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Volume IV No.6 Mah Shehrevar, Fasal Sal 1373 August-September 2004



      Kuthrâ Tôi aredrâ, Mazdâ!   Where be Thy gratifiers, O Mazda!

         yoi Vańhêus vaêdemnâ Manańhô      who knowing the rich words

      Sêňghûs raêkhenâo aspen –chîţ  Of the Good Divine Intelligence, through weal

         sâdrâ –chiţ chakhrayô ushe –urû,      or through-woe would use wide intelligence,

      Naê –chim têm anyêm Yûshmaţ  We know not any one other than You

         vaêdâ Ashâ athâ –nâo thrâzdûm.     with the Divine Law, do You therefore, save us.   

[Gatha Ahunavaiti 7.7: Yasna 34.7: Translation by Behramgore T. Ankleseria] 

In this Issue: 

      2 ZOROASTER AND THE GĀTHĀS: By “Aethrya” 


“You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. 

For, life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children, as living arrows are sent forth.”

[Khalil Gibran] 


By “Aethrya”



HE age of prophets has passed at least for the thinking world ---prophets with their miracles and all that rank, cant and dogma generally attributed to them.  Intellectual appreciation has here succeeded that crude homage, distinctive of the phase where the portals of mind receive for the first time the gleams of dawning light.  The Son of God is only a metaphor, an aid to accentuate the underlying idea.  The change does not lie in any rejection of the eternal truths, but only in the process of their comprehension.  The mind has therefore never ceased being attracted by truth, goodness, and beauty, but with this far-reaching difference that those who in the hoary distance of time may have been acclaimed as prophets are to the present intellectual world its great men.  And yet the very same intellectual activity, that has with the growth of the human mind so strikingly revolutionized the former outlook, is the foremost equipment to make one rightly feel the mighty greatness of such men.  For it is the mind gifted with historical perspective alone that can very distinctly visualize and gauge the huge proportions of such colossal personalities belonging to the dim past. 

Zoroaster as he is depicted, and the reasons thereof   

      That Zoroaster was such a mighty personality can never be doubted, but at the same time that he was a mortal being, truly human in all his actions and speech, can also never be doubted.  Zoroaster fought and perished for the cause of untarnished truth like a great seer, but by a cruel stroke of irony, the vulgar attitude of his own followers at the head of the Zoroastrian congregation has been to distort the historical truth when dealing with his life mission.  The inevitable result of this is to create the general impression of an unapproachable image surrounded by archangels, breathing in the regions of the supernatural and ultimately the responsive frenzy of popular religious fervor devoutly reaches its consummation only in its indulgence of unlicensed flight in the imaginary world. 

      There is yet another factor to face.  That penetrating genius Nietzsche has pre-eminently made clear the striking phenomena in human thinking, where a great system covered up by the hardened crusts of time swells like a diseased fruit, because of the egregious accumulation of foreign elements imposed upon it, and falls dismembered, appearing a total stranger to its former self; in such condition the shiny cortex enveloping its seed is discernable only to those who dig laboriously for it in the surrounding ruin. With such adherents, therefore, and such disruptive influences that must have acted upon a system hoary with age like Zoroastrianism, it is not surprising if the personality of Zoroaster and his religion were to suffer gross misconstruction.    

Zoroaster as seen by himself 

      The neglected seed of Zoroastrianism is to be found only in the Gāthās, and whether some or all of the Gāthic hymns were composed by Zoroaster himself or not, it is abundantly clear that these breathe the very spirit of his religion.  The whole of the Gāthās is an autobiography in itself, and as such a faithful record of Zoroaster’s search after truth, his longings to know the unknowable, his doubts, questionings, supplications and sufferings.  It is a heroic figure struggling in the darkness enveloping the primitive mind that rises here in front of us, and inspired by the insight of its higher self opens out its heart unto us; it is a figure as real to touch as a corporeal thing, as human as a human being could be, that strives to gain mastery over the evil all around it, and equally feels the thrusts as well as exhilaration of life, according as it meets with despair or success on the tide of its mission; it is not forgetful of the life around, with its cattle, camels, mares, and agricultural pursuits, and unlike an ascetic, in the economic prosperity, it discerns the well-being of humanity; it has no secrets to offer ---it lays no pretence to any miracles, or any knowledge of the beyond; it has its enemies as real as the Kavis, Karpanas, Usixa, and Bendva; though offering choice to every soul to follow what it chooses, it has its intense passions against the wicked, and instead of indulging in any unpractical rhetoric of offering the left cheek when the right one is smitten, like a full-blooded personality it sincerely invokes Ahura and exhorts others to bring about their death.1  Such is Zoroaster in his self-portrayal in the Gāthās.  

Zoroaster is not face-to-face with Ahura 

      This Ahura or Mazda of Zoroaster next arrests our attention.  The very same ratiocination that has at all epochs moved humanity to turn from nature to nature’s God, also led Zoroaster to conceive of Ahura as the fountainhead of all.2 It may be emphasized that all throughout the Gāthās, Zoroaster is wholly occupied with the concept and concept alone of the deity.  He has never been face-to-face with God.  Giving the text its natural meaning, in Yasna 33.6, Zoroaster asks of Ahura two things, viz. to see Ahura and to consult him; in Yasna 33.7, Zoroaster appeals to Ahura to come to him and enlighten him; in Yasna 43.2, Zoroaster implores Ahura to manifest himself.  Again, one of the frequent appellations of Ahura is “invisible”3, and there is no evidence in the Gāthās to suggest that this has a restricted meaning, viz. “unseen to others”, so as to lead to the inference that Zoroaster had seen Ahura 

The concept of Ahura is both personal and impersonal   

      If therefore Zoroaster had not de-facto been in the presence of Ahura, the next engaging question is whether his idea of the Creator is personal or impersonal.  There is valuable evidence in the Gāthās unmistakably showing that God as an impersonal entity was a conception not unknown to this pre-eminent apostle of good thoughts, words and deeds.  No elaborate rites are prescribed at all, as the link of invoking Ahura is the Good Mind.4 Nay, Ahura is conceived of only through the good mind5 and being united with good thought6, Ahura is further identified as the very source of good mind, as also of truth and devotion7 

      It is submitted however that excepting these few glimpses, the concept of Ahura has been given almost a personal embodiment in the Gāthās, with the result that the two sides of both a personal and an impersonal entity co-exist.  This is not a divergence the reconciliation of which could be satisfactorily sought by hinting at the poetical mode of expression pervading the Gāthic hymns, or the general difficulty attendant upon the true interpretation of such a text.  On the contrary it persistently appears that Zoroaster could not dispense with the personal embodiment of Ahura, howsoever much he may have been inclined to the exclusive adoption of the other concept.  Therefore the conflict that arises here is not an accidental fact, but an inevitable certainty, for the following reasons: 

The reasons for this 

      The concept of Ahura as presented in the Gāthās proceeds upon the familiar analogy of a kingdom including this corporeal world created and ruled over by Ahura.  Of necessity therefore, Ahura is the Giver of bounties and bliss, the Revealer of laws, the Dispenser of justice, and the Protector of the righteous.  Such an image cannot but create an insurmountable obstacle in the adoption by the human mind of any personal idea of the deity; truly, this concept may not be beyond its comprehension, and yet in its yearnings to reach Him and be befriended by Him, the human mind cannot but think of some definite form to appeal to, if not exactly alike a human being, at least approaching him in some way. 

      So also, it becomes impossible for Zoroaster to choose finally between the personal representation and its opposite; he oscillates between these two opposing ideas, his thoughts running in either groove according as the subject matter of his utterances requires.  The personal idea therefore preponderates at those critical stages of his mission, where he turns towards Ahura, unburdening his heart by speaking of his vicissitudes, and invoking Ahura to give him strength and fortitude to meet all opposition.  Could Zoroaster at such moments have faith in some diffused impersonal entity –much less address it?  Consider again Yasna 44.  The whole of it is a detailed interrogation, where the subject addressed cannot probably, be something not animated with a personal form.  There may be yet another influencing factor.  Zoroaster proclaimed himself a savior, and as such delivered the message of Ahura to the masses.  Could he have approached them at all with too abstract and lifeless a concept of the deity?  


      In short, the presence of an anthropomorphic touches in the concept of Ahura are only illustrative of that eternal conflict in the mind of man, ever since the first days of creation, to choose decisively between the personal and impersonal entity, and these touches therefore ought to retain their due place in the interpretation of the concept of Ahura. ■ 

References: 1. Ys. 31.18; 49.1; 53.8.9: 2. Ys. 44.3,4,5:  3. Ys. 28.1; 44.7; 47.5,6:  4. Ys. 28.2, 6; 50.8:

                 5. Ys. 43.7, 9,11,13,15; 44.1:  6. 32.2:   7. Ys. 31.8; 34.6; 44.3; 45.4; 47.2 

Philosophy of Symbolism

      Our Lord Zoroaster, knowing perhaps as well as any body else the philosophy of symbolism looked long and deeply into the sacred FIRE that was burning before him, and then delivered a sermon:

“You shall therefore hearken to the soul of nature.

Contemplate the beams of fire with a most pious mind!

Every one, both men and women, ought today to choose his creed.

Ye offspring of renowned ancestors awake to agree with us.”

[Gāthā Ahunavaiti Yasna 30 2] 



By Ervad Shams-Ul-Ulama Dr. Sir Jivanji Jamshedji Mody B.A., Ph.D, C.I.E. 

The article is an account of the author’s visit to Baku in Azerbaijan on Caspian seashore of a possible Ātash-Kadeh.  English translation has been rendered by Ervad Soli P. Dastur of Sarasota, Florida, of the relevant chapter (pages 266-276) from Sir Mody’s Gujarati book published in 1926.

We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of

Ervad Soli P. Dastur for providing the translation, and

Vohuman Org for providing the picture of the Fire Temple at Surakhani, Baku 

Iran, Azerbaijan, Baku.  Hotel–Europe, September 28th, 1925.

Baku–Vourukash (Caspian) Sea

Known Ātash Kadeh of Baku – a possible Ātash-Kadeh

Hamajor zareh varkash: Afrin e Haft Ameshaspand

Meaning: Hamazor with Vourukash Sea! 

From Tiflis to Baku  - Homage to Vourukash Sea in this journey 


ITH the grace of God (Khudā Tālā), on 24th September 1925, I stepped on the holy land of Azerbaijan in Iran for the first time.  I thank Ahura Mazda (Dādār) for making it possible for me to visit this country.  I left Tiflis city after midnight of 23rd September and after a journey of 16 hours, I arrived at Baku at 5 p.m. next day, 24th September.  About two to three hours before arriving in Baku, I first saw the vast seashore of the Vourukash Sea (Caspian Sea). In all my lifelong prayers of Afringan, I have made Hamazor many a time with this sea, reciting the above sentence. Now I am seeing this sea with my own eyes.  To celebrate this momentous occasion, I did my Kusti and daily morning (Hāvān Gāh) prayers and recited Avan Ardvisur Nyayesh and paid homage to this sea with many thanks to Ahura Mazda (Khudā Tālā) 

      From Moscow, I spent two nights in the train, one night in Vladivostok city on an uncomfortable sofa in its Agricultural Institute, since there was no place in the local hotel, and a very short fourth night in Tiblis since I had to make arrangements for my visit to Baku late into the night.  That night, I went to bed at 1 a.m. and had a few hours of sleep.  I spent the fifth night in train again.  Thus, I was exhausted when I arrived finally in Baku on the afternoon of the fifth day, took early dinner and went to bed at 8 p.m. so as to be ready at 7 a.m. to visit the Ātash-Kadeh of Baku. 

      In Baku, Russian and Turkish were the only languages spoken by the people. Rarely, someone speaks Farsi.  For this visit in Baku, I had approached the Iranian Consul of Tiflis and requested him to wire someone in Baku so as to have someone receive me there when I arrive.  He had done so and I was indebted to him for this help.  Because of this request, a Baku Consulate person was there to receive me at the station and took me to this hotel.  The Iranian Charge des affaires in London had given me a very complimentary endorsement letter, which resulted in these arrangements for me in Baku. 

      Invitation of Azerbaijan Exploration Society:  The same gentleman agreed to pick me up next morning to take me for a visit of the well-known Baku’s Ātash Kadeh. But he never showed up.  After waiting for him a long time, I requested the hotel management to find me a guide.  One of the hotel guests who knew some French kept telling me:  “He will come. He will come.” Well, I waited the whole morning, the day’s cooler time for the gentleman.  As I was wondering what to do now, just then a young man, who could speak a little English, came from outside and asked: “Are you Dr. Modi?”  After hearing in the affirmative from me, he informed with great happiness: “I am representing the local Azerbaijan Exploration Society.  Our Society heard about you arriving from Tiflis and so we wired the President there to invite you here on our behalf and send you here to us. We received the answer that you have already left Tiflis. We did not know which train you will be catching from Tiflis.  Hence, I have been searching for you in a few local hotels and finally I came to this hotel.”  With the grace of Ahura Mazda my worries were unexpectedly over and I now had a noble guide who took me under his wings as an honored guest of the Society. Immediately, he called three four important members of the Society and within a short time escorted me to the office of the Society.  There, we had a discussion with these members about the Parsees and about the local alleged Ātash Kadeh.  They were also very interested in the History of the Hun people.  Recently, they came in contact with a Hun group. Afterwards, one of the members accompanied me to my hotel room.  There he saw my book: “Asiatic Papers Part III” and examined it for a while and opened the book on the subject: “The History of the Hun People” and placed his hand on that page and said: “This subject is very important to us.”  I promised him that I would send a copy of the book to him after I returned to Bombay.  Now in the office of the Society, we decided that I should first visit Baku’s Ātash Kadeh and then at about 8 p.m. I should give a lecture to the Society members whoever can attend.  Two specific subjects were decided for my lecture.  One was about the Parsees and the other about the Ancient History of the Hun People.  After that, these noble people escorted me in two cars to visit Baku’s Ātash Kadeh. 


The fire temple and its precinct at Surakhani, Baku. 

The Ātash Kadeh was in a place called Surakhani on the road from Baku about 30 to 45 minutes by car.  Traveling from Tiflis to Baku, one will pass miles and miles of barren country.  Except for a few small, one or two feet tall shrubs, grazed by feeble looking animals, there was no sign of any tree. Similar to an oasis within a desolate desert, the skyline of this Surakhani seemed to have hundreds of tall cypress trees; however, as we approached closer to it, they were not the trees, but tall wooden structures of the petroleum wells, many of them 50 to 75 feet tall.  They call this place “Surakhani”. The origin of this word may have come from “SHO-E-LE-KHANEH” meaning the house (“KHANEH”) of the fire- balls (“SHO-E-LE”).  Among the ocean of these petroleum wells is situated this alleged Ātash Kadeh.  Not just me but any Parsee who is a little familiar with our Hindu brethren’s religion, their temples and their customs, after examining this building with its inscriptions, architecture etc., would conclude that this is not a Parsee Ātash Kadeh but is a Hindu Temple, whose Brahmins (priests) used to worship fire (Sanskrit: Agni). 

      About hundred to two hundred years ago, our Hindustan (India) used to have a very good trade with the Central Asian cities like Samarkand, Bokhara, etc.  Also, many Hindu traders from Hindustan used to visit Baku for trade.  North Indian traders from Sindh and Multan (now in Pakistan) to take part in this trade and used to visit Baku.  This temple was erected to satisfy their religious needs.  Our Hindu brethren also consider Fire -Agni as a God.  The natural gases emit from earth at this place, which will ignite into a continuous fireball by any sparks.  Hence here at the mouth of fire naturally originating from earth, they established a Hindu Temple for fire worship.  After a few years, the original trade routes and customs changed and the visits of the Hindu traders diminished.  And from the original group of Brahmins, some passed away and a few that were left went back to their original homeland.  At this place, they showed me a long room and informed me that some 40 years ago, the Russian Czar, Alexander III, visited this place with a desire to witness the Hindu Brahmin Fire ritual.  So the local official gathered a few Brahmins still living here and they performed the fire ritual in this room in front of the Czar.       

      I spent two hours inspecting this place.  I asked for a tall ladder and with trepidation I climbed the top of this building and examined the foundation stone, which was inscribed in the Nagrik script (the Sanskrit language; the most common Hindu characters of writing).  I also examined the small living rooms (cells), adjacent to the main square of this building, which resembled the Indian Buddhist monasteries cells for their monks.  I also examined the place where they used to cremate bodies of the dead Hindus.  And from all these examinations, in addition to what I believed from, various research before visiting this place I became convinced that this place has nothing to do with Parsees.  It is not a Parsee Ātash Kadeh but a Hindu Temple. 

      This building is about 15 to 18 feet square.  In the center is a pit about 2 to 3 feet deep and about 4 feet square. Similar to the pit our Hindu brethren dig for their Haoma ritual.  Due to the natural gas emitting from the pit, the fire could have been lighted.  Above is a dome; however it is not round (circular) as in a Parsee Ātash Kadeh.  But, in the center of the dome, there is a big opening from which natural sunlight will shine in the pit.  In a Parsee Ātash Kadeh, stringent care is taken to ensure that no natural sunlight shines directly on the holy fire in the sanctum sanctorum.  On the four sides of this building, portholes have been provided for the smoke to escape.   At the entrance of the building, there is a foundation with inscription in Nagrik script, which in the beginning invokes the Hindu God, Shri Ganesha. The building is referred to in the inscription as Jwālājee (meaning volcanic) that means some burning substance building.  And the installation date is mentioned as the Hindu Vikramājeet calendar year 1866 (equivalent to 1810 A.D,). This inscription contains nine lines and the pictures drawn in this inscription are as follows: 

      The first row has a flower has a flower first, then a bell-ghant then the sun, then a fireball and again a fruit. The second row below this has a flower first, then the trident –trishool of Lord Shiva, then the Swastika symbol (Hindu style), then a second trident and then a flower.  It was impossible to write all this down as I was deciphering the inscription at the top of a trembling ladder.  Hence, I spent some time in noting all the details of the inscription mentally and then writing them down after coming down to the floor.  In the inscription, you see: SHRI GANESHĀYANUM in the first line, Vikramājeet Hindu calendar year (Vikramājeet Sāke) in the second line and “Shri Jawālājee” (the fireball) in the third line. 

      On all four sides of this building are small minarets.  They are open on all four sides and there are three steps on all four sides.  Some years back when there were Parsees and other communities living here, then a Parsee Ātash Kadeh would not be left open for all to see.  In the center, there is a pit.  In a Parsee Ātash Kadeh, for the central fire, a high platform like a throne is erected.  Near this building, there is a place about 8 to 10 feet long where they say that the Hindus used to cremate their dead.  This will never happen in a Parsee Ātash Kadeh.  In the main square, there are ruins of what seems like a small temple.  Such ruins are also on the other side.  Both have been leveled to ground. The Government had restored one of them. It seems that a rich follower may have built them. 

      Around the temple there is a large square where a number of small cells are erected in a row.  They are closed from outside and so appears to be a compound wall from outside.  Every cell has a door but no windows.  There are 25 of such cells.  In one of them is a wall painting of Hindu God, Ganesha.  Some walls have pictures of trees and trident.  One of these cells is about 35 feet long.  May be it was a   common dormitory for visitors and faithful.  Some cells have a dome like structure at the top.  Two cells were used to tie up the horses of the visitors.  In about nineteen cells, there are inscriptions in Nāgrik script.  From these inscriptions, it can be deduced that traveling faithful may have built these cells.  One inscription is in Farsi whose date is given as 1158 Hijri; that means that this Farsi inscription was inscribed 190 years ago (about 1735 A.D.)  From this Farsi inscription it appears that when Baku, and the whole of Azerbaijan was under the suzerainty of the Shah of Iran, the influence of Farsi was very important in this area.  This date is older than the date on the foundation stone inscription of the Hindu Temple (1810 A.D), which proves Hindu Temple was built later on. Some parts of this Farsi inscription are damaged.  First line: Ātash saf kashideh humchu del is readable. So also the Hijri date mentioned above.  From all the above facts it is without a doubt clear that this building is not a Parsee Ātash Kadeh.  Before coming here, from my research in reading various articles, I was sure then that this building is not a Parsee Ātash Kadeh. 

      My Previous Research Studies on Baku’s Ātash Kadeh: A question has been repeatedly raised if this building is a Parsee Ātash Kadeh or it is a temple of the Hindus who also worship fire.  About 25 to 30 years ago, when the Society for Spreading of Gujarati Knowledge celebrated its Golden Jubilee by convening a “Conversazione”, I rented a stall and exhibited a number of Iranian artifacts and books, as well as a picture of this Baku Ātash Kadeh and informed the visitors that it is not a Parsee Ātash Kadeh.  That time I also printed a handbill to explain this conclusion.  My friend, Nusserwanjee Heerjeebhai Patel, who is very meticulous in preserving old documents of this Society, may still have a copy of this handbill.  Afterwards, in “The Times of India” newspaper this subject was again opened for debate when I also published a number of facts on this subject.  In this, I have used the supporting reference from the famous Central Asian traveler, Dr. Swen Hedin, whom I met in Stockholm in 1889 A.D., who gave me a copy of his essay on the Baku Ātash Kadeh.  I also remember that Sir Dinshaw Eduljee Vachhaa, who besides politics also took great interest in such matters of history and literature, wrote a letter to me agreeing with my facts on this matter that the building is not a Parsee Ātash Kaedh but a Hindu temple.  This was the main question, which brought me to Baku.  The major reason why I did not go from Tiflis by train straight to the southern parts of Azerbaijan, which are more important for our religion than this northern part of Azerbaijan was to visit this place. Also, I wanted to visit the Durburn Wall of Noshirwan-e-Ādal. 

      The Small Fire Balls (“Jwālājee’) and the Big Fire Balls:  When I visited the Kangra Valley in the Himalayas some 25 years ago (1900 A.D.) I was told that the current Ātash Kadeh was considered as a Hindu Temple by the Hindu friends I met there.  In the year 1900 A.D., I was not well from the after effects of Cholera I contracted years ago.  Hence, I traveled with my relative, Jamshedjee Eruchjee Modi, to the hill town of Dharamshala in Punjab as guests of his relatives Faramroj and his brother Nadirshaw Khajuree, for rest and change of climate.  After a few days of rest and relaxation, we visited the valleys of Kangra and Kulu by the way of Palanpoor and Baeznath. That time I heard that there is a village called Jwālājee where at one place natural gas emits from earth, night and day and the Hindu worshippers throw clarified butter -ghee on it so that the fire, lights up like a huge fireball.  I went there after hearing about it and saw the place of this burning substance (Jawālājee).  Talking to the Hindus there, they call this Small Jwālājee and stated that their Big Jwālājee is in Baku, Azerbaijan. 

      Statues of the Baku’s Olden Days Hindu Devotees in Moscow’s Lenin Museum:  On 18th September 1925, I visited Lenin Museum in Moscow.  In this museum were shown full sized statues of the people of various countries of U.S.S.R.  This is a very worthwhile collection to see.  In it were also the statues of devotees in olden times of the Baku Temple.  They were shown creating fire from wood and sitting cross-legged around fire.  Some are shown coming from the front to do the fire worship –poojā with musical instruments.  They have red dots –tilaks on their foreheads.  Some are shown weaving a rug.   It has an explanatory tablet in Russian in which they are identified as Hindus.  The Russian woman custodian near this exhibit gave me the following English translation (as given in the book in English and produced verbatim here): 

      “Near the town Baku in the villages of Souratshaanaa and Emidjan where the fire (naphtha) comes from the earth lived the Hindoos, who came from India.  They were Brahmans.  They made a temple and adored the fire many years.  They lived there, but now they are not at Baku.  It is said then years before they lived in little rooms and worked for money.  They built their cells.  They are not the Parsees –the Guebers who adored Zarathushtra.”  In the museum’s catalog, the following description is given about this exhibit in Russian, which was translated in English as follows (as given in the book in English and reproduced verbatim here): 

      “A Russian traveler Beresine relates that the temple has the form of five sides.  In the middle of these five sides’ place, there was a little well a long tube-like hole and the naphtha came out of it and the temple has a little bell and the worshipper begins the prayers, the bell is rung.  This little room is covered with a cupola and near the door a trident symbol of Shiva.  The inscription on the door says that the temple was built in 1866 (Russian 1810).  Near the temple is a large pit.  Over it is a great stove.  On the stove all the dead are burnt.  In 1842 there were only seven persons and afterwards nobody came from India.”  The custodian woman of the exhibit read the catalog:  “The Description of the Collections in the Ethnographical Museums”, which was complied by a local scholar, Professor Miller, in Russian and translated it into English for me which I wrote down and presented it here, with a hope that some Hindu scholars may find it useful to know how their religious rituals were performed about hundred years ago outside their country. 

      Even now there is a misunderstanding about this subject: About 20 years ago in 1905, an authentic big book BAKU by J. Henry, was published.  In it, it is erroneously stated that building was a Parsee Ātash Kadeh.  It states:  “When 25 years ago, the priestly attendant  -a Parsee from India and the last of the long list of Fire-worshippers reaching 2500 years died at Surakhani.” 

      I believe that as far as Parsees are concerned, they should completely remove the notion that the building in Baku is a Parsee Ātash Kadeh.  A scholar who has burnt a little or lot of midnight oil, as the saying goes, over a small or a large historical place, when he visits that place and sees with his own eyes, and corroborates his previous opinion about that place must be overjoyed by that visit.  The same was the case for me during my visit to Baku.  In addition, I was very glad to see and learn new things. 

      There must be an Ātash Kadeh at this place in ancient times: Just because I have proven by my previous scholarly studies that this building is not a Parsee Ātash Kadeh and now after seeing it with my own eyes I can with certainty corroborate the same conclusion here, does not mean that in this city in ancient times, there were no Ātash Kadehs.  There may be more than one Ātash Kadehs in this city.  In our ancient literary works, there are references of the worship of the fire emitting directly from earth.  In all the various types of fires, one fire has been described which burns without any fuel.  This is the same fire of natural gas wells, which burns night and day without any fuel.  One early Catholic priest in ignorance has described this phenomenon as the sleight of hands by a Parsee priest in making this fire burn continuously without fuel.  But there is no sleight of hands in this.  It is just a natural phenomenon. 

      Our Ātash Apām Naptār and the Naphtha of this place:  We all pray at the end of the five Geh prayers the following prayer remembering various fires: 

Thvām Ātarē Ahurahē Mazdāo puthrēm…..yazamaidē…..

Apām Naptārēm yazamaidē. Nairim Sanghahēm yazamaidē 

      Meaning: “We venerate you Ātash, the son of Ahura Mazda.  We venerate Apām Naptārēm Ātash. We venerate Nairyoshangha Ātash” 

      In this veneration of Ātash, in Apām Naptār words, the word Naptār is the root of the current word Naphtha.  The Naphtha flows like a liquid and so its Ātash is called Aap meaning liquid.  If I am not forgetting, for this comparison, Mr. Meherjibhai Palanjee Madon gave a talk on the subject in our Investigation Society for Zoroastrian Religion 

      In my opinion, this was an ancient Ātash Kadeh:  The origin of this country’s name, Azerbaijan, is from our own word Āzar or Ātar meaning fire, because in ancient times, there were a number of Ātash Kadehs in this country similar to the natural gas fire in Baku and in other places.  One of our highest Ātash Bahram, Ādar Gushaspa, was also in this country whose other names were: Ādarbādgān or Ātaropātkān.  Hence, there should be a similar Ātash Kadeh in Baku.  Ten miles from Baku, I described previously in this book the Kur, Kurus (Cyrus) River. It starts in Caucasus Mountains and empties in Caspian (Vourukash) Sea. It has been stated in history that the Roman Emperor, Heraclius, ordered to destroy all Ātash Kadehs up to this river. The above-mentioned writer, Mr. Henry, writes the following account of Baku, quoting from Gibbon:  

      “Heraclius encamped (?) on the steppes of the shores of the Kura, ten miles south of Baku.  There Gibbon says…At his command the soldiers extinguished the fires and the temples of the Magi.  Twelve years later, Arabs vanquished Persia a second time by the edge of the sword converted the people from fire worship to the Musalman faith.  Large numbers fled to Ormuz, thence to India and gave origin to what are now the Parsees of Bombay.”  It is said that the Lithuanians, the U.S.S.R. neighbors, also used to visit Azerbaijan to worship these fires. 

      The real story behind Gibbon about the destruction (extinguishing) of the Baku’s Zoroastrian Ātash Kadeshs at the hands of Heracilius is as follows:  The Persian Emperor, Khushroo Perviz, attacked the holy Christian places in Palestine and carried with him to Iran the holy cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified.  In revenge for carrying this cross, to Iran, this Roman Emperor destroyed the Iranian Ātash Kadehs.  Now there is a minaret here, which is called Kiskale or Tour de la jeune fille in French, meaning Young Girl’s Minaret.  There is a local legend, which is doubted by many, which states that a father wanted to marry his own daughter.  The daughter made a deal with her father that: “If you build a tall minaret and when it is completed, I will marry you.”  When the father completed the minaret, the daughter climbed at its top and fell off and committed suicide. Now my guide told me that this is not the true story and there was nothing to wonder about it.  If the daughter did not want to marry her father, there were many ways she could have committed suicide. Moreover, this is not a simple minaret.  In it there are seven stages or stories or escape routes for the emission of Baku’s Naphtha.   

      I examined the minaret all the way to its top.  There at the top was a tablet in Farsi with the inscription: Kūbā-e-Masūd bin Dāwud, meaning “House of Masūd son of Dāwud”.  Now some of the local people believe that this is a very ancient building, of Sassanian times are even older than that.  And it was built as a replica of the ancient Babylonian Minarets.  And about eight hundred years ago, one emperor, Masūd, created this tablet to commemorate his name. If he himself had built it, he would have mentioned that in a foundation stone together with its Hijri (Muslim) date. 

      According to my examination, I think the above opinion is correct. This is an ancient Iranian building and it is a Ātash Kadeh. But it is not a common Ātash Kadeh with its fire maintained by burning of wood by the priests.  But it is a Ātash Kedeh fed by the natural gases, naphtha  -apām napāt.  Haft or seven is a very holy number in Zoroastrian religion and hence there are seven stories or stages in it.   At each floor in one corner, there is an escape hole for the natural gas naphtha which when lit created a fireball. This minaret is taller than 80 feet.  On one side there are climbing steps and its diameter at the top is as large as 40 feet.  You can see from the top, the vast seashore of Vourukash Sea (Caspian sea) and from its ramparts you can observe the nature’s sun, moon and stars.     

      Now, in our own country, India, in the ruins of that famous ancient city of Taxila near Rawalpindi city, Sir John Marshall has excavated the ruins of an ancient Ātash Kadeh. I have commented about it before in this book and as well as I have spoken about in my lecture on Patliputra (present day Patna, of the famous King Chandra Gupta of the Maurya dynasty).  With this Ātash Kadeh, there was a tall minaret, which was built according to the architecture and deign of the ancient Babylon’s Ziakurut.  An Ātash Kadeh with its adjoining minaret, from the top of which one can see the neighboring sea or river or lake and from its top one can observe the sun, moon, stars and mountains and revere them, such was the design of ancient Āatash Kadehs.  I have mentioned it before in this book that our Ātash Bahram in Navasri is built according to the architect of ancient Ātash Kadeh.  Here in Baku this minaret, which was connected with Babylon by my guide, is a combined Ātash Kadeh and minaret in this huge building.  In fact, this was not a common Ātash Kadeh where fire was kept lit with sandalwood or dried wood, but was naturally lit by the natural gases of naphtha –Apām Napāt 

      In my humble opinion, on one hand I have discounted the existence of one Ātash Kadeh, supporting my previous studies on this subject; but on the other hand, I brought to light another ancient Ātash Kadeh, and for this, hopefully my visit to this place will be of some use to my colleagues.  This could be one of the Ātash Kadehs destroyed by Heracelus, as reported by Gibbon, or according to the previous discussion, it may be one of the Ātash Kadehs destroyed later by Arabs. In my lecture here to the local scholars and the Archeological Society members, as well as during my meeting with the President of the Republic later on, I emphasized to all of them the importance of this Ātash Kadeh and implored them to take good care for its preservation.  

      My two lectures in Baku:  I gave two lectures in Baku.  As mentioned before, the first one was delivered on November 26th on the two subjects: ‘THE PARSEES’ and ‘THE HUN PEOPLE’.  The second one was delivered on November 28th at 8 p.m. and on the same night I left Baku at 10 p. m to travel to Tabriz.  The first lecture was given in Farsi to the members of the local Exploration Society and was simultaneously translated in Turkish by a local member.  Only one or two members can understand English and a few can understand Farsi and so it was necessary to translate it in Turkish because it is the spoken language of the local Muslim people. I chose the subject for my second lecture as: THE IMPORTANCE OF AZERBAIJAN FROM A PARSEE POINT OF VIEW   This lecture was publicized and was also mentioned in the local newspapers and hence the lecture hall was fully occupied.  I also gave this lecture in Farsi, which was simultaneously translated in both Russian and Turkish because many in the audience can understand only one of these two languages.  My objective for this second lecture was to create an interest in our religion among the local learned people. 

      Meeting with the President of the Republic:  After the First World War, this north part of Azerbaijan became an independent Republic under the sovereignty of the U.S.S.R.  After the Russian Revolution, the vast empire of the Russian Czars were divided into 24 smaller republics based on ethnicity and the whole country was called U.S.S.R. (United Soviet Socialist Republic) similar to the formation of U.S.A.  Each U.S.S.R. republic elects its own President.  Since many republics have Muslim majority, many Presidents of such republics are Muslims.  Here in Azerbaijan, due to Muslim majority, the elected President, Honorable Agamaliogly (age 60) is also a Muslim.  He is a gentleman with an open mind.  Because of physical problems with his legs, he could not attend my second lecture.  However, he wanted to meet me on my last day in Baku and sent his personal car for me.  After our meeting, I was happy on two counts.  First, I was able to make him really interested in our ancient Iranian culture; and secondly, I was able to know the details of the current political situation of his country.  I brought to his attention the importance of the Ātash Kadeh with the minaret, which I believe was an ancient Ātash Kadeh and made a fervent appeal to him to preserve it in good condition.  He was very glad to do so and promised me that he will give such a command to his ministers.  I also requested him to inform us of any archeological studies, which shed some light on our ancient Iranian culture. 

      In connection with the local politics, he was optimistic about the increase in importance of Azerbaijan since it became an independent Republic.  Observing the trend of atheism in the city of Leningrad, during my visit there, I brought his attention to it and requested that: “It will be nice if Allah (God) is not forgotten here.”   Hearing that he said emphatically with feelings that: “We have never forgotten God and will never forget Him; however, God seems to have forgotten us. He kept them in very poor condition in the previous Russian Empire”.   He is looking at the new changes as the Renaissance of his country.  He informed me that his objective is not to interfere with the independence of any religion in his country.   

      With the following few words he made me think of his commitment.  He said: “If you Zoroastrians come here and say to me that you want to have the building of Surakhani Ātash Kadeh, as your Ātash Kadeh then I will gladly do that.  If you say that the minaret, which you think is an ancient Ātash Kadeh and which you want to start as an Ātash Kadeh once again, then I will gladly think about it.”     

      During the coming month of December, the local Society has convened an important Congress here in Baku in which they have invited scholars of Turkish and other related languages. The local Society members informed me about this Congress, and presented me with the printed invitation for presenting a paper at the Congress and if unable to attend, even requested me to send a paper on an important subject.  The President also pleaded with me to attend this Congress for sure.  I placed my hand on my beard and informed him with the grace of Ahura Mazda, I am 70 years old now, and hence I am not optimistic to make further journeys like this in future.  After listening to me, he informed me that he was 60 years old and after hearing from others he called me a young man in my work and wished me well in future.  Our meeting was very cordial and personally satisfying and with loving words we partook the beautiful shirini and dried fruits and tea and we said good byes very fondly.   

      In this part of Azerbaijan was born the famous poet Nizamee.  His birthplace was the ancient city of Gjandza, which is now named Elizabethpol and which is situated between Tiflis and Baku.  On the death anniversary of this poet, I wrote an article about him.  He has presented the story of Khusroo Perviz in his beautiful Farsi verses. 

      Today, I am leaving behind me Azerbaijan, which is connected with our holy religion and just mentioning its name makes my mouth water with sweetness and also the northern shores of the Vourukash (Caspian) Sea.  My hotel’s dinning room is not on the ground floor but on the fifth floor. From here, in the soft rays of sun in the early morning Hāvan Geh and also other Gehs, I have gazed on Vourukash (Caspian) Sea, and from this I have drawn many a beautiful thoughts and inspirations. I will close this letter after saying a few words about the Kur fish of this Vourukash (Caspian) Sea. 

      Kur Māhee (fish):  In our scriptures there are references of a fish called Kur Māhee.  The natural habitat of this fish is the present Vorukash (Caspian) Sea. For this fish in Bahram Yasht (Para 29), it is said that Bahram Yazad had bestowed upon Zarathushtra a far sightedness or the power of seeing very small things to the one present in Kur Māhee fish (Ahmāi dathat verethraghno Ahuradhā……aomcha sukem yim baraiti karo masyo).  The origin of this fish is mentioned as Rungahā river and it is said that it can see the smallest hair in the water to such an extent that it can differentiate which is the head of the hair and which is the tail of such a tiny hair (Yo ranghayāo durepārayāo jafrayāo hazangro-virayāo, vareso-stavanghem āpo uraesem mārayeti.)   

      This fish is abundant in this Caspian Sea and Professor Jackson has stated that a sample of this fish is preserved in the Caucasian Museum in Tiflis.  This fish is now called sturgeon and its zoological name is: Acipenser huso. ■  


THE readers must have noticed that many of the Parsi settlers went into liquor (alcohol) manufacture and trade. The reason for that is probably, what Dastur Dr. Maneckji Dhalla has said in his AUTOBIOGRAPHY in the chapter “IN PROTEST OF PROHIBITION 

      “For approximately three thousand years Zoroastrian religious books written from time to time in Avesta, Pahlavi and Pazend, proclaim unanimously the advantages of a moderate use of liquor and states that this helps digestion, strengthens the body, develops the faculties of mind and memory, enhances fluency of speech, induces sound sleep and refreshes life generally”.  

      Not all Parsis dealt in alcohol trade. Many worked as clerks and officers in commercial establishments.  One can say that a majority of them were of the salaried class.  One profession that some Parsis took up and excelled in was that of Dubash. Even today the leading Dubash companies of Pakistan are Parsi organizations.  The word ‘DUBASH’ is derived from two words ‘DU’ meaning two and ‘BHASHA’ meaning language.  These caterers were able to interpret between themselves and captains of ships as ‘Du-bhashias’. 

      In 1853, the grateful Karachiites, erected an obelisk to the memory of Sir Charles Napier at Keamari, at the spot where on 1st October 1847 was fired the farewell salute to him on his retirement from Governorship of Sind.  Karachi’s population then was 22,200. 

      The first police office was built in 1854, on the site where today we have the Police Headquarters on Garden Road. In the same year the work started on Civil Hospital. 

      It appears that by now Karachi had a racecourse of some sorts and the first Parsi to have a racehorse was Sohrabji Golwalla (1854).  In the same year the leading Parsis of Bombay collected huge sums of money and formed the “Society for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Zoroastrians in Persia”, and sent to Iran that brave Maneckji Limji Hataria as it’s agent to help the suffering Zoroastrians there.  The Zoroastrians in Iran, at that time were under great oppression by the Kajars.  Maneckji Hataria worked wonders.  Besides providing succor, he arranged, for those who were willing to migrate to India, where the Society and other Parsis had arranged to provide them gainful employment. Such funds for the refugees from Iran were also established in Karachi.  We will come to that when we are in the eighties.  

      Pestanji Bhikhaji came to Karachi in 1855 and started dubash business, which gained great prominence.  That year a company was registered under the name “Scinde Railway Company”.  Its purpose was in the first instance, to make a railway line from Karachi to a point near Hyderabad.  In that year the Holy Trinity Church was constructed and the Small Causes Courts were established.  Hormusji Khurshedji Mama too arrived in that year from Navsari.  He was very poor and joined the commissariat department on a salary of Rs.12/- per month. In a short time, because of his efficiency and conscientiousness the Army appointed him commissariat inspector.  Because of his meritorious service, on his retirement in 1899, he was awarded the title of ‘Khan Saheb’ He was a keen sportsman and an active social worker.  To perpetuate his memory his son Khan Bahdutr Ardesher Mama had a hall built on the first floor of the Hirjikka Dar-e-Meher. 

      1857 was the year of great turmoil in India.  In May the Native soldiers of the East India Company mutinied and started the War of Independence that was suppressed.  There were many changes brought about in the administration, and ‘The Company Bahadur’ had received its deathblow.  Her Majesty Queen Victoria assumed the government and appointed her Secretary of State, with council to advise him.  The powers of the high officials in India were curtailed, and they were prohibited from taking any action without superior sanction.  Though there was a lot of fighting in North and Central India, Karachi remained comparatively peaceful. The authorities took many precautionary measures, declared Martial Law and imposed curfew.  The first civilian to be issued a curfew pass was Khurshedji Golwalla. 

      In August 1857, the ‘Sind Railway Company’ Act was repealed and a new one was passed, empowering the company to make and maintain in addition, a railway in Punjab called ‘Punjab Railway’ and maintain communications on the River Indus, by means of steam boats, by establishing ‘Indus Steam Flotilla’.  Ardesher Khurshedji Wadia, who had retired as chief engineer of Government Docks, Bombay and settled in England was appointed chief engineer of ‘Indus Steam Flotilla’ at a remuneration of Pounds 760/- per annum for two years. 

       In 1857 Jamshedjee Jijeebhai was made a Baronet, the first Indian to be made so.  He was born to very poor parents in 1783, and lost his parents when he was 16.  He worked with his uncle Faramji Batliwalla (second hand bottle dealer) in Bombay.  He was endowed with enterprise so at young age he embarked for China on his first mercantile speculation with a capital of Rs.120/- His first two voyages were not prosperous and the third ended in disaster.  While returning from China (1806) his ship Brunswick was overpowered by a French man-of-war, he lost all his property and was made a prisoner, as the British and French were at war at that time.  The British Consul there procured for him a passage to Calcutta in a Danish ship and after suffering great deal he returned to Bombay.  He did not give up and once more went on a voyage.  His main trade was cotton and unfortunately opium.  Many Parsis made their money by trading in opium.  Though opium was not as bad and damaging as heroin of today, yet money was made by its sale to the wretched addicts.  Today an opium seller would be classified as a drug pusher.  In 1814 Jamshedjee added shipping to his business, which ran successfully.  He amassed fabulous wealth and having grown up in sheer poverty, he began distributing part of it lavishly for the benefit of the needy.  In 1842 Knighthood was conferred on him.  In 1855 he was given the Freedom of the City of London.  He passed away on 15th April 1859. ■  [To be continued]             


By Framroz Rustomjee 

      AHMĀI-RAĒSHCHA:  This prayer to Ahura Mazda is to grant splendor to the devotee, who has invoked Srāosh, Divine Intuition.  The devotee asks for splendor and glory, bodily well being, physical happiness, conquests over bodily wants, blessings that afford adequate contentment, children possessed of inborn wisdom, a long life to do useful works for God, and finally a condition of supreme blessedness, which comes to those that are righteous, wherein they live in the Luster and Radiance of God, with every kind of contentment.  It is noteworthy that there is no material blessing asked for or expected, for any righteous act done.  The prayer is taken from Chapter 68, verse 11 of Izashnē.   

      HAZANGHRĒM BAĒSHAZANĀMThis prayer is taken from Izashnē 68 (15).  By this prayer the devotee asks for an abundance of good health, while he leaves in the physical body.  He seeks for Divine guidance in the countless means by which good health could be secured, by following the behests of Srāosh, and by living in accord with the Divine Law of Righteousness. 

      JASA MĒ AVANGHĒ MAZDA (II):  This is different from the declaration of faith in the Kusti prayer.  In this prayer the devotee seeks the help of Ahura Mazda through His manifold Powers.  Ahura Mazda is the embodiment of Strength, the All-Conquering Power Divine, the Producer of sweet pastures, the efficient Vayu, the Sustainers of the firmament by nature’s laws, as well as of boundless time, and of time sustained by nature’s laws for long periods.  The devotee is anxious to fortify himself with all these Divine Powers, for the invocation of Srāosh. 

      KĒRFĒH MOZD:  This is a Pāzend prayer.  The devotee proposes to be righteous for the advancement of his own soul and seeks a deliverance from sins.  He prays for the vast and incalculable blessings of good deeds, done by all virtuous people of the world. The long life yearned for is to do righteous acts, for the furtherance of Ahura’s Plan for all mankind.   


Life is for Enjoyment 




OD has managed the amazing feat of being worshipped and invisible at the same time.  Millions of people would describe him as a white-bearded father figure sitting on a throne in the sky, but none could claim to be an eyewitness.  Although it doesn’t seem possible to offer a single fact about the Almighty that would hold up in a court of law, somehow the vast majority of people believe in God – as many as 96 percent, according to some polls.  This reveals a huge gap between belief and what we call everyday reality.  We need to heal this gap.   

      What would the facts be like if we had them?  They would be as follows:  Everything that we experience as material reality is born in an invisible realm beyond space and time, a realm revealed by science to consist of energy and information.  This invisible source of all that exists is not an empty void but the womb of creation itself.  Something creates and organizes this energy.  It turns the chaos of quantum soup into stars, galaxies, rain forests, human beings and our own thoughts, emotions, memories, and desires.  It is not only possible to know this source of existence on an abstract level but to become intimate and at one with it.  When this happens our horizons open to new realities.  We will have the experience of God. 

      After centuries of knowing God through faith, we are now ready to understand divine intelligence directly.  In many ways this new knowledge reinforces what spiritual traditions have already promised.  God is invisible and yet performs all miracles.  He is the source of every impulse of love.  Beauty and truth are both children of this God.  In the absence of knowing the infinite source of energy and creativity, life’s miseries come into being.  Getting close to God through a true knowing heals the fear of death, confirms the existence of the soul, and gives ultimate meaning to life. 

      Our whole notion of reality has actually been topsy-turvy.  Instead of God being a vast, imaginary projection, he turns out to be the only thing that is real, and the whole universe, despite its immensity and solidity, is a projection of God’s nature.   Those astonishing events we call miracles give us clues to the workings of this ineffable intelligence.   

      I am fascinated simply by whether we can open the door and allow helpful angels into our reality, along with miracles, visions, prophecy, and ultimately that great outsider, God himself. 

      We all know that a person can learn about life without religion.  If I took a hundred newborn babies and filmed every moment of their lives from beginning to end, it wouldn’t be possible to predict that the believers in God will turn out to be happier, wiser or more successful than the nonbelievers.   

      Yet the video camera cannot record what is happening below the surface.  Someone who has experienced God may be looking on the entire world with wonder and joy.  Is this experience real?  Is it useful to our lives or just a subjective event, full of meaning to the person having it but otherwise no more practical than a dream?  One bald fact stands at the beginning of any search for God.  He leaves no footprints in the material world..  From the very beginning of religion in the West, it was obvious that God had some kind of presence, known in Hebrew as Shekhinah.  Sometimes this word is simply translated as ‘light’ or radiance.  Shekhinah formed the halos around angels and the luminous joy in the face of a saint.  It was feminine, even though God, as interpreted in the Judeo-Christian tradition, is masculine. 

      The significant fact about Shekhinah was not its gender.   Since God is infinite, calling the deity He or She is just a human convention.  Much more important was the notion that if God has a presence, that means he can be experienced.  He can be known.   

      This is a huge point, because in every other way God is understood to be invisible and untouchable.  And unless some small part of God touches the material world, he will remain inaccessible forever. ■ [Author unknown; Source: THE TIMES OF INDIA]  


Make our daily prayers a living thing


Translate those beneficent teachings in daily life.  

WE are living in a New Age and the children are born with the spirit of the times. Zoroastrian prayers contain various aspects. The most important of these are devotion to the Creator and the spiritual and the ethical laws of holy and righteous living.  What we affirm in our daily prayers must be confirmed in our daily life and actions.  How then, can humanity practice the laws of good and true Zoroastrian life, if in the very first instance we do not understand those spiritual and ethical laws, which are conserved for us in our daily prayers?  

Our Kusti prayer is in itself a complete prayer for us Zoroastrians. 

[Dastur Dr. Framroze A. Bode] 

Published for Informal Religious Meetings Trust Fund Karachi 

By Virasp Mehta 

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


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