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Title: Les Parsis

Author: D. Menant

Translator: Ratanbai Ardeshir Vakil

Release Date: June 13, 2009 [EBook #29109]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


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The Parsis


Les Parsis

Printed for private circulation



  1.   Page
  2. Introduction ix
  3. Chapter
  4. I. The Exodus of the Parsis 1
  5. II. The Zoroastrians in Persia 38
  6. III. Population—Costumes—Usages—Festivals 77


A special interest attaches to this translation into English of D. Menant’s monograph entitled “Les Parsis,” arising from the circumstance that it is, in great part, the work of a Parsi lady, the late Miss Ratanbai Ardeshir Vakil.

I have still a vivid recollection of the morning in the beginning of the year 1886 on which Mr. Ardeshir F. Vakil, senior partner in one of the leading firms of solicitors in Bombay, brought his two daughters Meherbai and Ratanbai to the Wilson College to begin their career as students of the Bombay University. Although for many years that University had prefaced its Regulations with the sentence—“In the following regulations the pronoun ‘he’ and its derivatives are used to denote either sex,” and had thus opened its doors wide to the [x]women of India, only one lady student had been enrolled as undergraduate in Arts before these two sisters entered upon their College career. The experiment which was then made awakened some anxieties. Would it be possible for Indian ladies to study in a mixed College class? How would the men be likely to conduct themselves in the new situation?—these were questions which naturally presented themselves. The result of the experiment disappointed from the beginning all such fears. From the first day the presence of these ladies elevated the tone and discipline of the College class in a manner most creditable to the ladies and to the men. The success of this experiment paved the way for the admission during subsequent years of an increasing number of lady students to the privileges of a University education, who are under no small obligation to the courage and character displayed by these two sister pioneers. They both came to the University under the impulse of a real love of learning, and their success in the pursuit of it was assured from the beginning.

In this prefatory note I confine myself to the career of the younger sister. The elder, after her graduation as Bachelor of Arts in Bombay, [xi]entered upon a course of medical study which led her ultimately to London and Glasgow. From the Glasgow University she received the degrees of M.B., C.M., and is now exercising her profession in her native city.

The younger sister, Ratanbai, never left home. The strength of her attachment to her home in Bombay was quite remarkable. She found little enjoyment even in those temporary absences from Bombay during the hot season vacation which prove so attractive to many. Her life moved in two spheres—the College and her home, and these two sufficed.

Born in December, 1869, she was a girl of sixteen when she entered upon her studies for her degree. She passed through the ordinary curriculum of study, which included English and French Literature, Mathematics, Elementary Science, History, and Logic. The subjects in which she was specially interested were English and French Literature. French was recognised by the University as one of the languages which might be studied in the course for the degree of Bachelor of Arts when she entered upon her studies, and she was one of the first to select this language. She had as her instructor the late Signor Pedraza, a gentleman whose name [xii]will always be associated with the history of the progress of French studies in Western India. Under his competent guidance she acquired a great love for French literature, and found in this side of her studies much mental enjoyment. In 1890 she passed her examination for the degree with honours, and was immediately thereafter elected to a Fellowship in the College. This also was a new and interesting experiment, amply justified by its results.

As a Dakshina Fellow she taught the French classes in the College, and had as her pupils not only young ladies but also young men. When the period of her fellowship expired she continued her connection with the College and remained in charge of the French classes, performing a highly-valued service on the merely nominal salary of a Fellow of an Indian College. She maintained her connection with the College simply from love to the College and the work. During her College career both she and her sister had given evidence of their unselfishness by declining, on more than one occasion, scholarships to which their position in the University examinations would have entitled them, in order that poorer students less high in the lists might have the benefit of the aid and rewards which [xiii]they were willing to forego. Ratanbai showed the same spirit of generosity during all the years of her connection with the College, and every student movement that needed financial aid could always reckon on her liberal help. In the truest sense her work in the Wilson College was a labour of love.

She continued this work up to the time of that last sad illness which ended so rapidly in her lamented death. So quickly did she succumb that I knew of her serious illness only a few hours before she passed away. I shall not readily forget the grief of her home when the shadow of death was falling upon it, nor the gloom which entered when she passed out of it. It was indeed as if all its light and joy had perished. One could see how the education and culture of women, instead of creating a cleft in the life of the family, as is so often erroneously imagined by those who oppose the cause of female education in India, proves a means of strengthening its unity and elevating its whole character.

In this respect Ratanbai was exercising an influence greater than she knew on the prospects of education amongst her countrywomen, by disarming all such suspicions and by proving [xiv]in her own person the essential compatibility of the higher culture with the best domestic virtues. She never felt tempted by her love of books to neglect her duties as a daughter and a sister in the home, or, if she did, she overcame the temptation completely.

Her influence on College students was of the same quiet, unobtrusive character, and, for that reason, all the more real. When she died, the students of the College felt themselves bereaved of a true friend. A spontaneous movement on their part to found a memorial of her in the College awakened a general response, and the Ratanbai Collection of French Works placed in the College Library was the result.

Through the efforts of friends outside the College who admired her character and attainments, a scholarship fund was raised in her memory, and the College awards every year scholarships to women students on this foundation.

During a brief career she was enabled to illustrate by a singularly modest and unassuming life the power and the lasting influence of unselfish service. The truest mark of her unselfishness was her own unconsciousness of it; by look and manner she seemed continually to deprecate [xv]all commendation or praise. Unselfish devotion to duty in the two spheres of life to which she belonged, her home and her College, was the outstanding feature of the brief but happy career which closed so suddenly when Ratanbai passed away in 1895, at the early age of twenty-six; and because of this her memory remains.

The unfinished manuscript now completed and published will be welcomed by many who knew and esteemed the writer, as well as by all in whom the perusal of this volume awakens an interest in the ancient race to which she belonged.

D. Mackichan.

Wilson College, Bombay,

May, 1902.


The Parsis

Chapter I

The Exodus of the Parsis

The Parsis are the descendants of the ancient Persians, whose fame has survived in the annals of the world. Reduced henceforth to perhaps the most restricted minority amongst all the nations of the globe, they are found dispersed all over the Presidency of Bombay, and in some districts of modern Persia, in Yezd and in Kirman, where they have been vegetating for centuries. The Bible,1 the classical historians,2 national traditions,3 and epigraphical documents [2]recently brought to light by European savants4 give us some information concerning their history.

Fars represents in our days the little province of Parsua, which has given its name to one of the greatest civilisations of antiquity. It is bounded on the west by Susiana, on the north and on the east by the Deserts of Khavir and Kirman, with a coast-line along the Persian Gulf between Bushire and Bunder Abbas. In ancient times the inhabitants, divided into tribes, led a simple, rustic life, superior in all respects to their neighbours the Medes, already enervated by civilisation. Between the ages of five and twenty, says Herodotus, the young Persians are taught three things: to mount the horse, to stretch the bow, and to speak the truth (Her., Clio, cxxxi.). It was amongst them, and amongst the Bactrians, that the principles of the Zoroastrian religion had been maintained in all their purity.

With Cyrus, the descendant of Achæmenes, the real history of Persia begins. He founded the dynasty of the Achæmenides, which lasted for [3]two centuries, and attained by its conquests a degree of splendour of which we find unmistakable traces everywhere. It was at Arbela5 (331) that Alexander overthrew Darius, the last prince of this dynasty, and, on his death, Persia was numbered amongst the countries that had passed under the subjection of the Seleucidæ. In 225 B.C., Arsace, of the province of Parthia, revolted against Antiochus Theos, and laid the foundations of a new empire. The dynasty of the Arsacides reigned until a Persian prince of somewhat inferior birth, Ardeshir, founded in his turn a national dynasty, viz., that of the Sassanides (226 A.D.). The Romans were its constant enemies. However, the real danger revealed itself only with the advent of the Arabs, who, approaching nearer and nearer, had already conquered several provinces when King Yezdezard made preparations for resistance.

The first invasion took place under Khalif Omar (633).6 Khalud Ben Walid at the head of [4]ten thousand men, and Mosanna at the head of eight thousand, had marched against Hormuz, the Persian Governor of Irak, and had vanquished him. After this victory Khalud had gone forward and conquered Irak; but he was defeated at the battle of Marwaha (634). Four thousand Mussulmans were killed, and two thousand returned to Medina. Unfortunately the Persian general Behman did not follow up this advantage. The country was at this time divided into two factions, one under Rustam, the generalissimo of the Persian Empire, the other under Prince Firoz. Behman, instead of securing the independence of his country, hastened to support Rustam against Firoz. The Arabs, emboldened by their rapid successes, established their camp between Kadesia7 and Koufah, where [5]by the Caliph’s order hordes of Nomads came to reinforce their troops. The struggle lasted for three days and three nights; the Persian army was entirely destroyed, and the royal standard [6]fell into the hands of the Arabs.10 Yezdezard, informed of this misfortune, escaped to Holwan. [7]Sa’d, having taken possession of Madain, pursued the fugitive monarch, who withdrew to Rei.

In the twentieth year of the Hejira, Omar recalled Sa’d, and Yezdezard took this opportunity to gather together a hundred and fifty thousand men, all the contingents having been drawn from the province of Khorassan and from the environs of Rei and Hamadan. Firouzan was appointed commander. The Caliph, hearing of the preparations of the Persian king, sent in his turn reinforcements, and placed at their head his general No’mân, with the strictest orders to destroy the impious religion of the Fire-Worshippers. It was at Nehawend11 that, after a delay of two months, [8]the shock of arms decided the fate of Iran. Thirty thousand Persians fell on the battlefield, and eighty thousand were drowned in the moats surrounding the camp. Firouzan was pursued into [9]the mountains and killed by a detachment of Arabs.12

From that time Persia passed into the hands of the Caliphs. Yezdezard escaped at first to Seistan and then to Merv. The governor of this town offered to deliver up the fugitive prince to the Khân of Turkestan. The Turks entered the town in spite of the resistance of the inhabitants, and the king, taking advantage of the confusion, succeeded in hiding himself in a neighbouring mill. The miller at first gave protection to the king; but urged by a desire to get possession of his arms and his clothes, he, like a coward, killed the king. The irate people massacred the assassin, and the body of Yezdezard, son of Sheheriar, the last sovereign of the Sássánian dynasty, was sent to Istakhr, there to be deposited in the tomb of his ancestors (A.D. 650).

The conquest of Persia was accomplished with surprising rapidity. Shortly after the death of the king, Islamism was imposed upon all; but certain amongst the Mazdiens offered resistance, and even succeeded in remaining in their fatherland; [10]others, unwilling to accept the law of the Koran, abandoned their hearths, and went and dwelt in the mountainous districts of Khorassan,13 where, for a hundred years, they were enabled to live and practise their religion without being disturbed. They were, however, obliged to quit this asylum and to take refuge in large numbers in the little island of Hormuz,14 at the entrance of [11]the Persian Gulf. Here they made but a short sojourn, and finally decided to seek the protection of the Hindoos. They procured vessels and embarked with their wives and children.

The relations between Persia and India had been rather frequent, and it was precisely their former intercourse, rendered closer a few centuries [12]before the Arab invasion, that made this migration possible. This we can see from an interesting résumé given in the Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency, p. 247, and which we reproduce here:—

“In legendary times some religious connection had existed between the great prophet Zoroaster, who flourished about 1000 B.C. (see Haug, Essays, 299), and the Brahman Tchengreghatchah, who was sent back to convert his compatriots. (See also in Firdusi the story of Prince Isphandiar, son of Gustasp, who was such a fervent disciple of Zoroaster that he persuaded the Emperor of India to adopt the worship of fire,—Elliot, History, v. 568). The Hindoo tradition of the introduction of fire-worshipping priests from Persia into Dwarka in Kathyawar is probably of a much later date (Reinaud, Mémoire sur l’Inde, 391–397). Another link, and this time of an entirely political nature, is discovered in the mythical conquests of Northern India, which, according to Persian writers, must have followed from the year 1729 B.C. (Troyer, Rajatarangini, ii. 441). In historical times the Punjaub formed part of the Persian dominions since its conquest by Darius Hystaspes (510 B.C.) down to the end of the [13]dynasty of the Achæmenides (350 B.C.). (Rawlinson, Ancient Monarchies, iv. 433.)

“Towards the commencement of the Christian era, as is seen from the fire altars on their coins, the Kanerkis or the Scythians of India, the rulers of the Punjaub, seem to have adopted the religion of the Magi (Lassen, in J. B. A. S. ix. 456; Prinsep, Note on Historic Researches from Bactrian Coins, 106). As far as Southern India is concerned, the mention of Brahmani Magi in Ptolemy (150) seems to indicate some relation with Persia, but the Kanarese word mag or ‘son’ gives a sufficient explanation.

“Closer connection between India and Persia dates from the restoration of the Persian power under the Sassanide dynasty (226–650 A.D.). In the fifth century the visit of the Persian prince Behram (436), who had come, doubtless, to implore aid against the White Huns (Wilson, Ariana Antiqua, 383), his marriage with a Hindoo princess, and, according to indigenous accounts, his founding the dynasty of the Ghardabin kings, made this intimacy closer (Wilford, As. Res. ix. 219; Masoudi, Prairies d’or, ii. 191; Reinaud, Mémoire sur l’Inde, 112; Elliot, Hist. ii. 159). Later on Noshirwan the Just (531–579) and his grandson Parviz (591–628) [14]allied themselves, by treaties and by the exchange of rich presents, to the rulers of India and Sindh (Masoudi, Prairies d’or, ii. 201). As to these treaties, it is interesting to notice that the subject of one of the paintings in the Caves of Ajanta is believed to represent the embassy of Noshirwan to Pulikesi, king of Badami, in the country south of that of the Mahrattas, whilst another is supposed to be a copy made after the portraits of Parviz and the beautiful Shirin (Fergusson, in Burgess’ Ajanta Notes, 92). According to certain narratives, a body of Persians landed, at the commencement of the seventh century, in Western India, and it is supposed that to one of these chiefs, regarded by Wilford as a son of Khosroo Parvis, is to be traced the origin of the Udeipore dynasty (Gladwin, Ain-i-Akbari, ii. 81; Dr. Hunter, As. Res. vi. 8; Wilford, As. Res. ix. 233; Prinsep, Jour. Ben. As. Soc. iv. 684). Wilford considered the Konkanasth Brahmins as belonging to the same race; but, although their origin is doubtful, the Konkanasths had settled in India long before the Parsis. Moreover, India and Persia had been connected by commercial treaties. Cosmas Indicopleustes (545) found some Persians amongst the principal traders settled along [15]the coasts of the Indian Ocean (Migne, Patrologiæ Cursus, lxxxviii. 446; Yule, Cathay, 1, clxxvii.–clxxix.), and his assertion as to the existence of a Persian bishop at the head of the Christian communities of Kalyan (Yule, Cathay, 1, clxxi.), discloses close relations between Thana and the Persian Gulf. Shortly after the time of Cosmas, the empire of the seas passed from the Romans to the Persians, and the fleets of India and China visited the Persian Gulf (Reinaud, Aboulféda, 1–11, ccclxxxiii.–iv.). It was this connection between Western India and Persia which urged, in 638 (H. 16) Caliph Omar (634–643) to found the city of Bussorah, partly for the needs of commerce and partly to prevent the Indian princes from coming to the help of the Persians (Troyer, Rajatarangini, ii. 449; Chronique de Tabari, iii. 401), and, in the same year (638–639), prompted him to send a fleet to ravage the coasts of Thana (Elliot, Hist. i. 415). Tabari (838–921) and Masoudi (900–950) both prove that the district round Bussorah and the country under the subjection of the King of Oman were regarded by the Arabs as forming part of India (Chronique de Tabari, iii. 401; Prairies d’or, iv. 225). In the seventh century it has been noticed that several Indians had settled in the principal [16]cities of Persia, where they enjoyed the free exercise of their religion (Reinaud, Aboulféda, 1–11, ccclxxxiv.). It should also be noticed that from the sixth century, when the Persians commenced taking a leading part in the commerce and trade of the East, they visited not only India, but China also (Reinaud, Aboulféda, 1–11, ccclxxxiii.). Towards the period of their arrival in India, the Parsis were settled in China as missionaries, merchants, or refugees. Anquetil du Perron (Zend-Avesta, 1, cccxxxvi.) speaks of Persians going to China, in the seventh century, with a son of Yezdezard. According to Wilford (As. Res. ix. 235), another band of emigrants joined them in 750, towards the beginning of the reign of the Abbassides. In 758 the Arabs and the Persians were so strong in Canton that they stirred up several riots and plundered the town (Reinaud, Aboulféda, 1–11, ccclxxxv.). In 846 there is a mention made of Muhapas or Mobeds in Canton (Yule, Cathay, 1, xcvi.), and sixty years later Masoudi affirms that there were many fire-temples in China (Prairies d’or, iv. 86).”

It is scarcely probable that there could have been only one migration of the Persians. There must have been many such, at different periods, [17]according as the spirit of persecution was more or less strong amongst the conquerors. The traditions concerning this subject are vague. We are in absolute ignorance as to the mode of their departure, and the number of those who, in despair, had to quit the Persian Gulf. The only information that we can get at concerning this subject is that contained in a book entitled Kissah-i-Sanjan,15 written towards the year 1600 by a Mazdien priest called Behram Kaikobad Sanjana, who dwelt in Naosari. According to this author, Diu,16 a small town on the Gulf of [18]Cambay to the south of the Kathyawar coast, was the first port where the refugees landed. Here they dwelt for nearly twenty years, at the end of which they sought for another residence. There is a mysterious passage in the Kissah-i-Sanjan upon this second immigration, but it scarcely explains it. “An old Dastoor (high-priest) who had applied himself to the science of predicting [19]from the stars, declared that they should leave this place and seek another residence. All rejoiced on hearing these words, and immediately set sail for Gujerat.” Scarcely had they left the coast of Diu when a storm burst upon them, and the Persians believed themselves hopelessly lost. They then implored the aid of Him for whom they had abandoned all, promising to light the sacred fire as soon as they should have touched the shores of India.

He heard the prayer of his faithful children. The tempest fell, and they were able to land at Sanjan,17 twenty-five miles south of Damman.18 [20]The territory of Sanjan was, at that time, subject to the sage Jadi Rana,19 to whom the Persians sent a Dastoor, with presents, to obtain permission to settle in his country, and to inquire what conditions would be imposed upon them. The Dastoor, approaching the Rana, invoked blessings upon him, and after having explained to him the reasons that had determined the fugitives to quit their fatherland, he narrated their misfortunes, and asked for his countrymen authoritative permission to settle in Sanjan. The prince, it is said, struck by the warlike and distinguished appearance of these foreigners, at first conceived some fear, and desired to know something of their usages and customs. During their sojourn at [21]Diu the Persians had learnt sufficiently well the spirit and character of the Hindoos, to answer his questions in a satisfactory manner. The most learned amongst them drew up sixteen Ślokas or distichs, in which they summarised the duties enjoined by their religion20:—

1. We are worshippers of Ahura Mazda (the Supreme Being), of the sun and of the five elements.

2. We observe silence during bath, at prayers, while making offerings to the fire, and when eating.

3. We use incense, perfumes and flowers in our religious ceremonies.

4. We honour the cow.

5. We wear the sacred garment, the Sudra or the shirt, the Kusti or thread for the waist, and the twofold cap. [22]

6. We rejoice ourselves with songs and musical instruments on marriage occasions.

7. We permit our women to wear ornaments and use perfumes.

8. We are enjoined to be liberal in our charities and especially in excavating tanks and wells.

9. We are enjoined to extend our sympathies to all beings, male or female.

10. We practise ablutions with gaomutra, one of the products of the cow.

11. We wear the sacred thread when praying and eating.

12. We feed the sacred fire with incense.

13. We offer up prayers five times a day.

14. We carefully observe conjugal fidelity and purity.

15. We celebrate annual religious ceremonies in honour of our ancestors.

16. We observe the greatest precautions with regard to our wives during their confinement and at certain periods of the month.

It is interesting to notice that, at this juncture, the Zoroastrians showed themselves singularly skilful and clever, avoiding all mention of the true basis of their religion, and only setting forth certain ceremonies, of no importance, which seemed of a nature likely to conciliate the goodwill of the [23]Rana. Anxious to find some place of repose, the Parsis knew the Hindoos and their susceptibilities of caste and religion too well not to be willing to please them; and that is why they formulated their answers with a prudence and skill which won the favour of the Rana. He therefore permitted them to reside in the city on condition that they adopted the language of the country, and ceased to speak that of their ancestors; that their women should dress according to the Hindoo mode; that the men should no longer carry weapons, and should perform their marriage ceremonies at night, according to Hindoo custom. What could the unfortunate exiles, thirsting for peace and rest, do but accept these conditions? And this they did. They settled down in a vast tract of land not far from Sanjan, and with full hearts offered prayers to Hormuzd. They resolved to fulfil the vow they had made at the time of their memorable voyage from Diu to Sanjan, to raise the altar for lighting the sacred fire. The Hindoos, far from opposing this, helped to build the temple (721), and Zoroastrian rites and ceremonies began to be performed from that time on Indian soil. (Parsee Prâkâsh, p. 2.)

For nearly three hundred years the Parsis lived peacefully at Sanjan; but with time, their [24]numbers having increased, some emigrated to other places: in the north, to Cambay,21 Ankleswar,22 Variav, Vankaner and Surat; in the south, to Thana23 and Chaul, places still to be found on the map of India. Their first migration from Sanjan seems to have been to Cambay (942–997). Several considerations attracted them to this place, and, besides, they seem to have prospered there.24 The settlement of Variav seems to have [25]been as old as that of Cambay. A Pehlvi inscription on the sides of the Kanheri caves, tells us that a certain number of Parsis visited them on the 2nd of December, 999, and according to another similar Pehlvi inscription, other Parsis seem to have visited them on the 5th of November, 1021.25

We then find the Parsis at Naosari26; in 1142 a Mobed named Camdin Yartosht quitted Sanjan with his family, to perform there some religious ceremonies required by the Zoroastrians of that place. If we follow the authority of a certain manuscript preserved by the descendants of Meherji Rana, the celebrated High Priest who [26]lived three centuries ago, it was from the Parsis that Naosari received its name. When they arrived there—511, Yezdezard—they found the climate as pleasant as that of Mazanderan, one of the provinces of Persia, and called it Navisari or Nao-Sari. Since then it has been called Naosari-Nagmandal instead of Nagmandal, its old name.27

From the narrations of different travellers it would seem that the Parsis had settled in a great many cities of Upper India; but it is impossible to [27]say whether these came from Western India or from Persia. A Mahomedan traveller of the tenth century, Al Isthakhri, mentions several parts of India as being occupied by the Guebres: that is the name given by Mahomedan writers to the Parsis. An unexceptionable testimony of their presence at Dehra-Dun (1079) is furnished to us in the attack of Ibrahim the Ghaznevid against a colony of fire-worshippers living in that place. Similarly we find the Parsis in the Panjaub before 1178, if we are to believe the tradition of a voyage made that year by a Parsi priest named Mahyar; he had come from Uch, a town situated on the conflux of the five rivers of the Panjaub, to Seistan in Persia, in order to acquire a thorough knowledge of the religious rites. After six years of study under the Dastoors he brought into India, in 1184, a copy of the Pehlvi translation of the Vendidad.28 It seems also that there must have been some intercourse between the Parsis of Cambay and those of the Panjaub, since, in 1328, the former were in possession of some copies of the Vendidad acquired by Mahyar.

At the time of the invasion of India by Timur, we find Parsis or Magi amongst the captives. The men who have been represented as believing [28]in the two principles of good and evil, and admitting at the same time Yazdan (God) and Ahreman (the Devil), and who offered a desperate resistance to Timur at Tughlikhpur, were the Parsis. It is said besides that the colony at Gujerat was reinforced by a large number of Parsis, who fled before the conqueror. The mention made by a Mahomedan writer of the destruction of fire-temples by the Emperor Sikandar (1504), shows that long before this date Parsi emigrants had dwelt in Upper India. Sir H. M. Elliot, in his History of India, following the opinion of Professor Dawson, affirms that the Guebres of Rohilkhand, the Magyas of Malwa, and the Maghs of Tughlikhpur, although at present they offer no religious peculiarities, are the remnants of the Parsis of Upper India. According to a communication anent Mount Abu by Sir Alexander Burnes, cited in the Gazetteer of Bombay, there had been a Parsi colony at Chandrauli towards the middle of the fifteenth century.

It is believed that the Parsis settled at Ankleswar in the middle of the thirteenth century of our era. One of their religious books, the Vispered, was in fact copied there in 1258. There is no doubt of their having been at Bharooch29 [29]before the commencement of the fourteenth century, for we find that a “Dokhma” was built there in 1309 by a Parsi named Pestanji; and the ruins of a still older Tower are to be found in the suburb of Vajalpoor.

The settlements at Thana and Chaul must have been founded at an early date; Mahomedan and European travellers mention them in speaking of these two places, without giving them their true name. However, the description given of them agrees very much with that of the Parsis; and this idea is confirmed by Odoric, an Italian monk who was travelling in India about the beginning of the fourteenth century.30 The people (at Thana) were, according to him, idolaters, for they worshipped fire, serpents, and trees, and did not bury their dead, but carried them with great pomp to the fields, and cast them down as food for [30]beasts and birds. Now, as the Hindoos either burn or bury their dead, the custom here described relates evidently to the Parsis who, later on, left this place in a body. A tradition preserved at Thana furnishes an amusing instance of the manner in which the colony contrived to escape a forced conversion to Christianity. The Parsis, constrained to renounce their faith, and having no means of escape, succeeded by cunning in avoiding the persecutions they were threatened with. They repaired in a body to the governor and declared themselves ready to embrace Christianity, demanding as an only favour a delay till the following Sunday before renouncing their faith, in order to take advantage of the few days of respite to worship the sacred fire and celebrate, for the last time, their festivals. The Portuguese were so pleased with this prompt submission to their will that a proclamation was issued to the effect that, on the day fixed, no one should interfere with the Mazdiens in the performance of their rites and ceremonies. The Parsis prepared a great feast, to which all the notables were invited; wine flowed freely, and while the guests were indulging themselves in it, the Parsis, to the sound of music and in the middle of the dancing, left the town and [31]reached Kalyan, to the south of Thana, where they settled.31

Travellers in India from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries have found Parsis in different places. There is reason to believe that at that time nothing of any importance befell the community. The Parsis lived amicably with the Hindoos, and were chiefly occupied in agriculture. About 1305 an event of considerable importance occurred in their history, at the time of a struggle maintained by the Hindoo chief of Sanjan against Mahmood Shah or Ala-ud-din Khilji (Parsee Prâkâsh, p. 4), who had sent into Gujerat a strong army commanded by Alp Khan.32 [32]

The Mahomedan general arrived before Sanjan with thirty thousand men; the Hindoo prince, conscious of his danger, appealed to those whom his ancestors had so generously received into their country. The Parsis were not unmindful of this, and fourteen hundred of them, under the command of Ardeshir, joined the troops of the Rana. In defending his cause they were equally defending their own independence and religious liberty which they had come to seek under his kindly protection. The armies met not far from Sanjan. Already were the Hindoos giving way under the stress of the Mahomedans when the Parsis engaged directly in the combat. Ardeshir and his followers rushed into the thick of the fight and [33]compelled Alp Khan to fly. But the Mahomedan general soon re-appeared with reinforcements. Ardeshir, addressing the Hindoo prince, swore to him the most complete fidelity, and although the enemy was in numbers superior to his handful of men, he returned to the field of battle.

It was at this time that a single combat took place between Ardeshir and one of the Mahomedan chiefs, a combat in which the latter was thrown from his horse and killed by the Parsi. Alp Khan, enraged by this scene, threw himself in the contest. A furious carnage followed, and Ardeshir was struck in his turn by a dart which threw him off his horse. The Rana perished, and Alp Khan became master of Sanjan. The Parsis had to seek a new residence.34

They had much to suffer from this Mahomedan conquest, and therefore many fled to the mountains of Bahrout, eight miles east of Sanjan; the cave where the sacred fire was deposited is still to be seen. According to the Kissah-i-Sanjan, the fugitives remained there only twelve years, after which they quitted this mountainous district [34]and went to Bansdah,35 about fifty miles north-east of Naosari, where a few Parsi families had already settled. Fourteen years later (1331) they bore the sacred fire to Naosari, where their co-religionists were numerous and influential. But the date 1419 being generally accepted as the year in which the sacred fire was brought to Naosari, it may be presumed that between the flight of the Parsis from Sanjan and the era of their new independence, a whole century, and not twenty-six years, must have elapsed.

From Naosari the fire was removed to Surat, on account of the apprehensions of the inroads of the Pindaris, and was again removed to Naosari three years later; thence, owing to certain disputes among the priests, it was taken to Balsar. After being there for some time it was transferred to Udwada on October 28, 1742; here it is to this day; and here is to be seen the oldest fire-temple of the Zoroastrians in India, and the one held in the greatest veneration (Parsee Prâkâsh, p. 95). [35]

In the midst of the calamities that followed the overthrow of the Rana of Sanjan, the Parsis continued to apply themselves to agriculture. A single incident deserves being related. One of their small colonies had settled in Variav, not far from Surat, and was under the rule of the Rajah of Rattampoor, a Rajput chief who attempted to impose an extraordinary tribute on the Parsis. They refused, and defeated the soldiers sent to enforce it. The Raja’s soldiers then sought an opportunity of avenging themselves, and seized the moment when the Parsis were invited to a wedding. These, surprised in the midst of their wives and children, were all ruthlessly massacred. The anniversary of this cruel carnage is still observed at Surat.

The settlement of the Parsis in this latter place is the most recent of all. The earliest mention made of it does not go further back than 1478. It was there that the community first acquired its great importance and came in contact with the Europeans. We shall see its destiny further on.

It is very difficult to assign a fixed date to the arrival of the Parsis in Bombay. It seems probable that they were induced to do this by English merchants, and that their first settlement in this island was a little before the time it [36]was ceded to England by the Portuguese, as the dowry of Catherine of Braganza on her marriage with the Stuart king Charles II. (1668).

Dr. Fryer, who visited Bombay in the year 1671,36 says: “On the other side of the great bay, towards the sea, there is a sort of promontory called Malabar Hill, a rocky mountain covered with woods, on the top of which is a recently erected Parsi tomb.”37 Now, as the first care of the Parsis, wherever they settle, is to construct a “Tower of Silence,” it is to be presumed that the community could not have been of any importance before this period; it has prospered since. It is in Bombay at the present time that can be best studied the changes that have been going on for two centuries, and which make the modern Parsis the most loyal subjects of the British Crown, and the most active agents of civilisation and progress.

In this first chapter we have confined ourselves to a summary indication of their principal settlements [37]in the Presidency and to a succinct recital of the most prominent events which have signalised their sojourn in India before the arrival of the Europeans. We will now freely approach the study we have proposed to undertake. The reader will not, we hope, lose sight of their grievous exodus; and, at the height of the fame of the Dadiseths, the Banajis, the Jamshedji Jijibhoys, the Camas, the Petits, and many other no less illustrious names, will remember the first fugitives of Persia, and their kindly reception by the Rana of Sanjan. “Welcome,” said the prince, “welcome to those who walk faithfully in the way of Hormuzd! May their race prosper and increase! May their prayers obtain the remission of their sins, and may the sun smile on them! May Lakshmi by her liberality and her gifts contribute to their wealth and to the fulfilling of their desires; and, for ever, may their rare merits of race and intellect continue to distinguish them in our midst!” [38]

1 The first mention of the Persians is made in Jeremiah xxxix. 3.

2 Herodotus, Ctesias, Deinon, Theopompe, Hermippe, Plutarch, Diogenes Laertius, Pliny, Strabo, Pausanias, Dion Chrysostom, Damascius, Theodorus of Mopsuestia, &c.

3 Mahomedan writers: Firdousi, Mirkhoud, Tabari, Masoudi, Shahrastani, Dimisqhi, Ibn Fozlan, &c. Armenian writers: Eznik, Elisée, &c.

4 The cuneiform Achæmenian inscriptions found in Persia and in other places, deciphered and published by Grotefend, Burnouf, Lassen, Rawlinson, Norris, Spiegel, de Saulcy, Oppert, Menant, Kossowicz, &c., &c.

5 Arrien, Expédition d’Alexandre, liv. iii., cxxii.

6 Weil, Geschichte der Khalifen nach handschrift, Grosstentheils Quellen, &c., &c., ch. ii. pp. 54 et seq.; Mannheim, 1864. Caussin de Perceval, Histoire des Arabes, liv. ix. p. 400, 1848. Malcolm, Hist. of Persia, from the most early period to the present time, vol. i. c. vi. p. 170, London, MDCCCXV.

7Quadesyeh—A place celebrated for the battles fought there between the Mussulmans and the Persians.8 It is about fifteen farsakhs from Koufah and four miles from Ozhaïb; longitude, 69°; latitude, 31° 2′ 3″. It was in the year 16 of the Hejira, under the Caliphate of Omar ben Khatthab, that the Mussulmans, commanded by Sa’d ben Abi Waqqas, fought against the infidels. During the action, Sa’d had withdrawn into the castle9 to watch the movements of his troops. This step was regarded as a proof of cowardice, and a Mussulman in the army composed the following verses against him (thawil metre):—

“Seest thou not that God has sent us the victory, whilst Sa’d is hiding behind the gates of Quadesyeh?

He was thinking then of increasing his family and of making his wives mothers, for the wives of Sa’d know not the privations of celibacy.”

Another poet, Bischer ben Rebi’ah, has spoken of the battle of Quadesyeh in these terms (same metre):—

“My camel stopped at the gates of Quadesyeh; my chief was Sa’d ben (Abi) Waqqas.

Remember (may God guide thee) our prowess near Qodaïs, and the blindness of our perfidious enemies.

That evening many of us would willingly have borrowed the wings of the birds to fly away,

When their battalions advanced one after another against us, like unto moving mountains.

With my sword I threw their ranks into disorder, and my lance dispersed them; for I am a man worthy of wielding the lance,

I and my companions: Amr, father of Thawr, the martyr, Haschem, Qaîs, Nô’man the brave, and Djerir.”

There exists a great number of poems composed in honour of this battle, one of the most celebrated, and fraught with the greatest blessings for the Mussulmans. Omar having written to Sa’d to ask for some information regarding the position of Quadesyeh, the latter sent him the following:—“Quadesyeh is situated between the moat and el-’Atiq (the canal of the Euphrates). On its left is the sea, a sort of bay, whence lead two roads to Hirah: the first, over high hills; the second, over the banks of a river called Khousous, which passes out between Khawarnaq and Hirah; on its right are numerous streams which water the country. All the tribes who have made peace with the Mussulmans before my arrival tremble before the Persians, and are ready to assist me.” The historians of the first conquests divide this affair at Quadesyeh into four battles. The first is called the battle of Ermath; the second, the battle of Aghwath; the third, the battle of Amas; the evening preceding the fourth, they called the evening of Herir or of the storm; and the last, the battle of Quadesyeh. The celebrated Rustam, son of Farrokh-Zad, lost his life in this battle, and the Persians could not replace this skilful general. (Dictionnaire geographique, historique et littéraire de la Perse et des Contrées adjacentes, taken from the Mo’d’jem el-Bouldan of Yaqout, &c. Trans. Barbier de Meynard, Paris, 1861, p. 432.)

8 The town of Elkadder, not far from Kerbela, marks the old site of Kadesia. As to Koufah a collection of ruins marks the site of the capital of the Caliphate, which is said to have been as great as Babylon.

9 “There was at Ozhaïb a castle belonging to the Persians called Qodaïs, whence, it is said, the name Quadesyeh. Sa’d occupied it with his harem, as he was suffering from gout, and could neither sit nor ride. Lying on the top of this fortress he watched his army, and some men posted below transmitted his military orders and arrangements” (Merasid) (See Essai sur l’Histoire des Arabes by Caussin de Perceval, iii. 481–485, and Weil, Gesch. der Chal. i. pp. 65 et seq.

10 Malcolm, Hist. of Persia, vol. i. ch. vi. p. 174. Weil, Geschichte der Chalifen, ch. ii. pp. 54 et seq. Caussin de Perceval, Histoire des Arabes, bk. x. pp. 481 et seq. Masoudi, Prairies d’or, trans. Barbier de Meynard, c. lxxvi. p. 207. Tabari, trans. H. Zotenburg, part iv. ch. xli. pp. 385 et seq.

11 Nehawend.—A large town about three days’ journey from Hamadan, in the direction of the qiblah (south-west). Aboûl-Moundher Hischam says it received this name because it was found wholly built, and in the same condition as at present. Others carry back its foundation to Noah, and think that its present name is an abbreviation of Nouh-Awend or Nouh-Wand, that is to say, the city of Noah. Hamzah thinks that its old name was Nouha-Wend, which means “the well multiplied.” Nehawend is situated in the fourth climate, 72° longitude and 36° latitude; it is one of the oldest cities of Djebal. It was conquered about the year 19 or 20 of the Hejira. Abou Bekr el-Hodhaïli, relying upon the testimony of Mohammed, son of Hasan, says: “The battle of Nehawend was fought in the year 21, under the Caliphate of Omar, son of Khatthab. The Mussulmans were commanded by No’mân ben Mokarren el-Mouzeni; this general had under him Hodhaïfah, son of Yemani, Djerir ben ’Abd Allah, el-Moghaïrah ben Scha’bah and el-Asch’ath ben Qaïs.” When No’mân, who was one of the companions of the Prophet, was killed, the commandership passed into the hands of Hodhaïfah; it was this chief who concluded the peace, as we attribute it to the word Mah-Dinar. This is what el-Moubarek ben Sáïb, who derived this information from his father, relates: “Nehawend was taken by the army of Koufah, and Dinewer by the troops of Basrah. As the population of Koufah had considerably increased, some of its inhabitants were obliged to emigrate into the countries newly pacified and subject to Kharadj. It is thus that they came to inhabit Dinewer. The province of Koufah was received in exchange for Nehawend, which was annexed to the province of Ispahan, the remainder of Kharadj being taken off from Dinewer and Nehawend. It was in the reign of Mo’awiah ben Abi Soufiân that Nehawend was called Mah-el-Basrah and Dinewer Mah-el-Koufah. The Persians, before the battle of Nehawend, had gathered together considerable troops; it is said that their army numbered about 150,000 men commanded by Firouzân. After this important battle, which was called the ‘Victory of Victories,’ the resistance of the Persians became less and less. The most accredited opinion is that these events took place during the fifth year of Omar’s Caliphate, the year 19 of the Hejira.” (Cf. Essai sur l’Histoire des Arabes, by Caussin de Perceval, vol. iii. p. 491, and the Annales of Abou’l Feda, ed. of Reiske, vol. i. p. 242. See B. de Meynard, Dict. geog., hist., &c., p. 573.)

12 Malcolm, Hist. of Persia, vol. i. ch. vi. p. 176. G. Weil, Geschichte der Chalifen, &c., ch. ii. p. 54. Masoudi, Prairies d’or, trans. Barbier de Meynard, ch. lxxvi. p. 233. Tabari, trans. Zotenberg, part iv. ch. xlvii. p. 467.

13 Khorassan—A large country stretching from Iraq (Persian) to Azadwar (the chief town of the province of Djoueïn) and to Beïhaq. It is bounded on the side of India (on the south and east) by Thokharistan, Ghaznee, Sedjestan, and Kirman. It contains fine cities, such as Nisabour, Merve, which has been the capital of Balk, Herat, Thaleqan, Nesa, Abiwerd, Serakhs, and other large cities situate on this side of the river Oxus. Some geographers have placed the provinces of Kharezm and a part of Transoxiana in Khorassan, but that is an error.... When Islam appeared in the world, the Khorassanians, by a quite special favour of Providence, eagerly welcomed it. They accepted without opposition the peace offered them; hence they were subjected to a light tax only, and escaped being massacred or made prisoners. The conquest itself took place in the eighteenth year of the Hejira. ’Omar ben Khattab sent into Khorassan El-Ahnef ben Qaïs, who in a short time took possession successively of the two Thabés, Herat, Merv esch-Schahidjân and Nisabour, after having forced the Persian king Yezdezard, son of Schahriar, to take refuge in Transoxiana with the Khan of the Turks. (See B. de Meynard, Dict. geog., hist., &c., p. 197.)

14 This town is situated on an arm of the sea, communicating with Fars. It serves as a port to Kirman, and it is there that vessels from India deposit the merchandise destined for Kirman, Sedjestan, and Khorassan. Some authors write and pronounce it Hormouz. (See B. de Meynard, Dict. geog., hist., &c., p. 595.)

Mohammed Medjdi gives some historical details concerning the old town and island of Hormuz up to the time of the conquest of Albuquerque (1514): “The town of Hormuz is situated in the second climate, and the heat there is excessive. Founded by Ardeschir Babeĝan, it was abandoned (in 715) by King Schems ed-din, who feared the attacks of the neighbouring brigands. This king built another town in the island of Djeroun, about one farsakh from the coast, and kept for it the name of Hormuz. For a hundred and twenty years the Franks have exercised there an absolute power. Its governor, Nour ed-Din, having conceived the fatal idea of asking their assistance when in a difficult situation, allowed them a tenth part of its revenue. In a short time they so skilfully usurped the authority that the king and the vezir of the country had not the least share in the government.” (Zinet, chapter ix.) Before the Portuguese conquest, this island, tributary to Persia and annexed to Kirman, paid an annual contribution of sixty thousand dinars. (Nouzhet, fol. 670. See also the Arabic text of Abou’l Féda, p. 339, and the Voyages of Ibn Batoutah, Vol. ii. p. 230.) B. de Meynard, Dict. geog., hist., &c., p. 595 (note).

15 See Translation from the Persian of Kissah-i-Sanjan, or History of the Arrival and Settlement of the Parsees in India, by E. B. Eastwick, in the Journal of the Bombay Branch, Royal Asiatic Society, vol. i. p. 167. As for us, we have followed the order of events, such as it is presented by Mr. B. B. Patell in his admirable work, the Parsee Prâkâsh, and the interesting résumé of Mr. Dosabhai Framji Karaka. See Bomanji Byramji Patell, Parsee Prâkâsh, being a record of important events in the growth of the Parsee community in Western India, chronologically arranged from the date of their immigration into India to the year 1860 A.D., vol. in 4to, Bombay, 1878–1888, 1,053 pages (in Gujerati), and Dosabhai Framji Karaka, History of the Parsis, 2 vols. in 8vo, London, 1884.

16 Diu—Portuguese possession—latitude, 20° 43′ 20″ North; longitude, 71° 2′ 30″ East—at the entrance of the Gulf of Cambay, to the south of the Gujerat Peninsula. Its length from east to west is six miles and a half, and its greatest extent from north to south is one mile. It has a small but very fine harbour. The climate is dry and stifling, the soil barren, water scarce, and agriculture much neglected. Its principal products are wheat, millet, nachni, bajri, cocoanut, and some kinds of fruits. The population of Diu consists of about 10,765 inhabitants, of whom 419 are Christians, 9,575 Hindoos, and 771 Mahomedans. At its most flourishing period the number had risen, it is said, to nearly 50,000. Now there are not more than 3,107 houses, very poor and uncomfortable for the most part. In fact, the commerce of Diu is now ruined. The resources of the inhabitants consisted formerly in weaving and dyeing; fishing is their only occupation. Some bold minds attempt trading on the Mozambique coast. The appearance of Diu is interesting. The fortress, rebuilt after the siege of 1545 by Dom Joan de Castro, is imposing in appearance. To the west, the town extends divided in two quarters, that of the Christians and that of the Pagans. Of the fine edifices of Diu, there still remains the college of the Jesuits turned into the Cathedral church; of the other convents, that of Saint François serves as a military hospital, and that of Saint Jean-de-Dieu as a cemetery, while that of Saint Dominique is in ruins. (See W. W. Hunter, Imperial Gazetteer of India, vol. iii. p. 171.)

17 Sanjan—A small village of the Thana district, formerly an important town known to the Portuguese, and called, after them, under the name of Saint John. (See Imp. Gaz. of India, vol. iii. p. 174.)

18 Damman—A Portuguese town, about one hundred miles to the north of Bombay. Its superficial area is eighty-two square miles, comprising the pargana of Nagar Haveli. The population consists of about 40,980 souls. The settlement is composed of two distinct parts; Damman and the pargana of Nagar Haveli, separated by a territory belonging to the English and by a railroad running through Bombay, Baroda, and Central India. The town was sacked by the Portuguese in 1532, then rebuilt by the natives, and re-taken by the Portuguese in 1558, and made by them one of their settlements in India. They have converted the mosque into a church, and have built eight others. Commerce flourished there before the fall of the Portuguese power in India, and extended even as far as the African coasts, where ships carried the cotton stuffs manufactured at Damman. From 1817 to 1837 the trade in opium, brought from Karachi and imported into China, was prosperous; but since the conquest of Sind by the English the transport of opium has been prohibited, and Damman has thus been deprived of its greatest source of wealth. The soil is moist and fertile, specially in the pargana of Nagar Haveli; rice, wheat, and tobacco are grown there; but in spite of the facilities for agriculture, only a twentieth part of the territory is cultivated. (See Imp. Gaz. of India, vol. iii. p. 21.)

19 The Parsis call him Jadè Rana; Dr. Wilson suggests that he was doubtless Jayadeva or Vana Raja of Anahillawada, who reigned in Gujerat from 745 to 806.

20 There are several manuscripts of the “Ślokas” in Sanscrit and in Gujerati. In the Indian Antiquary, p. 214 (July 5, 1872), we find a version of it, according to the translation prepared by Dastoor Hoshang Jamasp, the High Priest at Poona. The author compares it to another more ancient one, then in the hands of Dr. Wilson, and points out numerous divergences; besides, according to Dr. Wilson himself, there are no two manuscripts, either in Gujerati or in Sanscrit, similar in wording, though identical so far as the substance is concerned.

21 Cambay—Capital of the country of that name, a province of Gujerat, down the Gulf of Cambay, to the north of the estuary of the Mahi. Population (1872) 33,709. (See Imp. Gaz. of India, vol. ii. p. 334.)

22 Ankleswar—Capital of the subdivision of that name in the district of Bharooch. Population (1872) 9,414 inhabitants. (See Imp. Gaz. of India, vol. i. p. 203.)

23 Thana—A British District in the Bombay Presidency. The territory, which formed part of the States of the Peishwa, was annexed by the English Government in 1818 on the overthrow of Baji-Rao. The population is 847,424 inhabitants (1872), including 3,920 Parsis. Thana is 26 miles north of Bombay. It possesses a station and a port. (See Imp. Gaz. of India, vol. ix. p. 34.)

24 Some Parsis who, since their arrival in India, in 636, had remained in the south of Gujerat, were attracted to the temple of Kumarika Kshetra, on the mouth of the Mahi (tenth century). These new-comers succeeded in commerce, and were followed by others, so that the Parsi element became sufficiently strong to drive the Hindoos from the town. Amongst those who fled there was a certain Kalianrai who, taking refuge in Surat, acquired a great fortune by trading in pearls. His wealth gained him some importance; so that he gathered together a band of Rajputs and Kolis, who attacked the Parsis one night, set fire to their houses, and put some to the sword; the rest took to flight. Kalianrai then formed a project to build a town on the ruins of the Parsi colony. (See Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency.)

25 The translation of the first inscription is due to Mr. K. R. Cama in his Studies of the Zoroastrian Religion (vol. iii. p. 160); and the second to Mr. M. S. Watcha, in the collection entitled Zarthoshti Abhyas (vol. iv. p. 212). (See Parsee Prâkâsh, p. 2.)

26 Naosari—A town in the territory of the Gaekwar of Baroda, on the banks of the Pourna, 12 miles from the sea, 18 from Surat, and 149 from Bombay. Lat. 22° 7′ N.; long. 73° 40′ E. The population in 1872 amounted to 14,700 inhabitants. Naosari is a very flourishing town; its prosperity depending on the Parsi colony. (See Imp. Gaz. of India, vol. vii. p. 179.)

27 Sari—A fallen town of Thabarestan (Mazanderan). It was here, says Beladori, that the Governor of the province under the Taherides resided. The author of the Nouzhet, to indicate the great antiquity of this place, attributes its foundation to Thahomurs. (See also B. de Meynard, Dict, geo., hist., &c., p. 295.) It is a ruined city. According to Fraser it had a population of 30,000 inhabitants towards the commencement of the century. D’Anville and Rennell have tried to identify Sari with the ancient Zadra-Karta, the greatest city of Hyrcania, where the army of Alexander stopped to sacrifice to the gods. It was here that the great achievements of the heroic times of Persia are supposed to have been accomplished. Feridoon, the legendary hero of the Persians, is supposed to be buried under the threshold of a mosque, which is erected on the site of a Fire Temple. Sari is surrounded by immense gardens, and the country around is covered with mulberry trees, cotton plants, sugar cane, and rice fields. It has a port on the Caspian Sea, at the mouth of the Tedjun, called Farahabad, the abode of joy, founded by Shah ’Abbas. Pietro della Valle speaks of it as the principal city of Mazanderan.

28 Westergaard, Zend-Avesta, p. 304.

29 Bharooch—A British District in the Bombay Presidency; population 350,332 souls (1872). There are about 3,116 Parsis there, nearly all traders or agriculturists. Its capital on the Nerbudda has a population of 36,932 inhabitants. The English had a factory there since 1616; they took possession of Bharooch in 1703. The Parsis must have settled there since the eleventh century; many quitted Bharooch for Bombay. (See Imp. Gaz. of India, vol. ii. pp. 224 et seq.)

30 See Voyages en Asie du Frère Odoric de Pordenone, religieux de Saint François. Edited and annotated by M. H. Cordier, p. 82, Paris, 1891.

31 Thana was abandoned for over three centuries. In 1774 the Parsis returned and took possession of it, according to the terms of a treaty concluded with a Maratha Sardar, Ragunathrao Dada Saheb. Kavasji Rastamji, of Bombay, accompanied them, and he was entrusted with the office of patel in the following places: Charnibanda, Munpesar, Trombay, Muth, Murve, Manori, Vesava, Danda, Bandora, Kalyan, Bhimardi, and other places in the island of Salsette.

32 Dr. Wilson (J.B.B.R.A.S., 1,182) has suggested that the Mahmood Shah of the Kissah-i-Sanjan was Mahmood Begada, who reigned over Gujerat from 1459–1513. The mention of Champaner33 as his capital seems to indicate that the author of the Kissah-i-Sanjan thought that the Mussulman prince was the famous Mahmood Begada. But the conquest of Gujerat by Alp Khan was so complete that it leaves no doubt that Sanjan fell into his hands. The conqueror might possibly, though less likely, be Mahmood Shah Tughlik, who re-conquered Gujerat and the Thana coast in 1348, and not Mahmood Begada, as the authorities agree in saying that, after long wanderings, the Fire was brought from Sanjan to Naosari about the beginning of the fifteenth century (1419). Alp Khan may be either Ulugh Khan, Ala-ud-din’s brother, who is sometimes called by mistake Alp Khan, or he may be Alp Khan, Ala-ud-din’s brother-in-law. Ulugh Khan conquered Gujerat (1295–1297) and Alp Khan governed it (1300–1320). The Alp Khan of the text was doubtless Ulugh Khan. (Elliot, iii. 157, 163.) (See Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency.)

33 A fort and village in the Panch-Mahals district, situated on an isolated rock of great height. (See Imp. Gaz. of India, vol. ii. p. 375.)

34 In 1839, when Dr. J. Wilson visited Sanjan, he found only one or two Parsi families there. The ruins of a dokhma constructed before 400 are still to be seen, but there is not a single Parsi to be found there.

35 Bansdah.—A tributary State (in the province of Gujerat) bounded on the north and west by the Surat district, on the south east by the Baroda State, on the east by the Dang States, and on the south by the State of Dharampoor. The capital contains 2,321 inhabitants. (See Imp. Gaz. of India, vol. ii. pp. 401–2.)

36 A New Account of East India and Persia, in Eight Letters, from 1672–1681, by John Fryer, in 1698. Letter ii. p. 67.

37 This dokhma still exists on the Malabar Hill. It was built in 1670 by Modi Hirji Watcha, an ancestor of the Watcha Ghandi family.


Chapter II

The Zoroastrians in Persia

Let us now turn to the Zoroastrians who had remained behind in their fatherland. Although it is only by the way that we have to treat of this subject, it is nevertheless proper not to leave out of notice this nucleus of the Mazdien community who have remained so faithful to the religion of their ancestors, and who have been so tried in their long residence in the midst of powerful and pitiless conquerors. We shall have occasion, besides, in the course of this work, to look back upon these far-off regions, to note the frequent relations between the Parsis of Persia and their brethren of India, and the inestimable benefits secured by the wealthy Parsis of Bombay for the unfortunate Guebres of Yezd and Kirman.

Two hundred years after the Mahomedan [39]conquest the condition of Persia had entirely changed. The national spirit was dead, and the entire population had embraced Islamism. It is in the presence of changes so sudden and so complete that one feels justified in raising the disquieting question of the influence of race and surroundings on the history of a nation. We do not need to address ourselves to modern thinkers to find it clearly formulated.

According to Renan, as far back as the second century, Bardesane had wondered that “If man is the creature of his surroundings and of circumstances, how is it that the same country is seen to produce human developments entirely different? If man is governed by the laws of race, how is it that a nation which has changed its religion, for example, become Christian, comes to be quite different from what it used to be?”1 We have only to substitute the epithet Mahomedan for the epithet Christian to bring the question to the point. How, in fact, could such a radical change be effected, and to what degree of despair must the Zoroastrians have reached, to submit to the [40]levelling laws of Islam? If we attempted to explain this we should have to go back to the history of the internal agitations and the policy of the Persian Court, and their study would draw us away too far. We have noticed only the chief events of its history, without stopping to gather any instruction from facts. Let it suffice to say that the same causes made the Arabs victorious over the Byzantine emperor and the Persian Shah-in-Shah, and that these causes were the weakness and exhaustion of the national dynasties in the presence of the vital elements of the conquerors. The people suffered from the carelessness of their kings; individual energy was powerless against the invasion of disciplined and fanatical tribes, commanded by generals like Omar and his officers.

The Persian nation was singularly maltreated.2 The national unity was broken. Each province accommodated itself in the best way it could to the régime imposed by circumstances and by the inclinations of local chiefs. From that time the boundaries of the ancient kingdom underwent changes from century to century. In the tenth century, Taher, governor of Khorassan, [41]threw off the heavy yoke of the Caliphs of Bagdad, and established, in his province, the authority of the Taherides. After them came the Saffarides, the Samanides and all those foreign dynasties that divided the sovereignty amongst themselves, such as the Ghaznevides, the Seldjoukides, &c.; finally there came, with all its calamities, the torrent of invasions to which succeeded the reigns of the Sophis, and of those dynasties, cruel and grasping, which have succeeded each other on the throne of Persia without doing anything for the true welfare of the people.

As we have seen, the followers of Zoroaster who would not accept the religion of Islam expatriated themselves. Those who could not abandon their country, and continued to cling to their old religion, had to resign themselves to frightful sufferings. These dwelt chiefly in Fars and Khorassan. European travellers who have visited Persia at different periods, have all been struck by their miserable and precarious condition, and have felt interested in their language, religion, and customs. We quote here some of them:

Pietro della Valle, at the time of his sojourn in Persia, studied them closely, and this is what he has to say:

“These past few days I have been to see their [42]new town3 (that of the Gaures), or, let us say, their separate habitation, which, like the new Ciolfa inhabited by the Christian Armenians, like the new Tauris, or Abbas-Abad, where dwell the Mahomedans brought from Tauris, adjoins Ispahan, just as if it were a suburb; and although, at present, it is separated from it by some gardens, nevertheless with time,—for the number of inhabitants greatly increases every day,—Ispahan and this habitation of the Gaures>, with the two others aforesaid, will make but one place. I am therefore doubtful whether to call them separate citadels, or suburbs, or rather considerable parts of this same town of Ispahan, as is the region beyond the Tiber and our city of Rome. This habitation of the Gaures has no other name that I know of except Gauristan; that is to say, according to the Persians, ‘the place of the infidels,’ just as we call the quarters [43]of the Jews, Jewry. This place is very well built; the streets are wide and very straight, and much finer than those of Ciolfa, for it was built later with more design; but all the houses are low and one-storied, without any ornament, quite consistent with the poverty of those that occupy them, and in this respect very different from the houses of Ciolfa, which are very magnificent and well planned; for the Gaures are poor and miserable,—at least they show all possible signs of being such; in fact, they are employed in no traffic; they are simply like peasants,—people, in short, earning their livelihood with much labour and difficulty. They are all dressed alike, and in the same colour which resembles somewhat brick cement.” (Voyages, French translation, Paris, 1661, vol. ii. p. 104.)

About the same time (1618), Figueroa, the ambassador of Philip III. in Persia, remarks as follows:

“In the most eastern part of Persia, and in the province of Kirmân, which forms its frontier to the east, there have remained some of those ancient and true Persians, who, although they have mixed with the others, and by uniting themselves to their conquerors, have become like one people, all the same retain their primitive [44]mode of living, their customs and their religion. Thus, at this day, they adore the sun as did the ancient Persians during the period their empire was the first in this world, and, following their example, they invariably keep in their houses a lighted fire, which they keep up unextinguished with as much care as the Vestal Virgins of Rome did.” (The Embassy of Don Garcias de Silva de Figueroa in Persia. Trans. Wicquefort, Paris, 1667, in 4to, p. 177.)

Thevenot (1664–67) declares that “there are in Persia, at the present day, and particularly in Kerman, people who worship the fire like the Persians of old, and these are the Guebres. They are recognised by a dark yellow coloured material of which the men and women like to have their dresses and veils made, these being the only ones who wear this colour. Moreover, the Guebre women never cover their faces, and generally speaking, they are very well formed. These Guebres have a language which with its characters is understood only by them, and they are also very ignorant.” (Continuation of the Travels in the East, Second Part, p. 116; Paris, 1674.)

With Daulier (1665) we shall enter the quarters of the Guebres assigned to them by the Persian king. “If you go about a quarter of a mile from [45]Julpha in the direction of the mountain you will see a fine village composed of one long street. It is called Guebrabad, and is the dwelling-place of the Guebres, or the Gauvres, who are said to be descended from the old Persians who worshipped the fire. The king has given them this place to live in, having destroyed them in many other places. They are dressed in a fine tan-coloured woollen stuff, the dress of the men being of the same form as that of the other Persians. But the women’s dress is entirely different. They keep their faces uncovered, and wear round their heads a loosely tied scarf with a veil to cover their shoulders not ill resembling our gipsies. Their drawers are like the upper part of Swiss hose, reaching to their heels. Most of their stuffs are manufactured at Kirman, a large town on the south coast of Persia, where there are several of this sect. They are so reserved on the subject of their religion that it is difficult to know anything certain about it. They do not bury their dead, but leave them in the open air in an enclosure. I entered some of their houses, where I saw nothing particular except that the women, far from avoiding us, as the others do, were very glad to see and speak to us” (The Beauties of Persia, p. 51). [46]

Towards the same time (1665–1671) when Chardin went to Persia he found the Zoroastrians spread over the Caramanian desert, and chiefly in the provinces of Yezd and Kirman. He calls them Guebres from the Arabic word Gaur, infidels or idolaters, pronounced Giaour by the Turks.

“The Persian Fire-Worshippers (vol. ix. pp. 134 et seq.) are not so well formed, nor so fair, as the Mahomedan Persians, who are the Persians of this day. Nevertheless the men are robust, having a fairly good stature, and are well featured. The women are coarse, with a dark olive complexion, due, I think, more to their poverty than to nature, for some among them have rather fine features. The men wear their hair and beards long; they put on a short-fitting vest and a long woollen cap. They dress in cotton, woollen, or mohair stuff, and prefer the brown or dead-leaf colour as being perhaps most suited to their condition.

“The women are very coarsely dressed. I have never seen anything showing such bad grace, nor anything further removed from galanterie....

“The dress of the Guebres so greatly resembles the Arab dress that one would think the Arabs [47]copied it from them when they conquered their country. They work either as ploughmen or as labourers, or fullers and workers in wool. They make carpets, caps and very fine woollen stuffs.

“... Their chief occupation is agriculture; ... they regard it, not only as a fine and innocent employment, but also as a noble and meritorious one ...

“These Ancient Persians are gentle and simple in manners, and live very peacefully under the guidance of their elders, who are also their magistrates, and who are confirmed in their authority by the Persian Government.” Then follow numerous details concerning their manners, beliefs and temples. The chief temple was then near Yezd, and the high priest, the Dastoor Dastooran, resided there. (Ed. of Amsterdam, J. L. Delorme, MDCCXI.)

Ker-Porter (1818–1820) speaks also of the Guebres: “Some of them,” he says, “poor and faithful to their religion, not having the means of gaining a distant shelter, remained slaves on their native soil, their souls raised to Heaven, their eyes bent to the ground, weeping over their profaned sanctuaries. While the wealthier ones were flying to the mountainous regions of the frontiers, or to the shores of India, these few [48]faithful ones ended in finding comparative security in their extreme poverty, and took refuge in Yezd and Kirman, far from the eye of the conquerors. Yezd, even now, contains from four to five thousand of their descendants; and on account of their relatively large number they are allowed to practise their faith in a more open manner than in the smaller localities. In general they are excellent cultivators, gardeners and artisans, &c.” (Travels in Georgia, Persia, &c., vol. ii. p. 46, London, 1821–1822.)

The census of the Guebre population, taken towards the end of this century, gives an absurd figure. We find no vestige of them anywhere except in Yezd, and in the neighbourhood of Teheran, in Kaschan, Shiraz and Bushire. In 1854, according to the information furnished to the Persian Amelioration Society of Bombay, and quoted by Mr. Dosabhai Framji Karaka,4 the total came to 7,200 individuals, viz., 6,658 at Yezd (3,310 men and 3,348 women); 450 in Kirman, 50 in Teheran, and some at Shiraz.5 [49]

According to the census of October, 1879, by General Houtum-Schindler,6 the Zoroastrian population comprised 8,499 individuals, of whom 4,367 are men and 4,132 women, they being distributed in the following manner: In Yezd, 1,242; in the surrounding districts, 5,241; in Kirman, 1,498; in the surrounding districts, 258; at Bahramabad, 58; at Teheran, 150; at Kaschan, 15; at Shiraz, 25; at Bushire, 12. The latest census (1892) shows a sensible increase of the population, rising to 9,269 individuals.

Yezd and Kirman are the two most important towns, the former being about two hundred miles south-east of Ispahan, the latter about three hundred and eighty miles from the sea, in the port [50]of Bunder Abbas. They are both situated on the confines of two extensive deserts, the Dasht-i-Kavir and the Dash-i-Lut, which, to the north, cover an area of over five hundred miles, and which are separated by a chain of rocky mountains through which the caravans trace their way with difficulty. This region is feared by travellers, and is hardly known to Europeans.7

Yezd8 communicates with the rest of Iran only [51]by the caravan roads. On leaving the argillaceous plateaus, the rocks and the sandhills, the town and the villages around seem to emerge from a veritable oasis of mulberry trees; the desert begins at the very foot of the walls, where the sand driven by the tempests is heaped up. A line of ruins surrounds it and testifies to its [52]ancient extent. Yezd is, however, prosperous. It contains a population of from seventy to eighty thousand inhabitants, composed of the most diverse elements—amongst others 2,000 Jews, still obliged to wear on their cloaks the badge of their disgrace, and some Hindoos called to this place by their business affairs.

There are five reservoirs, abambars, fifty mosques, eight madressas, and sixty-five public baths; a post office ensures a regular weekly service with Bander-Abbas and Bushire; the telegraph puts it in communication with Kirman and Ispahan. Commerce flourishes; about the middle of this century eighteen hundred manufactories gave work to nine thousand workmen. Nowadays the number is, however, less.

It is here that we find, grouped together, the scattered remnants of the Zoroastrian community. The Guebres gave themselves up chiefly to gardening and the cultivation of mulberry trees, notably of the species of brown fibre, the wearing of which was formerly incumbent on them. But a great change has taken place, and such a trader now possesses a thousand camels. There are schools there, four Fire Temples, and several Towers of Silence. About twenty kilometres to the south-west is the town of Taft, where was [53]preserved for a very long time the permission to keep up openly the sacred fire. The community has a high priest, and also a lay chief, Ardeshir Meherban. Some of the Guebres are naturalised Englishmen, and thanks to them, for the last fifty years the trade of Yezd has grown by their intercourse with India. Their rôle is similar to that performed in the open ports of Japan by the compradores and the Chinese agents into whose hands nearly all business passes. This activity is due to the efforts of their co-religionists in India, for in spite of their recognised probity and practical intelligence, the Guebres have long been exposed to the most humiliating vexations.

Kirman is the chief city of ancient Caramania9 [54]and stands in the centre of four great highways which run from the south and the west. Its [55]situation makes it a very important centre of commerce between the Persian Gulf and the markets of Khorassan, Bokhara, and Balk. Of the twelve thousand Guebres who were formerly resident in this locality, there only remain, according to the census taken in 1878 by the orders of the Governor, thirteen hundred and forty-one.10 At the time of the Arab invasion, Kirman served as a place of refuge for King Yezdezard, and passed successively into the hands of the Beni-Buzak, the Seldjoukides Turks, the kings of Kharezm (Khiva), and a Kara-Kitaïenne family which remained in power till the year 1300; and it was also the See of the Nestorian metropolitan bishopric of Fars. This city had to suffer much from the invasions, from the east and west, of Gengis-Khan, Timour, the Afghans and Nadirshah. The siege it sustained in 1494 is memorable for the massacres ordered by Aga Mahomed Khan.11 It was within its walls that the last of the family of the Zends, Luft Ali-Khan, had taken refuge. Betrayed by [56]his followers, the young prince contrived, however, to escape the cruelty of the redoubtable Kadjar eunuch. For three months the soldiers committed all sorts of excesses, the town was given up to plunder12 and finally razed. A little later, having been rebuilt by Fath-Ali-Shah, it recovered by degrees its ancient prosperity, thanks to a capable and at the same time avaricious and strict governor, Vekil-ul-Mulk. The ruins of Kirman occupy a length of three miles. The modern town contained in 1879, 42 mosques, 53 public baths, 5 madressas, 50 schools, 4 large and small bazaars, and 9 caravanserais. Its commerce is flourishing, the carpets and shawls manufactured there being very wonderful.

The physical and moral condition of the Guebres has changed very little in Persia. Their contact with the Mussalmans has neither relaxed nor enervated that condition. The women, of [57]whom the majority belong to poor families, are renowned for their chastity, while the men are so famous for their morality that they are particularly employed in the gardens of the Shah. From an ethnographical point of view, this is what can be said; we follow the résumé given by M. Houssay13:

“When the Arabs by right of conquest imposed a new religion on the Persians, the fusion of the Turano-Aryans had been already for the greater part accomplished in the north and east of the empire. At this time there was no difference of race, manners, customs or religion between the ancestors of the Mahomedan Persians and those of the real Guebres. Separated to-day as surely by their religion as by vast extent of space, they no longer commingle; but being descended from the same ancestors, and neither having undergone any modification since that period, we find them again to-day not unlike each other in the same region.... The only ethnical element which could have been introduced among the Persian Mahomedans and not among the Guebres, [58]would be the Semitic element due to the Arab conquerors. But it was not so. The soldiers of Islam were indeed sufficiently fanatical and violent to impose their laws and religion on the people, but not sufficiently numerous to effect any change in them. It would be practically quite the truth to say that this invasion has left no traces outside the families of the Seides. The language alone has felt its effects; all words connected with religion and government are Arabic. The Guebres should be all the less regarded as pure descendants of the Aryans, as they resemble their Mussulman neighbours, and are, on the other hand, not all of the same type. Those of Yezd have, according to Khanikoff, Aryan characteristics. It is not because they are Guebres, but because they dwell in a country adjoining Fars. Those of Teheran resemble the other inhabitants of Teheran. The Parsis of India, whose ancestors preferred exile to conversion, are more like the Parsis of Persia, and differ from their co-religionists of the North. Since their exodus, they have not at all mixed with the people who received them; they are such as they were then. Thus at the time of the Arabic conquest there was no single race. The ethnical distribution, which can be observed [59]even now, existed already. The Guebres who remained in Persia were the Turano-Aryans; the emigrants, who had chiefly started from the south of the kingdom, were Aryans.”14

The condition of the Zoroastrians who had remained behind in Persia had been, as we have said, always miserable. In 1511, they wrote to their co-religionists who had taken refuge at Naosari, that since the reign of Kaïomar, they had not endured such sufferings, even under the execrable government of Zohak, Afrasiab, Tur and Alexander! As a matter of fact, the connection between the two communities, which had been broken, was happily renewed since the end [60]of the fifteenth century. At this period Changa Asa, a rich and pious Parsi of Naosari, had at his own expense sent a learned layman, Nariman Hoshang, with the view of acquiring from the members of the Iranian clergy certain information regarding important religious questions. (Parsee Prâkâsh, pp. 6–7.)

In another letter to their co-religionists in India dated from Serfabad, September 1, 1486, Nariman Hoshang declared that all the Iranians had been desiring for centuries to know if any of their co-religionists still existed on the other side of the world! After an absence of several years he returned to India, and eight years later went back to Persia, where he collected the most curious information. These statements are confirmed by the letters of the Guebres addressed to the Parsi community of India (1511), in which it is said that “since their departure from Persia to the arrival of Nariman Hoshang (in all thirty years) the Mazdiens had not known that their co-religionists had settled in India, and that it was only through Nariman Hoshang that they had come to know of it.”

From that period the relations between the Guebres and the Parsis were sufficiently close. As far back as 1527, one Kama Asa, from [61]Cambay, had gone to Persia and procured a complete copy of the Ardá-Viráf-Námeh. In 1626 the Parsis of Bharooch, Surat, and Naosari sent to Persia a learned man of Surat, Behman Aspandiar, charged with numerous questions; he brought back the answers, and also two religious books, the Vishtasp-Yasht and the Vispered (Parsee Prâkâsh, p. 11). The information thus obtained by intelligent emissaries for a long time guided the Parsis in their decisions regarding social and religious questions, and formed the collection of the Rivâyâts. At the same time the members of the community in India were not in a position to alleviate the miseries of their Persian brethren, and each century brought to the latter a new increase of sufferings and troubles.

Four revolutions contributed to the destruction of the Zoroastrian population of Kirman. The Ghilzi-Afghans, who had long groaned under the yoke of the Persians, rose at last under the command of a brave and intelligent chief, called Mir Vais, who quickly made himself master of Khandahar.15 The Persian monarch Hussein, powerless to reduce them by arms, tried to bring [62]them back to a sense of duty by sending emissaries, who were however treated with contempt. The Afghan chief who succeeded Mir Vais resolved in his turn to be revenged by invading Persia as soon as an opportunity presented itself. It came soon. Whilst the north-east frontier of the kingdom was threatened by the Abdali-Afghans of Herat, and whilst the Arabian Prince of Muscat was taking possession of the coast of the Persian Gulf, Mahmoud, who had succeeded his father, Mir Vais, in the government of Khandahar, made an irruption into Persia. This invasion of the Ghilzi-Afghans was the greatest catastrophe to the Zoroastrian community, Mahmood having preferred to pass through Kirman rather than risk the deserts of Seistan. Massacres and forced conversions drove the faithful band to despair.

At the time of the second invasion of Mahmood he persuaded the Zoroastrians of Yezd and Kirman to join his troops, and avenge the wrongs they had suffered for centuries.16 It is needless to say that these unfortunates, too confiding, allowed themselves to be convinced and enlisted. What do we know of their ultimate fate? What became of them under the standard [63]of Mahmood after the victory of Ispahan? (October 21, 1722, H. 113517). Were they better treated, and did they receive any recompense? There is reason to believe that their condition, far from being ameliorated, became worse.

It is said that under the reign of Nadir-Shah and his successors, they had again to elect between the frightful alternative of conversion or death. At the time of the siege of Kirman, of which we have spoken (p. 55), many Zoroastrians were put to the sword, and their quarters laid waste and destroyed for ever.

This series of vicissitudes and misfortunes accounts for the small number of the survivors, their precarious life, their difficulties in the exercise of their religion, and the dispersion of their sacred books. In the time of Ibn Haukhal each village had its temple, its priests, and its sacred book. According to Mr. Dosabhai Framji Karaka, in 1858 there were thirty-five Fire Temples in Yezd and its environs. At present there are four in Yezd itself, eighteen in the neighbouring village, and one at Kirman. As for the sacred books [64]there are only those that are to be found in India. Westergaard, who visited Persia in 1843, writing to his friend the late Dr. Wilson of Bombay, to inform him of his disappointment, says,18 “I have stopped in Yezd for eleven days, and although I have mixed in their gatherings, I have seen but sixteen or seventeen books in all; two or three copies of the Vendidad Sadé and of the Izeschné, which they call Yasna, and six or seven copies of the Khorda-Avesta. I have only been able to obtain two and a portion of a third, a part of the Bundahish and of another Pehlvi book. That is all that I have succeeded in obtaining, in spite of all my efforts to get more—for instance, the fragments of the Izeschne with a Pehlvi or Pazend translation, of which there is only one copy in Europe, that at Copenhagen.”

The same traveller, speaking of the Zoroastrians who at present reside in Kirman, expresses himself in these terms: “The Guebres there are more maltreated than their brethren in Yezd. They have only two copies of the Vendidad and of the Yasna and a rather large number of the Khorda-Avesta, with which, however, they will [65]not part. Here nobody reads Pehlvi. They complain bitterly of Aga Mahomed Khan having given up the city to plunder, of the destruction of most of their sacred books, and of the massacre of the faithful.”

One of the harshest conditions of the conquest of Persia had been at all times a tax called “Jazia.” The Mahomedans are the only persons exempted from this tax, all the other infidel inhabitants of the kingdom, Armenians, Jews, and Zoroastrians, being subject to it. The Armenians of Tauris and of the villages of Persia situated near the frontier have been relieved of this tax by the care of the Russian Government. It is difficult to arrive at an estimate of the tax paid by the Armenians and the Jews, but this is certain—and the fact has been verified—that the annual tax imposed upon the Zoroastrians rose to 660 tomans. The governors and collectors having gone on increasing its amount in order to profit by the surplus, the sum rose to nearly 2,000 tomans, or £1,000 sterling, about 25,000 francs of our money. According to statistics, a thousand Zoroastrians were compelled to pay. Of these two hundred could pay it without difficulty, four hundred with much trouble; the rest could not do so even under [66]threats of death. Lamentable scenes have ensued at the time of the collection of this onerous tax.19 Sometimes these unfortunate beings turned to their brethren in India in the hope of obtaining a favourable intervention with the Persian Government, such as some of the European Powers had effectually attempted in certain cases.

Dishonoured by the appellation of Guebres or “Infidels,” they endured at the hands of the Mussulmans sufferings similar to those endured in India by the members of the Mahar caste at the hands of the well-born Hindoos.20 All relations, [67]all intercourse with them were tainted with pollution; a host of lucrative occupations were forbidden to them. Moreover, we know the frightful inequality of laws in Mahomedan countries, where the general rule is to grant aid and protection to the true believers and to ignore these rights in the case of the infidels. Instances of this are too numerous to be quoted; we will content ourselves with pointing out this inequality without any further comment.21

In the presence of this painful state of affairs the Parsis in India could not remain indifferent. Mr. Dosabhai Framji Karaka wrote, a quarter of a century back:22 “Can we then do nothing for our unfortunate brethren in Persia? Our community has considerable funds and possesses men known throughout the world for their [68]benevolence and their noble efforts towards the amelioration of the condition of their co-religionists.... It seems to us that a deputation from us to the Court of Persia, presented and duly supported by the English Ambassador at Teheran, might successfully attempt some negotiations with a view to put an end to the cruelty practised every day. The amount raised by the Capitation Tax with such useless violence must be to the Imperial treasury insignificant in the extreme, and there is no doubt that a representation from the Parsis of India has all chances of being favourably received. Persian princes seldom know the true state of their subjects, and we hope our countrymen will comprehend the honour that will be reflected on them by their efforts to relieve the miseries of our brethren in Iran.”

It was in 1854 that the first emissary from Bombay to the Zoroastrians in Persia was sent; and from that time, thanks to the Persian Zoroastrian Amelioration Fund, they seriously began to consider the means of aiding them. The trustees delegated Mr. Maneckji Limji Antaria, who was to utilise his great experience and his devotion in the accomplishment of the task he had accepted. He started (March 31st) [69]with instructions from the committee to open an inquiry and to send in a report. Very soon the most pathetic details came to excite the charitable zeal of the Parsis of Bombay. A meeting was called on January 11, 1855, under the presidency of the late Maneckji Nasarwanji Petit (Parsee Prâkâsh, pp. 654 et seq.) to consider the resolutions to be adopted on the report of Mr. M. L. Antaria.23

Before taking in hand all the evils set forth it appeared specially important to direct all their efforts towards the abolition of the “Jazia,” the chief cause of the complaints and miseries of the tax-payers. These efforts relaxed neither with time nor with obstacles, and after a campaign which lasted from 1857 to 188224 the desired abolition was finally obtained. During this period of twenty-five long years all suitable means were taken to secure the success of the object aimed at. Thus Mr. M. L. Antaria profited by the kindly disposition of Sir Henry Rawlinson, the English Ambassador at the Court of Teheran, to get himself presented to [70]the Shah and to lay before him a touching picture of the miseries suffered by his Zoroastrian subjects of Kirman. At the end of the audience he succeeded in obtaining a reduction of 100 tomans from the amount of the contribution annually raised (920 tomans) in Yezd and in Kirman.

Another audience was granted by the Shah in Buckingham Palace at the time of his voyage to England (June 24, 1873). A memorandum, drawn up in the most flowery and courteous style, such as Oriental politeness demands, was presented by several members of the Bombay Committee.25 Sir Henry Rawlinson and Mr. E. B. Eastwick supported it. In his reply His Majesty thought fit to say that he had heard of the complaints of his subjects, and that he would consider the means of ameliorating the position of the Zoroastrians of Persia. But we know, alas! that in the East abuses take long in disappearing. In spite of the friendly promises of the Shah there was no change made in the collection of this tax. A pressing appeal through the English Ambassador at Teheran did not even reach the monarch. It was only in 1882 that Sir Dinshaw Maneckji Petit, the president [71]of the Persian Zoroastrian Amelioration Fund, received through the medium of Mr. Thomson, of the English Embassy, the communication of the royal firman decreeing the immediate abolition of the tax (Parsee Prâkâsh, p. 662). This long struggle has cost the Persian Amelioration Fund of Bombay nearly 109,564 rupees, or about 257,475 francs! It is needless to say with what transports of joy and gratitude this boon was received by the unfortunate victims, who for centuries had groaned under the exactions of subordinate officials, and whom the enlightened kindness of the sovereign placed at once on a footing of equality with his other subjects.26 As [72]to the friends of the Mazdien communities of Iran, they may hope to see them prosper and their numbers increase under the influence of the same qualities and virtues which have contributed to the greatness and prosperity of the Zoroastrians of India.27 [73]

The relations between Bombay and Persia were not confined to this single benevolent initiative of the Bombay Committee.28 We should also notice the establishing of schools in the towns of Yezd and Kirman (1857) due to the munificence of the Parsee notabilities, and the pecuniary gifts given for the purpose of settling in life young girls exposed on account of their poverty to terrible dangers in a Mahomedan country. Between 1856 and 1865 nearly a hundred Mazdien women were thus got married by the care of the agent of a charitable association. We may also mention the establishment of dispensaries and houses of refuge, and should not omit to include in this brief list the founding of two monuments, which throws a very interesting light on the direction of the religious ideas of the modern Parsis.

Two localities, situated not far from Yezd and held sacred by tradition, Koh-i-Chakmaku and Akda, preserved the memory of their ancient glorious days through a legend concerning the [74]two daughters of Yezdezard, Khatun Banu and Hyat Banu, who had at one time disappeared without leaving any trace behind them. After the fall of the king, his family, finding no protection in Madaïn, had taken refuge in the citadel of Haft Ajar; but they were soon obliged to disperse. Meher Banu shut herself up in the fortress of Gorab; Khatun Banu directed her steps to more secret places. In her hasty march the princess, exhausted and dying of thirst, met a burzigar (farmer) busy cultivating the soil, and asked of him a little water to drink. There being no stream or tank near, the peasant offered her his cow’s milk, and commenced milking the animal; but the moment the vessel overflowed with the fresh and foaming liquid, the cow with a kick upset it. The unfortunate girl, thus deprived of this last comfort, feverishly continued her way, and reaching the mountain in an agony of despair, threw herself upon the ground, praying to the Almighty to protect her, either by stopping the pursuit of her enemies or by screening her from mortal sight. Hardly had she finished her prayer when she disappeared in a cleft of the rocks, which opened before her and closed upon her immediately. At the same moment the burzigar, who had discovered [75]the retreat of the princess, arrived with a refreshing drink, only to find her little band of mourning followers. On hearing of her strange disappearance he ran to his stable and sacrificed the cow in the very place where the king’s daughter had disappeared. Soon the faithful ones came to offer, in their turn, similar sacrifices, and the place was called Dari-Din, “the Gate of Faith.” Hosts of pilgrims repaired to this place every year, but these sacrifices of blood were repugnant to the feelings of the Parsis of Bombay. However, as it was right and seemly to honour a place marked out by ancient tradition, Mr. Maneckji Limji Antaria substituted in the place of this barbarous custom ceremonies more in accordance with modern Zoroastrian practices. The sacrifice of the cow was suppressed, and an influential member of the Bombay community furnished means to raise a beautiful monument with spacious quarters to lodge the pilgrims.

Hyat Banu, the other princess, disappeared in an equally mysterious manner. On the spot consecrated by legend a grand reservoir, fed from neighbouring springs, has been erected. The walls of this reservoir having gradually fallen into ruins, they were repaired by the generous [76]care of Mr. Merwanji Framji Panday, the same gentleman who erected the monument at Akda.29 [77]

1 Renan has summarised, in these few terse lines, the long dissertations in the Sixth Book, tenth chapter, of the Præparatio Evangelica of Eusébius. (See Marcus Aurélius, ch. xxiv. pp. 439–440.)

2 See Malcolm, Hist. of Persia, vol. i. ch. viii. p. 275 et seq.

3 Shah Abbas the Great, desirous of increasing the commerce of Ispahan, caused 1,500 Guebre families to come and settle outside the town on this side of the river Zenderoud. Under Abbas II. they quitted Gehr-Abad and returned to the mountains. We see in Kaempfer that Abbas II. transported, in fact, nearly six hundred agricultural families into the Armenian Colony of Sulpha, or Sjulfa, founded by his ancestor, and which to the south bordered on the quarters of the Guebres. (Amænitates exoticæ, &c., p. 164, Lemgoviæ, 1712.)

4 The Parsis, their History, Manners, Customs, and Religion, ch. ii. pp. 31 et seq., London, 1884.

5 In fifteen years the number has risen by 18 per cent., or 1⅕ per cent. per year; thus, in February, 1878, there were 1,341 Zoroastrians in Kirman; in August, 1879, the number had risen to 1,378, viz., an increase of 1⅘ per cent.

6 A. Houtum-Schindler. Die Parsen in Persien, ihre Sprache und einige ihrer Gebräuche. (See Z. D. M. G., 36 ter Band, pp. 54 et seq., Leipzig, 1882.) Dupré (1807–1809) and Kinneir (1810) register the number of Zoroastrians in Persia, and put it down at 4,000 families. Trézel (1807–9) raises it to 8,000 Guebres in Yezd and in the neighbouring villages; Christie (1819) and Fraser (1821) count about 3,000 families in all Persia; Abbot (1845) lowers the number to 800 families in Yezd and in the surrounding places. Petermann (1854) counts 3,000 families, of whom 1,200 men are in Yezd; Goldsmid (1865), 4,500 Guebres in Yezd and Kirman; and finally Capt. Evan Smith (1870) 3,800 families.

7 Two young officers of the Indian Army have lately attempted to cross the frightful solitudes of Dusht-i-Kavir. (See Proc. of the R.G.S., November, 1891, and Asiatic Quarterly Review, October, 1891.) Dush-i-Sut has been more easy to explore, although the danger is not less, owing to the clouds of sand raised by the winds.

8 Yezd.—“Yezd enjoys a temperate climate. It is surrounded by canals and aqueducts which carry the water into the interior of the town. There are constructed there reservoirs and cisterns, structures as remarkable as those which are seen at Kaschân. Most of the houses and edifices, although built of raw bricks, are of great solidity; besides, the rainfall is very scarce in that country. The town is well built and very clean, because care is taken to have the rubbish removed every day from it, which rubbish is used to manure the fields. Wheat, cotton, and silk are produced there, but the wheat is not abundant enough to suffice for food, and some wheat is therefore imported from Kirman and Schiraz, so that its price is somewhat high. Among the fruits of Yezd are praised figs, called misqali, and pomegranates. The inhabitants, formerly Schaféïtes, belong now to the Schiite sect; they are almost all weavers, and are known for their honesty and by their gentleness, which degenerates even into weakness. Hamd Allah Mustôfi, while doing justice to the loyalty of the merchants, accuses the brokers of that town of intolerable arrogance and pride.” (Zinet el-Medjalis). (Cf. Nouzhet, fol. 602.) See B. de Meynard, Dict. geog., hist., &c., p. 611, note 1.

During nearly two centuries the governors (atabegs) of Yezd, like those of Lauristan, maintained their independence; but in the thirteenth century Ghazan Khan supplanted them. As for the modern travellers who have visited those regions, this is what is known of them: Marco Polo traversed Yezd in 1272, the monk Odoric in 1325, and Josafa Barbaro in 1474. It was then a city surrounded with walls nearly five miles in circumference, and well known by its silk trade. Tavernier, in the seventeenth century, stayed there for three days, enough to make him extol the fruits and the beauty of the women of that place; similarly in the nineteenth century the European savants made acquaintance with that region. Christie, having left Pottinger in Baloochistan, traversed it while returning from Herat (1810). (See A. Dupré (1808), Voyage in Persia, vol. ii. ch. xlii.; Dr. A. Petermann (1854), Reisen im Orient, vol. ii. ch. xii. pp. 203 et seq.; N. de Khamkoff (1859), Memoir, pp. 200–204; A. H. Schindler (1879), Zeit. f. Gesell d. Erd. zu Berlin; Curzon (1889), Persia, vol. ii. ch. xxiii. pp. 238–243, London, 1892.)

9 Kermân—The word is written sometimes Kirman; but the first pronunciation seems more correct. It is a vast and populated country, situate in the third climate; longitude 90 deg., latitude 30 deg. It contains a great number of districts, towns, and boroughs. Its boundaries are: To the east, Mokrân and the desert which extends between Mokrân and the sea, near the country of the Belouth (Beloochees); to the west, Fars; to the north, the deserts of Khorassan and Sedjestân; to the south, the sea of Fars. On the frontier of Sirdjân, Kirman makes an angle and advances into the boundaries of Fars; it has also a bend on its southern sides. Kirman is rich in palm-trees, corn, cattle, and beasts of burden; it offers an analogy to the province of Basrah by the number of its rivers and the fertility of its territory. This is what has been said by Mahomed bin Ahmed el-Beschari: “Kermân participates in the natural qualities of Fars; it resembles by its productions the country of Basrah, and it has also some analogical reference to Khorassan. In fact, its sides are washed by the sea; it unites the advantages of hot and cold climates; it produces the nut-tree and the palm-tree, and yields in abundance the two best species of dates, and produces the most varied trees and fruits. Its principal cities are, Djiraft, Menouqân, Zarend, Bemm, Sirdjân (or Schiradjân), Nermasir, and Berdesir. Tutenag (toutia) is collected there and is imported in large quantities. The inhabitants are virtuous, honest, and much attached to Sunnism and orthodoxy. But a great part of this country is depopulated and ruined, on account of the different masters who possessed it, and the tyrannical domination of its Sultans. For many years, instead of having been governed by a particular dynasty, it has been administered by governors who have had no other occupation than to amass wealth and to make it pass into Khorassan. Now, this emigration of the resources of a country to the profit of another is one of the surest causes of its ruin; besides, the presence of a king and a court contributes much to the prosperity of a State. The epoch of the glory and splendour of Kermân reaches to the reign of the Seldjouqide dynasty, and during that happy period, a great number of foreigners fixed their residence there.” See B. de Meynard, Dict. geog., hist., &c., pp. 482 et seq.

Among the modern travellers who have visited Kirman since the commencement of the century, see Sir H. Pottinger (1810), Travels in Beloochistan, cap. x.; N. de Khanikoff (1859), Memoirs, pp. 186–198; Curzon (1889), Persia, vol. ii. ch. xxii. pp. 243–246.

10 In 1878 the numbers were 39,718 Mussalmans, 1,341 Parsis, 85 Jews, and 26 Hindoos, which gives a total of 41,170 souls. The Hindoos are Mussulmans who have come for the most part from Scind and Shikarpur. Some have established at Bahramabad some great commercial firms.

11 Malcolm, History of Persia, vol. ii. ch. xxi. p. 271.

12 It is reported that the conqueror caused to be presented to himself on dishes 35,000 pairs of eyes! Thirty thousand women and children were reduced to slavery.... It is at Bam, a small village 140 miles to the south-east of Kirman, that Luft Ali Khan was made a prisoner and delivered over to his enemy who, with his own hands, tore out his eyes before causing him to perish. Sir H. Pottinger saw, in 1810, a trophy of 600 skulls raised in honour of the victory of Aga Mohammed.

13 See Dieulafoy, Acropole de Suse, &c. Appendix, The Human Races of Persia, pp. 87 and following. See also Duhousset, The Populations of Persia, pp. 4–7; N. de Khanikoff, Ethnography of Persia, pp. 19, 47, 50, 56, &c.

14 According to General Houtum-Schindler (see Memoir already cited, pp. 82–84), the hairs of the Zoroastrians are smooth and thick, generally black, or of a dark brown colour; one seldom meets with a clear brown colour, never with the red. In Kirman some beards do assume this colour, but they incline rather to the yellowish. The eyes are black, or of an intense brown, sometimes grey or blue, the eyebrows habitually thick and well furnished among men, delicate and well shaped among women. The complexion is generally tawny; the cheeks are coloured only among some women. The inhabitants of the cities are pale in appearance, and not robust; those of the towns are robust and well proportioned. We regret not to be able to insert certain types sent for us from Yezd, the printing of this work being too far advanced to enable us to make use of them.

15 Malcolm, History of Persia, vol. i. ch. xv. pp. 607 et seq.

16 Hanway, vol. ii. p. 153.

17 Malcolm, History of Persia, vol. i. ch. xv. p. 642.—The chief of one of the corps of Guebres at the siege of Ispahan was called by the Mussulman name of Nasser-ûllah. Hanway considers him as a Parsi or Guebre.

18 Letter from Prof. W. to the Rev. Dr. Wilson, written in 1843, in Journ. As. of Great Britain and Ireland, vol. viii., 1846, p. 350.

19 We cannot recount here odious details which a single word will characterise: they were veritable dragonnades.

20 General Houtum-Schindler ascertained that, before the abolition of the Jazia, the position of the Guebres was good enough, and infinitely better than that of the Jews at Teheran, Kaschan, Shiraz, and Bushire, whilst at Yezd and in Kirman, on the contrary, the position of the Jews was preferable. The hardships endured were very cruel. (See Houtum-Schindler, Memoir already cited, p. 57.) Here are the principal grievances of the Guebres: they were threatened with forced conversion; property belonging to a Zoroastrian family was confiscated for the use and profit of the proselytes, in disregard to the rights of the legitimate heirs; property newly acquired was susceptible of being burdened with taxes for the benefit of the “Mullas” up to a fifth of its value; there was a prohibition against building new houses and repairing old ones; the Guebres could not put on new or white coats, nor could they ride on horseback; the traders had to submit to taxes in addition to the Government duties of the custom house; and finally the murder of a Zoroastrian was not punished, and often sanctuaries were invaded and profaned.

21 It is well to notice that the Persian Government, very careful to please the ambassadors of the European and Christian courts, accords voluntarily its protection to the natives who are in the neighbourhood of the capital; but this protection ceases in the provinces where there prevails the rule of local governors maintained by the fanaticism of the inhabitants.

22 The Parsees: their History, Manners, Customs, and Religion, ch. ii. pp. 49 et seq.

23 The members of the committee were: Messrs. Maneckji Nasarwanji Petit, Rastamji Nusserwanji Wadia, Merwanji Framji Panday, Kavasji Ardesir Sahair.

24 For the negotiations on the subject of the Jazia, see Parsee Prâkâsh, pp. 659–662.

25 Messrs. Naorozji Fardunji, Dadabhoy Naorozji, Ardeshir Kharshedji Wadia, Dr. Rastamji Kavasji Bahadurji.

26 Here is a translation of the text of the firman relieving the Zoroastrians of Persia from the impost of the “Jazia”:

“In consideration of the innumerable benedictions which it has pleased the Almighty to accord to us, and as an act of grace towards Him who has given us the Royal Crown of Persia, with the means of promoting the welfare of its inhabitants, has devolved on us the duty of securing tranquillity and happiness for all our subjects, to whatever tribe, community, or religion they belong, so that they may be profited and refreshed by the beneficent waters of our special favour.

“Amongst these are the Zoroastrians of Yezd and Kirman, who are descended from the ancient and noble race of Persia, and it is now our desire to make their peace and well-being more complete than before.

“That is why, by this royal firman, we ordain and command that the taxes and imposts of the Crown, levied previously on our Musulman subjects of Yezd and Kirman, may be recovered in the same way from the Zoroastrians who reside there. In this manner the impost which exacts from this community the sum of eight hundred and forty-five tomans, is abolished, and in the commencement of this propitious year of the Horse, we make an abatement of this sum and free the Zoroastrians from it for ever. We therefore order and command our mustaufis and officers of the debt of the Royal Exchequer to remove it from the revenues which have to be paid in by Yezd and Kirman. The governors now in office, or who will be nominated subsequently at the head of these provinces, ought to consider all right to the payment of this tribute abolished for ever, and, as regards the present year, and the following years, if this sum should happen to be exacted, they will be held responsible and will be punished for it. Moreover, in the tribute of the tithes and imposts on water and land, and for all trade duties, the Zoroastrians must be treated in the same manner as our other subjects.

“Given at Teheran, in the month of Ramzan, 1299 (August, 1882), &c.”

27 The Committee has now a fund of 275,000 Rs. (646,250 francs) made up of subscriptions and of gifts made on the occasion of marriages or after the death of relatives, at the Uthamna ceremony of the third day. Out of these funds are supported twelve schools, opened in 1882 in Teheran, Yezd, and Kirman.

28 Mr. Maneckji Limji Antaria is dead, but his successor is not less zealous. The present president is Sir Dinsha Maneckji Petit, and the honorary secretary Mr. Bomanji Byramji Patell.

29 We reserve for a subsequent work certain documents which we have been able to collect on the subject of the Zoroastrian communities of Persia.


Chapter III



It is on the western coast of India, in the Bombay Presidency, that we find the most compact gathering of the members of the Parsi community. Since their exodus from Persia the refugees here have maintained themselves successfully, and have gradually acquired wealth and the intellectual superiority which distinguishes them from the other natives of India.

The Bombay Presidency, or, to be more exact, the province of Bombay,1 comprises twenty-four [78]British districts, and nineteen Native States (Agencies) under the protection of the English Government. Its boundaries are: To the north, the State of Balouchistan, the Panjaub, and the native States of Rajputana; to the east, the Mahratta State of Indore, the Central Provinces, Western Berar and the States of the Nizam of Hyderabad; to the south, the Madras Presidency and the State of Mysore; and to the west, the Arabian Sea. It is divided into four great divisions, made according to the local dialects. On the north lies Sindh or the lower valley and delta of the Indus, a region essentially Mahomedan both historically and as regards the population; then more to the south, Gujerat, containing, on the contrary, the most diverse and mixed elements, and comprising all the districts of the northern coast, the Mahratta country, and the interior districts of the Deccan; and, finally, the provinces where the Canarese language is spoken, divided in their turn into four British districts and eight Native States.2 [79]

This territory has been formed little by little round the Island of Bombay, ceded to England by the King of Portugal as the dowry of the Infanta Catherine of Braganza. The Portuguese were the first to occupy these parts; in 1498 they arrived at Calicut with Vasco de Gama, and five years later, thanks to the bravery of Albuquerque, they took possession of Goa. Bombay came into their possession in 1532, and for a hundred years they managed to maintain themselves at the head of commerce and traffic. Two rival factories, one English and the other Dutch, were established in Surat in 1613 and 1618. It must be stated that the acquisition of the island of Bombay gave but [80]little pleasure to the English, for in 1668, on account of great difficulties, the King transferred it to the East India Company, and in 1686 the control of all the possessions of the Company was transferred from Surat to Bombay, which was made into an independent Presidency (1708) at the time of the amalgamation of the two English Companies. Finally, in 1773, Bombay was placed in a state of dependence under the Governor-General of Bengal, who has since been replaced by the Viceroy of India.

It is from Bombay that the English have spread their influence at present so firmly established in these territories. Simply merchants at first, they gradually supplanted their rivals from the Portuguese and Dutch settlements. Soon they aspired to a more solid power, and came into direct conflict with the natives—the Mahrattas—whom they hastened to drive from Colaba, finding their nearness troublesome. After the first Mahratta war, which arose from the contested succession of the Peishwa (1774), the treaty of Salbai permitted the English to settle in Salsette, Elephanta, Karanja, Hog Island, &c. (1782). The fort of Surat was in their hands from 1759, and in 1800 the administration of this town was made over to them by [81]the Nawab, whose descendants contented themselves with the vain title till 1842.

The second Mahratta war had its origin in the treaty of Bassein (1802), by which the Peishwa accepted the subsidiary system—a system since adopted by the English. It resulted in an accession of territory in Gujerat and an increase of moral influence in the Court of the Peishwas and of the Gaekwars. The interval of peace was employed in repressing the invasions of the pirates who were infesting the Gulfs of Cambay and Cutch.

In 1807 the States of Kathiawar were placed under the British protectorate, and in 1809 the Rao of Cutch was forced to sign a treaty by which he bound himself to help in the destruction of the pirates; whilst, on the other hand, scarcely had the Peishwa Baji Rao been placed on the throne by an English army when he began plotting for the expulsion of the English from the Deccan. In 1817 he attacked the Resident himself, Mountstuart Elphinstone, who withdrew to Kirkee, where with a few troops he succeeded in routing the entire army of the Peishwa. Soon after the prince submitted to Sir John Malcolm. A pension of £80,000 was secured to the Prince, but he was deprived of [82]his States, and Bombay gained in this manner the districts of Poona, Ahmadnagar, Nasik, Kolahpoor, Belgaum, Kaladji, Dharwar, Ahmedabad, and the Konkan. At the same time Holkar abandoned his rights over the districts of Kandesh, and Satara fell into the hands of the English in 1848 on the death of the last descendant of the Mahratta Shivaji. In 1860 the Non-Regulation Districts3 of the Panch Mahals were ceded by Scindhia, and in 1861 the southern limits of the Presidency were still further extended by the annexation of the northern district of Canara taken from Madras. From this time the history of the Bombay Presidency is free of incidents; peace reigned, even at the time of the mutiny of 1857. The local army has, however, rendered important services in Afghanistan, Persia, Burmah, China, Aden, and Abyssinia. Entirely occupied in administrative reforms and the welfare of the country, the Government has attained a state of complete prosperity under such men as Mountstuart Elphinstone, Malcolm, and Lord Reay.4 [83]

According to the general census of 18915 the number of Parsis in India rose to 89,904; that is, an increase of 491 over that of the 17th of February, 1881, which gave a total of 85,397. On the 26th of February, 1891, the entire population of the Bombay Presidency, including the Native States and Aden, formed a total of 26,960,421 inhabitants,6 of whom 76,774 were Parsis (39,285 males and 37,489 females). The surplus is divided between Madras, Bengal, and the districts of the Gaekwar of Baroda, where is to be seen among other flourishing settlements the ancient community of Naosari. To this number must be added the Parsis of [84]China, and of some foreign localities, and the Iranians, 9,269 in number. The exact number of Zoroastrians scattered over the globe we thus find to be a hundred thousand at the most!

We refer to the Zoroastrian Calendar for all information concerning statistics, and in a special chapter (pp. 119 et seq.) we find a detailed list of the population of the city and the Presidency of Bombay.7 We take from it the following table (see next page), which gives the assessment of the population in the different centres. Occupying the first rank we find Bombay with its 47,458 Parsis, and Surat with 12,757; then Broach, Thana, Poona, Karachi, down to the least of the localities, some of which stand for only a simple unit. [85]

Table of the Parsi Population in the Bombay Presidency.8

Names of Towns and Districts. Not Married. Married.9 Widowers and Widows. Total.
M. W. M. W. M. W.
Bombay 14091 10153 9804 9258 810 3342 47458
Ahmedabad 230 175 203 175 12 40 835
Kheda 49 31 39 27 ... 7 153
Panch-Mahal 43 15 40 13 3 3 108
Bharooch 754 623 702 865 70 259 3273
Surat 2990 2535 2597 3212 266 1157 12757
Thana 1001 802 845 860 78 334 3920
Colaba 39 29 51 32 7 9 167
Ratnagiri 6 3 4 2 ... ... 15
Kanara 1 ... 8 ... 1 ... 10
Khandeish 119 73 199 99 10 8 508
Nasik 127 77 108 75 6 14 407
Ahmednagar 51 45 41 37 5 10 188
Poona 622 476 402 386 42 98 2026
Sohlapore 67 59 54 41 3 8 232
Satara 32 40 29 24 1 8 134
Belgaum 17 3 22 15 1 3 61
Dharwar 37 23 40 41 2 2 135
Bijapoor 8 4 5 4 1 2 24
Karachi 424 301 310 282 26 65 1408
Hyderabad 17 10 11 8 ... ... 46
Shikarpoor 20 9 27 12 1 2 71
Thar and Parkar ... ... 1 ... ... ... 1
Upper Sindh 2 ... 3 2 1 ... 8
20738 15486 15545 15459 1346 5371 73945
Native States 606 480 761 495 55 114 2511
Aden 88 37 138 40 8 7 318
21432 16003 16444 15994 1409 5492 76774


Considering the importance of Bombay, we will quote from a paper on it, read by Mr. B. B. Patel before the Anthropological Society of Bombay.10 We find there the lists of births, deaths and marriages in the city of Bombay from 1881 to 1890. During that period of time the average of births has risen per year to 1,450, and that of married women bearing children to 13.293 per cent. The average of deaths has reached 1,135 (575 of the male sex, 500 of the female sex), and 92 still-born (52 of the male sex and 40 of the female sex). The annual average of mortality among children below the age of five years has been 469 (236 of the male sex and 233 of the female sex); between the ages of five and ten, 27 (13 of the male sex and 14 of the female sex); between the ages of eleven and twenty, 47 (20 of the male sex and 27 of the female sex); between the ages of twenty-one and thirty, 65, in the proportion of 27 to 38 for the two sexes; between the ages of thirty-one and forty, 62, in equal proportions for the two sexes; between the ages of forty-one and sixty, 177 (67 males and 90 females). Above the age of eighty the average reaches 37, of whom 13 are males and 24 females. [87]

During these ten years, four persons have died at the age of 100, two at the ages of 101 and 105, and lastly one at the age of 110 years. These centenarians have been all women. The principal cause of mortality among Parsis is fever (Table D); thus of 1,135 deaths, 293 may be attributed to it, 150 to nervous disorders, 91 to affections of the respiratory organs, 70 to dysentery, 38 to phthisis, one hundred to old age, and the rest to diverse other causes, such as measles, pleurisy, diarrhœa, &c., &c. According to the table drawn up by Mr. Patel (Table E), the highest rate of mortality in Bombay is in the Fort, and next to it in Dhobitalao, Baherkote, Khetwady, &c., in proportion to the population of these localities.

After the crisis of 1865 a serious decrease of the population in Bombay had been apprehended for a time; but it was an exaggerated fear which disappeared with the census of 1881. It has been proved, on the contrary, that the conditions of life among the Parsis, both as regards mortality and hygiene, have reduced the average of mortality among the individuals, grown-up men, women and children. These latter, well-tended and carefully brought up, supply a splendid race, susceptible of culture, and endowed with perfect health. Accordingly, from 1872 to 1881, the Parsi population [88]has increased nearly ten per cent. This increase has continued, and, as we have said, the highest increase has been estimated in 1891 to be 4.91.

It is in vain that communities of Parsis have been sought for outside those regions which we have indicated.11 About sixty years ago a Mahomedan traveller did try to persuade others of the existence of a Parsi colony at Khoten, a country situated to the south-east of Kaschgar; but Sir Alexander Burnes, in a communication to Mr. Naoroji Fardunji, dissipated this illusion.12 [89]

We cannot attach any more importance to an assertion recently put forward, and according to which the members of the tribe of the Shiaposch Kafirs, inhabiting the country to the north-east of Cabul, are descendants of the same race, because certain of their usages, as for example their manner of exposing their dead, are similar to those of the Zoroastrians. Sir Alexander Burnes13 in narrating his travels in Cabul in 1836–37–38, relates that the most curious of all the visitors to the country of the Kafirs14 was a man who came from Cabul towards the year 1829. He gave himself out as a Guebre (fire-worshipper), and an Ibrahumi (follower of Abraham), who had quitted Persia to find some traces of his ancestors. During his sojourn in Cabul he willingly mixed with the Armenians and used to get himself called Sheryar, a name common enough among the modern Parsis. They tried, but in vain, to dissuade him from risking himself amongst the Kafirs; he went to Jalalabad and Lughman, [90]where he left his baggage, and as a simple beggar entered Kafristan by way of Nujjeet. He was absent several months, and on his return was assassinated by the Huzaras of the tribe of Ali-Purast. Malik-Usman, furious at the conduct of his countrymen, exacted a fine of Rs. 2,000 as compensation for the blood shed by them. All these details were given by the Armenians of Cabul to Sir Alexander Burnes, but he could not discover whether the unfortunate Sheryar was a Parsi of Bombay or a Guebre of Kirman. However, a document found in the possession of the traveller, and coming from the Shah of Persia, leads us to believe that the latter hypothesis is the true one.

The Census of 1881 enables us to state some interesting facts, which give us an idea of the occupations of the Parsis of Bombay, and of the kind of life led by them. Thus there were at that time 855 priests and persons devoted to religion, 141 teachers, 34 school-mistresses, 33 engineers, 1,384 clerks, and 115 employees. Naval construction seemed to be one of their favourite occupations, for out of 46 ship-builders 26 were Parsis. As for the Dubashes or ship-brokers, out of a total of 159, 146 were Parsis. All professions and manual trades were largely represented, with [91]the exception of that of tailor, which was exercised by only one member of the community. At one time, out of 9,584 beggars in the town of Bombay, there were only five Parsis and one Parsi woman. As to the class of the unfortunate victims of vice and debauchery, a Parsi has not hesitated to affirm that not one of his co-religionists could have been accused of living on the wages of shame.15 Travellers have made the same remarks. Thus, according to Mandelslo, adultery and lewdness were considered by the Parsis as the greatest sins they could commit, and which they would doubtless have punished with death if they themselves had the administration of justice (see Voyages, &c., trans. Wicquefort, p. 184). We may state in this connection that Anquetil gives a precise account of a summary execution under the sanction of the Punchayet, and with the approbation of the Mahomedan governor of Bharooch (see Zend-Avesta, vol. ii. p. 606); and Stavorinus, at the end of the century, makes mention of Parsi women who had been preserved in the right path by the fear of punishment (see Voyages, &c., vol. I, ch. xxviii. p. 363). [92]

The following is a division, under seven heads, of the occupations of the Parsis, as shown in the census of 1881:—

Men. Women.
Professions 1,940 59
Servants16 2,079 416
Merchants 3,317 2
Agriculturists 67 2
Manufacturers 3,610 87
Not classified 565 139
Sundry 13,737 22,579

There is some reason for not wondering at the disinclination of the Parsis for agriculture and the profession of arms. Agriculture had been very flourishing in the hands of the first colonists; but tastes changed, and from men of the field they became men of the town. At the beginning of the century some of them were still in possession of vast tracts of land, and spent much money in improving them. But these gradually passed into other hands, a circumstance in any case greatly to be regretted.17 [93]

As to their apparent repugnance for military service we will see what an enlightened Parsi, who has in this case made himself the spokesman of his co-religionists, has to say. As a matter of fact, the Persians in olden times had distinguished themselves amongst all by their valour and courage. In the inscription engraved on his tomb at Nakch-i-Roustam, King Darius might well say, with a just feeling of pride, that they had only to look at the images of those who supported his throne to know into what distant places the Persian soldier had carried his arms! The famous struggles maintained by the Ardeshirs, the Shapoors, and the Noshirvans show that this warlike temper had not subsided. Why then [94]should the descendants of such heroes abstain from taking part in military exercises and in defending the country18?

Mr. Dosabhai Framji Karaka gives the following explanation of this aversion.19 In the first place he indignantly repudiates the theory put forward by certain European authors that it proceeds purely from religious motives, on account of the worship they are supposed to pay to fire, which would prevent them from handling a cannon or shouldering a gun. Nothing at all in fact prevents them from making use of fire in the handling of offensive and defensive weapons. At the time of certain riots in Bombay, gunsmiths’ shops were seen to be rapidly emptied by the Parsis, and thirty-five years back they were enthusiastic in joining the first volunteer movement; but in 1877 only Europeans were invited to join. Still, protests Mr. D. F. Karaka, there are certainly no natives more eager than the Parsis to share in the defence of British interests. In several places they have joined the volunteers [95]and have obtained much-envied distinctions.20 They are able to attain a high degree of skill in the handling of firearms; for example, Mr. Dorabji Padamji, son of the late Khan Bahadur Padamji Pestonji, is one of the best shots in India.21

The most serious consideration which prevents a Parsi from enrolling himself in the army seems therefore, to us, to be the insufficiency of the pay. We only repeat it: it is a Parsee who says this. We have no desire either to weaken their motives or to exaggerate their grievances. We are well aware that these are very delicate questions, and require to be treated with care and skill, since they concern the relations of devoted subjects with a government of which they are proud. On [96]the other hand, when we take into consideration the moral worth and intelligent co-operation which the Parsis bring to the service of this same government, we are not at all surprised at the conclusion which we see so clearly formulated.22

Native soldiers, whether Hindoos or Mussulmans, are paid at the rate of seven rupees a month, about fourteen shillings (17 fr. 50 c.), including rations, while a Parsi filling the most modest employment of a cook or a servant earns double that sum. During certain disturbances when Bombay was deprived of its European troops, many Parsis would willingly have enrolled themselves in the army if they had been given the pay of European soldiers. It is a matter of regret to them, perhaps a sort of degradation of which they feel the keenness, at being obliged to put forward pecuniary considerations; but their mode of life, even that of the poorest among them, cannot be compared with that of Hindoos and Mussalmans of the same [97]class. These can live on seven rupees a month; Hindoos and Mahomedans of the same family are content with one room, a thing which the humblest Parsi would never allow. The Hindoo or Mussulman woman hardly requires more than one or two saris, costing about three rupees, to clothe herself, and her children can go naked till the age of ten years. But as for the Parsi woman she requires several saris, trousers, shirts and slippers, besides suitable clothing for her children. How can a Parsi soldier then manage to live and bring up his family on seven rupees a month?

Mr. Karaka ends his long and eloquent appeal with a sentence which sounds the true keynote of the regret felt by the Parsis at being merely compared with the natives when they felt themselves to be morally and intellectually their superiors. Why are they not provided with commissions in the army like the Germans and other Europeans?23 Then only will they feel completely identified with the British nation.24 [98]

The Parsis in India are divided into two sects, the Shahanshahis and the Kadmis.25 When Anquetil Duperron visited India this division already existed, and he found them “more excited against each other than the Mahomedan sects of Omar and Ali.” The Parsis, however, do not admit this. This division has nothing to do with their faith, and has nothing in common with the division between the Shiahs and the Sunnis. The schism26 has arisen simply out of a difference of opinion concerning the exact date of computation of the era of Yezdezard, the last king of the ancient Persian monarchy. This division does not exist amongst the Zoroastrians who have remained behind in their own country. [99]

The Parsis reckon their year on a calculation of three hundred and sixty-five days, each month consisting of thirty days. Their year commences with the month of Farvardin, and ends with the month of Spendarmad. At the end of three hundred and sixty days, five days, called the Gathas are added. The period of five hours and fifty-four seconds does not enter into their computation. The old Persians, therefore, in order to make their calculation agree with the solar year, had made at the end of every hundred and twenty years an intercalation or Kabisa, that is to say, they added one month to that period. The Persian Zoroastrians, after the loss of their independence, either through ignorance or simple forgetfulness, had ceased to practise this Kabisa, whilst the Parsis had continued this intercalation during their residence in Khorassan. Hence the origin of the sects with which we have to deal.

In 172027 Jamasp Vilayati, a learned Zoroastrian [100]from Persia, settled in Surat to advise the Mobeds, and it was he who discovered that his co-religionists of India were one month behind their Iranian brethren. Little importance however [101]was attached to this fact. But in 1746 another Iranian, Jamshed, and some Mobeds adopted the date accepted by the Persian Zoroastrians, and took the name of Kadmis. [102]The rest of the community were called Shahanshahis, and preserved the ancient system. Little by little the number of the adherents of Jamshed increased. Now it should be noticed that it was in Surat that this schism among the Parsis first took place, and for some time the harmonious relations between the two did not suffer by it. But two respectable men, Mancherji Kharshedji Seth, of the Shahanshahi sect, and Dhanjisha Manjisha, of the Kadmi sect, managed literally to ignite the powder in spite of their benevolent intentions. In order to get some enlightenment Dhanjisha Manjisha sent to Persia at his own expense a priest from Bharooch, Kavas Rustam Jalal. Born at Bharooch in 1733, this man was well versed in the Arabic and Persian languages. For twelve years he remained in Persia and Turkey, visited Yezd, Ispahan, Shiraz, and Constantinople, and returned to Surat in 1780. During his sojourn in Persia he had obtained an audience with Kerim Khan. Some months before his return Dhanjisha Manjisha had come to Bombay, and had there founded the Kadmi sect under the auspices of Dadiseth, one of the most influential men of the time. Mulla Kavas followed his patron to Bombay and was appointed Dastoor of the Atash-Behram erected [103]by Dadiseth himself (Dadibhai Nasarwanji) for the Kadmi sect, which he consecrated on the 29th of September, 1783. The following year he quitted Bombay and settled in Hyderabad, in the Deccan, where he was honoured with the friendship of the Nizam. He remained there till his death, which took place in 1802 (Parsee Prâkâsh, p. 92).

The Kadmi sect continued to flourish in Bombay, when, at the commencement of the century, rose the great dispute of the Kabisa, that is to say, the famous month by which the Kadmis were in advance of the Shahanshahis (Parsee Prâkâsh, pp. 62, 198, 863, 867, &c.). Mulla Firoz,29 son of Mulla Kavas, and another distinguished [104]priest, Fardunji Marazbanji, constituted themselves the champions of the Kadmi sect, while the mass of the people, guided by Kharshedji Manockji Shroff, grouped themselves under the patronage of the pious Dastoor of the Shahanshahis, Edulji Dorabji Sanjana,30 and clung to the date observed by the Parsis since their arrival in India. Meetings were organised to which learned Moguls were invited, in order to offer explanations, and, if possible, to terminate the discussion. The newspapers were full of virulent articles, pamphlets appeared in great numbers, and the people in some cases seemed disposed to settle the question by the right of might, an irrefutable argument.

The Shahanshahis maintained that the [105]Zoroastrian religion admitted a month’s intercalation at the end of a period of 120 years, and that at the time of the fall of the Persian Empire there had indeed been one intercalation during their sojourn in Khorassan, but once they were in India this usage had been abandoned; hence the backwardness by one month from the computation of the Kadmis. The latter declared on the other hand that the intercalation was forbidden in the Zoroastrian calendar, that it was only meant for political emergencies, and that this mode of calculation had never been practised in Khorassan.

Modern learning has brought this vexed question within its true limits. Mr. Kharshedji Rustamji Kama, of the Kadmi sect, known by his study of the Zoroastrian religion, has proved, or rather has attempted to prove, in a work on the computation of Yezdezard, that the Shahanshahis and the Kadmis were both in error (1870). The Kadmis were wrong in denying that the Parsee new year commenced on the 21st of March, for from a more exact knowledge of the language of the Avesta, and the deciphering of Pehlvi coins, it is demonstrated that the Zoroastrian religion admitted the intercalation; and the Shahanshahis were equally wrong, for, since the downfall of the [106]Persian Empire, there had been no intercalation as they affirmed. The opinion of the Kadmis, in accordance with the date accepted by the Zoroastrians of Persia, which proves that there had been no intercalation after the fall of the national dynasty, is absolutely correct; but as the intercalation was not ordered by the Zoroastrian religion, it appears that both sides were wrong in the controversy of the Kabisa.

The greatest disputes had arisen from this religious quarrel; scenes of surprising violence had resulted from it. For instance, in Bharooch (1782–1783) a certain Homaji Jamshedji had struck a pregnant woman and been condemned to death; others got off with mere fines. In the heat of the disputes families became divided; marriages between Kadmis and Shahanshahis were very rare.31 At present most of the difficulties have been smoothed down. It happens sometimes that the husband and wife belong to different sects; in that case the children invariably belong to the father’s sect. There are [107]no appreciable differences, the pronunciation alone being at times not quite the same. Thus Ahu, Vohu, is pronounced Ahî, Vohî among the Kadmis. There is also some difference in certain religious ceremonies, and in certain liturgical formulas. But the greatest divergence is in the mention of the month and the date of the day when the worshipper is reciting his prayers. All the feasts are observed by both the sects, but at different dates.

The Shahanshahis are greatly superior in numbers to the Kadmis.32 The latter can hardly count more than ten to fifteen thousand adherents. Many of them occupy the highest position. Mr. F. N. Patel, the members of the Cama, Dadiseth, and Banaji families, &c., are among them. The Shahanshahis are represented by Sir Jamshedji Jijibhoy, Sir Dinsha Manockji Petit, and many other not less respectable names. [108]


The Parsis, at the time of their arrival in India, had made some changes in their national costume with a view to please the princes who had received them. Thus we note the resemblance of the angarakha and the turban of the men, and of the saris of the women, with the dress of the Hindoos of Gujerat.

Unwin Brothers, Limited, The Gresham Press, Woking and London.

1 Originally the affairs of the three establishments of the East India Company, in Bengal, Madras, and Bombay, were administered separately, each with a president and a council formed of agents of the Company. The name of Presidency was applied to the whole territory subject to this authority. This expression has no longer its real signification; however, it is still employed in official acts. British India is no longer divided into presidencies, but into provinces, eight of which are very extensive countries, having separate governments. The presidencies of Bombay and Madras are to-day only the provinces of those names.

2 Its territory extends from latitude 28° 47′ to 13° 53′ N., and from latitude 60° 43′ to 76° 30′ E. British districts, including Sind, contain a total superficial area of 124,465 square miles, and a population, according to the census of 1872, of 16,349,206 souls. The Native States cover a surface of nearly 71,769 square miles, with a population of 8,831,730 inhabitants, which gives, for the surface, a total of 196,234 square miles, and for the population a total of 25,180,936 inhabitants. The State of Baroda is no longer under the direct administration of Bombay, but under that of the Supreme Government; we may, however, consider it from the geographical point of view as forming a part of Bombay. The Portuguese possessions of Goa, Damman, and Diu, with a superficial area of 1,146 square miles and a population of nearly 428,955 souls, are equally comprised in the limits of the Presidency. See Imp. Gazetteer of India, vol. ii. p. 172 (Ed. of 1881).

3 See for the explanation of this word, Sir John Strachey, India, pref. and trans. of J. Harmand, chap. vi. p. 145, Paris, 1892.

4 See Sir William Wilson Hunter, K.C.S.I., Bombay 1885 to 1890, a study in Indian Administration. London, 1892.

5 The whole population of India comes to 287,223,431: Brahmins, 207,731,727; aboriginal tribes, 9,280,467; Sikhs, 190,783; Jains, 1,416,633; Zoroastrians, 89,904; Buddhists, 7,131,361; Jews, 17,194; Christians, 2,284,380; Mussulmans, 58,321,164; diverse races, 42,763. See Statistical Abstract relating to British India from 1883–84 to 1892–93, 28th November, London, 1894. Distribution of Population according to Religion, Sex and Civil Condition, &c., p. 26, No. 14.

6 Parsis, 76,774; Hindoos, 21,440,957; Mussulmans, 4,390,995; Christians, 170,009; Jains, 555,209; Jews, 13,547; aboriginal tribes, 292,023; Buddhists, 674; Sikhs, 912; Brahmo-Samaj, 34; diverse races, 51. In no part of India are religions and sects so mixed up as in the Presidency of Bombay. See Ethnology of India by Mr. Justice Campbell, in the Journal of the Asiatic Society. Supplementary number, vol. xxxv. pt. ii. pp. 140, &c., &c.

7 The Zoroastrian Calendar for the year of Yezdezard 1262, 16th September, 1892, to 15th September, 1893; printed and published at the Bombay Vartman Press, by Muncherji Hosunji Jagosh, 1892 (Gujerati). The tables are very carefully done; an inquisitive reader will find there the enumeration of the Parsi population of Bombay according to the different districts, comparisons with the previous census and remarks on the community.

8 See Zoroastrian Calendar, p. 126.

9 The disproportion between the two sexes is explained by the general custom, which does not allow the Parsi servants to bring their wives to the cities where they are employed.

10 Statistics of births, deaths, and marriages amongst the Parsis of Bombay, during the last ten years, in the Journal of the Anthropological Society of Bombay, ii., November 1, pp. 55–65.

11 We refer to the Parsee Prâkâsh, for all those interesting details, those of our readers who can read and understand Gujerati.

12 “If I have not yet replied to your letter of the 19th November,” he writes, “it is because I desired to make special researches concerning the strange rumour which has been spread by the Syed on the subject of a tribe of Parsis established at Khoten, remaining faithful to the Zoroastrian customs, and still governed by its own kings. I can tell you that it is a legend devoid of foundation, and that Major Rawlinson, so learned in these matters, partakes of my view. I suppose that the Syed, seeing the prosperous condition of his co-religionists in Bombay, imagined that in flattering your vanity he would act on your purse. Besides, the country of Khoten is not the terra incognita which he has depicted. I have been in touch with the people who have sojourned there; it is a dependency of China, inhabited by Mussulman subjects of the Empire: the only Chinese who are there form part of the garrison. According to all that has been said to me of Khoten and the adjacent countries, the only difficulty I have had is to define who are the Christian traders who frequent those markets. I think that they are Russians or Nestorian Christians.”

13 See Cabool: being a Narrative of a Journey to, and Residence in that City in the years 1836–7–8. By the late Lieut.-Col. Sir Alexander Burnes. London, 1842.

14 Vivien Saint Martin, New Dictionary of Universal Geography, vol. iii. p. 9. Paris, 1887.

15 “Returned herself as living on the wages of shame” (see Dosabhai Framji Karaka, Hist. of Parsis, vol. i. chap. iii. p. 99).

16 The Parsis have never followed certain occupations, as those of a day labourer, palanquin bearer, barber, bleacher, &c., &c.

17 Let us note the efforts of Sir Richard Temple, Governor of Bombay (1877–80), who, on his way to Naosari, reminded the Parsis of certain verses of the Vendidad relating specially to agricultural or pastoral occupations, and exhorted them to continue such traditions. Since then a rich Parsi of Bharooch, Mr. Rastamji Maneckji, has taken on lease from the chief of Rajpipla, a great stretch of land in the Panch-Mahals, and has cultivated it with success. He has been outstripped by Kavasji Framji Banaji in his beautiful domain of Pawai. Lord Mayo has highly recognised the great importance of agricultural studies, and in 1870 he declared that the progress of India in riches and in civilisation depended on the progress of agriculture. See Strachey, India, trans. Harmand, chap. ix.; Hunter, Bombay, &c., about the question of agricultural education (chap. vi. pp. 158, 159–166), and about the foundation of a Chair of Agriculture at Baroda under the auspices of the Gaekwar, at the suggestion of Lord Reay, (p. 168.)

18 See for the army in India, Strachey, India, trans. Harmand, chap. iii. pp. 52 et seq.; Hunter, Bombay, &c., chap. xiv. pp. 448 et seq.

19 Dosabhai Framji Karaka, Hist. of the Parsis, vol. i. pp. 101 et seq.

20 The enrolment of the Parsis as volunteers, to the exclusion of the other nationalities, has reappeared since the publication of the work of Mr. D. F. Karaka. At Quetta, at Karachi, at Poona the Parsis are admitted freely into the corps of the European Volunteers, and lastly (June, 1894) Mr. Dinsha Dosabhai Khambatta is enrolled as a lieutenant in the “Poona Volunteers”; he is now a lieutenant in the “Quetta Corps.”

21 Padamji Pestanji is the chief of the Parsi community of Poona; since the last riots, he obtained as a reward of his services the title of Khan Bahadur; he is a member of the Legislative Council and has the rank of a Sirdar of the First Class in the Dekkan.

22 “We have not the slightest hesitation in saying that the Parsis would be found to be as good and brave soldiers as the Anglo-Saxons, while their loyalty and attachment to the Government they are called upon to serve would always be above suspicion” (see Hist. of the Parsis, vol. i. chap. iii. p. 103).

23 “For if a German or a European of another nationality can secure a commission in the British Army, why should not a Parsee, who is the born subject of the Queen-Empress?” (See Hist. of the Parsis, vol. i. chap. iii. p. 104.)

24 Opinions are divided amongst the Parsis themselves on the subject of their nationality and position in India. The Hon. Mr. P. M. Mehta considers them as natives to the backbone. Mr. Dadabhai Naoroji, M.P., is of the same opinion, whilst a certain number decline to recognise this.

25 The name of Shahanshahi means “imperial,” and that of Kadmi is drawn from qadim, “ancient.” The Shahanshahis are also called Rasmis, from Rasm, “custom,” that is to say, that which is followed in India.

26 On this schism, see Anquetil Duperron, Zend-Avesta, Disc. Prel. p. ccccxxvi.; Wilson, The Parsi Religion, pp. 35, 36; Haug, Essays, pp. 57, 58. Aspandiarji Kamdin resumed the controversy of the Kabisa in a book appearing in Surat, in 1826: A Historical Account of the Ancient Leap-Year of the Parsis (Gujerati). Mr. K. R. Kama held, in 1869, a series of conferences on the ancient computation of time, and has published The Era of Yezdezard (Gujerati).

27 This is how Anquetil Duperron relates the incidents of this memorable struggle:28 “About forty-six years ago there came from Kirman a very clever Dastoor named Djamasp. He had been sent to re-unite the Parsis divided on the question of the Penom, a double piece of cloth with which the Parsis, on certain occasions, cover a part of the face. Some wished that it should be placed on the dead, others did not like this. Djamasp decided in favour of the latter, according to the custom of Kirman. If this Dastoor had not made the voyage to India, this frivolous contest would have caused streams of blood to flow.

“Djamasp is believed to have examined the Vendidad, which was current in Gujerat. He found the Pehlvi translation of it too long and not correct in several places. Ignorance was the predominating vice of the Parsis of India. In order to remedy it, the Dastoor of Kirman formed some disciples, Darab at Surat, Djamasp at Naosari, and a third at Bharooch, to whom he taught Zend and Pehlvi. Some time after, tired of the contradictions which he had to endure, he returned to Kirman. The books which this Dastoor has left in India are an exact copy of the Zend and Pehlvi Vendidad, the Feroueschi, the translation of the Vadjerguerd, and the Nerenguestan. These two works are in Persian, mixed with Zend, and purely on ceremonials.

“Darab, the first disciple of Djamasp, and a Dastoor Mobed perfect in the knowledge of Zend and Pehlvi, wished to correct the Pehlvi translation of the Vendidad and rectify some portions of the Zend Text, which appeared to him either to have been transposed or to present useless repetitions. He began explaining to young Parsi theologians the works of Zoroaster, which the Mobeds read every day without understanding them. An enslaved people who for a long time practised a thousand ceremonies, the sense and reason of which they were ignorant of, would naturally fall into innumerable abuses. This was what Darab, more learned than the others, observed. The purifications were multiplied; the Zend text was inundated with Pehlvi commentaries, often very inconsistent. Darab at first attempted the way of instruction. But he found a powerful adversary in the person of Manscherdji, the chief of the party who did not like reform, and himself the son of a Mobed.

“Another subject of division animated them again, one against the other. Darab had for his father Kaous, of whom I have spoken before, who had received from Dastoor Djamasp the first smatterings of astronomy, according to the principles of Oulough Beg. This Dastoor Mobed having been perfected since then under another Parsi come from Kirman about thirty-six years ago, showed by the Tables of Oulough Beg that the Nao rouz (the first day of the year) ought to be advanced by a month, and that consequently there had been an error till then. A letter of the Dastoors of Yezd, dated the 22nd of the month Aban, of the year 1111 of Yezdezard (1742, A.D.) and brought by the Parsi Espendiar, confirmed the discovery of Kaous, but did not tend to protect him from the hatred of his compatriots. It went so far that Darab, sixteen or seventeen years ago, was obliged to withdraw to Damann amongst the Portuguese, and Kaous to Cambay among the English. When I arrived at Surat, almost all the Parsis of India followed the party of Manscherdji because he was rich and powerful; Darab, whose knowledge was recognised even by his adversaries, had some disciples who, in the sequel, showed themselves more freely when the authority of Manscherdji had been lowered at Surat with that of the Dutch, whose agent he was.”

28 Disc. Prel. pp. cccxxvi. et seq.

29 Mulla Firoz succeeded his father Mulla Kavas as Dastoor of the Kadmis (1802); when hardly eight years old he had accompanied Mulla Kavas to Persia and had learned Persian and Arabic. In 1786 he wrote in Persian a curious recital of his voyage, Derich Kherde Manjumi. In 1830 he published the Avijéh Din to refute the arguments of Dastoor Edalji Dorabji Sanjana. The governor of Bombay, Mr. Jonathan Duncan, engaged him to teach Persian, and to translate the Desatir. Mr. Duncan having died, Mulla Firoz continued his work in concert with Mr. William Erskine, and finished it in 1819. He died in 1830 (Parsee Prâkâsh, p. 229) and bequeathed his collection of books in Zend, Pehlvi, &c., to the Kadmi community; the library which contains them is situate in “Fort,” and bears his name. We owe to Mulla Firoz a poem on the conquest of India by the English, the George Namah, which was terminated and published in 1837 by his nephew and successor, Dastoor Rastamji Kaikobadji. On the death of the latter (1854) (Parsee Prâkâsh, p. 635), the Kadmis combined to found a madressa which they called Mulla Firoz (Parsee Prâkâsh, p. 647).

30 Edalji Dorabji Sanjana was esteemed for his piety and merits. He was in his time one of the first savants in Zend and Pehlvi; he was equally perfect in Sanscrit. We owe to him several works on the Mazdiene religion, amongst others a book entitled Khorehe Vehijak, which brought forth in reply the Avijéh Din of Mulla Firoz. He died in 1847 (Parsee Prâkâsh, p. 495).

31 Most offensive epithets were interchanged between Kadmis and Shahanshahis, such as that of churigar (“churi,” bracelets, bangles; and “gar,” workman) a term of contempt carrying with it an idea of weakness; the children of the two sects pursued one another in the streets, insulting one another. This was hardly fifty years ago.

32 The sect of the Shahanshahis possesses in Bombay two High Priests—Dastoor Jamaspji Minocherji and Shams ul ulma Dastoor Peshotan Behramji Sanjana; at Poona there is only one, Dastoor Hoshangji Jamaspji. The sect of the Kadmis has also High Priests—Dastoor Kharshedji Phirozji Mulla Firoz, elected by the whole community, who is attached to the Dadiseth Atash-Behram, and Dastoor Kharshedji Bezonji, attached to the Framji Kavasji Banaji Atash-Behram.



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This book is an incomplete translation of Menant, Delphine. Les Parsis; histoire des communautés zoroastriennes de l’Inde. Paris: E. Leroux, 1898, as indicated in the Introduction.

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Page Source Correction
N.A. [Not in source] )
15 [Not in source] the
21 S’lokas Ślokas
21 S’lokas Ślokas
29 Frére Frère
48 1858 1884
N.A. un im
N.A. [Not in source] .
52 [Not in source] .
52 communicati on communication
57 Dieulafay Dieulafoy
69 : ,
90 employes employees

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