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anthropography

Azar Kayvan

Āzar Kayvān (b. between 1529 and 1533; d. between 1609 and 1618), was a Zoroastrian high priest of Istakhr and native of Fars who emigrated to the Gujarat in Mughal India during the reign of the Emperor Akbar and became the founder of a Zoroastrian school of ishraqiyyun or Illuminationists. Exhibiting features of a Zoroastrianized Sufi order, this school became known as the Sepassian.

Details regarding Azar Kayvan's life are scanty and are mainly culled from the hagiographical literature of the school. This hagiography places Azar Kayvan, son of Azar Gashasb, and his ancestry back to Sasan the Fifth (cf. the Dasatir-nama) then through Sasan the First to the Kayanids, Gayomart, and finally to Mahabad, the figure who appeared at the very beginning of the great cycle of prophecy, according to the "Bible of the Prophets of Ancient Iran," and who seems to be none other than the primordial Adam. His mother was named Shirin; her ancestry goes back to Khosrow I Anushiravan. According to the Dabestan-i-Mazahib, as a young boy Azar Kayvan showed signs of his calling to the contemplative life. Through dreams and visions he received the teaching of the ancient sages of Iran, which allowed him to give extraordinary replies to questions which were asked of him at the madrasa where he was a student, and which won him the nickname Zu'l-`Olum (master of the sciences). Internal references in the biography by his devotees allow us to determine that his residence was at Estakhr (about a hundred kilometers north of Shiraz), where he spent the first thirty or forty years of his life in contemplation and where he assembled his first assembly of disciples. Around 1570, drawn by the religious revival which was taking place in India around the Emperor Akbar, he left with them to settle down in the town of Patna in the Gujarat, where he lived until he died at around eighty-five years of age. Amongst his students, certain of these hagiographical sources place key Shi'ite Muslim theosophical figures of the Safavid philosophical revival at Isfahan within his circle. Notably among these figures was Shaykh Baha' al-Din Amili and Mir Findiriski, on whose behest the latter seems to have translated a major Tantric yogic text from Sanskrit into Persian.

According to some scholars, Dastur Meherji Rana, who had influenced Akbar and founded the famous lineage of Parsi high priests at Navsari, was a disciple of Azar Kayvan.

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External links

References

  • Corbin, Henry. "Azar Kayvan" in Encyclopedia Iranica vol. III:183-187.
  • Modi, Jamshid Jivanji Jamshedji. "Dastur Azar Kayvan with his Zoroastrian High Priests in Patna in the 16th and 17th centuries," Journal of the K.R. Cama Oriental Institute (20) 1932: 1-85.
  • Shepherd, Kevin. From Oppression to Freedom: A Study of the Kaivani Gnostics (Intercultural Research Series of Anthropography No. 4), Cambridge: Anthropographia Publications, 1988.
  • Tavakoli-Targhi, Mohamad. "Contested Memories: Narrative Structures and Allegorical Meanings of Iran's Pre-Islamic History," Iranian Studies 29: 1-2 (1996), 149-175.

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