Our seventh author in the Everyday Parsi 2020 series is Nazneen Thanawalla Spliedt of Northern California, United States
Nazneen writes about her Muktad memories from Karachi Pakistan.
My earliest memories of celebrating the Muktad Days in Karachi were as a young child, when my Maternal Uncle passed away and my Grandmother had his Muktads performed at home.
With tables laid with fruits, flowers, divo, and every day some delicious food prepared, we would remember the souls of the departed as we would partake in the offerings.
Each year in Karachi, there would be a Hama Anjuman Muktad & Hambandagi performed during the 10 Muktad days. They were held in the Jehangir Baug Hall (which was the place where weddings & navjotes were performed – similar to the Albless Baug of Bombay). The Muktads were held in another Hall, which was normally used to serve meals.
This tradition was started by a group of Youth and young parents , who had been instrumental in organizing a few Youth Congresses in Karachi during the 1940’s.
There was a Muktad table laid out with flowers, divos, and any offerings brought by people who wished to remember the dear departed. It was one communal table.
The ceremony started at 7.00 a.m. with singing of a ‘kardo’ from the Avesta. This was from a book that was published specially for the Muktad Days. Each day was a different prayer. The singing was led by the Anklesaria sisters. They would lead the attendees in the singing of the ‘Muktad-no-kardo’ and then recite its meaning in Gujerati & English.
After the invocation, Dasturji Dr. Maneckji Dhalla, at that time the Head Priest of the Parsis of Pakistan would give a short homily and a wonderful lecture on a different topic each morning. Either he would recite from his book “Homage Unto Ahura Mazda” and talk about various aspects of the religion as pertaining to the subject of the day or experiences from his life.
He continued doing this until he passed away, and thereafter the tradition was carried on by Ervad Godrej Sidhwa. The Anklesaria sister’s tradition was also carried out by Perviz Dastur for many years.
Since the Jehangir Baug was within walking distance of the 2 Parsi Schools and many of the Parsi Baugs, the attendance was always very good and on weekends it was standing room only!
The ceremony ended at 7.45 a.m. after which everyone rushed off to School and work. Those who did not have to do that, stayed on for the jashan ceremony performed by the priests.
Like everywhere else, there were also individual Muktads held in the 2 Agiaries and people would go to pay homage to the Muktads of their relatives or friends.
When the Jehangir Baug was sold and torn down, this tradition was continued to be held in the Hall of the Hirjikaka (Saddar) Agiari. Sadly, the attendance dropped over time, as did the Parsi population of Karachi.
We should be grateful and appreciative of our Priests in North America that they have voluntarily kept this tradition going. The days of the Muktad bring us all peace and tranquility in which to remember those who have passed on and help us build and live a better Now.
Nazneen comes from Karachi, where her family has lived for 4 generations. She attended the Mama Parsi Girls School, St. Joseph’s College & did her MBA from the University of Karachi’s – Institute of Business Administration, she was the 2nd woman from Pakistan to graduate from this Institution. Since her school days she has volunteered with the Zarathushti and other community organizations in Pakistan – thanks to her Parents, Uncles, Aunts & School Teacher’s encouragement. She worked in the Hotel Industry, which took her to Curacao, where she met her husband – Ehler. They spent the next 10 years working in Central & South America & Europe where she never ran into another Parsi until they were posted to Hong Kong, where they lived until 1998. They came to North America in 1998, to retire but became active in the Zarathushti Community of Northern California. She served on the Board of ZANC from 2000 to 2017 and served as President from 2005 to 20017. She is currently a Trustee of ZANC.