Strife over death at Parsi meet

Punchayet will form panel to decide alternative ways to dispose dead The body disposal issue reared its head last month when Dhun Baria clandestinely shot a video and took photographs of Tower of Silence

Sorab Ghaswalla Mumbai

A MEETING of eminent city Parsis convened on Thursday by the Bombay Parsee Punchayet (BPP) to debate the contentious issue of disposal of bodies mooted a proposal of forming a core group of about 10 people. This group, representing all sides, will arrive at a conclusion within 30-60 days, said some members who attended the meeting but did not wish to be named.

BPP Chairman Minoo Shroff mooted the proposal of forming the group. While Shroff ‘s suggestion was accepted by liberals, a section of the orthodoxy said they retained the option of getting back with a decision on the committee soon. By and large though, sources said, the pro posal did appeal to the majority.

Delegates representing the World Alliance of Parsi Irani Zarthoshtis (WAPIZ) said they had to get their Board’s nod regarding the group.

Around 75 members, including high priests, lawyers, writers and social workers, representing the orthodoxy and liberals, were invited by BPP for Thursday’s meeting at Banaji Agiary in Charni Road. Held behind closed doors, arrangements were made for general members, who were allowed to listen.

The urgency of the matter is an impending move by some members to file a writ petition, said BPP sources. Members pointed out that these people, despite being invited to attend the meeting, refused. The BPP chairman, said sources, appealed to delegates to resolve the issue within the community and not drag it into public domain.

The issue of body disposal reared its head in September when a Parsi lady Dhun Baria, on being told that her mother’s body would take at least a year to decompose due to lack of vultures at the Tower of Silence, clandestinely shot a video and took photographs of the ground. The pictures of bodies in various stages of decomposition horrified Parsis and divided them into those supporting the old system of disposal and those who wanted other options.

Some members like Jamshed Kanga and those representing the Alternative Disposal Choice (ADC), a proposed public charitable trust, suggested that an impartial enquiry committee headed by an ex-high court judge, also a Parsi, be constituted to look into the workings of the Tower of Silence. They also wanted the committee’s report to be made public in order to allow members to make an informed choice on the preferred system of disposal of bodies. This proposal, though, was not put up by the chair for consideration, said sources.

TWO VIEWS Traditionalists ? Disposal of bodies is reli gious issue, sys tem working fine ? Cremation or burial against Zoroastrianism Pragmatics ? Dwindling vul ture population has weakened system ? Solar panels not functioning properly

  • Dorab.Unwalla


  • farzana

    There is a dispute over Mazar e sharif being a real tomb of Ali, since shitte texts says, he was buried at Nazaf.

    Well, People don’t all of a sudden offer respect to unknown graves out of no where. For the people of Balkh to offer respect to the acclaimed grave of Mazar-e Sharif it means the site was initially revered even before the Muslims arrived, specially that Islam, as a religion among the population, was non existent despite being militarily present, while Zoroastrianism was the religion of the majority in Afghanistan.

    One theory says- This important tomb at Mazar e Sharif is that of Zaratushtra. This is confirmed by Persian Rivayat , Jasa says – Zarathushtra’s body was deposited at Balkh, Afghanistan as per his wish.
    So this Shine at Mazar e sharif is very likely his tomb thats preserved under a false name to prevent it from getting desecrated by Muslim invaders. Eventually as time passed ppl converted to Islam but kept revering to the shine as the holiest symbol.

    However, the crux is not that no parsi knows of Mazar e sharif… its not even the fact that today the tomb is revered by Muslims who think it belongs to their imam…But the real irony is, Parsees of Mumbai think they know religion even better than its founder!! Who said burial is against the tenets of Zarathushtra founded religion!!!…

  • farzana

    Dr. Mehr had a cold, yet his booming and resounding voice still managed to overload the mike on more than one occasion. He had perfect enunciation of Persian words and names, deliberating over every syllable as if it were delightful pastries in his mouth. He addressed the ambassador of Tajikistan pointing out that Zarthustra had been born in that area, and most likely buried in Mazar e Sharif in Afghanistan.

    He pronounced the ancient cities of Samarkhand and Bokhara as if he were reciting poetry, and spoke of how the people preserved many ancient sacred tombs and sites by giving them Arabic and Islamic approved names. At one point apparently Pasargad, the tomb of Cyrus the Great, was called the tomb of “Maadar e Soleyman” (Mother of Solomon) in an attempt to preserve and protect it from destruction.

  • Zerxes Dordi

    The latest issue of Parsiana makes a mention that ARZ is distributing C.D’s of ALL PRAYERS FREE OF COST. Please refer page 27 of Parsiana dated the 7th MAY 2010.
    When we have for the first time, a female theologian in our community, who forces us to believe in the rigid caste barrier of only an Athornan being entitled to become a Navar despite shortage of Priests, such V.D’s can be very useful.