BOOK REVIEW: 'Is The Zarathushtrian Religion Universal ?'

by Roni K. Khan


(as published in `The Bombay Samachar Weekly' of 05 August 2001)

'Is The Zarathushtrian Religion Universal ?'

by Roni K. Khan

Reviewed by Ervad Dr. Ramiyar P. Karanjia

Mr. Roni K. Khan's name is familiar among the Parsi community. His lucid and learned articles on history as well as religion have often been commended for their forthright frankness and crisp clarity. These very qualities ooze out from his book `Is The Zarathushtrian Religion Universal?' which is a collection of some of his articles on contemporary issues, in a revised, recast and retitled avatar.

In this book, the author takes us on a trip to what he calls "heterodox ideology", to take a peek into the heterodox mind. In the course of the book valuable light is shed on several burning issues of the times like conversion, inter-marriages and acceptance.

The first four of the twelve chapters of the book, throw valuable light on what constitutes religion in general, and Zoroastrianism in particular. Apart from being an exposition of the term `religion', it highlights the four inter-linked and inseparable components of the Zoroastrian religion ≠ Philosophy, Religio-spiritual Institutions, Rituals, and Rules of Behaviour.

In the next seven chapters that follow, several fallacies regarding the Zoroastrian religion are brilliantly cleared, the foremost being the one highlighted by the title of the book. Other erroneous premises, attendant to the original fallacy of `Universalism', conclusively debated and laid to rest by the author, in a detailed yet lucid manner, are: the place of Gathas and Yasna Haptanghaaiti in Zoroastrian scriptures, the significance of the triad `Humata, Hukhta, Hvarshta' in Zoroastrian religion, the concept of `freedom of choice' in the Gathas, and "the heterodox mind's familiar objections to rites, rituals and rules".

The last chapter, in a way, is the justification, summation and the veritable raison d'Ítre of the entire book. Taking recourse to a talk given by `a Parsi delegate' at World Parliament of religions to prove the universality of the Zarathushtrian religion, and then turning it upside down on its face in his inimitable incisive style, is nothing short of literary brilliance. In this exercise the author marvellously draws the thin dividing line and balances the argument about what can be called Universal in the Zoroastrian religion, and what not.

The issues discussed in this eminently readable book assume great importance in the present times, as they are essential to the long-term sustenance and preservation of the Parsi community and Zoroastrian religion. Often it is felt, that the community is deliberately being plagued and misled by propagation of such misconceptions for vested interests. These misconceptions are effectively shattered by Mr. Khan taking recourse not only to Avestan scriptures, but also to the works of contemporary scholars of Zoroastrianism like Professors Mary Boyce, Ilya Gershevitch, James Russell and Johanna Narten.

- Reviewer: Ervad Dr. Ramiyar P. Karanjia

This book has been published and is available from Mrs. H. J. Giara, Dhunmai Building, 667 Lady Jehangir Road, Dadar, Mumbai 400014 (Tel. 4166204). Price Rs.100/- plus postage.

For those in India, add postage Rs.30/- for registered book post. For those outside India add Rs. 75/- for registered book post air mail.

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