Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Everyday Parsi: Ervad Jimmy Doctor

Our eighth author in the Everyday Parsi 2014 series

Ervad Jimmy Doctor writes

148247_856781650631_406121_n Ever since I can remember, history has been one of my favorite subjects. It is only through history that we can value and understand the present, as well as realize the future.

It was around the time that I became a Navar that my love for history took a personal twist. I had the great honor and privilege to be initiated into priesthood at Navsari’s Dare-e-Meher. Though the hall was originally built to handle countless number of boys being initiated into priesthood, I was the only boy there during that time. When I was not praying I was studying every facet of the place. From the old pictures, to even the pedestal that the Atash stood on were soaked in history. During one of the ceremonies, the priest’s hand scrubs the marble pedestal’s four sides with water. Well this pedestal had undergone so many of these ceremonies that there was a noticeable and deep curvature to the marbles four sides. It was this point in time that I realized the depth and density of my past and it made my hair stand on end. The Dare-e-Meher is one of the oldest Zarathusti structures in India. At over 800 years old, all of my forefathers who had undergone their Navar and Martab ceremony had done so in this very building, in these very halls and compound. I was not alone after all. Aside from my dad who was staying with me, and the occasional Aunty or Uncle who would come to visit me to give me encouragement, I felt their blessings too. Upon completing my Navar, Dad gave me a very old and yellowed picture of my great Grandfather, Jehangirji, when he was a boy dressed in Jamo, Paghri, with Guraj in hand which was taken on the day his Navar initiation concluded. I could see the resemblance! He had also gave me a list about 10 generations long of my forefathers’ names who had become Navar in Navsari as well. Upon a subsequent trip to India, I asked my Grandma who was our family historian to tell me about our family, who everyone was, who they were married to, I asked my mom for a similar run down, and created a rudimentary family tree.

So aside from this being a personal bit of nostalgia, what does this have to do with Muktad? It was after I became Navar that I took a special interest in Zarathusti ceremonies, customs and observances. As a boy I was told simply to pray as much as I could during the Muktad and Gatha days, because the Muktad days served as a force multiplier for our prayers, and I did so without fully understanding why. Later on I learned that it is during the Muktad time that the spirits and the Fravashis of our ancestors come to our house to visit and bestow blessings upon us. Since I felt such a personal connection to family members past, this time of year became particularly important for me. Slowly as each year went by I learned more and more about what we should pray, and how we should observe the Muktad days. As we all know today’s day and age is different from our forefathers, however I don’t believe this excuse is good enough. I fully realize that I could be doing more to observe these days, and each year I try and do more than I did last year.

While our relatives in India get the respective prayers recited for our loved ones who passed, we also do our part here in the states at home. We first start with cleaning the house, prayer area, and divo glasses. We refrain from cutting our hair or nails during this time. We keep a Divo going in our house normally, and sometimes it goes out. However during the Muktad days we take extra care to ensure that there is a lit divo in our house at all times. We put fresh flowers near our divo table, along with some food, milk and water. I usually put Roses and tarelo papeto (fried potatoes) for my grandfather since those were his favorite things. We wake up earlier than normal to take a shower and pray. If I can take some days off work to dedicate my time to this, I do.

The Gathas are fairly difficult to pray correctly and for the longest time I did not pray them. Ervad Ramiyar Karanjia put together a great compilation of audio of the Gathas and prerequisite Framraot Ha along with English text for those who don’t know Gujarati. I now like a child learning their Navjote prayers sit along and pray with him. I hope to eventually not need the audio crutch and pray it on my own. After my daily prayers, we pray Satum No Kardo. The list my dad gave me along with the family tree serve as a list for me to use to for names to include in my Satum No Kardo. I also pray the names of my wife’s grandparents who have passed along with my brother in law’s parents.

One important part of the Muktad days which is often not well understood by us is the day of Patet or Pateti, the last Gatha day before New Year Day. People often and incorrectly wish “Happy Pateti”. Pateti is a day for examining one’s actions of the past year and repenting for sins one committed knowingly or unknowingly, making amends, and thinking about what they should be doing differently in the new year to come. Some may think I am a bit uptight when I correct them, but would those same people ever wish someone “Happy Repentance and Penance Day”? It doesn’t really make any sense.  How about we just wait a day and wish Saal Mubarak! Or “Khordad Saal Mubarak” when Khordad Roj of the first month comes along, which is the birth date of our prophet Zarathustra.

During these days I truly feel the blessings of our ancestors. Everything we have, and everything we are is because of them. When we remember them during this time of year via keeping a clean house, lit divo, praying what we can, and thinking of fond memories with them, we enable them to bestow their full blessings upon us. In time my wife and I hope to teach our children about the Muktad days so that our ancestors can bless them as they have us.

Ervad Jimmy Doctor

Jimmy is 32 and was born and raised in New York, USA. He currently lives in Hartford, Connecticut, with his wife Benaisha, and young two sons, Kaus and Kash.