Popular Parsi Myths
As an ethnic community, Parsis have lived in India for over a millennium and myriad myths have been cherished and closeted which require to be brought out and given an occasional dusting. We realised the need for doing this in the course of a recent interaction with some elders of the community. It dawned on us that some of our elders are unintentionally ignorant of so many truths…. hence, what can we expect from our youth?
Last year from the Shehenshahi month of Meher we started a monthly series on Parsi Parab or the day when the Roj coincides with the Mah. Our readers found the series both insightful and inspiring. In keeping with our motto to inspire and inform, we are pleased to kick off, with this issue of Parsi Times, yet another interesting series titled ‘Popular Parsi Myths’, by our Community luminary, a Zoroastrian scholar and visionary and a writer par excellence, Noshir H. Dadrawala. The object of this series is not to debunk closely but wrongly held beliefs, but to shed the light of truth on myths and fables and sift the facts from fiction. Read on…
Myth # 1: The Holy Fire – Iranshah was brought by our ancestors over a thousand years ago from Iran to India.
Fact: Iranshah was consecrated in Sanjan, India and according to tradition, on the ninth day of the ninth month of Samvat 777. However, the Aalaat or the sacred ritual requisites including the holy ash of the AtashBahram in Khorasan, was brought from Iran, reportedly on horse-back and on foot via Afghanistan and what is modern-day Pakistan. Hence, the first Atash Bahram consecrated by the Parsis in India is named Iranshah as it has a spiritual and ritual link with Iran.
Myth # 2: The leader of the group of Parsis who left Iran and came to Sanjan had promised the local king Jadi Rana that they (the Parsis) will not convert any Hindu to the Zoroastrian religion.
Fact: Very little is known or documented about the advent of the early Parsis to India. The earliest record is the Qissa-e-Sanjan written in 1599 A.C. In other words the earliest so called history of the Parsis was documented several centuries after their arrival in India. And, if one were to go by the Qissa-e-Sanjan there was no such promise made to Jadi Rana who was probably a local chieftain and not the King of India as popularly believed.
The Qissa-e-Sanjan refers to five conditions laid down by Jadi Rana before the Parsis – (1) Adopt the local language (Gujarati); (2) Disarm yourselves of all weapons; (3) Let Parsi women wear the saree and bangles; (4) Tie the thread in the marriage ceremony; and (5) Explain the Zoroastrian religion.
However, having said this, Justice Dinshaw Davar of the Bombay High Court in the celebrated Parsi Punchayet case (Petit V/s Jeejeebhoy 1908) was consistent in holding the view that no evidence existed to warrant any claim that in the history of the Parsis in India had the conversion of an individual born in another religion been known to the Zoroastrians of India.
Myth # 3: A very powerful demon by the name Zohak is tied by chains in a cave at Mount Demavand and one day he will set himself free and he will unleash untold havoc in this world.
Fact: We pray in the “Afreen-i-haft Ameshaspandan”: “Hamazor Daemavand koh ke dravand Bivarasp andar oye basta ested.” (Be in accord/attuned with Daemavand Koh (mountain) (which has the power and) in which is enchained the demon – Bivarasp, the demon (with power) of ten thousand horses”. The demon Bivarap is also known as Zohak or Azi Dahak (i.e. one who possesses or is the epitome of all the ten evils known to man like anger, arrogance, greed, ingratitude, jealousy, lust etc.).
According to legend, Zohak is the living embodiment of evil and is still chained to that great spiritual mountain, Demavand. It is said every night when the forces of evil gain strength the chains weaken. However, at the crack of dawn when the cock crows and the sun comes out, the chains are again secured and the evil one is rendered powerless. This is an important truth in nature wrapped in an easy-to-understand legend.
Only light exists. Darkness is simply the absence of light. In like manner, evil is the absence of Good. Zohak is the personification of evil in the form of a legend. Darkness gains strength in the absence of light, but vanishes in the presence of light. In like manner evil cannot be encountered with evil. Only good can dispel evil just the way light dispels darkness.
In our oncoming parts to this Series, we will share…
1) Should we stand or should be remain seated during the Boi ceremony?
2) Are Zoroastrian’s fire worshippers?
3) Is the winged human-head really a Zoroastrian symbol and does it represent the Fravashi or the Holy Spirit?