By Dr. Shernaz Baji Avari
Sanjan is a sacred place of annual worship and reverence by Zoroastrians. It is the history of sacrifices, hardships and pitfalls our ancestors faced to escape religious intolerance and conversions in Iran that made them land on the shores of Sanjan.
Tomorrow is Sanjan Day. The Sanjan Memorial Column was specially built to immortalise the historic landing of our Parsi forefathers on the sacred soil of India
The Sanjan Day gives our community an opportunity to relive with pride our history and heritage on the hallowed grounds of the Majestic Memorial Column.
On this auspicious day, the Parsis and the Iranis converge in large numbers at Sanjan to pay their respects at the Sanjan Memorial Pillar also known as the Sanjan Stambh erected in the year 748 A.D. to venerate this day as Sanjan Day.
It's a day of thanksgiving to Pak Dadar Ahura Mazda for the fulfilment of all our wishes and specially for having landed on the sacred soil of Sanjan. It’s also a day of merriment and camaraderie as Parsis meet and greet each other in a spirit of ‘Parsi-panu’.
The Jashan ceremony starts at 9 a.m. in the morning performed by the Vada Dasturjis of Udwada followed by a 'Hum Bandagi’ and a short community programme. The Parsis tie garlands around the Stambh taking several rounds around it praying devotedly for the various boons bestowed on them by Pak Dadar Ahura Mazda.
The gathering of devoted Parsis is like a small 'mela’ where many Parsi artefacts are sold like ethnic garments, scarves, religious symbols to adorn our homes as well as several snacking items like 'Bhakhras’, 'batasas’, 'khatai’, 'dal ni polis’ and 'sariyas’. Fresh mint and lemon grass is also available as Parsis love to flavour their tea with the fresh aroma of 'chai-foodina’. This is followed by a well-organised free community lunch where we eat all our favourite dishes ‘pet bharine’. All credit goes to the caterers for having churned out a delectable meal for a vast number of devotees.
On this special day and as a mark of respect for our miniscule community which has enriched the nation, the Western Railway has given a special permission to the Gujarat Express and Flying Ranee to halt at Sanjan. Buses also ply from various Parsi Baugs to facilitate enthusiastic devotees to visit Sanjan.
The community is well-known for its acts of philanthrophy and largesse to worthy causes. Donations are sent to Bapsy Rohinton Daviervala in favour of 'Sanjan Memorial Column Local Committee, at Khan Bahadur's Bunglow Sanjan (W.R. ) 396150. These funds also help to run and maintain the Column and the community dharamshala and also helps to safeguard the surrounding precincts.
How did we land in Sanjan? Our ancestors who were ardently devoted to the Zoroastrian Religion and its tenets fled their Motherland Iran due to religious persecution. They wanted to stick to their faith, save the Holy Fire, safeguard their religion and continue their lineage. The hardships, sacrifices and pitfalls they faced to escape religious intolerance and conversions finally made them land on the shores of Sanjan.
After the fall of the Sassanian Dynasty in Iran, the Zoroastrians scattered in jungles and mountains to preserve our noble religion. Under the guidance of Maghav Sahebs of Pak Demavand Koh, an Abed Saheb Nariyosang Dhawal was chosen to lead the Zoroastrians to a safer place where they could worship their religion. When he landed on the shores of Sanjan after an arduous journey of six months with a handful of Zoroastrians numbering 1,305, the then Ruler of Sanjan, Jadi Rana came to know about the landing of tall well-built Zoroastrians on his land, he sent a vessel full of milk thereby indicating that his kingdom was over populated. Sensing the message, Abed Saheb slipped his ring into the bowl containing milk to convey the message that he would stay with his subjects without spilling over, just as the ring. Another legendary story and a more famous one at that he added a tablespoon of sugar into the bowl of milk without a drop spilling over thereby indicating that he would make his land as sweet as the milk and stay amicably with his subjects and contribute to their peace and well-being. Jadi Rana was impressed and allowed us to stay on his land but within our fold.and abide by the laws of the land.
When Jadi Sana's daughter fell seriously ill, he promised a big reward to anyone who could cure her. Nairyosang Saheb offered his services and told the King to give the juice of white leaves which grew in his garden. After consuming the juice, the King's daughter was cured within 4 days. The joyous King gifted 3 miles of land where Abed Saheb Nairyosang would consecrate the sacred Fire along with 4 more villages of babulwood for the Fire Temple.
On Roj Ader Mah 'Ader' Yezdagardi Year 90, on November 24, 721 AD on a tall hill in Sanjan a big round log of sandalwood was placed on an 'Afarganyu' and at the commencement of Havan Geh (early morning) Abed Saheb Nairyosang took his position. With a spear in one hand, he began to recite the sacred hyms of Atash Naiyash. The clear winter sky was suddenly blackened, clouds rushed with an impending roar, lightening struck the glistening point of the spear held by him. The fire passed through the body of Nairyosang Dhawal into the metal spatula held by the right hand and the sandalwood log started burning. Thus descended on earth Pak Iran Shah, the fire of the highest cadre to offer protection not only to Zoroastrians but to the entire humanity. After the Jashan ceremony he addressed the august gathering saying, “Unto this auspicious day with the grace of Pak Dadar Ahura Mazda, I have installed the Atash Padshah. You will seek its help for all your desires and in trouble. Pak Iranshah will respond to your prayers and since we as a community are here without our Motherland Iran and without a Shah (King) this sacred fire is termed Pak Iranshah.
The generous King was thanked, congratulated and informed that the Holy Fire would now grant a boon to him. Since the King had no heir, he would have a son whose descendants would rule over the whole of India. The following year a son was born to the King. The Zoroastrians flourished and lived in peace and harmony for the next 500 to 700 years and even stayed in adjoining cities like Navsari and Surat. Sanjan was then the religious centre. This then is the fascinating story of Sanjan known as Kisse-Sanjan. Even today, the Parsis chant “Kisse Sanjan” in remembrance and to re¬affirm their faith and devotion.
The Pillar at Sanjan stands in all its glory as an eternal monument to our glorious ancestors. However, the sacred fire from Sanjan was shifted to the Bahrot Caves, Vansda, Navsari, Surat, back to Navsari, Valsad and finally Udvada on 28th October, 1742, the highest spiritual abode of the Parsis and the Iranis. The placing of the Time Capsule was done on November 20, 2002 at Sanjan. The Time Capsule was immersed with recitation of Avesta prayers by prominent priests along with a large number of Parsi lrani Zoroastrians who had specially visited Sanjan for this auspicious occassion.
- Jashan ceremony to be performed by Dastur Khurshed Kekobad Dastoor Vada Dasturji of Udvada
- Unveiling of a photograph of first president of Sanjan Memorial Column Local Committee, Rohinton Daviervala
- Keynote address by Burjor Antia on ‘Some thoughts on the survival of the Zoroastrian Religion In Changing Times’
TIME CAPSULE AT SANJAN
The placing of the Time Capsule was done on 20th November 2002 at Sanjan, Gujarat. This day Uas called Sanjan Day.
The Time Capsule was prepared by M/s Godrej & Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd. upon receiving proposal from the Bombay Parsi Punchayat.
The capsule was made from quality stainless steel and was large enough to contain various objects and articles of relevance to the Zoroastrian Religion and the Parsi community.
The contents of the capsule were:
- Literature on Parsi culture
- Photos indicating various attires of earlier and current times
- Head gear of different types (fetas, pagdi, topi)
- Books on Zoroastrian religion.
- Details of different fire temples (Atash Behrams, Agiary, Dadgahs)
- Details on Dharamshalas
- Utensils and other items required for performing different types of ceremonies, rites and rituals which included Ses, Soparas, Gullabbas, Pigani, Coconuts, Beetelnuts, Bead Torans.
- Copper scroll
- Godrej Padlocks and Locks.
(Courtesy: Parsika Volume I by Noshir Daboo)