A Zoroastrian Educational Institute



HomeArticlesAuthorsBook ReviewCommunityLibraryProminentsRegisterStoreArticle SubmissionAbout Us




HISTORY OF THE PARSIS (Published 1884)


Karaka, Dosabhai F.



Related Articles:

Related Links:


















The Zoroastrians in Persia - The misfortunes of that state - Majority of people adopt Mahomedanism - The Zoroastrian colonies - The Ghilji Afghans - Their invasion of Persia - The part taken by the Zoroastrians – Their treatment by Nadir Shah and his successors - They gradually lose their ancient books - The wretched condition of Parsis in Persia - The poll-tax or "jazia" - Cruel exactions in order to raise it - The appeal to the Bombay Parsis - Called the Guebres - Made the victims of harsh laws - Cases of tyranny - Mahomedan slaying a Parsi - The reverse - Other offences - The Persian Zoroastrians retain their characteristics - Their love of truth and morality - Efforts of the Bombay Parsis in their behalf - Views of the author - “The Persian Zoroastrian Amelioration Fund” - Statement of its objects - Abolition of the "jazia" - Pressure brought t o bear on the Shah - Deputations and letters-Ultimate success – Those who obtained it - Other objects of the fund - A picturesque legend - The slaughtering of cows - A beneficent reform - The present condition of Persia.

An inquiry into the present state of those who profess the religion of Zoroaster would manifestly be incomplete if it did not embrace those members of the race who have held fast to their faith in the mother-country even after its conquest by the Moslem. The effect of Mahomedan rule, wherever established, is too well known to need any lengthened description. Within a hundred years of the time when the followers of the Arabian Prophet first set foot on Persian soil, the condition of the country had entirely changed. Lands once fertile had become dreary wastes, and fields where the golden corn had waved, now deserted by the husband for wild animals; while the ploughshares were beaten into swords, and the pruning-hooks exchanged for spears. Hence the country which had been the home of peace and prosperity was thrown into the greatest confusion, and hordes of robbers, driven to crime by the distress of the times, traversed every part of the land, perpetrating the most cruel atrocities.

Persia once fallen never revived, but sank gradually into its present insignificance. Perhaps no country in the world has witnessed so many revolutions as that unhappy land.  “The tyrants who have filled the throne owed their” elevation to treachery and bloodshed. The followers of every religion, with the exception of that of Islam, have endured constant persecution, while those of the inhabitants who adhered to the ancient faith of Zoroaster have experienced the greatest barbarities. Constant oppression and tyranny have naturally reduced their numbers. In less than two centuries after the invasion the greater part of embraced Islamism. In the tenth century of the Christian era remnants of the Zoroastrian population were only to be found in the provinces of Fars and Kerman; and the reader may form an idea of the rate at which that remnant has declined even in recent times when it is stated that, while about a hundred and fifty years ago it numbered one hundred thousand souls, it does not at present exceed seven or eight thousand.

The Zoroastrians of Persia are now almost exclusively confined to Yezd and the twenty-four surrounding villages. From accounts furnished to the Persian Amelioration Society of Bombay by its Persia, it appears that in the year 1854 in the first mentioned city and the villages one thousand houses or families, representing a population of 6,658 souls, of whom 3,310 were males and 3,348 females. Of these about twenty or twenty-five were merchants, but by far the larger number gained a scanty subsistence as tillers of the soil. A few of the poorer class worked as artisans, bricklayers, carpenters, and weavers, or followed other mechanical occupations. At Kerman the number of Parsis does not exceed four hundred and fifty while in the capital of Persia (Teheran) there are only about fifty merchants of this race. A small number of the humbler class are, however, employed as gardeners in the palace of the Shah, and at Shiraz some families are found occupying the grade of shopkeepers.

At no time after the overthrow of their ancient monarchy were the Zoroastrian residents of Persia happy under the succeeding rulers. In a letter received in the year 1511 from them by their brethren at Navsari, they stated the rule of Kaiomars had they suffered what they were then undergoing. In sooth, they declared that they were more oppressed than their race had ever been at the hands of the tyrants Zohak, Afrasiab, Tur, and Alexander.

Within the last two hundred years four revolutions conduced to the destruction of Kerman, which is now reduced to the insignificant number we have mentioned. The Ghilji Afghans, who had long groaned under the misrule of Persia, determined at last to emancipate themselves, and raised the standard of rebellion able chief named Mir Vais, who in a short time made himself master of Kandahar. The Persian monarch Sultan Husen, unable to reduce them by force of arms, sent emissaries to persuade them into submission, but the messengers were treated with contempt. The next Afghan chief who succeeded to the authority of Mir Vais determined to invade Persia, and a favorable opportunity soon presented itself. At the moment eastern frontier of the kingdom was threatened by the Abdali Afghans of Herat, and while the Arabian ruler of Muscat was seizing the country bordering on the Gulf, Mahamud (who had succeeded his father, Mir Vais, in the government of Kandahar) carried out what had been his father’s desire, and invaded the empire whose rulers had so long oppressed his nation.

The following account, by Sir John Malcolm, of the Afghan leader’s first entry into Persia gives a terrible picture of the misery to which the inhabitants of Kerman were subjected by both the invaders and their own rulers: --

“He (Mahmud) resolved to penetrate that country by the man, preferring a march over the desert of Seistan to the obstacles which presented themselves in every other direction. Though he took every precaution to surmount the difficulties of the march, he lost many men and horses; but his appearance was so unexpected, and his force so considerable, that the city and province of Kerman immediately submitted to his arms. This ready acknowledgement of his authority did not save the inhabitants from suffering the most intolerable oppression, and it was with joy they learned that Lutf Ali Khan had left the sea coast and was hastening to their relief. That chief who had collected a considerable force, attacked and defeated the Afghan prince, and compelled to fly to Kandahar.  Kerman however, was only exposed, by his victory to a repetition of what it had before suffered this victory, to a repetition of what it had before suffered; and when Lutf Ali Khan marched from that province, it was difficult to say whether the invasion of the Afghans of the advance of the Persian army to their relief had been most ruinous to its habitants.

During this invasion by the Ghilji Afghans the Zoroastrians of Kerman drank their full share of the cup of suffering. Indeed it would almost seem as if they were made the special objects of the vengeance of the Persian troops, at whose hands they suffered heavy losses both by massacre and compulsory conversion.

In the second invasion of Persia by Mahamud he raised levies among the Zoroastrians of both the provinces of Kerman and Yezd, persuading them to join his banner by appealing to their miseries. They, remembering their ancestors and the wrongs which they endured at the hands of the Persians, eagerly seized what seemed the opportunity to obtain revenge at the same time that they might gain some honour and renown. The proposal seems to have been readily accepted, probably in the hope that the success of the Afghan chief would tend to alleviate the oppression to which they had been constantly subjected by the Persians. It is unnecessary to follow Mahamud in his various successes, or to describe his final victory at Isfahan and the capture of that city. How the Zoroastrians, who formed a portion of the army of Mahamud, fared at the hands of the chief in the hour of victory we are altogether ignorant. We are not even told what became of them afterwards, but we can imagine that, however valuable their services, they received little substantial reward from the Mahomedan leader. We might even infer, from the condition of their descendants, that they obtained very much the reverse of what they had expected or deserved.

It is stated that in the reigns of Nadir Shah and his successor the remnants of this persecuted race were again offered the alternative of death or conversion. Moreover, about a hundred years ago, when Aga Mahomed Khan Kujur conquered Kerman in a war with Lutf Ali Khan Zand, many of the Zoroastrian race were put to the sword by that merciless ruler. When these various circumstances are taken into consideration it ceases to be a matter of wonder that a population very recently numbering many thousands of people should have been nearly exterminated by the cruelties of successive tyrants. The numerous ruins of fire temples in the city of Kerman, at this day, prove that it must have been, at no very remote period, the abode of the Zoroastrian persuasion.

We could not expect, after the revolutions, persecutions, and oppressions to which the small body who may claim to be the descendants of the ancient Persians have been subjected, that they should to day possess any of their religious books or be well informed respecting the tenets of their religion. Among all the vicissitudes of their race they have, however, adhered most devotedly to the form of faith which descended to them from their ancestors, and they could give no stronger proof of their staunchness. At one time the Parsis in India believed that copies of their ancient books, which they did not possess, could be furnished to them by their co-religionists in Persia; but this was soon shown to be a delusion. The accounts of their conditions given by European travelers, by the Parsis who had gone to Persia to obtain information connected with their religion, and also by the Iranis who have visited India in our time, set all expectations at rest on that point. They showed that, instead of being in a position to impart knowledge, the Zoroastrians of the fatherland needed advice and instruction from those in India.

They have still, it is true, their fire temples (thirty-four of them, both great and small, are situated in Yezd and its vicinity), but they possess no ancient liturgical books except those in the possession of their brethren in India. Professor Westergaard of Copenhagen, who visited Persia in the year 1843, wrote t o his friend, the late Dr. Wilson of Bombay, as follows on this subject: --

I stopped at Yezd eleven days, and though I often went out among them, I did not see more than sixteen or seventeen books in all ;two or three copies of the Vendidad Sade and the Izeshine (which they call Yacna), and six or seven of the Khorde Avesta,of which I got two and part of a third. These, besides part of the Bundesh and part of another Pehlevi book, were all I could get, though I tried hard to obtain more, especially part of the Izeshine with a Pehlevi, or as they say, Pazand translation, of which there is only one copy in Europe at Copenhagen.”

The same learned traveler, speaking of the Zoroastrians now residing in Kerman, says: --

The Guebres here are more brutalised than their brethren at Yezd. They had only two copies of the Vendidad and Yacna but a great many of the Khorde Avesta, which, however, they would not part with. No one here can read Eehlevi. They complain that when Aga Mahomed Khan gave the town up to indiscriminate plunder and slaughter, most of their books mere destroyed, and great numbers of the race were killed."

We have thus seen how wretched is the general condition of the Zoroastrians remaining in Persia. The few who can be called rich belong to the merchant class; and besides these there are perhaps none who can be said to be even in good circumstances, while the great majority are in a state of extreme poverty.

One of the severest hardships under which these people suffered, until quite recently, was the levy of the poll-tax, called jazia." The Moslem population alone was exempt from this tax, all unbelievers residing in the kingdom, such as Armenians, Jews, and Parsis, being compelled to pay it. The Armenians at Tabriz and in other places of Persia contiguous to the Russian frontier had been exempted from the payment of it, a favour which they owed to the influence of the Russian Government. The straits to which these races were driven in order to meet this tax were often deplorable. We have no means of knowing the exact amount of the impost which the Armenians and Jews were required t o pay, but it has been ascertained that the annual tax leviable on the Parsis, according to the imperial order, was six hundred and sixty-seven tomans. As is the case, however, in all Oriental kingdoms, the governors or collectors and magistrates enhanced the amount by their own commissions, and consequently the sum required t o be paid by these poor people often amounted to as much as two thousand tomans.[1] According t o statistics supplied to the author from authentic sources, it appears that about a thousand grown up Parsis were required t o pay the tax. Of these, two hundred were able to bear the burden without difficulty; four hundred paid it with great inconvenience, while the rest were unable to do so at all, even at the point of the sword.

Upon the annual collection of the tax the scenes presented at the homes of those who were unable to pay it were most terrible to witness. Unheard-of cruelties were practiced in the vain attempt to extort money from those who had none for even their own wants. Some, to save themselves from torture, and as the last resource, gave up their religion and embraced the faith of Mahomed, when they were relieved from the payment of the tax. Others, who would not violate their conscience, abandoned their homes to escape the exactions of the tax-gatherer. These determined individuals, even when they escaped, had always t o leave their wives and children behind them, Ground down by poverty, it i s not strange that they were unable t o pay the smallest tax. In this miserable condition the Zoroastrians of Persia looked to their co-religionists in India for rescue. The few who from time t o time have found their way to Bombay often asked the question, “Cannot the influential Parsis of Bombay do something to relieve our countrymen in Persia through the representation of the British ambassador t o the court of Teheran? The court of St. Petersburg and other European powers, have obtained various rights and privileges for the Christian inhabitants of Persia, and why cannot the English do as much for the Parsis?” This appeal did not remain unanswered, as will be seen later on, by the Parsis of Bombay.

It is not to be concealed that the Persian Government has very negligently observed its promises in regard t o the Christians who inhabit its dominions. In the capital, where these people are immediately under the protection of the ambassadors of the Christian courts, their condition is comparatively easy, but in the provinces they are a prey, equally with the Jews and the Parsis, t o the tyranny of the local governors and the fanatical race among whom they dwell.

The treatment which the Zoroastrians endure at the hands of the Mahomedan subjects of the Persian monarchy is harsh and oppressive. They are contemptuously styled Guebres,” and experience from the Mussulmans much the same sort of treatment as the low-caste Mahar in India receives at the hands of the high-caste Hindu. A Mahomedan, who, without prejudice t o himself, holds intercourse with every other caste, considers the touch of a "Guebre” as pollution and the latter is consequently debarred from following such occupations as are likely to bring him into contact with his oppressor. Many other causes stand in the way of a Zoroastrian gaining a profitable or even an easy livelihood in Persia. In trade, credit must often be given to the purchaser, and the extreme difficulty which Zoroastrians find in recovering their claims from "true believers” is a great bar to the hearty or effective pursuit of commerce. The Mahomedan law against debtors,” says Sir John Malcolm, "is sufficiently severe, but the law is in no point favorable to what are termed in its language unbelievers.” We see it mentioned on the same authority that an eminent Christian merchant, who resided many years in Persia, and who enlightened Europe by his observations on that country, states that nothing but the establishment of the Urf or customary law, which is administered by the secular magistrates, could enable a person not of the Mahomedan faith to carry on any commercial transactions in Persia. The bigotry of the priests, and the one-sided nature of their law, which is nothing more than that of the Koran and its traditions, would deprive him of every hope of justice. When an application was made to the court of Sherrah by a nonbeliever against a Mahomedan bankrupt, the latter was so sheltered under its forms and prescriptive laws that it was declared impossible to attach his goods for the payment of debts.

Of other instances of the injustice of the law against those who do not adopt the dominant religion of Persia, one deserves prominent notice. If a rich man of some different creed dies, any distant relative who may have embraced Mahomedanism can claim his property in preference to the deceased‘s own lawful children. Such injustice speaks for itself; comment on it is unnecessary.

Not only is a Parsi thus deprived of his civil rights, but in every respect his position is one of constant inconvenience and sometimes of peril. If a Mahomedan, whether from bigotry or malice, kills a Parsi, Jew, or any “unbeliever,” there is no redress. The culprit is either slightly fined, as the value of a kafir's life is very lightly estimated, or he is acquitted on some trifling pretext. A few recent instances will suffice to prove our statement. An Armenian resident of Tabriz was killed by a Moslem. The murderer was fined seven tomans (three pounds ten shillings) and the sum offered t o the heirs of the deceased. The latter declined t o accept it, and demanded that a punishment should be inflicted on the offender equal to the guilt of his crime. Their remonstrances were unheeded, and the murderer was set at large to glory in having shed the blood of a kafir.” At Yezd two Parsis were murdered by some Mahomedans. The criminals were paupers and unable to pay a fine. They were then set at liberty, the judge declaring it to be unjust to imprison the followers of Mahomed for laying violent hands on mere kafirs.” Even so recently as 1874 an act of the most flagrant injustice occurred. A respectable and wealthy Zoroastrian merchant, named Rashid Meherban, was shot and killed in the public bazaar of Yezd by one Rujub Ali, a Mahomedan. After committing the brutal deed the murderer escaped through the assistance afforded him by the sympathising crowd. The authorities made no effort whatever to trace the culprit and bring him to justice. Owing, however, to the exertions of the murdered man’s relatives who were resident in Bombay, and who spared neither pains nor money to trace the murderer, the criminal was at last discovered in Bushire. The authorities at Shiraz were applied to for the purpose of executing justice, and the governor of that city ordered the accused to be sent for trial to Yezd. There, however, nothing was done to bring the offender before a tribunal. Meanwhile Rashid Meherban’s relatives sent from Bombay several telegrams and memorials to the ministers of the Shah, as well as to the Shah himself, pressing for justice. These sustained efforts led to the authorities at Teheran giving orders to the Governor of Shiraz to send the criminal t o the capital. These orders were of course obeyed, and the accused was given in charge of the mounted police to be taken to that city. The culprit again made his escape through the connivance of the guard while at Goam, and took refuge in a holy place called Imamzada Hazrati Masuma. According to the law of Islam, no person, however great his offence, can be arrested in a sanctuary, and the murderer remained there for a long period. It is stated that he has since been pardoned on the recommendation of the Mousted," the highest religious lawgiver, who declared that, as the Zoroastrian acted in violation of the law of Islam, a true believer committed no offence in slaying him!

Thus the villain, who ought long ago to have forfeited his life, is still at large, perhaps posing as a martyr for having been arraigned when he had performed a meritorious action.

Let us now see how justice is reversed in cases when the murder of a Mahomedan has been perpetrated. A Jew had a claim against a Mahomedan for a sum of money, and the latter refusing to pay it, both of them came to blows, in which the Mahomedan lost his life. As the victim was a “believer,” the fine was one thousand tomans besides imprisonment, which was promptly imposed and carried out. The Mahomedan law is founded on the Koran, and the administrators of it are the "mullas" or priests, whose decision is of oppression have not destroyed the strong, hardy, and muscular appearance of the Zoroastrian. He is greatly superior in strength to the modern effeminate and luxurious Persian, and is ever willing to work when he can find employment. Contact with a weak and idle race has not exercised any perceptible influence on those habits of industry for which his early ancestors were remarkable. The Zoroastrian is taught by his religion to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow, whereas the Moslem is brought up to believe that he will be the favoured of God by becoming a fakir and living on alms. It is a fact creditable to the blood which flows in Zoroastrian veins that the race has not degenerated by contact with those to whom fate has made them subject.

As much may be said of their moral conduct. Even the Mahomedans, their inveterate enemies, admit the fact. Their women, the majority of whom belong to poor families, are noted for their chastity; while the men are known for their morality. In the garden adjoining the harem of the Shah none but Zoroastrians are employed as gardeners on account of their good moral character. They are also remarkable for their love of truth, a virtue which has been highly extolled in their ancestors by both ancient and modern historians.

We have now to describe the efforts which the Bombay Parsis have made for the mitigation of the oppression and for the removal of the various disadvantages under which their brethren in Persia have so long been suffering. The author, in a work on the Parsis published a quarter of a century ago, after reciting the hardships to which they were subjected, expressed himself as follows:--" But can we ourselves do nothing for our unfortunate coreligionists in Persia? Our community possesses considerable weight, and includes amongst its members names known all over the world for their exertions in the cause of humanity, and the amelioration of the condition of their countrymen generally. A deputation, therefore, of our race to the Persian Court, duly accredited by the English Government, and presented by the British Ambassador at Teheran, might, we believe, remonstrate with success against the cruelties now practised upon our Zoroastrian brethren in Persia. The amount raised by the capitation tax now levied upon them, and which i s attended by circumstances of so much cruelty, must be to the imperial revenue insignificant in the extreme, and it is not improbable that a dignified representation on the subject made by a suitable embassy from the Parsis of India might succeed in abolishing it. Persian princes seldom know the true state of their subjects, and we cannot but think that our countrymen would reflect honour upon themselves by an adequate effort to relieve the miseries of our Zoroastrian brethren in the fatherland.”

This was written twenty-five years ago, and the means which the Parsis of Bombay adopted for obtaining redress of the grievances from which their poor co-religionists suffered in their parent country have been exactly those which we then suggested, as will be seen from the following narrative. Their unhappy condition appears to have excited the deepest sympathy in Bombay some years before the more systematic efforts which we are about to detail began in their behalf. These date as far back as 1854 ,when the first Parsi emissary was sent to Persia. Prom that year the exertions of the Parsi community in this cause have been conducted with a zeal and a pertinacity which reflect the greatest credit on those concerned from time to time with the management of the charity known as -- The Persian Zoroastrian Amelioration Fund. The public appeal made by the trustees of an earlier fund, at the beginning of 1854, led to their deputing to Persia Mr. Manakji Limji Hataria, a gentleman well qualified by previous experience for the duties to be performed during so important a mission. A subscription list which was put in circulation among the Zoroastrians of Bombay was cheerfully and liberally filled u p ,and Mr. Manakji was despatched on the 31st of March 1854 with explicit instructions to inquire into and report upon the social, political, and intellectual condition of the Zoroastrians in Persia. The impetus thus given to this benevolent under taking was quickened by the pathetic details received from Persia regarding the deplorable state into which the victims of Mussulman misrule had fallen, and an influential meeting was held in Bombay on the 11th of January 1855, under the presidency of the late Mr. Manakji Nasarvanji Petit, for the consideration of Mr. Manakji Hataria's report. It dwelt in great detail on the impoverished condition of the Iranis, which chiefly arose from the levying of the oppressive poll-tax, called the "jazia"; on the varied forms of individual tyranny; and on their utterly defenseless position in the midst of a fanatical population. These circumstances, the recital of which aroused heartfelt sympathy at the meeting, led to the unanimous adoption of the chairman’s proposal to establish a distinct fund, having for its object the general amelioration of the condition of the Persian Zoroastrians. Other resolutions were passed at the meeting relating to the nomination of a managing committee for preparing memorials to the various authorities concerned, and to the collection of subscriptions for carrying out the various purposes of the fund, such as the completion of a tower of silence at Yezd, the procuring of a partial or total remission of the "jazia," the affording of pecuniary relief to the aged and destitute, the creating of facilities for the education of the young, and the repairing and preservation of dilapidated places of worship in the parent-country. Of these resolutions none was felt to be more important than the one emphasizing the necessity of abolishing the “jazia," the imposition and attendant circumstances of which caused most of the misery to which the Persian Zoroastrians were exposed, and in t h e levying of which manifold evils were inflicted by t h e local officers, Involuntary apostasy to Mahomedanism and the too frequent exaction of amounts far in excess of the actual dues were the more serious of the evils towards the extirpation of which the managing committee of the fund, and notably their agent in Persia, had from the first devoted their energies. Nothing could surpass the zeal, courage, and persistency displayed by Mr. Manakji Hataria in his endeavor to procure partial or total relief from this cruel exaction; and it is not too much to say that, but for his unceasing efforts in so noble a cause, the obnoxious and extortionate jazia would still have been in existence, instead of having become a thing of the past. The efforts for its abolition lasted from the middle of 1857 until nearly the close of 1882. In the autumn of the latter year the "jazia" was abolished, to the unspeakable joy of those who suffered from it and of those who had agitated for its abolition. This glorious result was not, however, accomplished without the greatest discretion and the most determined and unflagging zeal being exercised on behalf of the sufferers. Much pressure was used; but this would have failed if it had not been backed up by a system of indefatigable memorializing. On one occasion the Shah was personally interviewed by Mr. Manakji Antaria, under the auspices of Major General Sir Henry Rawlinson, British ambassador at the Court of Teheran, when the skilful agent introduced the subject with so much tact and good sense that His Majesty’s heart was moved to sympathy, and he ordered a reduction of one hundred tomans from a total claim of nine hundred and twenty tomans, the joint contribution annually wrung from the populations of Yezd and Kerman. Another and still more memorable interview with His Persian Majesty took place during his visit to England in 1873, when the managing committee, ever on the alert, drew up a memorial to him, adorned with gold leaf and inscribed in golden letters, in which were set forth in the most flowery and choicest Persian phrases the poverty and sufferings of their unhappy co-religionists in his country, owing to the “jazia” being still in force, and winding up with the prayer that His Majesty would extend his mercy by abolishing the tax “by way of a propitiatory offering designed to ward off evil from his most royal person.” This memorial, together with one from the Parsis then resident in England, was presented to the Shah at Buckingham Palace, on the 24th of June 1873, by Messrs. Naorozji Fardunji, Dadabhai Naorozji, Ardeshir Kharshedji Wadia, and Dr. Rastamji Kavasji Bahadurji, who, being then in London, were deputed to do so by the Bombay committee. It should be added that the exertions of the Parsis in London were powerfully supported by the hearty cooperation of two distinguished and generous-minded English officers, viz. Sir Henry Rawlinson and Mr. E. B. Eastwick, M.P., who had both been at a previous period prominent representatives of the British Embassy at the Court of Teheran.

We give the letters of Mr. Eastwick and Sir Henry Rawlinson as instances of the great interest they evinced in the welfare of the Zoroastrians of Persia: --

“88 HOLLAND ROAD, 27th June 1873.

“MY DEAR SIR-I am going to the Grand Vazir this morning, and will call his particular attention to the address, and also point out how much it is for the interests of Persia that an enterprising people like the Parsis should be encouraged.

Yours faithfully, (Signed) "EDWARD EASTWICK.

"Dadabhai Naorozji, Esq., 15 Salisbury Street, Strand.”


"7th July 1873.

"DEAR SIR - I took an opportunity of mentioning to the Shah the very depressed condition of the Zoroastrians in Persia, and explained to him how highly any measures he might initiate for ameliorating their state would be appreciated by their co-religionists in Bombay. His Majesty said the matter should receive his best attention when he returned to Persia; and I thus hope that some real good will result from the Bombay memorial.

-Yours truly, (Signed) “H. RAWLINSON

"To DadabhaiNaorozji, Esq.”

The efforts of these distinguished Englishmen were not without some effect upon His Majesty, who was pleased to send the following gracious and gratifying reply to the gentleman who headed the Parsi deputation for the presentation of the memorial: --

"BUCKINGHAM PALACE, 5th July 1873.

“I am commanded by His Majesty the Shah to acknowledge the receipt of your memorials, praying for the application of measures which are calculated to improve the condition of the Zoroastrians in Persia.

“His Majesty will give this subject his best attention on his return to Persia, and if he finds that your co-religionists are subject to any undue severities, he will take care that redress is afforded them.

“His Majesty is aware of the high character which is borne by the Parsi community both in England and India, and he is glad that he numbers amonghis own subjects so many members of that enterprising and loyal race.

“His Majesty is gratified by the expression of your good wishes in regard to him.

(Signed) "MALCOLM.

15 Salisbury Street, Strand.”

But in all Eastern countries it requires a long time to eradicate abuses which have existed for centuries. The Parsis, therefore, seeing that nothing had been gained though much time had elapsed since the receipt of the above reply, and encouraged by the promise of His Majesty to redress the wrongs of his Zoroastrian subjects, persistently forwarded further representations t o the Persian court. They also addressed an appeal to the British ambassador at Teheran through the Political Department of the Government of Bombay and the Calcutta Foreign Office, whose secretary, Sir Alfred Lyall, being then on a visit to Bombay, kindly lent material aid in transmitting it to the Embassy and thence to the Shah. The grievances complained of were these : that the Persian Zoroastrians were liable to forcible conversion by the Mahomedans; that property belonging to a Zoroastrian of individual proselytes and their perverted descendants, notwithstanding the existence and prior claims of lawful heirs ;that property newly purchased was liable to be taxed for the benefit of the "mullas"to the extent of a fifth of its value; that new houses were forbidden to be erected and old ones to be repaired; that persons of the Zoroastrian persuasion were not allowed the use of new or white clothes; that they were prevented from riding on horseback; and that such of them as were engaged in trade were subjected to extortionate demands under pretence of enforcing Government custom dues. The appeal was favourably received, and the petitioners were assured that measures for the immediate relief of the sufferers, with one exception, that of the "jazia," would be immediately adopted and enforced. This reply did not realise all the expectations of the Parsis, who rightly felt that so long as the "jazia" existed it would leave the door open for all sorts of enormities; and they therefore perseveredin their efforts to procure its total and permanent extinction. His Majesty the Shah thanked through the British ambassador family was confiscated wholesale for the use and benefit for his kind and gracious reply, but the important question still continued to be agitated, and, as it happily turned out, not without success. The petition of May 1882, containing a prayer to His Majesty for its abolition, met with the desired result, and the “jazia” was declared to be finally doomed. A communication to that effect, dated 27th September 1882, was received by Mr. Dinsha Manakji Petit, president of the Zoroastrian Amelioration Fund Committee, from Mr. Ronald Thomson of the British Embassy. With Mr. Thomson's letter was also transmitted a copy of the royal firman in Persian, decreeing the immediate abolition of the impost, together with an English translation executed by the translator to the Embassy. We give below the British ambassador’s letter conveying this welcome announcement, and the royal firman which promulgated the same glad tidings.

"TEHERAN, September 27th, 1882.

SIR - With reference to the letter addressed to me by the Committee of the Persian Zoroastrian Amelioration Fund on the 8th of September 1881, I have much pleasure in transmitting to you herewith copy and translation of a firman which has been issued by t h e Shah wholly abolishing the “jazia” tax, and relieving the Zoroastrian community from its payment from the commencement of the present year the 21st of March 1882. – I am, Sir, your most obedient humble servant,


"The President of the Committee,
Persian Zoroastrian Amelioration Fund.”

ROYAL FIRMAN issued by HISMAJESTYNASEREDIN SHAH relieving the Zoroastrians of Persia from the payment of the tribute annually levied from them under the name of Jazia.

“In consideration of the many favours and blessings which it has pleased the Almighty to confer upon us, and also as a thanks giving to Him who has bestowed on us the Royal Crown of Persia, and has granted us the means of affording relief to its inhabitants, it behoves us to provide for the ease and comfort of all our subjects, of whatever tribe, race, community, or creed, in order that they may be strengthened and refreshed by the waters of our special favour.

“Amongst these are the Zoroastrians, residing at Yezd and Kerman, who are the descendants of the ancient population and nobles of Persia, and whose peace and comfort it is our Royal desire now to render more complete than heretofore.

“Therefore, by the issue of this Royal firman, we order and command that the same taxes, assessments, revenues, and all other Government imposts, trading dues, etc., which are taken from our Mahomedan subjects residing in the towns and villages of Yezd and Kerman, shall be taken in like manner from the Zoroastrians who also reside there, and nothing more nor less. And whereas in consideration of this arrangement the exaction of the sum of eight hundred and forty-five tomans (845) which was annually levied under another’s name from the said community will be abolished. Therefore from beginning of the present auspicious year of the Horse we remit this sum, and absolve the Zoroastrians from its payment henceforward and for ever; and now we hereby order and command our Mustaufis and revenue officers of the Royal Exchequer to strike out the said sum entirely from the revenue returns of Yezd and Kerman.

“T h epresent and future Governors of these provinces are to consider the claim for the payment of this tribute as now surrendered for ever ;and during the present year, and hereafter, should this sum or a part thereof be exacted, they will be held responsible and punislied ;and in levying the tithes and assessments on water and landed property, all the trading dues, etc., the Zoroastrians must be dealt with in the same manner as our other subjects are treated.

"Given at Teheran in the month of Ramzan, 1299 (August, 1882) -- Translated by

(Signed) "J. IBRAHIM."

Such was the happy issue of a long-sustained and well fought battle by the Parsis of Bombay against this grievous and obnoxious impost on behalf of a remote and obscure, albeit kindred, community. No one who reflects on their complete disinterestedness as well as their unflagging persistency can help being impressed with the conviction that their action throughout was highly laudable, and calculated to shed no common lustre on the records of Bombay philanthropy. During a period of twenty-three years the managers of the Persian Amelioration Fund had spent about Rs. 109,564in contributions towards the payment of the “jazia.” The major portion of this sum had been subscribed by local munificence, as the Zoroastrians of Yezd and Kerman were never in a position to pay for themselves without such assistance, so that when the royal firman was promulgated in 1882 loud were the praises of the Parsis, both in India and the mother-country. The present Shah is the first of the Persian monarchs, after a lapse of thirteen centuries, t o show clemency and justice towards the children of the original Persians by putting them on a footing of equality with his other subjects. The name of Nasaredin Shah will ever be remembered with gratitude by the Parsis, who will unceasingly pray for his long life and reign, and may this tend to the welfare and happiness of the Persian Zoroastrians. The Parsis are no less grateful to the Grand Vazir and other high functionaries of the state who are understood to have supported the cause of the Zoroastrians before their august master. To Mr. Ronald F. Thomson, the British ambassador at the Court of Persia, the Parsis owe a deep debt of gratitude for the admirable tact and judgment with which he pleaded for the relief of the distressed Zoroastrians, and for having succeeded in obtaining the redress which had been so long sought for in vain. The Parsi community is also indebted to its old friend, Sir George Birdwood, for the services he rendered in connection with this object, as was expressed at the time in a letter of thanks from the committee at Bombay. "Long live Nasaredin Shah!”  was the cry of every Zoroastrian in Persia and India after the promulgation of the firman, which might be appropriately called the Magma Charta of the Zoroastrians of Persia, by which the rights of justice have been secured for them in common with all the other subjects of the Persian monarchy.

It should be remembered that the abolition of the jazia was not the only undertaking to which the Bombay committee and their representatives abroad had devoted their attention and energy. Theirs was a comprehensive scheme of philanthropy, tending to the general amelioration of the ill-used community in Persia, and in the practical realisation of which they were not one whit less zealous than in framing and forwarding memorials praying for the redress of a specific grievance. It must be added that they had found in Mr. Manakji Hataria an apt and willing agent for giving effect to their generous aims. Schools began to be established for the education of Zoroastrian children in 1857, from which date an annual contribution of Rs. 600 was made for maintaining scholastic institutions at eleven towns in the districts of Yezd and Kerman. A donation of Rs. 500 per annumfrom the trustees of the Nasarvanji Mancherji Kama fund, enhanced by further pecuniary aid from Mr. Palanji Nasarvanji Patel, a gentleman engaged in the China trade, induced the committee, later on, to concentrate their efforts and apply all their resources to placing the boarding school, opened in 1866, on a footing of greater efficiency. This boarding school originated in the munificent gift of Rs. 25000given in 1864 by Mr. Nasarvanji Manakji Petit on the occasion of his son Jamshedji being invested with the ‘‘sudra-kusti." This amount was devoted from the first to the instruction, board, and lodging of thirty-one boys. Unfortunately the outlay required for the maintenance of this institution proved too heavy for the committee’s resources, and the deficiency of income had for a time to be made up by transferring the general school funds to the boarding school account. It had, however, to be finally closed in March 1876, after an existence of ten years, and no attempt has, up to the present time, been made for its resuscitation.

Another direction in which the committee laboured for the welfare of their destitute and helpless brethren in Persia was in getting the daughters of poor parents or orphan girls of marriageable age settled in life, which their extreme poverty would otherwise have precluded. Such children were exposed to the serious danger of being perverted to Mahomedanism, and it is gratifying to add that, through the kindhearted liberality of many Parsigentlemen and ladies of Bombay, their agent in Persia was enabled, between 1856 and 1865, to obtain resources sufficient to cover the expenses of the marriage of upwards of a hundred girls, who were thus saved from the dangers and temptations to which poverty exposed them in the midst of a licentious and truculent Mahomedan population. Amongst the contributors to this worthy object, the names of Sir Jamshedji Jijibhai, Mr. Manakji Nasarvanji Petit, Mr. Mervanji Framji Panday and his wife Bai Hirabai, Mr. Mancherji Hormasji Kama, and Mr. Rastamji Jamshedji Jijibhai, deserve honourable mention.

The need of a charitable dispensary having been long felt in Persia, a subscription was set on foot which resulted in the collection of Rs. 6946. The amount, however, was insufficient for the purpose, and was therefore appropriated to the erection of a poorhouse in Teheran, which, besides furnishing, in ordinary times, the destitute poor with food and lodging, afforded relief and shelter to the victims of starvation, who took refuge there during the dreadful and desolating famine of 1862.

It only now remains to briefly notice charitable works of another kind, which, if not of equal importance, have been carried out by the benevolent efforts of the Zoroastrians of Bombay, at two of the localities rendered sacred by popular tradition and as enshrining memories of the last days of the old Persian rule. One of these legends, which has obtained general credence, relates to Khatun Banu, the daughter of Yazdezard, the last of the Persian monarchs. After the overthrow of the Persian empire the family of Yazdezard, unable to take shelter in Madayn escaped with their lives and sought a safer refuge in the fortress of Haft-Ajar, the home of their ancestors. As the victors, however, were in hot pursuit and their numbers were overwhelming, the attempt proved futile, and the fugitives were scattered in various directions. One daughter, Meher Banu, sought and obtained relief in the stronghold of Gorab; another, Khatun Banu, to whom the legend relates, directed her flight to a more distant retreat. Overcome by thirst on her way thither she applied for a drink of water to a “burzigar” or farmer, who was occupied in tilling the soil. He was unable to give it, but offered her milk instead from his cow. This was thankfully accepted, but, unfortunately, just as he had finished milking the animal, it kicked the basin, which, being an earthen vessel, was dashed to pieces. The milk was, of course, lost, and the unhappy Khatun was deprived of the only remaining hope of being able to wet her parched lips. Proceeding thence with her attendants to a secluded spot among the hills, a mile or two away from the scene of her disappointment, she flung herself down in despair, and besought the Almighty to shield her from harm, and either to stop the pursuit of her ruthless foes or to screen her from mortal eye. Scarcely had this prayer been breathed when a deep chasm opened on the hillside, and into it she descended and vanished for ever from human sight, its mouth miraculously closing over her. Meanwhile the “burzigar,” who had gone in search of water, traced her retreat, but to his astonishment found on his arrival the band of attendants in deep mourning bewailing the loss of their princess. He was still further amazed when told of the manner of her disappearance. In a fit of grief and anger he rushed home and brought the cow which had spilt the milk he had intended for the princess to the spot where the chasm had opened, and sacrificed her in expiation of her offence. As the news spread, his co-religionists, fired with the same emotion and grieved at the sad fate of Khatun Banu, made similar sacrifices, and the practice continued for many years afterwards. This place was named Dari-din (the door of faith), and thousands of Parsi pilgrims periodically crowded thither from the remotest corners of the empire to pay their homage.

The spot commemorating this mysterious disappearance was in Akda, a town or hamlet in the vicinity of Yezd. The annual slaughtering of cows at this place being repugnant to the feelings of the Bombay Parsis, one of the first measures which Mr. Manakji adopted was to put a stop to this practice. He substituted in place of it the performance of more legitimate observances prescribed in the Zoroastrian code of belief. His directions appear to have been willingly obeyed, and the barbarous practice of cow-killing was permanently abandoned. Anxious, however, that the commemoration of so touching and interesting a tradition should be encouraged and perpetuated, Mr. Manakji caused a dome of great size, together with cooking places, to be erected at t h e expense of the late Mr. Mervanji Framji Panday of Bombay, who also built extensive masonry squares for the accommodation of the large number of pilgrims who assemble there at each celebration.

The other legend referred to Hyat Banu, another of Yazdezard's daughters, who was believed to have likewise vanished from mortal sight at a place called Koh-i-Chakmaku, not far from Yezd. Here was a reservoir of considerable size, which received a large supply of water from the numerous adjoining rills. This, together with the wall that surrounded it, having got into a dilapidated condition through long neglect, was repaired, at the expense of Mr. Mervanji Framji Panday, the same liberal gentleman who provided the funds for the erection of the buildings at Akda. In several other directions the charity and philanthropy of the Bombay Zoroastrians have been extended, but we refrain from filling these pages with matters of minor importance.

After the statement of these instances it will be admitted that no more striking illustration need be adduced of the deep-seated feeling of sympathy with which the Zoroastrians regard their co-religionists in every clime, and the bond of union that connects them together. Separated by distance and the dissociation of centuries, widely differing in language, customs, and habits, the exiles in India have, nevertheless, always cherished and acknowledged a strong fellow feeling with their brethren in Persia, to whom they have ever extended their sympathy and generous assistance.

It now only remains for us to record that these happy results have been secured through the indefatigable zeal and disinterested exertions of the late Mr. Manakji Nasarvanji Petit, Mr. Framji Nasarvanji Patel the late Mr. Mervanji Framji Panday, Mr. Dinsha Manakji Petit, and Mr. Kharshedji Nasarvanji Kama, the first four of whom were successively presidents of the Persian Zoroastrian Amelioration Society, and the fifth has been honorary treasurer from the formation of the association up to this day.

We are inclined to hope that the account we have attempted to give here of the remnant of the ancient Persian race, who have remained true to the religion of their fathers, and have continued on Persian soil, will not be without interest to the general reader. The instability of human grandeur receives no more strikingillustration than is afforded by the overthrow of the great monarchies which ruled in Asia before the Christian era. Inheritor of the old glories of the Assyrian and Babylonian empires, the Persian power spread its dominion from the isles of Greece to the tableland of Thibet, -- from the Caspian Sea to the confines of India. The ruins of ancient Persepolis tell of the splendour and the power of the Persian princes. The remains of mighty causeways, cut step by step on the Bakhtyari mountains, which divide the valley of the Tigris from the plains of Isfahan, and form the natural defence on that side of the modern Moslem empire of Persia, speak of the passage of myriads of busy feet and the march of heavy bodies of soldiery in ancient times, where now even the caravan dare not pass, and the wild robbers of the hills gain a precarious subsistence by plundering the plains, or by tending cattle, which form their sole source of wealth. In short, here is a country, once the most powerful, groaning under fanatical and despotic rulers, while the few descendants of the ancient race that created its glory are sunk into utter insignificance. We again say that the history of no other race more forcibly reminds us of the instability of human grandeur. To a Parsi, however, the decline and fall of the Old Persian Empire are and must always be a subject of peculiar interest. That strong feeling of association which binds to the present the memory of the last stages of a man's private existence,-that same feeling recalls vividly to our minds the memory of what our forefathers mere. Our race in India enjoys, under the English rule, all the blessings of an enlightened and liberal government; and our only wish is that our brethren on Persian soil may yet be as happy and as fortunate as we are ourselves.

[1] Equivalent to $1000 of our money.