The Story of Sanjan

The Story of Sanjan

The Qissa-i Sanjan


Last Stands & Flight from Iran

After the Arab conquest of Iran in the mid 7th century CE, Zoroastrians started to flee their ancestral homeland. They were either pursued by the Arabs and their allies or they felt compelled to leave in the face of intolerable conditions. The Qissa-e Sanjan narrates one such flight. There are other accounts.

One of these is is in an Arabic book Futuh-ul-Buldan by Ahmad Ibn Yahya Ibn Jabir Al Biladuri, a ninth century CE writer who died c 892. In his book the author tell us about Zoroastrians who took a stand against the advancing Arabs at Hormuz on the southern Iranian coast. The Zoroastrians were over-powered and fled by sea to Makran, the coast of Baluchistan to the east of Hormuz. The text reads:

“He (Mujasa bin Masood) conquered Jeraft (Jiroft, Kerman) and having proceeded to Kerman (city), subjugated the city and made for Kafs (Hormozgan) where a number of Persians, who had emigrated, opposed him by at Hormuz (the port of Kerman). So he fought with and gained victory over them and many people of Kerman fled away by sea. Some of them joined the Persians at Makran and some went to Sagistan (Sistan).” (cf. Translation from the Arabic by Rustam Meheraban Aga as quoted in an article The Kissah-e-Sanjan by Dr. Jivanji Modi in the Journal of the Iranian Association Vol. VII, No. 3. June 1918.)

Sistan, the legendary home of Sam, Zal and Rustam, was where a scion of the Sassanian royal family Kaikhusrau together with a number of family members and other Zoroastrians fled immediately after the Arab invasion.

The fleeing Zoroastrians made their last stands against the Arabs in several places including Sistan and Hormuz. There they either died in the struggle, were taken prisoner, submitted, or continued fleeing east and into India.

We note that the Zoroastrians from Hormuz “joined the Persians at Makran”. Makran is Baluchistan’s coastal region and today span south-eastern Iran and southern Pakistan. It appears from this account that Makran already had a ‘Persian’ (Zoroastrian) community. If the Zoroastrians (Persians) were fleeing from the advancing Arabs, they would have continued fleeing after the Arabs conquered Makran. The logical direction would have been to continue eastward either by land or sea. The coastal regions to the east of Makran are lower Sind and Gujarat.

Introduction to the Qissa-e Sanjan

The Qissa-e Sanjan (also spelt Qissa-i Sanjan, Kisse-i Sanjan, and Kisseh-i Sanjan), is a book written in c.1599 CE (969 YZ) by a Parsi priest Bahman Kaikobad, whose full name, according to Dastur Firoze Kotwal, was Bahman Kaikobad Hamjiar Sanjana. When he wrote the Qissa, Bahman Kaikobad was a (Sanjana) priest in the Gujarati town of Navsari.

The Qissa chronicles the early history of the Parsees (Parsis) – the initial group of Zoroastrians who fled from Iran to India following the Arab conquest of Iran and the overthrow of the last Zoroastrian-Sassanian king of Iran, Yazdegird III in 636 CE.

Qissa is an Arabic word meaning ‘story’, perhaps ‘legend’. The name Qissa-e Sanjan means the ‘Story (or Legend) of Sanjan’. Sanjan is a small town in the Indian state of Gujarat close to its border with the state of Maharashtra (also see Sanjan Description below). The Qissa states that Parsi (Indian Zoroastrian) history in India as a community, starts with the landing by the original refugees from Iran at Sanjan.

The original Qissa manuscript has been lost. However, copies of the original manuscript survive. One such copy was scribed by Dastur Rustamji Tehmulji Mirza. From the copies of the Qissa we note that it was written as Persian poetry in a style reminiscent of Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh. It is apparent from the text that the writer was not fluent in Persian nor did he have access to historical accounts. Rather, he had he rely on anecdotal history of which large chunks had been forgotten in transmission from one generation to the next. Given these limitations, the Qissa is still a remarkable achievement and is the only account of its type that we have. While the Qissa cannot be taken literally nor can it be taken as history – even the author calls it a story – it can nevertheless provide us with important clues and information-leads, which when supported by other sources or archaeological evidence, can assist in reconstructing early Parsi history.

The first translation of the work into English was by a Lieutenant in the British Indian army, E. B. Eastwick. His translation was published in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Bombay, Branch, in 1842. Other translations were by P. B. Paymaster, Shahpurshah Hormasji Hodivala in Studies in Parsi History (Bombay, 1920, pp. 94-117.), and Lieutenant Colonel M. S. Irani, this writer’s great-grand maternal uncle, in his book The Story of Sanjan (Poona 1943).

One copy of the Qissa contains 430 couplets or 439 lines. The first sixty three couplets are a prayer to God and a self-effacing apology for the writer’s shortcomings and inadequacies. The couplets that follow the opening prayer, credit at the outset, the information narrated to a learned Dastur Hushang who provided the Qissa’s author with ‘secrets’ regarding the history of the Zoroastrian refuges.

The legendary / historical account starts with the seventy fifth couplet:
“It was in the days of Gushtasp
That holy Zarathushtra showed us the path of religion.”

The Three Tragic Cycles

The next verses (adapted by this author from Col. M. S. Irani’s text) chronicle the adversities faced by Zoroastrians throughout history, the three stages being presaged in the Avesta:

Qissa couplet lines #80-84.
Three times will the Behdin (Good Religion) be shattered.
Three times will the behdins (Good Religionists) be ruined and made weary.
This will happen at the hands of the sitamgars, the destroyers.
First, came Sikandar (Alexander of Macedonia) who openly burned the books of our religion.
For three hundred years, the Good Religion was in ruins and the faithful were oppressed.

85. After a long period the Ardeshir (Papakan, 224/6-241 CE, first Sassanian king) took the kingdom.
The Good Religion was revived and came to be known throughout the world for its excellence.
He sent Arda Viraf to the Divine Court to gain knowledge of the spiritual world.
Then the Evil Spirit wrought destruction again on the Good Religion,
And reports of evil came from all directions.

90. After a time (pas az moddat), Shahpur* ascended (to the throne) and caused the Good Religion to shine again.
Then did Adarbad Meher-Safand (Mahraspandan)** girth his loins in service of the Good Religion.
(So righteous was he that he survived) molten metal of seven elements poured over his body.
Behdins had all doubts resolved and the creed shone with brilliance.
From king Shahpur to Yazdegird splendour and dignity came to the Good Religion.

95. Then the Time-assigned days of the Zarthosht’s Good Religion came to an end.
With this millennium’s passing, nary a vestige of the Good Religion remained.
The sovereignty of Yazdegird was seized away by one of alien faith,
Alas! From that moment on, Iran lay shattered – the kingdom, the Good Religion desolated
From that moment on, all who loved the Zand and wrote Pazand were scattered.

[Note: * We are uncertain about which king Shapur the Qissa’s author, Bahman Kaikobad is referring to here:
Shapur I (241-272 CE), Ardeshir Papakan, the first Sassanian king’s son,
Shapur II (310-379 CE), or
Shahpur III (383-388 CE).

** It is commonly assumed that Adarbad Meher-Safand is Adarbad Mahraspandan, a Zoroastrian high priest and prime minister of Shapur II. Adarbad Mahraspandan is said to have ‘purified’ the Avesta and fixed the number of nasks at twenty one, the number of words in the Ahunavar prayer. However, Hodivala figures the reference in the Qissa is to Shapur III. We are not aware of any great evil of the magnitude of the invasions of Alexander and the Arabs, between the start of Sassanian rule and say the rule of Shapur II. Adarbad Meher-Safand surviving the test of molten metal is fanciful.

We can see that bits and pieces of history had trickled down to the ears of the author of the Qissa, and that he is attempting the combine the three millennium concept (cf. ‘Time-assigned days’) from the time of Zarathushtra to the coming of a final Saoshyant or saviour with his information. In addition to other problems reconciling the event chronicled in the Qissa with Zoroastrian history or tradition elsewhere, Hodivala notes that Alexander of Macedonia “defeated Darius at Arbela in 331 BCE and Ardeshir Papak’s accession cannot be placed earlier than 226 CE There was therefore an interval of 557 years and not 300 between Alexander and the Sassanian. (See Alberun’s remarks on this confusion in the Persian Chronology in the Athar-al-Bakya, tr. Sachau. 116-121. West, S.B.E. XLVII. Introduction, xxxii.)”

This author notes that Macedonian rule of Iran-Shahr started to break up about 100 years after Alexander’s invasion and lingered on in some western regions for about another 100 years (also see Timelines). It was theParthians (Parthav / Pahlav, the people of northern Khorasan) and not the Sassanians who were responsible for expelling the Macedonians from Iran-Shahr. It is unfortunate that even Ferdowsi gives the Parthians short shrift, for it was the Parthians who were the real liberators of Iran-Shahr and revivers of the Zoroastrian religion. But we must forgive the Qissa’s author for this oversight as we have the benefit of historical records while he had to rely on sparse information and legend.]

Beginnings of the Parsi Epoch

Journey from Iran

Locations related to the early Zoroastrian (Parsi) migration from Iran to Hind (India). Image credit: Base map courtesy Microsoft Encarta. Additions copyright K. E. Eduljee
Locations related to the early Zoroastrian (Parsi) migration from Iran to Hind (India)
Image credit: Base map courtesy Microsoft Encarta. Additions copyright K. E. Eduljee


Qissa couplet:
Line 100: Behdins and dasturs, one and all, did hide themselves and the practice of their faith.
Abandoned, did they, their homes, their gardens, their mansions, their halls – all for the sake of their faith.
There in Kuhistan* they made their abode for a hundred years, their condition reduced to a desperate state.
Of them, for the sake of preserving them and their beliefs, a wise and pious man pondered deeply their happenstance,
And afterwards said to the others, “We must leave for there is peril from the alien hordes in remaining here.”

[Note: * Kuhistan or kohistan, means land of the mountains. It can mean just that, meaning the Zoroastrian refugees fled to some anonymous mountainous region, or it can refer to a specific region known by that name a thousand years ago. Of the latter, there are five locations within present-day Iran and another four in Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan. One feature they all share in common is that they were all remote, sparsely populated, not fertile, controlled by independent lords, and generally cut-off from the main population centres.

In Iran, there are six principal kuhistans or kohistans:
1. The mountainous region of south-east Khorasan i.e. Quhistan or Tun-o-Qa’in, Tun being modern Ferdows. In the centre lies Birjand;
2. The mountainous region of Khorasan north of Nishapur and west of Mashhad (controlled by Hephthalites – White Huns?);
3. The mountains in the southwest of Kerman, north of Jiroft;
4. The mountains in the southwest of Yazd;
5. The mountains in the west of Sistan & Baluchistan, south of Zahedan, and
6. The mountains in the northwest of Iran.

Balochistan 1870 CE. Note Kuhistan (red box) in Western Sistan & Balochistan (Beloochistan) just north-east of Hormuz. This is the only Kuhistan noted on the map.
Balochistan 1870 CE. Note “Kuhistan” (red box) in Western Sistan & Balochistan (Beloochistan)
just north-east of Hormuz. This is the only Kuhistan noted on the map.
Image credit: George Rawlinson. The Seven Great Monarchies

Outside of present-day Iran, there are at least five regions given the name Kuhistan or Kohistan:
6. The mountains in NW Afghanistan’s Herat Province sometimes called the Paropamisus Range, and northeast of Herat city;
7. The mountains in north-central Afghanistan’s Faryab Province north of the Paropamisus and across the Murgab river;
8. The mountainous district of Kapisa Province in Eastern Afghanistan;
9. The Badakhshan region that spans north-eastern Afghanistan and south-eastern & eastern Tajikistan i.e.Kuhistani-Badakshan/Pamir-Badakhshan, and
10. The mountains of north-western Pakistan

There is also a town named Kuhestan in Afghanistan’s Herat province just east of its border with Khorasan.

A number of authors state that the kuhistan to which the Zoroastrians fled was in Khorasan**. Or, they in some fashion conclude that the initial migrants to Sanjan (the ones referred to in the passages above) came from Khorasan. While Khorasan is mentioned later in the Qissa (lines 216 & 217) in a completely different context, the Qissa does not mentioned Khorasan in this section, nor does it say that the Zoroastrians who hid in Kuhistan were from Khorasan, nor does it say in the line 216 & 217 that those from Khorasan were from the Kuhistan of Khorasan, nor can we assume that the Kuhistan that is today part of Khorasan was part of Khorasan in those days – Khorasan then meant all of Eastern Iran. The later reference in the Qissa to Khorasan suggests a later group who joined the initial group and who brought tools with them. See the section Tools from Khorasan. The First Mention of Khorasan.

(** Khorasan is also spelt Khorrasan, Khurasan or Khuresan, meaning land of the sun. This might have to do with it being in the east of Iran. However, since it was almost in the middle of the Iranian-Aryan lands, it is more likely that the name is in reference to it being on the solar meridian for these lands.)

It might also be useful for the reader to refer to the section Last Stands & Flight from Iran in our page on conditions in post-Arab Iran as well as our page on Khorasan.

The flight of Zoroastrians before the advancing Arab hordes scattered them to different locations eastwards and as a consequence all the kuhistans might very well have been home to some group of Zoroastrians. Even the royal family of King Yazdegird III, split up in different directions, the king fleeing to Merv i.e. Mouru where he was murdered; his wife and children fled to the mountains (kuhistans) of Yazd where they met their death, and we also know of one scion, Kaikhusrau, who fled with his followers to Sistan which has its own kuhistan. The Sistan kuhistan is sometimes the only kuhistan marked as the Kuhistan on old maps.

In this section we are interested in the identity of the Kuhistan referred to in the Qissa from which the initial party of Zoroastrians went to Hormuz and from there to Sanjan. While the mountains of Khorasan are a possibility, we cannot rule out the mountains of Kerman or Sistan, or for that matter some of the other mountainous regions to which Zoroastrians fled.]

City of Hormuz & Astrology

Qissa couplet
Line 105: With behdins, dasturs and friends, he marched to the city of Hormuz*.
There they spent fifteen years suffering oppression and abuse from the darwand, the dregvant, the followers of the Lie.
The learned dastur there with them was also an accomplished astrologer
After consulting his old astrological charts** (he said),
“Our time here is at an end. It is well we leave this country. Leave this country forthwith we must.”

[Note: *Old Hormuz city was thought to be located near the city of Minab in the southern Iranian province of Hormozgan. The ruins of the city of Hormuz have been identified some fifty kilometres from the province’s present main city and port – Bandar Abbas. New Hormuz city was located on Hormoz Island. Both are at the horn of the Persian Gulf (see our page on Hormozgan).

** This reference to astrology being part of a learned dastur’s training is interesting. That consulting the charts was part of important decision-making is even more interesting. The Zoroastrian calendar does have a Zodiac.]

Sailing to Hind (India)

Qissa couplet
Line 110: “If not, we will be caught in a snare, our wisdom will be of no help and all our effort will be naught.
It is for the better that we flee from the evil ones towards Hind (India).”
In fear of their lives and for the sake of their faith, they sped towards Hind.
In haste, a ship* they readied and hoisted its sail
After the women and children had boarded the ship, they set sail for Hind.

[Note: * Hodivala’s translation refers to one (‘the’) ship. The translation in Colonel M. S. Irani’s book first mentions ‘the ship’ in couplet 113 and then ‘ships’ in couplet 114. Again in couplet 120 we have ‘ships’ and then in 121 we have ‘ship’.

Regarding the reason the migrants chose a sea route and a coastal area for settlement, we wonder if perhaps some of the refugees were traders or knew other Zoroastrian traders who owned ships and who wished a establish a home port away from Iran, but in a place they were familiar with and one that was part of their existing trade routes between the Middle East and China. In this manner, the ship(s) they used for the migration would continue to be used for trading and the settlers would provide a home base for the traders’ families. The migration could have started with an initial sailing and once a settlement had been procured the ships would go back, spread the word and others especially, those familiar with trading and extended travelling would follow.

[Also see our page on Aryan Trade.]

Landing at Div (Diu?) & Astrology

Qissa couplet
Line 115: When at last they arrived at the shores of Hind, the weighed anchor at Div*.
There they disembarked and made their homes on the land at their feet.
There, the behdins remained for nineteen years, until the astrologer once again sought their future.
The aged dastur peered into his charts and said, “O enlightened friends,
Again we must depart and find another place which we can call our second home.”

[Note: * Div is commonly taken to mean Diu, a coastal town in India (see map above).]

Sailing to Sanjan & Storm at Sea

Qissa couplet line 120. Delighted to hear his words, the party set sail towards Gujarat.
When the ship was at sea, a violent storm came upon them,
All the dasturs of the faith were thrown into consternations, giddy as in a whirlpool.
The rubbed their faces before the divine threshold. Then standing they made supplication thus:
“O Wise Lord, aid us in our work and deliver us from this calamity.”

125. “O All powerful Varharan (Bahram), befriend us so that we may triumph over this adversity.
Through your grace, we will fear no tempest and free our hearts from despair.
For you heed the prayers of the helpless and guide the lost to the way.
If we find emerge safe from this whirlpool, if disaster does not destroy us,
If we reach the land of Hind happy and cheerful,

130. “We will kindle an Atash Varharan (Bahram). Deliver us then from these tribulations and give us strength.
We resign ourselves to the will of God, and for us there is no other.”
Through the blessings of the Atash Varharan (Bahram), all emerged safe from these troubled waters.
Their entreaties were fulfilled and the Lord had assisted them in their efforts.
Now aided by a prosperous wind and guided by a divine light, no contrary wind came their way.

135. The captain of the ship, with God’s name on his lips, could now command the ship’s course.
All on board, dastur and behdins alike did their kusti while the ship sailed the seas.

Early Travellers’ Accounts

The following accounts are noted in Rustom Burjorji Paymaster’s book Early History of Parsees in India

Mandelslo (1616-1644 CE)

Rustom Paymaster quotes German traveller John (Jean) Albert de Mandelslo’s Les Voyages du Sieur (1638, pp. 180, 184 & 186) as noting that in Gujarat (Guzuratta) there were a group called Parsees who were “Persians of Fars and Khorasan (Choransan), who fled into those parts to avoid persecution of the Mohametans in the Seventh Age (7 century CE).” Further that “the (Zoroastrian) king perceiving it was impossible for him to oppose it, took shipping with 18,000 men at Ormus, and landed at Indosthan. The King of Cambay… received him to dwell in his country, into which liberty drew several other Persians… .”

[Note: Paymaster also informs us that elsewhere Mandelslo also notes “that Parsees had settled in large numbers in the Konkan at the time of his visit.” The Konkan is the coastline of Maharashtra. Maps from the 18th century show Konkan to include the Maratha coast up to Surat. We do know that Parsees had settled Thana and Chaul on the Maratha coast. Chaul is close to Revdanda, some 45 km south of Mumbai / Bombay as the crow flies.

Paymaster goes on to cite Mandelslo as saying that in Bijapur territories (probably referring to Bijapur district in Karnataka State south of Sholapur in Maharashtra State), “craftsman worked for Mussalmans, Hindus and Parsees, who were there in greater numbers than either Dakhnis (people of the Deccan) and Kanarians.”]

Ogilby (1600 – 1676 CE)

Rustom Paymaster also cites John Ogilby, a Scottish cartographer, as stating in Atlas V (1670) p. 218-219, that the Parsees “came about AD 640 in a fleet of seven ships, some said as many as 18,000 men, women and children. The people of five ships settled at Sanjan, those from another at Variav near Surat, and those from the seventh at Cambay. In course of time, these settlers forgot their origin, their religion and even their name. At length, the name ‘Persians’ was made known to them by some men from Persia who instructed them in their religion and taught them to serve God. The physique of the Parsees was about the middle size; their faces pale, and especially the women excelled all other women of the country in beauty.”

Henry Lord (1620 CE)

Another traveller cited by Rustom Paymaster is Rev. Henry Lord, a chaplain in the service of the East India Company. In his Discovery of Two Foreign Sects in the East Indies…, Lord notes “These Persians or Parsees… are people descended from the ancient Persians… He (the Persian king) was forced to fly to Karson (Khorasan?)… . Parsees, not enduring to live contrary to the prescript of their own law… determined a voyage to the Indies… . So repairing to Jasques* (Jask, Hormozgan. See note and map below), a place in the Persian Gulf, they obtained a fleet of seven junks to convey them and theirs, as merchantmen bound for the shores of India, in course of trade and merchandise. It happened that in safety they made to the land of St. Johns (Sanjan – and we may be permitted a chuckle here).”

[Note: * Jasques or Jasquez: Present-day Jask in Hormozgan, 200 km southeast of Hormuz Island. Part of the Makran Coast in the east of Hormozgan Province, Iran. Jask is a port on Jask peninsula. In addition there is a place called Jask-e Kohneh 10 km to the north of Jask. Jask-e Kohneh means Ancient Jask. According to Henry Yule, A. C. Burnell, William Crooke in A Glossary of Colloquial Anglo-Indian Words and Phrases, Jask was an alternative port to Hormuz such as when Hormuz was occupied by the Portuguese. It is quite possible that some Zoroastrians could have sailed to India from Jask.]

Sir Thomas Herbert (1606-1682 CE)

In an account of a 1626 CE visit to India, Travels into Africa and Asia the Great, British traveller and author Sir Thomas Herbert notes, “…into India these Parsees came (such time as Omar the second Caliph after Mohomet subjected Persia*) in five junks from Jasquez* (Jask, Hormozgan. See note above and map below), sailing toSurras where after treaty with the Rahaes and Bannyans***, they got leave to plant; and living peaceably to exercise their religion.”

[Notes: ** Omar: Probably meaning Umar ibn al-Khattab (c. 586/59-644), caliph from 634 to 644 and second caliph of the Rashidun Caliphate. Umar (Omar) was responsible for defeating the Persian armies in 636 at the battle of Qadisiyyah (now in South-Central Iraq), securing the Persian lands west of the Zagros, and again in 642 in the battle of Nehavand (near Hamadan), securing the Persian lands east of the Zagros.

[*** Bannyans: perhaps meaning Bania, specifically the trading caste (Vaishya) or generally, wealthy business-people. The merchant community of Gujarat, such as Shahs, Gandhis, Ambanis, Sarabhais, Mehtas, Parekhs, Parikhs, Kotharis and Desais, are also known as Banias. It is unclear to whom Rahaes refers – perhaps Brahmins?. It is curious that in this account, the Parsees made an agreement with two groups – an agreement perhaps regarding trade and religion; an agreement that allowed them settle (i.e. plant) in Gujarat.]

1724 Map of Mughistan (Mogostan) by Lisle Guillaume. Note 'Hauz Hormuz' near the centre of the image
1724 Map of Mughistan (Mogostan) by Lisle Guillaume. Note ‘Jasques’ just before the entrance to the Persian Gulf

C. Dellon (1667 CE)

French physician, Dr. C. Dellon in A Voyage to the East Indies notes “…three of their vessels came to the Indian shore, whereof the first set up themselves near Suratte, the second at Diu, and the third at Gandevi, a town betwixt Suratte and Damaun.”

Captain A. Hamilton (1716 CE)

Captain A. Hamilton in A New Account of the East Indies p.161 states, “They (the Parsees) are a remnant of the ancient Persians, who chose to be banished their country than change their religion; for in the seventh century of the Christian era, when Mahometism overran Persia, the Spirit of Persecution came there, and some 4 or 500 families were put on board of shipping, and sent out to sea, without compass or pilot; and they steering their course eastward, (in the southwest monsoons) from Jasques in about 20 days, fell with the coast of India in the night, and the first thing they saw was a fire ashore, which the exiles steered towards, and accidentally steered into the river of Navsari… . When they came ashore, the charitable Indians flocked about them, and there being some among them that could speak Indian languages. related what hard usage they had met with in their own country, and that Providence having directed them to the Indian country, begged leave to settle among them… . The generous Indians granted their request… .”

Analysis of the Accounts

The travellers would have written their accounts based on interviews with Parsees and represent a collective consciousness amongst the community. Allowing for hyperbole, confusion, embellishments and dim memories, we note the following:

The accounts refer to Parsi migrants originally from Pars and Khorasan who arrived in Gujarat via Hormuz and/or Jask, both in the present-day Hormozgan province of Iran. Jask was an alternative international port to Hormuz.

The figure of 18,000 migrants is consistent. Unless each of Ogilby’s seven ships were capable of holding more than 2,000 passengers, it is doubtful if these 18,000 migrants arrived on the Gujarat coast in one flotilla. The number could, however, refer to the first migratory wave.

The number of ships or ‘junks’ that made up the first migration, are listed as between five and seven. An initial flotilla of up to seven ships is entirely plausible.

Diu, Surat, Gandevi, Variav, Cambay (Khambat), Navsari and Sanjan are all mentioned as the initial Parsi-Zoroastrian ports of landing.

Mandelslo notes that once the local king had consented to accommodating the Parsees, the conditions were suitable “into which liberty drew several other Persians.” Once permission to migrate had been secured, the ships could have returned to pick up other migrants. Or word could have been transmitted by trading expeditions to other Zoroastrians dispersed along the coast. Other waves or groups of migrants could also have arrived by land. What makes the Sanjan migration different from any other migration to other parts of India is that it received official royal sanction from a sovereign king for a community to settle. This official sanction has many implications for the holding of land and the conducting of commerce. Such a royal sanction would have attracted other disparate Zoroastrian groups that might have settled elsewhere to come join and make community with the migrants to Gujarat.

The migratory wave appears to have included women and children. It has been the custom of some later Zoroastrian immigrants for the men to migrate first, secure a means of income and a home, and then return to collect their families.

Lord mentions that the Zoroastrians travelled as “as merchantmen bound for the shores of India, in course of trade and merchandise” confirming that the first wave of migrants from Hormuz were traders and that this occupation may have, if needed, disguised the true intent of their journey back home.

The various accounts are consistent in that the Zoroastrian refugees negotiated with the natives the terms of their settlement. Captain A. Hamilton adds that a few among the refugees spoke the local language. We seldom question how a group of foreigners can converse competently with the locals and this would hardly have been possible without the aid of someone in the group already familiar with the local people and their language.

As we have noted earlier, the travellers’ accounts could only have been acquired from Zoroastrian-Parsees. The general consistency and specific differences add to, rather than detract from, their authenticity, since after a lapse of nearly a thousand years, it would have been impossible for a largely oral tradition to have been perfectly consistent.

Take for instance the difference in the names places where the refugees first landed. The consistency is that they came by sea, landed on the shore of Gujarat and negotiated the terms of their settlement. We take for granted that Parsees speak Gujarati as their mother tongue but do not ask why it is not Marathi, Hindi or another Indian language. And why before settling in Bombay, the Parsees were for the main part residents of Gujarat – and more specifically the coast of Gujarat rather than some inland towns on the trade routes to Central Asia. The preponderance of all of these observations lead us to the conclusion, that while the Qissa-e Sanjan may not meet the tests of unimpeachable history (which it does not claim to be), it does nevertheless generally and fairly represent the history of the Parsi-Zoroastrian’s migration to India as a community – it represents the commonwealth of the collective consciousness of the Zoroastrians who fled to India.

For the preservation of this heritage we owe an eternal debt of gratitude to Bahman Kaikobad Hamjiar Sanjana, author of the Qissa-e Sanjan, and all those who persevered and preserved the temporal and spiritual flame. Bahman Kaikobad sought to preserve and honour the memory and sacrifice of the Zoroastrian refugees and in that task this author makes common purpose with him.

This page is dedicated to the sacrifice of the early Zoroastrian migrants to India – to those who perished at sea, in battle, and to those who survived – the nameless children, women and men. For they all made it possible for this writer and his generation to be here on this earth and engage in this sharing. We honour them. We revere them. Aidun bad.



Sad story about lovely Zoroastrian who left Iran for being able to save their faith and their life against
blood lover and killer muslim arabs…

Sanjan… sad story. This photo shows the time that Zoroastrians wanted to convince dear Indian king that they do not take so much space in India but they will be like that sugar added to that bowl of milk in society by serving country well.

There, they approached the local Hindu king, Jadi Rana, and requested asylum. The ruler, fearing for his kingdom, asked them to explain their beliefs, and made four other stipulations for granting asylum:

  • they were to adopt the local language (Gujarati)
  • their women were to wear the garments of the local women (the Sari)
  • they were to cease to carry weapons
  • marriages were only to be performed in the evenings (as the Hindus do)

The refugees, accepting the demands, expounded on the teachings of their faith, and “when the Hindu Raja heard the oration, his mind regained perfect ease.” Having been granted asylum, the emigrants established the settlement of Sanjan (Gujarat), which was soon flourishing.

Some time thereafter, the priests of the fledgling community approached the king with a request to establish a Fire Temple. Their wish was granted, and a temple was subsequently installed and consecrated. The Fire is subsequently referred to in the story as the “Fire of Warharan.



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