Symbols of the world's religions



Part 1 of 3

Maud Kennedy

This is the story of Sheriar Mundegar Irani who was born in Persia about 1853. Sheriar's father, Mundegar, was a poor native of Korahmsha and the keeper of the Tower of Silence. Sheriar was thus destined to be brought up in poverty, as is the lot of many great spiritual souls. Poverty proved a blessing to him as it prepared him for the many trials and hardships of his life in years to come.

When Sheriar was five years of age his mother died. The loss of his beloved mother made the child turn towards a religious life. He would go with his father to the Tower of Silence and stayed with him there, joining his father in prayer and meditation.

Sheriar was a very brave child. One day, when he was barely seven years of age, he was left alone in the bleak and lonely grounds of the Tower of Silence while his father had to go to town on some pressing errand. The hours went by, but the father did not return. That evening the corpse of a child who had died of sickness was brought to be placed in the Tower of Silence; but in the absence of the keeper it was left outside the tower and the pall-bearers went away.

The sun set, but the father did not return. The grim silence was broken only by the howling of jackals and other wild animals which roamed about in that countryside. The night was dark and young Sheriar had no lamp, nevertheless he sat down beside the corpse to protect it from wild animals, hoping all the time that his dear father would soon return.

He was only a little boy and he began to feel sleepy, so he tied the corpse of the dead child to his own leg with a cord in case any wild beasts roaming around might steal it away in the dark. At last his father came and found both children asleep — the living and the dead tied together. So, after the corpse was placed in the proper place for it, Sheriar was taken home to bed.

As he grew up, this quiet boy, determined to live the life of a wandering dervish gave up all worldly pleasures and ambitions. When he was scarcely thirteen years old, he left his home and family in search for God. For eight years he roamed all over Persia, suffering many hardships of heat and cold and hunger. He walked from place to place, slept under trees or in any place where he could find shelter.

One day when he entered a strange town he passed a baker's shop. Here he stopped and asked the baker for a piece of bread. When the baker was about to give him a loaf, a local Mohammedan dervish came begging for his usual quota of alms. The baker said, "No, today your share shall be given to this little brother dervish."

The older dervish got excited and angry and started an argument with Sheriar, challenging him to answer all the questions he would put to him if he were indeed a true dervish. The loiterers and curious people had gathered in a little crowd to see what would happen. They urged Sheriar to answer him. Although of a very quiet nature, Sheriar said, "All right, ask me anything you wish." His answers to spiritual questions were so wise and true that the baker was delighted and the onlookers cheered him.

Another time he was walking through a jungle or forest with three other dervishes, when suddenly there appeared in their pathway a huge dangerous snake. The three friends turned and ran for their lives but young Sheriar had a strong stick in his hand and with this weapon he killed the snake single-handed.

During the years Sheriar roamed all over Persia, he acquired fair skill in the art of astrology and palmistry. But as the years went by he began to realize that the spiritual purpose for which he had left home and family was not achieved. So he returned home again and his brother Khodadad suggested that he come with him to India. Perhaps he would find fresh inspiration in his search for God in the blessed land of saints.

After a tiring journey across land they came to a port and finally took ship and sailed across the Indian Ocean and landed in Bombay. Khodadad found work for them both to earn their daily bread in this busy city. Sheriar had not given up his quest for God. He remained a strict vegetarian, drank no wine and spent his spare time in prayer and meditation. He never made a secret of his real purpose in life and his independent mind brought him into conflict with the master he was working for, who was not at all sympathetic towards his ideals.

After five months of service, the disagreement with his master became worse so he became tired of the bindings imposed by his work and decided to leave Bombay and once more become a dervish in search for Truth. All the money he had earned he divided between the men he had been working with and kept only two rupees. He was once again a free man and he resolved to travel on foot throughout India.

For ten years he walked from place to place, suffering incredible hardships on the way. With the two rupees he had bought a wooden begging bowl and a staff and then he started out for Karachi via Gujarat and Kutch.


GLOW International, Aug 1985, pp. 11-13, ed. Naosherwan Anzar
1985 © Naosherwan Anzar

Sheriarji — The Wandering Dervish, part 2, part 3


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