The Magi of the East


March 16, 2006

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‘the Magi’. Now, historically, the magi were well known as astronomers, interpreters of omens and dreams, even kingmakers whose duties included electing the king. But more importantly, they were the hereditary members of a priestly class in ancient Persian kingdom of Parthia (now Iran) — or priests of Zoroastrianism, the religion of the modern day Parsis. Their vast knowledge of the stars told them that there would be a very rare celestial occurrence (the appearance of a great star?). And they read that as the signal of the coming of a saviour, a messiah. So, could the Magi have been members of an ancient class of Parsi priests? Perhaps. ‘‘The world knows the magi as the wise men of the East who were following a star, carrying exotic gifts with them to the baby Jesus in Bethlehem. My grandfather Maneck Kaka explained to me who these magi were; ancestors of our, dasturjis, priests.’’ Sooni Tarapooreavla, scriptwriter of the film Salaam Bombay and author of Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India: A Photographic Journey.

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