Welcome to Frashogard – the Definitive Blog on Zoroastrian Ilm-e-Khshnoom
The Pahlavi word Frashogard (Avesta Frashokereti), means ‘making wonderful, renovation, salvation’. It refers to the far off event in time when all the creations of Ahura Mazda will be reunited with him.
As Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote in his Eulogy:
That God, which ever lives and loves,
One God, one law, one element
And One Far-Off Divine Event,
To which the whole creation moves.
Frashogard is a Blog devoted to explaining to the English speaking world the Zarathushtrian mystic revelation known as Ilm-e-Khshnoom [The Blissful Knowledge]. How did this all come about? As typical stories go, once upon a time…
I was first introduced to the name of our revered Master, late Ustad Saheb Behramshah Nowroji Shroff in May 1987, soon after finishing my ICSE examinations.
Ustad Saheb was the single most important Parsi to emerge at the beginning of the 20th century. Although a very normal person, Ustad Saheb had the good fortune, through his past deeds, to have come into contact with a group of Abed Sahebs – the Secluded Masters of the Zoroastrian Religion who live in complete isolation in the areas around Mount Demavand in Iran. Ustad Saheb was taken to their secluded area, called Firdaus and stayed with them for over three and a half years, studying at the feet of the Spiritual Head of Demavand, Sraoshavarez Marzbanji Saheb.
After his return to India, Ustad Saheb kept quiet for nearly 25 years and when directed by his Masters, introduced the Zoroastrian Mystical Revelation, called Ilm-e-Khshnoom to Parsis in around 1905. As his name and fame spread, Ustad Saheb gathered a circle of close disciples and students to whom he imparted the Divine Knowledge. After an eventful life, fully described in my first book: ‘A Wondrous Life: the true story of our Master, Ustad Saheb Behramshah Nowroji Shroff’, Ustad Saheb passed away on 7th July, 1927.
After my introduction to Ustad Saheb and Khshnoom, I also began a systematic study of the Avesta and Pahlavi languages by enrolling at the Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy Zarthoshti Madressa. As my studies progressed, I realized that although learning the translations of our sacred Avesta made through the science of philology (the study of languages and grammar) was exciting and interesting, very often, the translations raised more questions than they answered. For example, I could not understand why we worshipped a ‘holy ass’ standing in the middle of an ocean called ‘Zareh Vourukash’, as mentioned in the Haftan Yasht. How could an ass be holy? How could it stand in the middle of the ocean? How could it have three legs? Nor could I understand why the Fravashi of Holy Zarathushtra was remembered in two different forms in succeeding sentences in all the five Gahs.
Although my Avesta and Pahlavi teachers were very patient with me and tried their best to reason, I still found that something was lacking. There was no question about the mechanics of grammar – present tense, perfect tense, active voice, passive voice, declensions etc. The question was why? Why was a certain sentence arranged in the passive voice, why was a certain word declined in a specific manner, what was the purpose behind reduplicating a root, how and why do we choose from multiple root meanings of the same word…these were the questions that tormented my studies.
By the virtue of some good deeds in a previous life, I slowly began to collect some of the vast literature left behind by Dr Framroze S. Chiniwalla. As I studied his writings, the answers began flowing from there. The more I read of Doctor Saheb, the more I realized that the study of Avesta could be made complete most beautifully by synthesizing the best elements of modern-day grammar with the Zoroastrian Mystic Revelation of Khshnoom. Of course my Avesta and Pahlavi teachers were not so enthused with my arguments. Regardless, I would write pages of Khshnoom in my Avesta exams, with not so bad marks! These studies emboldened me to try and explain to a wider audience the deep science that lay behind our religious teachings. Over the years I gave hundreds of speeches both in Mumbai and outside, describing the wonders of our faith.
I however realized that talks had very little lasting value. People came, they listened, clapped politely and went back. There was very little retention of the knowledge that had been revealed and almost zero implementation. For many, attending these talks was just a means to while away their time. Thus I began to think about spreading the knowledge through the written word, which may be stored and retrieved at will and would therefore have greater lasting value. My journey to write about our religion started in 2005, when I introduced the English Journal Frashogard. The idea behind the Journal was to present before lay Parsis as well as scholars, the deep knowledge which existed in the teachings of our Master.
However, the logistics of the operation were very formidable. To write, proof, prepare, print and distribute a 100 page Journal every three months single-handedly became an almost impossible task, along with the arduous job of looking after the Agiary, the Holy Fire and our many devotees of Behram Baug. The rising costs of paper, printing and distribution meant that it was un-economical to sustain the operation for a long time. It was then that I decided to use the emerging medium of blogging and the internet. Accordingly, I started www.Frashogard.com as an online blog, freely available and readable for all, throughout the world. As soon as an article was written, I could post it online, with a minimum of effort and the wonders of email would inform all subscribers of the new essay. There would be no more waiting for the courier to arrive.
Over the last three years, the Frashogard blog has gathered over 700 full time subscribers, who then forward the mails to their own numerous friends and associates. Visitor traffic on the Blog has been increasing every month and for many, Frashogard.com has become the site to visit for any information regarding the Zoroastrian religion.
Along with the numerous essays, I also started the most daunting task of digitizing Khshnoom literature. The main Khshnoom books, written by Dr Saheb Framroze were in Gujarati and long out of print. Similarly a wealth of information existed in the Parsi Avaz – a weekly newspaper started by Jehangirji Chiniwalla in 1947 which propagated the traditional cause and was the main medium for dissemination of Khshnoom in those days. The Parsi Avaz complete set – 27 volumes running into over 12000 Tabloid sized pages were exceedingly rare to find and because of the nature of newsprint, were beginning to fall apart.
Through the most laborious, tiring and excruciatingly tedious work done by a young, anonymous volunteer called Mr. NJ, the whole process of digitizing began, is on-going and now nearing completion. As the books and volumes began to be scanned, cleaned, indexed and compiled, we again used the power of the internet to offer this valuable treasure trove of information free to all users. Making full use of the excellent service of Microsoft SkyDrive, which gives a massive 25 GB of free space per user, we created the Ilm-e-Khshnoom SkyDrive to host the vast amount of data that had been created. The entire data can be accessed from http://www.frashogard.com/ilm-e-khshnoom-skydrive without spending a single rupee.
And so the story goes on….till we come to the end ‘they (we) all lived happikly ever after…in Frashogard.
I welcome your feedback on the various articles as well as the design of the site at [email protected]
Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram