A 17th century textbook on comparative religion


What is the work about?

This important 17th-century encyclopaedia, the Dabistān-i Maz̲āhib (‘School of Religions’) can be regarded as one of the earliest handbooks of comparative religion. Its author, Mubad Shah, came from a Zoroastrian background and offered a unique non-partisan account of the diverse religions of India. Arranged in twelve sections, Mubad Shah gives accounts of Hinduism, the religion of Tibet, Judaism, Christianity, several different branches of Islam and also Sufism and the divine religion (dīn-i ilāhī) of the Mughal emperor Akbar. His starting point, however, was the religion of the Persians (Parsiyan) or Iranians (Iraniyan), which he subdivided into fifteen parts. Substantial sections were devoted to the Zoroastrians and incorporated the texts of the Ardā Virāf Nāmah, and also the Sad Dar.

Worship of the seven planetary deities

The pages illustrated here come from an earlier part of the section on Iranian religions which was devoted to the Sipasiyan or Abadiyan, followers of the esoteric and syncretic beliefs of Azar Kayvan, a Zoroastrian high priest who emigrated from Fars to Gujarat during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Akbar (r. 1526–1605). Azar Kayvan presented a re-interpretation of pre-Islamic Iranian cosmology. This included worship of the seven planetary deities as illustrated here. On the right is a statue of Kayvan (Saturn) carved out of black stone, in human form, with an ape’s head and a pig’s tail, holding a sieve and a snake. On the left Hormazd (Jupiter), earthy coloured, with a vulture’s head, wears a crown in the shape of a cockerel and a dragon’s head and holds a turban and crystal ewer.

Full title:
Dabistān-i Maz̲āhib (‘School of Religions’), by Mubad Shah
17th century, India
Mubad Shah
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library
IO Islamic 746

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