1. After long wars, Kayanian King Kae Khushru decided to leave his throne and kingdom and spend time in prayers. He often went into long periods of seclusion, and finally decided to leave his kingdom. Before leaving, Saorsh Yazad asked him to give his throne not to his sons, but to a just, gentle, noble and religious knight by the name Lohrasp. Then Kae Khushru retreated into the mountains and disappeared, never to return.
2. King Kae Lohrasp had two sons Gushtasp and Zarir. Gustasp always felt a sense of insecurity to his right to the throne and approached his father with a request to nominate him as his successor. After a few times, finally, Lohrasp instituted Gushtasp on the throne. He spent his days at the Navbahar Atash Behram, where later, prophet Zarathushtra also prayed.
3. Once when king Gushtasp was not in the capital, the evil Turanian king Arjasp attacked Balkh. The elderly Lohrasp single-handedly and valiantly fought many Turanians, but when the cowardly soldiers attacked him simultaneously, he lost his life.
4. Apart from being a pious king, Kae Lohrasp is revered as a highly evolved, spiritually advanced soul. He is credited with the ability of astral projection, that is projecting his astral body at another place in such a way that it appears that he is simultaneously present at two places.
5. In religious tradition, he is referred to as mithra nā sāheb “lord over thoughts.” People who are not able to concentrate, whose mind is agitated and who are harassed by negative thoughts should think of Shah Lohrasp, keep his picture in their mind and pray to him for help.
1. In the 3rd century CE, the Sasanian King Ardeshir Babegan summoned 40,000 priests and selected Ardaviraf, the best and holiest among them, to visit heaven and hell and get a first hand account of the spiritual world. His other task was to ascertain whether rituals performed for the deceased reached them or not.
2. After performing a ritual, Ardaviraf’s soul left his body for 7 days and visited heaven and hell, while his body remained in a state of repose. Escorted by Sarosh Yazad and Adar Yazad, he visited the several levels of Heaven, Hell and Purgatory and witnessed the souls in different states of pain or happiness.
3. After returning, he had the account of his spiritual journey recorded by a scribe. This account is preserved in the Pahlavi book Ardaviraf Nameh having 101 chapters. It is the most elaborate description of Heaven and Hell in Zoroastrian texts. The account of punishments of sins undergone in Hell are graphically descriptive. The text also contains direct admonitions from Ahura Mazda, Sarosh Yazad and the souls to Ardaviraf.
4. Dante’s “Divine comedy” is often compared to Ardaviraf Nameh and seems to be inspired from it.
1. Dastur Adarbad Mahraspand, was the head priest and a high ranking minister in Iran during the Sasanian dynasty. He lived during the reign of King Shapur II (309-379). Other notable head priests in Iran during the Sasanian times were: Tansar, Ardaviraf, Kartir, and Buzorg-Meher
2. He has made great contribution to the Zoroastrian religion as we practice it today. After prophet Zarathushtra and his immediate disciples, Adarbad Mahrespand is the only person who had the authority to compose prayers. All the prayers in the Pazand language, like Ahura Mazda Khoday (in Kasti), Kerfeh Mozd, Doa Tandarosti, Patet Pashemani and the 35 Setayashnas have been composed by him.
3. He is the most notable and prolific writer of the admonition texts in the Pahlavi language. Most of his practical advises in these books are applicable even today as much as they were more than one thousand five hundred years back.
4. He is best known for undergoing the ordeal of pouring 20 maunds of molten metal on his chest to prove the power and efficacy of Zoroastrian prayers. When the molten metal was poured over him he would not be harmed. This established the greatness of Zoroastrian prayers at a time when the newly founded Christian religion was trying to gain converts. Unfortunately, we do not have any image or rock carving of Dastur Adarbad Mahraspand.
Why do we remember Dastur Tansar? (9-2-14)
1. Dastur Tansar (also written as Tosar) was the first Head priest of Sasanian Iran under the first Sasanian emperor Ardeshir Papakan (226-241 AC). He was of royal birth but devoted himself to the service of religion.
2. He is mentioned in the Pahlavi book Denkard as “the restorer of religion.” His title was Erpatān – Erpat “Priest of priests.”
3. He had to perform the responsible task of making Zoroastrianism the state religion of Iran. Several Atash behrams were built and maintained under his supervision.
4. The work of re-gathering the scattered Avestan texts as also collecting and structuring the 21 Nasks commenced under Dastur Tansar’s guidance.
Why is Buzorg-Meher remembered? (2-2-14)
1. In ancient Iran several wise priests (Mobeds) served the king in various capacities like judges and ministers and administrators. Some also assisted the kings as their chief ministers. One such wise and witty priest was Buzorg-Meher who served the great Sasanian king Cosroe I (531-578 AC), better known as Noshirwan Adel or Noshirwan the Just.
2. The full name of this priest was Buzorg-Meher Bokhtagān. He hailed from the city of Marv in Iran. He was discovered by the king as a young student when he emerged as the only person in the whole of Iran who could decipher the king’s cryptic dreams.
3. Buzorg-Meher was to king Noshirwan, what Birbal was to Akbar – a wise and witty minister who was indispensable to the king, but who was also wronged and punished by the king on account of a straight-forward attitude.
4. Buzorg-Meher gave correct prophetic interpretations to many of the king’s dreams, including one in which the king dreamt about the birth of Prophet Mohammed during his reign.
5. Buzorg-Meher solved the game of chess (Iranian – Chatrang) sent as a riddle by the Indian king. He then created the game of back-gammon and sent it to the Indian king as a riddle to be solved.
6. Buzorg Meher is mentioned with great respect by Arab as well as European historians and poets. His influence extended to Indians, Romans and Arabs.
7. His teachings on topics like wisdom, destiny, fate, impermanence of life, friends and enemies of the soul are recorded in 2 Pahlavi books: ‘Handarz-ī-Vazurg Mihr’ and ‘Vicharishn-ī-Chatrang.’
8. Even today in some Iranian cities, streets and avenues are named after Buzorg-Meher.
Why do we remember Dastur Dinyar? (20-7-14)
2. In those times Iran was torn by internal discord and strife. Dastur Dinyar tried hard to bring about unity, amity and peace among the opposing factions of the Iranians.
3. He became unpopular among the warring factions and was framed in a crime that he did not commit. Tradition tells us that he inadvertently committed some wrong to his mother. He was forced to flee from Iran.
4. He took refuge at Medina where he later became associated with Prophet Muhammad. The prophet recognized his value. He became an asset to the prophet and assisted him in all his works.
5. On account of Dastur Dinyar’s wisdom, learning and piety, he is referred to as Salman i Fars “the Parsi Solomon.”
1. Dastur Azar Kaiwan, born in 1533 at Ishtakhra in Shiraz, was the leader of a group of about 12 priests and lay men who came from Iran and eventually settled in North India at Patna, between 1570 to 1620. They are first believed to have come to Surat, from there they went to Navsari and then to Patna. They also visited Kashmir and Agra. Azar Kaiwan passed away in Patna in 1618 at the age of eighty five. His last resting place is at Azimabad village near Patna. Though early Persian works don’t call him a Dastur, later Gujarati sources refer to him as a Dastur. Some aspects of his life are not very clearly known and understood.
2. He is referred to as a baste-kushtiyan. Some sources claim that he had a son, but this seems to be an error. He never seemed to have married as he was a mystic and a recluse. He is regarded as the last chief of the Abadan group. His father was Gushtasp whose descent is traced from the first Peshdadian king Gayomard, through kings Jamshed and Faridun. His mother Shirin is said to have descended from the line of Sasanian king Noshirwan Adel. He had proclivity towards mysticism and spirituality right since childhood. He spent the initial 28 years of his life in strict seclusion. He was himself a strict vegetarian and a proponent of vegetarian diet. He instructed his followers to be kind to animals.
3. The purpose of the visit of Azar Kaiwan and his disciples to Patna is not clear. All were mystics who probably came to visit Akbar’s court which had many mystics at that time. They were proponents of riazat, that is abstinence and austerities. Their philosophy leans a lot towards mysticism and occultism. They believed that they were continually in communion with God and received instructions from God and other great souls. They kept their practices a secret and did not mingle with people. They believed that each should follow his own religion. Some of Azar Kaiwan’s teachings, like those of the transmigration of souls, asceticism, austerities, mortification, fasting, abstinence, praise for unmarried life and celibacy do not agree with Zoroastrian teachings.
5. Azar Kaiwan and his disciples had amazing powers born out of their practices. They ate very little food. Azar Kaiwan ate just about 50 grains of food and his disciples less than 500 grains. They seemed to possess some miraculous powers like changing themselves to stones or animals, making their souls leave the body at will, reading the thoughts of others, stopping breathing for hours, being sleepless and without food for days, understanding the language of animals and plants, walking over water, fire and air, and making themselves invisible.
6. The Persian books Dabistan and Desatir tells us about Azar Kaiwan, his disciples and his philosophy. These books were brought to the notice of the people of Mumbai in mid 18th century. They are not considered authentic and reliable Zoroastrian writings as they do not wholly agree with Zoroastrian teachings. Books ascribed to Azar Kaewan and his immediate disciples are: Jashan-i-sadeh, Sarud-i-Mastan, Jam-i-Kaekhushru, Zardusht Afshar, Kheshtab and Zindeh Rud.
7. It is believed that Dasturji Kukadaru considered himself connected to Dastur Azar Kaiwan and received divine guidance through him. It is also believed that Dastur Azar Kaiwan was an elevated soul initially staying in the inner circle in Demavand Mountain and came out to the outside world inspite of being forbidden to do so.
8. The Persian aphorism Nist hasti bazuz yazdan is the most famous maxim attributed to Dastur Azar Kaiwan. It literally means “Nothing exists apart from God.” In this short, concise statement lies a great spiritual and mystical truth, that for mystical and spiritual people, nothing exists except for God, since they always live in communion and communication with God. This maxim can also be understood as a reminder of the teaching that all creations are ultimately coming from God.
1. Dasturji Kukadaru (also known as Kukana) is one of the most revered Zoroastrian priests of recent times. People devoutly remember him. His blessings and help are sought, especially on his death anniversary on Roj Behram of Mah Farvarden. He is also remembered on his birthday on Roj Zamyad of Mah Avan. He was born in Surat, but spent most of his life in Mumbai. His name and fame has spread far and wide.
2. He was simple and humble man, who was engrossed in religious studies and prayers for most part of his leisure hours. His needs were frugal. He would eat just one meal a day – usually ghee (clarified butter) and khichdi (yellow rice), which he would himself cook. He used to wash his clothes himself. He preferred to walk and rarely took vehicles to go from one place to another.
3. He was also a reputed astrologer. He had accurately predicted the day and time (to the hour) of the deaths of Dastur Peshotan Sanjana, Queen Victoria and Sir Dinshaw Petit. He had tremendous inner strength. He had outwitted a Muslim pir (holy man) who had challenged him. Once, when a marriage procession was passing through Chira Bazār in Mumbai, he sent word asking the procession to halt for an hour, but no one paid heed. Within a short time, a building collapsed and the bridegroom was crushed on the spot. Had they waited for an hour, the accident could have been averted.
4. Dasturji Kukadaru had deep knowledge of Avesta, Pahlavi and Persian languages. He served as a chief instructor at Seth Jijibhai Dadabhai Zand Avesta Madressa at Fort from its inception till it closed down. He translated a few volumes of the Denkard and regularly contributed religious articles to the weekly magazine Yazdan Parast from 1868-1889. He had also published a few booklets on religion and community matters.
5. As an erudite priest, he was invited to deliver lectures on religion as well as on social issues like the census. He commanded tremendous respect as a priest at the Kappawalla Agiary in Mumbai, which he served as a Panthaki right since its inception.
6. Till 1861 he was referred to as Ervad, however since 1862 he was referred to as a Dastur, which was given to him on account of his piety, knowledge, simplicity and the deep understanding of Zoroastrian religion, rituals, history and spiritual practices.
7. Dasturji Kukadaru also knew the art of healing by prayers which he acquired through his ashoi (righteousness) and manthravāni (prayers). He was able to cure jaundice, which was quite a fatal ailment in those times, by placing a brass bowl full of clean well water near the ailing person. As he prayed, the water in the bowl turned yellow and the person began to recover.
8. Dasturji Kukadaru is most remembered by the miracle connected to the establishment of the Anjuman Atash Behram in Mumbai. He was a member of the managing committee of the Anjuman Atash Behram during the time of its construction. Dasturji Kaikhushru Jamaspji, while raising funds for the Atash Behram, approached Dasturji Kukadaru for his contribution. Dasturji Kukadaru requested Jamaspji to go to the next room and sell the item found there. The item happened to be a gold brick, which fetched close to ten thousand rupees. He was publicly thanked for this munificent gift. For this magnanimous gesture, it was decided that the ground floor hall be named after him. He was also presented with a shawl at the time of the opening of the Atash Behram, as a mark of respect.
9. Today, his portrait adorns the walls of several Atash Behrams, Agiaries and homes. His Fravashi continues to bless those who remember him in prayers. Spiritual men like Dasturji Kukadaru constantly remind us of the great power in Zoroastrian religion and spirituality and the immense possibilities it offers.
1. Around the end of eighteenth century, a weaver by the name of Homa, son of Jamshed, lived in the city Bharuch. In those times the Parsi community was embroiled in a bitter and violent battle for the calendar between the Kadimis and the Shahenshahis. At such a time, a pregnant Parsi lady belonging to the Kadimi sect falsely accused the pious and innocent weaver Homa, of kicking her and causing her a miscarriage.
2. The accused Homa was brought to trial before the Nawab of Bharuch, from where he was directed to the higher British court in Bombay. Several people of the Kadimi faith bore false witness against Homa, and the innocent was sentenced to death. He was hanged in Bombay, on Mah Dae, Roj Govad 1152 Y.Z., (1783 A.D.)
3. Before he was hanged, he declared his innocence and stated that that the persons who had leveled the false charge against him would be found dead on the fourth day (Chahrum) after his death. He told the people that all those who will believed in his innocence and remember him after his death will receive his help and blessings.
4. It is said that the lady who had falsely accused him and also the witnesses who bore false testimony against him were found dead on the Homaji’s Chahrum.
5. To this day, devout Parsees observe Homaji ni Baj on Govad Roj of Dae Mah by having ceremonies performed in his honour. Homaji especially helps those who are meek, vulnerable and falsely accused.
1. Mr. K.R.Cama was a noted oriental scholar, social reformer and educationist. The debt of gratitude that the community owes to this gentleman is phenomenal. He is the father of systematic, scientific philological study of Iranian languages like Avesta and Pahlavi in India. Professor Dr. James Darmesteter had called him ‘the lay Dastur.’
2. He was born in 1831. Between 1855 and 1859, when he was barely 25 years old, he travelled extensively all over Europe, mainly for the purpose of acquainting himself better with Free Masonry. It was during this period that he studied Iranian and European languages like Avesta, Pahlavi, French and German.
3. In 1859 Mr. Cama went to Paris and Erlangen and studied the system of application of rules of grammar and philology to the study of ancient Iranian languages under eminent orientalists like Professor Julius von Mohl in France and Professors Jules Oppert and Dr. Friedrich Spiegel in Germany. Through his studies, he also came into contact with renowned scholars of Avesta, Pahlavi, Persian, Germanic, Greek, Latin, Vedic and Sanskrit languages, like Professors Eugene Barnouf, Franz Bopp, Albrecht Weber, Martin Haug, James Darmesteter and Dr.A.V.Williams Jackson who had greatly contributed to the study of Indo-Iranian and Indo-European languages.
4. After returning to India, he became the bridge between the Traditional Method of philological study and the scientific philological study of sacred Zoroastrian texts. In 1861, he started a private class at his residence in Fort to teach Avesta & Pahlavi languages in a scientific manner on the system of comparative philology to a small group of students who comprised mainly of Parsi priests.
5. His first batch of students reads like a Who’s Who of Indo-Iranian philology in the last century. Almost all of them greatly contributed to the understanding of Zoroastrian prayers and religious texts comprising Avesta, Pahlavi, Sanskrit and Pazand texts. The main among them are: Ervad Tehmurasp Dinshaji Anklesaria, Ervad Edulji Kersasji Antia, Ervad Sheriarji Dadabhai Bharucha, Ervad Kavasji Edulji Kanga, Ervad Khurshedji Minocherji Kateli and Ervad Jamshedji Dadabhai Nadirshah.
6. In 1885, Mr. Cama became the Superintendent of Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy Zarthosti Madressa, which was a prominent Institute teaching Indo-Iranian languages, and served there till he passed away in 1909.
7. In 1888, Mr. Cama got Avesta and Pahlavi introduced as a second language for the degree of M.A. in the University of Bombay. Subsequently, in 1896, the University extended its limits and allowed Avesta-Pahlavi as a second language at all the arts Examinations and subsequently even at the Matriculation Examination.
8. The K.R.Cama Oriental Institute at Lions Gate, Mumbai, housing one of the finest libraries of books on Zoroastrian religion and Iranian languages in the world, stands as a living testimony to this great Oriental scholar.
1. Jivanji Modi was born in 1854. He was the only son of a priest who served as the first Panthaki of Seth Jeejeebhoy Dadabhoy Agyari, Colaba. At the age of 11, he became Navar, and in 1871 he passed matriculation and underwent the Martab. In the same year, he succeeded his father as the Panthaki, where he formally served for 40 years till 1910.
2. Mr. K.R. Cama made him take up Iranian studies. He received a B.A. from Bombay University in 1876. He studied German and French in order to understand the works of European scholars writing about Zoroastrian religion. He was elected a Fellow of Bombay University in 1887 and also a member of Bombay’s Anthropological Society and Royal Asiatic Society.
3. Jivanji was elected as Corporator of the Bombay Municipality in 1889. He was also appointed Justice of Peace in 1890. He received honorary doctorates from the Universities of Heidelberg and Bombay. The British government conferred on him the title Shams-ul-Ulemā in 1893, and the Knighthood in 1930. The title Shams-ul-Ulemā literally means “Shining like the sun (shams) among the wise ones (ulemā).
4. In 1893 he was appointed secretary of the Bombay Parsi Punchayat (BPP), and served there for 37 years. He was associated with the K.R. Cama Oriental Institute for several years, in various capacities, like its President, secretary and editor of its journal. He was instrumental in having the ‘Sanjan Stambh (column) erected in 1917 at Sanjan to commemorate the landing of Parsis there.
5. Jivanji travelled extensively in the sub-continent, as well as in the United States, Asia (including Iran and Japan) and Europe. On some of his travels he attended international conferences such as the 7th International Congress of Orientalists at Stockholm (1889). He was the sole Zoroastrian at the Parliament of World’s Religions at Chicago in 1893, where Swami Vivekananda also gave his legendary address. Jivanji was a dynamic speaker, and delivered over 350 lectures in his life.
6. Jivanji was also a prolific writer. He has written more than two hundred research papers and essays in English and Gujarati. He has also authored more than 100 books, 50 each in English and Gujarati, and also two books in French. He also composed some Monajats (devotional songs in Gujarati) and translated parts of the Shahnameh in prose as well as in verse form into Gujarati. His best known work, used extensively even today, is The Religious Ceremonies and Customs of the Parsees.
7. He passed away in 1933 at the age of 79. He shines as an illustrious star in the firmament of Zoroastrian studies. He was a multifaceted personality, who was active not only in the academic field but also in the Community and society. His contribution towards Zoroastrian academics in light of comparative religion, literature and science, is unparalleled. He may be considered one of the most decorated Zoroastrian priests and the most prolific Parsi scholar of modern times.
1. The poet known to the world as Firdausi Toosi was born Abul Qasim Hasan Mansur in about 935 AC in the village Shadab in the ancient city of Toos in the province of Khorasan. His father was Fakhruddin Ahmed bin Farrokh. Though Firdausi was a Muslim by birth, he had in-depth knowledge of Farsi and Pahlavi languages, Iranian history and Avestan texts through their translations.
2. He composed the Shahnameh, “Book of Kings” comprising 60,000 Persian couplets containing the history of the Peshdad, Kayan and Sasan dynasties. Though the beginning of the Shahnameh was done much earlier, it was predominantly composed and finished in the court of Sultan Mahmud of Gazni, over a period of about 35 years.
3. When Sultan came to know about the young poet’s poetic prowess and historical knowledge, he invited him to Gazni. Firdausi presented before the Sultan his previously written compositions of Faridun and Zohak. On hearing the beautiful couplets, the Sultan exclaimed that he had transformed his court into Firdaus (the Arabic word for paradise). It is from this incident, that the great poet got his pen name Firdausi. Some scholars also believe that the poet’s grandfather was a keeper of Gardens (in Arabic even a garden is referred to as Firdaus) and hence his pen name Firdausi.
4. In those times, people were generally known from the place they hailed. Since Firdausi came from the city of Toos, he was known as Toosi. However, when the Sultan asked why his city was called Toos, Firdausi had an answer to that, owing to his deep knowledge of Iranian history. He said that the city was named after Toos, a great Iranian warrior, who unknowingly disobeyed King Kaekhushru, and then afraid to face the king, hid in a place for several months. This place later came to be known as Toos.
5. Firdausi’s later life story is heart rending. He passed away in 1020 AC, a totally heart-broken, shattered and bitter old man. In 1934, the late Reza Shah Pahlavi, had a splendid memorial erected near his tomb to mark the spot where the mortal remains of the great poet were buried nearly a thousand years ago.
1. In the mid 19th century, the “Persian Zoroastrian Amelioration Fund” was founded in Bombay by a few wealthy Zoroastrians including Sir Dinshaw Maneckji Petit, to improve the conditions of their less fortunate co-religionists who were persecuted in Iran. In 1854, Maneckji Limji Hataria was appointed an emissary by the above organisation to go to Iran.
2. Maneckji was born in 1813 at the village of Mora Sumali near Surat, in Gujarat. From the age of fifteen he travelled widely as a commercial agent in India. In his work he gained a lot of experience and self-reliance. These resources proved invaluable in his future work.
3. He arrived in Iran on 31st March 1854, and for a year studied the general conditions of the persecuted community. He found the Zoroastrians to be uneducated and suffering from diseases and malnutrition. Centuries of oppression and persecution had taken a heavy toll on their spirit.
4. To teach the Iranians, Maneckji established schools, published books and employed teachers. He talked about the advantages of collective social work and communal unity. He urged the Zoroastrians of Yazd and Kerman to form societies (anjumans). With his encouragement and support, marriages took place and jobs were provided for the newly wed couples. He was also instrumental in building Dharmashalas and Dokhmas in Iran.
5. Maneckji established a Council of Zoroastrians in Yazd, which persuaded Iranian Zoroastrians to emigrate to India. Many Iranis today are descendants of these people.
6. Manekji met the Qajar king Nasiruddin and negotiated with him several concessions for Zoroastrians in Iran, like the remission of Jaziya in 1882, and lenient laws for Zoroastrians from king Muzaffar-ud-din (1888).
7. He tirelessly worked for the people of Iran for 35 years until his death in 1890. He is fondly remembered even today in Iran. His bust adorns the prayer hall of the present-day Atash Behram at Yazd. His magnificent photograph can be seen at the Wadiaji Atash Behram in Mumbai.
1. When we read a Parsi ‘Who’s Who’, we come across personalities connected to politics, military, business, theatre, medicine, science, law, arts and sports. Rarely do we read about a person who has contributed to and changed the religious life of people. In this column, we will see some people who have immensely contributed to the religious life of the Parsis and to whom we Parsis owe a lot, but have forgotten to express our debt of gratitude.
2. If we properly understand all our prayers and Avestan texts today, it is largely due to the efforts of late Ervad Kavasji Edalji Kanga and others like him. Er. Kanga was born on 4th June 1839. He practiced for some time as a priest in Navsari. He became one of the greatest indigenous scholar of Avesta, Pahelvi, Persian and Sanskrit languages and was also knowledgeable in some European languages like Latin, English, German and French.
3. He studied at Elphinstone Institution and later taught at Elphinstone High School. He studied elementary Indo-Iranian languages under Ervad Erachji Sorabji Meherji Rana and the grammar and philology of Avesta under Mr. Kharshedji Rustomji Cama. He was among the first batch of pupils of Mr. K. R. Cama, along with other stalwarts of his time like Ervads S.D.Bharucha, T.D.Anklesaria, E.K.Antia, J. Nadirsha and K. Kateli.
4. In 1863 he joined Mulla Firoz Madressa, an institute teaching Indo-Iranian languages, as a teacher of Avesta and Persian and the very next year he was appointed its Head Master, where he served for 41 years till the end of his life. In 1885 he was appointed a Fellow of the Bombay University, and then was appointed an examiner of Avesta for B.A. and M.A. exams at the University.
5. His greatest contribution towards the field of Iranian languages in general and Parsis in particular are his translations of the entire Avestan into Gujarati, most of them word to word, a work which is unparalleled as yet in the history of Avestan studies. Books of his translations, like Khordeh Avesta Ba Maeni, Yasht Ba Maeni and Gatha Ba Maeni are the most sought after books by people who want to understand Avesta prayers, even after more than a hundred years. His translations were totally unbiased, objective and close to the text. Another of his unparalleled contribution are the Avesta grammar book and two dictionaries – Avesta to English in 1900 and English to Avesta in 1909, which are still very actively used.
6. In all, he produced 11 invaluable books in Iranian languages. He was by nature humble and an introvert. He carried on his Avesta studies in solitude without any fanfare. Mr. K.R.Cama said about him, “He was one who knew a lot but showed a little. All of his pupils should emulate this quality of his.”
7. He donated much of his meagre wealth to his beloved Mulla Firoz Madressa. He passed away at the age of 65 on 10th March 1904. A month after his passing away, Dastur Kaikhushru Jamaspji suggested in the newspapers to all priests to recite his name at all public ceremonies. A public condolence meeting was held for him by his friends, admirers and pupils, on 9th April 1904 under the chairmanship of Mr. K. R. Cama.
Why do Zoroastrians, especially in Mumbai, need to be grateful to Bai Jerbai Nowrosjee Wadia? (7 & 14-4-19)
1. Bai Jerbai was born in 1852 to Navajbai and Rustomjee Wadia. From her mother’s side she belonged to the illustrious family of Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, and from her father’s side she was a descendant of the illustrious shipbuilding family of Lowjee Nusserwanjee Wadia.
2. Sir Rustomjee Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy was her maternal grand-father. As a child of five, she performed the launching ceremony of a sailing ship called “Mary”, which was built by her own father Rustomjee Ardaseer Wadia.
2. She grew up to be a simple lady with an extra-ordinary vision. As there was no facility for English education for girls in those times, she was tutored at home by a European lady. She was adept at many other arts like knitting, stitching, sewing and Kasti weaving. She later on became a shrewd and successful investor and an expert on pearls.
2. She was married to Nowrosjee Nusserwanjee Wadia. She took keen interest in her husband’s business and supported his charities. From an early age she herself had a desire to offer an opportunity to less privileged people, especially Zoroastrians. In those days many Zoroastrians came from Gujarat to Mumbai looking for jobs and did not have a roof over their heads.
3. In 1907, her husband suddenly died, leaving her a large sum in his will. She utilised most of this amount to fulfil her desire to assist people by creating affordable and secure housing colonies for them.
4. Jerbai arranged for land to be purchased at Lalbaug for the construction, initially, of 8 low cost rental apartment blocks (Chehlis) for Zoroastrians. She personally supervised the planning of the buildings. She made sure that there would be a Chulā-vati (a Hearth Fire) in each kitchen for the proper maintenance of a continuous house fire, a necessary part of Zoroastrian religious life. After this, Jerbai established the Naoriji Nusherwanji Wadia Building Trust Fund in 1917. She named her eldest son, Khurshetji (later, Sir Cusrow) Wadia, Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, Mancherji P. Kharegat and herself as Trustees and built 24 more blocks. Thus bringing the total to 32. This colony was named Navroz Baug in memory of her husband.
5. She herself took the responsiblity of allotting houses to needy families, who could present a valid reason to justify leaving their time-honored joint family homes in Gujarat. She kept a close eye on the welfare, health and harmony of the families and timely repairs of the constructions. She herself, after studying the income of the tenants, fixed the monthly rents based on the size and location of the apartment. In many cases, she waived the rent, for a few months, of those who were unable to pay due to unavoidable circumstances.
6. On 19 June 1923, through unfortunate circumstances her youngest son, Rustom, died at the age of 47, leaving a sizeable amount to her in his will. To this amount, Jerbai added some of her own, and from this sum she ordered the purchase of land adjacent to Masina Hospital to build another housing colony. This colony had houses of different sizes, built over a period of many years, to house 168 families. It was named Rustom Baug in memory of her late son.
7. In the meantime, there was a smaller piece of land available on the other side of the Masina Hospital. Here, a colony of 5 blocks of smaller apartments were constructed, which could house 136 families. Unfortunately, she did not survive its completion, as she died on 8 May 1926. The housing colony was named Jer Baug in her memory.
8. Apart from housing, she was also very passionate about healthcare. To this end, her other generous donations include: a. The extension to the Khandala Charitable Clinic, which was built in 1902 by her late husband. b. A hostel for Nurses at the Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy Hospital in 1903. c. A charitable Hospital on the grounds of the Bombay Parsi Panchayat at Chowpatty in 1906. d. An additional block and a new dispensary for the Dr. Bahadurji Sanatorium in Deolali in 1909. e. A block at the Jehangir Marzban Convalescent Home in Khandala. f. Dr. Rustom Billimoria T. B. Sanatorium. g. She also gave regular donations to Dr. Tehmulji Nariman Obstetrics Hospital, Parsi General Hospital, Shirinbai Cama Convalescent Home at Bandra and Mahableshwar Parsi Gymkhana.
9. Jerbai’s dream of having as many low cost housing for Parsis in Mumbai, was kept alive by her two sons, Sir Cusrow Wadia and Sir Ness Wadia after she passed away. Among their many important contributions were the building of Cusrow Baug, Ness Baug and Bai Jerbai Wadia Hospital for Children.
1. Motlibai Wadia was a descendant of Lowji Nusserwanji Wadia, the famous ship-builder. However, she was not born in the ship-builders’ line of the family, but in the line which had turned towards trade and commerce. Her grand-father Nusserwanji Maneckji Wadia had set up a vast business in France and was the agent of the French Government in Bombay. Her father Jehangirji had inherited this business.
2. Motlibai, born on 30th October 1811, was the only daughter of her parents. She married her father’s brother’s son Maneckji who also was with his father in the family business. Maneckji, however, died early and Motlibai became a widow at the age of 26 years. She had two sons Nowrojee and Nusserwanji.
3. Motlibai lived the rest of her life very purposefully, and also looked after her two sons. Like the other members of the Wadia family, she too contributed large sums of money to charity, mostly towards building, repairing and upkeep of fire temples. She also had two Towers of Silence built at Diu and in Surat. The total amount of her public charities alone was estimated to be about Rupees Twenty six lakhs.
4. Over and above her public charities was a vast number of private humanitarian charities that she did, to help the poor for their weddings, Navjotes and after-death rituals, the real extent of which, we will never know. She also supported a large number of poor, needy and destitute families by giving them monthly stipends and generously donated towards other causes like hospitals, dispensaries and schools.
5. In 1851, she contributed Rupees Twenty thousand towards the reconstruction of a Daremeher in Navsari. She also contributed a piece of land, the income from which was to be utilised towards the upkeep and maintenance of the place.
6. On 10th June 1863 she had a fire temple consecrated at Pitha Street in Mumbai. In 1941, the sacred fire from that fire temple was shifted to the Wadiaji Atash Behram. On 29th April 1966, this fire was taken from the Wadiaji Atash Behram and shifted to Malcolm Baug, Jogeshwari, on account of the requests of the residents of the Colony.
7. In 1893, she had the Iranshah Atash Behram at Udvada rebuilt at the cost of Rupees Eighty thousand. Her stately and majestic photograph adorns the Atash Behram Hall.
8. Motlibai passed away on 24th May, 1897, at the age of 86, after a brief period of illness and immediately after the unfortunate and untimely death of her younger son Nusserwanji. A rare honour was bestowed upon her at her Uthamna when Dasturji Dr. Darab Peshotan Sanjana instructed the priests of those times, to take her name in all the rituals they perform, along with the names of other hallowed and great Parsis. This honour, uptil then was reserved almost exclusively for the gentlemen of the Community.