Allahabad Parsis struggle to keep Atash burning

Even as the population of the Parsi community is diminishing, in the Sangam city as well as across the country, the community of Tata’s, Godrej’s, Wadia’s, Bhabha’s, Maneckshaw’s, is struggling with the crunch of finding a ‘Mobed’ (Priest) to perform various rituals spanning from birth to death.

By Rajiv Mani | TNN

At this crucial juncture, the ‘Atash Behram’ or the holy flame at the fire temple is kept burning by the efforts of members of the community, just about 10 to 12 left in the city, who either place wooden logs in the fire themselves or arrange for a Para-Mobed (a make-shift priest to perform holy rituals along with daily routine). When there is just one priest in the entire state, that too quite elderly, technology comes to rescue in the form of audio CDs or Parsi people conducting the rituals on their own,

especially in the last journey of life.

For all the Parsis living in different districts of Uttar Pradesh, the community has just one priest who lives in Kanpur and he too has seen around 80 winters. Because of this shortage, when Parsi Zoroastrian priests is required to perform the baptism ceremony for children, the child and other family members travel to Kanpur or Mumbai. "There is dearth of ‘Mobed’ in the entire country, but the Atash Behram (holy fire) is kept glowing and will continue", said Veera Gandhi who owns the fire temple in the city and has arranged for a Para-Mobed from Mumbai to keep the fire burning.

"I am working as gardener here for the past 35 years and have seen how ma’am (Gandhi) has made some arrangement or the other to keep the fire in the temple burning," says Ram Lal, the guard of ‘Lejar Shapoorjee Ghandhi Dar.E.Maher’, the fire temple of the city.

"Since there is dearth of priests, we have to manage on our own to perform the last rites or any other rituals as in the case when Captain Dandiwala was buried in the Parsi Cemetery a few years ago. The population of Parsi’s was around 24 till a few years ago and only half the number is left. Our population is shrinking in small towns as some died and others moved to bigger cities", said a Parsi youth of the city.

The number of Parsis has been declining for several decades: the highest census counted was of 1,14,890 individuals in 1940-41 which included count in

the united India. But now, with a fall of approximately 9% per decade, demographic trends project that by the year 2020 the Parsis’ number will fall to 23,000 as according to 2011 census the population is just around 40, 000.

Situation here at Allahabad, follows the national trends. The community, which has formed the Allahabad Parsi-Zoroastrian Anjuman, has few families and 12 heads count. Earlier, there was a Mobed performing rituals in the sole fire temple of the city, but after his departure, for over eight years ago, the duty was performed by a couple of Para-Mobeds. Couple of years ago, Dairus, one of the Parsis of the city, used to visit the temple twice every day and perform prayers and put the log into the fire, but after he moved to Delhi, Veera Ghandhi arranged for the Para-Mobed for the temple, foundation stone of which was laid on March 23, 1930.

The community, facing all odds, has managed to keep the ‘Atash Behram’ burning.

Any man or woman marrying an outsider is considered an outcast as a result of in-breeding, high incidence of genetic defects has set in. Asthma, heart and neurological problems, myopia, and depression have become hereditary.

Thus, the problem of finding Mobed or even Para Mobed, feel members of the community.

  • Of course the whole community is going to hell in a hand basket! Younger Parsees are leaving the religion, those that want to join are told to “f*ck off,” women are not allowed to hold any religions office, Parsees who marry outside the fold are either told that their spouses are not welcome or that they themselves are now outcast, and all-in-all the corruption, closed-mindedness and horrendous way the BPP is running things are all coming to the fore.

    Well, the Shitake mushrooms are going to hit the fan sooner rather than later, when there will be NO mobeds to replace the ones now active (mostly on life support from what I have seen), and the fire in the agiaries is going to simply fizzle out.

    Good show BPP! Nice going Piloomani! Congrads Pheroze! You all are getting what you want! The total destruction of the community!

    Good job!

  • Of course the whole community is going to hell in a hand basket! Younger Parsees are leaving the religion, those that want to join are told to “f*ck off,” women are not allowed to hold any religions office, Parsees who marry outside the fold are either told that their spouses are not welcome or that they themselves are now outcast, and all-in-all the corruption, closed-mindedness and horrendous way the BPP is running things are all coming to the fore.

    Well, the Shitake mushrooms are going to hit the fan sooner rather than later, when there will be NO mobeds to replace the ones now active (mostly on life support from what I have seen), and the fire in the agiaries is going to simply fizzle out.

    Good show BPP! Nice going Piloomani! Congrads Pheroze! You all are getting what you want! The total destruction of the community!

    Good job!

  • Deekree Siloo, thank you for the laughs in the new year. Places like Allahbad, Delhi Jhansi always welcomed all comers and yet are facing the number problems which you are trying to blame on Mumbai Parsis and BPP. Stop being silly siloo and realise that the pill you are offering has already put the patient to a slow and sure death in these places. BPP has nothing to do with these places. Fires are fizzling out because you and your so called enlightened and liberal friends did not pay and care for the mobeds who dedicated their lives to the ungratefools (the spelling is intentional) like you.

  • Deekree Siloo, thank you for the laughs in the new year. Places like Allahbad, Delhi Jhansi always welcomed all comers and yet are facing the number problems which you are trying to blame on Mumbai Parsis and BPP. Stop being silly siloo and realise that the pill you are offering has already put the patient to a slow and sure death in these places. BPP has nothing to do with these places. Fires are fizzling out because you and your so called enlightened and liberal friends did not pay and care for the mobeds who dedicated their lives to the ungratefools (the spelling is intentional) like you.

  • Deekree Siloo, thank you for the laughs in the new year. Places like Allahbad, Delhi Jhansi always welcomed all comers and yet are facing the number problems which you are trying to blame on Mumbai Parsis and BPP. Stop being silly siloo and realise that the pill you are offering has already put the patient to a slow and sure death in these places. BPP has nothing to do with these places. Fires are fizzling out because you and your so called enlightened and liberal friends did not pay and care for the mobeds who dedicated their lives to the ungratefools (the spelling is intentional) like you.

  • Jimmy Hormusji

    I fully agree with Siloo Kapadia, its not only in Mumbai, but elsewhere too. Our mobeds are so selfish that they do not want young Mobeds to come up, they are busy fa*ting around either attending the activities of Zorastrian Club or giving lectures on Zorastrainism, expecting the young priests to slog like dogs. Last month there was an advertisement in Jame Jamshed, inviting applications for Mobed at Hyd Agairy, I would not advice young mobeds to get carried away by such ads and land up in a mess…They attract young mobeds to come and join them and if the Mobed happens to be smart enough, they feel insecure and start harassing them to such an extent that they are forced to put in their papers and then the great Secretary comes in the picture, threatening the mobed to vacate the mobed quarter. This is a speciality in our community, to put somebody down.

  • Jimmy Hormusji

    I fully agree with Siloo Kapadia, its not only in Mumbai, but elsewhere too. Our mobeds are so selfish that they do not want young Mobeds to come up, they are busy fa*ting around either attending the activities of Zorastrian Club or giving lectures on Zorastrainism, expecting the young priests to slog like dogs. Last month there was an advertisement in Jame Jamshed, inviting applications for Mobed at Hyd Agairy, I would not advice young mobeds to get carried away by such ads and land up in a mess…They attract young mobeds to come and join them and if the Mobed happens to be smart enough, they feel insecure and start harassing them to such an extent that they are forced to put in their papers and then the great Secretary comes in the picture, threatening the mobed to vacate the mobed quarter. This is a speciality in our community, to put somebody down.

  • KoremandShahparast

    Today more and more children of Dustoors whose naavar is duely performed opt for other professions such as engineering , medicine, banker etc and are not interested in continuing their forefather’s profession…We must respect their choice of profession and start initiating those Behdins as Priests who show their interest in the profession.
    I disagree with Mr. Phiroze Panthaki, that Behdins don’t pay good fees to Mobeds and show ungratefulness. Profession is a profession, either you opt for it or you don’t opt for it, its individual’s choice. Panthaki of agiaries keep a fix rate card for various prayers and rites performed by Mobeds. Behdin who want to avail of the service, pay for it. Its based on demand and supply economics. The question of being grateful or ungrateful does not arise.

  • KoremandShahparast

    Today more and more children of Dustoors whose naavar is duely performed opt for other professions such as engineering , medicine, banker etc and are not interested in continuing their forefather’s profession…We must respect their choice of profession and start initiating those Behdins as Priests who show their interest in the profession.
    I disagree with Mr. Phiroze Panthaki, that Behdins don’t pay good fees to Mobeds and show ungratefulness. Profession is a profession, either you opt for it or you don’t opt for it, its individual’s choice. Panthaki of agiaries keep a fix rate card for various prayers and rites performed by Mobeds. Behdin who want to avail of the service, pay for it. Its based on demand and supply economics. The question of being grateful or ungrateful does not arise.

  • Siloo Kapadia

    No Phiroze, my beloved little cow pie, fires are going FUSSSS because of the craziness of the BP and the Nazi-like policies that they are people like YOU espouse!

  • Siloo Kapadia

    No Phiroze, my beloved little cow pie, fires are going FUSSSS because of the craziness of the BP and the Nazi-like policies that they are people like YOU espouse!

  • If that were so my beloved pig pie, new fires would have been lit in places where mass conversions thru sham navjotes were or are being done.

  • Had the behdins taken care of the Dastoors earlier there would be no need for the rate cards today. As you sow so shall you reap. I am glad my parents made the right choice for me. You may disagree with me till the hens grow teeth but the consequences are there for all to see. BTW way I am glad that now the behdins have no choice but to pay the rate as per the card. Strange are the ways of the Lord.

  • zerxes dordi

    Many Panthakies who are greedy are the root cause. Have we not seen Panthakies moving in luxury Cars? Card rates have been introduced to stop exploitation of laity. Similar card rates for remuneration to Mobeds beed to eliminate exploitation by Panthakies.

  • Barak Aga

    This is welcome news. “Parsism” is dying out, and Zoroastrianism is being resuscitated. In an irony, a lower caste convert to Zoroastrianism has remarked, “Had the behdins taken care of the Dastoors ….”
    We thought it was the “Dastoors who had to take care of the Behdins”. And if these fraudsters need taking care of, why do we need them in the first place? Jettison them. And, if they need to be cared for, how can they stake claim to leading the community ……. (astray, if I may add). Zoroastrians have realised that these “Temples” are symbols of “Parjat” religions, and are the very antithesis of the core of the religion, which lays emphasis on Thoughts, Words and Deeds.

  • Siloo Kapadia

    Phiroze deekra, your views are so stupid that stupid is ashamed to be called stupid! How can people convert with all the discrimination and blockades you and your BPP Getapo puting their path, not t mention the money hogging. Toba deekra, toba!