“There are no gods in the universe, no nations, no money, no human rights, and no justice outside of the common imagination of human beings,” says Yuval Noah Harari in his book Sapiens. Harari argues that humanity functions cooperatively because human beings created religions and belief systems, political societies, financial markets, judicial systems etc. That these common imagined realities “exert force in the world” because everyone believes in them.
Author: Homi D. Gandhi, Immediate Past President, FEZANA
When a community has a strong belief system it seeks to institutionalize it as a religion and pass it down to future generations. For millennia, our Zoroastrian forefathers did this by way of an oral tradition, formalized with prayer and rituals performed around the powerful symbol of Ahura Mazda – fire, the giver of light and life in open surroundings.
Then seeing the temples in Greece and Rome, our Zoroastrian kings began to build temple structures where the revered fire was enthroned for worship. Such is the longing of mere mortals to leave behind unforgettable monuments to their beliefs that future generations can never cast aside.
Our Zoroastrian ancestors who fled Iran and arrived in India did much the same: they established the first Atash Behram, meaning Victorious Fire, in Sanjan. So revered and important was this sacred flame, so potent was its ability to will the refugees to not just survive, but to thrive, in their new homeland, secure in their faith, that they moved it from place to place to protect it from the vagaries of fate for almost a millennium, until it was re-enthroned in 1742 in Udvada. This is our IranShah.
For centuries, the Zoroastrian communities of India thrived in the vicinity of Udvada, and supported it physically and financially. But during the last century a large number of Zoroastrians have moved all over Haft Keshvar Zameen. Today, more Zoroastrians live outside India than in India. So many in India and the diaspora believe that they owe their prosperity and wellbeing – in all senses of the word – to the blessings of our IranShah.
IranShah lives in our hearts and mind as a testament to the continuity of our faith. Words are inadequate to truly describe what it means to so many individual Zoroastrians who have prayed before it and experienced the Divine Grace of Ahura Mazda. So, it is now up to all of us in India and around the world to participate in the IranShah Initiative to support this treasured institution spirituality, physically, financially in every possible manner. May Ahura Mazda bless our IranShah and our Zoroastrian community for all times to come!
- Homi D Gandhi