Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Have they been barred from entering the temple?

A notice at a fire temple prohibiting inter-married Parsi-Zoroastrian women from bringing their children has them wondering whether their religious rights are at stake

All fire temples in the city have a board outside announcing that only Parsis can enter them. But a fire temple at Marine Lines has added another notice prohibiting Parsi women married to non-Zoroastrians from bringing their children to worship.

By Manoj Nair / DNA

Though trustees of the fire temple said that the notice is an old one, some of the people who read the notice were confused by the message. “The law is very clear — women who are married outside the community can enter the fire temple if she continues to practice her old faith,” said a trustee of the fire temple.

But when reports about the notice went around the community recently, Parsi women married outside the community wondered whether they were being barred from the temple. A member of the Association of Inter-Married Zoroastrians (AIMZ), a group largely representing Parsi women married outside the community, consulted a lawyer to find out what this meant.

“I have been visiting the temple and have never faced a problem. But I have not been to the temple this year and wondered whether I would be barred henceforth,” she said. She was comforted by her lawyer who said that the notice probably restricted women married to non-Zoroastrians from only taking their children into the fire temple.

In Mumbai, there has been no restriction on women from entering a fire temple even if they are married to non-Zoroastrians, provided they have not changed their religion. “If a woman is married under the Special Marriage Act, it was assumed that she continued to practice her religion and she could not be stopped from using religious and other community facilities provided to Zoroastrians. It was a settled issue,” said a member of AIMZ. “We cannot go to the court for everything.”

But the notice outside the Marine Lines temple have left many inter-married women wondering whether they will have to approach the courts in the future to enforce their religious rights.

In some small towns, women have sought justice from the courts.

Goolrukh Gupta, a Napeansea Road resident, has filed a petition in the Gujarat high court after her friend married to a Hindu businessman was stopped from entering a fire temple at Valsad during her mother’s funeral.

“In 2003, when her father died, she was allowed to join the prayers because the trustees who managed the temple were liberal about such things. But last year, when her mother died, my friend was made to sit in the verandah when her mother died. The new trustees had a different view on the issue,” said Gupta whose home town is Valsad. Her petition is being heard by the court.