In early November 2017, MUYA teams members Almut Hintze, Leon Goldman, Kerman Daruwalla and Benedikt Peschl undertook fieldwork at the M.F. Cama Athornan Institute, Mumbai. They catalogued and digitised the Institute’s little-known collection of some 50 Zoroastrian manuscripts from India and Iran written in Avestan, Pahlavi, Pazand, New Persian and Gujarati scripts. The crown jewel of this collection is the Pahlavi codex DH (named after the initials of Dastur Hoshang) containing the text of the Iranian Bundahišn, the Zand ī Wahman Yasn and sections of the Dēnkard. The collection also comprises several manuscripts of the Yasna, Visperad, Vīdēvdād and the Khorde Avesta.
The fruits of their efforts are more than 13,000 photographs of manuscripts and a comprehensive catalogue of the collection. Consultations regarding the future care, restoration and storage of the manuscripts have also been initiated so that these rare and precious documents may be preserved for many more years to come.
Special thanks go to Khushrow Panthaky and Camaji Cama for welcoming the team at the Cama Athornan Institute and for providing an environment so conducive to work.
Anna and Remi Sowa from Chouette Films as well as Mandana Seyfeddinipur joined the team two weeks later for the filming of the Yasna. This took place at the Dadar Athornan Institute, a training school for young, aspiring priests. Since non-Zoroastrians are not permitted entry to actual fire temples in India, the ritual was filmed within the school’s ritual precinct (yazišn gāh) which is used for instructional purposes and involves no consecrated fire.
Performed by the seemingly indefatigable mobeds Adil Bhesania (zot) and Aspandiarji Dadachanji (raspi) and directed and shot by Remi and Anna Sowa (Chouette Films), the resultant recording, which runs to nearly 5 hours, captures the entire Yasna ceremony (including the preparatory Paragnā ritual), in glorious 4.6K resolution.
A second performance of the full Yasna ceremony, including the Paragnā, was shot in Virtual Reality with a 360-degree camera. For the first time, this film provides audiences with a fully immersive VR experience of the ritual.
Our sincere thanks go to all involved, especially to our priests, our film crew and Ervad Dr Ramiyar Karanjia, the Principal of the Dadar Athornan Institute, for making this possible.
In early 2019, MUYA team members Almut Hintze, Céline Redard, Benedikt Peschl and Kerman Daruwalla spent 7 weeks in Mumbai, and in Udvada, Nawsari, Surat and Bharuch.
During ten days at the Dastur Kayoji Mirza Institute in Udvada, they catalogued and digitised nearly 60 Avestan, Pahlavi, New Persian and Gujarati manuscripts. In June 2019, the team provided a printed version of their catalogue to the Library.
This short video offers an insight into this sometimes dusty, but always rewarding, work. The team is grateful for the support it received at Udvada from many people, especially from Dasturji Khurshed K. Dastoor, from Framroze Sidhwa of the Udvada Anjuman Samast, and from Harish Shirke, then Custodian of the Kayoji Mirza Institute, who was always available to open the library for the MUYA team. Sadly, Harish passed away in August 2021.
From Udvada the team travelled to Navsari where they spent two weeks to consult the manuscripts at the MeherjiRana Library. They catalogued a few previously uncatalogued manuscripts (sigla G132-G193) that had been recently acquired by the Library, and consulted Avestan manuscripts for use in the MUYA text editions (particularly 451_T54).
In Surat, the team searched for manuscripts at different places. They had to fight again with dust and finally found 17 Zoroastrian manuscripts in the Kavi Narmad Central Library. The team catalogued these 17 Zoroastrian manuscripts containing Avestan, Pāzand, Gujarati and New Persian texts and gave their catalogue to the Library. Some manuscripts were also located at the Mody AtashBehram, where Kerman Daruwalla was able to consult them, although only shortly.
The team spent their last week in Bharuch, where unfortunately they found no manuscripts.
As mentioned previously, the MUYA team catalogued manuscripts pertaining to different libraries in India. These catalogues are:
MUYA team member Martina Palladino worked on the Indian transmission of the Yasna for her PhD, focusing on the Sanskrit translation of the Yasna, chapters 1 to 8. She also explored the Gujarati translation. In connection with her research, Martina Palladino spent five months in India, from October 2019 to March 2020. In Ahmedabad, Gujarat, she studied Prakrit and Old Gujarātī with Prof. Saloni Joshi at the Gujarat University. She also attended a conference on Prakrit at the Gujarat University on 6th-7th March 2020.
During her stay, she had the opportunity to consult various manuscripts of the Sanskrit and Gujarātī Yasna at the Dastur Kayoji Mirza Institute in Udvada (December 2019) and at the Meherji Rana Library in Navsari (February 2020).
She also made contact with the Parsi community in Ahmedabad and in Mumbai, where she spent some time in November 2019. Furthermore, in December 2019, she attended the Iranshah Udvada Utsav, one of the most important world congregations of the Parsi community. It takes place every two years in Udvada, where the sacred fire traditionally brought from Iran was finally installed. Many important Parsis attended the event. There Martina met two other SOAS PhD students, Ruzbeh Hodiwala and Mariano Errichiello, and together they presented MUYA’s Virtual Reality taster of the Yasna ritual. The Kayoji Mirza Institute mounted a small exhibition of the manuscripts catalogued by the MUYA team earlier in 2019.
Unfortunately, at the beginning of March 2020 the fieldwork was interrupted by the Covid-19 outbreak.