After Mumbai, Surat has the largest number of Parsis in India. The city has also played an important role in the religion of the community as it is the birthplace of a school of Zoroastrian philosophy called, Ilm-e-Khshnoom.
By Back To Life! A Personal Grief Guidebook href=”http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report_surti-gave-mystical-insights-into-the-avestha_1729947″>Rishi Banerji | DNA India
Ilm-e-Khshnoom means ‘science of ecstasy’. This school of Zoroastrianism was founded by Behramshah Nowroji Shroff (1858-1927) who belonged to Surat.
Followers of Ilm-e-Khshnoom believe that religious faith is a means to a state of mind that transcends analysis and gives a mystical understanding of ultimate truth. They further believe that the hymns of Prophet Zarathustra that comprise the Avestha, the Parsi holy book, are also a means to that mystical consciousness.
“In the Avestha, Zarathustra’s words are preserved as hymns. Many Parsis were unaware of their deeper meaning until Behramshah gave a mystical explanation of these hymns. This gave Parsis a totally new understanding of the Avestha,” said Kersi Deboo, a renowned Parsi historian.
Behramshah Nowroji Shroff had learnt about what later came to be called Ilm-e-Khshnoom during his travels in Persia which he visited via Pakistan and Afghanistan. During his travels, he had come across a wandering community which followed a mystic interpretation of the teachings of Zarathustra.
“Behramshah had walked all the way to Persia and visited the holy sites of Zoroastrian religion, including Kohe Damawan. By the time he returned to Surat in 1891, he had acquired a deep knowledge of our religion,” said Darayus Master, president of Parsi Panchayat, Surat.
According to Master, Behramshah had a speech problem which had also got cured. After his return to Surat, he decided to guide Parsis about the deeper truths of Zoroastrian and this led to the birth of Ilm-e-Khshnoom.
After coming back to Surat, Behramshah toured throughout India for seven years to gain more knowledge about his religion. In 1907, he started preaching to Parsis in Surat and, over time, his followers began calling them of Ilm-e-Kshnoom to indicate the spiritual ecstasy that they experienced through their prayers and ceremonies.
Many Parsis were so impressed by Behramshah’s teachings that he was soon asked to preach in Mumbai. He began preaching at the Parsi Vegetarian and Temperance Society (PVTS) in Mumbai.
“Under British rule, the Parsis were heavily under the influence of western values and lifestyle, education and materialism. But Ilm-e-Khshnoom helped restore their faith in their religion,” Deboo said.