Mahatma Gandhi’s Respect for the Parsis

via email from Maneck Bhujwala distributed to a newsgroup.

Mahatma Gandhi had great respect for all communities and religions, including that of the Parsi Zarthushtis. Some examples that come to mind are:

* In chapter 11 “Tolerance, i.e. Equality of Religions”, of his book (originally written in Gujarati) translated by Valji Govindji Desai into english, with the title “From Yeravada Mandir” (Yeravada was the Central Prison where Gandhiji was imprisoned by the British in 1930),  and sent to me recently by a Parsi friend, Gandhiji writes:

   “I would linger yet a while on tolerance. My meaning will perhaps become clearer, if I describe here some of my experiences. In Phoenix we had our daily prayers in the same way as in Sabarmati, and Musalmans as well as Christians attended them along with Hindus. The late Sheth Rustomji and his children too frequented the prayer meetings. Rustomji Sheth very much liked the Gujarati bhajan ‘Mane valun,’ ‘Dear, dear to me is the name of Rama.’  If my memory serves me right, Maganlal or Kashi was once leading us in singing this hymn, when Rustomji Sheth exclaimed joyously, ‘Say the name of Hormuzd instead of name of Rama.’  His suggestion was readily taken up, and after that whenever the Sheth was present, and sometimes even when he was not, we put in the name of Hormuzd in place of Rama……” 

“….When I was turning over the pages of the sacred books of different faiths for my own satisfaction, I became sufficiently familiar for my purpose with Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrianism, Judaism and Hinduism….” “….and found the same fundamental morality in each….”

* In the Indian movie, “Gandhi, My Father” which is based on the story
of Gandhiji’s elder son and the problem relationship he had with his father
due to his depression, alcoholism, etc., it shows that
Gandhiji selects a Parsi young man for going to London on a sum of money
that an Indian businessman in South Africa had given to Gandhiji in
appreciation of help he received from Gandhiji.   Instead of sending his own
son to London, Gandhiji selected the Parsi man on the basis of better
qualifications to succeed in studies.

* If I am not mistaken, even in Attenborough’s movie “Gandhi”, in one scene,
Gandhiji had some complementary words about the Parsi community. He is  known to have praised the Parsi community of India as “in numbers beneath contempt, but in contribution great”.

* In a book on Parsi Member of the British Parliament, Dadabhai Naoroji, written by a Parsi, there is mention of how Gandhiji when he is going to England to petition the British government, respectfully writes a letter to Dadabhai Naoroji asking his guidance as an elder “Dada” would give to him in the matter of dealing with the British politicians.

  • Siloo Kapadia

    We Parsis are an integral part of South Asia. We may have emotional attachments to Iran, but over the years we have become South Asian, both racially an culturally. It is a grand thing that Mr. Ghandi recognized this.