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The Key of Ilme Kṣnum to Understand the Zoroastrian Religion Errichiello, Mariano


‘The key of Ilme Kṣnum to understand the Zoroastrian religion’ is the first book authored by Behramshah Naoroji Shroff (1858-1927), a Parsi gentleman from Surat, Gujarat (India). In 1906, Shroff made known Ilm-e-Khshnoom, an esoteric interpretation of Zoroastrianism, among the Parsis and spread its beliefs until his death. It is believed that he acquired such esoteric knowledge over three years, while he was staying with a community of Zoroastrian sages secluded in a village situated on Mount Damavand, in Iran. Ilm-e-Khshnoom offers a reconciliation between Persianate and Western systems of esoteric knowledge. ‘The Key of Ilme Kṣnum to Understand the Zoroastrian Religion’ is the first book published by Shroff and represents his only publication where the beliefs of Ilm-e-Khshnoom are systematically presented as a set of natural laws. In this regard, it is a fundamental text to further our understanding of Ilm-e-Khshnoom from a historical, cultural, sociological, and linguistic point of view. The following publications of Shroff, instead, focus on specific aspects of the Zoroastrian liturgy or of the Parsi life. Being the first publication of Shroff as well as the first book on the subject of Ilm-e-Khshnoom, ‘The Key of Ilme Kṣnum to Understand the Zoroastrian Religion’ inaugurates the religious literature consisting of hundreds of books and articles, mainly composed in Gujarati. This knowledge production still continues nowadays, though English has become the main language used for publications. Besides offering a thorough overview of the system of beliefs of Ilm-e-Khshnoom, one of the key features of this book is the presence of a large number of technical terms (also known in Gujarati as logato) whose genealogical study sheds light on the hermeneutical choices adopted by Shroff. Further, the dedication note and the foreword contain important elements that allow to ascribe the story of the initiation of Shroff and the relation with his masters to some narrative elements of the nationalist discourse of the 19th and 20th centuries-Iran. The textual analysis of this book, in effect, uncovers the cultural entanglements between the Persianate world, the Western sphere of influence, and India. The Parsis play a critical role in these entanglements, furthering connections and favouring cultural transfers; in particular, transculturation. Ilm-e-Khshnoom and ‘The Key of Ilme Kṣnum to Understand the Zoroastrian Religion’, in this regard, are the result of such entanglements and activities of transculturation between the Persianate, the West, and India.

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Attribution 4.0 International