Parzor Press Release on Dasturji Firoze Kotwal Archival Project

Vada Dasturji Dr.  Firoze M. Kotwal is the High Priest of the Parsi Zoroastrian community and a scholar priest of eminence with deep knowledge of the sacred texts of the faith and the Avestan, Pahalavi, Gujarati and Old Gujarati languages. He has also studied Sanskrit and Persian and is therefore eminently positioned to place Zoroastrianism within the context of the world history of religions. As a researcher he has worked with the late Professor Mary Boyce (Prof. Emeritus, School of Oriental and African Studies, London), and with scholars across Europe and America over the last forty years. He has taught Zoroastrianism first as a teacher of the young mobeds at the Cama Athornan Madressa in Mumbai and was later appointed its Principal.  Subsequently he has held courses, delivered lectures and guided and nurtured scholars, researchers as well as priests for almost 50 years.

His in depth knowledge of rituals, priestly traditions and history gleaned from his vast library of work is with him in his notes and much more is in his phenomenal memory. It is important to record, collate and publish all his works, in order to keep alive a tradition which will otherwise be lost to time. Dasturji Kotwal has very graciously given UNESCO Parzor, Parzor Foundation the rights to all his unpublished works and notes and is happy to work with us to complete this mammoth task.

Without creating a recording and publishing archive of Dastur Kotwal’s life’s work a vast amount of traditional wisdom and history will be lost forever. Hence it is necessary not only for the Parsi Zoroastrian community but for all those interested in religious studies and interfaith dialogue, that Dastur Kotwal’s works be published at the earliest. His academic contribution is so large that we feel that the final product will result in the publication of a series of books.

Mary Boyce, Prof. Emeritus of SOAS, and one of the greatest scholars of Zoroastrianism has also been Dr. Shernaz Cama’s own PhD guide and a key advisor when Parzor was founded. Professor Boyce always held Dasturji Kotwal in the highest regard and her correspondence with him, preserved at Cambridge and other locations, indicates how much she wanted his scholarship to be acknowledged and used in the understanding of our ancient faith. She herself had always recognized that after her field work in Iran, her understanding of the priestly tradition and Zoroastrianism owed much to Dastur Kotwal, whom she also guided as a post- doctoral student.

The objective of this initiative is to use the best available help in to bring this archival project to fruition. Dr. Dan Sheffield, a recent graduate from Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University, has been chosen by Dasturji as the Editor of this series of publications. Dr. Dan Sheffield has agreed to work with Dasturji on this project, and has been working with him for many years at the Meherjirana Library and at several international conferences.  Dr. Sheffield is fluent in over 15 languages and is one of the most prominent young scholars of Zoroastrianism in the world today, and we are fortunate that he has agreed to be the Editor.

Ms. Firoza Punthakey Mistree, who has co-edited A Zoroastrian Tapestry Art Religion and Culture has also agreed to work on this Project. She has been a close associate of Dasturji Kotwal and has been helping him over the years to prepare his work for publication.

Dr. Meher Kelawala Mistry is a young researcher of Mumbai, who has extensive knowledge of Parsi history and has worked with Parzor earlier at Surat, in recording the late Dr. Ratan Marshall’s life. She is fluent in Gujarati and with the help of her husband Mr.  Noshirwan Mistry has already helped start the photography and digitization process to help preserve Dasturji Kotwal’s works with Parzor.

Dr. Shernaz Cama has worked closely with Dasturji in recording Oral Traditions and rituals, as well as in the UNESCO Inscription of the Oral & Intangible Heritage of Humanity, Asha Candidature File. Dasturji Kotwal has been the Chief Advisor of the Parzor Meherjirana Project for over a decade.

With the team selected by Parzor together with Dastur Kotwal, we hope to produce a  series of academic publications which will form the core of this initiative. We plan to bring out the following publications:-

  • A Lexicon of Avestan, Pahlavi, Persian, Pazend, and Old Gujarati.
  • The Rivayet of Dastur Firoze M.  Kotwal – Title originally suggested by Prof. Mary Boyce.
  • His published works as a Collation.
  • His unpublished public lectures as a Collation.
  • Teaching and research notes from 1960s onwards.
  • The Biography of Dasturji Kotwal and his Correspondence on Religious Matters including Historical Studies on the Zoroastrians.

As the project proceeds, there are two objectives:

  • Firstly to raise the funding to meet the cost of photography, digitization, researchers fees, travel and the Publications which will include CDs of ritual practices and chanting.
  • Secondly to ensure due honour and recognition to Dr. Dasturji Kotwal.

Parzor is a not for profit organization working under the procedures of UNESCO. It has happily agreed to work with Dasturji Kotwal to make a record for posterity of invaluable material which will benefit not only scholars of Zoroastrianism but also the younger Priests of the community in India and Iran as well as the Diaspora. This project will bring scholarly inputs from Zoroastrianism to the Interfaith Movement, as well as provide interesting reading to all those who wish to know more about the cultural history of humanity. Parzor’s primary concern is to ensure that the legacy of Vada Dasturji Dr. Firoze Kotwal is made accessible to the world.

Sample of Dasturji’s Gujarati notes.

Parzor will need, however, to recover its own administrative and other expenses in this venture. It does not treat this or any other project with which it is associated as a means to profit financially.  Any profits made by Parzor in any of its ventures or crafts are always ploughed back to sustain its future work. Royalties from the sale of any publications from this project will be shared with Dastur Kotwal.

In the 1990s Dasturji Kotwal had written a Series of articles in the Jame Jamshed under the title “Religious Nook”. Since the Jame archives are incomplete, we request any readers who have saved part or whole of this Series from the Jame to kindly contact Dr. Shernaz Cama at shernazcama@hotmail.com  or write to her at Dr. Shernaz Cama, Parzor Foundation, F-17, Hauz Khas Enclave, New Delhi-110016, Tel: 011 26513460 (O). You can also contact her at 09810007717 (M).  If there are students of Dasturji Kotwal or anyone who has anecdotes, copies of his public lectures, or knowledge about his family we would be grateful if this could be shared with the publishing team. All help will be gratefully acknowledged.

We invite and welcome any organization or individual to make contributions and donate to this major venture. This will encourage our team. This Series will make a lasting difference to Zoroastrian studies and history. Parzor has worked for the last 10 years with the support of the Parsi community, donors and Govt. of India. We look forward to your support in this fascinating project. Parzor is A Society Registered under The Societies Registration Act XXI of 1860. All donations are exempt from Income Tax under Section 80G & 12 A. Donations made out to Parzor Foundation can be sent to:-

Dr. Shernaz Cama

Parzor Foundation,

F-17, Hauz Khas Enclave,

New Delhi-110016,

Tel: 011 26513560 / 41626248 (O)

Parzor is entitled to receive donations from abroad in foreign exchange as it has FCRA Clearance. Cheques in any currency can be mailed to the same address. Direct transfers can also be made, for this kindly contact us and the methodology will be explained. A separate designated account has been created for the Dasturji Kotwal Series and all donations/ accounts for this cause will be separately maintained.

We look forward to your support.