How Baha’is Converted so many Zoroastrians in India ??!!

zoroastrian bahai india

Zoroastrian Baha’i women of Bombay, India (1933)

At first some Zoroastrians of Iran and later Iranian Zoroastrians settled in India accepted Bahaism. The secret movement of this new religion had misled us in the past. We have been misguided by their deceptions up to this day. The Bahais have no churches, they have no priests, they are free to marry non-Bahais. The President or Secretary of an association takes the place of a priest in their marriage ceremonies. Some such prominent person recites a short prayer. Thereafter the couple, their guardians and leading men of the assembly sign the document. At the time of the wedding an ‘Alvaha’ chosen from the Alvaha composed in Arabic by Bahaullah is recited. Under the canopy of their faith it is permissible to retain the ‘sudre’ and ‘kusti’ when necessary, to pass as Zoroastrians when need arises, to derive benefit from communal funds and its institutions. The corpse of the deceased they bury in their own separate cemetery.

After the death of Baha’u’llah and the inauguration of the ministry of Abdu’l-Baha, the Baha’i community in Bombay was split as a consequence of the activities of the followers of Mirza Muhammad Ali who had challenged his half-brother’s right to legitimate leadership. As a result, Abdu’l-Baha directed a number of prominent emissaries to India, both Persian and Western, to guide the community and encourage teaching. Among these were Mirza Mahmud Zarqani, Aqa Mirza Mahram, Mirza Hasan Adib, Ibin-i-Asdaq, Lua
Getsinger, Mrs. H. Stanndard, Sidney Sprague, Hooper Harris and Harlan Ober. By 1908 the work of these individuals along with a small group of local converts had produced functioning communities in Bombay, Calcutta, Aligarh and Lahore. Of these, the Bombay community took the forefront in both teaching and translation work. Its advancements in the area of translation marked the first time any of Baha’u’llah’s writings had been translated into one of the native languages of India. Bombay also managed to acquire the first Baha’i cemetery in India, and Abdu’l-Baha designed the layout of the sight. The activities of the Bombay community were commented upon by Sydney Sprague who in 1908 reported: “There are three meetings a week held in Bombay and there are as a rule eighty to a hundred men present He also noted that it was not easy to become a Baha’i: “It often means a great sacrifice on the part of a believer, a loss of friends, money and position.”

During this period, a number of Indian Zoroastrians (“Parsis”) were converted to the Baha’i Faith, thereby forming a nucleus of future Baha’i leadership in India. The conversions came about as a result of the work of agents who had originally been sent abroad by the Indian Zoroastrian community to help their coreligionists in Iran. There they came into contact with the Baha’i Faith and supported its activities. Later, several Iranian Zoroastrian converts to the Faith traveled to Bombay (notably Mulla Bahram Akhtar-Khavari) and actively promulgated their new religion among local Zoroastrians. Although they were met with opposition by some of the conservative dasturs, these missionary converts were quite successful in opening the Zoroastrian community to Baha’I concepts and teachings.

In following this tack the Baha’is were in many ways mirroring the attitudes of the reform movements with which they came into contact. Reform was primarily the prerogative of the upper classes who often looked to English liberal ideas and institutions for inspiration. There was little thought of speaking to the masses. Even in the secular Indian political arena it was English educated Indians in the professions who came to form, in effect, a new class, which prior to the arrival of Gandhi on the national scene was virtually cut off from the mass of the population. Moreover, the fact that for the most part the Baha’i message was presented in Persian, Arabic, Urdu, or English added to the sense of exclusivity, as these languages were generally associated with cultural elites.

Also of considerable importance was the establishment of the Afnan’s printing press in Bombay which not only resulted in greater contact with other Baha’i communities in the Middle East but also gave to that city a unique Baha’i cultural identity. Extensive telegraph, rail and steamship networks, initially established by European entrepreneurs and colonial governments for their own purposes, now linked the Middle East and British India and were key technological prerequisites for this greater integration of the community, as well.

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2 Comments on “How Baha’is Converted so many Zoroastrians in India ??!!”

  1. Rustom says:

    The first and foremost note of converting somebody else is a show of intolerance, to think one is better than the other…the Byzantines did that to the Zoroastrian empire who gave them refuge when Rome was against them and later the Islamists. Ironical is that the Zoroastrian lands are still at war between these 2 forces, More ironical is that the Byzantines took aid of the Islamists and both these thirsted to overthrow Zoroastrians from Persia..and these 2 battle now in Zoroastrian lands, even 2000 years hence since the Byzantine thirst to convert Zoroastrians to their faith of Christianity that broke up Persia and later islamists thirst for the same. 1600 years ago,,,,
    Those Zoroastrians who converted out to Bahaism were even more gullible to basic prpoganda and ignorant to their own…the science even relevant today that Mazdaysnism has to give, than those who did so at the torch of the byzantine or the sword of Islam.

  2. schlockanthropus says:

    it’s as simple as that: Zoroasters followers see themselves as the national Persian religious while Islam no matter if Sunni or Shia is an Arabian import.
    But after nearly thousand years of suppression and restriction leat into a disillusion ever gaining back the Iranian people, because Parsi culture is no counter pole to the vast Islamic one not even to the Shia. So many Parsi see in Baha’i a merger between being a world power like Islam and being genuine Persian.
    To me it seems this idea is an infatuation though.

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