Parsi Khabar https://parsikhabar.net Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World Tue, 27 Oct 2020 22:13:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.1 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/http://creativecommons.org/images/public/somerights20.gifSome Rights Reserved 18.949323370993872.8308330444121http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/ This Artwork Changed My Life: Pestonji Bomanji’s “Feeding the Parrot” http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/ParsiKhabar/~3/UaqR6PieH94/ https://parsikhabar.net/art/this-artwork-changed-my-life-pestonji-bomanjis-feeding-the-parrot/24367/#disqus_thread Tue, 27 Oct 2020 22:13:29 +0000 https://parsikhabar.net/?p=24367 Elephant and Artsy have come together to present This Artwork Changed My Life, a creative collaboration that shares the stories of life-changing encounters with art. A new piece will be published every two weeks on both Elephant and Artsy. Together, our publications want to celebrate the personal and transformative power of art. Article by Rhea […]]]>

Elephant and Artsy have come together to present This Artwork Changed My Life, a creative collaboration that shares the stories of life-changing encounters with art. A new piece will be published every two weeks on both Elephant and Artsy. Together, our publications want to celebrate the personal and transformative power of art.

Article by Rhea Dhanbhoora

Pestonji Bomanji, Feeding the Parrot, 1882. Image via Wikimedia Commons

The artists of the 19th century often came alive for me in my grandmother’s living room.

During hot days in the Mumbai summer, we paged through books about artists and paintings that inspired her. As we passed over artists from some of her favorite art movements, heat-wave hallucinations brought Cézanne dancing in through the lace curtains. Renoir twirled into Degas , who skipped over Monet and bumped into Manet as a mess of mediums poured onto the floor. I loved them all, but I had not yet seen the painting that would speak to me most personally: the quotidian depiction of my minority Parsi Zoroastrian identity on a canvas, Pestonji Bomanji’s Feeding the Parrot (1882).

Still, I spent many hours captivated by the artists my grandmother had tried to emulate before a near-fatal mishap stripped her of her creative faculties. After a pedestrian accident, she was left in a near-vegetative state. Even after miraculously coming out of a coma, she could never again paint with the same precision as before.

As a child, I did not consider the effects of this cataclysmic loss, of the agony she must have felt over the incident that impeded her artistry. My grandmother, who once painted true-to-life portraits, and could have painted portraits of Parsis like Pestonji Bomanji had, if she had not lost her ability to do so.

The earliest art history lessons I ever had took place in her home, and it was not unusual for us to traipse through India’s National Gallery of Modern Art or Jehangir Art Gallery. What was unusual was getting the chance to see an entire exhibition of Parsi art. When my aunt suggested visiting one in 2002, I was unenthused. Even with a declining Parsi population in India, I was more ashamed than excited about the opportunity to celebrate my ethnoreligious minority. Why hold an entire room hostage for a group that was so small, so invisible, so…irrelevant?

And then I saw Feeding the Parrot for the first time.

The seminal painting by Pestonji Bomanji depicts a woman impassively feeding a parrot, her dispassionate gaze pointed away from, yet still somehow looking into, the viewer. I was transfixed by the caged parrot, the lifelike folds in the blue sari with brocade border worn by the woman at the center of the painting, and the child peeking into, but never interrupting, the scene.

Bomanji—who wanted to be a sculptor, but was drawn to portraiture after training under Pre-Raphaelite painter Valentine Cameron Prinsep —contributed significantly to Bombay’s oft-overlooked contribution to Academic Realism. The style was eventually overshadowed in the 20th century by the Progressive movement, but it left behind some of the most iconic paintings of the 19th century in India. Feeding the Parrot was a striking callback to the European art that I was so familiar with from the summer days in my grandmother’s living room. But my fascination went beyond the adroit brushstrokes and the way the shadows in the work both concealed and revealed at the same time. It was not even the similarity of Bomanji’s work to that of the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer that held my attention.

When I moved closer to marvel at the play of light and marriage of pigments, I was pulled into the tension of its somber yet uplifting palette. Even when I looked away, I still saw the woman’s characteristically Parsi features: high forehead, inimitable long nose. She bore no resemblance to my grandmother, but still I saw her—at her easel, in the kitchen, by the window.

It was the same feeling I had when I engaged with my grandmother’s painting of Zarathustra’s likeness, hanging in our bedroom back home; a familiar, but more personal piece than other art we admired together. It echoed  Van Gogh’s swirls, Monet’s mists, Manet’s detail—but it was our Zoroastrian prophet rendered in my grandma’s syncretic style. Not entirely sui generis but still distinct, because apart from my grandmother, who else would paint this homage to our ethnoreligious minority?

I had heard of Parsi artists like Bomanji, Jehangir Sabavala, and MF Pithawalla, who painted our diaspora. But much like the declining minority I belong to, I did not see them in many galleries or read about them in art books. And, like all declining diasporas probably do, I grew up aware of our decreasing population, and of census data that has many in our community worried that one day there will be no Parsi Zoroastrians left. It was something we were resigned to, just like we were resigned to the lack of representation in art and culture in India as well as globally. Before I saw Pestonji Bomanji’s work in person, I saw all art as something foreign to appreciate, not relate to.

When I looked at his paintings I was staring at a convergence of Western-Indian styles, typical of Bomanji’s J.J. School of Art instruction, and yet also of the quotidian patterns of our declining diaspora. It made me want to create, record, represent, and preserve some of these scenes myself in an effort to leave something behind of this near-extinct community I was a member of.

I rediscovered Feeding the Parrot in 2013 when I read about an exhibition in Delhi that listed the painting as part of the works on view. It had been a while since I’d thought about how strange it was to see my diaspora represented on canvas, or even in daily life. Again, the urgency to create something streamed through the side-angled woman and half-views of parrot and child. I realized: What I had seen in Bomanji’s work was the power of representation. Sure, I painted flowers en plein air, dotted canvases with crude pointillism, and finger-swabbed soft pastels. But Feeding the Parrot showed me art could fight diaspora erasure, that it could preserve and represent.

After my grandmother died in 2014, I found comfort in the muted palette and pathos of Bomanji’s Portrait of a Parsee Lady (1914). And Bomanji’s At Rest (late 19th–early 20th century) still reminds me of my grandfather and other Parsi gentlemen reading the paper outside fire temples in our religious town of Udvada. But always, I go back to the half-shadowed woman, feeding a caged bird.

To this day, Feeding the Parrot still moves me. When I look at the child—seemingly more aware of the artist capturing the scene than woman he clings to—grabbing the folds of the sari of the woman in the center of the painting, I feel seen. Sometimes, it also reminds me of my grandmother and her art. At other times, I think of diasporas broadly, and the fact that mine one day might cease to exist.

But through all that, the thought that an artwork like Feeding the Parrot, or even my grandmother’s paintings, will remain to tell our story provides me with a modicum of solace.

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Perzen Patel on Radio New Zealand http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/ParsiKhabar/~3/IOeOHGHzQCc/ https://parsikhabar.net/food/perzen-patel-on-radio-new-zealand/24361/#disqus_thread Tue, 27 Oct 2020 21:46:08 +0000 https://parsikhabar.net/?p=24361 Our dear friend Perzen Patel was recently featured on Radio New Zealand. Per RNZ… NZ Made: Perzen Patel of Dolly Mumma Each week we talk to a small New Zealand business and this week we’re talking to Perzen Patel who’s business is called ‘Dolly Mumma’. They make ready-to-cook Indian products which you can use to […]]]>

Our dear friend Perzen Patel was recently featured on Radio New Zealand.

Per RNZ…

NZ Made: Perzen Patel of Dolly Mumma

Each week we talk to a small New Zealand business and this week we’re talking to Perzen Patel who’s business is called ‘Dolly Mumma’.

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They make ready-to-cook Indian products which you can use to make curries and to compliment your everyday Kiwi cooking. Their motto is ‘no more Butter chicken’.

Perzen spoke to our Producer Ellie Jay about why the business started.

You can find them on instagram here and Direct Message the ‘No more Butter Chicken’ hotline for advice about cooking Indian at home and find them online here.

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From Tendon Transplants to Eradication of Smallpox: What Pesi Did: A Surgeon’s Story http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/ParsiKhabar/~3/iwRnxiGA20o/ https://parsikhabar.net/books/from-tendon-transplants-to-eradication-of-smallpox-what-pesi-did-a-surgeons-story/24358/#disqus_thread Tue, 27 Oct 2020 18:27:14 +0000 https://parsikhabar.net/?p=24358 From Tendon Transplants to Eradication of Smallpox Engaging and lively memoir of an outstanding surgeon and humanitarian ‘What Pesi Did: A Surgeon’s Story’ by Dr Azmy Birdi tells the story of Dr Pesi Bharucha, based on a treasure trove of correspondence discovered after his death at the age of 98 in 2018. The book documents […]]]>

From Tendon Transplants to Eradication of Smallpox

Engaging and lively memoir of an outstanding surgeon and humanitarian

‘What Pesi Did: A Surgeon’s Story’ by Dr Azmy Birdi tells the story of Dr Pesi Bharucha, based on a treasure trove of correspondence discovered after his death at the age of 98 in 2018. The book documents some fascinating stories about the work he had done in Jamshedpur.

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It includes the ‘miracle case’ when he saved the life of a man who suffered 90 per cent burns and the time he spent five hours sewing back the severed thumb of a young boy. In the mid-1970s he was also chief co-ordinator of a successful World Health Organization campaign to eradicate a small pox epidemic in the region and built up the Steel City’s cottage hospital to the multispecialty Tata Main Hospital that serves the area today.

Front (19)

Included are letters, certificates and photographs that along with the narration brings the book to life. As a doctor herself, Azmy explains medical procedures and terms in a way that makes it easily understandable to lay people. This book provides a snapshot of the history of India’s post independence and growing confidence to care for her population headed by highly accomplished professionals like Dr Bharucha and the dental surgeon, Dr Noshir Piroshaw whose expertise was such that the Tata Directors would time their dental treatment with the board meetings and was described as “a tooth artist”.The book brings back an ethos of an era gone by, of selfless service, high professionalism and unswerving adherence to ethical values in the medical world.

Buy on Amazon

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Paving the way for young Zoroastrian women | Faith Matters http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/ParsiKhabar/~3/Z1BbKcVZNUg/ https://parsikhabar.net/news/paving-the-way-for-young-zoroastrian-women-faith-matters/24344/#disqus_thread Sun, 25 Oct 2020 23:07:42 +0000 https://parsikhabar.net/?p=24344 As perhaps the oldest, though smallest, monotheistic world religion, Zoroastrianism’s patriarchy also influenced Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Women were second-class citizens and frozen out of leadership roles. But even in Zoroastrianism, some women are claiming their rights to become priests today. Article By Rev. Alexander Santora/For the Jersey Journal “Some rules are man-made, and men keep […]]]>

As perhaps the oldest, though smallest, monotheistic world religion, Zoroastrianism’s patriarchy also influenced Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Women were second-class citizens and frozen out of leadership roles.

But even in Zoroastrianism, some women are claiming their rights to become priests today.

Article By Rev. Alexander Santora/For the Jersey Journal

“Some rules are man-made, and men keep them,” said Khorshed Mehta, 73, a retired vice president of Chase Bank. “Men and women are considered equal and that is important,” she asserted.

Mehta, of Monroe Township, is among a group of women in the tri-state area attached to the Zoroastrian temple in Pomona, New York, taking the first steps to become priests and assume other leadership roles.

Khorshed Mehta conducts Muktad prayers — prayers to honor lost ones — virtually to the congregation. She is the first woman Mobedyar to conduct these prayers alone.

Narges Kakalia, 47, a commercial litigator from South Orange, noted that most Zoroastrians pray individually in the temple while priests, or mobeds, conduct certain rituals. They usually gather the first Sunday of the month and remain for three hours or so. Religion classes take place separately for children and she teaches pre-kindergarten children. Parents or adults also spend time in faith formation program at the same time. A communal meal follows shared by several hundred people.

Many Zoroastrian rituals are practiced daily in the home personally and sometimes with the family and others present.

“There is no hierarchy,” Kakalia said, which makes it difficult to hand down directives for the community.

There is an organization, though, attached to the Pomona temple that handles its temporal affairs and organizes activities. Its acronym is ZAGNY — Zoroastrian Association of Greater New York — and for the second time a woman, Khursheed P. Navder, is its president.

Khursheed Navdar, the current and second female president of the Zoroastrian Association of Greater New York, speaks at an interfaith event at the new temple in Pomona.

“I have had the pleasure of serving on the ZAGNY board since 2005, and this year I am humbled to have the opportunity to serve as its second female president for the 2020-23 term,” the Montville resident said..

The first woman, Ivy Farrokh Gandhi, led the congregation 36 years ago.

Navder, 57, is a professor, chair of the nutrition program and director/dean of the Hunter College School of Urban Public Health. She grew up in India up seeing girls and boys being treated equally with no discrimination whatsoever in Zoroastrianism, she said.

“There is no gender prejudice and girls have their navjote (or Confirmation) ceremonies performed,” she noted.

Navder also said she was thrilled to see female mobedyars (women priests) starting to officiate at their religious events. This year during Muktad — a 10-day period when Zoroastrians believe the souls of their dear departed visit the earth — Mehta recited the prayers and performed the 90-minute religious ceremony at ZAGNY.

Narges Kakalia volunteers as a religious studies teacher for young Zoroastrians. She is seen here with Zarina Mody and Lyla Dutia as she teaches them about “Ushta,” or happiness.

Zoroastrians take their daily prayer rituals seriously and believe it influences their lives.

Kakalia said that “all prayers have vibrations and when you pray you give out good vibrations.”

At somebody’s birth or wedding, prayers “keep evil spirits away,” she said.

There are about 100 children who go to the Pomona temple for religion classes. Kakalia gathers the little ones in a circle to say a little prayer and then shares some concepts about God given by the prophet Zoroaster (Zarathrustra in ancient Persian).

Most of what is known about Zoroaster comes from the Avesta — a collection of Zoroastrian religious scriptures. It’s unclear exactly when Zoroaster may have lived but scholars pinpoint sometime between 1500 and 500 B.C. This religion was likely similar to early forms of Hinduism.

In Western religions, women are clamoring for equality and since feminism rose, there have been achievements. I found Mehta to be a refreshing trailblazer after a successful career in banking working to claim a place in the religion she cherishes.

Khursheed Navdar, the current and second female president of the Zoroastrian Association of Greater New York, speaks at the inauguration of the new temple in Pomona.

“We are not taking the (male) priest’s place but as a help to them,” she said.

There is still resistance in Zoroastrianism but Mehta promised, “My mission is done when younger women come along.”

The Rev. Alexander Santora is the pastor of Our Lady of Grace and St. Joseph, 400 Willow Ave., Hoboken, NJ 07030. Email: padrealex@yahoo.com; Twitter: @padrehoboken.

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This is not the end. Apocalyptic comfort from ancient Iran http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/ParsiKhabar/~3/FZn2xUvKeCM/ https://parsikhabar.net/history/this-is-not-the-end-apocalyptic-comfort-from-ancient-iran/24351/#disqus_thread Sun, 25 Oct 2020 21:17:11 +0000 https://parsikhabar.net/?p=24351 At its height, around 620 CE, the Sasanian empire ruled over a territory stretching from Jerusalem in the west to Samarkand in the east. The royal court at the ancient city of Ctesiphon, near present-day Baghdad, was the political heart of this vast realm, and its official religion was the ancient Iranian faith, Zoroastrianism. In royal […]]]>

At its height, around 620 CE, the Sasanian empire ruled over a territory stretching from Jerusalem in the west to Samarkand in the east. The royal court at the ancient city of Ctesiphon, near present-day Baghdad, was the political heart of this vast realm, and its official religion was the ancient Iranian faith, Zoroastrianism. In royal iconography, the king of the Sasanians was likened to Ohrmazd, the good creator God: just as Ohrmazd vanquishes the evil spirit Ahriman, so, too, does the king triumph over his enemies on the battlefield. For at least 1,000 years, the Zoroastrian faith held sway over the empires of Persia.

Article by Domenico Agostini & Samuel Thrope. Edited by Sam Dresser | Psyche

A ruined Zoroastrian fire temple in Cham, Yazd Province, Iran. Photo by Tim Dirven/Panos

In 651 CE, the Sasanian empire collapsed. Armies commanded by the second and third Islamic caliphs, Umar ibn al-Khattab and Uthman ibn Affan, relentlessly pushed defeated Persian forces eastward from the imperial heartland in Mesopotamia. Yazdegird III, the last Sasanian king, was murdered. The remnants of the royal family fled to China. It was a total defeat, unprecedented in Iranian history. Faced with today’s world-changing events, this Iranian experience has much to teach us. In responding to an event different from, but in many ways proportionate to, our own, Zoroastrians, followers of the ancient Iranian religion, sought comfort in the apocalyptic – a comfort we might now turn to as well.

For the Zoroastrians, it was a defeat of apocalyptic proportions. The fact that a rival faith could so thoroughly destroy the ‘good religion’ – which Ohrmazd revealed to the prophet Zoroaster thousands of years before – violated the fundamental laws of the Universe itself. In the Zoroastrian conception, the progress of time is fixed and irreversible. When Ahriman first became aware of Ohrmazd in the uncreated spiritual realm, the two made a pact to fight for 9,000 years; Ohrmazd, knowing in his omniscience that the evil spirit would never be defeated unless a limit was imposed, tricked Ahriman into agreeing to the time-bound fight. This 9,000-year period is divided into three stages. First, the primal creation of the world by Ohrmazd, a time of harmony, perfect and unmoving. Next is the period we live in now, known as the Mixture (gumezišn), which began with the attack by Ahriman and the demons on creation, who corrupted the world with their evil and filth. At last, there will be the defeat and removal of evil from the world and the final, purifying judgment of all mankind at the end of days.

The Islamic conquest upset this steady progression of the Zoroastrian universe. Time itself must have seemed derailed. The Zoroastrians were forced to rethink their world. In the wake of the tragedy, they began to write.

Over the course of the 9th and 10th centuries, Zoroastrian literature in Middle Persian ­­– closely related to the modern language spoken in Iran today – flourished. Traditions that had been preserved orally for generations were set down in writing for the first time, and new works were composed. Scholars can’t pinpoint what, exactly, sparked this literary revival. Perhaps it was renewed interest in the Iranian past under the Abbasid Caliphs, who moved the capital of the Muslim world to Baghdad in 762; the rise of small, philo-Zoroastrian principalities on the shores of the Caspian Sea and in present-day Afghanistan; or the fear that knowledge would be lost as more and more adherents abandoned the faith. But we have this literature to thank for much of what we know about ancient Iran, and the civilisation that so influenced Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The movement of the Sun and stars, world chronologies, the gestations of animals. The constancy of time is central

Each of these Zoroastrian works is different, ranging from ritual law to court poetry. But a theme that unites many – expressed in apocalyptic visions, primordial myth and scientific taxonomies – is the need to set the world right.

Perhaps the best example of this type is the Bundahišn, meaning primal or primeval creation, an encyclopaedic survey of world history from creation to the final judgment, written sometime during the 9th century. Composed in part from earlier materials – including translations and commentaries on the Zoroastrian sacred scripture, the Avesta – the book touches on a diverse host of topics. Its 36 chapters jump between technical discussions of astronomy and astrology that draw on Hellenistic science, to lists of famous palaces, zoology, rain myths and the origins of man. The Bundahišn isn’t literature in the sense in which we generally understand it today: the book lacks a sustained narrative or an overarching argument, and a cursory examination leaves the impression of a hodgepodge collection of scraps.

Looking closer, however, the Bundahišn does follow, and prescribe, an order. The book progresses forward in time and inward in space: from creation in the first chapter, through the three ages of the world, to the final eschatological visions in the concluding chapters, and from the outermost spiritual realm to the fates of individual men and women. Although this framework is far from rigid, and individual chapters seem out of place, the overall structure is clear and consistent.

While the Bundahišn aims to encompass and comprehend the created world in all its diversity, a consistent theme runs through it; this is the theme of keeping time. The movement of the Sun and stars, world chronologies, the genealogies of families, the gestations of animals, the duration of sleep and, of course, the divisions of years, months and days: discussions of measuring, recording and marking time echo throughout the book. The constancy and reliability of time is the book’s central concern.

This is particularly true in the Bundahišn’s culminating sections on the eschatological events that will unfold at the end of days. Since its beginnings, thinking about how time will end has been an essential component of Zoroastrianism. The Gathas – poems composed by the prophet Zoroaster that are the religion’s founding texts – compare time to a chariot race in which it is known, far in advance, that good will triumph as it rounds the final turn. The Bundahišn and other later works expand on these themes to create elaborate apocalyptic visions of multiple saviours, heroes vanquishing demons and monsters, and a river of molten metal that burns away sin and destroys hell.

The greatest calamity is ultimately just one event among many on the road to the promised end

The Bundahišn’s apocalyptic sections also incorporate the downfall of the Sasanians into this world-historical scheme. History is made to fit eschatology. Chapter 33 describes the death of Yazdegird III, and the spread of Islam in Iran: ‘From the primal creation until today, there was no evil worse than this.’

Given its encyclopaedic scope, the Bundahišn reports the calamities brought on by the conquest – the destruction of ancient traditions, the abandonment of the religion’s strict purity laws, the invaders’ evil rule – in summary form only. However, other Zoroastrian apocalyptic texts are more explicit. They claim that the coming of the new faith brought about the disintegration of the fundamental values of society and of basic family bonds. Passages describe the forced separation of parents from children, brothers torn apart by the conversion of one, and mothers selling their daughters along with their dowries.

It goes without saying that this depiction of the Iranians’ adoption of Islam is neither objective nor complete. Many Zoroastrians chose to become Muslims out of sincere faith, and the first centuries of Islamic rule saw as much continuity as rupture with the Sasanians who had come before. All the same, it’s easy to see how aspects of our current reality, when great fears seem to be coming to pass, resonate with these Zoroastrian descriptions.

But this is by no means the end of history. The Bundahišn goes on to describe further invasions and devastations of Iran – which are retold in the future tense, but likely refer to events far in the past from the perspective of the book’s authors – until the arrival of a ruler who will restore Zoroastrianism and launch the eschatological process. This ruler is described as a man, though his mission is divine. Apocalyptic upheavals will bring about a crisis in human connection – just as we are seeing today.

From the perspective of the Bundahišn’s future vision, the greatest and most devastating calamity is ultimately just one event among many on the road to the promised end. It’s in this sense that the Bundahišn is a therapeutic text. The book proclaims that time is constant and uninterrupted and that future promises continue to hold. The ultimate triumph of good is contained already in the first moments of creation, an inevitability that no earthly event or setback, no matter how large, can undo. For Zoroastrian readers seeking consolation as the world they knew fell away before their eyes, we can imagine that the Bundahišn gave a sense of order and relief.

The stars continue to move in their regular courses, the seasons come and go as before. And as for the future, the most important lesson the Bundahišn has for us is that no event is, itself, the end of history. Even if we’re uncertain about the way ahead, we can be reassured that we have not reached the end of the road.

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History With Cy: Cyrus the Great and the Birth of the Achaemenid Persian Empire http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/ParsiKhabar/~3/3-Wt_B8gVdo/ https://parsikhabar.net/news/history-with-cy-cyrus-the-great-and-the-birth-of-the-achaemenid-persian-empire/24341/#disqus_thread Sat, 24 Oct 2020 01:34:39 +0000 https://parsikhabar.net/?p=24341 Cyrus Cama launches a new learning series online. This is an in depth, fantastically researched presentation for young kids and adults. Cyrus writes… With this video we start a series of programs and podcasts all dealing with ancient Persia and the beginnings of the Achaemenid Persian Empire of Cyrus II, better known to the world […]]]>

Cyrus Cama launches a new learning series online. This is an in depth, fantastically researched presentation for young kids and adults.

Cyrus writes…

With this video we start a series of programs and podcasts all dealing with ancient Persia and the beginnings of the Achaemenid Persian Empire of Cyrus II, better known to the world as Cyrus the Great. We’ll first take a quick look at the history of the region around the time when the first Iranian tribes entered the region, followed by the Medes and how they laid the groundwork for the rise of one of history’s greatest rulers, Cyrus the Great, founder of Persian Achaemenid Empire. We’ll also examine a good deal of the primary sources (such as the works of Herodotus, Babylonian chronicles, the Cyrus Cylinder, etc.) that help us to put together a better picture of who Cyrus was. You will not want to miss this episode!

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Establishment of North American Institute of Zoroastrian Studies http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/ParsiKhabar/~3/Gf8zX0C9iI4/ https://parsikhabar.net/diaspora/establishment-of-north-american-institute-of-zoroastrian-studies/24340/#disqus_thread Fri, 23 Oct 2020 16:03:53 +0000 https://parsikhabar.net/?p=24340 It is now more than two score and ten years since Zoroastrians from various parts of the world have settled in North America, bringing with them their religious practices, traditions and cultures which are gradually evolving into a tapestry of a new North American Zoroastrian identity. The first-generation Zoroastrians in North America, in the space […]]]>

It is now more than two score and ten years since Zoroastrians from various parts of the world have settled in North America, bringing with them their religious practices, traditions and cultures which are gradually evolving into a tapestry of a new North American Zoroastrian identity.

logoThe first-generation Zoroastrians in North America, in the space of a few short years, have made remarkable progress in firmly establishing themselves on North American soil. They have established Associations, Centers, Dar-e-Mehers and AtashKadehs, and have come together as FEZANA – the Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America.

The Religious Leaders, the Mobeds, have likewise come together and established NAMC – the North American Mobeds Council, a consortium of Mobeds with stellar achievements, committed to providing religious guidance to the community and training future Mobeds. In furtherance of this progress, NAMC, at their Annual General Meeting in September 2020 moved to carry the proposal forward and to formally establish an educational arm of NAMC –

“North American Institute of Zoroastrian Studies”.

The Institute shall have two tracks:

1. To train and ordain Mobeds to serve the North American community, and

2. To teach Zoroastrianism at an academic level.

Organizationally, an Advisory Board shall be set up consisting of Senior Mobeds, academics and respected community members to manage the affairs of the Institute.

It is envisioned that in time, several North American Zoroastrian Associations will engage the services of full time professional Mobeds, with the Institute providing a cadre of well-trained Mobeds to serve the religious and ministerial needs of our communities.

Further, the Institute shall provide and promote education in Zoroastrianism to academics and to members of all faiths.

Gratitude to Rohinton Rivetna for his vision and inspiration and for formulating the initial charter of the Institute, and to NAMC — President Er. Arda-e-Viraf Minocherhomjee for diligently pursuing it to fruition.

For more information please contact:

Ervad Tehemton Mirza

Vice President

North American Mobeds Council namcmobeds.org

tmirza@execulink.com

October 2020 | Press Release

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Zoroastrian priests have masked for millennia | Faith Matters http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/ParsiKhabar/~3/6Y-hytjJwEk/ https://parsikhabar.net/religion/zoroastrian-priests-have-masked-for-millennia-faith-matters/24322/#disqus_thread Wed, 21 Oct 2020 21:38:25 +0000 https://parsikhabar.net/?p=24322 “Dad, everyone’s wearing a mask!” exclaimed the son of Adi Sidhwa, a Zoroastrian priest, about the COVID mask requirement. “Is it different than yours?” The boy wasn’t referring to his father’s COVID mask but the long, white, cloth one – padan — that Sidhwa, 46, from eastern Bergen County, wears when he presides at the […]]]>

“Dad, everyone’s wearing a mask!” exclaimed the son of Adi Sidhwa, a Zoroastrian priest, about the COVID mask requirement. “Is it different than yours?”

The boy wasn’t referring to his father’s COVID mask but the long, white, cloth one – padan — that Sidhwa, 46, from eastern Bergen County, wears when he presides at the service in the Pomona, New York, temple. A Zoroastrian priest, also referred to as mobed, has always worn a mask when performing prayers in front of the sacred flame used in most Zoroastrian ceremonies.

By Rev. Alexander Santora/For the Jersey Journal

Sidhwa explained that there are two parts to the religious mask with a disposable one underneath “out of an abundance of caution.”

One reason for the mask is that no saliva or germ travel from the mouth to contaminate the fire that is considered pure and symbolic of the divine, said Sherazad Mehta of Hoboken who, along with his two children, worships at the Pomona Temple.

Mehta also noted that even prior to COVID, wearing masks by ordinary people has been common in parts of Asia so they cover their mouths if they may be getting sick or when they cough or sneeze.

“It’s just common sense,” Mehta said.

Turning mask wearing in the COVID era into a political scenario is absurd, he said. He rejects the response of some that they do not want to be told what to do.

For Zoroastrian children, seeing priests in masks is an expected, calming and strength-giving sight. They are also very familiar with masks and are likely to associate masks with prayers, peace and community. They are less likely to be scared of masks or people wearing masks.

“As a boy, I was intrigued,” Mehta said.

All Zoroastrian rituals and ceremonies are performed in the presence of a sacred fire. Zoroastrians are not fire-worshippers, as some wrongly believe, though. Zoroastrianism, one of the world’s oldest surviving monotheistic religions, venerates all natural elements. Fire is a powerful purifier and the “spark” in every human being.

North America’s Zoroastrian community includes two main groups: those who arrived from India, called Parsis, and those who came directly from Iran, often seeking religious freedom. There’s also a group called “Iranis” who emigrated from Iran to British India in the late 19th century. There are new pockets of converted Zoroastrians in Kurdish Iraq and elsewhere.

Worldwide estimates of the number of Zoroastrians range from over 100,000 to as many as a quarter million, which makes it the smallest world religion.

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Photo by Arzan Sam Wadia

New Martabs, or newly initiated priests, Ervad Porus Pavri and Ervad Cyrus Dadina perform the Boi ceremony at the Dar-e-Mehr in Pomona, New York. This ceremony symbolizes the changing of Gah, or time of day. This ceremony is performed five times a day at consecrated fire temples or Zoroastrian prayer halls; prayers are performed at the fire, followed by the ringing of the bell nine times to invoke blessings as well as to repel all evil.

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Photo by Mahafreen H. Mistry

This afarghanyu, or fire vessel, at the Dar-e-Mehr Zoroastrian Temple in Pomona, New York, is a 3-foot tall metal replica of a 250-year-old original found in a historic temple in Mumbai, India.

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Photo by Mahafreen H. Mistry

Zoroastrian priests cover their faces with a mask, or padan, to protect the purity of the fire during prayer ceremonies. On the trays, there are flowers, pomegranates, a banana and other traditional items offered as part of the ceremony.

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Courtesy of Adi Sidhwa

Ervad Adi Sidhwa — with his son by his side — performs a jashan, a Zoroastrian blessing ceremony. On the table, a small afarghanyu (fire vessel) holds sandalwood on top, burning the fire traditionally present in Zoroastrian ceremonies. Tongs are used during the ceremony to arrange the sandalwood and ensure it burns continuously throughout the prayers.

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Courtesy of Adi Sidhwa

Ervad Adi Sidhwa and his father, Ervad Jamshed Sidhwa, both Parsi Zoroastrian priests (or mobeds), perform a jashan ceremony to bless a family’s home.

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Sidhwa was born into a priestly family in Mumbai, which enabled him to also become a priest if he chose, which he did. He started preparing at age 12. He also lived in Thailand, England and Nepal before moving to the United States 20 years ago.

He first learned to tie a kusti, a cord, around himself and wear a sudrah, a vest, like, he said, “armor,” in a personal ritual, which records “our good thoughts, word, deeds.”

At some point, Zoroastrian teenagers go through a ritual – navjote – prior to puberty, which is a kind of Confirmation in the faith. After that ceremony, they perform their kusti or prayers twice a day for about five minutes each.

“Our almighty God is worshipped through the medium of fire,” Sidhwa told me.

Priestly study begins by learning 28 verses by heart — each “verse” can be several pages long — to master the basic phase of priestly formation. Eventually, one graduates to 72 verses to become a full-fledged priest after being quizzed by the high priest. Afterward, the new priest spends 30 days in three purification baths that can take up to nine days each.

The normal temple ceremony starts with a prayer, and the priest then performs a ritual, addresses the community and concludes with several prayers. In Pomona, it is done in communally with several priests among some 500 worshippers usually once a month.

Sherazad — a civil engineer who has overseen the temple’s property and served as a trustee — believes Zoroastrianism “sets out a path for righteousness.” Adherents, he said, believe and strive for “good words, good thoughts and good deeds.” And that’s unmasked by the good lives they strive to live.

Next week, we will look at how Zoroastrian women are advocating inclusivity in their leadership.

The Rev. Alexander Santora is the pastor of Our Lady of Grace and St. Joseph, 400 Willow Ave., Hoboken, NJ 07030. Email: padrealex@yahoo.com; Twitter: @padrehoboken.

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Zoroastrians: Iran’s forgotten minority http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/ParsiKhabar/~3/4BAv4bON_kg/ https://parsikhabar.net/iran/zoroastrians-irans-forgotten-minority/24311/#disqus_thread Wed, 21 Oct 2020 20:46:36 +0000 https://parsikhabar.net/?p=24311 The decline of this ancient community is a tragedy not just for Iran, but for human civilization writ large It is disheartening, but the adherents of the world’s first monotheistic religion appear to have been consigned to oblivion in their ancestral homeland, and as their numbers shrink, it is not only a religion that is […]]]>

The decline of this ancient community is a tragedy not just for Iran, but for human civilization writ large

It is disheartening, but the adherents of the world’s first monotheistic religion appear to have been consigned to oblivion in their ancestral homeland, and as their numbers shrink, it is not only a religion that is disappearing, but the building blocks of a civilization.

Article by Kourosh Ziabari | Asia Times

Zoroastrianism is believed to have been founded in ancient Iran 3,500 years ago. It was the dominant religion of the Persian Empire until the Muslim conquest of Persia starting in AD 633 capsized the cultural and religious configuration of the nation and ushered in new values based on Islamic law in a society that initially perceived the arrival of Islam as unwelcome.

Iran’s 2011 census found that there were only around 25,000 Zoroastrians living in the country, and in a nation of 84 million people, the figure is simply infinitesimal. Other than one lawmaker representing them in the 290-member parliament, a handful of functioning fire temples and some schools and kindergartens for their children, Iran’s Zoroastrian community does not enjoy the luxury of the resources at the disposal of the Muslim majority to proselytize, assert their identity, network and promote their faith.

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Kourosh Niknam, a Zoroastrian priest and former member of parliament, once lamented his community’s draining resources: “We don’t have the right to make programs about our religion. I have no platform on radio or television to go and speak about Zoroastrianism. We cannot get any budget for building a new fire temple when mosques are being built one after another.”

What is well known about Zoroastrians is that they subscribe to their prophet Zoroaster’s percepts of “good thoughts, good words and good deeds,” representing the linchpin of their ideology. They are exemplarily peaceful and some of their most revered cultural relics are embedded into the lifestyles of Iranian people, including pious Muslims.

The Persian New Year celebration of Nowruz, the Yalda Night celebration of the winter solstice and the ancient fiesta of Chaharshanbe Suri (Wednesday Feast) have remained mainstays of Iranian society after the last Zoroastrian dynasty, the Sassanians, was toppled in AD 651. Even the Islamic Revolution of 1979, which was in effect a clampdown on anything un-Islamic, did not manage to obliterate these offcuts of Zoroastrianism.

But the inspirations of Zoroastrianism are not confined to the borders of Iran and are more broad-ranging than one might assume. The 17th-century French writer Voltaire and German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche cited Zoroastrianism as their guiding light, and even such contemporary cinematic productions as Star Wars and Game of Thrones were influenced by its canons.  

Zoroastrians are reputed to be hard-working and entrepreneurial people. Those who have settled in India and currently make up a tiny minority of 61,000 people in the world’s second-most-populous country contribute close to 6% of the nation’s economic turnover. In India, they are known as Parsis, and Mahatma Gandhi once famously acclaimed their services by saying, “In numbers Parsis are beneath contempt, but in contribution, beyond compare.”

In 2016, the World Religion Database estimated that at best, Zoroastrians numbered 200,000 people worldwide. There are no more optimistic approximations, portending a bleak future for a faith that predates all Abrahamic religions in antiquity, esteemed not least because of its identity as a divine guidance but for being the incubator of an ancient culture founded in what we know today as Iran. 

It might sound eccentric, and equally dismaying, but for nearly four decades, debate on Zoroastrianism has been non-existent in Iran’s state media, even though according to the constitution it is recognized as an official religion and can be practiced without persecution.

TV stations and newspapers prefer to sidestep any reference to the ancient faith lest they draw the ire of religious hardliners and a panoply of Islamic promotional organizations that would not be happy to see other religions advocated publicly. School and university textbooks treat it as verboten and unmentionable. There is a cap of 3,000 on how many copies of religious books Zoroastrians are permitted to publish.

In 2015, the government budget allocated to the Zoroastrian community was a minuscule 8.28 billion rials (US$26,000), which, compared with the whopping funding filling the coffers of a lineup of Islamic organizations, is genuinely embarrassing. In 2020, a syndicate of 23 Islamic and cultural organizations received a staggering 47.8 trillion rials ($54 million) in public funds from the government of President Hassan Rouhani.

Sadly enough, there have been reports of crackdowns on the festivals and religious gatherings of this marginalized community. Their properties are sometimes seized against their will and permissions are not granted for opening new temples and religious buildings.

Backtracking from a long-standing policy, the government in 2010 made it unlawful for the Zoroastrian community to use the schools it operates outside working hours for religious ceremonies. Spreading Zoroastrian propaganda is an “offense” for which a number of adherents have been convicted in recent years.

In a highly digitized, interconnected world, no human tradition will survive if it is not afforded leeway to express itself, attract new devotees, refine itself, intermingle with other civilizations and showcase its virtues.

The rapid evolution of our societies in lockstep with the growth of technology unfolding at lightning speed has pushed innumerable cultural traditions, faiths and languages to the cusp of extinction. Add to these the dynamics of people’s and governments’ interaction with socio-cultural systems, practices, worldviews and morals that sometimes empower them and sometimes hasten their demise.

Zoroastrianism is not immediately disappearing, and even in Iran, where its adherents are reeling from neglect and discrimination, it continues to be a dynamic presence. Yet the fact that their numbers are increasingly diminishing, and their worrying absence from the public sphere, should raise the alarm for those in Iran who care about the diversity and heterogeneity of their society, and on top of that, the connectivity of Iran to its indispensable past, that a civilizational misfortune is in the offing.

Iranians from all walks of life should wake up to the fact that a cherished historical and cultural heritage of theirs is vanishing, bespeaking the impending detachment of future generations of Iranians from their identity and what makes them distinct as a nation.

To the concerned citizens of the world, also, the writing should be on the wall that a creed from which almost all the major global religious persuasions have borrowed their understanding of concepts such as hell, heaven, Judgment Day, final revelation of the world, angels and demons, good and evil, is being surrendered to decline.

What can preclude or delay this betrayal of history is to read about Zoroastrianism, engage with Zoroastrians, include them in public debates and educational curricula, give coverage to their community activities in the media and refute the assumption that the dwindling population of Zoroastrians should necessarily translate into the legacy of Zoroaster becoming extinct and leaving no trace behind.

Kourosh Ziabari is a journalist based in Iran. He is the recipient of a Chevening Award from the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He is also an American Middle Eastern Network for Dialogue at Stanford (AMENDS) Fellow.

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Mystery Murder Story Set in Colonial Bombay http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/ParsiKhabar/~3/RAsM8_MaxGE/ https://parsikhabar.net/books/mystery-murder-story-set-in-colonial-bombay/24308/#disqus_thread Mon, 19 Oct 2020 21:51:20 +0000 https://parsikhabar.net/?p=24308 Set in 1892, Murder in Old Bombay addresses issues prevalent at the turn of the 20th century which are very present today: discrimination against those who do not belong to our ‘in’ group, misogyny, inequality in attitudes toward women. It’s also a heart-felt appeal to the (tiny) Zoroastrian community to update our social norms–or face […]]]>

Set in 1892, Murder in Old Bombay addresses issues prevalent at the turn of the 20th century which are very present today: discrimination against those who do not belong to our ‘in’ group, misogyny, inequality in attitudes toward women. It’s also a heart-felt appeal to the (tiny) Zoroastrian community to update our social norms–or face extinction.

Article in Indo American News

MurderInOldBombay-3D-e1603125876800Captain James Agnihotri, an Anglo-Indian soldier is recovering from injuries when he reads about a case that the newspapers are calling the Crime of the Century. He’s curious, then intrigued: Why did two beautiful and privileged Parsi young women drop to their deaths from the University Clock-tower in broad daylight? Then the widower of one of the victims writes a letter to the editor which tugs at his heart-strings. Invaliding out of the army, Captain Jim is hired by the Parsi family—not knowing that this investigation will lead him into dangerous adventures, as he strives for the ultimate prize—a sense of belonging.

Loosely based on real events, the tragedy of the Godrej girls in 1891, the novel is an action adventure and a love story. With deeper themes of feminism and countering discrimination, it’s an evocative journey through colonial India during the British Raj, describing the vibrant mix of sub-cultures and the danger of buried secrets. Ultimately it’s a story of triumph over adversity, and the different forms that courage can take.

Available on Nov. 10, 2020, Murder in Old Bombay can be pre-ordered at Amazon.com

NevMarch1-e1603125923476Writing as Nev March, author Nawaz Merchant won the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award. Leaving a long career in business analysis in 2015 she returned to her passion, writing fiction.

She teaches creative writing at Rutgers Osher Institute and is a member of the Mystery Writers of America and the Hunterdon County Library Write-Group. A Parsee Zoroastrian herself, she lives with her husband and two sons in New Jersey.@Murder in Old Bombay@is her debut novel.

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