Report on the 86th Baj of Ustad Saheb Behramshah N. Shroff

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Roj Ashtad Mah Bahman, 1382 Yz. 9th July 2013.

The 86th Baj of Ustad Saheb Behramshah Nowroji Shroff was observed with customary solemnity. The day’s events started at 6 am with a Machi being offered to the Padshah Saheb of the Ustad Saheb Behramshah Nowroji Shroff Daremeher at Jogeshwari by the Trustees of the Zoroastrian Radih Society. Thereafter, Afringan, Farokshi, 3 Stums and 2 Bajs were performed in memory of Ustad Saheb at 7:30 am. Right from the early morning Machi and throughout the prayers, a steady stream of devotees from the Behram Baug complex as well as outside continued to visit the Daremeher to pay their respects to the Ruvan of Ustad Saheb. All the Machis of the day were offered in the name of Ustad Saheb, both by the Trust and by other devotees.

By 10 am, the hall of the Daremeher was full of devotees as the Jashan ceremony in memory of Ustad Saheb commenced. Post the Jashan, I gave a talk on: “How to do the perfect Kusti, as explained by Ustad Saheb.” The Kusti is the most basic and fundamental ritual of our religion. Yet, very few people perform it correctly. Our Master, Ustad Saheb explained that the Kusti ritual should not be a mindless untying and retying of the Kusti with a few prayers said absentmindedly.

He revealed that the Kusti is akin to Zoroastrian Yoga, it should be done with full concentration and devotion, with three things working in unison – Mithra – the special thoughts to be passed while performing the Kusti, Manthra – the special Avesta and Pazend prayers that have to be recited before, during and after the ritual, and Yasna – the specific kinetics or performances which accompany the Kusti ritual. All three should be performed in unison and with full concentration. Every paragraph of the Avesta to be recited has a special thought which has to be passed at the same time. Similarly, the various actions that have to be performed while doing the Kusti also need to be kept in mind and performed mindfully.

The talk, originally scheduled for 30 minutes, expanded to over 75 minutes as devotees requested more information and the practical demonstration of the ritual was performed, also giving an insight in to the common errors that are committed. An audio recording of the lecture has been made and will be put up on the Frashogard blog shortly.

In the evening, another event was held at the Cama Baug in central Mumbai. A Jashan in memory of Ustad Saheb was performed. After a Jashan, the evening’s main function commenced on the small Otla of the Cama Baug. The chief speaker for the evening was Vada Dasturji Kaikhushroo Navroze Dastoor Meherji Rana. Paying glowing tributes to Ustad Saheb, Vada Dasturji gave a brief history of the life of the Master and his wondrous destiny to have come into contact with the Abed Sahebs of Demavand. He elaborated on the role played by the Masani and the Chiniwalla brothers in the establishment and propagation of Khshnoom in those early years following the death of the Master. Vada Dasturji also spoke of the ways in which Khshnoom was propagated, firstly through the Frashogard Magazine started by Er. Phiroze Masani from 1911 to 1942. The magazine closed after the passing away of Er. Phiroze and the need for a medium to spread the word of Khshnoom was sorely felt. Thereafter, Seth Jehangirji Chiniwalla started the Parsi Avaz weekly newspaper from 7th July 1947 for a period of 27 years, ably assisted by the current Vada Dasturji, among others. The Parsi Avaz closed in 1974, one year after the passing away of Jehangirji.

Vada Dasturji Meherjirana proceeded to describe the starting of the Dini Avaz magazine after the closure of the Parsi Avaz, under the hard work and supervision of late Curset Patel. Thereafter, Vada Dasturji’s own magazine – Parsi Pukar was started. Some time ago, both these magazines were merged to form the new Parsi Avaz quarterly magazine. Thereafter, Vada Dasturji posed a pertinent question: what about the future? How would the Khshnoom movement ensure that the message of the Abed Sahebs of Demavand, sent through the intercession of Ustad Saheb be continued? How would the movement deal with the rapid changes in technology and the new media opportunities which have arisen in the last few years?

At this juncture Vada Dasturji spoke about our very own Frashogard blog. He explained that although he himself was not very proficient in computers, he had heard a lot of good things about the site, especially the Ilm-e-Khshnoom SkyDrive project where all the books of Khshnoom had been digitized and put up in the cloud for free access to every student. He commended this venture and then requested me, sitting in the audience, to come up and describe to the gathering the idea behind the Frashogard blog and how students of Khshnoom could use this resource to their advantage.

This was a very unexpected surprise, not only to those gathered, but also myself. I had been given just one hour’s previous notice that I could be called upon to speak during the function. Thankfully, just that morning, I had posted the blog on how to use the new Frashogard design and therefore all the facts and figures were in my mind. Over the next 20 minutes I described the genesis of the Frashogard website, starting with the Frashogard magazine and then proceeding on to the blog. I described the necessity of having a presence in the electronic medium as well as the net, to quickly respond to situations as they arose and to give a forceful and authentic reply from the Orthodox to all challenges set by the reformist groups.

Thereafter I described the origin of the SkyDrive and profusely thanked my dear friend and volunteer, the nameless Mr. N who had spent so many years of his life scanning and arranging all the files for uploading on the SkyDrive. The different sections of the SkyDrive, dealing with books written by Ustad Saheb, Dr. Saheb Framroze, Jehangirji, Er. Phiroze, the English books section and books written by other authors were explained, along with the method of using the excellent Indexes designed by late Vada Dasturji Meherji to gather information on any given topic. Some pointers to the future, and the next projects to be taken on hand were also described.

After this Vada Dasturji Kaikhushroo gave his main speech. He had selected one paragraph from the Atash Nyaesh – ‘dayao me Atarsh…asu khathrem asu thraitim…ham-veretim.’ Despite his advanced age, Vada Dasturji spoke for nearly an hour, explaining the esoteric meaning behind the words in the paragraph, explaining the various gifts which the devotee asks from his Padshah. Dasturji explained that these gifts were not to be taken in the literal or physical sense but that they were highly spiritual gifts, through which man could achieve salvation in a very short period of time. A complete summary of his speech will appear in the coming issues of the Parsi Avaz magazine.

Thereafter, Vada Dasturji announced that the second edition of the book: ‘A Wondrous Life – the true story of the Master, Ustad Saheb Behramshah Nowroji Shroff’, written by me had been published. I had requested that the book be released on the Baj of Ustad Saheb as a fitting tribute to his pious memory. Vada Dasturji graciously accepted and the book was released at his hands. A detailed post on the book and its availability will be put up shortly.

Thereafter, the assembly concluded with Humbandagi and devotees dispersed after partaking the Chasni from the Jashan ceremony. In this manner, the 86th Baj of Ustad Saheb was observed, in a day filled with prayers, religious education and a firm view of the future.

Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram