Popular Parsi Myths (IX)

Parsi Times brings you the continuation of yet another interesting series titled, ‘Popular Parsi Myths’, written by our Community luminary, Zoroastrian scholar and visionary, and a writer par excellence – Noshir H. Dadrawala. The object of this series is to shed the light of truth on myths and fables and sift the facts from fiction. Read on…

Myth: The Jamaspi is an authentic Zoroastrian book of revelations and accurately predicts events that will unfold for the community and the world in the future.

Fact: It would be a myth to state that the Persian and Gujarati Jamaspi contain some authentic utterances of Jamasp – the apostle of Zarathushtra. In fact, most of the large Persian and Gujarati manuscripts, some even having fine calligraphy and attractive binding, contain extensive unauthorized additions and most of the predictions are hazy and evasive. The Pahlavi Jamaspi is considered to be relatively more reliable.

Up to the middle of the last century, the Jamaspi was held in great esteem by orthodox Parsis. It was often consulted in times of difficulty and with a view to foretell events. Even Gujarati renderings of the book were guarded as rich articles of possession in treasury boxes.

The Gujarati Jamaspi, however, has far outgrown its original limit by the addition of forebodings, rightly or wrongly connected with the name of Jamasp. In fact, it is on the records of the Parsi Punchayet that more than a century and a half ago, a Parsi author published for the first time, a Gujarati ‘Jamaspi’. It was so replete with nonsense that the then trustees of the Parsi Punchayet thought it would disgrace the name of the community. The author was paid a small sum of money and his book revoked.

What popularized the Gujarati ‘Jamaspi’ most among the Parsis was its Chakar of Ramal, i.e., the wheel of fortune. The Chakar of Ramal consisted of a set of concentric circles with a number of lines passing from the common centre to the circumference of the largest circle. The divisions so formed by the lines were marked with different numbers. The person desiring to consult the book would shut his eyes and move his hand in the circle several times and stop doing so at random. He would then see the number on the division where his hand stopped and referring to that particular page, infer whether his/her wish would be fulfilled or not.

The Jamaspi or Jamasp-Nameh derives its name from the author, Jamasp. From the fifth book of the Pahlavi Dinkard, we learn that Jamasp, together with his brother, Frashaustra, Zarir and Spenda-dad (Aspandyar) was one of the first disciples of Asho Zarathushtra.

We further learn from the Dinkard that some of the very first books on Zoroastrianism were written by Jamasp and his brother, Frashaustra. In other words, the message of Ahura Mazda, through Zarathushtra, was announced through the words of Jamasp and Frashaustra. From the Dinkard (book 5), we learn that not only did Jamasp put down in writing the teachings of Zarathushtra, but he also learnt the science of looking into the future.

The Dinkard says, “Jamasp has been instructed by Zarthost in the understanding of all things connected with the future and in the indications of the changes to be wrought by time and he was thus able to foretell future events. And the details of every such event were registered. The Avesta and its commentary were written on cow skins with golden ink and thus preserved in the Royal Treasury. The Kings and the clergy had many copies of them made, for they had been warned beforehand of (the religion) receiving harm from the maleficent and of its being misrepresented and misinterpreted.”

From the first chapter of the Persian Jamaspi, we learn that Jamasp was the Head Priest, as well as the Vazir (Minister) at the court of King Gushtasp. Further, according to the Pahlavi Zad-Sparam, Jamasp died in the sixty fourth year after the revelation of the religion by Zarathushtra and he succeeded Zarathushtra as the Head Priest of Persia. He was the first of the successors who were later known as Zarathushtratemo.

In the Persian Zarthost-Nameh (of Zarthust Behram), it is said that Jamasp acquired the power of foretelling, by smelling a flower which Zarathushtra had consecrated in the ceremony of Daron. The Zarthost Nameh states: “He gave to Jamasp some of the consecrated perfume and all sciences became intelligible to him. He knew all things that were to happen up to the day of resurrection.”

Scholars argue that the extant Pahlavi Jamaspi says nothing to the effect that the prophecies of Jamasp were put down in writing during the time of Jamasp. They, however, do agree that at one time, the Pahlavi Jamaspi was much larger than the few folios we have today.

The Pazend Jamaspi which, however, is not an exact rendering of the Pahlavi Jamaspi says that the prophecies ere put down in writing at the time when King Vishtasp was the ruler of the country.

A close examination of the various texts leads us to believe that Jamasp who is declared to have learnt the science of making prophecies from Zarathushtra, must have made various prophecies which probably came down to later time by oral tradition and the first attempt to put them down in writing was in the later Pahlavi times when they were embodied in a book known as Jamaspi or Jamasp Nameh. This, however, is only a theory. The original Jamaspi written in the reign of King Vishtasp is now lost to us.

The question in the minds of most Parsis, today, is whether the prophecies as we see them in the Pahlavi Jamaspi extant are the same as those attributed to Jamasp in times nearer to him, than the time in which they were put down in writing. Here, a comparison of the Pahlavi Jamaspi with the Pazend and Persian versions and a comparison of these three with the Gujarati Jamaspi as at present known shows that in later versions the copyists have taken all possible liberties with the preceding versions and manuscripts and have allowed a free hand to their imaginations. It seems likely, though disputable, that what had happened in the case of later Pazend, Persian and Gujarati versions could also have happened in the case of the Pahlavi Jamaspi.

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