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Parsi Zoroastrian Garbās and Monājāts*

  • J. R. Russell

Extract

It is a strange circumstance, yet one immediately observable, that the Parsi community in India, so innovative and so energetically creative in many other respects, has failed to distinguish itself in the sphere of indigenous arts. In the acquisition of tastes and skills in European or hybrid pseudo-Persian architecture, in European-style portraiture, and in Classical music, the Parsis have been diligent, even as they long ago became eloquent masters of the English tongue. What of their arts can properly be called Zoroastrian?

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1 On the symbol, see Calmeyer, P., “Fortuna-Tychē-Khwarnah,” Jahrbuch des deutschen archaeologischen Institute 94, 1979; Shahbazi, S., “An Achaemenid symbol,” Archaeologische Mitteilungen aus Iran, N.F. 7, 1974; and Russell, J. R., Zoroastrianism in Armenia, Cambridge, MA, 1987, pp. 51, 347. The symbol may represent divinely bestowed royal glory, OP. famah; the supreme Creator God Ahura Mazdā; or, as many Parsis accept, the fraivaši-“spirit” of an individual.

2 An excerpt in translation is given by Boyce, M., Textual Sources for the Study of Zoroastrianism, Manchester, 1984, pp. 120–2, with refs.

3 Zoroastrian metal ritual vessels are usually unadorned, the better, in the opinion of M. Boyce, to be scrubbed clean (oral comm.). See also Russell, “A note on Sasanian silver,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers [in publication]; and “The rite of Muśkil Āsān Behrām Yazad amongst the Parsis of Navsārī, India,” Festschrift J.P. Asmussen, Copenhagen [in press].

4 Edmonds, M., ed., Loeb Classical Library 27, cit. by Debevoise, N. C., A Political History of Parthia, Chicago, 1938, repr. 1969, p. 211.

5 Yer. Talmud Qiddishin 3.4, discussed by Neusner, J., A History of the Jews in Babylonia, I. The Parthian Period, Leiden, 1969, repr. Brown Judaic Studies 62, 1984, pp. 101–2.

6 See Morony, M. G., Iraq after the Muslim Conquest, Princeton, 1984, pp. 186–8; and Perlmann, M., tr., The History ofal-Ṭabarī, Vol. IV. The Ancient Kingdoms, Albany, 1987, p. 7 [text 604] & n. 29; Rostam received from Kaikhusrō a qalānsuwa of golden thread. The Arabic word is to be compared to Gk. kalasiris, described by Herodotus 2.81: (he describes Achaemenian Egypt) as a long Egyptian garment with tassels or a fringe at the bottom; but the name is given also to a similar Persian garment. The first element, kalān-, is probably to be understood as “large, great”, NP. kalān.

7 Hayashi, Ryoichi, The Silk Road and the Shoso-in, New York and Tokyo, 1975, pl. 85. India is not a land known for its humour; but Zoroastrianism is a cheerful and worldly religion, and these qualities have, undoubtedly, contributed to the reputation of the Parsis as comedians (notably the playwright Adi Marzban) and, sometimes, figures of kindly fun.

8 Illustrated in Ghirshman, R., Persian Art: The Parthian and Sassanian Dynasties, 249 BC–AD 651, New York, 1962, p. 330, pl. 441. The Parsis were the pioneer brewers of beer in India; and they are known there also for their indulgence in rich food. Zoroastrianism prohibits fasting; and meat is prohibited only on those days of the month dedicated to bovine divinities, and in mourning periods. Some meat dishes, cooked with cream and fruit, seem to be of Sasanian inspiration and thus very old; whilst most others, like the popular Dhansak stew, are Indian. Parsis brew tea differently from Hindu or Muslim Indians, adding lemon grass and mint to the tea leaves; but it is quite likely that this is an old Gujarati taste they have preserved.

9 Persian culture was generally co-opted into the new Islamic order, to the extent that obviously incompatible features like wine-drinking had to be rationalized as descriptive of mystical ecstasy. Even the crescent of the fire temple toraṇ described above, representing the horns of the primal bull whose seed, according to the Bundahišn, is stored in the moon, became an Islamic emblem. An exception is the obviously laic song in NP., found in the Ta'rīx-e Sīstān, of the sacred fire of Karkōy (in the Pazand appendix to the Ātaxš Niyayišn called Mīnō Karkō, “the Spirit of Karkō”) which affirms that the spirit or intelligence (hōš) of the Avestan hero Kərəsāspa lives in the flame: Afrūxt bādā rōš/ Xānīd Karšāsp hos.// Hame be rāst az jōš/ Nōš kun maynōš.// Dōst be āghōš/ Nihād bād āfrīn gōš.// Haméša nēkī kōš/ Dī godhast ō dōš,// Šāhā, Khwadāygānā!/ Be āfrīn-e Šāhī! “Let the light of the spirit of Kərəsāspa blaze forth! Released forever from trouble, haste to drink the immortal wine. Take the beloved in your embrace; and incline your ear to blessing. Strive ever after good, for last night is past. King, Lordly One, blessing upon Thy Dominion!” (See Smirnova, L. P., tr., Ta'rīx-i Sīstān, Set. Pamyatniki Pis'mennosti Vostoka 42, Moscow, 1974, pp. 70 & 399 n. 133.) Wine and embraces may imply apprehension of the divine presence, though Zoroastrian morality need not enforce such a metaphorical understanding: more likely, the song counsels enjoyment of life, love, and good deeds. As to the association of the fire with the intellect of Kərəsāspa, this is consonant with Zoroastrian belīef: according to the Selections of Zādspram, 30.23, 32, life is of the same nature as fire; and it is with fire that the intellect first mingles after one's death. In Yasna 62.4, fire is said to increase both life and intelligence.

10 See Schmidt, H. P., “The sixteen Śanskrit Slokas of Ākā Adhyāru,” Bulletin of the Deccan College Research Institute 21, 19601961 (published 1963), p. 168.

11 Karaka, Dosabhai Framji, History of the Parsis, London, 1884, Vol. I, p. 132.

12 On one such nīrang, see Russell, , “Mahmī reconsidered,” Journal of the K. R. Cama Oriental Institute 54, 1987, pp. 7480.

13 “Parsee life in Parsee songs,” in his Anthropological Papers, I, Bombay, 1911, pp. 142–57.

14 Text: Ču āmad be jombeš naxostīn qalam,/Be nām-e jehān-āfrīd zad karam.// Xodāvand-e jān ō xodā-ye ravan,/Xodāvand-e hastī-deh ō meherbān.// Xodāvand-e būd ō xodāvand-e jūd,/ ze-ketm-e 'adam kard paydā vojūd.// Karīm ō raḥīm ō tavānā ō ḥay,/'Ālém ast ō ‘ālēm 'alā kull say.// Xabīr ast ō dānande-ye rāz-e ghayb,/Basīr ast ō sattār-e har gūne 'ayb// Jehān ō zamān ō makān jumle z-ū-st,/Vojūd-e hame momken az fā'iz-e ū-st.// Falak ham čū xālī-st zāsār-e ū,/Bovad šams yek zarre z-anvār-e ū.// Ze hekmat hame ra padīdār kard,/ Basī qudrat-e xīš ezhār kard.// Be barr ō be bahr ān če gardad padīd,/Ba fā'iz-e Xodāvand dārad omīd.// Ravān ō tan ō jesm ō jān āfrid,/ Xerad dar tan-e mardoman āfrīd.// Xerad dād ō 'aql ō hūš ō rāh-e dīn,/Xodāvand-e bā dāneš ō bīkrīn.// Ṭāh-e bi-čegūn, dāvār-e bī-hamāl,/Be pīrāman-e ū na gardad zavāl.

15 Bonšahī, Ardešīr, ed., Xorde Avesta (in Persian script), Bombay, 1948, p. 313, with the title Be nām-e Izad-e tavānā, “In the name of God, the Powerful”.

16 The reading hastīyān is found in Šāhenšāhī prayerbooks and Persian commentaries. The word is given as ostigān correctly, however, in a version of the Nām Stāyišn, entitled simply Do 'ā, “Prayer”, in the Kadmī, Xorde Avesta published by Dadabhai Kavasji, Bombay, 1867, pp. 130–2.

17 A similar explanation of the substance (¡ay) of Ahura Mazdā as lā kull ašyā “not of all [material] things” is offered in the Zoroastrian tract Ulemā-ye Islām, Dhabhar, B. N., tr., The Persian Rivayats of Hormazyar Framarz, Bombay, 1932, p. 446.

18 Oral comm. of Dr. Mina Zand-Yazdi, New York.

19 Hastī-ye tō sūat payvand na./Tō be kas ō kas be tō mānand na.

20 Oral comm. of Mrs. Shehnaz Munshi, Bombay, who assisted my work in Gujarati with unstinting generosity and grace. Text: Khodāvanda khāvinda parvardegār/Namũch tarīdārgāhe hū o Dādār.// Thayo roj ākhera śarū thai che rāt/Tane karvāne rājī hū chũ pacchāt.// Dayālu Khodāvand jagar nā re bāp/ Dayā kar mane sarū ḍāhāpaṇ tũ āp.// Bhulo sudhārũ have roja roj/Bhalai vadhārũ kadī nitya roj.// Tarā vacchan thī hū rākhũ vivek/Manaśnī gavaśnī kunaśnī anek.// Tarī pāsbānī mā mane suvāḍ/Bhalā kāmo karvā savāre ũthāḍ.

21 The Pahlavi catechism Čīdag andarz ī Pōryōtkéšān “Select Counsels of the Ancient Sages, of Zardušt, son of the fourth-century High Priest of Iran, Ādurbād ī Amahraspandān, states, Če paydāg ku az menišnān ud gōwišnān ud kunišnān, kunišn āmār; če saxwan *anast, menišn agriftār, ud kunišn griftārōmand. “For it is evident that of thoughts, words, and deeds, reckon deeds; since speech is insubstantial and thought is intangible, but deeds are tangible indeed”. (Kanga, Ervad M. F., ed. and tr., čītak Handarž ī Pōryōtōkēšān, A Pahlavi Text, Bombay, 1960, lines 24–5.) For Phi. 'wwyyt Kangaji reads awindēd “not found”; I emend by removing one w stroke and reading 'nst *anast.

22 Text: O Dādgar, Dāvār/Tamārī khūbī che apār.// Tame kīdhā amne pedā./Tamne yād kanīye sadā.// Śũ jānvar ke jāḍ,/§ũ dariyā ke pahād,// Tame saghlā nā sāheb./Tame pote chobhāyeg.//Tame bakhasyo amune jān,/Tame kīdhā sukh nā dān.// Apār che tamāro upakār./ Kyāre mānũ saghlo pāḍ.// O pāk pavitra nek Dādār,/Bhūlye kem kustī no bhār?// Rākho cho tame dīvas ne rāt,/Bhojan dejo bhāt bhāt.// Dejo amne sadā sukh,/Māt-pitā nũ hastũ mukh.// Nek vāṇī ne nek vicār/Nek karī saghlā no pyār.//Uthāč jo hastā ramtā āvtī kāle!

23 Text: O Khodā tũ ek che/ne tārū nām anek che.// Sūrya, cãdra ne tārā/Gagan, vāyu, sau tārā.// Bol, bol, śũ gun gāũ/ne tarī stutī kem bajāũ?// Savār, sāj Karu chũ yād:/sukh tũ kull jagat ne āp.// Jayājayā joũ chũ – tyā/Tu-j Tu-j samāyo che.

24 Text: Bãdagī sābhal hamārī Khodā-yā,/Tarī-j Dādgāh mā hāth jodī āyā. (Bãdagi…) Bakśeś kar je nādān upar,/samjo vinātī tu-j pās lāyā. (Tarī-j…, Bādagī…) Je māyjī e māgī murādo (2x)/amīn e karje O Jag sadāyā. (Bãdagī…) Tarā-j pratāpe sukh thī ame rahīye./vahejo sadā tarī ham par māyā. (Bādagī…)

25 Text: Māgu chũ o Dādgar sukhvāsī jigār ne// Rajak rojī sāthe śātī no pyār.// Hetvãto lāyak bholo bharthār ne// Ābrū ijjat sāthe sukhī sãsār.// Dhan ne daulat ne hũ chāhtī nathl ne// Lakho vīs no khajānobī māgtī nathī. (Refrain: Māgũ… pyār.) Marī muśkelī āsān tũ karje ne// Duḥkho thī bachāvvānũ hesān tu kar.// Pāp ane gunāh thī mane bachāvje ne// Ābrū ane ijjat thī mane dīpāv.// Nathī joito sun na rūpā no sangār ne// Nathī joito hīran moṭīo mohār. (Refrain.) Parsi weddings in India are celebrated at dusk. After the ceremony, there is a banquet, at which carrot chutney (gajar nũ acār), the pomfret fish of the Arabian Sea (fish are reckoned auspicious; see above), egg (īḍũ) curry, and chicken with potato sticks (sālī mā murgī) are standard fare. Dinner is served from cauldrons carried by servants on to huge banana leaves, which one flattens into a dinner plate with a karate chop to the spine. Sasanian festive scenes on silver bowls sometimes show large leaves lying beneath the banqueting couch (as for example a plate from Mazanderan illustrated in Dalton, O. M., The Treasure of the Oxus, London, 1905, Plate XXXIX.211) – perhaps the remnants of such a meal.

26 Phi. čīyōn Rustam zōhr-āwurd (sic! “bringing libations”; read instead zōr-āwar) bawēd. Čīyōn Spandārmad-zamīg bar-dahag (“fruit-giving”; the word is read in Pzd. as bardārān, “fruitbearing”) bawēd. Skt. Rustam iva balavan bhava/ Spendārmad-bhumiriva phalprado. See Dhabhar, B. N., Translation of the Zand ī Khurtāk Avistāk, Bombay, 1963, p. 406 & ns.; and I. Taraporewala, , “The marriage service of the Parsis,” A. V. M. Jackson Memorial Volume, Bombay, 1954, p. 241.

27 Text: Dhanya dhanya che dīvas āj no khusī khusā nī nek,// Ek thāy che śīhādī mele kanyā ane varrāj.// Thajo mubārak ā joḍā ne din āj nek, Sũkh sāp ne dhan daulat thī amar kāl raho ek.// Sukhī raho sadā, kanyā ne varrāj: saprasaji se novar vahu nā, śubh lagan che āj. (-Refrain)// Duḥkh sagar thī dūr rahīne, sadā raho sukh mā,// Kusāp nũ moh kālũ karīne, raho sũkh ne chāy ā.// Karī setāeś sadā Khudā nī, tan man thī bharpur,// Nek manaśnī chalīne, rahejo badī thī dūr. (Refrain.)// Sadā paraspar priti rākhī, jo jo sukh sāsār,// Bhalā bāl nā māt-pitā thai, rahejo satya šangār.// Rustam jevā betāṭā janjo, himmat mā pahelvān,// Beṭī janjo Gosesp jevī, himmat mā balvān. (Refrain.) Gosesp is a form of the Phi. name Gušnasp, a male name meaning “stallion” and the name of the great sacred fire of northwestern Iran, Ādur Gusnasp. The name is inexplicable in this context.

28 Text: Ahuramazdā bol (2x).// Ahuramazda nĩ madad hojo sadā bol.// Yatha Aśem na kalāmo thī śarû karīye hamo jīdagī// Avastā nā kalāmo thl iccārīye śubh bandagī// Hāvan Rapīthvan Ujiran geh thī// Khorśed Maher Ātaś nī yaśt thī bhaṇye roj farī farī thī// Cokcādaṇ ful toraṇo thī uge hamārī savār// Nahī dhoī kastī karī yād karīye Dādār.// Agīyārī Ātaśbaherām jai duvā māgye Parvar,// Spetamān Zarathośt Ahuramazdā hamārā rahebar.// Sārā vicār ne sarī vāṇī ne sārā kāmomā maśgul,//Saccai pramāṇīktā nu pājauṇ karvā mā na kai thay bhūl.// Vafādārī nā siddhāt upar deś pardēsmā rahīye hame,// Kom parkom sāthe rahīne kahevāiye hĩdīvān hame.

29 On the Iranian fire, see Boyce, M., A Persian Stronghold of Zoroastrianism, Oxford, 1977, pp. 13.

30 On the ses, see Mistree, Khojeste P., Zoroastrianism, An Ethnic Perspective, Bombay, 1982, p. 76.

31 Parsis do not allow conversion to Zoroastrianism and deny access to fire temples to non-Zoroastrians. Although juddīns, “people of other faiths”, are welcome at weddings and certain other ceremonies, my presence made some of the goyans uneasy. Since I had asked for the Ātasnũ Gīt, albeit for study, one or two goyans insisted on adding my name to the list of members of the Mistree household, where I was a guest; but James was changed to the Parsi Jamśed. Other goyans objected quietly but very strenuously to any mention of a non-Parsi.

* The research for this article was carried out in India, 1985, with a subvention from the Columbia University Council for Research in the Humanities.

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