Toronto Jashan In The Baug: Zoroastrians to celebrate summer solstice

Plans are in the works for world-class Zororastrian place of worship for Oakville

But if plans move ahead as organizers hope, the Jashan in the Baug will be held outside of their brand new $3 million place of worship in a few years.

Article by Bob Mitchell | Oakville Beaver | Inside HALTON

photo_(8)___ContentPreliminary discussions have taken place with the Town of Oakville but within two to five years the 6,000 square foot centre could be up and running on their 10-acre site, said Phil Sidhwa, chairman of the advisory committee in charge of construction for the new place of worship.

“It will be the first place of worship of its kind in North America,” Sidhwa said. “It will be about three times the size of the current building on our site.”

“It will be a consecrated place of worship with a consecrated fire. Fire represents purity and order in our religion and we will have a wood-fed fire burning inside 24 hours a day. In India, some of their temples have fires which have been burning for hundreds of years.”

zor1___ContentThe June 21 event will be held on the Summer Solstice, one of the most important days of the year for the religion that dates back to the 6th B.C. in Persia (now Iran). By the 12th century, the religious order was being persecuted and some members fled to India.

“Being the summer solstice, there is important meaning for our religion,” Sidhwa said. “The Sun and fire means a lot to us. The Sun provides the universal power of life and is one of the many creations of our God. Anything that is related to light and fire is our guide to truth and order.”

Today, there are less than 100,000 Zoroastrians world-wide. The majority are in India around Mumbai but the largest community outside of India is in Greater Toronto where about 6,000 of the 10,000 in Canada live.

The “Baug,” which means “Garden” will feature the North American Mobeds (clergy) in a “Khushiali nu Jashan (feast) at 11 a.m. at the Ontario Zoroastrian Community Foundation centre at 1187 Burnhamthorpe Rd. E. in Oakville.

The event celebrates the priests, young and old, said Percy Dastur, president of the Ontario Zoroastrian Community Foundation.

“It’s a kind of a Thanksgiving prayer for us,” Dastur said.

More than 300 people are expected to attend the event, including many priests from across Canada, including a few from the U.S. In their religion, many choose the priesthood at the age of 12 or 13, Sidhwa said.

“They have good memories at that age,” he said, indicating the priests must learn what is for all intents and purpose a dead language. During the celebration, the priest will speak – and sing – in the ancient language, which most attending don’t understand.

“I say my prayers in that language so I know what I’m saying but that’s all,” Dastur said.

Zoroastrians believe in one God and they believe in the fundamental concept of good thoughts, good words and good deeds, Sidhwa said.

“Our religion was the predecessor of Judaism and Christianity,” he said. “But we are a separate religion. We have always tried to integrate with other religions. We live in peace and harmony with the population.”

All members of the public are invited to attend the celebration, which runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.