A Zoroastrian Educational Institute


Autumn 2003




Memoirs of Ardeshir Khâzè (1902-2001)
With additions from Master Rasheed Shahmardan
(Farsi text) Publisher:  Khâzè Press – Mumbai, 1984

Book Review
Soroushian, Dr. Mehrborzin
Historical Perspective
About the Author

About the Book
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Historical Perspective:
The story of Ardeshir Khâze’s journey through life is an informative manifest of the reality of the lives of Iranian Zarathushtrians in the late 19th and the 20th centuries. As the much diminished and persecuted minority community of Zarathushtrians made a miraculous come back from the brink of extinction, it distinguished itself as being a force spearheading the advancement of its ancestral land.  From championing the cause of democratization of the Iranian political system in late 19th century,1 to expanding trade with India and other nations,2 to establishments of schools,3 hospitals, independent Iranian banking systems4 (non-foreign dominated), manufacturing,5 to expanding the agriculturaral base and modernizing water irrigation,6 to social reforms,7 the Zarathushtrians were at the forefront of progress in the 20th century Iran.

From being known as the “bread basket” of the Near East and a military and moral superpower of the ancient world, Iran had fallen from grace in the wake of the Arab invasion in 760 C.E.  Forced conversions into Islam, religious persecutions, denial of civil and economical rights, imposition of cruel and intolerable conditions on the once dominant Zarathushtrian populace of Iran had brought about a rapid decrease in their ranks from over 4 million in mid 15th century to just about 6000 by mid-19th century.  The remaining Zarathushtrians had regrouped in Kerman, Yazd and its surrounding villages as their last hold-outs in view of the intolerance directed at them.  A steady stream of Zarathushtrians would continue to abandon their ancestral land for the hospitable shores of India that had given safe haven to many generations of Zarathushtrians fleeing their mother land from the 10th century C.E. onwards.

Propelled by the strength of their life-affirming and progressive cultures the small group of Zarathushtrians (Parsis) had become a vital power-base of progress for democratization89 and industrialization10 of their adapted homeland, India.   As the conditions for Iranian Zarathushtrians started to improve at the turn of the 20th century, and unjust rules, such as the heavy Jizya religious head tax imposed on Non-Moslems were lifted, a growing number of Zarathushtrians would use their Mumbai, India connection to bring about development of their homeland of Iran.  Their sense of commitment and attachment to their ancestral land would eventually lead them to overcome the bitter memories of all the injustices and hardships suffered by their parents and previous generations of Zarathushtrians and in many cases their own bitter childhood memories of being subjected to abuse by the self-righteous fanatics bent on their destruction. This group of Zarathushtrians, many of whom originated from villages around Yazd, would play a critical role in the development of modern Iran.

About the Author:
Ardeshir Khâzè was born into a poor farm-hand family in the village of AllahAbad, Yazd, in 1902.  Ardeshir’s father was Kodarahm, the  son of Marzban, son of Ardeshir, son of Rustam Nosh, son of Bakhtiar Nosh and the son of Rustam.  Kobadux had married his cousin Kharman the daugher of Kodabux, son of Marzban.  Ardeshir’s father worked as a farm hand for Haji Ali Kermani.  He was a hard working, sincere and generous man who  never had the opportunity to learn to read or write.  Ardeshir received three year of elementary schooling at a school for boys in Allahabad that had been established by donations from Iranian Zarathushtrians in India. Ardeshir left school and joined his father to help generate more income for the family.  Ardeshir eventually traveled to Mumbai, India where he established himself and prospered in business.  In time, he established a book store and a publishing business.  He was keen to make sure that Farsi books, especially the important manuscripts, such as the ShahNameh11 were reproduced and saved from the ravages of the fanatics bent on distortion of the records of ancient Iran.  He made trips to Iran, in order to procure such important manuscripts and take them to India for reproduction and safe keeping.  His trips, which took place during the second world war, proved to be quite adventurous, but in the end he was able to accomplish the task he had set out to do. 

Ardeshir was keen to give back to his birth place and country of origin as much as he could, and to play his role in the development of the same.  As such he was keen to make sure the young girls in the village of Allahabad would have access to schooling.  He secured required funding from well doing Zarathushtrians in Mumbai who had attachments to Allahabad and Yazd.  The funds were sent for the establishment of a school for girls in Allahabad. Later he returned to Yazd and married a Zarathushtrian woman who had studied in Yazd.  His wife, accompanying Ardeshir to Allahabad, became a teacher at the school which he had helped establish.  Ardeshir continued his tireless efforts to help his village through the last days of his life.  His off-springs, all well accomplished in their own rights, chose to move away from Allahabad and settled in other places including North America. 

Ardeshir’s journey was a shining example of how one individual can make a difference in many other lives and how they can be instrumental in moving the society forward. 

About the Book
One of Ardeshir Khâzè’s contributions was to make a good record of his life experiences. He grew up in Allahabad and Yazd, moved to Mumbai and then back to Yazd and AllahAbad. A lot interesting information surrounding the reality of his time and place were captured in this valuable book. 

Ardeshir’s recording of the treatment of the Zarathusthrians in Yazd at the hands of the Moslem fanatics, his experiences in Mumbai and travels between Iran and India gives the reader a first hand glimpse into the reality of life for Zarathushtrian minorities in Iran in the 20th century. One can also get a sense of the improvements in the conditions of Zarathushtrians in Iran that occurred later in the 20th century, and how individuals like Ardeshir helped improve the conditions for other Iranians.

Here are a few excerpts from his book. 

  1. One day as a young boy he was playing with other Zarathushtrian kids in Allahabad, when two Moslem men from the village of Ahmedabad approached them. Seeing the two adults and anticipating trouble, the boys immediately ran away. Ardeshir, being the youngest of the lot, could not keep up with his play mates, and was grabbed by one of the intruders.  He fainted and was finally freed by his father, who took him home.

  2. One day Ardeshir is transporting farm products on the back of his donkey in the city of Yazd. Following his donkey and walking bare-feet, Ardeshir is stopped by Moslems when he tries to cross a stretch of the bazaar that has been sprayed with water.  Being told that as a Zarathushtrian he soils the wet earth, he is forced to take a much longer detour to get to his final destination.

  3. One day as a youth companying his father, they enter the Jewish quarter in Yazd and pay a visit to the house of a Haj Yuzghal.  In one part of the house big containers that are used for producing wine and vodka can easily be spotted.  Haj Yuzgal leads Ardeshir and his father, Khodarahm to a private room and serves the father a cup of high quality vodka impressing upon them, that this vodka is reserved for special people.  Regular customers are served the lower grade vodka.

  4. On one of his trips from Mumbai to Yazd, there are eight Zarathushtrian males traveling by sea to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas. One of them, Mahyar Bahram, a young and handsome man feels sick as they land in Bandar Abbas,  but continues the land journey towards Yazd.  Not far from Bandar Abbas, Mahyar’s condition deteriorates and he cannot move any further.  One companion goes back to Bandar Abbas to get medical  help. As they wait, Mahyar Bahram calls on Ardeshir, and gives him everything from his packet, saying he would have no more use for them.  Inquiring as to the reason for his assertion, Mahyar explains his father (long deceased) and a few other deceased persons have come to welcome him to their abode.  Ardeshir continues on his trip and finds out a few days after his arrival in Allahabad that Mahyar had passed away, a victim of poor sanitary conditions.

As an ending to his book, Ardeshir expresses his hope that the future generation of Zarathushtrians, by reading his memoirs will get a better sense of the sacrifices the earlier generations had to make to keep the Good religion alive, and that they will be equally committed.

0 The reviewer acknowledges Mr. Rohinton Riventa, of Chicago for procuring a copy of this book on one of his trips to Mumbai.

1 http://www.vohuman.org/Articles/Keikhosrow Shahrokh

2 http://www.vohuman.org/Articles/Ardeshir Goodarz Jahanian

3 http://www.vohuman.org/Articles/Manekji Limji Hateria

4 http://www.vohuman.org/Articles/Jamshid Bahman Jamshidian

5 http://www.vohuman.org/Articles/Rustam Guiv

6 http://www.vohuman.org/Articles/Esfandiar Yeganegi

7 http://www.vohuman.org/Articles/Manijeh (Kermani) Shahrokh

8 http://www.vohuman.org/Articles/Mrs. Bhikaiji Rustom Cama

9 http://www.vohuman.org/Articles/Dr. Dadabhai Naoroji

10 http://www.vohuman.org/Articles/The Wadias of India

11 http://www.vohuman.org/Articles/Ferdowsi, A Critical Biography