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Professor Ibrahim Pour-e-Davoud, a biography

Dr. Khosro Mehrfar



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Zarathusthrianism was the state religion of Iran during the time of the Sassanian dynasty. With the defeat of the Sassanians at the hands of Arabs waging the banner of Islam  over thirteen centuries ago, the faith of Zarathusthrianism in Iran was sealed by the Arab rulers who had no intention of respecting the vanquished peoples rights to basic human freedoms including freedom of worship. Zarathusthrians were persecuted, and lost all their civil rights under the new system of government and the chaotic conditions that prevailed thereafter. Through threat, and coercion there was forced conversions to the new faith.  Zarathusthrian places of worship were by in large either destroyed of converted to places of worship of the new faith. The portion of the population who resisted conversion, found themselves subject to payment of head tax and severe hardship. These measures took its toll on the once proud and literate Zarathusthrians in their homeland.

By the turn of the twentieth century, the knowledge of Zarathusthrianism amongst Iranian had reduced to a low point.  Combination of circumstances around the turn of the century rekindled new interest in the Zarathusthrian heritage of Iran. 

A young, idealistic Iranian through yearning for his lost nationalism is led to Zarathusthrianism. This young man, who in time becomes a world-renown scholar of Zarathusthrianism plays a vital role in rekindling interest amongst the Iranian intelligentsia in their Zarathusthrian heritage through his publications and scholarly works. 

The editorial board of vohuman.org takes great pride in introducing you to this outstanding patriot, the late “Ibrahim Pour-e-Davoud”.

Pour-e-Davoud.jpg (6200 bytes)
From the sighs of my heart, I will evaporate all oceans From the tears of my eyes, I will turn deserts into Oceans
Amongst acquaintances, I find no companion Neither the venerated clergy, nor the charmful beauty
The assembly at the mosque, the gathering at the temple The faithful at the synagogue, or worshippers at church
And if through the calamity of the times, the Agiary has been subdued I will safeguard the Avestan flame in the sanctity of my heart

The pristine Persian cultural tradition with its moral foundation drawing from the tenets of the religion of Zarathushtra,  values the remembrance of caring and giving people who have made a difference through their existence.   Appreciation of the selfless people who have in some ways  helped the cause of the Zarathushtrian religion is not only an act of recognition, but also a model for others how they too can follow in the tradition of such Ashwans in helping make our world a better place for all humanity.

One such distinguished individual, a world-class scholar, and a person whose legacy is held very dear by many learned  Iranians, especially the Zarathushtrians  is the late Professor Ibrahim Pour-e-Davoud.  An internationally recognized authority and scholar of Ancient Persian history, Avestan and Gathas, Ostad Pour-e-Davoud  more than anyone else was responsible for the establishment of the very first department of Persian Studies in Iran in modern time, at the university of Tehran. 

Pour-e-Davoud was born in 1885 A.C. in the north Iranian province of Gilan where he spent his youth.  His love and dedication to his mother-land was soon manifested as he became involved with Iranian nationalistic movements, and made speeches, wrote declarations, and composed poem in renunciation of Czar Alexandre and Russia’s aggressive policies towards its southern neighbor, Iran.

Due to his brilliance as a student, Ibrahim was amongst the Iranian students who went to France to study.  While studying in Europe, Pour-e-Davoud met the late Sadeq Hedayat another nationalistic Iranian self- exile in France.   Hedayat impressed by Pour-e-Davoud’s intelligence and nationalism facilitated the acquaintance of Ibrahim with the late Dinshah Irani in Bombay.  Dinshah Irani was actively looking to bring about translation of Zarathusthrian literature to Farsi  so the Iranians can have access to that information, and was looking for a scholar able to do so.

Through the invitation and sponsorship of Dinshah Irani, Pour-e-Davoud made his first trip to Bombay, India in 1921 a.c. (1294 Yazdgerdi).  His acquaintance with the Parsis, the descendent of the ancient Iranians, made a positive impression on him and helped convince him of the strength of the message of Zarathushtra, a reflection that he expressed in his writings.  That personal observation helped convince him to focus his nationalistic efforts on the study and research of the Avestan literature.  This was the beginning of a life of dedication to scholarly endeavors which spanned over 48 years.  Professor Pour-e-Davoud stayed in India for 2 years and worked very closely with the late Dinshah Irani.

Upon the completion of his studies in Europe and India, Pour-e-Davoud returned to Iran and started a distinguished academic career as a Professor of Iranian studies at Tehran University.  In Iran he established contact with the Zarathusthrian community in Tehran and traveled to Yazd, and Kerman to meet the Zarathusthrians in those localities.  His contacts with the Zarathusthrians of Iran were very strong through the last days of his life.  He was very much respected and admired by the Zarathusthrians and other nationalistic Iranians for his pioneering efforts in re-introducing the pristine message of Zarathushtra to the Iranians through his high-caliber scholarly works. 

In 1943 A.C. (1311 YZ), Professor Pour-e-Davoud was appointed to head the Iranian delegation to the 25th congress of the Eastern Culture and Studies in Moscow.  The following year, Pour-e-Davoud made his 3rd trip to India (9 years had elapsed since his second trip). On this trip, he was accompanied by the late Rashid Yasemi and Ali Asghar Hekmat the Iranian Ambassador to India at that time.  One year after this trip to India, the university of Tehran celebrated his 60th birthday at the university with a great fanfare and on this occasion, his successor, Dr. Mohammad  Moin was introduced.

In 1961 (1330 YZ) the Israeli government invited professor Pour-e-Davoud to participate in the 3rd International Jewish Congress which coincided with the 2500 anniversary  of Persian empire establishment and the freeing of the Jewish people  by Cyrus the Great.  David Ben Gurion, a founding father of the modern state of Israel was at hand to receive Pour-e-Davoud on his arrival at the airport in Tel Aviv.

The year 1965 (1333 YZ) witnessed the 80th birth anniversary of Pour-e-Davoud at the University of Delhi. On that occasion he was awarded an honorary doctorate for his life of scholarship.  The following year, he was selected as the fellow of the “World Academy of Arts and Sciences” and in the same year, the Vatican bestowed on him the prestigious San Sylvester medal of honor for humanity.

In year 1967 (1335 YZ), the Indian government awarded Pour-e-Davoud, the most notable medal of honor of “Tagor”.  The Tagor is the highest medal of honor awarded by the Indian government.  As of that time, only 4 other scholars had received this award. The other four included such celebrities as Albert Schwartz, and Bert Ron Russell.

In his homeland, he was appointed as a fellow of the Persian Cultural Society, head of the Persian-German Cultural Studies and the head of the Royal Library.   His appointment at Tehran University was as a full professor of Persian studies for 27 years.

One of Professor Pour-e-Davoud greatest contribution is his scholarly works on the Gathas, the hymns of the Prophet Zarathushtra.  Through his efforts, he was able to introduce the teaching of Zarathushtra to other scholars and non-academicians alike. Professor Mohammad Isagh writes “Those who are familiar with Professor Pour-e-Davoud works know of his deep love for Persian culture, civilization and specially for the doctrine and philosophy of the Iranian Prophet, Zarathushtra.”

The Tehran monthly magazine “New Messages” carried the statement that “the recognition of the professor is not limited to the boundaries of Iran.  It has gone beyond the borders of Iran and is a recognized name as a respected  scholar of Eastern studies especially Iran.”

His publications were too numerous to mention and included titles such as, the Gathas,  the first of theYasht verses, the second of the Yasht verses,  Khordeh-Avesta, Yasna,  Vispard, Vandidad, Khoramsha, Syoshants, the Persian Culture, Hormozd-Nameh, Anahita, our Khuzistan,  King Yazdgerd, Pourandokht-Nameh, story of Bijan and Manijeh, Fereidoon, and Zin Abzar.

Twenty sixth of Aban in the year 1337 YZ (1968 A.C.) was yet another day in the Pour-e-Davoud household on Azar Avenue in Tehran. The retired Professor had finished his breakfast and proceeded to an adjoining room that served as his personal library.  Short while later he fell asleep behind his desk, a sleep, he never woke up from.  This was indeed a graceful departure for a peaceful and enlightened man.  

Pour-e-Davoud had expressed the wish to be buried at the Zarathushtrian cemetery in Tehran prior to his death.  Although, this was one of the very few requests he had ever made to the Zarathushtrian community, the political ramification would have been more than the community could have handled.  Finally, his body was laid to rest in his birth city of Rasht, Gilan.  His tomb is frequented by many nationalistic Iranians to this day. 

When the news of Pour-e-Davoud’s death got out, the governor of his birth province of Gilan mandated a day of mourning and  ordered the closure of governmental offices on that day.   The coffin of the late professor carried into Rasht on his final journey was received by the line of people stretching  for more than six miles who had been waiting for hours.

Memorial and commemoration conferences in his honor were arranged in Iran as well as in France, Germany, India,  and Pakistan. 

One of the most widely circulated newspapers in Iran wrote, “A man who truly loved Iran has passed away.  Professor Ibrahim Pour-e-Davoud the Scholar of  Iranology, Persian culture and civilization died of a heart attack yesterday morning.  He left behind a priceless treasure of scholarly works and studies on a period of Iran’s history that has not been too well understood up to this point. Through his publications, he has shed light on that part of Iran’s heritage”.

The other most widely circulated newspaper,  ”Etelat” , wrote, “Pour-e-Davoud, the great Iranian scholar of Avesta died yesterday” and their next day’s headline included,  “A man whose heart was an ever-burning Altar of love for Iran passed away”.

The “Art and People” magazine in its 74th edition of Azar 1337 (YZ) wrote “Pour-e-Davoud, poet, scholar of Persian culture and heritage dies after 83 years of selfless dedication to scholarly research and a fruitful life of shedding light on Persian history.  His demise is like the extinction of a bright temple, but then again as he frequently stated it “The Heart of every Iranian is an Atashkadeh (altar) of love for Iran”

The Zarathushtrian Anjumans of Tehran, Kerman, Yazd, Shiraz and other localities in Iran organized and conducted remembrance ceremonies in his honor.   On Thursday, 7th of Azar 1337 (YZ),  a memorable ceremony was conducted by the Tehran Anjuman, where community leaders and scholars such as the late Rostam Guiv, Dr. Farhang Mehr, Dr. Ahmad Azarakhshi, Sohrab Safrang, Ardeshir Jahanian made speeches in remembrance of the late profressor.

The elementary school of  Ibrahim Pour-e-Davoud erected with donations from the  Zarathushtrian philanthropist, the late Arbab Rustam Guiv,  located in the Tehran suburb of Tehran-Pars had a day of closing in the honor or the late professor.

The late, Dr. Bahram Farahvashi, one of many of the professors students, who became a well known scholar himself,  wrote,  “In my opinion,  Professor Pour-e-Davoud was unique in many ways, he helped tremendously to uncover many aspects of Persian history  and there may not be a scholar of his caliber again”.  

Dr. Farhad Abadani, another one of his students wrote “ 83 years ago, a child was born, who was destined to be one of the greatest scholars of Persian history”.

During his life span of 83 years, Pour-e-Davoud met and became acquainted with many other scholars including Mouhammad Ali Jamalzadeh, Dr. Mehdi Malek Zadeh (the son of Malek-ol-Motakaleman, Alameh Ghazvini), Hasan Taghi-Zadeh, Professor Joseph Marquart, Rashid Yasami, Ali Asghar Hekmat, Dr. Reza Zadeh Shafagh, H. Kazem Zadeh Iranshar, Professor Edward Brown, Professor Skarman, Professor Hartmani, Professor Frank, Professor Shedder, Professor Mistoukh, Professor Hall, Professor Blouche, Professor Jivanjee Jamshid G Modi, Hirbod Bahman G Nasravanji, and the late Dinshah Irani, father of the distinguished Professor Keikhosrow Irani (Emeritus Professor at the City University of New York).   Many of his students have in turn reached position of renown, including Ehsan Yarshater, Professor Emeritus at Colombia.

The late professor Pour-e-Davoud and his life long wife had one daughter whom they named Pourandokht.  The daughter married F. Nafisi, the younger brother of the well known Iranian scholar Saeed Nafisi.  Pourandokht and her husband had 4 children, a son named Hormozed. Pour-e-Davoud dedicated his book “Hormozdnameh” to this grand-son.   A daughter named Anahita, to whom he dedicated his “50 Articles”.  Another son, “Arash”, for whom his “Arash Nameh” is named. The fourth child was named Parvin.  Pour-e-Davoud named his famous book “Pouarndokht Nameh” after this daughter.

Although, Pour-e-Davoud has been gone for many years, he has left his mark, and his legacy continues to inspire others.  May his soul rest in peace in the Ahura-Mazda’s abode of songs.