The Migration of Parsis to India 5: the Storm gathers

Posted by:

Roj Gosh Mah Shehrevar, 1383 Yz.

Readers of Frashogard may wonder as to what was so bad about Mazdak and how did it play a part in the fall of the Iranian Empire? Our Master, Ustad Saheb explained the beautiful concept of Hamkheshi-ba-Ekhlakh which was the cardinal principle on which Iranian society was formed. Hamkheshi-ba-Ekhlakh were the rules of engagement between different strata of society. It encompassed the various duties and obligations of each member of Iranian society with the other. What were the onuses of a resident of the Iranian society towards himself, his religion, his Emperor and towards society as a whole? A Zoroastrian resident of those times took great care to fulfil these obligations. For example, the main obligation towards oneself was to be true – not appearing true towards others, but being true to oneself. This is perhaps the most difficult practice. We can only be true to ourselves when we remove the veneer of artificiality that covers our real self. What were his obligations towards religion? To follow the Tarikats of Druj-parhez; to venerate the Ruvans of his departed family members; to offer a part of his income towards righteous charity. What were his obligations towards Iranian society? To forever remain patriotic towards the Emperor; to take care of those above and below him in his line of business; to take care of the environment in which he worked to ensure that no Druj was created by his vocation; to play fair business; taking a just percentage of profit and offering correct taxes to the Treasury. What were his commitments towards his family? To provide them with adequate means of livelihood; to take care of the aged and the infirm; to give the correct education to his children; to help the less fortunate members of the family. All these and many more are contained in the phrase Hamkheshi-ba-Ekhlakh.

But the teachings of Mazdak were the very antithesis of Zoroastrian Hamkheshi. It turned everything upside down. How rich or poor a man is a measure of his own ability for hard work, his propensity to take risk where others may back out, his own immutable destiny as well as the favour and blessings of his deceased family members. But Mazdak advocated that all wealth should be divided equally amongst men, irrespective of their class or work. This was absolutely wrong. The position of a knight of the King’s army, a foot soldier, a general are all different. If they were to share all wealth equally, the bounds of seniority and line of command which are so essential for the smooth functioning of the army would simply break down.

In the same manner, Mazdak’s exhortation to throw open the Royal Granaries was plain wrong. These stocks were stored to use only in times of emergency and drought. If wheat were freely distributed, there would be no motivation for the farmer to till his land, no enthusiasm to generate a bumper harvest. And in times of need, when the granaries could really serve their purpose, they would be half empty and the local populace would rise against the King for not providing for them.

These and many more serious errors of philosophy were present in the Mazdakite philosophy. But it had a simple, rustic appeal, much like the politicians of today who give promise to give free food, medicine and electricity to all, regardless of their standing, and leave future generations to deal with the problems of crippling fiscal deficits. But overall, the most nefarious effect of Mazdak’s philosophy was in the irreparable loosening of the bonds between the Emperor, his Nobles, the priestly class, the tillers of the soil and the army. Each was linked irrevocably to the other. But when the insidious effects of Mazdak infiltrated the rank and file of Iranian society, the bonds which had existed for hundreds of generations began to unravel in the most horrendous fashion. The peace and amity of Zoroastrian Iran was gone forever. It was replaced by a crude standard of living, un-ethical and immoral life, going away from the Path of Righteousness which was the cornerstone of Iranian civilization.

The repercussions of this evil way of life come soon enough. A terrible plague gripped the Iranian empire. Lakhs of Iranians perished in this pandemic. The fighting army, the youth, the artisans, the farmers, all fell to the plague. An entire generation of Iranian youth was decimated. The plague was followed by a severe drought and the Royal granaries, emptied by the Mazdakite followers, could still just about manage to feed the Iranian people.

Another major reason for the impending downfall was the slow but steady rise in intercommunity marriages, especially amongst the Royal family. Readers of Frashogard are advised to read the earlier series on the tragic life of King Khosrau Parvez to realize the damage this caused to the Empire. When all the Queens of the King were Zoroastrian, the choosing of the next heir was only a matter of merit and the presence of the spiritual halo, the Khoreh which indicated the Divine Right to Rule. But as the Empire weakened, marriage alliances were struck by the Iranian Emperors with their adversaries, in a bid to stop the internecine battles which were bleeding the empire dry. As these ladies of different regions and different faiths entered the Royal Court of Iran, intrigues and jealousies – always a clear and present danger in the politics of those times, rose to unbelievable heights.

Jealous Queens of different faiths were anxious that their wards should be closest to the King, and in effect, be next in line for the coronation. To achieve this, all means – fair and unfair were used. Courtiers and noblemen of different regions played no small part. Old family ties, hidden Mazdakite sympathies, Christian bonding, Byzantine bloodstreams… all these and more came into play. In this unholy nexus, many worthy successors were side-lined, some poisoned , some disposed of, some exiled. The cream of Zoroastrian aristocracy was annihilated – first by the continuous warfare and then by the political plays of the different Queens.

In this sad and pitiable state of affairs who could the King turn to for impartial, correct and sagacious advise? The Magav Mandal – the Magi who had served the Zoroastrian Monarchy for thousands of years. But where were they? They had all disappeared, in the hidden recesses of Lake Chaechast and the concealed valley of Firdaus near Demavand. When their words had not been heeded during the times of the rise of Mazdak, the Magav Mandal had slowly retreated away from public Iranian society. Now, when the rot had set in, when their advise was most needed, when the spiritual foresightedness was desperately required, the Magi were not there. Even Dastur Dinyar had been exiled.

Who could the King turn to? No one.

In this manner, the grand edifice of the Iranian Empire, stretching across most of the civilized world, began to rot, from inside. From the outside it looked strong and majestic. But its innards were being gnawed away by Mazdakite followers, the Armenian Christian menace and the severe loss of population due to the plague and the drought. Thus by the time of the advent of Prophet Mohammad and his spreading the message of Islam in Arabia, around 590 CE, the Iranian Empire was like a pack of cards – looking great from far, but far from good from the inside. All it needed was a small push for the whole edifice to crumble. Soon that push would come from the desert of Arabia.

Ervad Marzban J. Hathiram



  1. Peterasp P.Panthaki  February 11, 2014

    Ervad saheb, Your command over the pen and the English language is as masterful as your knowledge of our relgion and its history. A most readable combination, but a rare one !