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Zoroastrian Heritage

Author: K. E. Eduljee

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Contents

Early Parsi History

Qissa-e Sanjan

Page 1. Escape from Iran

Last Stands & Flight from Iran

Introduction to the Qissa-e Sanjan

The Three Tragic Cycles

Beginnings of the Parsi Epoch

Journey from Iran

Kuhistan

City of Hormuz & Astrology

Sailing to Hind (India)

Landing at Div (Diu?) & Astrology

Sailing to Sanjan & Storm at Sea

Early Travellers' Accounts

Mandelslo (1616-1644 CE)

Ogilby (1600 - 1676 CE)

Henry Lord (1620 CE)

Sir Thomas Herbert (1606-1682 CE)

C. Dellon (1667 CE)

Captain A. Hamilton (1716 CE)

Analysis of the Accounts

Page 2. Landing & Settlement at Sanjan

Sanjan Description

Landing at Sanjan

Settlement at Sanjan - Second Home

Proposed Dates for the Sanjan Landing

Sanjan Port

Sanjan Dakhma

Sanjan Excavations

Early Sanjan Zoroastrians Were Traders

Atash Behram Preparation

Tools from Khorasan. The First Mention of Khorasan

Development of Industry

Installation of the Iranshah Fire

Lament - Lack of Orthodoxy in 16th & 17th Century India

Dispersal of Zoroastrians

Page 3. Destruction of Sanjan

End of the Age of Peace. Muslim Assault on Sanjan

Triumph of Ardeshir

Alaf's Victory & Sanjan's Destruction

Flight to Bahrot

Refuge in Bansda

Changashah the Benefactor

Rivayats

Bringing the Atash Behram to Navsari

Page 2: Landing & Settlement in Sanjan


Associated reading:

» Early History of Mumbai's (Bombay's) Fire Temples

» Zoroastrian Places of Worship - Atash Bahrams

» Limji Hataria in Iran

» Limji Hataria & Pestonji Marker in Iran

» Khorasan Kuhistan Region

» Parthava (Parthia) Region

» Hormozgan Region



Sanjan Description

Sanjan is a "rather nondescript, sleepy little town in south Gujarat" (Rukshana Nanji and Homi Dhalla in The Landing at Sanjan). The Qissa mentions that the area around Sanjan which the Zoroastrian refugees selected for their settlement, was deserted. Sanjan is 145 kilometres north of Mumbai (Bombay), India, close to Gujarat's border with the state of Maharashtra. It is accessible by road and rail.

For an excellent Wikimapia interactive map of Sanjan, click here.

Sanjan lies some five kilometres inland from India's west coast and sits on the north bank of the Varoli River, a shallow stream that starts it journey to the Arabian Sea twenty km south-east of Sanjan in the Thana Hills. The river is navigable by boats only up to Sanjan, a feature allowed it to provide a small sheltered harbour. The river flows into the sea between the settlements of Umbargam / Umbergaon and Nargol (the latter also had a Zoroastrian enclave).


Landing at Sanjan

137. Providence decreed that they would make landfall at Sanjan,
And there a benevolent king ruled with righteousness.
Named Jadi* Rana, he was generous, wise and learned.

[Note: * Sometime thought to be a corruption of Jadev.]

Couplets 140 - 184 chronicle the negotiations with Jadi Rana as well as the explanation of Zoroastrian beliefs and customs given to him.


Locations related to the early Zoroastrian (Parsi) migration from Iran to Hind (India). Image credit: Base map courtesy Microsoft Encarta. Additions copyright K. E. Eduljee
Locations related to the early Zoroastrian (Parsi) migration from Iran to Hind (India)
Image credit: Base map courtesy Microsoft Encarta. Additions copyright K. E. Eduljee

Settlement at Sanjan - Second Home

Qissa couplet line 185. The good king at once ordered that they (the Zoroastrian refugees) should make their abode in his kingdom.
A group of intelligent, good natured and prudent men set out
And examined sites one after another, until they found an extensive place, returning then to inform the mobed.
That deserted place* with good soil** was chosen on which to make their abode.
The people liked the place and a city appeared*** (Hodivala adds: where there had been a jungle).

190. Where the land was desolate and uncultivated, young and old assembled.
When the dastur saw the good land, he selected a place for their dwellings.
The dastur named the place Sanjan and it soon prospered as had Iran.
From that day forward, the people called him Sanjana. Know that the city is named after him.****
There they settled in joy and comfort - prospering, each to the extent desired.

[Note: Boyce (Zoroastrians p. 166) states that Jadi Rana was a Gujerati Silhara king. We believe that while the local king is credited as being kind and benevolent, it is also quite possible that allowing the Zoroastrians to settle would provide the king and his kingdom added revenues rather than them being a burden. If the Zoroastrians were international traders, they could be a source of revenue, even wealth, for the treasury (see Early Sanjan Zoroastrians Were Traders below).

* Hodivala has 'wilderness' and later 'jungle' while Irani has 'desert'. Both words convey that the place was unpopulated or sparsely populated. Further, there is no mention that the land needed to be fertile and suitable for agriculture. Rather, it was adjacent to a port or a place suitable for a port. This appears to be a principle criterion. Further, Zoroastrian ethic prizes taking fallow land and making it productive, useful or beautiful.

** Hodivala has 'good soil' while Irani has 'pleasant'. Both conflict with 'desert'.

*** Both translations use the word 'city' to describe the settlement. The connotation here is that the party was large enough to build an independent settlement and that they did not live among an existing population.

**** Irani has 'him' while Hodivala has 'them'. Both translators note the strange inconsistency of this statement with the previous one.]


Proposed Dates for the Sanjan Landing

H. E. Eduljee (1996) lists the following dates proposed by various researchers:

715 ACE

 - S. K. Hodivala

c. 750 ACE

 - Kamerkar and Dhunjisha

c. 780 ACE

 - H. E. Eduljee

785 ACE

 - Jivanjee Modi

Bahman day, Tir month, 936 ACE

 - S. H. Hodivala

Archaeological evidence - see below - appear to support the earlier dates.


Sanjan Port

The port section of Sanjan known as Bandar Sanjan (Port Sanjan), contains a small hill - a strong indicator that the mound covers building ruins that may lie beneath. The mould is presently occupied by fishers, small growers and brick-makers. The bandar / port section of the original settlement appears to have been 1.5 x 1 km in size.


Sanjan Dakhma

2004 Dakhma Excavations at Sanjan

Local legends state that Sanjan had nine towers of silence or dakhmas at one stage of it history. Today, the Nanji-Dhalla archaeological team have found evidence of one dakhma mound known locally as the bhastu (possibly meaning dakhma). On the basis of the ceramics found in and even as part of the structure, it is possible to date the construction of the dakhma to a period between the tenth and eleventh centuries (Nanji and Dandekar, 2005). The ruins of this dakhma are located to the north-east of Sanjan Port. Sanjan Dakhma was last used in the period 1410-1460 CE.

The dakhma excavations uncovered a structure consisting of a circular structure made from brick and brick-rubble encircling a platform. The platform sloped towards a brick lined ossuary well (bhandar) for collecting the bones, and with a diameter of five metres. Excavations of the bhandar under the supervision of Dr. Veena Mushriff-Tripathy (paleoanthropologist) uncovered the remains of at least 140 individuals in about 40% of the bhandar. Based on these results, the achaeological team suggests that the bhandar "holds the remains of at least 350 to 400 individuals." An examination of the bones showed that the individuals laid to rest belonged to all age groups from newborns to children, sub-adults, adults and elderly individuals. It would have been interesting is the team tabulated the numbers according to each group as this will provide an indication of mortality rates and perhaps reason. Excavations of the bhandar well also revealed a layer of lime that is standard dakhma practice - the lime helps the bones to disintegrate and acts as a filter as well. Glass bangles, bangle fragments, rings of silver, copper and mixed metal, gold-foil earrings and beads of glass were among the personal possessions found with the bones.


Sanjan Excavations

In Parsis in India and the Diaspora edited by John R. Hinnells and Alan Williams, a chapter titled 'The Landing at Sanjan' written by Rukshana Nanji and Homi Dhalla reports on the archaeological excavations at Sanjan supervised by The World Zarathushti Cultural Foundation, Mumbai from 2002 to 2004. The extent of the excavations is limited. Nevertheless, they have uncovered the ruins of a township some two by one kilometres in size on the banks of the Varoli Creek. The discoveries include the ruins a dakhma (tower of silence) on the top of a hillock.

While pre 8th century artefacts have been discovered at the site, the book cited above states "a middle phase which appears to be the most prosperous and intense phase of occupation - spanning the early to mid eight century and extending up to the end of the thirteenth century." The authors go on to state that "The most intense construction activities at Sanjan appear to belong to this phase. The Zoroastrian migration appears to have taken place at the start of this phase, and may well have provided the impetus for the increased commercial activity at the site and for the economic growth of the settlement."


Excavations at Sanjan

Early Sanjan Zoroastrians Were Traders

The excavations at Sanjan point to trade being both the motivator for choosing the site as well as the primary source of its income and wealth. When the early Zoroastrians chose the site, they seemed to know what they were looking for - and it was not fertile land for agriculture. Rather it was sparsely populated location close to an established a port or one that could be further developed as such. Once they land at Sanjan, they didn't continue searching for, say fertile agricultural land but were content to stay at a site that is in other ways quite unremarkable. Even when the Zoroastrians started to disperse to other towns and cities in Gujarat, they did so to coastal, trading ports. Ofcourse, some did develop farms and while others engaged in a variety of other professions as well. But trade and commerce tigether with related industries have always been a defining feature of early Zoroastrian enterprise.

The artefacts found at the site and which date to the middle period, i.e., mid-eight to the end-thirteenth century, include Samarra horizon ware, turquoise glazed ware, unglazed west Asian wares, Chinese wares such as Changsha, Yeu, Dusun, and porcelain both cream and white. The presence of these artefacts indicate that the Sanjan Zoroastrian were international traders (cf. Aryan Trade) and their trade connections extended at the least from west Asia to China.

Based on their excavations (see above) Dhalla and Nanji propose the following: "The picture that emerges from the historical and archaeological evidence is that of an early settlement with some contact with the Persian Gulf and Persia possibly as early as the Sassanian period. Sassanian kings had close contacts with India and Gujarat in particular. Persian contact with India, which in fact, goes back to the Vedic period and is seen in the Achaemenian period (Kamerkar and Dhunjisha, 2002) as well as is mentioned in the Shah Name. Sanjan could well have had an outpost of Zarathushti traders from a very early date, just as such outposts and settlements are reported in China and elsewhere. The migrants would then have come to an area already familiar to them through their coreligionists. The finds at the site leave no doubt that the settlers were traders and that the port flourished during this period. There may have followed other groups and migrations. But the excavations have conclusively established the date of the Sanjan migration as described in the Kisse-i-Sanjan to the mid-eighth - early ninth century."

Also see our page on Aryan Trade.


Atash Behram Preparation

Qissa couplet line 195. It happened that they had some business with the raja, some they went to him in good spirits.
The dastur addressed the king, "O prince, you have given us shelter in this land.
We now wish to install an Atash Varharan (Behram) in the land of Hind.
It is necessary to clear land for three farsangs* in order to perform the nirang (purification) ceremonies.
No juddin (person of alien faith) can remain save wise members of the Behdin, the Good Religion.

200. No juddin (person of alien faith) can approach in order that the fire may be consecrated.
When if someone makes a sound, the work will be immediately interrupted
The raja responded, "I hereby grant you permission. I am pleased to make this accommodation.
From my heart I give this authority that a shah (the fire) be installed in my time.
What can be better than this? O wise man, gird up your loins and start work without delay.

205. The king proclaimed his order without delay and granted the dastur a pleasant place.
The Hindu Jadi Rana immediately had the land cleared in every direction.
All juddins (people of alien faith) were evicted for a distance of three farsangs and only the followers of the Behdin remained.
No one dwelt within three farsangs save wise people of the faith.
Around the arvesgah** each pious dastur shone brilliant like the sun.

210. There day and night they remained on watch, executing their divine duty
In those days, each one was knowledgeable and competent in duties of the faith.
Over the next days and months, they performed the Yezashna and worked with zeal.
The other people of faith, busy with their own work, also provided assistance,
Jadi Rana also sent many things in different ways.

[Note: In this account and up to this point we have heard no mention of an eternal, consecrated fire having been brought over from Iran. Rather the group makes preparations for consecrating a fire in keeping with their solemn promise after surviving the storm at sea.

* There is no consensus on the equivalent of a farsang. Three miles or five kilometres is a reasonable approximation.

** The consecrated space within which the Yazashna [Yasna] ceremony is performed.]


Tools from Khorasan. The First Mention of Khorasan

Development of Industry

Qissa couplet line 215. In those days, all workshops (commerce & industry) were in the hands of behdins.
Their work was made easy because of the tools they have brought from Khorasan**.
With these tools from Khorasan, they accomplished their work with competence.
The reason was that many dasturs and behdins that arrived at that place*
By the grace of God, these included several chemists*** thus making life easier for all.

[Note: * The implication here is unmistakable. Once the initial colony had been established, not few, but many other Zoroastrians, clergy and lay people alike, congregated at Sanjan.

** Here we hear the first mention of Khorasan. Almost every writer on this subject concludes from these words that the original sea-faring migrants to Sanjan came from Khorasan. What we understand from these passages is that the people who joined the initial settlers came from Khorasan. Further, these later migrants from Khorasan had been able to bring with them tools of trade and industry. Given that the Aryans had a long history of trade and related industries, it is entirely plausible that they would have wanted to continue using their talents. Based on the Qissa, we do not know how these Khorasanis arrived at Sanjan - whether by land or by sea.

*** The new arrivals included chemists! We can only imagine the different applications of their talents - from medicine to dyes and other manufacturing aids. This section is inserted to support the building of the temple housing a consecrated fire. However, the implications are broader.]


Installation of the Iranshah Fire

Lament - Lack of Orthodoxy in 16th & 17th Century India

Qissa couplet line 220. By means of these brought over tools and materials, the fire could be consecrated as stipulated by the doctrines of the religion.
In accord with tradition, the aged dasturs were then able to install the Iranshah fire, full of radiant lustre.
Well versed in spiritual matters*, the dasturs of those days, they observed all religious precepts in their practice.
These days, Lord only knows the state of the religion for practice is a matter of personal satisfaction**
In that land (bygone time? Iran?) all behdins and dasturs celebrated jashnes with much rejoicing.

[Note: * This is one of several allusions that the dasturs (and mobeds) who came with the original migration were well versed in religious matters and very wise, the implication being that by the time the Qissa was written (1600 CE - some eight hundred years later), the full spectrum of religious knowledge and wisdom had been lost. This is consistent with the sending of emissaries by the Indian Zoroastrian community to Yazd with sets of questions for which the local priests had no answers or which were a source of debate. The answers from the Dasturan Dastur of Iran, seated in Yazd, now form the Rivayats. ** Here the writer laments the lack of orthodoxy in religious practices.]


Dispersal of Zoroastrians

Qissa couplet line 225. More or less, three hundred years passed, while some men with their wives and relatives left the place.
They dispersed throughout the land of Hind in all directions to those places they desired.
Some turned towards Vankaner / Bankaner (Bikaner in Rajasthan), some towards Bharuch,
Others went to Variav. All hastened to their respective destinations.
Some arrived in the city of Anklesar, or journeyed to the city of Khambat (Cambay).

230. Others took their belongings, including their documents and fortune to Navsari,
Wherever, a person felt comfortable, he made his home in that place.
Two hundred years passed in this state of happiness, prosperity and peace.
Many houses of the dasturs that left remained in Sanjan.
They received God's judgment and I do not know where they all went.

[Note: Around 1290 CE the Parsi priesthood divided Gujarat into five panths (ecclesiastic groups) based on location:
1. The Sanjanas at Sanjan,
2. The Bhagarias (meaning sharers) serving Navsari,
3. The Godavras based at Anklesar,
4. The Bharuchas controlling rites in Broach, and
5. The Khambattas of Khambat (Cambay).

Each panth regulated its own clergy, laity, and religious matters through an anjoman (association). Alternatively, a group of lay families was also called a panthak, and the priest appointed to serve that group was their panthaki. The assignment of the panthak became hereditary.]

In 1142 Kamdin Zarthosht was the first priest to arrive in Navsari from Sanjan. Navsari would go on to become the headquarters of the Zoroastrian-Parsi priesthood and a centre of religious learning and authority (The Parsis of India: Preservation of Identity in Bombay City by Jesse S. Palsetia). Two families of priests settled in Navsari in the early thirteenth century and their descendants are the present priests of Navsari.

At Broach, the Parsees built their first dakhma or tower of silence. According to Palsetia, "a brick dakhma was built sometime before 1300 and a second tower was built in 1309."


Gujarat (India) towns where Parsees settled. Image credit: Base map courtesy Microsoft Encarta. Additions copyright K. E. Eduljee
Gujarat (India) towns where Parsees settled
Image credit: Base map courtesy Microsoft Encarta. Additions copyright K. E. Eduljee

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» Previous page: Page 1 - Escape from Iran

» Next page: Page 3 - Destruction of Sanjan


Associated reading:

» Udvada Atash Behram (Bahram)

» Early History of Mumbai's (Bombay's) Fire Temples

» Zoroastrian Places of Worship - Atash Bahrams

» Limji Hataria in Iran

» Limji Hataria & Pestonji Marker in Iran

» Khorasan Kuhistan Region

» Parthava (Parthia) Region

» Hormozgan Region

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