Who was Mr. Khurshedji Rustamji Cama? (TMY, JJ of 3 & 10-2-19)

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.


Why do people sponsor a Navar – the Zoroastrian priestly initiation? (TMY, JJ of 20 & 27-1-19)

1. Priests play a very important role in every religion. In Zoroastrianism, the role of the priest is much magnified as it is a ritual intensive religion. A boy belonging to a priestly family can be ordained as priest after undergoing proper training. The ritual for being initiated into Zoroastrian priesthood is called Navar and it has to be undergone before puberty, that is before the age of about 13 years.

2. The Navar initiation is an elaborate and hence expensive process, which goes on for about 25 days, and hence there is a meritorious practice of sponsoring a child to become a Navar. A Navar can be sponsored either in memory of a departed person or by a living person for the merit of his or her own soul.

3. In the Navar ritual, the child has to undergo two Bareshnums, which are purificatory rituals, each of which is for nine days and nine nights. The first Bareshnum is for one’s own self and the second is for the living/departed person who sponsors the Navar. This means that throughout the nine days and nights, the candidate prays for the sponsor, every time he does his personal prayers – Patet Ravān-ni for the departed one, and Tandarosti for the living one.

4. As part of the Navar initiation, two senior and highly proficient priests perform the Yasna ritual for 6 days, called Gewra. This is to give spiritual power to the priests who would later ordain the child. Here too, the Yasnas are performed for the benefit of the soul of the person, living or deceased, who sponsors the ritual.

5. For the next 4 days, the boy himself performs 3 Yasnas and a Visparad ritual, with one of the priests who has done the Gewra, again for the benefit of the soul of the person who has sponsored the ritual.

6. It is customary to remember the name of the sponsor of Navar, by the boy throughout his life, whenever he performs any ritual, as a mark of gratitude to the person, who sponsors him to become a priest. Thus sponsoring a Navar is a highly meritorious and rewarding act of bringing in a new boy into the priestly fold.

7. The Navar ritual is very similar in performance to another very high Zoroastrian ritual, called Geti-Kharid. Therefore, sponsoring a Navar is as much, or even more meritorious, than having a Geti-Kharid ritual performed. fffffffffffffff