159th Salgreh of Karani Agiary

A report on the anniversary of the Cusrow Baug Agiary filed by Marzban Jamshedji Giara on the TZML email group

Seth Nasserwanji .Hirji Karani Agiary located in sylvan surroundings of Cusrow (Khush Raho) Baug at Colaba, Mumbai has the unique distinction of perhaps being THE ONLY AGIARY IN THE WORLD that serves the Parsi Zoroastrian community in more ways than one. Besides being a place of worship and for performing rituals, it serves as a multipurpose community centre. Originally consecrated in 1847 and located at Null Bazar the sacred fire was moved to Cusrow Baug in 1935.

It organizes jashans and religious discourses at least twice a month on every Hormuzd and Behram Roj. Devotees queue up here once a week to seek solutions to their problems and a kind Mrs. Nargesbanoo Nadarsha Aibara, patiently listens to them and prescribes prayers to help relieve their sufferings. A ‘Humbandgi’ is organized every Friday followed by a brief talk.

Through the Dasturji Kukadaru Trust, a) donations are collected and used for distributing foodgrains and financial assistance for education and medical problems as also supplying kathi to agiaries in need b) books on Zoroastrian religion in Gujarati and English are published and distributed free of cost c) books on Zoroastrianism and Parsi history are displayed in a glass showcase in the central hall of the Agiary.

The 159th salgreh celebrations were spread over two days – Roz Behram Mah Sherevar 5th February the salgreh day and 9th February 2006. On the first day morning, a machi was offered followed by a jashan and a speech by Dasturji Firoze Kotwal. In the evening was a Hama Anjuman jashan. A book “Power of Prayers” by Ervad Burjor Antia published by Dasturji Kukadaru Trust was released and distributed free to all devotees. Dasturji Khurshed Kekobad Dastoor was the keynote speaker who spoke on “A to Z of Zoroastrian Religion”. Mr. Noshir Bulsara, a poet and active resident of Cusrow Baug eulogised the Dasturjis, trustees, speakers and all those who help the Agiary by reciting verses specially composed by him in Gujarati for this salgreh occasion.

On the second day evening Mr. Khojeste Mistree was the keynote speaker. His subject was “Relevance of Zoroastrianism for the Modern Youth”.

Mr Homi Ranina, Trustee of the Agiary while introducing Mr. Khojeste Mistee said, “Just as it is necessary to eat it is necessary to pray. Mr. Khojeste Mistree is a qualified chartered accountant from U.K. who gave up his lucrative job to obtain an M.A. in Oriental Studies from Oxford University.” Abstracts from Mr. Mistree’s talk are given below:

“Relevance of Zoroastrianism for Modern Youth”

We have a faith based group who pray, participate in ceremonies, lead a good, honest life and devotedly follow the practices of the religion passed down by the previous generation.

Youth are interested in understanding why are there different religions in the world? Who made God? Young people want an intellectual framework to understand the religion. In times of crisis, people turn to God. We should nurture and encourage faith in the hearts and minds of people. Religion gives us hope.

In the Menog-I-Kherad (6th century text), it is beautifully summed up.

1. Knowledge, skill, learning and instruction of every trade is through wisdom – Hormuzd.

2. Good living, comfort, enjoyment comes through wisdom.

3. Power strength, procreation and the curing of diseases is through wisdom.

4. The arrangement of good thoughts, words and deeds are through wisdom, and

5. the arrangement of the sun, stars, skies, water, earth, plants, cattle, man and fire are all through wisdom.

Every religion promotes good thoughts, good words and good deeds. How we follow the truth is unique to Zoroastrianism. We have to introduce our youth to the concept of something big. Zoroastrianism is a religion which demands responsibility of its followers. Time has come when we must all be proactive. Truth has an uncanny way of coming out. We must have strength along with a sense of giving, a sense of responsibility, a sense of care. Knowledge, mind and truth brought together by strength and devotion results in perfection and immortality. Everything is dependent on hard work and industriousness. With hard work always come rewards. Follow the seven principles. Our young people must be focussed. Greater the knowledge you gain, richer becomes your personal life.

Some traditions have changed in terms of food, transportation, dress, language and culture. Our reet rivaj needs to be nurtured and preserved at all costs. Our ancestors did not resort to short cuts. They went back to Iran – 2500 kilometres – through hostile lands to bring the alat which was required to consecrate an atash behram in India.

We should not discard what is valuable and precious at the altar of comfort and convenience. When traditions die, insecurity breeds. People who are fundamentally religious, because of religious insecurity turn to other forms of worship. We respect all religions. Respect in no way should mean worshipping in mandirs, churches or dargahs.

In the Jasme Avanghe Mazda prayer every time we tie our kushti, we affirm Mazda Ahmai Ya Ahmai Ushta kahmaichit which means my religion is the greatest, the best and the purest. It is time that we keep our faith and commitment in our religion. Let us uphold our great religion and be proud to be Parsi Zarathushtis.

In response to specific questions Mr Mistree explained that Sudreh means advantageous path and Kusti means direction finder. To be a Zarathushti, you are obliged to wear the sudreh-kusi 24 hours, 7 days a week. Religion is more important for education. We have to market religion differently. The greatest threat to our religion is lack of religious knowledge. The relevance of marrying within the community can be realized by first rate religious education.

Mani Vajifdar, the compere remarked at the end of Mr. Mistree’s talk: “A wonderful and thought provoking lecture presented in a lucid manner”.

This was followed by a solo dance by Alysha Khodaiji, a one-act play by Dinyar Tirandaz, a Magic show by Mehelly Bhumgara. The function ended with a delicious contributory dinner catered by Tanaz Godwalla. Mrs. Mani Vajifdar ably compered the functions on both the days.