Zoroastrian helps keep the traditions of ancient religion alive


April 6, 2008

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An interview with Dr. Farzana Irani.

Irani was born and raised in India, where she graduated from medical school. She immigrated in 1978 to Albany, where she is an obstetrician and gynecologist in Niskayuna. She and her husband, Khushru, live in Loudonville. They have three sons: Khoozan, 25; Perzan, 23; and Farzad, 19.

What is the origin of Zoroastrianism?

The ancient religion was founded about 3,500 years ago in Yazd in what is today Iran. The prophet we follow was named Zartosh, or Zoroaster. His followers are known as Zartoshi or Zoroastrian.

It is the world’s oldest monotheistic religion. People were idol worshipers at that time. Zoroaster told the people about Ahura Mazda, one God. We respect natural things like sun and water and fire.

Boatloads of Zoroastrians migrated to India in the 10th century. There, they were known as Irani, later as Farsi for the language they spoke, then as Parsi.

The three important mottos are good thoughts, good words and good deeds.

How many Zoroastrians are in the world today?

According to the Zoroastrian journal Fezana, there are about 125,000 with 11,000 in the U.S. and 6,000 in Canada.

How do children learn about their religion?

Usually, between ages 9 and 11, girls and boys are initiated in a ceremony called “navjoth.” They wear a “sedreh,” a white muslin undershirt, and on top of that, a “koshti,” which is made of wool and tied around the sedreh three times with knots as we say prayers. They are outward signs of being a Zartoshi.

Children have to learn prayers. A “dastoor,” or priest, teaches them.

All three of our children had their navjoth in India.

Do you have a place of worship in the area?

It is called a fire temple because we light a fire during services. The closest one is called Darbe Meher and it’s in the Rockland County village of Pomona.

There, we have Gathas, our holy books, which are a collection of five books of prayers.

We cover our head with a scarf or cap at the temple and also during prayers at home.

Tell us about the holiday you recently celebrated.

Nauroze is our new year, the first day of spring. We start spring cleaning a few weeks earlier and some people germinate seeds of lentils. A day before the vernal equinox, we set the table with a nice or new tablecloth, “cloth of seven dishes,” on which we place at least seven foods beginning with the Persian letter S or “sinn.” They include wheat or lentil sprouts, pudding, apple, dry fruit of lotus, any berries, vinegar, garlic and a bowl of water with an orange and some coins floating in it. Some people put out dry fruits and hyacinth. We also put candles on the table representing children. I put three for my boys.

We consider seven a sacred number since there are seven angelic heralds of life: rebirth, health, happiness, prosperity, joy, patience and beauty.

Traditionally, we visit family and friends for 13 days. We first sprinkle guests with rosewater and then show them their face in a mirror. They laugh and hope it will be a year of laughter and happiness.

On the 13th day, we clear everything from the table.

Original article by Azra Haqqie here.