Parsi Reformists Ready with a New Fire Temple Plan

By Manoj R Nair

A group of Indian-Zoroastrian reformists acquires land at Malad to build a fire temple that will be open to even spouses of community members married outside the fold

It could be an event quite unprecedented in the 3000-year-old history of the Zoroastrian religion. A group of Indian-Zoroastrian reformists called the Association for Revival of Zoroastrianism (ARZ), are planning to set up a fire temple that will be open to spouses of community members married outside the fold.

The move is likely to create a storm in the Indian Zoroastrian (Parsis) community which bars entry at fire temples to non-Parsis, including non-Parsi women married to Parsis and children of Parsi women married outside the community.

In August 2005, the group had converted a Colaba apartment into a prayer hall more liberal in allowing people to attend religious ceremonies. The hall also offered navjote or initiation ceremonies for children of Parsi women married outside the community.

Currently, navjote is allowed only if both parents are Parsis or if the father is from the community. Non-Parsi women married into the community, however, are not allowed to convert, though their children can be initiated into the faith.

The new fire temple will come up on the Malad-Goregaon stretch of the Western Express Highway near the Nirlon colony, one of the newest Parsi community housing estates. The donor of the land is a business family from the community. The final deeds for the property are in the process of being signed, an ARZ trustee said.

The announcement about the construction of the fire temple will be made at a function on February 10 at Talyarkhan Hall where Zoroastrian scholar Dina McIntyre will deliver a lecture on ‘Zoroastrianism: A Universal Religion’. Construction is expected to start once the final deeds are completed.

Solicitor and columnist Berjis Desai, who advocates the reformist point of view, said that consecration of a fire temple was a long and elaborate process. “There is a difference between a prayer hall and an agiary, the consecration of which is difficult. However, an attempt will be made to go as close as we can to the setting up of a full-fledged agiary,” he said.

Kerssie Wadia, a chartered accountant and ARZ trustee, said, “All Zoroastrians, including converts, will be allowed into the fire temple. However, this should not give the signal that we are into conversions,” said Wadia.

The group feels that admitting the spouses and children of Parsis who have married outside the community is the only way to save their faith and bolster their declining numbers. It is estimated that one in three Parsis now marry outside the community.

The announcement for the construction of the new agiary is expected to create another furore in the community after the controversy over photographs of decomposing bodies at the Towers of Silence that were circulated by Lamington Road resident Dhun Baria.

However, Desai said that he did not expect much opposition from orthodox members. “When we said earlier that fire temples should be opened to non-Parsi spouses, we were told that we could set up our own fire temple for that purpose,” Desai added.

The Association of Inter-married Zoroastrians, a group largely comprising Parsi women married outside the community, is supporting the ARZ initiative.

Original article here.

  • ERUCH SURKARI

    Mr Kerssie Wadia ,if this is not conversion what else do you call it.May I remind you that it wont be long before unrully ,uneducated mobs will come knocking on our sacred Temples ,institutions and Baugs ,demanding we put a stop to this conversion ,oop’s sorry !not conversion but friendly persuassion ???.Let you Sir ,Dina McIntyre and any in your fold please realise that this is how religious fundmentalism is born.Those of you who are advocating this have never sincerely followed the true doctrines and practiceof your religion ,because if you had you wouldn’t be needing another Temple to satisfy your cult and give rise to so many modern day want to be GOD’s.May be in the West and now Russia and wherever else you can do a booming business but for AHURA MAZDA’s sake leave INDIA and IRAN alone.For over aThousand years we have done very well with our religion and will continue to do so ,and we certainly don’t need to convert.

  • Siloo Kapadia

    Congrads on an excellent article. Those who state that we don’t need converts should look at our dwindling numbers. We are dying out. It is that simple. And why shouldn’t those that sincerely want to embrace the religion not be allowed to do so? I am glad for the new temple. May many more like it arise!

  • ERUCH SURKARI

    Yes Siloo you will certainly increase the numbers and thats all you will have. Borrowed faith ,Borrowed culture and always a wanna be by force a PARSI.Good Luck to you and those like you because I won’t have anything to do with a beleif that has arisen out of some followers whim’s and fancy’s.

  • Siloo Kapadia

    Thank you Eruch. But why whims and fancies? Where do you think the first Zoroastrians came from, anyway, fall out of heaven? The converted from whatever religion they were following at the time. No, I am not talking about those entering through any whim or fancy, but those that are sincerely, that are willing to get education in the religion. THESE PEOPLE should be allowed in.

    Also why the double standard when it comes to women? When a Parsi man marries outside the faith, his children are embraced, but when a Parsi women does likewise, not only are her children not accepted but often she is ostracized as well!

    You see, Eruch deekra, it is not about numbers, but about FAITH, about encouraging the faith, and about equality. Of course, if you wish to leave, then please do so. You will find other communities ready to accept you, something that you were not willing to do for those wishing to enter our faith.

    And one last note, I would say that 99% of Parsi culture is already borrowed from Hinduism.

  • Aspi Mehta

    Eruch, don’t let the agiary door slam you on the ass as you leave. Bye.

  • Defender of Faith

    Those who support untruth are supporters of evil. When evil rises there is Someone to crush and wipe out. For those who are going against the LAWS, the dreaded end is coming. For those who abide by the LAWS, you will have Him by your side ALWAYS.
    It’s upto you to decide what do you want. Heaven or Hell.

  • phiroz

    In New Delhi for instance, there are no restrictions on entry in the Fire Temple and I do not think any Tom, Yusuf or Narain are entering it.Are you suggesting that Delhi Parsees are defying Laws? They have not been subjected to yout “Dreaded end” so far. I am not suggesting for a moment entry of anybody/everybody in our Holy Fire Temples. I will definitely be uncomfortable if Ram, Madhu or Stanley are standing next to me in my place of Worship. But what about progeny of a female Parsee parent.
    In any case, in Mumbai itself, I know that several members of other communitioes have entered our Fire Temples out of curiousity.No body is there to prevent such entries, more so in case of females who may just enter partition meant for Kusti and then enter. There is difference between fanaticism and rational restrictions.Instead of being Defender of Faith, you seem to relish the idea of glorious END of our Reliogion in Mumbai.

  • piloo

    We have double standards in our way of life.Defender of Faith seems to oblivious of the fact that Uthamna of late JRD Tata, (though not initiated in our religion and buried in France) was performed that too at Bombay Doongerwadi.Yet the same self proclaimed torchbearers of our faith want to deny Bungli facility for prayers of Parsee Zorostrian if he/she opts for alternate method of disposal.It is such hypocricy that alienates true Zoroastrians from the mainstream and compels them to have a separate Fire Temple. Why invoke curses against those who want to establish a separate Agiary. In fact it is an eye opener for various Bombay City Agiaries reeling under financial losses and making “APPEALS” for donations to augment their income by being more practical and moving with times rather than be pressurised by rabid obsolete minds.

  • Delnavaz

    Hi Phiroz,
    i have been to the Delhi Agiary and there is definitely a restriction on anyone but a Parsee/Irani entering the Agiary. In Bombay, if people of other communities have entered, they have done so illegally. Since you claim to know some of them who have done so, you can report the matter to the Panthaki & ask him to take all care that this does not happen again. Every religion has certain restrictions & adhereing to them does not make anyone a fanatic.

  • phiroz

    Delnavaz,
    Where have I stated that one should not follow basic restrictions?Let our Fire Temples follow the stipulations of their repective Trust Deeds.My argument is that if somebody wants to establish a place of worship which is open to those half Parsees who are otherwise denied admission to Parsi Fire Temples, why should people like “Defender of Faith” complain and call them Evil.Are we not seeing springing up of Mosques in places like Udwada and Navsari?
    By the way, Trust Deed of which Parsee Fire Temple stipulates that first four days Death Ceremonies will not be performed if the deceased is not consigned to Dakhma, and that this rule is applicable only for Bombay Parsees and NOT for those abroad? If you know of such Trust Deeds please give me the benefit of your knowledge.
    As regards your piece of wisdom that I ought to have broughjt to the attention of the priests about the entry of non parsee in Bombay Fire Temple,it appears you have not visied Fire Temples at odd hours like noon and late evening in Fort, CP Tank etc.Please visit such fire temples at such hours and see for yourself the availabilty of Priest in the sanctum sanctorum. Besides,it is impossible for a priest to ask a female to show her sudreh, kusti.Be practical is my humble suggestion.
    Most fire temples in Mumbai display sign “Admission for Parsees ONLY”. You seem to be unaware of many Parsee Catholics who have renounced our holy Religion for material benefits.In terms of such Notice, such “Parsees” can enter Fire Temples if they so choose but not a Zoroastrian not born as a Surat/Bombay Parsee.

  • danish

    It seems some persons believe that orthodoxy is synonymous with rigidity. Sudreh and Kashtee are part and parcel of our religion.But in which year the ‘JANTAAR” for making Kashtee was invented?
    In India textile mill was first estblished in mid 19th century.In fact spinning jenny is the result of industrial revolution. What was the ‘material’ from which Sudreh was made prior to 19th Century?
    Likewise,in the time of our Prophet, electricity was unknown.
    Have we not changed with times.
    It is a fashion to-day to proclaim oneself as ‘orthodox’ just to beget some votes in BPP Election.To compare customs in Iran, a rocky country in times of the prophet to circumstances that prevail to day is to contradict the Prophet Himself who was the Reformer in truest sense of the term.

  • Delnavaz

    Hey Phrioz,
    Please ready my earlier mail carefully.
    Ocourse people who want to establish their own place of worship they should do so. I think it is terrific that they have done just that. As long as they do not try and impose their way of thinking on others who think differently. I do not recollect mentioning anywhere that the 4 days ceremony cannot be peformed if the deceased is not consigned to the Dakhma. If you know of any instance where I have mentioned this, please let me know.
    Agiarys in BOmbay are very often shut in the afternoon, so as to prevent non Parsis from entering the Agiary. Most places of worship are trying their best under the present circumstances to retain the sanctity of the Agiary.
    I am not aware of Parsee’s who have renounced their religion but still enter the Agiary. Obviously you do & being such a vocal person that you obviously are, why dont you be more specific about who these people are & which Agiary are they entering.

  • Delnavaz

    The Sudreh Kushti were invented by our Prophet about 8000 years ago. What Iran’s topography was at that time is something no one can be sure of. Though textile mills were established in India in the 19th century, people in India or the world were obviously not waiting for the Industrial Revolution to wear clothes. Cottage industries existed & cloth was woven by hand. Before what we today called the’Jantaar’there were other instruments on which the kushti was woven. If you read ‘Arda Viraf’a religious text which must have been written around 226-240 AD during the Sassanian period, wherein a description of after life is mentioned, you will find several references to the sudreh kushti. Hope this helps

  • phirozaban

    Delnavaz,
    What I have mentioned is the language of the Notice displayed outside Fire Temples “Admission For Parsees only” I have not stated that Parsee Catholics enter fire temples, what I have stated is that as per the language A Parsee Catholic ‘can’ enter a fire temple but a Zoroastrian from place other than born in India can not. I have used the word ‘can’ in my earlier post.
    Futher, I have pointed out the diktat on use of Doongerwadi Bunglis at Mumbai being not allowed to Parsees who opt for alternate method of disposal as an illustration of double standards adopted by the community elders. Thus we have one set of ‘restrictions’ for Mumbai/ Surat and another criterion for other places.
    Even those who die abroad and buried/cremated can get their 4 days ceremonies performed in Mumbai Fire Temples.

  • Zubin K Patel

    As a Parsi, I am married to another caste as I was caught with epilepsy, considered a sister to leprosy in our community; specially when it caught of me 22 years ago. I served /afs/, an org. with a cluster of Parsis who would not even eat besides me. My widowed mother begged for a girl to marry me. NO, was the answer. Then an old-time friend offered to settle down with me and today I have a sweet 7-year daughter whose growth is my aim in life. I’d be indebted for two things: a) my spouse’s entry into a fire-temple, and b)a house in the Nirlon Colony.
    Thank you.

  • Dhongidox

    Interesting conversation going on in here. in reply to AD i think i know the agiary in question id like to state that the walky is a definitely a hindrance but id also like to state one thing that i have seen with my own eyes and that is she has asked a boy to perform his kusti before going into the fire temple and it turned out that he was not wearing either a sadra or a kusti, so you decide whether he should have been allowed inside or not.

    By the way I will make it a point to request (again) that the phone be shifted elsewhere.( I believe a lot of people requesting politely will definitely lead to some positive result… remember gandhigiri?)

    it is a fashion to deride people or to label them as orthodox or reformist but do we ever try to find out why they are so? I am sure that no matter how anti-religion a person might seem but there is the fear of God somewhere inside him/her, i refuse to believe that a person would not spare a thought before/after committing any deed may it be good or bad.

    we are a small community why are we mudslinging….. why is manoj nair so interested in us that suddenly he keeps on dishing out article after article on the parsis…. Our religion is so great that it recognizes the right of each person each human being to worship in his/her own way why do we want to force our beliefs on other people. Cyrus the great freed the Jews from captivity…… why should the orthodox or the reformists try to enforce their view on each other each person has a mind and each place has its rules so if we cannot follow the same and want to blaze a trail so be it… Let there be 2 separate groups of parsis Orthodox and reformist time will tell who was right and who was not…. but that dosent mean that in the present we should have a tussle between the two.

    My best wishes to the people who are trying to erect a paak makan for the intermarried zoroastrians. We need this to happen so that the orthodox and the reformists may finally live in peace because disharmony causes evil in the universe and it is a zoroastrians first duty to fight against evil.

    …and parsi culture might be 99% hindu but the values were definitely zoroastrian (until sometime ago when we conveniently forgot our past heritage our religious beliefs which guided us as we led our lives) and the suffering that we have been subjected to after the arab invasion in Iran. It is sad that we have forgotten the sacrifices of our forefathers and the zoroastrians who were strung to their death by their kusti for refusing to convert under the sword.

    History never forgives people who forget history.

    yaad rakho be bilari ni vachma vandro faavi jai.

    (if you get angry or agitated by reading this post i am sorry for causing you discomfort … but i just felt the urge to write today)

  • An Observer.

    Is this issue regarding a Grant Road (East) Agiary? If so yes,outside the Fire Temple, I too have heard scores of Zorastrians who come to pray on Fridays complaining of offensive conduct of the wife of Panthaky. Nearly a thousand Zorastrians must be visiting this holy place on each Friday.If even a dozen are antagonised by her conduct, there is certainly something wrong in her upbringing.It is not an issue of Liberals/Reformists v/s Orthodox / Traditionalists as Dhongidox portrays.There are Atashbehrams and innumerable Agiaries in Mumbai and I have never observed such dad conduct elsewhere.

  • An Observer.

    Is this issue regarding a Grant Road (East) Agiary? If so yes,outside the Fire Temple, I too have heard scores of Zorastrians who come to pray on Fridays complaining of offensive conduct of the wife of Panthaky. Nearly a thousand Zorastrians must be visiting this holy place on each Friday.If even a dozen are antagonised by her conduct, there is certainly something wrong in her upbringing.It is not an issue of Liberals/Reformists v/s Orthodox / Traditionalists as Dhongidox portrays.There are Atashbehrams and innumerable Agiaries in Mumbai and I have never observed such Bad conduct elsewhere.

  • Danesh

    Dear AD I have not asked you to pratice gandhigiri, that part of the comment was meant for everyone on the forum so please dont take it personally and she being very arrogant, cranky and insulting
    she obviously cant practice gandhigiri because you need to be of a polite and firm nature to be able to do that.

    also id like to re-emphasize that i am not defending anyone here because i am no lawyer but i will again request her to relocate the walky when i visit the agiary this friday.

    and if she has been rude to you or cranky with you or anyone else in front of you why don’t you take it up with her?

    I think i have made my stance very clear so please do not attempt to place me in the hot-seat and make me a party to the defense / offense because i have no locus standi in this matter and i am not going to defend the arrogant cranky/insulting behavior of anyone as it is none of my business.

    I made some observations and suggested some remedies yesterday because i felt that there was too much of anger being vented out on this forum and i read Parsi Khabar very regularly so i thought i should say something because i too visit the agiary every friday morning before going to work.

    i refuse to be drawn into making charges and counter charges.(That is one of the reasons i don’t comment ever because it always leads to someone making the wrong assumptions….. my comments are adjourned sine die)

  • framji

    A Mobile phone in a Fire Temple? Unbelivable. Why should some devotees ‘request’ the priests’ wife to remove it. Does she not have basic common sense? Who are the Trustees – their names please. Are these trustees not able to enforce some discipline? Have they become Trustees just to lend their names and earn some fame? Remedy lies in removing the Panthaky if he can not control his own wife.
    I have E mail addresses of our worthy high Priests and will let them know if full details are provided.

  • dannyboy

    One post above states that he saw with his own eyes the wife of the Panthaky stopping a Parsee boy not wearing Sadreh & Kusti from enetering the Fire Temple.As if that act entitles any individual to be boorish. What if instead of a boy/man had it been a girl/woman not wearing Sadreh -Kusti and just going for a minute behind the partition pretending to have performed Kusti and then entering?Boarders should desist from preaching pompously and then running away.

  • Delnavaz

    Hi,
    There is no reason for anyone to be boorish. However, she was absolutely correct in stoping a boy from entering a fire temple since he was not wearing a Sadreh & Kusti. Yes, there may be Parsees who would enter the Fire Temple without wearing a Sadreh & Kusti & it would not be possible to detect the same. However, since the Panthaky’s wife did notice this in this particular incident, it would be absurd not to take any action, just because many more might have entered the Agiary undetected. The Sadreh & Kusti are mandatory in our religion & the least one can do is refrain from entering the Fire Temple when not wearing the Sadreh & Kusti.

  • dannyboy

    Delnavaz,
    Kindly read all previous posts of various individuals complaining of boorish behaviour of Panthaky’s wife. I have no where tried to sya that bacause she stopped a boy not wearing sadreh/kusti, she is boorish. What I have stated is that this one incident of corrective nature does not entitle the Wife of Panthaky to misbehave with all devotees. Do you approve of a Mobile phone within the precincts of Main Hall of the Fire temple being installed by the Panthaky.?Is it clear to you now?

  • Delnavaz

    Hey Dannyboy, don’t jump the gun. pls read my email carefully. It is not solely addressed to you or anyone in particular. I am addressing 2 separte issues :- (a)boorish behaviour should not not tolerated (b) Sadreh kusti is a must. If and when detected that a person is not wearing one in the Fire Temple, he/she needs to be stopped.
    Hope this clarifies matters & your BP level comes back to its normal level!
    Cheers

  • dannyboy

    Dear Delnavaz,
    One of the earlier bloggers has rightly questioned whether the ‘Boy’ who was stopped from entering this particular Fire Temple was old enough to have had his Navjote performed. Secondly, what if instead of a male if it were a female who went behind the “Partition” pretending to have performed the Kasti and then entering, though NOT WEARING SUDREH or Kusti.In how many Fire temples do we find such type of Chowkidars, though I fully agree with you that as a principle none should be allowed entry into Fire Temples without such ‘devotees’ wearing the Sacred Thread and Sudreh.
    We can not become conscience keepers for others. If they want to commit a sin, who are we to become guardian angels? I am a frequent visitor to many a Fire Temples in South Mumbai. I find the conduct of Panthaky Mr. Yezdi Aibara of Karani Fire Temple and his noble mother to be an excellent example for others to follow.Politeness with firmness is required not banal and odious behaviour to maintain decorum of a fire temple.