Why is Jamaspi popular among the Parsis? (27-10 & 3-11-13)

1. Jāmāspi or Jāmāsp Nāmak which means “The Book of Jamasp” is a text in Pahlavi, Pazand and Persian languages. It was written by Jamaspa Hvogva also known as Jamaspa Habub, the Head priest as well as the chief minister of Kayanian king Kae Vishtasp.

2. It is one of the best known Pahlavi books among the Parsis, as it is generally believed to be the book of Oracle or Prophecy, and Jamasp considered the Nostradamus by Zoroastrians.

3. Jamasp was one of the first disciples of prophet Zarathushtra, and the prophet bestowed on him  the divine gift of prognostication, that is, the power to know the past and the future. He had a brother whose name was Frashoshtra, who too was one of the foremost disciples of prophet Zarathushtra.

4. Jamasp was the successor to prophet Zarathushtra, as the prophet appointed him as his spiritual successor. Hence he is also referred to as Zarathushtra-temo, which means “successor of Zarathushtra.”

5.  Much of the original Jamaspi is now lost. Only about 8 out of 30 pages remain. The contents of the existing Pazand and Persian Jamaspi are as follows: Religious and philosophical teachings about creation, list of Iranian kings before and after King Vishtasp with the years of their reigns, the coming of the savior in future, climatic information  about India and China and some predictions for the future.

6. The main predictions are not earth-shattering. The prophecies are about: The Arab conquest of Iran (which happened about 1350 years ago), after that the coming of a common man who would become the king of Khorasan and Rome and then will disappear (whose identity and year is not known), the rule of the Turks, and the coming of a savior hero from Sistan (perhaps a reference to the coming of Shah Behram Varzavand).

7. There are other general predictions that there will be evil times in future with the decrease of goodness and increase of promise-breaking, falsehood, oppression and magic, nights will be brighter and stars will change their place. 

8. Several popular editions of Jamaspi were published in Gujarati among the Parsis which contained unrelated and additional information like prescriptions of Indian drugs and the Wheel of Fortune.  At a point of time anything and everything under the sun was published under the title Jamaspi, so much so that in the mid nineteenth century the Bombay Parsi Panchayat had to suppress one such Jamaspi lest it may bring shame and disgrace to the Community.

9. The text of Jamaspi was authentically translated into English in 1903 by Er. Dr. Sir Jivanji J. Modi and may be available for reading at the K.R.Cama Oriental Institute Library, if one is a member there.

What is Bundahishna? (4-12-16)

1. The word Bundahishna means “origin of creation.” This word is used for two purposes. First, it is the name of a very important Pahlavi book which contains the story of creation. Secondly, the term bundahishna is used to denote in general, the Zoroastrian creation story. A detailed account of the Zoroastrian story creation had appeared in a previous TMY as the question “What is the Zoroastrian story of creation?” In this article, we will just deal with the book Bundahishna.

2. The book Bundahishna is to the Zoroastrians, what the Biblical ‘Book of Genesis’ is to the Christians. It is the Zoroastrian account of the origin of the spiritual and material creations, their nature, characteristics, and functions. The book also deals with ancient Iranian history, geography, traditions, astronomy, astrology, natural science and a number of other subjects. There are two versions of the text.  The shorter version, which is generally known as Indian Bundahishna and the longer version, which is generally known as Iranian Bundahishna.

3. The book Bundahishna has thirty four chapters. The main story of creation is contained in the first chapter, from which the book gets its name. The first chapter of this book allegorically states that the entire period of creation is for 12 hazāra or 12000 years, which is sub-divided into four parts of 3000 years each. The Hindu idea of 4 Yuga is similar to the four fold division of created time as per Zoroastrianism. The 4 Hindu Yugas are –Sat Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dvāpar Yuga and Kali Yuga.

3. The rest of the Bundahishna covers topics like creation of 12 Zodiac signs and 28 constellations, the attack of the Evil Spirit on the 7 creations, 7 planets, Mount Alburz, solstices, defense of the creations against the attack of the Evil Spirit, the 7seven Keshvars, mountains, seas, species and types of animals and birds, men, the first human pair of Mashya & Mashyane, the 5 types of physical fires, the 3 spiritually created fires, and the main rivers, mountains and lakes.

4. The full translation of Bundahishna, done by Professor Eugene W. West, can be found in the fifth volume of the Sacred Books of the East, which may be available in most prestigious Oriental libraries.

What is the Denkard? (11-12-16)

1. Denkard or Denkart is a ninth century voluminous encyclopaedic work on religious, philosophical, historical and other subjects in the Pahlavi language. The word Denkard literally means “Acts of the Religion”.

2. Originally it was compiled in nine books, but the first two books and the initial portion of the third book have now been lost. Among other things, the book includes the life-story of prophet Zarathushtra, admonitions, teachings and most importantly, a summary of 19 of the 21 Avesta Nasks, in the eighth book.

3. The work of compiling the Denkard was started in the Sasanian dynasty by Aturfarnbag son of Farrokhzat and was completed by Aturpat i Emit in ninth century AC. Hence it took a very long time to compile the work and it was not written by one author.

4. The Denkard has extensive quotes from the Avesta, including hitherto lost Avestan texts. It is the single most valuable source of information on the Zoroastrian religion in the Pahlavi language.

5. Dasturji Dr. Peshotan Byramjee Sanjana, started the work of editing and translating the Denkard in 1876, which was later continued by his son Darab. Presently the full transliteration and translation of the Denkard in English and Gujarati is compiled in 18 volumes.

What is the Ardā Virāf Nāmu? (8 & 15-1-17)

1. The Ardā Virāf Nāmu or Ardā Virāf Nāmeh, is a Pahlavi book, originally written in the 3rd century CE, during the reign of the Sasanian King Shahpur the Great.  The name Ardā Virāf Nāmu means “the book of Ardaviraf or righteous Viraf.” Ardaviraf, a very righteous priest, was selected from among 40,000 priests to visit the spiritual world and get a first-hand account of it. The result was this book, which is often compared to the 14th century CE Italian author Alighieri Dante’s classic, “The Divine comedy.”

2. The Ardā Virāf Nāmu is very popular among the Parsis. It preaches morality and ethics, in a different style. The first 4 chapters describe the times of doubt and turmoil in Iran preceding the journey of Ardaviraf. 83 of the total 101 chapters are a graphic description of punishments of sins in Hell. 10 chapters are about Heaven. 4 chapters are admonitions from Ahura Mazda, Sarosh Yazad and the righteous souls.

3. Description of Heaven: Heaven is like a garden of flowers with smell of rose and amber and cool wind blowing. Meher Yazad sits on the throne next to Rashne Yazad who holds weighing scales. Ardaviraf saw deceased members of his own family and conversed with them. From there Bahman Ameshāspand led him to the golden throne of Ahura Mazda. It was resplendent and surrounded by thousands of Yazads. Ardaviraf paid homage to the throne.

4. Description of Hell: Souls have to wait for people whom they have offended and against whom they had sinned to come and forgive them. If they do not forgive them they have to keep waiting. Some souls float in river with stinking water, shouting with fear of being drowned, but nobody hears them. Noxious reptiles bother them. The river was made from tears shed by relatives of the departed. Ardaviraf saw a man biting his own arms as he was an ungrateful person who never thanked or blessed his benefactors. A group of souls who had neglected to wear the Sadra-Kasti, did not cover their head and feet, and did not follow the religion, were harassed by reptiles and noxious creatures. A tyrant who abused his authority, made his subjects unhappy and did not listen to their pleas, was surrounded by demons and flogged with snakes, who bit him all over the body. Another man was receiving similar punishment because he took away his neighbour’s land. As long as the land remained in his family’s possession, he would have to suffer.

5. Advice from Ahura Mazda: Adherence to religious laws brings benefits and rewards, and their infringement brings punishments; As you sow so shall you reap; Ill-gotten wealth is never enjoyed; The rich must believe in God, and not let prosperity turn away their minds; Deathbed repentance is useless, instead intentions should be kept pure; The precepts of Zarathushtra should not be feared or doubted.

6. Advice from Sarosh Yazad & Adar Yazad: Without trouble nothing can be attained; Every labour and merit will be rewarded; People who do not accept the ups and downs of life suffer punishment; Not to set heart exclusively on the pleasures of the world, as men cannot carry anything away with them after death; To consider the body like a horse and the soul like its rider, if either one is weak, the other is affected. As man needs to take greater care of himself than his horse, so he has to take greater care of his soul than his body; In wine, women, eating and drinking one should avoid excess, as they bring their own punishments;  When asking boons from God, leave it to Him to grant it; Contentment is the happiest condition for man.

7. Advice from souls in heaven: Avoid sin, think of the last day, avoid temptations;  Convey to men the necessity of prayer, wearing the Sadra-Kasti, perform rituals and good deeds; The joys of heaven are eternal, the joys of the material world are fleeting; It is necessary to have an heir in the world, as that is necessary to cross the Chinwad bridge. To hand down our names to posterity is one of the highest duties we owe to our Creator.

What are the Persian Revayats? (26-3 & 2-4-17)

1. The Persian Revayats are an important part of Zoroastrian religious texts. The word Revayat literally means “customs, traditions and practices.” In terms of authenticity, they are not considered as authoritative as Avesta and Pahlavi writings, but still they have an importance of their own. They also contain Persian translations of some texts like Bahman Yasht and Jamaspi.

2. After Zoroastrians came from Iran to India about 1200 years back, there was a long period of time, when the Indian Zoroastrians were not in touch with their brethren in Iran. It was in the early 15th century that they became properly aware of Zoroastrian presence in Iran.

3. Thereafter, priests in India, when they needed guidance in religious and related matters, accumulated their questions and sought guidance from the Iranian priests. From the 15th to the 17th centuries, priests from India sent representatives to Iran, with their queries on religion, ceremony, scriptures, customs, and practices to the priests of Iran.

4. Lengthy and detailed replies in Persian language were received from the Iranian priests over a period of time. These replies were collected and the literature thus formed constitute the ‘Persian Revayats.’ The Revayats are generally were named after the emissary, that is, the messenger who was sent with the questions.

5. During the course of three centuries, about twenty-two Revayats came to India. The first Revayat was brought in 1478 A.C. by one Nariman Hoshang, a resident of Broach, and hence is known as ‘The Revayat of Nariman Hoshang.’ Similarly, other Rivayats are known after the persons who brought them. For instance, Revayats of Kama Bohra, Faredun Marazban, Kaus Kama, Kamdin Shapur and Bahman Punjya. Some Revayats are anonymous, as the identity of the person who brought them is not known.

6. In the 17th century, most of these Revayats were collected, and classified subject-wise by Hormazdyar Framarz, Darab Hormazdyar, and Barzo Kamdin.

7. The great Zoroastrian scholar Er. Bamanji N. Dhabhar made the English translation of the Persian Revayats of Hormazdyar and others in 1932. Recently, in 2015, the K.R. Cama Oriental Institute re-published this English translation.

What is the Kisse-Sanjan? (23-4-17)

1. The Kisse Sanjan is the best surviving semi historical book about the early history of Zoroastrians in India, from and after their emigration from Iran, about 1300 years ago. The words Kisse Sanjan literally mean “the book of Sanjan.”

2. It was written by a priest Bahman Kaikobad Hamjiar Sanjana, in Persian verses. The author was considerably advanced in age when he wrote it.

3. The author had based his work on the writings of another senior priest who had heard it orally. It originally comprised of eight hundred and sixty four lines. The work was completed at Navsari on Roz Khordad, Mah Farvardin  969 A.Y., 1st December, 1600 CE.

4. The book covers the first seven hundred years of the immigration of Zoroastrians from Iran to India, and covers the following main topics: Coming of Zoroastrians of Khorasan from Iran to India, the good king Jadi Rana accepting them under five conditions, the priests explaining the religion to the king, the installation of Iranshah, a Zoroastrian army fighting against Sultan Mahmud’s army for their king, the valiant Ardeshir holding back Alaf Khan and later laying down his life fighting, the flight of the sacred Iranshah fire from Sanjan to Bahrot, Bansda and Navsari.

5. Two very famous lines from this book are:

Zan o farzand dar kishti neshānand, Ba sue hind kishti tond rāndand “They made their women and children sit therein, And they drove their ships fast towards India”, and Hame hindustān rā yār bashim “We shall be friends of entire India”.