Parsis hear chants of holy change

Farhad Bhesania, 31, a Godrej Baug resident, has never regretted the decision he took nearly 17 years ago. Belonging to a family of Parsi priests, Bhesania chose a different path for himself.

By Ashutosh Shukla / DNA

“If I had stepped into my family’s footsteps, I would have lived in guilt,” said Bhesania who works as a chartered accountant. “My father is an ordained priest, but he does not practise. I would have to force myself to become a priest.”

The number of Parsi priests has been declining. From about 2,500 in the 1920s, it is now down to 600-700. Of these, only 200 are practising priests, while 100 work part-time.

“As a priest, even attending a wedding becomes a problem. I did not know if I was willing to take that. I like to travel and so I practise part-time,” said Bhesania.

For media professional Kaivan Makujina, 32, the lack of family life was the deciding factor. “My father is a practicing priest,” he said.

“As a child, I was sent to a boarding school while my parents lived in Udvada in Gujarat. I did not want my children to suffer too.” The youngest age of a practising priest performing higher rituals is 60 years.

Cyrus Darbari, 41, an electronics engineer, said, “When you are young, you do not want to restrict your life. As a priest, you cannot wear colourful clothes, or even attend parties.”

The priests have a very rigorous lifestyle. They pray for six hours. They have to bathe if someone touches them before their prayers. The water they use should come from a well. Besides, the emoluments given by trusts of fire temples aren’t very encouraging. Dasturjis, who are at the top of the hierarchy, have no fixed salary; the Mobeds (assistant priests) are paid about Rs20,000 per month, while the Ervads get about Rs15,000 per month.

Dr Ramiyar Karanjia, principal of Dadar Athornan Institute, a seminary for Parsi priests, said, “About two or three people pass out every year. Till 1980s, the figure was about six,” said Karanjia.

  • This explains the sorry state of our beautiful religion. While we are busy trying to convert others to increase our numbers .One way or another we are slowly but surely loosing what we should preserve at all costs.It’s about time we PARSIS realise this do something about it before it’s too late.And please don’t look for any solution to this very serious cause from our PARSI diaspora anywhere outside of INDIA or IRAN. As far as I am concerned they have already lost it.

  • GUDI PESTANJEE

    Its a high time when many career options are open for our
    atohrnan boys we need to pay them wel. Panchayats should take care of their mobeds and dasturs by providing them
    support to do some business along with Mobedi. Bhai Ramiyar and others like him will have to prepare Gen next of mobeds in a manner that they enjoy being Mobed and are sucessfull
    in a trade other than mobedi to keep up socio economically

  • Siloo Kapadia

    Why not have Parsi women priests? Why must they always be men? Why not welcome women who wish to take on this duty as well?

    Why are we Parsees so progressive when it comes to fashion and MONEY, yet so conservative when it comes to religion? (That is, IF, we care about religion at all. For most of the community it is all lip service, if you ask me.)

  • RAJESH CHOUHAN

    I am very glad that farhad bhesania is only 31 and is a chartared accountant.farhad due to you i came to know about parsi priest life.
    many times i visit parsikhabar site but it seems few parsi family know about this site so when parsi brothers and sisters meet each other must inform about this site so kind thoughts from the talent can be express with each other and parsis come togeather and know about difficulties old family member facing of living alone,young people like you should do something for bringing happiness in their life.
    wellwisher

  • Jehangir Sarosh

    It has been proudly repeated “Parsee thy name is Charity” But why do I and my community expect our priests to live on charity, where is the dignity for them and me in this

    email me and help me understand jangosarosh@yahoo.co.uk
    Jehangir Sarosh

  • Khushroo

    One way of encouraging youngsters to take up priesthood is to make it remunerative enough. Although its not everything and there would still be other issues, at least one can take economics out of the equaltion by remunerating handsomely(3/4 times their present emoluments), providing free housing, free education of children right through and all other such benefits which professionals get as employees of big Companies.

  • Hi Rajesh,
    Thank you sincerely for your interest in Parsi Khabar,and your care and concern for our seniors . I will make it a point of informing more of my community members of this site. I wanted to ask you if you are the same Rajesh Chouhan that played cricket for INDIA,please let me know. Thank you again.Regards ERUCH SURKARI.

  • saf

    In my humble view, Zoroastrians should do away with casteism and open priesthood to whoever is interested in taking it up as an alternative profession.

  • Burzin

    The salary earned by a Parsi Priest is very less almost laughable if it were not so tragic. Do they have to be at the mercy of Parsi Punchayats or the Charity Trusts all the time? Doles are not enough. I have seen the way the trustees of our Agiaries treat the mobed/preists it is really demeaning and very disheartening. Where is the respect? We make fun and redicule our priests. Does a Muslim man have the guts to make fun of their priests?
    Till the time respect and proper remuneration is given no self respecting man will come this way. Dadar Madressa under the able leadership of Dr. Ramyar Karanjia is doing a splendid job.

  • Piloo

    Burzin,
    I do not think that the community makes fun or ridicules our Priests, if they conduct themselves with dignity and decorum.
    But if any priests, high or low indulges in double standards, yes the criticism is inevitable.

  • rustom jamasji

    I think The panthaks or priests should be given incentives to study the historical, mythical parts academicaly. Each agiary can have copies of the Bundaishn, Vendidad, Mino I Xrat etc or have them in soft copy form, so that Priests can refer to these…..every year or something on that lines , competitions should be held between Panthaks/priests and the most sucessfull then can also be rewarded by getting further studies done on the Lines of Dr Ramiyar or Dr Kotwal/ Dr Jamasasa….

  • Jeannie Antia

    I am from a priest family in direct line. Wouldn’t mind sharing priesthood with my brother Merwan and opening up an Agiyari for the German speaking Parsis in Germany / Austria / Switzerland! And of course … everybody would be most welcome to come-in and find-out and give respect to Ahura Mazda.

    Amen

    Jeannie Antia Wimmer

  • rustom jamasji

    Hi Jeannie
    Well that wud be great, that way then the Zoroastrians can have the freedom to continue to practise and respect the laws laid down by the saviours of Zoroastrianism and thus the rules laid down on varous Zoroastrian institutons by their donors …

    That also means that the Zorostians that want to continue the practises laid down by the saviours of Zoroastrianism also have the freedom to do so instead of mindless ruderless change thrust down upon everyone…..making Zoroastrianism a workshop of personal tastes…and ending Zoroastrian practises forever under the guise of change..

    My only hope is that your Agiary and promotion of Zoroastrianism is on the lines of what the saviours of Zoroastrianism sacrificed and fought to preserve…including the rituals and zoiroastrian laws relating to the zoroastrian pilosophy…
    I hope that the misinformation spread by those who wud like to do away wth whatever is not understood or not liked or not suited does not form the core of your procedures in promoting Ahura Mazda…After all we have groups claiming that dancing naked in front of fruits is a Zoroastrian ceremony, some claiming that smoking drugs is a zoroastrian rituals .refer to a court battle in the USA, some claiming homisexuality is the core of Zoroastrianism and thus joining Zoroastrianism…ofcourse then we have those who work on the lines of the byzantines who wanted to chrisianise Persia to the arab conquest… burning down the zoroastrian books and priests so that everything cud be lost..alas the saviours fought to preserve such and we are the proof of their sucess…but then the cults like gatha alone, some intermarrried, those whose personal dislikes woud want to vote out Zoroastrian systems ..Misinformation that everything preserved like the avesta, visperdad, videavodat, Zend,mino xrat,Denkard, Bundaishn etc etc is non Zoroastrian including the rituals and practises like Boi and dokhmenishini..does not form the core of your group. Orgaisation like ARZ that want to revive Zoroastrianism by changing it or dismantiling systems instead of strenghtening/ maintaining zoroastrian systems that were passed on by the ones who are actually responsible for Zoroastrianism surviving today…and thus hru Zoroastrian practises saw the survival of Zoroastrianism asd us as Zoroastrians

    Ofcourse im sure that you wudnt ignore demographical change and a small community fusing into larger ones especially on a racially charged country like India( n even western countries to a large extent)

    I must say your thoughts are much muh more magnanimous and generous from those who want to encroach upon Zoroastrian institutions claiming them as unzoroastrian, and think their freedom entails them to thrust their demand to change Zoroastrianism/dismantle Zoroastrian systems liek dakhmenishini etc etc on everyone else…