Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Clarification on the Actress Debarred Issue

Last week we published an article that originally appreared in DNA India. It was written by Manoj Nair and titled “ Actress debarred from agiary revives gender bias debate “. Mr Nair regularly reports on the various issues that show the Parsi community in a negative light, as has been our observation for many years. The fire temple in question was the Behram Baug Agiary. And the head priest in question was Ervad Marzban Hathiram.

Today the DNA carries a clarification also written by Mr. Nair that actually contains facts that have been corroborated with the parties concerned and not just written based on hearsay.

This is questionable journalism and it just shows the community in a bad light. We at Parsi Khabar would be the first to note that not everything is going great within our community. There are small and large issues that the community faces today that it has not in the years and decades gone by.

However, the biased tabloid journalism and the opportunism of some individuals to constantly push their agenda, without having any connection with the topic at hand only incites the kind of polarizing views that one sees here in the comments on Parsi Khabar and in the local print media and essentially within the actual Parsi community per se.

Hopefully Mr. Nair will, in the future check facts and actually interview people who have something to do with the issue at hand and not a random person.

-Arzan Sam Wadia


Manoj Nair writes:

Last week, this space had reported about the renewed debate in the Parsi-Zoroastrian community about gender discrimination at fire temples. The discussion apparently started after reports that a shrine had debarred a television actress from attending the memorial service held for her deceased father because she had been married to a non-Zoroastrian.

The head priest of the Oshiwara fire temple has since said that the actress was never debarred. The actress has also said that she had been regularly going to the agiary for the ceremonies.

So, where did the talk about the actress being denied entry to the religious service originate from? Apparently, when the names of the family members of the deceased were read out during the memorial service, the actress’ name was not announced. She confirmed this, but added that this was not because she had been married a non-Zoroastrian. She said there were other religious reasons for that.

Vispy Wadia, a member of community group Association for Revival of Zoroastrianism said that it was discriminative if the daughter’s name was excluded because she was married outside the community. But the head priest of the fire temple explained the incident saying that her family had not asked for her name to be included in the prayers. The priest said that there could be ritual reasons for that.

However, in his correspondence to a community member, the priest, who describes his personal views as ‘orthodox’, said that relatives attending memorial services were aware that his agiary had strict rules regarding intermarried Parsis. He also said that his fire temple had the right to frame policies in accordance with the community’s traditions and customs.

In Mumbai, fire temples do not discriminate between men and women married to non-Zoroastrians. But there have been cases in Gujarat where women have been denied entry for the reason. While there has been a divide in the community about the issue, some of the highest religious authorities in the community have very liberal views on the subject.

In an interview to FEZANA, a magazine brought out by Zoroastrians settled in North America, Dastur Khurshed, the high priest of the fire temple at Udvada in Gujarat, one of the holiest shrines, said that a man or woman from the community had equal right to attend a place of worship if they had married their non-Zoroastrian partner in a civil ceremony (meaning they had changed their religion in the process). This view of his, he said, had been derived from a statement made in 1968 by a great religious scholar in the community. The Dastur, however, clarified that he was not advocating or favouring inter-community marriages.