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The Late Arbab Fereidoon Zartoshti1 (March 1904 – November 2000)


















Respect is not given, it is earned. It is not in what kind of work you do, it is in how you do it.”  That was the late Fereidoon Zartoshti’s motto for life.  He first heard it in his youth from his teacher Mr. Pinto, who was explaining a poem by Shakespeare.  This statement became a life long quest of one of the most successful Zoroastrian businessmen of our recent times who was a man of charity and good will. 

Fereidoon Zartoshti lived a long, prosperous and charitable life of 96 years. He was born in Yazd to Farangis and Jamshid in March 1904.  Since his uncle Bahman and his wife could not have any children, Fereidoon was considered their adapted child and carried Bahman’s name as his middle name.  This was a tradition amongst the Zoroastrians of Iran.

Fereidoon Bahman Zartoshti, 1955

Till the very end, Fereidoon was mentally alert and sharp and wrote his autobiography in his own hand-writing. It is out of respect that we present the late Zartoshti’s autobiography in his own words so that the next generations of Zoroastrian youths can follow in the footsteps of giants like him.

“Soon after I finished my schooling and graduated from Dinyari School in Yazd, I started to study the Avesta and religious ceremonies in order to become a ‘Nozoot’ and eventually earn my Mobed status.  In order to learn the Avesta one had to memorize by heart the grand Yasht in 72 sections and Yasna.  My teacher was Dastur Pirouz who was known as the ‘old master’. 

Once I finished my religious education and was ready to take my exam, I was lead to a place in the prayer room and was tested by the late Dastur Pirouz, Master Ardeshir Shahriar, Mobed Fereidoon, Mobed Rashid, Mobed Bahram, Mobed Bahman, Mobed Hamavand, Mobed Dinyar and  Mobed Jamshid.  The exam took about 2 and half hours and I feel blessed to pass it. 

The good news quickly reached my family.  After consulting my mother, I was going to go through the ‘Noshveh’ process. I did this 7 times and each time would take 9 days where I was totally secluded. The process which needed to be repeated 72 times would start early in the morning with one spoon of ‘Nirang’ and would continue with prayers from Yashts and the Vandidad. After 72 days and after passing through all the rituals one would be declared as a ‘Nozoot’. 

In addition to my interest in religious affairs, I had a deep interest in education as well and since there were some opportunities for me in Bombay, India I decided to go there to pursue it.  I feel it is necessary to share with you the experience I had on my trip from Yazd to Shiraz and the Persian Gulf port of Busher.  We started our journey from Yazd to Shiraz with the late Arbab Khodamorad Eidoon and a few other Zoroastrians and were using the late Mr. Naemi’s caravan. 

Left to Right: Shahriar Bamasi, Mehraban Zartoshti, Fereidoon Zartoshti. Mumbai 1940

We stayed in Shiraz for a few days in small shops in Bazar (Hojre), where business trades were conducted during the day and the shops were used to sleep in at night.  After a few days, one morning before dawn, we set off to Busher.  On our way to Busher we passed through Kazeroun where a special message was sent from Arbab Eidoon to the Governor of Kazeroun for a meeting.  The governor invited Arbab Eidoon to his home for dinner and we stayed in the Caravansra.  After about 3 hours Arbab Khodamoead Eidoon returned and told us that he was able to convince the governor to accept half of the safe-passage ‘Fee’ in gold English Liras and the other half in silver Iranian Rials.  This news soon spread in the city of Kazeroun and many knew about the deal that had been made between the two.

The next day, very early in the morning, we set off for Busher.  On the way out of Kazeroun, we were stopped at the 1st government police station to be searched by the gendarmes.  They asked us to lay down all our personal belongings and unload the donkeys.

At this time, I started protesting and jumped down in front of the agent and asked him with what authority and under whose order did he dare to search our personal belongings.  I told him that Reza Shah had cleared all the roads for the people and we were free to go wherever we wished. 

Once I finished, the agent pushed me aside, took his rifle, aimed it at me and said, “I will show you something so you remember not to talk like this to a government agent.”  At this time, there was an old lady who was accompanying us as an aide to Arbab. She quickly jumped down and told the gendarme that he had no right to threaten this little kid! She warned me that these agents kill people so easily that you have to be careful how you approach them. 

At this time, Arbab went forward and apologized to the agent and opened up two of the boxes.  The agent asked about the content of the boxes and was told that they contained cooking oils, different kinds of drinks, etc.  He asked if we had liquor and alcohol, which we did not.  He searched more and saw some silk handkerchiefs and brand new handmade shoes.  Arbab told him that the handkerchiefs were made in Yazd and the shoes in Shiraz and offered them to him. 

The man took them and let us go.  We passed through several cities on our way to Busher. I would write to Reza Shah on every occasion I could find, about the discrimination and unjust treatment we received.  Once we reached Busher, I gave these writings to our host Mr. Golshani to be sent to Reza Shah and  they were mailed the day after we left Busher for Bombay. 

In about 3 moths after we left Iran, I heard through Arbab Khodamorad that due to a direct order from Reza Shah, the handkerchiefs and shoes were taken back from the government agent. They were in possession of Mr. Golshahni to be returned back to us.  We decided to ask Mr. Golshani to keep those as a token of our appreciation for his help.” 

The above anecdote in Mr. Zartoshti’s own words, proves his strong character and  drive for justice that was installed in him from a very early age; a characteristic that stayed with him along with his good sense of humor and kindness till the last days of his life. 

There were several attempts to write his biography, but every time, he would insist on not writing about him while he was alive.  When his family was asked as to why the late Zartoshti pursued careers other than Nozoot even when he became one, they said that he was very interested in continuing his higher education, which he saw in no way conflicting with his religious Nozoot standing.  Therefore he decided to go to Tehran to pursue his dream of higher education. 

However, since his father was already in Bombay, the decision was made for the young Zartoshti to go to India instead.  In Bombay, after 4 years in a well known and most prestigious school in the city, he was able to graduate at the top of his class.  During this time, in addition to pursuing his education he was helping his father in his trade. Unfortunately his father became ill and Feridoon arranged to send him back home to Iran.  He then started to manage the overall business and thus could not find time to attend college.

After the demise of his father, he established ‘Zartoshti Brothers Trading Corporation’ in India with the help of his younger brother Mehraban. He continued his business activities in Iran and from the early days of founding the company until the very last day of his active life, he was dedicated to work and occupied in business.  The late Zartoshti was a generous man and along with his younger brother and business partner Mehraban, they made enormous contributions to various organizations and associations while he was alive.  The Zartoshti brothers’ philanthropical activities have been continued by his brother Mehraban after Feriedoon’s demise. 

In addition to a company that he had with his uncle Rostam Khodabandeh and his cousin Rostam Rashidi and Bahram Esfandiar, he started another business with his other nephew, the late Rostam Zartoshti under the registered title of Fereidoon and Rostam Zartoshti Company.  Meanwhile, the late Mr. Jamshid Bahram Yeganegi, who had the import rights for the Fisk Tires of US and Diesel engines of Lister of UK offered the use of office space to the Zardoshti brothers.  This arrangement lasted for about 3 years until the Zardoshti brothers purchased an old building in Saadi Avenue and constructed a four storey building as their business headquarters.

Once the new building was finished, they opened their first organized business operation in Iran under the name of Zardoshti Brothers Trading Corporation.  Among their first business activities was to secure the trade rights to sell Robson Diesel engines of UK and agricultural water pump of Varuna of India under Emu of Germany and other equipment from Denmark with the purpose of expanding the newly organized agricultural industry across Iran.  The late Arbab Fereidoon looked after accounting and his younger brother was responsible for the day to day operations of the business.

Through many years of hard work and dedication and strong principles of honesty, trust and Good Deeds the Zardoshti Brothers’ business flourished tremendously in a short period of time. They soon started the Shahin Plastic and Synthetic Leather manufacturing in partnership with Mr. Hussain Abhari. In time, due to the high quality of their production, they became the sole provider of synthetic leather to the newly created national auto manufacturing ‘Peykan’.[2]  The large and reputable Zardoshti Brothers business was gaining even larger momentum and was about to expand in other areas of Iranian industry but the Islamic revolution put a halt to their success and shut down their operation along with many other businesses in Iran.  Had it not been for the Islamic revolution, chances were very high that the Zardoshty brothers’ business would have grown more and would have helped Iran in its struggle for becoming economically and industrially independent.

After the Islamic revolution, the Zardoshti Brothers’ businesses were confiscated by the Islamic regime. Arbab Fereidoon was house bound and he remained there till the latter years of his life, when he was allowed to travel overseas to visit his family in the US. 

A partial list of some of his contributions appears at the end.   One of the main reasons and a driving force behind so much generosity can be traced to his father’s advice to put aside a portion of their income and dedicate it to the good cause of helping people.  It was Feriedoon’s belief and based on his Zoroastrian faith, that ‘Life is the most precious gift of God’ and it is a pity to see anyone live in misery and sorrow due to financial stress. 

The late Arbab Fereidoon Zartoshti was not only a man of honor, selfless dedication to help people and a backbone of the Zoroastrian communities of Iran, but he was also a man of humor and joy.  He cherished and welcomed any joyous moment and was a strong advocate of upbeat mindset and good life.  Most of the time, when he provided the community with his generous financial support, he brought a personal touch to the ceremony by his humorous and simple speech  which  was his hallmark. 

The late Arbab Zartoshti passed away in Southern California on 27th of Aban of 1379 (Nov. 18, 2000). His remains were flown to his birth land that he so dearly loved, and  buried at Tehran’s Zoroastrian Aramgah (cemetery) of  ‘Qasre-Firouzeh’ on 11th of Azar of 1379 (Dec. 2, 2000).  On that rainy day, a large number of Iranians, several thousands, gathered to pay respect to an accomplished, and honorable son of Iran.

Several memorial ceremonies were held in his honor in Tehran, Shiraz, Isfahan, Yazd and Karaj where people from all walks of life paid their respect to this distinguished man. 

His younger brother and partner Mehraban, has been continuing the work the two brothers had started, providing for the welfare and well being of Zoroastrian communities

inside and outside of Iran and supporting all efforts to preserve and promote the Zoroastrian religion, heritage, history and identity.

Partial list of the Zartoshti brothers’ (Feridoon and Mehraban) charitable
activities include;

  1. Creation of ‘Zartoshti Brothers Hall’ at new Zoroastrian center in London, England

  2. Funding construction of prayer hall at the Houston Zoroastrian center, in Texas

  3. Provided funding for the construction of an outside tent at the Zoroastrian Darbe Mehr in San Jose, California

  4. Provided  funds for holding Gahanbar and religious classes for training Mobeds in Iran

  5. Funded World Zoroastrian Organization for taking care of  patients and Zoroastrian  farmers in the remote villages of Gujarat

  6. Maintenance and upgrade of the Fire Temple in the city of Yazd

  7. Remodeling of Tehran Adorian

  8. Renovation of Markar buildings in the city of Yazd

  9. Renovation of Firoze Bahram high school, Rostam Abadian junior high and Jamshid Jam elementary school

  10. Establishing Zoroastrian Senior Citizens Housing in Tehran

  11. Providing housing for young married couples

  12. Establishing and maintaining the ‘House of Zartoshtis’ in Isfahan

  13. Publishing religious books such as the Avesta and Gathas

  14. Financial assistance to renovate religious temples

  15. Endowment of funds for the establishment of the Zartoshti brothers chair of Zoroastrian studies at London, UK University’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)

A brief explanation of some of the above charitable and humanitarian works that were done over the years in the spirit of partnership and cooperation with his brother Mobed Mehrban Mobed Jamshid Zartoshti is as follows.  This information has been translated from the book “A ray from the love of Mazda” by Mr. Jamshid Pishdadi.

In Tehran, Iran:

  • Repair and renovation of the famous Firoozbahrm high school from beginning to end, providing much needed work to preserve this historical academic institution which has contributed to the education of many Iranian leaders over several decades of its existence. The selfless help of Mr. Rostam Farkhondeh in connection with the renovation must be acknowledged.

  • Repair and restoration of Markar hall in the city of Tehran Pars. Adding the memorandum and pictures of Zoroastrian men of honor and respect who had provided much needed service to the community, such as the late Peshotanji Markar[3] and Mirza Soroush Lohrasb.[4]

  • Repair and renovation of Jamshid Jam and Rostam Abadian schools

  • Repair and restoration of interior and exterior sides of the Adrian temple

  • Design and development of senior citizen homes on the premises of the late Rostam Abadian with a 4 storey building to serve the elderly community

  • Financial aid to the Zoroastrian Youth Organization (Faravahar) for publishing books and periodicals.

  • Purchasing land and building a 4 storey center for the use of  Zoroastrian youth for religious classes and donation of a building to the Zoroastrian Youth Organization (Faravahar)

  • Financial aid to Zoroastrian Women Organization and the Zoroastrian Student Organization to provide continuous support for needy people.

  • Financial aid to the Zoroastrian Association of Karaj to purchase the charity house of Dolat.

In Yazd:

  • Markar has been an institution by itself since the early 20th century dedicated to the education of the youth of Yazd, regardless of their religion.  Founded by Peshotanji Markar it has contributed enormously to the advancement of  elementary education in that region.  The historical building of this academic institution was damaged due to wear and tear and needed a complete renovation. The late Arbab Fereidoon with the help of his brother Arbab Mehrban provided  financial assistance to restore this historical building  to its original status. The supervision of Mr. Sirus (Cyrus) Khosrovi in accomplishing this task is hereby acknowledged.

  • Preservation of Atash Varahram which has been in care of the Zartoshti brothers for more than 40 years was transferred to the Yazd Zoroastrian Anjoman. The financial asset allocated to the preservation effort was put in control of Anjoman in order to leverage  the interest of the assets to provide the cost of preservation.

  • Providing continuous financial assistance to the needy Zoroastrian of Yazd.

  • Providing financial help to Zoroastrian Youth organization of Yazd for sport activities and Zoroastrian athletes.

In Bombay, India:

  • Transfers of large capital and assets to the Bombay Parsi Panchayat in order to provide financial assistance to any Parsi family with 3 or more kids and to newly wed young people and needy families.

  • Providing financial assistance through a special fund for  Zoroastrian youths who wished to pursue a priesthood career &/or those who become scholars in Zoroastrian studies &/or those mobeds who follow up on their education to earn their PhDs.  At the time of this writing, there are two young Iranian Zoroastrians who are following in this path at the Athornan School in Bombay and there is a high hope that they soon graduate and start serving the Zoroastrian community as Mobeds.

  • Financial help to Athornan school of Bombay for providing housing for needy Zoroastrian students.

  • Providing financial help to B.H. Petit Parsi General Hospital for renovation of one storey of the current building in the name of Manekji Limji Houshang Hataria.

  • Financial assistance to K.R. Cama Oriental Institute and specifically its library in order to preserve and publish the valuable Zoroastrian books and writings.

  • Providing financial capital to Bombay University to establish a new library in pious memory of Sir Phirozshah Mehta,[5] the founder of the Bombay University, a well known attorney, mayor of Bombay and also known as the Lion of Bombay.

  • Endowment of funds for the establishment of a chair at Mumbai University in honor of Sir Phirozeshah Mehta (the first president of that university).

  • Financial assistance to Surat Parsi Panchayet for a 4 storey building in the name of Arbab Fereidoon’s wife the late Mehrbanoo Bamassi Pour. This amount was provided by Arbab Mehraban in the name of his sister in law, Arbab Fereidoon’s wife.

  • Invest in Cama Oriental Institute for the publication of rare religious books.

  • Provided financial support to the Red cross of India for building hospitals for the care of financially distressed people of Mumbai, India

  • Providing financial help to Bel Air Sanitorium which was established by Dr. Rostam Billimoria and now is under the management of the Indian Red Cross

  • Financial help to Iranian Zoroastrian Association of Bombay to provide help to the needy Zoroastrians and Zoroastrian students.

  • Financial help to the  Parsi Ward in the J.J. Hospital in pious memory of Manekji Hataria.[6]

  • Providing financial assistance to the needy Zoroastrians for the purchase of   prescription drugs and medicine.

1 This article was posted on vohuman.org on April 16, 2006.  Editorial support from Mrs. Annahita Pesi Sidhwa in Mumbia, India is acknowledged.
[2] Peykan auto industry was Iran’s first production of consumer cars.
[3] Peshotanji Dossabhai Marker
[4] The Life and Work of Mirza Soroush Lohrasb
[5] Sir Pherozshah Mehta
[6] Manekji Limji Hateria