A CA turned Avestan scholar

khojeste-mistee Khojeste Pudam Mistree is a frank and fearless crusader of the faith. As Trustee of the Bombay Parsi Punchayet, Managing Trustee of Zoroastrian Studies and Trustee of the Athravan Educational Trust, he has virtually brought about a religious renaissance in the community.

Published in the Afternoon DC

Through his lecture tours around the world and the weekly classes being conducted in Parsi Schools in Mumbai, he has imparted religious knowledge and instilled a sense of pride in the community’s glorious history and heritage. The tours of Iran which he has been taking for many years have proved to be very popular and in fact, Khojeste is one of the few behdins to have had the privilege to teach Zoroastrianism to upcoming priests and boywalas of the Atash Behrams.

For many years, he worked in England as a Chartered Accountant, having qualified as a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England & Wales. After working as a C.A. in the United Kingdom he was offered a partnership in his old firm, but he turned it down to pursue his passion — the study of Zoroastrianism.

He was the first Parsi J. N. Tata scholar to study Zoroastrianism at Oxford. He studied under the famed savant, the late Professor Mary Boyce. When he obtained a Masters Degree from there, it was in Oriental Studies with specialization in Ancient Iranian Studies and Zoroastrianism.

Khojeste is a founder member of the UK-based Alliance for Religion and Conservation (ARC). His passion is for protecting the vultures and greening areas like Doongerwadi.

A founder Trustee of the World Alliance of Parsi Irani Zarthoshtis (WAPIZ), Khojeste is the moving spirit behind this traditional movement which has, as one of its main planks, the strengthening of the Dokhmenashini system at Doongerwadi and elsewhere. As a preserver of our ancient heritage, he has worked ceaselessly to get each and every one of the 46 fire temples and one priestly seminary in Mumbai declared as heritage structures. Since 1979, he has been instrumental in organizing a poverty alleviation programme for assisting old, venerable mobeds and their families in Udvada, Navsari, Surat, Bharuch, Valsad, Jhansi and Mumbai. Also under the aegis of his Zoroastrian Studies, more than a hundred poor Parsis and Iranis get monthly financial support.

His wife, Firoza Punthakey-Mistree has been a close associate of his in the field of Zoroastrian history and culture. Her Magnum Opus in conjunction with Pheroza Godrej is titled "A Zoroastrian Tapestry, Art, Religion, & Culture".

[Hat Tip via email from Shirin J. Mistry]
  • Urvax.Motafram

    I am an Orthodox to the core and my past writings on Parsi Khabar would be a testimony. In the Dadar Meet after being elected Trustee, Khojeste said many things against what he calls a bird watcher and promised an Aviary. Was he not playing to the gallery? What is the ‘progress’ in set up of aviary.
    Assuming though not conceding that his devotion towards the Religion prompted him to give up a probable lucrative practice as an Accountant, than does the zeal to propagate and study Religion necessitate contesting as a Trustee on false assurance of setting up an Aviary and shunning the topic now? Could he have not served the cause of Religion without becoming a Trustee of Parsi properties and Charities.
    Elections are contested by those who are power hungry. One can serve the public without holding Trusteeship.
    Poor late Rustom Tirandaz travelled on a ramshackle scooter. Even the present Chairman used to travel on a simple bike. The article says that Khojeste went to U.K. on Scholarship from J.N. Tata Trust. Then how does Khojeste afford a luxury apartment and a swanky car unless Religion is more lucrative than practice as a Certified Accountant.?
    And why has he been reluctant to disclose his assets before he became a Trustee? This gives the neo liberals an opportunity on silver platter to ask questions about promised transparency.
    Getting various Fire Temples in the list of heritage is of no consequence because these holy fires are devoid of devotees and depend on volunteers to collect funds for Kathi.
    Is this Religious Renaissance. If anybody from the Orthodox camp was more qualified to be a BPP Trustee then it is Er. K.N. Dastoor a legal luminary with vast knowledge, who could have been an asset during these troubled times.

  • Ratan Elavia

    Type your comment here…Sir, may you live long with good health and happiness and may you always continue to educate people from our community with religious knowledge so that the ignorance so common in our community about the religion, rituals, practices can be done away with.

    Thanks to you, the younger generation is more well versed and can guide the older generation wherever there be a lack of religious gyan. You are truly a religious scholar and we are very lucky to have you as a trustee of the Bombay Parsi Punchayat. May you guide the community with your wisdom, knowledge and experience and may the community re-elect you in every subsequent Parsi Punchayat election.

    Amin Amin Amin.
    Ratan Elavia

  • falijimmy@hotmail.com

    I, and thousands of my supporters do not believe in Mr. Khojeste Mistree. We agree with what great learned scholar Late Dasturji Dr. Hormazdiar Mirza had said ‘KHOJESTE MISTREE IS A FRAUD’
    He(Khojaste) said that those who are cremated will not cross the chinvat bridge and will go to hell.His mother was cremated.
    He does not believe in intermarriage.His own brother is married to a non parsee.He participated in his brother’s silver wedding anniversary.
    You may contact me on my e mail or phone 23698207 or 9820170794 and I will tell you more about his double standards and hypocracy and his so called miracles he performed in Iran.,etc.etc.Thanks,

    Ervad Khusrhoo Madon.

  • farzana

    ‘He was the first Parsi J. N. Tata scholar to study Zoroastrianism at Oxford. He studied under the famed savant, the late Professor Mary Boyce. When he obtained a Masters Degree from there, it was in Oriental Studies with specialization in Ancient Iranian Studies and Zoroastrianism.”

    And he has audacity to say- Z’ism didn’t spread through conversion in its 3500 years of history…Either he is lying though his teeth or he studied a wrong history…

  • Dorab.

    To study Zoroastrianism does one have to:

    1) Go aboroad when BPP claims to be the principal part of the World Community of Zoroastrians?

    2) Why did he choose Prof Mary Boyce and not late Dr. Minocher Karkhanawalla and other Athornan savants of that age who were Parsee Zoroastrians by birth?

  • farzana

    Ofcoz KHOJESTE MISTREE IS A FRAUD, you don’t need Dr. Mirza to tell you that. I had an opportunity to attend a Navjote ceremony where Khojeste Mistry was also present. To my surprise, he was openly posing for photo ops with parsi mailaas who were in spaghetti strap saree blouse with no sudra-kustee at sight…This is the same man who calls himself a traditionalist and orthodox scholar…And gives long bhashaans on importance of wearing Sudra-Kustee !!

    He is a fraud just like his CHAMCHAAS – who claim to be ORTHODOX and actively advocate excommunication from community those who are married to non Zoroastrians, but they themselves are Divorcees…and as per the same Religious scriptures that they like to flung at others, also says act of DIVORCE is a grave SIN OF SOUL namely- Doode Vehan-vasovashi. Now you see the hypocrisy of inbred Orthodox nut cases…

  • Icchaporia.

    No other Board of Trustees of B.P.P. has ever been subjected to this level of lampooning and that too those who are STILL SITTING on the Board.
    Earlier Trustees, whatever their ideologies were persons of stature and repute WHO DID NOT REQUIRE PUBLICITY IN SECULAR PRESS to drumbeat about WHO THEY WERE. They did not clamour for recognition.
    The report states that ‘Since 1979, he has been instrumental in organizing a poverty alleviation programme for assisting old, venerable mobeds and their families in Udvada, Navsari, Surat, Bharuch, Valsad, Jhansi and Mumbai.” My, my. Is he funding the same from his own pocket that he should get recognition for the same? If he is really the ’moving spirit behind this traditional movement’ , he ought to know that Charity begins at home or should I be more emphatic, practice in your CLOSE family household what you expect other lesser individuals to follow. Example is better than precept. The cap of Orthodoxy has been worn by too many for their own ends. Do not wish to rub further.
    Yes Ratan Elavia, I too join you (though I need no favours from BPP or any other Trust) in wishing that Mistree gets
    re elected another 2 times and performs a hat trick so that youngsters of today (who might have been carried away by his oratory) would realize by then (i.e. by 2028) difference between performance and tall talk. Question about the Aviary project at that time will be downright uncomfortable. BEST of Luck.
    I hope that in future henchmen will desist such publicity stunts to spare those whom they admire, the critical appraisal and that too from all different shades of opinion viz. Orthodox, Liberals, Rationalists and downright Viraf Sriniwas Yusuf Mendoza’s types.

  • farzana

    What is the total Parsee population of India? I assume it may be around 35000 or more, so the ‘chamchas’ of those who secured just around 5000 votes in BPP elections need to go to school once again to learn elementary maths that for simple majority from 35,000 population of bawas, half of it is 17,500 and not about 5000. One of those elected on his so called orthodox background did so by asking his followers to spread a canard that he was a qualified Chartered Accountant and that based on this professional qualification he is a senior Executive in a courier firm. He and his disciples need to know that all are aware that he is NOT a Chartered Accountant and his name does not figure in ICAI website.

  • Zerxes.Dordi

    The main objective of this article was to gain fame. But it turned out to be counter productive.
    Isn’t it time for some to stop this type of gaining flattery and publicity because in the end these clay idols become vulnerable at being shown in their ORIGINAL true colours. With the result such ‘politicians’get thoroughly exposed inside out in 70 M.M. without assistance of M.R.I. Machine?

  • Bakhtawar

    Parsi Khabar,
    Yesterday, I had put up a small comment about the fact that none from the ‘We are in Majority’ brigade had countered the legitimate and pertinent facts and questions that other writers had mentioned in their earlier posts. I am certain there was nothing in my small comment which could be considered as a remark ‘ about the other’s knowledge, intellect or personal life.’

    My comment did not contain anything that can be considered as wavering from the topic under discussion either.

    Any way it is your choice and discretion but let me inform you that I get an impression that either you want only praises for whatever is published on your portal about an individual covered by the article or are under some pressure from a group of individuals who want to suppress freedom of expression and criticism of those ‘eminent’ personalities whom they adore. Our community has that group of “Vigilantes” who have succeeded in muzzling the fourth estate and I get an unmistaken feeling that your blog has become a victim of pressure from such bigots. The second reason of seems to be more relevant as it can be seen that there are no comments from readers appearing since last seven days.

    Hereafter, I intend not to post any comments on your portal which wants to replicate BPP Review. Pardon me for my plain speak.

  • Bakhtavar

    I have your comment from yesterday on file. It was a caustic remark that has nothing to do with this article.

    This article is about Khojeste. And not about those who support him and those who hate him.

    Your comment was about his sympathizers.

    You may have a legitimate (or not) grudge against other commenters but this is not the forum to vent it.

    You may choose to make your own impressions. I as an individual or Parsi Khabar as a website have nothing to do with that.

    There is no pressure from anyone, never has been, never will be.

    You are free to make your own conclusions.

    Thank you for your readership and participation.

  • Jamshed Irani

    This is a copy of my letter to the Editor of Parsiana….

    That so-called scholar of a cook, clad in the waist coat of a waiter in a Goan restaurant has inducted his wife to eulogize the life of the late Jamshed Guzdar. This has appeared on the WAPIZ page/s in the Free Press Journal of September 03, 2010. In paragraph 2, she acknowledges that he was an industrialist, an astute businessman, a philanthropist and a TRUE ZOROASTRIAN.

    On the same page, there is a tirade of objections about the visit to a place of worship by children of Roshni D’Souza. This piece must been dipped with the butcher’s knife of the cook. He states that anyone can be a Zoroastrian and get a navjote done.But, to be a Zoroastrian Parsi, you must have parents who are both Parsis or, at least, the father must be one.

    Now, I wish that some learned Parsi advises me about who is a Parsi. In my childhood, my grandmother told me some stories about Zoroastrians coming to India when they were being attacked in Iran. Having landed here and mixed sugar in milk, we were given shelter. We adopted the ways and customs that suited us and, as long as we did our own thing, we were left alone. And, those who are termed as Iranis are also from Iran (as their title states), only they came much later and were given another recognition. She told me that Farsi was a language/business title of that time and thus was born the word, ‘Parsi’. If this is true, our learned narrow minded bigots who warm the chairs of the BPP’s boardroom are no better than Bal or Raj Thackeray, insisting on establishing a community on the platform of a language or a trade. I have serious reservations about this. I am first and always will be a human being. Demographics determined that I am an Asian, born in India. It is an accident of birth (over which we have no control) that I am a Zoroastrian. I have, like all our kin, accepted the label of Parsi. It is easier to say, spell than the title Zoroastrian though, I am one. From this questionable expression of views that differ between the husband and wife team, are we to understand that one has to be born in India to be a Zoroastrian Parsi? I am confused, but perhaps, not as much as the individual confusion in the minds of these bilkul ponya Parsis and, with their help, their wives!

    If we are to live our lives by orthodox tradition, tell the learned men and women of the BPP to dress as our ancestors did, to speak the language of our forefathers and to return to the ways and means of thirteen hundred years ago. Whilst we adapt wherever it is convenient, this handful of people are bent on lying through their teeth and soiling the names of other respectable citizens.

    If there are priests who have ‘hurt the feelings of the community’ (we should have an independent survey done by a non-community group for this), that is not emerging from the pages of Parsiana Magazine. I do not believe that the magazine prints only letters from liberals; it is very well balanced. (they even interview the Chairman of the BPP and report fearlessly). I must add here that whereas we pay a subscription to Parsiana because we want and like to read it, WAPIZ foists its news and views upon 14000 families every fortnight and makes belief that it is appreciated.

    I am not a very religious person but I believe that God is omnipresent everywhere, that one can converse with him in any language and at any time from anywhere. There is no proof that He would only hear me if I go to a Parsi fire temple or agiary or adarian or whatever. I have been heard from a church, a temple and a mosque because I choose to believe that He heard me. I don’t need specified cloth, string or cap for Him to hear me. For after all, we are all His children erroneously following different customs because someone came along and told a story. At the risk of repeating myself, it is the singer, not the song; that is constant no matter who you worship. And finally, there is a lesson to learn from a Christian philosophy: always praise the Lord, ask nothing of Him for he knows what is best for you. Just thank Him no matter what may befall you.

    And Mr. Editor, thank you and your team for such a great magazine and the right approach. Let’s relegate the cooks to the kitchen where they can add their poison potions to feed gullible people.

    Khushroo Madon, Meher Master-Moos, Noshir Dadrewala, Homi Khushrokhan, Jamshed Kanga and all others of that ilk: come to the front of the class,


    Well spoken dear Jamshed. My congrats for your outspokenness. Just to add that current Parsiana carries an article from one learned but Orthodox gentleman by name Faribourz Nariman.
    Will publications like FPJ WAPIZ page or Jame Weakly (pun intended) allow publication of views from the rational side? The fascist forces fear and consider thinking section of the population as the biggest hindrance in propagating their concocted concept of religious righteousness. A century ago, it would have been considered blasphemous if a person from Kadmi sect entered a Shehenshai Fire Temple and conversely. Such segregation has been obliterated but we have these days ‘professional scholars’ out to cause fissures in the community in the pretext of Orthodoxy.
    Yes Jamshed we need more men like you.

  • farzana

    While I am not aware of the nature of the ‘caustic remark’ purportedly made by Bakhtawar that had nothing to do with the Artricle under discussion,I am unable to comprehend why the same spirit and yardstick was not deployed when one person posing as Aspi was making unfounded and unsavoury remarks personally against me falsely assuming me to be the author of posts made by one Mr. Dorab on the topic of “Eminent Parsis fight for Liberal Priests”….. Were the contents of Aspi’s posts legitimate and was the forum of Parsi Khabar not misused to vent such venoumous personal remarks?

    In a sense there is much truth in what Bakhtawar has said about a fringe group with fascist mentality in our community browbeating channels of expression…… In fact this handful of mafias want everybody else to adhere to their own version and interpretation of our Zoroastrianism and towards that design would resort to coercion and duress by using language as this person posing Aspi has done against Dorab….. Left to themseves, such ‘protectors of Religion’ would like to regiment the minds of free thinkers…. i strongly feel that this latter behaviour also needed to be curbed on your blog earlier…

    Nevertheless,..i m much relieved by your reassurance that your portal will not sucumb to tactics of such fringe pressure groups…

  • Urvax.Motafram

    Since Jamshed Iranee’s post refers to children from D’Souza family attending a Fire Temple, as an avid traditionalists I would pose following questions about this sordid event.
    As per WAPIZ page, the incident appears to have come to light after the agitated relative reported this to WAPIZ. The issue here is, why the concerned relative,( if he happens to be a genuine traditionalist) did not take up the matter with the presiding Priests of the Fire Temple. It seems that this relative was more interested in getting a compliment from WAPIZ than in being the true upholder of his faith. Such a selfish and ‘matlabi’ person needs to be ostracized and I would go to the extent of saying that he/she should be banned from entering any holy place as a retribution for complicity in this sacrilege.
    The next issue is whether the Panthaky/ presiding priest of the Agiary genuinely unaware of this trespass? An in depth enquiry by Trustees of the concerned is required and if the Panthaky or the priests had knowledge of presence of non Parsees, he should be expelled from his job and defrocked. Such steps will act as a deterrent for recurrence of this type of transgressions.
    The concerned Agiary should get purificatory cleansing done immediately, as suggested by Mrs. Mistree, if I recollect correctly, in case of Arjun Rampal matter.

  • R.Kayani.

    Motafram seems to have a valid point. Why the concerned relative did not caution the priests of the agiary there and then on the spot to prevent this violation of sanctity. It seems he is what one calls in Gujarati ‘DHOR DAHAYO’ overwise with vested interest in gaining publicity and being in ‘good books’ of WAPIZ.

  • F.Pavri

    Zoroastrian faith is based not only Good Thoughts, Good Words and Good Deeds, it is a way of life. It is the religion of one who is born of Pars/Iranian Parents and it is the Will Of God that one One is so born in Zoroastrian Religion–Faith. One should carry it on during his life time It is not like changing things, ie. if you do not like a dress, you throw that away. The Almighty has put each and every one in its Own religion by Birth. Suppose he wants to come to Zoroastrian Religion, he/she cannot do it It shows clearly that he/she has betrayed his/her own releion by Birth and what assurance can you give that he/she shall follow the tenets of Zorastrian Religion? Just putting on a Saudreh & Kusti does not make wearer a Jarthosti.We In India are proud to be Parsi/Irianian Zoroastrians by birth and it is our sacred duty to protect our Religion during our life time as it is the Ultimate Goal of Human Life. Though we Parsis/Iranian Zoroastrians in India are treated as Brahmins by foreigners it is not going to affect us as we offer our Prayers sincerely and faithfully without asking for an explanation. That is True Zoroastrian Religion as one is NOT supposed to ask any questions on the Religion as one has to follow it without questioning as we in today’s conditions are not competent to answer the same with our scarce resorces. Those who try to ask questions and give foolish answers are misleading the community and creating a Grave Sin for themselves.


  • F.Pavri

    Sahebji, I fully endorse what Urvax has stated about a fake orthodox who was a silent spectator when non Parsee children were sitting right throughout a ritual in a Fire Temple and as an after thought to prove that he is a choost/staunch person belatedly complains to an Organisation instead of drawing the attention of the Fire Temple Priests.Simply outrageous.
    In olden days such kuffar persons were subjected by the Punchayat to punishment. The least that one expects in this case is that this complainant for not being prompt in stopping this heinous act be asked to perform cleaning the concerned agiary for a few months every day without remuneration by way of atonement.


    The great TRDITINALIST BRIGADE-defenders and self appointed pillars of Zoroastrianism are at loss of words to reply to post of Jamshed Irani and other independent individuals, whose views are expressed above.

  • barakaga

    There is no community such as “Parsi” Community. The term ‘Parseeism’ (or ‘Parsiism’) is attributed to Anquetil-Duperron and to the Portuguese. Portuguese physician Garcia d’Orta, who in 1563 observed that “there are merchants […] in the kingdom of Cambai […] known as Esparcis. We Portuguese call them Jews, but they are not so

    The term ‘Parsi’ was used by the Indians to refer to anyone from Greater Iran, irrespective of whether they were actually ethnic Persians or not. In any case, the term ‘Parsi’ itself is “not necessarily an indication of their Iranian or ‘Persian’ origin, but rather as indicator — manifest as several properties — of ethnic identity

    A 2004 study in which “Parsi” mitochondrial DNA (matrilineal) was compared with that of the Iranians and Gujaratis determined that PARSIS ARE GENETICALLY CLOSER TO GUJARATIS THAN TO IRANIANS

    In which religious book is it mentioned that there are 2 classes of Zoroastrians : 1) “Parsi” and 2) “Irani”?

    Was Prophet Zarathustra a “Parsi” or an “Irani”?
    Were the Persian Emperors “Parsi” or “Irani”?
    What is so unique about the “Parsis” that they are a class of Zoroastrians unto themselves, and all other Zoroastrians were / are classified under the miscellaneous head “Irani”.

    Is there any classification of Hindus such as “Hindustani Hindu” and “Bambaiya Hindu”?
    Is there any classification of Muslims such as “Arabian Muslim” and “Mecca Muslim”?
    Is there any classification of Jews such as “Jerusalem Jew” and “Israeli Jew”?

    The birth place of prophet Zarathustra is believed to have been either of the following :
    1) Eastern Iran and/or Central Asia (to include present-day Afghanistan):
    2) Sistan (though in a much wider scope than the present-day province)
    3) Bactria (21 kms from Mazar-e-Sharif, in Afghanistan)
    4) Chorasmia / Khwarezm in Uzbekistan.
    5) The Tedzen Delta in present-day Turkmenistan
    6) Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex located in present day Turkmenistan, northern Afghanistan and Iran, southern Uzbekistan and western Tajikistan,
    7) The steppes of the former Soviet republics

    Hence by contemporary definition He is neither “Parsi” nor “Irani”,
    Prophet Zarathustra is believed to have composed the first lines of the Avesta in Chilpik, a Zoroastrian cult construction near the archealogical construction Mizdakhan, located in the lower reaches of the Amu Darya River in Uzbekistan.

    According to the Qissa-i Sanjan “Story of Sanjan”, the only existing account of the early years of Zoroastrian refugees in India but composed at least six centuries after the tentative date of arrival, one group of immigrants (today presumed to have been the first) originated from (greater) Khorasan (Hodivala 1920, p. 88). THIS REGION IN CENTRAL ASIA IS IN PART IN NORTH-EASTERN IRAN (WHERE IT CONSTITUTES THE KHORASAN PROVINCE), IN PART IN NORTHERN AFGHANISTAN, AND IN PART IN THREE CENTRAL-ASIAN REPUBLICS OF TAJIKISTAN, TURKMENISTAN, AND UZBEKISTAN.

  • Barak Aga

    There is one common thread running through the WAPIZ and the assorted nut cases.

    All of them are unsuccessful chartered accountants.

    Homi Ranina, the founder of WAPIZ is a Chartered Accountant who floated the Mazda Group of companies, Mazda Leasing Ltd., Mazda Enterprises Ltd., Mazda Packaging Ltd., which were used by Harshad Mehta in the 1992 stock market scandal.

    Churchill had said, “Politics is the last refuge of scoundrels”.
    In case of the community, “Religion is the last refuge”.