Our first author for 2015 Everyday Parsi series is Ervad Kayomarz Yezdi Sidhwa.
Thank you Parsi Khabar for giving me the opportunity to write what Muktad days have meant to my family and I.
I grew up in a very conservative environment where both my parents are from Athornan families. My maternal side had very well respected Mobeds with the “Supremo” being my maternal grandfather Ervad Jamshedji H. Unwalla from Udvada who we all considered as our Patriarch of the family. His personality was breathtaking and he commanded sheer respect with his stature, his spirituality besides his aura was just mesmerizing. His brother, Ervad Dadiba H. Unwalla, a very pious and pure individual was the Panthaky of the Agiary in Daman in Gujarat continuing the family tradition of serving as panthaky for over 200 years.
This was where I got introduced to our religious traditions around the age of 5 including the Muktad prayers and ceremonies. My mom, grand mom, masis (aunts) and other relatives would go to Daman to assist during those 18 Muktad days (yes 18 not 10). They would get up at 2 am and start preparations by cleansing the flowers, washing all the vases, preparing those yummy dishes like Malido and Paapri as well as lunch and dinner. The days would be really tough and grueling for Mobeds and family members and by the time it was 7 pm most of them would be knocked out and snoring. I would visit them with my Dad for a few days to experience and feel the freshness of those flowers and the sweet scent of Lobaan along with the aroma of the pure Sandalwood in the serene environment and of course to eat all the great food that was prepared every day J.
Since a very young age I would hear so many interesting stories and anecdotes from my grandparents, parents, uncles and my older cousins about how tough the Muktad days were although how much fun they would have during those days and would always think about participating in those prayers. For me, it was a foregone conclusion that I would have to go through my Navar ceremony and start practicing as a Mobed at least during the Muktad days. At the age of thirteen I went through my Navar ceremony and was ordained as a Priest at the Banaji Agiary in Fort, Mumbai but never really got into the routine of praying regularly as a Mobed.
Lo and behold, one fine day, one of my dear friends asked me if I was interested to travel to Poona (about 100 miles from Mumbai) to pray during the Muktad days. I was around eighteen and fortunately my parents agreed so I was off to Poona every year during those ten Muktad days and would be back in Mumbai once we finish the Paachli Raat ni (4 am) prayers to celebrate the New Year with my family. It was a lot of hard work and our throats would be sore and aching but good fun at the same time and those 1,000 rupees that I would get were worth its weight in gold. Honestly, I would look forward to Muktad days for those 1,000 rupees as it was like extra pocket money for me and I could shop for my shoes, clothes etc.
Although, that was a bit short lived as, by the time I was 23 years old, I left the shores of India and landed in Florida to embark on furthering my education. To my surprise, within a year I was one of the only two Mobeds in South Florida performing Jashans every second weekend. I really enjoyed praying and slowly but surely started to develop interest in reading about what I was praying. That’s when I started to read and talk about our religion, our prayers, rituals, etc. and started realizing the true significance of our Gathas and the Muktad days. It was very enlightening and interesting to read about our religion, its roots, history etc. which I never did as a young boy although I would pray every year during Muktad days and I had all the scholars and resources available in my own family.
After a few years, due to a job transfer we landed in Houston, TX and were very excited to know that there were Muktad prayers being offered followed by a Community lunch at our Zarathusti Heritage and Cultural Center. In 2012, at 11 years, my son Yazad was ordained as a Priest at a Navar ceremony in Mumbai, India and since then he has been regularly participating in Jashan ceremonies as well as during Muktad prayers. I reminisce with him on how we used to pray during the Muktad days and all the fun we had besides giving him tips on how he should approach the prayers, the way he conducts himself during the entire ritual and most importantly the significance of Gathas, the hymns of Zarathustra besides why we do what we do which was always missing when I prayed like a mechanical robot. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to practice as a Mobed for a few years, but we have tried to make sure that our son participates, learns about our rich heritage and continues the tradition.
We wish all the readers and their families a Very Happy and Prosperous New Year!
Ervad Kayomarz Yezdi Sidhwa
Kayomarz Sidhwa came to the United States in 1991 and currently resides with his wife, Farzana and kids, Friyana and Yazad in Sugar Land, Texas. He has been serving as the Treasurer on the Zoroastrian Association of Houston (ZAH) Board since 2011.