaching.  But the vested interests were seriously perturbed and so strongly were entrenched that the king was forced to leave his throne for a few years (499-501).  

      Charles Dickens has given a wonderful passage in the last chapter of his A Tale of Two Cities, in which he indicates the connection between revolutions and their causes.  Describing the rolling of six tumbrils through the streets of Paris bearing the unhappy victims of the guillotine he says:   

      “Six tumbrils roll along the streets.  Change these back to what they were thou powerful enchanter.  Time, and they shall be seen to be the carriages of absolute monarchs, the equipages of feudal nobles, the toilettes of flaring Jezebels, the churches that are not my Father’s house, but dens of thieves, the huts of millions of starving peasants.  No; the great magician who works out the appointed order of the Creator never reverses his transformation”.  Further on he adds: “ Crush humanity out of shape under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms.  Sow the seed of rapacious license and oppression over again and it will yield the same fruit according to its kind. ’By their fruits indeed shall ye know them’


      We do not have any historical records of the seeds sown in Iran, but we possess ample evidence of the hideous fruit, from which we may infer the nature of the seed if the Laws of God have any meaning. 

      Mazdak might well be termed the first Bolshevik in history.  Indeed, in some respects Bolsheviks might be regarded as lukewarm compared to Mazdak; he not only preached communism in worldly possessions but he also advocated an equal division of women among men. 

      When Kawadh was restored to the throne in 501 A.D. he was made wiser by experience and he withdrew his open support of the Mazdakites.  He clearly recognized the seed from which this terrible tree of Mazdakism had grown, and he tried his best during the remaining thirty years of his reign to see that the conditions of the masses were made more tolerable.  But he was not strong enough to remove the root causes of Mazdakism.  That was reserved for a greater man than Kawadh.  It was his son Khusrav I, known to all Orient by his title Noshirwan, who freed Iran from the Mazdak frenzy. 

      Khusrav was the favorite son of Kawadh and he had been his father’s closest friend and counselor during the closing years of Kawadh’s reign.  Khusrav was easily the greatest ruler Iran ever had. Indeed, he may rank among the six greatest kings in the history of the world.  He clearly saw the imminent danger to both the state and the religion from Mazdak’s teaching and the first thing he did was to suppress the movement with an iron hand.  But at the same time he saw justice done to the masses.  Like a good physician he removed not merely the symptoms of the disease but he removed the disease itself.  With equal firmness he brought under control the oppressors of the masses.  Quite early he won the title of ‘Adl’ (the Just), for Justice was his watchword.  Under his strong and just rule peace and prosperity returned to Iran, and the masses were satisfied.  For this achievement his grateful subjects with one voice called him Anushak-Ruban or Noshirwan (he of the immortal soul).  To posterity he is known as Noshirwan alone, the most glorious name ever bestowed upon an earthly ruler. 

      Mazdak was certainly a successor of Mani, because his movement was not merely social but was essentially religious.  His extreme ideas were certainly a menace both to society and to religion.  They certainly threatened the very existence of Zoroastrian priesthood, and so very naturally he was violently abused by Zoroastrian writers.  He has been called Ashemaogha (a distorter of truth) and one commentator on a religious text explains this epithet by adding, “like Mazdak, the son of Bamdad”.  The mildest epithet used for him by Zoroastrians is “accursed”. 

      Mazdak’s ideas are a natural corollary to the state of Iran in his days, and to the condition of the masses that he had seen with his own eyes.  He felt himself obliged to preach extreme communism and an absolute community of possessions, including women.  Very likely he was moved by the idea that desperate diseases need desperate remedies.  At the same time he also preached a higher ideal of life.  He pointed out the value of self-restraint and renunciation of all sense-pleasure including animal food.  For this last teaching he has been called “the devil who would not eat.”  He asserted that the desire for pleasure and possessions constituted the universal cause of all hatred and strife.  He also like Mani laid stress on Zoroaster’s teaching of the two essential Principles of Good and Evil, which pervade our life on earth.  He also enjoined the strict purity of God’s “elements” fire, water and earth.  But we have very scanty positive knowledge of what he actually taught. 

      Mazdak was treacherously murdered and many of his closest adherents lost their lives at the same time.  Then followed a systematic suppression of all Mazdakites, often with much bloodshed.  But though outwardly uprooted and completely destroyed the teachings of Mazdak continued to flourish for several centuries after his murder.  Under the rule of the Islamic caliphs of Baghdad historians have noted several “heretical sects”.  They all seemed to get their inspiration from the teachings of Mazdak, for they cite him as their authority.  But what is more surprising and very significant is that many of these “heretical sects” have coupled the name of Mazdak with that of Zoroaster, the Prophet of ancient Iran. ■

[Source: “The Religion of Zarathushtra by the author.] 

Where there is faith, there is love.

Where there is love there is peace.

Where there is peace there is God

And where there is God, there is no need!  


By Timothy R. Smith 

Talk presented by the author at San Jose University on February 13, 2004 


T is the oldest revealed religion known to us.  As such, it is intimately related to the most of other world religions; its doctrine lies at the very foundation of civilized society. For the next half an hour or so, we will talk about Zoroastrianism, highlights of its history and philosophy, its role in the present and in the future. Now, we may be assured that any talk on Zoroastrianism is likely to provoke some controversy.  Its scriptures are unfortunately incomplete, written in languages difficult to understand today, and its history is complicated by sources that differ widely in their reliability and intent.  My version of the subject may be quite different from someone else’s and, quite honestly, they might have as difficult a time disproving it as I would have in proof of mine.  But, nevertheless, dispelling the fog and peeling through the layers, one finds doctrines that defy trivial controversy, doctrines that have stood solidly for generation upon generation.     

      Drawing from the Zoroastrian scripture along with modern history and science, we begin this story some 25,000 years ago, where there lived a people in a mountain valley in Asia, with a good river, streams and trees, and abundant game.   Life was good there.  The people enjoyed living in harmony with the very Soul of the Living World.  But then, something happened, perhaps quite suddenly.  Winter came with the worst of the plagues: “There were ten months of winter there, and two months of summer, and these were cold for the waters, cold for the earth, cold for the trees.”  

      Winter was relentless --winter that would not go away.  Disease was prevalent, and with the land so cold, earth hardened with ice, the dead could not often be buried easily, and were laid out with great care to be consumed by the elements and scavengers.  To survive in the northern lands, if there was no cave, then one had to be built from whatever was at hand.   Though people had already learned the use of stones and wood to make tools to build shelters and such, they would master another tool now desperately needed for their survival: Fire. 

      Fire deserved the greatest respect, for fire was the difference between life and death in this place.  The cold persisted for a very long time.  Finally, after nearly 9000 years, the land began to warm a little again.  People all over began to move again, slowly.  For the first time, a few people in northern Asia moved to the North American continent, before the ice melted to the point of filling the oceans again.  But nature was not quite finished tormenting humankind yet.  As the ice melted, long, narrow lakes filled the deep cavities scoured out by glaciers, but their shorelines were weak and often gave way as torrential rains fell from thick clouds rising from the glaciers melt, resulting in terrible floods. 

      The people of our mountain valley moved, too.  Those who told this story moved south, away from the cold, into the lands we know today more or less as Iran.  Others went to India, to Afghanistan, perhaps to the Caucasus, and to other lands.  In a time span covering millennia, from the makeshift caves of the ice age came towns, and later, cities.  All were fit by Fire, which brought light and warmth to the home.  New uses were discovered for Fire, including the smelting and refining of metal.  Copper, then bronze, then iron.   The cities surrounded by farms and fields provided a comfortable guarantee of food in case the perpetual winter happen to come again.  But our people from the mountain valley remembered fire, and they remembered a great flood, and they remembered their lovely faraway home before a terrible winter came.   

      It was about 3,800 years ago, when something else extraordinary happened among the people.  By this time, populations in Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Indus Valley were flourishing but, suddenly, there was a catastrophe.  We are not sure just what it was that triggered it, but whatever it was brought out the worst in people.  The Indus Valley civilization collapsed entirely, never to recover.  The great city of Ur fell, and never regained its prominence.  The archaeologist who excavated Ur noted that every single building of that period was ravaged with the marks of war.  This time, it was neither ice nor snow nor rain that enveloped the earth, but a period of lamentation.  It seems people had their first experience of the full wrath, not of the gods, but of their fellow people.  The Soul of the Living World cried out to God ---but the answer was not quite what was expected.      

      In the East, in the land of Bactria, appears Zarathushtra, a descendent of those survivors of the ice age, and it was clearly in Zarathushtra’s revelations that the answers came. The core of the revelation said, and I quote: 

“Hear the best with your ears, and ponder with a bright mind.

Then each man and woman, for his or herself select, either of the two.

Awaken to this doctrine before the great event of choice ushers in.

Now, the two foremost mentalities, known to be imaginary twins are

the better and the bad in thoughts, words, and deeds.

Of these, the beneficent choose correctly, but not so the maleficent. 

      Now, what did this mean?  It meant each person had free will.  It also meant, each person was expected to use his/her free will to choose right over wrong by themselves.  It meant the reason for the mess they were in was also their own problem to solve.  God had nothing to do with their pitiful situation. God had given human beings reasoning minds, and each person was expected to use the faculty to the fullest degree.  There would be no miraculous displays here, no Deus ex machina endings. 

      What does Zarathushtra’s revelation mean today?  Exactly the same as it did then.  Given that reason practiced well in a community leads to wisdom, it is not surprising that Zarathushtra elevated Ahura Mazda, meaning the “Wise Lord,” truly the “Lord of Wisdom” itself, to the highest level among the pantheon of early Iranian gods.  Although it is the earliest monotheistic view known to us, a view that likely had a profound impact on later religions.  Zarathushtra and his followers were hardly concerned with intricate theologies during his time.  They had other problems to contend with, as already mentioned, so what was to become of the Zarathushtrian religion was largely practical in its outlook. 

      They were survivors of the ice age, and fire had played an important role in their culture for generation.  With Zarathushtra, fire would now take on a deeper meaning. 

      Fire would symbolize enlightenment, the illuminated mind.  To this day, every time we see a candle burning in a church, synagogue, mosque, or temple, its flame means much the same thing.  But for most of us, we have forgotten that it was once, literally during the ice age, the difference between life and death. 

      Now, with Zarathushtra’s revelation that we have free will to choose what is better for us and what is not, perhaps for the first time, we see a connection now with another of the world’s religions.  Judaism, in the second chapter of Genesis, deals with the same subject.  The version in Genesis is an archetypal story for teaching.  Everything goes fine in the Garden of Eden until people learn about good and evil: the concept of discerning good from evil comes along, and we have had nothing but problems ever since.  In both cases, the Zoroastrian and the Judaic, good and evil are old concepts, but they are ethical in their dimension now.    

      Good and evil are no longer seen as a great clash of cosmic forces.  Instead, they are seen as subtle influences in our day-to-day decisions. 

       Now, underlying the principle of free will to choose. As expressed by Zarathushtra, are some very important concepts that apply as much today and in the future as they did back then.  The first of these recognizes how we think. One of our basic thought processes, and the one that can cause us the most difficulty, is polarized thinking.  That is, thinking in terms of good or evil, the truth or the lie, light or dark, hot or cold, positive or negative, rich or poor, and so on.  Zarathushtra’s revelation presumes that we often think this way, and this has repercussions in later philosophical development. 

      The second concept recognizes how we learn.  We learn by making choices and, given our all-too-human vulnerability, every choice may not be the best one.  Zarathushtra’s revelation thus expects a certain degree of failure, it predicts forgiveness among people, it favors leading by example rather than retribution, and thus arrives early at the golden rule found later on in Leviticus, the Gospel, the Hadith and other scriptures.   

      The third concept recognizes how we interact.  To choose, each man and woman for his or her self, implies freedom as a complete reality in society.  This was perhaps the most revolutionary concept to be derived from Zarathushtra’s revelation of free will. Given that some 3,000 years had passed since the time of Zarathushtra, it remains to this day the least developed concept the most difficult to put into practice. 

      Thus, Zarathushtra’s revelation of free will tells us much about how we think, how we learn, and how we interact with each other.   It is not a static statement, but a dynamic process.   As such, the concept of free will also has many implications in Zoroastrian thought. One implication is purpose.  In Zoroastrianism, each and every person has a purpose, and that purpose is to help make this a better world by making good choices.  

      Another implication is that some rare people will do this to a far greater positive effect than usual.  Thus, the hope for a world savior was born.  A savior –a person whose guiding example was so strong, that others would be compelled to likewise make good choices. In Zoroastrianism, the thought was that not only one savior, but perhaps many saviors, could be expected.  The Hebrew prophets, too saw the coming of a messiah, a savior.  Given the time period during which Zarathushtra and the Hebrew prophets lived, it is quite possible the idea was originally one and the same. 

      Another implication that comes from the Zoroastrian version of freewill is a difficult one – the consideration of social justice and undeserved suffering.   Freewill, and freedom itself, comes with a deep sense of responsibility. Social justice has but a single axiom: that the society is responsible for the undeserved suffering of its members.  Put another way, it is an ideal condition in which no one’s happiness depends on the suffering of another.  In the strictness interpretation, it is up to each person to make that a reality through the choices they make in their lives.  This is easiest to comprehend when we are talking about problems that are obviously our fault. Slavery, servitude, caste, hate, racism, prejudices, bigotry, poverty, starvation, hunger, substance abuse, apathy, indifference, corruption, misuse of power, licentiousness, gross immorality, oppression, excessive law, war, strife, fear – all are conditions that can be created by human beings for other human beings.  

      The idea of undeserved suffering is much more difficult to accept when we are talking about problems that seem outside of our control.  Allow me to give an example of just how difficult this is. Prior to the year 1796, about a third of all children born into the world died from smallpox, and how hard it must have been for family to bear.  A few hundred years later, smallpox has been successfully eradicated from the face of the earth.  It is a bright and shining example of what we can do with the rational, reasoning minds God has given us.  Before 1796, the suffering was undeserved because we had not yet looked hard enough to find some answer.  If a child were to contact smallpox today, it would be truly undeserved; and while we may be doing great with smallpox, there is still underserved suffering on a massive scale that needs to be addressed worldwide.  

      Still another logical implication of free will is that of judgment.  The notion of the Day of Judgment is a clear acknowledgment that freewill ultimately determines the outcome of our lives, not destiny or fate.  If it were otherwise, judgment would really make no sense.  Zoroastrianism has contemplated judgment from many perspectives over its long history.  One of the most interesting is a metaphor that one’s soul is purified much like the refining of metal with fire – there’s fire again – and from this metaphor comes a concept of hell being a very hot place. However, in the Zoroastrian view, God is given a lot of credit, a lot of power, and no soul is really God’s wisdom to purify. So, while judgment is a natural outcome of Zoroastrian thought, the idea of an eternal hell is usually not. Perhaps, a kind of purgatory and heaven.   We may very well create our own hell on earth as a result of poor choices, but to imagine any human transgressions are beyond God’s capability to set straight is quite unimaginable to the Zoroastrian sense. 

      So judgment is implied, and knowing we might all be judged, a great deal of tolerance, and to a large degree acceptance, is implicit in Zoroastrian thought.  Following the time in which Zarathushtra lived, there is quite a long gap before Zoroastrianism catches on, but it appears brightest in the Achaemenid, Cyrus, the Great king, king of kings of the Persian Empire, known among the Hebrew Prophets as the anointed of God.  To this day, Cyrus, the Zoroastrian, is remembered in history as one whose benevolence, tolerance, humility and wisdom won the hearts of people everywhere and, during his reign, brought some happiness to the Soul of the Living World. 


      Today, those who profess the Zoroastrian faith number only a few hundred thousand out of some 6.3 billion people.  But the legacy of Zarathushtra’s revelation has touched every corner of the globe, and likewise, Zoroastrianism has also been influenced by other religions. Indeed, today it is quite a challenge to study Zoroastrianism outside of the context of our modern views on religion.  We have talked a little about its relation with Judaism, because the Tanakh shares many remarkably similar if not exactly the same, revelations and the history of the Jewish people were closely interwoven with the Zoroastrianism in early times.  Zoroastrianism is also closely related to Hinduism, with whom its scriptures share a closely related language, and many customs, names and the like are related..  Because of its great antiquity, it can be argued that Zoroastrianism laid the groundwork for the great family of monotheistic religions, including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, along with most of Hinduism, and others that share a monotheistic view. 

      With a little knowledge about Zoroastrianism, it is not too difficult to see the author of the Gospel of Matthew tries to persuade not only Jews that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah foretold by the Hebrew prophets, but also the savior promised by Zoroastrianism.  Hence, in Christianity, we find not only the magi (Zoroastrian priests) recognizing the birth of Jesus, but there is also the deduction proclaimed by the Apostle’s Creed: that “Jesus died, and was buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead.”  It happens to be a sequence that is virtually identical to an ancient Zoroastrian metaphor.  Today, Christianity’s deep sense of love finds a welcome home in Zoroastrian thought.  Islam share not only monotheism with Zoroastrianism, but also a deep concern for the relationship between actions of individuals within a community.  Both the Zoroastrian scriptures and the Quran teach equality and tolerance among the whole of humankind, and we cannot forget that both have at special times in their histories created high civilizations that greatly advanced in knowledge of science and philosophy.  Very little in the way of constructive systematic study has been performed on the relationship of Islam and Zoroastrian religious philosophy.   

      Virtually no study whatsoever has been performed on the relationship of Zoroastrianism to the indigenous religions of China such as Taoism.  Lao Tsu lived long after Zarathushtra, yet the Tao Te Ching offers considerable guidance on how to govern a free people – a free people who did not yet exist on the face of the earth except in the people’s minds and, at the time, mostly Zoroastrian minds.  A central idea of Taoism is for those who would lead others to lead by example rather than through dogma, to trust that people will find their way, and that their thinking can be shaped in a way, which will help assure their happiness.  Contrary to popular myth about Taoism, that does not mean to stop thinking altogether, but to clear one’s mind of thought pattern that lead nowhere.  All of this can be considered an offshoot of Zoroastrian thought, yet it lacks systematic study.    

      Native Americans laid out their dead to the elements, much as Zoroastrians did thousands of  years and as people in the Asiatic highlands still do to the present day.  Thus, there is at least one cultural relationship among the ancient peoples of Asia and the Americans, and probably a great many more, that may help better interpret the proto-Zoroastrian culture, or vice-versa.  Ten thousand years ago, all came from the same part of the world, and they knew each other then.   

      Zoroastrianism today is a vibrant religion. Its doctrines live on in other religions worldwide, and are at the foundation of civilized societies everywhere.  The world today faces challenges posed by huge increases in population, great economic inequity and social deprivation, and serious environmental destruction.  Yet the Zoroastrian view is an ever-optimistic one.  It reminds us that we already have the great gift needed to solve our problems today and in the future.  We have the ability to reason.  If we choose to do so, we can think good thoughts, speak good words, and do good deeds.  We can positively change the world in which we live. Hope is with us always until the end of time. ■  



PARSIS – Zoroastrians to be precise – have had very old association with Sind, as old as Avesta.  Vendiad opens with the enumeration of the sixteen good places created by Ahura Mazda. These include Hapta Hindu (the land of seven rivers –Punjab).  In Sanskrit the name is Sapta Sindu. Notice the words Hindu and Sindu.  Sindu is also the name of the River Indus and so Sind.  Earlier than Vendidad, Yasna 57 states that Sarosh Yazad guards lands up to Hapta Hindu. It is facetiously claimed that Sarosh Yazad guards lands and Zoroastrians up to river Indus only, which suggests that Parsis of India are left unguarded. 

      Darius the Great sent an Ionian Admiral, Seylex, to sail down the river Indus to the Indian Ocean then to Egypt, a voyage of three months (circa 516-512 B.C.).  After this Darius conquered the Indians of Indus valley.  The Sassanian King Shahpur had extended his empire up to Indus and trade by sea was carried on regularly. 

      Macoudy, in 916 A.D. states that Majucys (Zoroastrians) are living in Sind and pay respects to their fires.  In 1184 a Mobed named Mahiyar went from a town named Uccha in Sind to Sistan, to get information about religious matters.  Christesen, the famous European Islamist sites a Persian work written by a Sindhi Parsi named Maurzban in Sixteenth century. 

      Karachi is fairly ancient too.  Alexander of Macedonia (erroneously called the great) ordered his navy to proceed under the command of Admiral Nearchus, from the Delta of Indus to that of Euphrates in 326 B.C.  On his way Neachus stopped at a natural harbor called Krokala, which some historians identify to be the harbor of Karachi.  

      Ibn Majid who died circa 1500, refers to Karazi in his work Al Fawaid.  Sulaiman Ahmed bin Sulaiman, a pupil of celebrated navigator Ibn Majid in his book Umdah written in 1511 mentions “Ras Karashi” and “Ras as Karaazi”, an important rendezvous of navigators in Sind, located somewhere close to present Karachi.  He gives the route to be followed from Pasni to Ras Karazhi. Other Arab navigators have also made references to Karachi as “Diul Sind”.  Early European maps and charts refer only to Diulsinde of Diulcind.  

      In an Arabic book Mohit, a collection of sailing instructions compiled in 1558, from ten Arabic works on Geography and Navigation of India, the author Sidi Ali Capudan (Captain?) gives names of some harbors of refuge for voyages from Diu to Hormuz.  Among the list is “Kau Rashi”, located in the vicinity of present Karachi.  In 1774 an expedition under Lt. John Porter with the object to survey the coast visited Karachi.  Porter states that he went into the harbor “between the promontory on which a white tomb stands and the largest island.” He is talking about Clifton and Manora.  He also went up to “Crochay town”.  The tomb on the promontory is the mazar of Abdulah Shah Gazi, which is the oldest Muslim shrine in the subcontinent.  He had come with the Arab missionary prior to Mohammed Bin Qasim, in 711 A.D.  He died here and was buried on the promontory, which was some way in to the sea off the coast of Karachi.  As the sea receded from coastline of Karachi the shrine is now on the main land in Clifton.  The Hindu pilgrimage site, which, is reputed to be mentioned in the Mahabharata is situated below, in a corner of Kothari Parade at Clifton.  This too must have been an island cave centuries ago.  John Porter described Crochay town as  “It is fortified by a slight mud wall and flanked with round towers, and has only two cannons mounted in all, and those are so old, and their carriage so crazy, as would render the firing of them unsafe”.  In 1799 Mr. Nathan Crow of Bombay Civil Service, requested the Amir’s permission to establish a store at Karachi, which was at first refused.  After, prolonged negotiations, parwana was granted by the Talpurs permitting Crow to open “factories (stores) at Karachi and Thatta.  The Karachi store was opened on 29th September 1799.  However, before completion of one year, Crow was ordered to close the store and move away to Thatta.  Crow believed it was due to jealousy of native merchants of Karachi.  

      Naomal Hotchand in his memoirs gives history of Karachi.  According to it, Baomal’s grand father, Bohjmal had established a trading house at Khadak Buder which was situated along the sea coast on the west side of the Hub River.  He was exporting goods manufactured in Shevan and Thatta to Sonmiani, Guwadar and Muskat   His business was so flourishing that he had agents as far as Shiraz.  Due to silting up the Khadak Bunder became useless.  So he moved from west side of Hub River to the East Side and settled in Karachi in 1729.  When Bhojmal moved to Karachi it was already a flourishing port with its walled town and suburbs.  Since at that time Karachi belonged to the Khan of Kalat, Bhojmal had to take permission of the Khan to transfer his business.  In 1782 the Talpurs became the rulers of Lower Sindh.  Talpurs were liberal and encouraged trade.  Just before the Talpurs acquired Karachi, Bhojmal died and his grandson Naomal carried out his business.  

      Naomal was an Anglophile and became their main contact and agent (also their spy). In 1835 Col. Potinger made contact with him and it remained intact life long.  It was Pottinger’s job to acquire Karachi and Lower Sind by chicanery.  Nomal gave very valuable help to Commander Carless, also when he visited Karachi in 1837, on a reconnaissance mission.  Carless stayed for three months as a guest of Naomal.  Noamal worked as the contractor for supplies to the British, and was awarded the honor of ‘The Star of India’ in appreciation of his services.   

      Commander Carless describes Karachi thus: “The population of Karachi consists of seamen and fishermen and their total number is nearly 14,000.  The Hindu merchants and traders of Karachi are wealthy and resourceful.  Their trade offices are doing roaring business as far as Multan, Hrat, Kabul, Qandhar and Muscat. 

      The legend states that Karachi was originally a small fishing village, and the name of the headman/headwoman was Kullachi.   So this village was known as Kullachi-jo-goth.  Because of a facility of a natural harbor, a small town had grown in its place.  When Bhojmal came to settle it was a town of about 40 acres (a little larger than the Dungarwadi estate of Karachi) with fortification of mud and wood.  It had two main gates.  One facing the sea called Khara Dar (khara means salty and dar means door), and one facing the Lyari River was called Mitha Dar (meaning sweet door).  Those days, until about a century ago, one branch of the Lyari River was flowing on a course where the Lee Market and Kankri Ground are situated.  Even today the road where Kankri ground is situated is called Embankment Road. 

      There are other theories too about the origin of Karachi; like the story of Mordo or Morero being the founder of Karachi.  Morero avenged the death of his six brothers by killing a ferocious whale that had swallowed them.  The story puts the event in the days of King Dalura (12th century A.D.).  Sufi poets of Sind have used this legend in their poems.  Shaykh Abdul Jalal Chuhar Dangi (1504) in his story mentions the name Kalach for the village.  Shah Abdul Kareim (1560-1634) writes of Kun of Kalachi and Shah Abdul Latif in his Risalo talks of Kalachi and Kun KalachiMorero and his six brothers are buried in the mini cemetery at the round about on Mauripur Road, near the railway crossing where the road turns for Sher Shah. 

      The Kalhoras held powers as governors of Sind under the tutelage of the rulers of Kabul for forty-six years from 1737 to 1783.  Gulam Shah Kalhora founded Hyderabad in 1768.  Contrary to the Kalohras, the Talpur rule was milder and more benevolent.  Their policy towards traders was one of encouragement. This way they harvested good customs duties.  Because of these policies of Talpurs many people from Gujarat, Kutch, Marwar etc., came to Karachi for trade.  The sea traffic at Karachi in the beginning of 19th century was about 150 vessels a year from the west coast of India and fewer from Muskat and Gulf ports. 

      So, we can see that Karachi was already well-established small walled town with a sizeable business community much before the British occupied it.  When Captain Heart visited Karachi in 1839 he had this report.  “The rich and well to do live within the city. The streets are very narrow.  All roofs are flat made of mud spread over straws.  Almost all houses have wind-catchers facing west.  Figures collected from leaders of different communities show that there are about 9,000 Hindus. Of the 4,800 Mosalmans only 500 live in the walled city.  1,500 live outside the Shore Gate (Shore means saline or salt) and 2,000 outside Sheeree Gate (Sheere means sweet).  There are about 250 Khojas and Memons.  There are few wells in the city but the water is brackish so people mostly use water collected during rains in water ponds (talao) outside the city.  The chief administrator appointed by the Mirs is called Nawab. Brahmans are running four schools where Sindhi is taught along with reading, writing and arithmetic.  There are twelve Madressas run by Moulvis where Farsi is taught.  Hindus do not educate their girls, but Muslim girls are taught to read the Quran” 

      There is evidence to believe that Zoroastrians were spread in fair numbers, all over from Iraq in the West to the West coast of India in the East, up to the beginning of the thirteenth century.  But as a result of the devastation caused in Iraq and Iran by the Mongols (Changis Khan and Halagu Khan) and their Christian allies, the Zoroastrian community got diminished.  Those who survived the Mongol onslaught concentrated themselves into centers at Yazad and Kerman.  The connection between Zoroastrians of India and Iran broke.  Under the leadership of Changa-bin-Asha, who was from the laity and was the greatest Parsi of his time, the Parsis of India decided to reestablish contact with Zoroastrian of Iran. So in 1478 a daring emissary, Hoshang Nariman was sent to Iran.  His mission was to search out the Zoroastrians in Iran, enquire about their well-being and get answers to some questions on religious matter sent with him.  He returned successfully after one year.  Subsequently there were many emissaries sent during the next three centuries and the correspondence brought back by them is collectively called Rivayats.


      In 1572 Akbar the Great invaded Gujarat and within a year made himself master of the land.  During the siege of Surat he met some Parsis and dealt with them graciously.  When Akbar questioned them about their religion they fetched a learned Bhagaria Mobed named Mehrji Vachcha from Navsari to explain their beliefs to him. The rule of the Moguls began auspiciously for the Parsi community, and made a beginning of the Parsi prosperity. 

      Meherji Vachcha’s (later Dastur Mehrji Rana) presence at the court of Akbar in 1578, and Akbar’s affection for the Parsis was a big help to Parsi influence and prestige.  Within twenty years of Akbar’s conquest, Surat became the most important port on the West coast of India and the main trading center.  Parsis were naturally attracted to it, prospered and flourished.  Simultaneously, the Portuguese, the British, the Dutch and the French came to Surat for trade.  The Parsis came into their contact and nearly all the European trading houses (factories) employed Parsis as their chief brokers. In fact the English were able to establish themselves firmly in Surat due to Rustam Maneck (Seth) who successfully pleaded their case at the court of Emperor Aurangzeb in 1660.  But later the English mated out a deceitful and fraudulent treatment to him and his family.  Parsis of Gujarat were basically agriculturists, growing crops. Their trade and crafts had an agriculture base.  They were the best weavers in India.  Their perfumes were in great demand at the Mogul court.  In 1774 a Dutch Captain Stavournus, estimated the number of Parsis to be about 100,000 (one fifth of the population).  He said that the Parsis built and inhabited entirely many wards in the suburbs. 

      During this period, in the West, a Paris mob stormed the Bastille (1789).  Mozart’s body was lying in an unmarked pauper’s grave in Vienna (1792).  And George Washington was the President of U.S.A. ■  

(To be continued) 


            I like to dedicate  Thanking, her   Gentle Loving

            This Mother’s Day  it’s not enough.  Caring and wise

            To our sweet    for an invaluable gift  A Jewel in

            Who brought forth  A singer of Songs  Asho Zarathushtra

            Into this world   Of Gathas so divine  must have been proud

            A great Mânthran  Benefits humanity,  of such a noble soul

            Asho Zarathushtra!  Till all eternity.  A mother to have around! 

[Farida Bamji] 

Published for Informal Religious Meetings Trust Fund, Karachi

By Virasp Mehta

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