Our fifth author in the Everyday Parsi 2014 series
Navroz N. Dabu writes
I have to confess that as a Child; I was not too enthusiastic, going to the Agiari or Atash Behram. Stark simplicity of the building exterior and interior as opposed to very expressive , ornamental architecture of Hindu & Jain temples , Mosques and churches, dim lighting, certain pathos built into the prayers chanted by the priests and overall seriousness of the atmosphere , did not offer any sensory excitement to my inner self like it did when I experienced large group of people clapping and singing bhajans during an Aarti at a Hindu or Jain temple.
But I distinctly remember that my feelings changed every year, for a short period of about 10 days before Pateti & New year when I would see the main hall of the temple filled with marble top tables, with shiny vases full of flowers, floral veils hanging all over and silver trays full of colorful fruits and the very Parsi sweet “Malido” . Amidst the haze of the fires kindled by Sandalwood and and aroma of incense there would be certain hustle bustle of priests , and added musical quality to their praying that created excitement and I actually looked forward to visiting the Agiari during what everyone referred to as “Gatha “ days.
But it was when I was 10 years old that these 10 days took on a personal meaning and a reason when, my maternal grandpa had passed away earlier that year . The Shiny Vase with flowers on a Marble table , the tray with “chasni” and a folded “sudreh”, the priests praying in the Agiari Hall , listening to my grandpa’s name mentioned in the “tandarosti” section of the prayers, and offering “loban” on the fires after the Satoom and Baj prayers were all more significant because it all brought back the memories of “ Mamavaji” . Since then Muktad became a meaningful tradition every year to remember and respect the lives of the people we lost and missed; through the ritual of welcoming their souls through prayers. As I grew older and understood the meaning, the purpose and the rationale behind the rituals and payers during Muktad, I started to question some of the wasteful , commercialized and “show-off” aspects of the tradition and started to side with the argument for celebrating Muktad with a single flower vase symbolic of each departed soul on a common table and common prayers recited for the collective departed souls of the Anjuman as a whole .
Last three decades of my life are spent living away from home, in America, with my wife and raising a family of two sons during which observing Muktad has been simpler and basic.
All the credit for keeping up the Zoroastrian and Indian, Religious and Cultural traditions goes to my wife Binaifer who maintains a meticulous prayer corner , complete with a “Ses” , coconut, flowers, sugar, and “Divo” . Most of the rituals, traditions and stories behind them have been, celebrated and practiced by our little family and communicated to our sons around this prayer corner. So Muktad days are no different. In absence of fire temples or structured organized Muktad prayers, more ritualistic aspects are stripped off and we focus on its central idea of remembering the departed souls, saying a quiet prayer for their soul’s journey towards freedom, in presence of small but the beautiful arrangement of religious symbols, flowers fruits and the flame of divo; lighting the picture frames of all the departed souls of our families.
Even though it is natural to miss practicing Muktad back home in India ,in Atash Behram or Agiari with prayers by priests, honestly, I have not felt disappointed by the way we have adapted to the situation, with our minimal , personal and intimate home-made alternate. It has actually added extra pleasure and significance; to rare occasions when our trips back home coincide with Gatha days and we appreciate , enjoy , cherish and relish the joy of attending Muktad ceremonies , like we did during our trip last year , after passing of our beloved Noshir Papa.
Navroz Dabu originally from Ahmedabad, India is an Architect, working at an architectural firm in Syracuse, New York, for last two and half decades. He received his Master of Science in Architecture studies at M.I.T., after finishing his undergraduate studies at School of Architecture, CEPT in Ahmedabad.
His love of fine arts and passion for all things creative is expressed through drawings, paintings, sculptures and varied areas of design. Navroz is actively involved with community theatre in the greater Syracuse area, volunteering to design and paint stage sets, garnering him several regional and state awards. He has also performed in several community theater plays.