From: The Parsee Voice
Date: Sun, Jan 10, 2016 at 3:50 PM
Subject: TheParseeVoice Is being Parsee different from being Zarthoshti?
Can any Tom, Dick or Harry become a Zarthushti? Obviously not!
The much hyped ‘Iranshah Udvada Utsav’ which concluded recently, has left a bitter taste in the mouth of orthodox community members thanks to the utterances of one of the speakers, Mr. Darius Khambata, who is reported to have said “Anyone can convert to Zoroastrianism. There is no bar in our religion.” He further said that religious texts like the Gathas enjoined Zoroastrians to spread the faith. Adding insult to injury, he went on to advocate opening up of fire temples to anyone who had been initiated into the Zoroastrian faith with a navjote ceremony.
Even more galling is the fact that Mr. Khambata was thereafter felicitated by a High Priest of Iranshah. The community has reacted sharply and rightly so. After all, which self-respecting community will tolerate an insult to its King and that too a spiritually exalted one like Iranshah. In earlier times, the concerned High Priest would likely have been made to step down from his post by his Anjuman. Sadly, the Nav Kutumbi Athornan Anjuman of Udvada, which prides itself as being caretakers of Iranshah and has done a marvellous job over the centuries, has yet to react. Even the Athornan Mandal of which he is the head, is looking the other way!
Religious scholar late Adi F. Doctor has written wonderful articles on the subject of who is a Zarthushti, in his newsletter - ‘The Parsee Voice’, extracts from which are reproduced hereunder. These should settle all doubts on this controversial subject.
Who is a Mazdayasni Zarthushti?
A Parsee/Irani, who is a Mazdayasni at birth, alone can practise the Zoroastrian Religion.
In our Kusti ceremony, the Jase Mey Avangahe Mazda is recited. There, right in the beginning, it is said, "Mazdayasno Ahmi, Mazdayasno Zarathushtrish" ... "I am a Mazdayasni, I am a Mazdayasni Zarthushti". Who, then, is a Mazdayasni?
Before the advent of our Prophet, the world had no established religion. The people belonged either to the white side of nature (the Mazdayasnis) or the dark side (the Daevayasnis). There were frequent battles between these two groups. It was when the dark forces gained immense strength and the White Side grew weaker, that the "Soul of the Earth" clamoured for a “Saviour" (Gatha Ahunavaiti). Hence came Prophet Zarthosht, who cleansed the Mazdayasni Deen, which had been badly infected by the Daevayasni virus! The good Mazdayasnis then came to be known as Mazdayasni Zarthushtis. Ever since, a Zarthushti is one who is born of Mazdayasni Zarthushti parents.
Yet today, thousands of years after the Prophet, we call ourselves Parsee-Zoroastrians. Two questions arise: Is the term ‘Parsee’ the same as the ancient Avesta word, ‘Mazdayasni’? If so, when and how did the term ‘Parsee' originate?
The answer to the first question is, yes! The word ‘Parsee’ is an ethno-religious term, signifying both the race and the religion. It is a complete misconception to even think, as is being done today, that the term "Parsee" was coined only after our ancestors came to India from Iran. Some even conjure up fanciful explanations that because the Zoroastrian visitors spoke in Farsi or Persian, they were called Parsees by the Indians. Others say that because our forefathers came from the province of Pars in south-west Iran, we came to be called Parsees in India.
The hard fact is that the term Parsee or 'Pãrsã' was used by the Achaemenian emperors Darius the Great and his son, Xerxes, in the cuneiform inscriptions at Naqsh-i-Rustam, Suez and Persepolis, nearly 2500 years ago! The very pertinent lines proudly proclaimed by Darius, which every single Parsee today must engrave in his mind till his dying day, are: "Pãrsa Pãrsahyã Pucha (Avesta: Puthra), Ariya, Ariya Chicha (Avesta: Chithra)" = "(I am Darius the Great King), a Parsee, son of a Parsee, an Aryan, having Aryan lineage".
So, the word ‘Parsee’ indicates the Aeiri Chithra Aryans, who staunchly adhered to and practised the Mazdayasni Zarthoshti Deen or religion and who followed the upright path of Ashoi, besides having an impeccable character. Today's Parsees/ Iranis, who have descended from these Mazdayasni Zarthoshtis, alone are the practitioners of the Zoroastrian religion.
Linguistic evidence clearly suggests that the word, Paarsa, Pars, occurs as Parsua in an Assyrian inscription of the 8th century B.C.! All this gives the lie to the belief that the term Parsee was only an ethnic term and had nothing to do with the Zoroastrian religion. Only the Parsees of Iran during the Achaemenian times and thereafter, during the Parthian and Sassanian periods practised the Zoroastrian religion.
A child born of Parsee-Zoroastrian parents is a Mazdayasni, who alone can be invested with the Sudreh and the Kusti, after which he becomes a Mazdayasni Zarthoshti. THERE JUST CANNOT BE A ZOROASTRIAN, WHO IS NOT BORN A MAZDAYASNI!
By merely donning a white garment and tying a girdle over it does not make anyone anywhere in the world, a Zoroastrian. On the contrary, he/she is making a complete mockery of the primeval religion in the world, whose natural followers recite daily in their Kusti prayers that the religion of Ahura's Zarthushtra is the greatest, the best and the most exalted!
'Parsee' in Pahlavi Books
Apart from the Achaemenians, who used the word 'Parsee' in the 5th and 6th centuries B.C., the Pahlavi writers of the Sassanian and post-Sassanian periods, used this word. In the Kãrnãmak î Artakshîr î Pãpakãn (The exploits of Ardeshir Babakan), an Indian astrologer refers to the founder of the Sassanian Empire as, Khvatãy pãrsikãn (the king or lord of the Parsis). So also, in the Pahlavi text, Drakht î Asurîk, the word, pãrsîk is used.
Dastur Dr. Hormazdyar Dastur Kayoji Mirza, in his "Outlines of Parsi History", says, "After the downfall of the Sassanian Empire and the Arab conquest of Iran, the term 'Parsi' was used for those residents of Iran who remained faithful to their ancestral faith, namely Zoroastrian Religion. The term was specially used for the Zoroastrians of Iran to
distinguish them from those Iranians who discarded their ancestral faith and embraced Islam."
Why, some Western and Parsee scholars of our religion in the 19th century, used the terms Zoroastrian and Parsi Religion, interchangeably. All this gives the complete lie to two statements being bandied about today: (1) that 'Parsi' is an ethnic term, denoting only the race; and (2) that the word 'Parsi' was used by the Indians when the Zoroastrians first landed in India.
Consequently, no person other than a Parsee Zarthushti can enter into our fire temples. Further proof of this comes from the fact that the founders of every fire temple in India have enshrined that clause in their respective trust deeds. Would such a clause be there if the religion permitted any and every person to become a Zoroastrian and consequently have a right to enter into our holy fire temples?
It is quite obvious that Mr. Khambata, though brilliant in his legal profession, is completely out of sync on religious matters. What is even more questionable is the conduct of High Priest Dastur Khurshed Dastur Kaikobad Dastur of Udvada, who allowed such comments to be made in his presence in what was publicised as an ‘Iranshah’ Udvada Utsav!
For over 1300 years the noble guardians of Iranshah have done their utmost to maintain His sanctity so that the community and the world at large could benefit from his benevolence and spiritual prowess. They happily sacrificed worldly pleasures in the conduct of this religious duty to ensure that our King (Padshah Saheb) remained spiritually strong and protected. Incidentally, in the past, even ordinary Zarthushtis were not allowed to enter into Iranshah’s holy presence and only certain priests could do the required rituals. And here we have misconceived ideas of permitting rank non-Parsees to enter into His holy presence, with no protest whatsoever from one who is supposed to be His High Priest!
To make matters worse, the said High Priest even gave an interview which acted like the proverbial red rag to the bull! To jog the memory of the High Priest, reproduced hereunder is an extract from the report of the public meeting of the Parsee/Irani community held under the auspices of The Parsee Voice on 21st November 2003:
Dasturji Khurshed Dastur Kaikobad Dastur proclaimed that he was proud to be a Zoroastrian and rightly so. He reminded the people of the inscription on the tomb of Emperor Darius ‘I am a Mazda Worshipper.’
On the issue of universal brotherhood, he commented that our community had been the first to follow universal brotherhood in terms of charities, hospitals, schools and colleges. But Universal Brotherhood did not mean that we had to invite all and sundry to join our religion. Conversion and intermarriages did not solve problems but created them (emphasis ours).
He wondered what steps had been taken to solve these problems at the grassroot level. He questioned whether religious classes had been organised for children, Navjotes had been performed, children had been taught to pray? He reiterated that mixed marriages could not solve our problems.
For those who were keen on increasing the numbers, Dasturji pointed out to the historical fact of the advent of the Parsees in India under the leadership of Dastur Neriosangh Dhaval, and to whom the then King Jadi Rana had given shelter.
The problem of conversion had been dogging our footsteps since the 19th century. He wondered why we had to do something which was against the will of the Almighty One Himself! (emphasis ours).
He averred that adoption and conversion were akin to adulteration and that was what we did not want. Quality was much more important than quantity (emphasis ours).
He pointed out that the community had prospered for over 1200 years under the benevolent influence of Pak Iranshah and there was no reason to fear now. We were but a handful even then but had still prospered and assured the community that we would prosper even in future.
One wonders what has occurred to suddenly cause the High Priest to do a volte face on an issue which strikes at the very root of the survival of the community and which he so strong espoused once!
If at all, this event was the proper occasion to recognise and honour the yeoman services of the various mobed sahebs of Udvada, some of whom have been in His service for more than 65 years and continue to be so day and night! But alas, no such thing was done. Incidentally, Udvada has two High Priests, the other one being Dastur Dr. Peshotan Dastur Hormazdiyar Mirza. Since this was supposed to be an ‘Iranshah Udvada Utsav’, would the organisers care to explain why Dasturji Dr. Mirza was nowhere in the picture in any of the events or felicitations? We are informed that he did even not attend this so-called Utsav! The same is also true of the other High Priests.
The views of Mr. Khambata on issues like rights of intermarried Parsee women and their progeny are well known. In spite of this, the fact that he was invited to Iranshah Udvada Utsav, given a platform to air his radical views and thereafter, felicitated, gives a clear indication of the intention of the organisers of this event and what they have in mind for the future of the community. Since Dastur Khurshed is the face of this event, being credited with its so-called success as compared to the other organisers, I guess he will also have to take full responsibility and answer the community for what went wrong!
- H. M. Mistry
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