Our Beacon Forum

What we Parsis do
By:Yazdi Sidhwa, Karachi
Date: Friday, 18 September 2020, 10:33 pm

THE PARSIS, a translation of MLLE. DELPHINE MENANTS LES PARSIS, BY M M MARZBAN IN 1917,

A few interesting observations from the first chapter of the book. The original name of Sanjan.

The 16 Sanskrit Slokhas and the 5 promises made by the Zoroastrian refugees to India, as mentioned in the Kissah-i-Sanjan.

Sanjan: A small village of the Thana district in the Bombay Presidency. It was formerly an important town known to the Portuguese, and called, after them, under the name of Saint John. (See Imp, Gaz. Of India, vol. iii., p 174.)

The 16 SHLOKAS or distichs, (presented by the early immigrants to the King) in which they summarised the duties enjoined by their religion were: -

1.We are worshippers of Ahura Mazda (the Supreme Being), of the sun, and of the 5 elements.

2.We observe silence during the bath, at payers, while making offerings to the fire, and when eating.

3.We use incense, perfumes, and flowers in our religious ceremonies.

We honour the cow.

We wear the sacred garment, the Sudreh or the shirt, the Kusti or girdle for the waist, and the two-fold cap.

We rejoice ourselves with songs and musical instruments on marriage occasions

We permit our women to wear ornaments and use perfumes

We are enjoined to be liberal in our charities and especially in excavating tanks and wells.

We are enjoined to extend our sympathies to all beings, male or female

We practise ablutions with gaomutra, (one of the secretions of the cow.)

We wear the sacred thread when praying and eating

We feed the sacred fire with incense.

We offer up prayers five times a day.

We religiously preserve conjugal fidelity and purity

We celebrate annual religious ceremonies in honour of our ancestors.

We observe the greatest precautions with regard to our wives during their confinement and at certain periods of the month.”

“It is interesting to notice that, at this juncture, the Zoroastrians showed themselves singularly skilful and shrewd, avoiding all mention of the true basis of their religion, and only setting forth certain ceremonies, of little importance, but which seemed of a nature likely to win the goodwill of the Rana. Anxious to find some place of repose, the Parsis were acquainted with the Hindus, their susceptibilities of caste and religion too well not to have their conciliation at heart; and that is why they formulated their answers with a subtlety and skill which won the favour of the Rana. He therefore permitted them to reside in the town, on condition:

1) that they adopted the language of the country,

2) and ceased to speak that of their ancestors,

3) that their women should dress according to the Hindu mode,

4) that the men should no longer bear clem weapons,

5) and should perform their marriage ceremonies at night, according to Hindu custom.

“What could the unfortunate exiles, thirsting for peace and rest, do but accept these conditions? And this they did. They settled down in a vast tract of land not far from Sanjan, and, with full hearts, offered prayers to Hormuzd. They resolved to fulfil the vow they had made at the time of their memorable voyage from Diu to Sanjan to build an altar for lighting the sacred Fire. The Hindu, far from opposing this, helped to build the temple and from that time forward, Zoroastrian rites and ceremonies began to be performed on Indian soil. (Parsi Prakash vol. 1. P. 2)”

This she says “is recounted in the Kissah-i-Sanjan which was written in verses, in 1600 A D in Naosari by Behman bin Kaekobad Hormazdyar Sanjana ‘In his old age’. In it he informs the readers that he bases his narratives on what was communicated to him by Mobeds and old people, and by a learned Dastur. The narrative is based on tradition.”