Allahabad Parsis Relying on ‘temporary’ Parsi priest for rituals

ALLAHABAD: Even as the heads count of the Parsi community is diminishing, both in the Sangam city as well as across the country, the community is struggling to find a ‘Mobed’ (Priest) to perform various rituals spanning from birth of individual to his death.

Even in this crucial juncture, the Atash Behram or the Holy fire at the Fire Temple is kept burning by the efforts of members of this community, just a dozen head counts in the city, who have either placed the wooden log in the fire by themselves or arranged for a ‘Para-Mobed’ (a ‘temporary’ priest who performs holy rituals along with daily routine). And when there is just one priest in the entire state, that too quite elderly, technological avatar in form of audio cassettes or Parsi people conducting the rituals by their own come to fill the vacuum, especially in the last voyage of life.

For the population of Parsi, living in different districts of Uttar Pradesh, the community has just one priest living in Kanpur and he too has seen around 80 winters. Because of this shortage, when Parsi Zoroastrian priests is required to perform the Navjote ceremony – i.e. the rite of admission into the religion for children, the child and other family members, travels to Kanpur or Mumbai. “There is dearth of ‘Mobed’ in the entire country leave aside this small town, but the Atash Behram (holy fire) is kept ignited and will continue”, said Veera Gandhi who owns the Fire temple of the city and has arranged for a Para-mobed from Mumbai who has the responsibility of keeping the fire burning.

“I am working as gardener for the past 35 years and seen that memsaab has made some or the other arrangement to keep the fire in the temple burning,” said elderly Ram Lal, the guard of ‘Lejar Shapoorjee Ghandhi Dar.E.Maher’, the fire temple of the city.

“Although there is the dearth of the priest, we have to manage by our own while performing the last rites or any other rituals as what happened when Captain Dandiwala was buried in the Parsi Cemetery few years ago. The population of Parsis was around two dozen just a few years ago, but half of that numbers are presently left in the city. Our population is shirking in small towns as some would die and other would move to bigger cities,” said Cyrus Framjee.

The number of Parsis has been steadily declining for several decades. The highest census counted was of 1,14,890 individuals in 1940-41 which included united India. But now, with a decline by approximately 9% per decade, demographic trends project that by the year 2020 the Parsis will number only 23,000 as per the 2011 Census the population is just around 40, 000. Situation in Allahabad, follows the national trend. The community, which has formed Allahabad Parsee 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 8 years now, the duty was performed by couple of Para-Mobed (a temporary priest which performs holy rituals along with daily routine). Couple of years ago, Dairus, one of the Parsi of the city, used to visit the temple twice every day and performed the prayers and put the log, but after his moving 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 or the Holy fire flaming.

Any man or woman marrying an outsider is considered as 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 number is diminishing and so is the problem of finding Mobed and now even Para Mobed, feels the members of the community.

  • xyz

    Census of Parsi Zoroastrians in India in the year 2001 was 69,761. Results of  Next Census will come out on 29th February, 2012. In mumbai, every year, 300 births take place and 900 deaths take place. There are so many parsi priests in mumbai who are unemployed and under employed. It was pity to read about a priest financial situation in parsi times of 31st december, 2011. Bpp can easily find an unemployed young priest to migrate to Allahbad if they want to but do they have any inclination to help any unemployed parsi priest ??? Family Accomodation with good salary and perks can be given by BPP mumbai. The answer is NO. They do not have time to work hard. They are all Hardly working Trustees. I am sure there is a solution which we all can find out if there is UNITY amongst Parsees.

  • xyz

    Census of Parsi Zoroastrians in India in the year 2001 was 69,761. Results of  Next Census will come out on 29th February, 2012. In mumbai, every year, 300 births take place and 900 deaths take place. There are so many parsi priests in mumbai who are unemployed and under employed. It was pity to read about a priest financial situation in parsi times of 31st december, 2011. Bpp can easily find an unemployed young priest to migrate to Allahbad if they want to but do they have any inclination to help any unemployed parsi priest ??? Family Accomodation with good salary and perks can be given by BPP mumbai. The answer is NO. They do not have time to work hard. They are all Hardly working Trustees. I am sure there is a solution which we all can find out if there is UNITY amongst Parsees.

  • Behram

    “the Atash Behram or the Holy fire at the Fire Temple is kept burning by the efforts of members of this community,”
    “but the Atash Behram (holy fire) is kept ignited and will continue”
    “to keep the ‘Atash Behram or the Holy fire flaming”
    Whosoever has written this article does not know the meaning of an Atash Behram. There is no Atash Behram in Allahabad. As such all the three statements above are wrong.

  • Behram

    “the Atash Behram or the Holy fire at the Fire Temple is kept burning by the efforts of members of this community,”
    “but the Atash Behram (holy fire) is kept ignited and will continue”
    “to keep the ‘Atash Behram or the Holy fire flaming”
    Whosoever has written this article does not know the meaning of an Atash Behram. There is no Atash Behram in Allahabad. As such all the three statements above are wrong.

  • Teheran Yadak

    This is the mission of priest in all religions, to destroy them by any means.

  • Teheran Yadak

    This is the mission of priest in all religions, to destroy them by any means.

  • Icchaporia

    This is precisely what is going to occur in place like Mumbai fifty years hence. Those who talk of sanctity of Trust Deeds created  a century ago under different set of circumstances. These so termed Traditionalists behave as though they alone know the authentic concept of Religion talk in language ‘those who want change should set up their own institutions’ would do well to read this Article with magnifying glasses and think beyond their noses.

  • Icchaporia

    This is precisely what is going to occur in place like Mumbai fifty years hence. Those who talk of sanctity of Trust Deeds created  a century ago under different set of circumstances. These so termed Traditionalists behave as though they alone know the authentic concept of Religion talk in language ‘those who want change should set up their own institutions’ would do well to read this Article with magnifying glasses and think beyond their noses.

  • Baria_law

    i want to comment here that with inbreeding the good qualities are also accentuated……the acumen and intelligence quotients amongst jews and parsis is well documented…..
    the only problem here is absolute bar to intermarried or their issue joining the faith…again….there are probably three times the official number if you count these individuals who would be encouraged to join the faith and bring in new blood…..and in diaspora outside india….the intermarried incidence is nearly universal…..
    so if this can be addressed…….community will thrive….

  • Baria_law

    i want to comment here that with inbreeding the good qualities are also accentuated……the acumen and intelligence quotients amongst jews and parsis is well documented…..
    the only problem here is absolute bar to intermarried or their issue joining the faith…again….there are probably three times the official number if you count these individuals who would be encouraged to join the faith and bring in new blood…..and in diaspora outside india….the intermarried incidence is nearly universal…..
    so if this can be addressed…….community will thrive….

  • Phiroze

    At the same time if all and sundry married outsiders are accepted there will be no Parsis left anyways. Let the members of the community first agree to take very good care of the economic condition of the mobeds if they want to find any. Just crying about the problem is not going to help.

  • Phiroze

    At the same time if all and sundry married outsiders are accepted there will be no Parsis left anyways. Let the members of the community first agree to take very good care of the economic condition of the mobeds if they want to find any. Just crying about the problem is not going to help.

  • Phiroze

    Most of such articles are sponsered by vested interest and written by reporters who have no knowlege of Parsi traditions and culture. Such write ups are not worth the paper they are printed on !!!!!!!!

  • Phiroze

    Most of such articles are sponsered by vested interest and written by reporters who have no knowlege of Parsi traditions and culture. Such write ups are not worth the paper they are printed on !!!!!!!!

  • Phiroze

    Why should BPP spend good money for just a dozen Parsis in UP? They are reaping the fruits of what they sowed as other places in India except in Mumbai and few places in Gujarat where the Parsi traditions are followed to a large extent. We the Parsis do not need any unity with such so called progressives. 

  • Phiroze

    Why should BPP spend good money for just a dozen Parsis in UP? They are reaping the fruits of what they sowed as other places in India except in Mumbai and few places in Gujarat where the Parsi traditions are followed to a large extent. We the Parsis do not need any unity with such so called progressives. 

  • Contradhongi

    BEHRAM IS CORRECT. THERE IS NO ATASHBEHRAM  IN STATES OTHER THAN  MAHARASHTRA AND GUJARAT. But the important question here is scarcity of Priests willing to work full time and dwindling population of Parsees making it difficult for places of worship to be maintained. Time has come to merge the Fire Temples and proceeds from sale of Land be used as a corpus to have a team of full time  Priests willing to travel at any place for performing rites, rituals etc.

  • Contradhongi

    BEHRAM IS CORRECT. THERE IS NO ATASHBEHRAM  IN STATES OTHER THAN  MAHARASHTRA AND GUJARAT. But the important question here is scarcity of Priests willing to work full time and dwindling population of Parsees making it difficult for places of worship to be maintained. Time has come to merge the Fire Temples and proceeds from sale of Land be used as a corpus to have a team of full time  Priests willing to travel at any place for performing rites, rituals etc.

  • Phiroze

    Why should the BPP spend for just a dozen Parsis in UP?. Let these Parsis themselves find any unemployed priest and pay him from their own pockets.  

  • Phiroze

    Why should the BPP spend for just a dozen Parsis in UP?. Let these Parsis themselves find any unemployed priest and pay him from their own pockets.  

  • Percy Madon

    So what do you want to say here Arzan? What are you projecting here? Best thing would be to hold a few gambhar’s there. See how well all the hungry people come out in such times. Hold a gambhar and VOILA! Surely some parsis will definately get interested in the property first, and then its religious ethics. A large amount of discussion will be on property and then may be a few lines, just like you did here, will be on either the progeny or spiritual existance of the fire temple. Soon a trustee will appear from nowhere and will get instant appraisals. This place?

  • Percy Madon

    So what do you want to say here Arzan? What are you projecting here? Best thing would be to hold a few gambhar’s there. See how well all the hungry people come out in such times. Hold a gambhar and VOILA! Surely some parsis will definately get interested in the property first, and then its religious ethics. A large amount of discussion will be on property and then may be a few lines, just like you did here, will be on either the progeny or spiritual existance of the fire temple. Soon a trustee will appear from nowhere and will get instant appraisals. This place?

  • Contradhongi

    Phiroze is absolutely right. Why should BPP defray expenses of a Priest in U.P.
    As for his second comment that such write ups are not worth the paper they are printed on, I wonder that if that was so, why so many persons including himself make comments on. These are bare facts starring at the community on brink of extinction which is irreversible. By blocking facts and statistics one can not say that problem does not exist.

  • Contradhongi

    Phiroze is absolutely right. Why should BPP defray expenses of a Priest in U.P.
    As for his second comment that such write ups are not worth the paper they are printed on, I wonder that if that was so, why so many persons including himself make comments on. These are bare facts starring at the community on brink of extinction which is irreversible. By blocking facts and statistics one can not say that problem does not exist.

  • Contradhongi

    Phiroze is absolutely right. Why should BPP defray expenses of a Priest in U.P.
    As for his second comment that such write ups are not worth the paper they are printed on, I wonder that if that was so, why so many persons including himself make comments on. These are bare facts starring at the community on brink of extinction which is irreversible. By blocking facts and statistics one can not say that problem does not exist.

  • xyz

    Arranging Ghambar for 12 persons is not at-all advisable. Instead a priest can be sent from mumbai to work there full time. BPP mumbai can definetely sponsor one priest with accomodation and good salary and perks.

  • xyz

    Arranging Ghambar for 12 persons is not at-all advisable. Instead a priest can be sent from mumbai to work there full time. BPP mumbai can definetely sponsor one priest with accomodation and good salary and perks.

  • Percy Madon

    Array Nai Yaar! what I am trying to say is, we need more parsis THERE! to see what Allahbad holds are legacy and not religion at ALLAHBAD. If 300 Parsis can come to Udvada to eat FREE FOOD, why not Allahbad for a Gambhar? The amount of property, all doing without parsis is not right naa? 12 parsis holding all that property yaaar! think again…Agyari, religion, community… all that is secondary, first is wealth…..remember?… if this wasnt the case, why would ALLAHBAD be without parsis? SO… show it as wealth, only then it will ring bells ( not bouy). Because Aryari, religion community is secondary bava…

  • Percy Madon

    Array Nai Yaar! what I am trying to say is, we need more parsis THERE! to see what Allahbad holds are legacy and not religion at ALLAHBAD. If 300 Parsis can come to Udvada to eat FREE FOOD, why not Allahbad for a Gambhar? The amount of property, all doing without parsis is not right naa? 12 parsis holding all that property yaaar! think again…Agyari, religion, community… all that is secondary, first is wealth…..remember?… if this wasnt the case, why would ALLAHBAD be without parsis? SO… show it as wealth, only then it will ring bells ( not bouy). Because Aryari, religion community is secondary bava…

  • Phiroze

    Why should BPP sponsor the priest?. Are the Allahbad Parsis not capable of doing so????? BPP should concentrate on Bombay or Mumbai only as its name suggest.

  • Phiroze

    Why should BPP sponsor the priest?. Are the Allahbad Parsis not capable of doing so????? BPP should concentrate on Bombay or Mumbai only as its name suggest.

  • Phiroze

    Contradhongi why I comment on such write ups is to expose the half truths and twisted facts that are usually contained in them as in the above about the so called Atash Behram in Allahbad. I am sure others like Behram also comment for the same reason. As regards community being on brink of extinction which is irreversible what do you suggest on the facts and statistics to solve the problem without changing the tenets of our religion. 

  • Phiroze

    Contradhongi why I comment on such write ups is to expose the half truths and twisted facts that are usually contained in them as in the above about the so called Atash Behram in Allahbad. I am sure others like Behram also comment for the same reason. As regards community being on brink of extinction which is irreversible what do you suggest on the facts and statistics to solve the problem without changing the tenets of our religion.