April 3, 2006

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Issues | Opinion

by Mr. Noshir H. Dadrawala

Thanks for provoking me to respond on the latest controversy surrounding ‘Dokhmenashini. I believe this controversy has a time cycle of its own for the past century or more. Nearly a hundred years ago when there were enough vultures to dispose a dozen corpses in a day, a few ‘progressive Parsis’ had started a movement to establish a ‘Parsi Crematorium’. And about a quarter of a century ago Late S. R. Vakil entered a dokhma in Mumbai and warned of an epidemic and public health hazard.To date, there is not a single proven or documented case of an epidemic at Malabar Hill.

Let us assume, just for the sake of argument. that there is not a single bird of prey at doongerwadi. So what? Our Avestan scriptures refer to our system as “Hvare darasya (Persian: ‘khurshed Niganshni) which means exposure to the powerful and purifying, rays of the sun. Agreed, vultures play an important catalytical role. However. IT IS THE SUN WHICH PLAYS The PRIMARY ROLE.This primary source of energy and purification, with the-Grace of Dadaar Ahura Mazda, has NOT’ FAILED, How, then, can we say that our time- honoured system of ‘khurshed Nagarshini has failed?

You, Sir have alleged that bodies are periodically taken out of the towers and buried in mass graves. This is incorrect. Even a hundred years ago and more, when reportedly, there were more than a hundred vultures at doongerwadi, the contents & the “bhandar( (central well of the dokhma) had to be periodically emptied of bones and other dried remains. At no point of time, did the vultures devour even the bones.

Even today, the dried remains which are swept into the bhandar (central well) from the “pavis’ (consecrated stone slabs) are taken out after about a year and buried in pits which are lined with stone and layers of salt and lime, The question arises, is this doctrinally tenable?The answer, happily, is in the affirmative. The Zoroastrian tradition distinguish between “lilo nasu” (green / fresh nasu, with water content, which should be exposed to the Sun for purification and cannot be buried for fear of contamination) and “sukho naso (dried nasu, which may be buried without fear of spreading pollution).

In ‘Vendidad’, Fargard VIII 33(107) Zarathushtra questions, “0 Maker of the material world, Thou Holy One! Shall the man be clean who has touched a corpse that has been dried up and dead for more than a year? “34(108) Ahura Mazda answered ‘He shall. The dry mingles not with The dry.”

Vendidad. Sacred Books of the East, Vol. 4, translated by James Darmesteter pg. l03 Introduction V (pgXCV) of the aforesaid book states, “.. wet matter is a better conductor of uncleanness than dry matter, and corpses cease to defile after a year.

Further, on the issue of health hazard, it may interest you to know that the scientific medical reality defies conventional logic. According to a press release of the World Health Organization (WHO) The health hazard associated with dead bodies is negligible.’ {Press Release WHO42;20-8-1999 W.H0. warns against Health Misconceptions in the wake of Turkish Earthquake

WHO, Dept of Emergency and Humanitarian Action) in itsTechnical Briefing Note (Geneva, 18-8-1999) states, “A RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CADAVERS AND EPIDEMICS HAS NEVER BEEN SCIENTIFICALLY DEMONSTRATED OR REPORTED.

In Conclusion, l can only state that those who are uncomfortable with the traditional system for the disposal of the dead are welcome to explore other systems. However please allow those who believe in the system to practice what they have been doing for centuries. with peace and dignity.

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