The Parsi Cemetery of Hong Kong


January 28, 2016

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A recent work trip to Hong Kong gave me an opportunity to visit the famed Parsi Cemetery in Happy Valley, Hong Kong. This is one of three cemeteries that were founded by the The Incorporated Zoroastrian Charity Funds of Hongkong, Canton and Macao. The other two are in Macau, and modern day Guangzhou, previously called Canton.

The Hong Kong Cemetery is in an area adjoining other cemeteries, and is nestled in the side of a big hill. In many ways it reminded me of our own Doongerwadi in Mumbai, India. Opened in 1852 it is the only functioning Parsi cemetery in this region. The other two have long ceased to be functional.

Over 150 graves are in the cemetery and some of them are innovative in shape. The cemetery also has a “Bungli” or Hall where the Paidust and other prayers are performed.

The cemetery is extremely well maintained and taken care of.

A short snippet of a longer text gives some history and background of the cemetery

India and Pakistan are the only place where Towers of Silence remain in use, and there are very few in number. The concentration of Parsis in a geographical area dictated the type of disposal. Very early on a decision was taken that burial in cemeteries – Aramghas – was acceptable in places where there were not enough Parsis to maintain a Tower of Silence; for instance Ajmer is the furthest north in India where there is a tower. In hill stations in India, a section of the Christian or Catholic cemetery was set-aside for Parsis.

The same applied to Parsis who died overseas, hence this beautifully maintained cemetery at Hong Kong. A Trust was formed in 1822 in Macao for the establishment of a Parsee cemetery there. The first Parsi association, known as the ‘China Canton Anjuman’, was formed in Canton in 1834. In1845. A wider Anjuman body covering Hong Kong, Canton, and Macao was created for establishing and maintaining burial grounds and having places of association. In Hong Kong, the first premises for use of the Zoroastrian community were rented in 1852. [ Link ]

A note of thanks to the Trustees of the Hong Kong Anjuman for allowing me the opportunity to have an extensive tour accompanied by Ervad Homyar Nasirabadwala, the officiating Dasturji in Hong Kong. And a big thank you to “aapra Dasturji Homyar” as the Hong Kong Parsis refer to him; for his detailed explanations and history of the place.