Tag Archives: Zoroastrianism

The Parsi community of India and the making of modern Iran

Marashi, Afshin. 2020. Exile and the nation: the Parsi community of India and the making of modern Iran. Austin: University of Texas Press.

In the aftermath of the seventh-century Islamic conquest of Iran, Zoroastrians departed for India. Known as the Parsis, they slowly lost contact with their ancestral land until the nineteenth century, when steam-powered sea travel, the increased circulation of Zoroastrian-themed books, and the philanthropic efforts of Parsi benefactors sparked a new era of interaction between the two groups.

Tracing the cultural and intellectual exchange between Iranian nationalists and the Parsi community during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Exile and the Nation shows how this interchange led to the collective reimagining of Parsi and Iranian national identity—and the influence of antiquity on modern Iranian nationalism, which previously rested solely on European forms of thought. Iranian nationalism, Afshin Marashi argues, was also the byproduct of the complex history resulting from the demise of the early modern Persianate cultural system, as well as one of the many cultural heterodoxies produced within the Indian Ocean world. Crossing the boundaries of numerous fields of study, this book reframes Iranian nationalism within the context of the connected, transnational, and global history of the modern era.


  • Note on Transliteration and Dates
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1. To Bombay and Back: Arbab Kaykhosrow Shahrokh and the Reinvention of Iranian Zoroastrianism
  • Chapter 2. Patron and Patriot: Dinshah J. Irani, Parsi Philanthropy, and the Revival of Indo-Iranian Culture
  • Chapter 3. Imagining Hafez: Rabindranath Tagore in Iran, 1932
  • Chapter 4. Ebrahim Purdavud and His Interlocutors: Parsi Patronage and the Making of the Vernacular Avesta
  • Chapter 5. Sword of Freedom: Abdulrahman Saif Azad and Interwar Iranian Nationalism
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Religious Imagery in pre-Islamic Iran and Central Asia

Shenkar, Michael. 2019. Religious imagery and image-making in pre-Islamic Iran and Central Asia. In Christiane Gruber (ed.), The image debate: Figural representation in Islam and across the world. London: Gingko.

The Image Debate: Figural Representation in Islam and Across the World is a collection of thirteen essays which examine the controversy surrounding the use of images in Islamic and other religious cultures and seek to redress some of the misunderstandings that have arisen. Written by leading academics from the United States, Australia, Turkey, Israel and the United Kingdom, the book opens with an introduction by the editor Christiane Gruber, who sets the subject in context with a detailed examination of the debates over idols and the production of figural images in Islamic traditions. Twelve further articles are divided into three sections: the first deals with pre-modern Islamic practices and anxieties with image-making; the second addresses similar issues in Judaism, in Christianity during the Byzantine period, in pre-Islamic Iran and Central Asia, and in Hindu and Buddhist contexts in South Asia; and the third brings the reader back to Islamic lands with five articles examining traditions of figural representation in the modern and contemporary periods.

Religious traditions of the Yaresan

Kreyenbroek, Philip G & Yiannis Kanakis. 2020. “God first and last”: Religious traditions and music of the Yaresan of Guran. Volume 1. Religious traditions (Iranica, GOF III/NF 18,1). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

The Yaresan or Ahl-e Haqq are a relatively large minority group whose religion originates in the border regions between Iran and Iraq. As members of traditional Yaresan communities are becoming more visible in the West, both as diaspora groups and in academia, there is an increasing demand for reliable information about their background. Academic interest is also growing. Recent scholarly publications, however, tend to assume a fundamental knowledge of the Yaresan tradition, which is not easy to glean from existing sources. This is made more complicated by the very real differences between the European world view and that of traditional Yarsanism.
For that reason and because music plays an unusually prominent role in Yaresan observance, it was decided to combine the authors’ work on religious traditions and music respectively in two volumes. In doing so the religious realities of the traditional Yaresan of the Guran region is communicated by quoting extensively from interviews with community members. The first volume also offers a survey of other religious traditions that are thought to have been influential in shaping modern Yarsanism.


Albino, Marcos. 2019. Mittelpersisch namāz ,Ehrerweisung‘. Münchener Studien zur Sprachwissenschaft 73(1). 7–15.

The word namāz “reverence” is first attested in Manichaean Middle Persian and Parthian (namāž). It is survived in New Persian namāz originally denotes a respectful adressing to a socially superior person or to God.

Pregnancy in Middle-Persian Zoroastrian Literature

Delaini, Paolo. 2019. Pregnancy in Middle-Persian Zoroastrian Literature: The Exchange of Knowledge between India, Iran, and Greece in Late Antiquity. In Costanza Gislon Dopfel, Alessandra Foscati & Charles Burnett (eds.), Pregnancy and Childbirth in the Premodern World, 29–51. Turnhout: Brepols Publishers.

In Late Antiquity Sasanian court patronage attracted philosophers, medical doctors, and teachers from the former Roman Empire. Contemporary observers noted that the court of the Sasanian King Xusraw I (AD 531–79) was a meeting place open to philosophical debates and to the diffusion of medical knowledge. According to tradition, King Xusraw welcomed the Greek philosopher Damascius and the ‘seven sages of Byzantium’ to his ancient capital of Ctesiphon at the time of their expulsion from Athens’s school of philosophy. It seems that this king was deeply interested in medicine; he invited and hosted numerous Byzantine doctors and financially supported Abraham of Beth Rabban, director of the influential Nisibis School, in his endeavour to build a hospital (xenodocheion).

Delaini offers in his article a cross-cultural analysis of pregnancy and childbirth traditions in Middle Persian Zoroastrian Literature.

Dadabhai Naoroji and Indian nationalism

Patel, Dinyar. 2020. Naoroji: Pioneer of Indian Nationalism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

The definitive biography of Dadabhai Naoroji, the nineteenth-century activist who founded the Indian National Congress, was the first British MP of Indian origin, and inspired Gandhi and Nehru.
Mahatma Gandhi called Dadabhai Naoroji the “father of the nation,” a title that today is reserved for Gandhi himself. Dinyar Patel examines the extraordinary life of this foundational figure in India’s modern political history, a devastating critic of British colonialism who served in Parliament as the first-ever Indian MP, forged ties with anti-imperialists around the world, and established self-rule or swaraj as India’s objective.
Naoroji’s political career evolved in three distinct phases. He began as the activist who formulated the “drain of wealth” theory, which held the British Raj responsible for India’s crippling poverty and devastating famines. His ideas upended conventional wisdom holding that colonialism was beneficial for Indian subjects and put a generation of imperial officials on the defensive. Next, he attempted to influence the British Parliament to institute political reforms. He immersed himself in British politics, forging links with socialists, Irish home rulers, suffragists, and critics of empire. With these allies, Naoroji clinched his landmark election to the House of Commons in 1892, an event noticed by colonial subjects around the world. Finally, in his twilight years he grew disillusioned with parliamentary politics and became more radical. He strengthened his ties with British and European socialists, reached out to American anti-imperialists and Progressives, and fully enunciated his demand for swaraj. Only self-rule, he declared, could remedy the economic ills brought about by British control in India.
Naoroji is the first comprehensive study of the most significant Indian nationalist leader before Gandhi.

Naoroji | HUP

Dinyar Patel is an assistant professor in the Department of History at the University of South Carolina.

Magic in Ancient Iran

Jong, Albert de. 2019. Iran. In David Frankfurter (ed.), Guide to the study of ancient magic (Religions in the Graeco-Roman World 189). Leiden: Brill.

In the midst of academic debates about the utility of the term “magic” and the cultural meaning of ancient words like mageia or khesheph, this Guide to the Study of Ancient Magic seeks to advance the discussion by separating out three topics essential to the very idea of magic. The three major sections of this volume address (1) indigenous terminologies for ambiguous or illicit ritual in antiquity; (2) the ancient texts, manuals, and artifacts commonly designated “magical” or used to represent ancient magic; and (3) a series of contexts, from the written word to materiality itself, to which the term “magic” might usefully pertain.

The abstract for Albert de Jong’s chapter:

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Thus Replied Zarathustra

Van Sevenant, Ann. 2020. Thus replied Zarathustra. Mimesis International.

Throughout Western universities, ancient Greek philosophy is seen as the oldest tradition of wisdom, yet the Zoroastrian way of life can be traced back to the second millennium BC. The Gathas – a collection of hymns or songs attributed to Zarathustra – contain an existential and practical philosophy avant la lettre, based on mental exercises and rituals passed down through Zoroastrian religious communities. These texts not only demonstrate the Persian thinker’s wisdom, they also introduce an important ecological focus and social practice. In Thus Replied Zarathustra, Ann Van Sevenant presents a cosmopolitan dimension to Zarathustra’s proto-philosophy that applies to all of us on an intimate level.

Mimesis Website

Ann Van Sevenant (1959), PhD in Philosophy (Brussels, 1987), is the author of eighteen books on philosophy published in Dutch, French, English and Italian. As well as being an international guest speaker, she was previously Professor of Philosophy at the University College of Antwerp and is currently an independent researcher associated with the Vrije Universiteit in Brussels.

Editor’s note: Ann Van Sevenant’s is an unusual book for us to announce. It is not philological in scope, and its treatment of the oldest Zoroastrian texts is rather unusual for our philologically dominated discipline. But perhaps therein lies the charm and challenge of this book which has not been seen by us. AZ

Zoroastrian Scholasticism in Late Antiquity

Zeini, Arash. 2020. Zoroastrian scholasticism in late antiquity. The Pahlavi version of the Yasna Haptaŋhāiti. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

In late antiquity, Zoroastrian exegetes set out to translate their ancient canonical texts into Middle Persian, the vernacular of their time. Although undated, these translations, commonly known as the Zand, are often associated with the Sasanian era (224–651 ce). Despite the many challenges the Zand offers to us today, it is indispensable for investigations of late antique exegesis of the Avesta, a collection of religious and ritual texts commonly regarded as the Zoroastrians’ scripture.

Arash Zeini also offers a fresh edition of the Middle Persian version of the Avestan Yasna Haptaŋhāiti, a ritual text composed in the Old Iranian language of Avestan, commonly dated to the middle of the second millennium bce. Zeini challenges the view that considers the Zand’s study an auxiliary science to Avestan studies, framing the text instead within the exegetical context from which it emerged.

Zaraθuštrōtǝma: Zoroastrian and Iranian Studies in Honour of Philip Kreyenbroek

Farridnejad, Shervin (ed.). 2020. Zaraθuštrōtǝma: Zoroastrian and Iranian studies in honour of Philip G. Kreyenbroek (Ancient Iran Series 10). Irvine: Jordan Center for Persian Studies.

This Festschrift is a collection of articles dedicated to one of the most distinguished scholars of Iranian Studies and a most prolific teacher of Zoroastrian and Kurdish literatures and religions, Philip G. Kreyenbroek. The volume consists of thirteen contributions, brings together some of the best-known experts in their fields to reflect the love and admiration of his students, colleagues and friends and are representative of some of his wide-ranging scholarly interests, including Zoroastrian literature and rituals as well as Iranian philology and mythology.

Continue reading Zaraθuštrōtǝma: Zoroastrian and Iranian Studies in Honour of Philip Kreyenbroek