Professor Ibrahim Pourdavoud
Author of a Report on Avesta
By: Bouzarjomehr Parkhideh, 2004
Ibrahim, the son of Haji Davoud - a famous tradesman from Gilan - was born in Sabzeh Meydan district in the provincial capital of Rasht on Friday February 8, 1885. He himself once said, "I was a very naughty boy. This may mainly account for my thinking up of a different way for expressing myself."
Education: According to his notes, "I learned to read and write in a traditional school at my motherland, Rasht. In those days, there were no modern schools in the city. My father, who was a tradesman and landowner, encouraged me and my brothers to study and learn something. That's why he had no option than sending me to Hajji Hassan's traditional school. I spent many years studying there and learned grammar and benefited greatly from the knowledge of th school superintendent, Seyed Abdol-Rahim Khalkhali who passed away in Tehran on June 18, 1942."
In mid-spring of 1905, he and his brother Soleiman Davoudzadeh along with his teacher, the late Khalkhali left for Tehran. Among the common sciences of the time, he himself voluntarily chose to study the ancient Persian medicine. He also spent a few months studying the elementary French at the French Alliance School. Given that his father was against his leaving for overseas, in early summer of 1908, a few days prior to the demise of Mozaffareddin Shah, he chose to run away. He left for Beirut via Arak, Kermanshah and Baghdad. Eventually, after going through many difficulties, he managed to arrive at his final destination in winter. He spent two years in Beirut and studied the French literature.
In late summer of 1310, he left for France and started studying law in Paris University. In 1315, he left for Germany, where he continued studying law. But he was in love with the `Glory of Ancient Iran'. His notes continued, "Any way, I had to remain in Germany. I learned German and continued studying law in Berlin for several years. But I didn't know whether my knowledge on law will be useful, while deep in heart I felt an attraction towards learning about the ancient Iran. As a high school student in Beirut, I was expected to write about a subject given by our French teacher. But I rather chose to write about ancient Iran and ended up getting a bad mark. Then I decided to stop studying law. Thus, neither could I study the ancient medicine. Given that I had learned several European languages, I could communicate with prominent orientologists and make use of their knowledge. Besides I had access to books available on ancient Iran. Then I started studying subjects related to ancient Iran. The extensive domain, starting from 1,000 BC up to the 7th century AD is sufficiently diversified to give one the momentum to dedicate 67 years of work to it (Anahita, page 22).
Ibrahim Pourdavoud was highly interested in politics as a young man and used to write nationalistic and patriotic poems. After he left Beirut for Paris, he started his political activities, where he was in constant contact with the Iranian expatriates residing there. He along with others brought up the unfavorable conditions dominating Iran at the French political circles and voiced their protest to it. One of the measures taken to the effect was a daily called Iranshahr published in Paris from April 1914 to June of the same year. Its managing editor was Pourdavoud.
He left for Baghdad with the intention of taking some positive step for his homeland. In Baghdad, he started publishing a daily called Rastakhiz (resurrection). He published the daily independently as the holder of its license and editor-in-chief under the pseudonym of "Gol". For a while it was published in Kermanshah and then once more he published it in Baghdad (Aug 8, 1915 - March 1916). A total of 25 editions of the daily were published.
The editorial of its first edition said that the paper is intent on warning the Iranians on the resurrection day and call them to unify. It called them to an uprising in order to defend their homeland against the enemy. After the paper was banned by the Ottomans, Pourdavoud left for Berlin via Balkan. He had no other option than staying there up to the end of war the World War I, where he started reading books about Iran. The failure of the Constitutional Movement followed by the collapse of freedom-seeking and liberalistic attempts, the domination of hegemony as well as the patriotic sentiments of those seeking the glory of Iran's history, culture and civilization account for the difficult psychological and social pressure exerted upon such figures as Pourdavoud.
In September 1921, he got married in Germany and his only daughter, Pourandokht was born in early summer of 1922. While residing in Germany, he was introduced to Seyed Hassan Taqizadeh, who was the leader of the Iranian National Movement formed in opposition to the Qajar rule. They mainly campaigned for establishment of constitution and against the infiltration of the colonial government. Once they started publishing a magazine called Kaveh, the Iranian students in Europe gathered up and held meetings. Meanwhile, Pourdavoud was an active member the movement.
Then he was introduced to a famous German orientologist, Joseph Marquart through the National Movement. He was the writer of the books on Zoroastrian songs (Gathas), translator of Bondahesh, Iranshahr and many other books on the subject of Iranology. Pourdavoud was greatly interested in the German oriontologists and his books, so that he has mentioned Marquart's name in his writings repeatedly. In his research, Pourdavoud used the German method, especially in giving references and footnotes. He was quite moderate in writing Persian, but avoided using Arabic words so long as possible. Besides he tried not to make up new words.
Research on ancient Iran
In 1924, Pourdavoud along with his wife and single child, Pourandokht, left for a visit to Iran. He stayed in Tehran and continued his studies. That's when he became known worldwide for his studies on Avesta. Then he left for India in order to complete his studies in ancient languages including Avesta (old Persian) and Pahlavi (middle Persian).
In 1925, he and his family arrived in India via Basra port and stayed there for 2.5 years. There, he published part of Mazdyasna literature and wrote a report on Avesta, the Zoroastrians holy book.
This is the most valuable translation of Avesta into Persian. During his stay in India, he was invited by the Indians to attend the special religious ceremony held by the Zoroastrians called Yazashn. The ceremony was actually not open to non-Zoroastrians and just four researchers were ever allowed to attend it, including a German orientologist, Hugge, a lady from France, Madam Metante (?), another from the US, Jackson and Pourdavoud. During the ceremony, he delivered several speeches about Avesta and ancient Iran. His speeches have been published in a book called Khorramshah. In late spring of 1928, once more he left for Europe and continued research on Avesta and the civilization of ancient Iran. Also he completed the interpretation of "Yashts", Khordeh-Avesta and the first volume of "Yasna".
In 1932, the prominent Indian poet and philosopher, Rabindranath Tagor along with Dinshah Irani visited Iran in response to the invitation of Iranian government. During their visit they called for an Iranian professor who would teach Iran's ancient culture at Visu Bharati Unviersity, which was founded by Tagor and is now a state university. Pourdavoud, who was away in Germany by the time, was informed that he had been selected to teach in India. On Dec 21, 1932, he left Berlin for India. He was teaching Iranian culture and civilization at Visu Bharati Uinversity from mid-fall of 1932 to the late winter of 1933. Meanwhile, in cooperation with Zia'eddin, an Indian professor, he translated 100 verses written by Tagor from Bengali into Persian.
In early spring of 1934, he left Bombay for Berlin and continued translating Avesta into Persian. Meanwhile, he was informed that the Iranian government has banned sending foreign currencies overseas. Thus he had no other option than leaving Europe for good after several years. He arrived in Tehran in February 1937 and stayed there. The consequent negative impact left on his studies and research is quite evident.
In mid-spring of 1939, he started teaching the Persian languages and cultures at Tehran University. In late winter of 1943, in response to the invitation of the Indian government, he left for India for the third time. He was being accompanied by a cultural delegation including Ali-Asqar Hekmat and Rashid Yassemi. During their 72-day visit, they traveled to various states and toured many universities, cultural institutes, libraries, museums and historical monuments among. They also met different Indian, Parsian and British scholars and discussed about matters of mutual interest.
In September 1945, Pourdavoud established the Iranology Institute.
In mid-fall of 1946, Pourdavoud's 60th birth anniversary was celebrated at the auditorium of Tehran University's College of Literature. During the ceremony his sincere scientific attempts towards reviving the ancient Persian culture and language as well as Avesta was lauded by presenting him with a certificate of honor signed by the chancellor of the university, Ali-Akbar Siasi. Meanwhile, Tehran's Zoroastrians Society gave him with several presents and a report on his efforts and biography written by one of his students, the late Mohammad Moin was presented to him. In February of 1965, he was awarded the Cavalier Saint Silvester Badge by the representative of Pope Paul VI in Tehran for the humanitarian services rendered by him. He was also awarded the Tagor Badge in early spring of 1966 for his cultural efforts. This is among the most valuable honors in India. In June 15, 1966, he became a member of the World Academy of Science and Art. Besides, a ceremony marking his 80ths birthday was held at his son-in-law's house in 1965. Meanwhile, similar ceremonies have been held by the Zoroastrian's Society in the following years.
Quotation from what was written by the late Bahram Farahvashi about Pourdavoud's death follow: "One morning, Sunday Nov 16, 1968, his servant called me and said that he is in a critical condition. I rushed to his him, while the rain was pouring down. At night, he used to sleep on a sofa at his library. I found him sleeping among his books with an open book lying beside him. I held his hand in mine. It was still warm, but there was no life in it. He had got up twice during the night and put on the light to read. Then he had laid down and closed his eyes forever in silence."
Given his great love for his motherland, Gilan, he had mentioned in his will to be buried in the familial mausoleum in his birth place, Rasht. His body was taken from Tehran Sepahsalar mosque in a glorious ceremony to his resting place while being accompanied by a great number of officials from various organizations and societies including the Zoroastrians, scholars and people from all walks of life. After 83 years of fruitful life, the professor's corpse was eventually laid to rest at the same familial school, where he had first learned to write and read, while leaving behind a good memory and a rich treasure. Thus the last chapter of another great Iranian man of culture closed.
The report on Avesta, the Zoroastrian holy book, is his major and most memorable work, in addition to which, he has left behind a collection of essays, speeches and poems in separate books.