Taking Zoroastrianism to the youth


     At first glance, the rows of models, charts and paintings that have been displayed in Dadar’s Wadia Vachha School seem to be part of a routine exhibition put up by students. Not so, however. Senior members of the Parsi community have gathered to host a three-day exhibition on the Zoroastrian religion, which begins on Sunday. 

   It is the followers of Kshnoom, the mystic offshoot of Zoroastrianism, who have taken it upon themselves to acquaint the younger generation of the community with their roots. A similar exhibition was organised last year at the neighbouring Palamkote Hall, albeit on a bigger scale for that was the centenary year of the Kshnoom movement.

   Kshnoom is to Zoroastrianism what Sufism is to Islam. The word appears in the holy book and literally translates as “the ecstasy that is derived from knowing the scriptures’’. Its followers believe Kshnoom is the only key to understanding the religion.
   “It was a century ago that a native of Surat, Behramshah Shroff, brought home the message of mysticism after a trip to Iran.

He had imbibed the truth of Kshnoom from the seers of that country with whom he lived for three long years,’’ says senior lawyer and Kshnoom scholar Kaikhushru Dastur. Interestingly, it was 25 years after his return to India that the reticent Shroff revealed his interpretation of the scriptures at a common debate in the neighbourhood fire temple. 

   Of course, the exhibition is open to all Parsis as the organisers do not seek to impose their beliefs. Drawing inspiration from the Zend Avesta and the holy scriptures, as well as by making up little stories on their own, the elders have made best use of the small space. 

   Meticulously laying out the white tablecloths so that not a single crease is visible, an elderly volunteer then proceeds to arrange a series of paintings that depict the seven “charms” of Zoroastrianism. 

   “The paintings have been especially created by Amar Chitra Katha artist Ram Waeerkar. Each frame tells a story explaining the importance of emblems like the holy fire, the ‘sudreh’ and ‘kushti’ which the Parsis wear, the rituals, prayers and scriptures,’’ says California resident Silloo Mehta, who has conceived and executed this project.

   On the adjacent table are placed yellow, weather-beaten copies of the ancient scriptures, which Mehta procured on one of her regular trips to Iran.

   Last month, she bundled palmsized models of witches, gnomes and angels into her suitcase to bring back to India for this exhibition. Now, as she arranges them under 12 different subject heads, Mehta wishes “modern youngsters’’ understood the significance of preserving the bloodline by marrying into the community, or why it is necessary to preserve the traditional method of Dokhemenashini over opting for cremation or burial.

   If only they would stop by, they might be impressed.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: