Jame- Jamshed Weekly,
29th April, 2003.
This has reference to Mr. Jamsheed Kanga’s letter dated April 27, 2003 published in your esteemed Weekly.
Mr. Jamsheed Kanga, ex-Trustee of the BPP, quotes from the Persian Rivayat of 1773 justifying conversion of non-Zarthushtis and acceptance of inter-religious marriages because, according to him, children of “slaves/servants” were converted in India in those days.
First of all, before proceeding to this Rivayat, may I point out that the names Kanga, Desai, Andhyarujina, Dastoor, Madon, etc. indicate that these individuals are descendants of the athravan families. They are the keepers of our consecrated fires and preservers of our religion and its institutions. Kanga are descendants of the famous MeherjiRana family of Navsari. The photographs of the sagacious Desai ancestors, displayed on the walls of their Dare Mehr at Navsari, are awe-inspiring; they followed our religion with total dedication and were especially committed to “boonak pasbaani”! One very dedicated and wise mobed by the name of Ervad Rustom Andhyarujina, a lawyer of repute, was instrumental in drawing up the Constitution of the Udvada Athornan Mandal! This constitution is aimed at preserving “boonak pasbaani”! The recent Resolution passed by the Vada Dasturjis echoes the Udvada constitution in detail! Would it not be an insult to the memory of all the fathers and the forefathers if their sons today repudiate all that they endorsed? Strange that we read the names of the descendants of these illustrious ancestors as the ones who are against those very beliefs and practices their ancestors were committed to! The current mobeds, descendants of these renowned families, behave as if their ancestors were culprits, racists, uncultured and illiterate to preserve our tokham and boonyad! One would have expected a Kanga, a Desai, a Andhyarujina to be the first in defense of our religion and its sacred institutions!
* Since Mr. Jamsheed Kanga has referred to the Rivayats, let it be known to those who are unaware that the Persian Rivayat of 1773 is the last exchanges between Indian and Iranian mobeds. One of the questions asked is whether or not slaves/servants can be converted and their mortal remains consigned to dakhma. The reply given states that converting servants earns great merit! Hence the current scenario wherein Mr. Kanga wishes to convert all others because “servants” were converted.
Mr. Kanga’s contention is inaccurate, to say the least! a) There were several Rivayats written between India and Iran. The Rivayats are not scriptures. They indicate the social and customary trends of the time, “rit-rivaj”. The Pahlavi Texts are written between 9-11 centuries ACE, closer to the Sassanian Era. Not surprisingly, these Pahlavi Texts strongly condemn conversion and intermarriage! The Pahlavi Texts are more reliable and accurate than the Rivayats. b) The Irani mobeds were not used to the custom of having servants in Iran, and subsequently, they were not aware of the social conditions prevalent in India around 1773. In Iran, no Zarthushti ever kept a Muslim as a “servants”! Hence their opinion on the subject regarding “servants” can hardly be authentic! They may have considered these “servants” as poor family members who worked as helpers/“servants” and who had not had their navjote performed. In Iran, due to the burden of persecution, many Irani Zarthushtis did not perform navjote of their children. It is likely that the Irani mobeds answered that such “servants” (family helpers) be “converted” by performing their navjote. They mistook poor Zarthushti relatives who lived in the house as helpers to be “servants”. Indeed, wealthy Zarthushtis often used to employ impoverished Zarthushtis as “servants” and “cooks”. All “servants” in Zarthushti homes were not always juddins since staunch Zarthushtis followed the purity rules and did not permit juddins to live in their homes as servants. Hence, this reference to the Rivayat regarding “servants” holds no ground as an excuse to proselytise or accept inter-religious marriages.
The practice of keeping servants and producing progeny through such relationship is an immoral act. The Vansda episode was just that! Married Zarthushtis in remote places took to keeping servants who were juddins and the progeny of such adulterous unions were navjoted by Ervad Bode. How can such immoral deeds ever be justified and that too through religion and its sublime teachings? It is disgraceful to even discuss and legitimise such deeds. The statement regarding the Rivayats and conversion of servants does not merit further discussion. This simply proves that within our own community there are unrighteous Zarthushtis! It is definitely not the name of the religion that makes an individual good or bad. If that were the case, all Zarthushtis would be spiritually and morally perfect! Where is the need to convert from any other religion to ours when we ourselves, as Zarthushtis, have to face grave imperfections, adulterous and immoral acts committed by our own co-religionists as is evident from the Vansda episode?
Mr. Kanga should know that conversion breeds hatred. It is only because we do not proselytise that we, as a community, are respected in India and Iran. The recent atrocities in the Balkan, Africa, Middle East, India and in other parts of the world are due to conversion from religion to religion. As a micro community, we cannot afford a blood bath that has gripped the other communities such as the Christians and Muslims, especially in India in recent times.
It is absolutely a false conception to believe that our religion teaches conversion from one revealed, established religion to another! Changing the mere name of one’s religion is in no way spiritually beneficial to any individual. The true conversion must come from within, of converting vices to virtues. All religions lead to the same Divine Goal and teach the universal beliefs regarding Renovation, Resurrection, Divine Justice, Immortality of the Soul, life after death, etc. All religions are established according to the Divine Will and have a purpose to exist. Human interference of conversion from religion to religion works against the soul’s spiritual progress. This is the prime reason why we do not proselytise.
Our community would do well to learn from its past history that groups of Zarthushtis who left Iran after the Arab conquest to settle in Europe and Asia perished through their “open-door” policy of inter-religious marriage. They were absorbed into the ethnic and racial identity of the larger host communities and in time, they lost their religious identity as well. There are no living, practising Zarthushti descendants of these groups in existence today. Only some derelict archaeological evidences stand as mute testimony to the annihilation of the Zarthushti communities who intermarried, proselytised and perished outside of Iran and India!
Please note that it was only in India and India alone that the migrant Irani community of Zarthushtis flourished. Our sagacious ancestors were able to preserve their religion and religious identity because they adhered to their traditions, rituals, scriptures, and practised “boonak-pasbaani” or the “closed door” policy. They are the only group outside of Iran to survive for over thirteen centuries! Please, let us not destroy what our forefathers died for, what they suffered for! They gave up their lives so we may inherit the great Mazdayasni Zarthushti Din unchanged, as they inherited it from the previous generations.
Mr. Kanga, true conversion is from within and not from religion to religion. The great Mazdayasni Zarthushti Din will survive forever, till Frashogard, by the virtue of boonak pasbaani alone!
Atha jamyat, yatha afrinami!
Pervin J. Mistry.
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