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Sohrab Rostam Kaikhosow Viraf Kianian (1888-1958)
A pillar of the Zarathushti community of Yazd, Iran guiding it at its turning point.


Prominent Zarathushties


Dr. Khosro E.

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Every viable society has leaders; people with vision, courage and character who think and act beyond their own self-interest and can take steps to safeguard the well being of their people.   They lead the way to be among those who refresh the world and thus make a better place for all humans to live. They are not super-humans or life forms from other planets.  They rise from amongst ordinary people, caring deeply about the betterment of their society and end up doing extra-ordinary deeds.  They are the type of people who cannot bear to be indifferent to the pain and sufferings of other human beings.  Their compassionate feelings knows no boundaries of race or religion.

Middle Row (right to left) Arbab Sohrab Kianian, Dastur Tirandaz Mazdayasni, Rustam Mahvandad.
Yazd 1931

The Zoroastrians of Iran in the past few centuries were fortunate to have had their share of such caring visionaries. [i]  Today, many decades have passed since one of the most distinguished Zoroastrian leaders of the 20th century in Iran passed away. He secured a place in the Zartoshties hall of fame due to the abundance of his good deeds. He was the respected head of the (Naseri)[ii] Zoroastrian association of Yazd for many terms.  Whenever there was an issue or a  problem to be solved, the board members of the Zoroastrian Anjoman of Yazd would gather at his house for advice and consultation. 

During his many years of public service, he supported and maintained a few institutions. One of these was the Khosravi elementary school in Yazd.  Every morning, students had to stand to attention in the playground and recite Avesta songs just to remind themselves of the need to be good, and to live a life filled with good thoughts, good words and good deeds.  He and his loving wife had an open door policy for all people of every facet of life, regardless of their background and social status.  

He was also in touch with many of the top government officials who respected him.   His close and friendly relationship with the authorities was very helpful in resolving issues for the Zoroastrians in Yazd, as the surviving members of this tiny and fragile community were coming back from the verge of extinction just a generation earlier.  In some ways, the Zoroastrians of Yazd owe their progress to such a towering man of courage, vision and care.

This great man of honor and respect was Sohrab Kianian, or as was known by the Iranian Zartoshties and others as ‘Arbab Sohrab’.

Left on middle Row: Arbab Sohrab Kianian; and family members, Yazd 1956

Sohrab Kianian, his brother Keikhosrow and sister Firozeh were born in Yazd, Iran. They were the only surviving children of Rostam Keikhosrow Viraf and his wife Mahasti. Sohrab was born in 1888.  It is believed that the Kianian family originally came from Khurasan and left under difficult circumstances due to the overwhelming religion persecution of the remaining Zartoshties in that region. It is believed, that an earlier generation moved to the village of Ahmad-Abad in the vicinity of Yazd before the final settlement in the Zartoshty quarters of Yazd. 

The three siblings grew up in Yazd and received their education in that city. The conditions for the Zartoshties in Iran was starting to improve as the Qajar reign was coming to a close and the Pahlavi dynasty was on the rise.  Sohrab and his brother Keikhosrow established themselves in trade and agriculture businesses and were in partnership with the Soroushian brothers of Kerman (Soroush and Faridon). Together, they expanded the scope of their operation considerably.  

While his brother Keikhosrow moved to Kerman, Sohrab stayed in Yazd to handle the family business in Yazd.  With the passing years, Sohrab was drawn into community service, and soon became an active member of the Naseri Zartoshty Anjuman of Yazd which had been founded several decades earlier as a result of the efforts of Manekji Limji Hateria.[1]  Sohrab was the president of the Anjuman till the last days of his life and was regarded with the highest respect in the Zarathushtrian community.  As he got older, he dedicated most of his time in serving the Zartoshties and his birth city of Yazd.

Despite his quiet and low-key demeanor, Sohrab was very effective in handling the problems and grievances of his constituency. Respected and trusted by the community, as well as by the governmental officials, Sohrab was able to help resolve many of the issues faced by the Zartoshty community.  He was affectionately referred to as Arbab Sohrab by the Zartoshties and others who came to know him.  It was a common sight in Yazd to see Arbab Sohrab and his loyal helper, Mirza arriving at a government office to make the case for one of his constituents.

His house in Yazd was a center of community activity. It served as an informal hostel, where many traveling Zartoshties passing through Yazd, as well as visiting Parsees from India and elsewhere stayed.  Many visitors would arrive unannounced at any hour and would be received and provided with accommodation by Arbab Sohrab himself.

Second on left, seated row: Arbab Sohrab Kianian; along with several prominent Zarathushtis,
Yazd 1947

As a community leader Sohrab Kianian was a reformist and ushered in many changes. He was instrumental in the Zartoshties of Yazd adapting the Falsi calendar for their religious observations.  This initiative was successfully championed by Keikhosrow Shahrokh in Tehran, Soroush Soroushian in Kerman and Sohrab Kianian in Yazd as the respective heads of the Zartoshty associations in those centers in the decade of 1930.[iii]

Sohrab and his wife Simin Khosrow Jahanian were active philanthropists and took an active interest in the running of the Dinyari School for boys that was founded through donations from Abab Khosrow Jahanian’s estate. 

In the fall of 1958, while attending a community event, Sohrab Kianian fell to the ground, and suffered injuries. His frail body did not respond to medical care and within a few weeks he passed away.  His body was committed to the tower of silence which is still in use in Yazd for the disposal of dead bodies by the Zartoshty community.

Arbab Sohrab was born in 1888 and passed away in 1958, in the beloved land of his people.  With his passing, a distinct chapter in the history of the Zartoshties of Yazd and its Naseri Anjuman came to a close. The significance of contributions made by Sohrab Kianian to his hometown and its Zartoshty community was more due to his effective leadership and caring. His fatherly figure helped the evolution of the community that was rebounding from the verge of extinction to becoming a vibrant and progressive force in moving the city and country forward. We salute the character, leadership, vision and courage of Arab Sohrab.  May his spirit of service and quiet giving inspire others.

Bagli, Jehan. (2003), The Fire Within – Jamshid Soroushian Memorial volume II, 1stBooks Library, pp. 23-30.
Bastanifar, Khosro. (2003), Personal Memories, Orange County, California

Boyce, Mary. (1979), 
Zoroastrians, Their Religious Beliefs and Practices, Routledge & Kegan Paul, page 221.
Pishdadi, Jamshid. (1999),
Mirza Soroush Lohrasp, California Publication, pp. 157-158.

[i] Some others in the same group include, Manekji Limji Hataria, Jamshid Jamshidian,  Kaikhosrow Shahrokh, Rostam Guiv, Faridon Zartoshty, Ardeshir Jahanian, and  Esfendiar Yeganegi in Tehran,  Shahriar Soroushian, Soroush Soroushian, Shahriar Ravary, Jamshid Soroushian in Kerman as well as many others.  Fortunately the Zoroastrian community has been blessed with many selfless and giving individuals.

[ii] Both Anjomans of Kerman and Yazd are referred to as the Naseri Anjomans. It was a decree from Naser-ul Dinshah Ghajar (19th century) in response to an appeal from Manekji Limji Haātāriā that allowed the establishment of the two Anjomans as officially recognized bodies.

[iii] Bagli, Jehan. Historical Perspective on Zoroastrian and interfaith religious calendars,  ĀTAŠ-E DORUN: The Fire Within – Jamshid Soroush Soroushian Memorial Volume II, 1st Books Library, Bloomington, IN, 2003, pps. 23-30.