Who was Shams-ul-Ulema Ervad Dr. Sir Jivanji Jamshedji Modi? (TMY, JJ of 25-11 & 2-12-18)

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-Ulema 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.


What are the similarities between fire and man? (TMY, JJ of 11 & 18 -11-18)

1. Though it sounds very unusual, and at the first sight there seems to be no apparent connection between fire and man, at further scrutiny, one realises that there are so many similarities between the two, that at the end of the examination, they start appearing like twins.

2. Although priests are referred to as Āthravan, that is, “protectors of fire”, fire and humans depend on each other for their physical and spiritual sustenance and survival, and one is always incomplete without the other. There are several striking similarities between the two:

a) Both are living, breathing entities requiring oxygen for survival.

b) Both require food to survive. The food of fire is fuel, especially wood. Man can find his own food, but fire cannot, so the fire has to depend on man for its food.

b) Both have hierarchical status. There are different grades of fire like Dadgah, Adaran and Atash Behram, and there are several levels of humans from ignorant, to knowledgeable and evolved. However from the outside all look similar and it is not possible to know about the hierarchical status from outside, both of fire and of men.

c) Both have physical and spiritual constituents. Man has a body and soul. The fire too has a physical body and a spiritual consciousness.

d) Both are links between physical and spiritual worlds. Man takes prayers to the divine world, and fire gets divine energy (khoreh) from the spiritual realms.

e) No two are ever the same. Though any two may appear similar, no two human beings nor any two fires are ever the same.

f) Both are able to create another like them, which, though similar, is unique. A human can give birth to another human and a new fire can be ignited from an existing fire.

g) Both can be used for good or evil. A man can create, nurture and produce, and also destroy, annihilate and end. So can a fire be used to cook, create and give shape, but if not used carefully and wisely, it can destroy life and property.

h) Both are considered Ratheshtars, that is, fighters and warriors against evil.

i) Both are Ahura Mazda’s favourite creations as they have been assigned the special task of fighting evil and bringing about Frashokereti – the final renovation. 3. The above similarities show the close co-relation between fire and man, as both have been created as the favourite creations of Ahura Mazda. It is thus very meaningful, that in the Avesta fire is figuratively referred to as the “son (puthra) of Ahura Mazda” and Ahura Mazda is mentioned as the “father (pitar) of man.” fff