10. QA about HISTORY

Why did the Mazdayasni Zarthoshtis come from Iran to India?

1. The Mazdayasni Zarthoshtis lost the Sasanian empire to the Arabs in 641 AC.

2. After that, for about a hundred years they struggled to get back the empire, regain their lost glory, salvage their religion and live in dignity, but most of them were not successful.

3. Under the Arab rule, it was not possible to follow the basic tenets of the religion – like wearing Sudreh–kasti, performing rituals and maintaining a sacred fire.

4. It was not even possible for them to maintain rul4es of ethnic exclusivity and ritual purity in their personal lives.

5. It was also not possible to follow rules of exclusivity for fire temples and rituals and survive as a religious community.

6. Most Zoroastrians had been relegated to the position of slaves from masters, and forced to pay heavy, back-breaking taxes.

7. Many Zoroastrians were forced to convert to Islam or their wealth and property were confiscated. 

8. The lives and modesty of ladies were always in grave danger, especially as they were not able to pay taxes. Beautiful women were more at risk and hence were often purposely disfigured or made to look ugly.

When did Iranians, especially Zoroastrians, first come into contact with India?

1. It is generally erroneously believed that Zoroastrians from Iran first came into contact with India after they fled from Iran following the downfall of the Sasanian empire.

2. The fact is that the ancestors of the Indians and Iranians were staying together as Aryans even before the countries of Iran and India came into existence.

3. In the Shahnameh narratives of Peshdadian and Kayanian kings of ancient Iran, we come across mention of India at several places.

4. A part of north western India, comprising modern day Sindh and Punjab, belonged to the Achaemenian empire, and Sasanian kings like Behram V (Behram Gur) and Chosroe I (Nosherwan Adel) had political relations with India.

5. Thus after the downfall of the Sasanian empire, India was the natural choice of the Iranian Zoroastrians as a second home, away from home, as the Iranian Zoroastrians were aware of the tolerance of Indian rulers and the inclusive nature of Indian religions.

6. After Zoroastrians came from Iran to India about 1300 years back, there was not much contact between Iran and India, till priests were sent as message carriers from India to Iran in the 16th and 17th centuries to seek information and clarifications about religious and ritual matters.     

7. In the mid 19th century, wealthy Zoroastrians in Mumbai formed the Society for Amelioration of the conditions of Zoroastrians in Iran. As their emissary they chose Mr. Maneckji Limji Hataria and sent him with funds to help the unfortunate Zoroastrian brethren who were terrorized and oppressed in Iran.

Why is the Shahnameh an important book?

1. The Iranian epic Shahnameh “Book of kings”, comprising about 60,000 Persian couplets, was composed about a thousand years ago by Firdausi Toosi, whose real name Abul Kasem Hasan. It was largely based on the Avestan and Pahlavi textual sources existing at that time.

2. The past is an integral part of our life. Though it is not correct to dwell in the past, one should learn from it, be inspired from it, emulate heroic deeds and avoid the pitfalls. The Shahnameh is a chronicle of ancient Iranian history which helps us keep in touch with our glorious past. It covers the Peshdadian, Kayanian and Sasanian times, encapsulating their greatness and pettiness, romance and tragedies, heroes and villains, glory and shame.

3. It has vignettes of information on Zoroastrian religion like praise of God, life of Zarathushtra, different types of Jashans, importance of dokhmenashini etc.  

4. It also has wonderful maxims, admonitions and teachings for life on topics like love, impermanence, moderation, intelligence, shrewdness, friendship and death, which are full of worldly wisdom.

What do the words Padshah-Pahelvans mean in Parsi tradition? (TMY – JJ of 29-10-17)

1. The words Padshah-Pahelvans are often collectively used in Parsi Gujarati language, particularly in connection with Iranian history of the Peshdadian and Kayanian dynasty.

2. The word Padshah means Emperor. In ancient Iran the Emperor was referred to as Padshah, for instance Jamshed Padshah or Kae-khushru Padshah. 

3. The word Pahelvan means kings of smaller principalities or knights, who worked under the Padshah. They were assigned kingship by the Emperor. They often advised, counseled and assisted the king and were a part of his administrative cabinet. Senior Pahelvans were confidantes of the king.

4. There were two main families of Pahelvans, one descending from Kersasp and the other descending from Kāveh. The main descendants of  Kersasp’s family were Zal, Sam, Rustom and Sohrab, and the main descendants of Kaveh’s family were Gudarz, Giv, Gurgin and Bizan.

5. Kersasp’s and his descendants were rulers of Zabulistan (Eastern Iran). Kaveh and his descendants were rulers of Khavar (Western Iran).

6. The names of many prominent Padshah-Pahelvans are remembered by priests whenever they perform rituals like Afringan, Farokhshi and Jashan.

What is the contribution of Peshdadian king Jamshed towards Mazdayasni religion and progress of civilisation? (9 & 16-6-19)

1. Jamshed, the fourth King of the Peshdadian dynasty, was the son of Vivanghan. He was a very devoted worshipper of Mazda. He was a Saoshyant who added many good practices to the Mazdayasni system. Though he was offered the position of prophet by Ahura Mazda, he had politely declined.

2. On account of his many beneficial changes, his subjects were always healthy and happy. It was a Golden Age in the history of Iran. As a result of abundant prosperity, the population increased manifold, and the king thrice increased the boundaries of his kingdom, towards the southern direction.

3. It was king Jamshed, who first divided his subjects into four professional groups: Athornans “priests,” Ratheshtars “warriors,” Vastriyosh “farmers” and Hutaokhsh “artisans.” This helped to enhance the work quality and increase efficiency. A few Athornans were required to reside on mountains, devote their time to prayers and invoke the blessings of God to ward off evil from the kingdom.

4. King Jamshed developed a gadget, known as the Jām-e-Jamshed, by which, he was able to know the past and predict the future. The jām, which literally means “a goblet”, was probably an astronomical device to see the heavenly bodies.

5. He was inspired by Sarosh Yazad to introduce the practice of wearing the Sadra and tying the Kasti. This was to protect the wearer against evil influences. 

6. To further the civilisation and enhance the comfort of his subjects, he introduced many arts, skills and trades like brick-making, clay-plastering and house building. He also introduced the art of swimming, diving, pearl-fishing and boat-making.

7. Mining started on a larger scale in King Jamshed’s time. Metals were made from ores, from which several implements like the plough and the hoe, as well as swords, spears, helmets, armours and horse-shoes were made.  Mining of precious metals like gold and silver, and precious stones like diamonds, was also done.

8. King Jamshed taught his people to extract perfumes from musk, amber and flowers.  He also introduced the practice of fumigation by the use of frankincense, amber, myrrh and camphor.

9. The art of making cloth and sewing of clothes was developed in King Jamshed’s reign. Spinning, weaving, warping and woofing were introduced. Clothes from zari (golden and silvern threads) and silk were made. The crafting of musical instruments and composing of music also started during his reign.

10. He introduced medicinal plants and herbs to relieve diseases. The practice of medicine as a profession started.  Wine was discovered and used in moderate quantities as a medicine and a rejuvenating drink.

11. King Jamshed was guided through Sarosh Yazad about the arrival of a terrible snow-storm which would destroy the world. He was advised to take a few pairs of each species and create a Vara “an enclosure.” Accordingly, he established a settlement which came to be known as Var-e-Jam-Kard.  In this enclosure, he was coronated on the day on which the sun enters the house of Aries. A  Jashan was performed and there were celebrations. This day came to be known as Jamshedi Navroz.

Why does king Faridun have a special place in the Mazdayasni Zarthoshti religion?

1. King Faridun was born when the reign of the evil king Zohak was at its height. He was the son of a noble lady by the name Faranak. His father Abtin was a young and able bodied man who was always in fear of being caught and killed by Zohak’s men, so that his brain may be fed to the snakes, which had grown on the shoulders of Zohak and were troubling him. One day Zohak’s guards carried Abtin away and killed him. When Faranak came to know of this, she was terrified. She took infant Faridun and went in hiding in the jungle, where she came across a farmer, to whom she entrusted the child. The farmer had a cow by the name Purmae, on whose milk Faridun was nursed for three years.

2. When Zohak came to know about the cow nursing a child, he suspected the child to be Faridun and ordered his men to search.  Faranak, had a divine intuition, in which she was asked to go there. She reached there, before Zohak’s men could reach the farmer’s house. She took the child and proceeded towards the Alburz mountains, where she entrusted the child to a saintly man.  When Zohak’s men came to the farmer’s house, they were unable to find Faridun. Frustrated, they killed the farmer and the cow Purmae.

3. When Faridun was sixteen years old, his mother narrated to him the story of his childhood. Faridun was engulfed with rage and wanted to go and fight Zohak. His mother constrained him saying that when the time was ripe, friends and allies would help him in his destined work.

4. A blacksmith by the name Kaveh, frustrated by the evil rule of Zohak, revolted against him. As he was about to attack Zohak, he was guided by Sarosh Yazad to seek Faridun from Mount Alburz and together fight against Zohak and bring an end to his reign. Faridun ordered a mace to be prepared for him, adorned with the head of a cow, in memory of Purmae. This mace is known as the Guraz. Even today priests use the Guraz at the time of Navar and it adorns the Keblā (sanctum sanctorum) of many a fire temples.

5. Faridun then brought an end to Zohak’s evil rule. He bound him up under Mount Demavand, as instructed by Sarosh Yazad. Even today people go to Demavand to offer their prayers to Sarosh Yazad and king Faridun, and there pray for strengthening of the chains with which Zohak is bound.

6. Faridun ascended the throne and celebrated a thanksgiving Jashan on roj Meher of mah Meher. This Jashan, known as the Jashan-e-Mehrangān, is celebrated even today as a festival to commemorate the end of Zohak’s rule and Faridun’s ascension to throne. This festival epitomizes the ultimate victory of good over evil. Faridun became the fifth king of the Peshdadian dynasty.

7. King Faridun had three sons, Selam, Tur and Irach. He divided the kingdom among them, which gave rise to the countries of Iran, Turan and Rome. He retired after instituting his great grandson Minocheher on the throne of Iran. He passed away peacefully after that.

8. Faridun was divinely taught many powerful Nirangs to be used for his missions. He used it for many purposes, including to break the evil magical cordon set up by Zohak around his palace. Even today people pray Nirangs which are attributed to king Faridun, known as Afshun-i-Shah-i-Faridun to seek his help and destroy evil and noxious creatures. In the Avesta, Faridun is referred to as Thraetaona.

9. King Faridun also had the ability to metamorphose himself into another form or change somebody else into another form. Once he metamorphosed a boatman into a bird to teach him a lesson. At another time he metamorphosed himself into an Azdah (a dragon like monster with the head of a snake breathing out fire) to test the valour of his three sons.

10. King Faridun is also known as Paridun in Iran. Many Parsi names today, like Parizad, Paricheher and Parinaz refer to King Faridun and show the importance in which he is held by people even today.

11. King Faridun is immortalised among Zoroastrians in India and Iran and is remembered for several things. He is associated with the Guraz, Mount Demavand, fighting noxious creatures, Nirangs (Afshun-i-Shah-i-Faridun), the Mehrangān festival, Mehrangān Jashan and the several names connected with his name.

Who was Lohrasp Padshah (King Lohrasp)?

1. Lohrasp was a gentle, noble and pious ruler of a small province. Sarosh Yazad divinely guided Kayanian King Kae Khushru to appoint him as his successor. The Avesta name of Lohrasp is Aurvat-aspa which means “one possessing a swift horse.”

2. Lohrasp had two sons Gushtasp and Zarir. On Gushtasp’s insistence, Lohrasp abdicated his throne in his favour. King Gushtasp later became the patron king of prophet Zarathushtra, Lohrasp spent time at the Nav-bahar Atash Behram in Balkh (now Bactria), where later Zarathushtra joined him. Lohrasp was killed by the Turanian king Arjasp in one of his attacks on Iran.

3. In religious tradition Kae Lohrasp is called Mithra-nā-saheb “Master of thought force” as he had tremendous power over his mind and thoughts. He is believed to have had the ability of astral projection, that is projecting his astral body at another place in such a way that it appeared that he was simultaneously present at two places.

4. King Kae Lohrasp is revered as a highly evolved, spiritually advanced soul. People who are mentally agitated, harassed by negative thoughts or have wavering thoughts can pray to him for help. His individual photograph, standing near an ancient fire stand, with a bow in one hand and his image projected in the sky, adorns many religious places. In another, more common photograph, we see him standing on one side of an Afarganyu, on the other side of which stands prophet Zarathushtra, who was his contemporary.

Who was Afrasiyab? (JJ 4-6-17)

1. Afrasiyab is one of the most evil kings mentioned in the Shahnameh. He is likened to wicked rulers like Zohak and Alexander.  In the Avesta, his name is Frangharasya. He ruled over Turan for a very long period. His reign started from the time of Peshdadian King Minocheher and he ruled continuously when seven different kings of the Peshdadian and Kayanian dynasties successively ruled over Iran.

2. Afrasiyab was the son of Pashang, grand-son of Zād-sham and great grandson of Tur.  Afrasiyab was descended from an Iranian lineage, since his great, great grandfather was the Peshdadian king Faridun. However since his intentions and acts were always evil, he did not receive help from the good divine beings.

3. He was evil and crooked even in wars. He never adhered to the code of conduct of wars and broke peace treaties several times at his convenience when he saw Iran in trouble or difficulty. He tried to seize the Kyani Khoreh thrice, in order to become the emperor of Iran but was unsuccessful every time.

4. The lengthy wars between Iran and Turan depicted in the Shahnameh were fought between Iranian king Kaekhushru and Turanian king Afrasiyab.  King Kaekhushru waged the wars to avenge the unjust death of his father Siyavaksh, who had married Afrasiyab’s daughter Ferangez but was later killed by Afrasiyab at the instigation of his wily brother Kasrevaz.

5. Though Kaekhushru was Afrasiyab’s own grandson, the former brought about his end near Lake Chaechist. Afrasiyab’s son Jehan and later grand son Arjasp continued to rule over Turan after him.

6. Afrasiyab even killed his own noble brother Agreras as he was just and was favourably disposed towards the Iranians.

7. The great Rustom Pahelvan was Afrasiyab’s strongest adversary. He was brought near the jaws of death several times, but each time the crafty Afrasiyab managed to escape. Afrasiyab was also instrumental in Sohrab’s death at the hand of his father Rustam as he had given a huge army to Sohrab when he went to Iran to look for his estranged father.

8. Just as Rustam Pahelvan is famous among Central Asian countries for his valour, Afrasiyab is known in these countries for his notorious and evil acts.

Who was King Darius the Great? (JJ 3 & 10 -9-17)

1. The Achaemenian dynasty had three kings by the name Darius. The most well known among them is Darius I or Darius the Great, who ruled from 521 to 486 B.C. After the accidental death of king Cambyses, there was no direct descendants capable enough to occupy the throne. Rebellions spread throughout the Empire. An imposter seized power. At such a time, Darius, son of Hystaspes, a member of the royal family, quelled the rebellions and became the emperor.

2. Darius was a brave warrior, a benevolent monarch, and a wise and skilful administrator. He had capitals at Persepolis, Susa, Ecbatana and Babylon. He continuously fought against the Greeks. He won many battles but was badly defeated at Marathon in about 499 B.C. The modern Marathon race is named after this battle.

3. His Empire was divided into 30 administrative districts called Satrapies, each of which had three independent heads – the Satrap (Administrator), the Military Commandant, and the Treasurer. The Emperor maintained secret services called “the King’s Eyes and Ears.” Special tribunals paid surprise visits to the provinces. They had powers to investigate and prescribe remedy or punishments for any irregularities found.

4. He built roads and bridges to connect his vast Empire. The famous Royal Road, about 2550 kilometres (1,500 miles) long, was built as the highway connecting Susa with Sardis, with rest houses on the way. He also had canals dug to irrigate the fields in the desert lands.

5. Darius was the first to introduce postal system in the world. Along important roads, postal stages were fixed at intervals of about 24 kilometres (14 miles). The post was carried by mounted couriers. New couriers were ready with fresh horses at every stage. A dispatch from Susa reached Sardis in five or six days, covering a distance of about 2500 kilometres (1,500 miles). Describing this postal system, Herodotus had said: “Nothing mortal travels as fast as these Persian messengers.”

6. Darius commissioned the construction of a canal connecting the Red Sea with the Nile. Remains of the same along with inscriptions in four languages were discovered while excavating for the modern Suez Canal.

7. Darius the Great passed away at the age of 65 years in 486 B.C. His last remains are at the nacropolis called Naksh-i-Rustam in Shiraz, close to his palace at Persepolis, one of his several capitals.

8. He left a number of inscriptions which shed light on ancient Persian history. The main one is at Behistun/Bisutun in Hamadan, which is the largest surviving historical document by any ancient Zoroastrian king. In one of the inscriptions the emperor proudly proclaims “I am Darius, the great king, the king of kings….. a Parsi, son of a Parsi, an Aryan, of Aryan lineage.”

9. Darius introduced the use of a gold coin called Daric. It was a thick coin with a standard weight of 8.4 grams bearing the image of the king as a warrior with a bow and arrow in the hand. It continued to be used till the end of the Achaemenian dynasty in 330 BC. Afterwards, most of these coins were melted and reconstructed as Greek coins.

10. The other two kings by the name Darius in the Achaemenian dynasty were Darius II (424-405 BC) and Darius III (336-331 BC). The latter was the last king of the Achaemenian empire. He was defeated at Gaugamela in the famous battle of Arabela by Alexander the Macedonian in 331 B.C. A year later Darius III was killed by Bessus, the Satrap of Bactria, on the battlefield. Thereafter Alexander proclaimed himself the Emperor of Persia. The Greeks, under General Seleucus Nicator, ruled over Persia for the next 80 years.

Why are Achaemenian kings like Cyrus the Great and Darius the Great not attested in Zoroastrian religious tradition, literature or prayers?

1. The history of our Peshdadian and Kayanian kings were recorded in the Avesta and from there it went into the Pahlavi texts.

2. The Achaemenian dynasty came a long time after the Avestan texts were composed and hence the Achaemenian kings are not mentioned in the Avesta.

3. The Pahlavi writers mainly depended on the Avestan texts for their sources and hence the Achaemenians are not recorded in the Pahlavi texts either.

4. The Achaemenian dynasty and their exploits were mainly recorded by the Greeks and later Roman historians, which was interpreted and understood much later.  Further knowledge about the Achaemenian dynasty came through archaeological findings in the last one hundred years.

5. Firdausi depended on the Avestan and Pahlavi sources for his Shahnameh. Neither the Greek and Roman writings, nor the archaeological sources were available to Firdausi and hence the Achaemenian dynasty and the exploits of its great kings like Cyrus, Darius and Xerxes are not mentioned in this Persian epic.

6. The names of Cyrus the Great and Darius the Great are not taken in the rituals while reciting the nam graham, as this list is based on the names of great men mentioned in Avesta, Pahlavi and Pazand sources.

Who was Ardeshir Bābekān? (JJ 17-9-17)

1. Ardeshir Bābekān also known as Ardeshir Pāpekān, was the founder of the Sasanian dynasty, the last of the Zoroastrian empire, by defeating the Parthian emperor Artabanus/Ardavan V. His life and history is recorded in the Pahlavi book Kārnāmak-i-Artakhshir-i-Pāpakān “Book of Deeds of Artakhshir-i-Pāpakān.”

2. His father Sasan, was in the service of Pāpak/ Bābak, the king of Pars, whose daughter he later married. His grand-father Bābak was the king of the province of Pars and ruled under the suzerainty of the Parthian Emperor Ardavan.

3. When young Ardeshir became an accomplished prince, the Parthian Emperor Ardavan heard of his prowess. He invited him to his court at Rae, assuring him royal treatment. During his stay at Rae, Ardeshir excelled in arts, sports, hunting and military skills.

4. Emperor Ardavan felt insecure at prince Ardeshir’s bravery and self-confidence. He felt threatened that Ardeshir may topple and overthrow his own princes. Hence, accusing Ardeshir of a crime he did not commit, he placed him under house arrest. Ardeshir managed to escape, and raise an army. Then he attacked and defeated Ardavan.

5. Ardeshir became the emperor of Iran in 226 AC. He was a staunch Zoroastrian. Dastur Tansar was his principle Advisor, with whose help he rejuvenated the Zoroastrian religion and started the process of gathering the scattered Avestan texts and having them translated to Pahlavi. He also ordered several Ātash Bahrāms to be established at various places. During his reign, another pious priest Mobed Arda Viraf, journeyed to heaven and hell and returned back to relate his experiences. These are related in the book “Arda Viraf Nāmeh.”

6. Ardeshir was a benevolent and wise king, a valiant warrior, a skillful organizer, and an efficient administrator. He was involved in long drawn wars with the Romans, especially the Roman Emperor Alexander Severus. Ardeshir also conquered Mesopotamia, Kurdistan and Kerman. He passed away in 241 AC leaving his empire to his son Shapur I. ty